Monday, June 5, 2017

 

Map
A 106km cycle to Samut Prakan and back 

 

When it came to cycling around Bangkok and the surrounding provinces, there wasn’t much that I had not accomplished in cycling around the area. Being an avid cyclist, I was always looking for new and exciting places to explore. Recently, on a cycle eager to discover a new cycle route I came across this one. Improvising a little, I was able to stretch this out into a 106km cycle.

It all started off by cycling up the Kallapapruek Road. I was aware of the roads the ran parallel with it such as: Ekkachai, Rama II Road, the problem was getting across to these roads without using busy roads. There seemed to be a lack of minor roads and sois for some reason in this area.

I discovered this more by chance than by management. It was more out of curiosity than of anything else. I decided to follow it, intrigued not really knowing where it would take me. At first, it took me along beside numerous orchard channels where they were growing bananas and coconuts. The colours of the channels were a delight to see being in rich green, only being spoilt by the clutter of fallen branches and the odd coconut that floated on the surface. A man further on tended to the weeds in his allotted space.

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Sleepy looking orchard channels on my cycle journey 

The pathway that I followed turned at right-angles virtually every twenty metres or so. Not allowing me to get much speed up, plus there was the frequent motorcyclist that ventured through disturbing the tranquillity of the place.

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Lovely green orchard channels

Eventually, I came out at Ekkachai 16. Ekkachai Road could be a busy road during the rush hour period, but today I was only going to cycle across to Ekkachai 16, where the temple complex, the Wat Bang Prathun Nok, was to be found. An emerald looking sign announced it presence, but within meters of it ran a railway line.

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The railway in front of the temple complex
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Part of the temple complex under renovation

The temple complex was nice, in that it looked like it had just received a lick of paint in the last few days. I cycled through the complex not really knowing what I was to find. Sometimes the temple complexes had no back road adjoining them, but I hope and soon I was to be rewarded as in the distance, I could see a set of steps spanning the local khlong, no doubt heading off to the next neighbourhood and possibly to the next district.

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A sleepy khlong

On the opposing side to the khlong was another intriguing looking temple complex, this one had a slate blue tinge to its roof tiles as opposed to red. The path here ran down an alleyway in and amongst some dwellings, the paths just seemed to get narrower.

I eventually came out onto Chom Thong Road, a road that I had cycled on before, but many moons ago. This eventually led me onto the 303 road, known as the Suk Sawat Road, which unknown to me was going to lead me out towards Bangkajaow. I followed this road under the belief that I’d been down here before. I was to find that I had once been to the Major Hollywood building, or at least next door, to register for my ninety days stay during the lead up to the last coup back in 2014.

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Major Hollywood 

The road was relatively quiet, evidently, the bulk of the traffic at this time was heading north. Eventually, I started picking up signs for the Bhumibol Bridges 1 and 2. These were a great feat of engineering by any nations standard. It wasn’t too long before I began to see one of the towers holding up the suspension bridge, it was there straight in front of me as if it was an extension of the road and looking larger than life. I followed the Phrarachveriyaporn Road, intent, in getting to this artificial island, an oasis within Bangkok.On my approach, the traffic again began to escalate as it joined the Industrial ring road. Soon I could see the four towers of the bridge, as they spanned the two sections of the Chao Phraya, as the river looped around the island of Bangkajaow; the place that had been my initial destination.

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One of the suspension bridges coming into view

I stood there on the small bridge that crossed the small khlong, marvelling at the concrete intersection suspended in the air. Trying to calculate the tonnage of the whole construction wasn’t even worth contemplating, but it was certainly mind boggling. This must have put this site among the famous suspension bridges of the world like the world’s longest: Akashi Kailkyo Bridge in Japan and the Xihoumen Bridge in China. I was certain that the Clifton Suspension Bridge would be among them somewhere, even it was probably a long way down the list.

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Engineering at its best

I cycled up to the north of this artificial island along the Phetchahung Alley and while I was at it, I decided to venture off on a few of the scenic cycle routes, something that this island was renowned for.

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Map of Bangkajaow

Although initially this was my destination, my mind was eager to continue. I now wanted to cycle around in one big large circle. I studied my map in detail, wondering if I really could get across to the Sudkate Café. I was aware that it was only about 18km from where the 3243 started from on the eastern part. My paper map suggested that it would be tricky, where my Google Map struggled with the finer detail.

 

I didn’t stay long on the island and soon I was heading back to join up with the Suk Sawat Road. This was just like any other road in Bangkok, busy with traffic, surrounded by bricks and concrete on all sides and a pretty boring journey, to say the least, that is until I came across my third suspension bridge of the day. This one was the one that carried the ring road across the Chop Phraya River. I had crossed over this bridge many times, it dawned on me that it was much better being up there than what it was being down here.

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Petrochemical and oil refineries on the Chao Phraya River

As the road continued, the river became more industrious, with cargo ships and tankers at anchorage. Further upstream you could see what I considered to be the petrochemical firms. The province of Samut Prakan had a lot to offer. I always considered that it got left out by its much richer neighbour Bangkok. The air here was certainly much richer.

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A group of jolly cyclists, lovely to talk to.

I was now looking out for my turn off onto the 3243 road. A sign pointed me towards the Phra Chulachomklao Fort, which was at the mouth of the river, built during the reign of King Rama V to protect the country from the invasion of the European colonialists, although the fort did help to defend the city during the Franco-Siamese War of 1893.From my map, I had reached the place that I wanted. There was a small bridge that I cycled up, just to see what the view was like. I knew that I would expect to see freighters and oceangoing vessels but I didn’t expect to see a private leisure cruiser. It was quite strange, I reckon the boat had been built in Italy, sold through a London based company and flew the American flag, all the same, it looked very nice.

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They’re so nice as messing around on the water’

I made a u-turn and joined the 3243 road, cycling now in unknown territory. The road was built from slabs of concrete, for most of the way. Obviously placed on mounds of earth, which helped to create the salt beds here. I suppose the area would have been nothing but a swamp if it hadn’t have been for human interference. The day I cycled this, the sky looked as if it could have rained at any moment. In the distance looking out towards Bangkok, the sky was black, I considered that the weather was heading this way, with the sounds of thunder echoing in the distance. All along this route there was evidence that rain had been here as puddles plagued the road side.

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Mile after mile of concrete slab road

This road was straight, and rather boring as roads go. The tapestry of the place looked similar to so many places in this area, with: salt fields, flat roads and mile after mile of telegraph poles. However, as I cycled on the road changed. At one point it looked like a digger had started to dig up the road, what should have looked like a smooth road, now looked like a broken up jig-saw puzzle. Cycling over it on a road bike was certainly carried out with a bit of in trepidation. The terrible road conditions continued for well over 2km with its rough surface, I had visions that at any moment either one of my tyres would burst, but surprisingly neither of them did. The road got back to its usual self, but my luck was to run out again.

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The Red Roads of Samut Prakan

I was suddenly confronted by a huge lake that had submerged the road. Going back was certainly out of the question. I presumed at most it would only be a few inches deep. As I started to cycle through this water my front wheel suddenly dropped 6 inches. Luckily, I managed to keep control of the bike, but it kind of prepared me for what else might be in store for me. The road then left the water remnant behind, but the construction was certainly making its self-noticed. Soon, the road turned red, it was obvious that there was more construction ahead. With the signs being all in Thai, I wasn’t too sure how this road would pan out. I knew I would be forced into a diversion somewhere along this route, but where that would occur was anybody’s guess?

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Mud road

Soon the road looked like it had been either all ripped up or that they were beginning to construct a new one. The road was amassed with moist red mud, tyre marks had left deep imprints on the surface of the sludge, cycling on this stuff was going to be tricky. Being the stubborn cyclist I decided to continue even when I got the opportunity to turn left. I was aware that Bang Bon was somewhere out there, where, I wasn’t too sure, but it was better heading for what you knew than to get lost in the inhospitable place, that had very few roads let alone houses.

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A mini St Paul’s Cathedral near the ring road

 

I wasn’t too sure with the abandoned construction, whether the road was actually open to traffic, it certainly wasn’t in good condition for a road bike, let alone for a mountain bike. The road did eventually get better and I did manage to get across to Bang Bon.

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The busy junction at Bang Bon – drivers drive at their own risk

 

As soon as I got home, I went straight to the top of my apartment block and took pictures of myself, certainly not for vanity purposes, but more for the way I looked. Today had been an interesting day and by the look of things, I’d missed the rain too.

 

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Me, happy to be back, expecting it to rain at any moment