Cycling Thailand, part 2, Bangkok to Myanmar

Thailand part 2

In this blog, I describe my journey from the capital of Thailand, Bangkok, North, to the ruins of its ancient capitals, Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, and then West to the border with Myanmar, at Myawaddy. There were more highs and lows, I passed the milestone of a distance of 50,000km, and visited both ancient capitals, but I also lost my bank card. Ooops.

20 Feb 2016

I left Bangkok and cycled 90km to Ayutthaya. Leaving Bangkok was more difficult than I had expected. Fighting my way through the traffic, I had tried to avoid the main road, by aiming for the route marked 306 on the map, but the back roads closer to the Chao Phraya river were still busy highways, and not as simple as they appeared on googlemaps. 

I often found myself lost, staring at the map, and wondering why I was pointing in the wrong direction.  I sat and drank iced tea in one of the numerous coffee shops. Drenched in sweat, the searing heat and the pollution had done some punishment, and after about 50km, I was already exhausted. A very charming young Thai woman who was with her much older Turkish husband offered me a place to sleep but I thanked her and said that I wanted to continue and reach Ayutthaya. The coffee shop had wifi, and so, this would help me to find where I was and get back on track. At about 60km, the sun started to go down, and I recorded this video

facebook.com/…list/videos/897045580416995 

I arrived in Ayutthaya in the dark, and wondered which way to turn. Ayutthaya is shaped like a circular island, surrounded by rivers, so it turned out that it made no difference whether I went left or right. The only question was how to find the centre. I turned right and then left until I saw the pagodas, and somehow found accommodation within budget. Casa Ayutthaya was opposite the ruins, a small hostel, and reasonably priced considering where it was, and the owners, a Thai woman and a man from Chile were incredibly friendly and helpful. 

21 Feb Ayutthaya sightseeing

Ayutthaya, according to the Unesco website, was the second Siamese capital after Sukhothai, and was founded in 1351. It was smashed to pieces by the Burmese in the 18th Century, and sadly most of the buddhas were decapitated. The ruins of the temples are still impressive, and despite the tourists and their obsession with bizarre selfies, I often found a peaceful spot  in or around the many temples to sit and imagine the former glory of this amazing place.  At the largest temple, Wat Mahathat, a solitary monk walked past solemnly to worship in front of one of the buddhas who still had a head, and the photo I took remains as a defining image that I will always remember from my trip through Thailand.

Cycling is easily the best way to visit the temples, and it was possible to visit almost all of the temples in one day. You simply cycle up to the pagoda, park the bike, and if you enter a temple, don’t forget to take off your socks and shoes!

After visiting the modern site of Wat Phra Monghon Phobit, which houses one of the largest buddha statues in Thailand, I met Tara and Smash, a fireman from Toronto, who had seen me on YouTube! Maybe I was more famous than I thought, but as they say, pride comes before a fall, and the next day I had a problem….

22 Feb 120km Sapphaya, near Chai Nat

Well this is going to be interesting. I have lost my bank card. I still have a credit card, but if I don’t find hotels that accept credit cards, I’m going to be sleeping rough. I arranged for a new one and am having it sent to Rangoon. 

I was drafted by some Thais who were cycling. There were quite a lot in the evening.

Slept next to the 7/11. A nice lady called JaJa helped me. And I ate seafood on a stick. I think it was squid. And a guy let me use his shower. He had a poster of Argentinas football team on the wall. It was a noisy, hot, sweaty night. I don’t think I slept much. 

23 feb 155km. somewhere in a field on the way to Phitsanoluk. I packed up my things at the 7Eleven and I headed towards Chai Nat looking for the back roads but found route 1 to Nakhon Sawan. Coffee. 18 baht at the 7/11 before I left. Stopped to eat at a restaurant by a petrol station. Saamsip (30) baht, that’s 60p, got me rice, chicken beef, and I also charged my iPad on a socket on the wall, the one thing that I wasn’t able to do while sleeping rough. At this rate, I will be dirty, but I will survive on the 1500 baht I have left. They refill my glass of water and ice. They’re playing Country Road on the radio. I feel a pang of sentimentality as that’s what I’m doing, cycling home. Even though I am cycling towards Burma and India, in a few days, for the first time, having gone every other direction, South, North and East, I will be cycling West, and back towards home. Towards England. And closer to seeing Paola again. Family pictures hang on the wall, which adds to the feeling, plus the king of Thailand of course, which doesn’t. I’m still a long way from home Toto. 

The afternoon went well with great long cycling path sections on route 1. A little confusion in Nhakon Sawan but found my way again. I showered at the disabled toilet in a service station. I’m camping in a field. A motorbike went past but he didn’t even say hello. I expect nobody cares I am here. At least I hope so. 

24 Feb 112km to my hotel near the Sukhotai Historic Park

The night passed without incident. In the morning a few monks drove past. One in an old green car, one on a motorbike. A man stopped and said something with a smile. I smiled back and made the sleeping sign. I said “to Sukhotai” with a hand pointing that way, and smiled. Then I did a sign to say where I had come from “From Singapore” I added. He pointed at the bike and made the pedalling mime with his hands and he smiled again. So did I. 

The funny moment of the day came at the Old Stay (by sister…. what the hell that’s about I don’t know), when I explained that I had paid by MasterCard but did t have much cash left, and could I get food and a massage and pay by MasterCard? He frowned and said, we hotel…machine….don’t have. You don’t have the machine so I can’t pay? Yes he smiled! Hmmm. I gave a confused look. Yes you don’t have? Yes, he smiled. The big smile was far more confusing than the yes. Then he said sorry, with a big smile. Ok I said, not to worry. I went out to eat. The nice lady cooked me some rice and chicken. A policeman arrived home on his motorbike and later came to talk to me using a few words of English but mostly Thai. The only thing I really understood was the meal plus an ice coffee. 50 baht (£1). The beer I bought on the way home cost more!

24 Feb Sukhotai

25 Feb look around Sukhotai

26 Mae Sot 154km

631km from Bangkok to Burma

49,957 so far

50,588km