Central Thailand (March 6th - March 16th)
(Ayuthaya - Sing Buri - Chainat - Nakhon Sawan - Phitsanulok - Sukhothai - Tak)
Distance biked so far: 9,065 km
On Sunday March 6th I got up and managed to actually get on my bike and start pedalling. A bike trip is a lot like trying to establish an exercise habit. Once you get into a regular routine it is easy and you start seeing some progress but once you take a day off, it can quickly become two, three, four…and then it's not so easy to get going again. A body in motion does tend to stay in motion and one at rest stays at rest. I think Isaac Newton was definitely on to something. I do get comfortable at times when I stop, particularly when you have all of life's conveniences in a city like Bangkok.
I got my bags together and was off by 7:00 am to take advantage of the slow Sunday morning traffic. I took less than one complete pedal and fell to the ground, with my bike landing on top. I know I had 6 days off but have I already forgotten to ride a bike? Apparently, it's not easy to ride when you forget to tighten the handlebars. No broken bones I once again headed out to the unknown. Every time I start into a new country, particularly when there is a new language, I get a mixture of anticipation and anxiety but that quickly disappears.
I had a rough drawing of the route and in this part of Thailand there is usually English along with Thai script on the signs so managed to wind myself out of the sprawling city. It was 20km to the domestic airport and I followed the old highway that parallels the new one but with most of the cars on the faster route, the riding was very easy and traffic free. It wasn't long until the sites of Bangkok were behind me and I was finally biking in Thailand.
The road follows a canal with small villages popping up all day. Here is a typical view of a fishing net set up along the river.
The small villages here in Central Thailand and close to Bangkok are far wealthier than those I cycled through in India. I imagine it will get less wealthy as I head into the more remote parts of Northern Thailand.
The temperature today reached 38C with high humidity and despite the flat road and slight side-wind to keep things relatively cool, I had to stop every hour or so to get something cold to drink and to sit in the shade. There were numerous small roadside food stands and I stopped at one store to get something to drink. I parked my bike in front and sat with the owner for a bit trying to communicate with sign language. His wife and daughter came out to laugh with (or more likely at) the farang (their term for a foreigner) but they were full of smiles and enjoyed it when I showed them the contents of my bike bags. At one point the owner asked me to move my bike. I hadn't noticed that I was parked right in front of the gas pump, a large barrel with a pump and reserve tank sitting on top. A motorcycle drove up and put the plastic hose in the gas tank and presto. The outside of the tank had line markers so they can see when 1 litre is poured.
I arrived in the town of Ayutthaya in early afternoon and found a guesthouse. Ayutthaya was the capital city of Siam (in 1949 it became Thailand) for over 400 years and at one point was one of the largest cities in the world, comparable to the size and wealth of Paris. Today there are about 150,000 and it is home to numerous Wats that still show some of its ancient glory.
On Monday I visited one of the Wats that looked the most interesting, Wat Mahathat. The most famous part is a Buddha head embedded amongst a tree's roots. No one knows for sure how this came about but the most logical explanation seems to be that the head was abandoned after the armies of Burma attacked the city, and the tree just grew around it. It reminded of those pictures in Psychology texts where you have to identify a figure within a series of lines. This one isn't too difficult.