Friday 28, July was the new King’s birthday, which basically meant we had a holiday for the event. Annie (my wife) suggested in going cycling with her friend Orn, who had been a witness at our wedding the previous year. It all sounded a good idea, especially insofar as being able to go cycling with my wife for once, but on Friday morning while I was busy having breakfast the phone rang.
‘That’ll be Orn cancelling cycling with us,’ and surprisingly it was.
Soon after the phone rang again, ‘She’s changed her mind, she wants to come now,’ and strangely enough, I was right again.
It was around 9am when we were ready. The plan was to cycle up Ratchapruek Road, then cut across to Puthamonthon Sai 4 Road and from there cycle on to the Donwai Floating Market. I had requested earlier that I wanted to cut through the Baan Panu Village, if only to see the difference in contrast in the luxury house in this area: a place where millionaires live, well that’s what I surmised by the size of their houses and grounds.
We cycled up Ratchapruek Road, across on the Bang Waek Road, up then up Phutthamon Sai 1 and then cut across on Soi 27. It was good to go cycling with Annie and her friend, Orn. It gave me the chance to have a good laugh and joke with her at poor Annie’s expense, but I wasn’t too sure if she grasped everything that I said.
We had done this cycle before, but not for a long time. This route took us along a narrow passage, where bananas hung down like chandeliers in bunches at head height. I could not resist having one of these bunches resting on my head if only to make it look like I’d had a new fancy hairdo when all said and done, today was supposed to be a fun day and I was intent in making the most of it.
Just short of the posh Baan Panu Village, we came across the estate that looked like the ‘gold rush had left town decades ago.’ Largely abandoned houses that now looked in a sad state of repair, with windows missing, and licked down with the stains of the pollution to the outside walls.
‘Why can’t we just do one up and live in it?’ I said knowing that it was impossible.
‘They probably still belong to somebody and they left when the floods came back in 2011.’
‘Some people must have money to burn.’
One of the places left to decay was a small leisure centre with an outdoor swimming pool, the water looked terrible, resembling more of a swamp than anything else. We cycled on and soon we arrived at the Baan Panu Village a place where you could have been mistaken for believing that the residents lived in palatial accommodation. To set the scene, in many places the manicured gardens ran down to a narrow man-made river that ran through the estate, giving it a rather opulent feel to it.
From there we cycled across to Phutthamonthon Sai 4, to where the Buddhist park was and to where the poorer classes lived in shacks and hovels, forgotten about by the more prestigious neighbours.
We cycled around the vastness of the park, nearly getting lost in and among the trees and the foliage, one could soon become disorientated in the vastness of this park. The last time we came here, a snake slithered across the park road between Annie and me, but that didn’t happen today.
Annie was being relaxed with her old work friend and I decided the best thing to do was to give them space enabling them to catch up with each other, so I cycled ahead of them.
From the park, we cycled out to Donwai Floating Market, a place that I’d been to before but I couldn’t remember that occasion. It was now that the pain of cycling was starting to get to Orn, and soon I received a puncture, just as the first downpour began. We took shelter hoping that the rain would ease off and while we waited we enjoyed a drink from a local vendor.
We eventually reached the Donwai Farmers Market, which was located on the banks of the Ta Jeen River. The market place boasted in having a Thai style cottage that dated back to the reign of King Mongkut (1851 – 1868).
I agreed to look after the bikes while Annie and Orn went gallivanting around the market, they promised me that they’d only be half an hour, but it seemed much longer. Then I decided that I’d go for a walk around, believing that I get much further than what they had done. The place was crowded with people gosling to get through. I bet the walkways were less than a metre wide as I shouldered my way through.
The fruit stalls had a fantastic panoply of exotic fruits, radiant with colour as the spotlights showed off the colouration of their skins: greens, oranges and reds. Any aromas that permeated the air were missed by my senses in the chaos of things.
The thing that caught me more than any other was the small crabs that were piled up on the counter with yellow and red legs and pincers.
It wasn’t long afterwards that we headed back. We decided to take a shorter route as rain looked inevitable, but on cycling back I hit a drainage channel that ran across the road at an angle, my front wheel went skew-whiff, causing me to fall off. Luckily, I found my feet from the clips on the pedals and literally skated from one foot to the other fearing that sooner or later I was surely going to fall and hurt myself, but I didn’t. How I managed to keep up-right was anybody’s guess. Luckily, I came away with just a bump and scratch, but I knew it could have been much worse.
Funny thing about this cycle was that Orn had never experienced having to carry her bicycle up so many steps to cross the busy trunk roads. If the cycling had not tired her out then I was certain carrying her bike would.
We arrived back after cycling over 70km and the rain never materialized and Orn, went back home stating that she’d enjoyed herself.