After riding over 1,200km from the bottom of Thailand, Bangkok was only 60kms away. But with all the overladen speeding tucks flying past our elbow the distance became irrelevant. We had cycled as far as we could but the roads, (expressways) were just becoming too dangerous to ride. Our chosen road, Number 35, had been a two-lane road, but then kept widening, adding more and more extra lanes as we inched closer to the city. A friendly traffic policeman stopped us at one intersection and kindly reached into the open signal box next to him, pausing all the lights so we could cross before the traffic.
Cycling past an over-turned truck in a ditch we packed it in. The closest train station was reachable, but it was on the other side of our 9+ lane expressway.
We legged it to the next pedestrian overpass, hauling our loaded bikes up and down two flights of stairs.
I tried to help Suyin carry her bike down the stairs but her new face mask was giving me the creeps every time she looked at me.
Instead I made myself useful by taking photos and giving her verbal encouragement from the bottom. I think she really appreciated it.
Samut Sakhon was the town with the train station, 30kms from the Bangkok outskirts, but it already felt like we were in the capital with bustling streets and tuk tuk drivers at the ready.
The railway station was flanked by market stalls running along the tracks. The markets sellers would collapse umbrellas and fold away store sections to avoid the hourly train. Fruit and vegetables, raw meat and fish, were piled next to the tracks, sitting low enough to go right under the train carriages as it passed.
There are several railway station markets like this one, with the most famous being the Maeklong Railway market, touted everywhere online as the best place to see it. We actually tried to get a train from there first, but when we got there we were told the train had been out of service for a year, and the railway market was barely there, just rubbish piles and shut up stalls. And rats. Despite this, we still saw a bunch of tourist tours still being conducted.
Samut Sakhon on the other hand was a busy thriving market, with transactions taking place right along the tracks. And no tourists.
After seeing the train narrowly miss all fresh produce, and vowing to always thoroughly wash our fruit and vegetables, we lugged all our gear up the steps and jumped on. Peering out the window you could see just how close some of the stalls get to touching the train.
The train stopped us at Wongwian Yai Railway station, just 7km from our AirBnB. The traffic and roads were just as busy, but we took our time navigating through. Our AirBnB host was so welcoming, and our first order of business once settled in was to eat all the amazing snacks he left us.
Our main order of business was to find bicycle boxes, or cardboard, for our next flight. We found what we were after on Luang Road, an area not far from the famous Khao San Road. The street is lined with automotive stores, selling anything from a car door to a vintage Vespa. Sadly for me it was the far less exciting bicycle box on the shopping list.
With plenty of bicycle stores to choose from we began asking politely if they had any boxes out back. Two stores later we got a couple that were a little small but would do the job. For the first time on the trip we were charged for the privilege of taking away their trash – but only a couple of dollars.
Taking inspiration from the locals ability to carry oversized items on small vehicles,
We took our boxes home by cramming them, and us, into a tuk tuk.
Our time in Bangkok was spent mostly within the radius of our apartment, eating at the countless street stalls, and appreciating our AirBnB’s air-conditioning. Every time we left the apartment we were reminded of just how crazy the roads were that we had cycled on to get here.
We did venture out for a few longer walks, the Chatuchak Market with over 8,000 stalls was really fun, but our bike touring budget didn’t stretch too much. With our bicycle boxes all packed up, our host kindly arranged a truck to take us to the airport, our gear being too big for a tuk tuk or taxi.
We had now crossed the eleventh month mark, our travel clothes were nearing their life expectancy and our bicycles were getting close to needing a proper major service. That would all have to wait though as we would give the bikes one last run in Japan.