After being stopped at the Burmese border, I turned around and bussed back to Kanchanaburi. From there I visited the Erawon Waterfalls. These are a series of seven waterfalls leading up a mountain. They were stunning in the dry season. But the locals said that the true beauty and fury of the falls are only revealed during the monsoon.
I needed more bicycling before I returned to Bangkok. If I returned via the direct route to Bangkok, I would be retracing a high-traffic, boring industrial route. So I headed north toward Suphan Buri. This is the heart of Thailand’s rice-growing district. And as Thailand is the #1 exporter of rice in the world, this is agribusiness at its most intense.
I left well before sunrise and pedaled north. The scenery was purely large-scale rice farming. Massive irrigation pumps flooding fields, lush light green rice seedlings bursting thru the ponds with 1000s of white egrets wading in them for as far as I could see. The roads were as flat as the rice paddies. I would have made great time, except that I was bucking the wind all the way. By 10 am it was 90 degrees Fahrenheit. And by 1 pm, it was 100 degrees F. I was guzzling a liter of water an hour. Surprisingly, I did not feel too exhausted by the heat. I took a two-hour nap inside a large, covered outdoor bus stop. Then I headed out at 4 pm to try to made 25 more miles by sunset. I did. I struggled for an hour to find a place to stay. At the end of the day I had made 85 miles into the wind. I was good with that.
(This was as much fun as a root canal — or two actually)
For the last few weeks I noticed that whenever I hit a bump on the bicycle, I felt a sharp pain in my upper left jaw. For a month I had unconsciously only been chewing only on my right side. So I came to the unpleasant conclusion that I might soon need a root canal. I did not come to Thailand for dentistry, but it came to me. But I did know a trusted dentist in Bangkok.
I was now a day away from Bangkok, and I would have to ride thru the heart of the industrial center. I could handle that, as the roads had wide shoulders reserved for slower traffic. The problem was with all the bridges over the many rivers and canals in Bangkok. The shoulders of these roads disappear up high on these bridges. So while I am slowing down to climb these high bridges, I am forced out onto the main road. This is not the kind of cycling I came to do. But as every touring bicyclist knows, inevitably, you will be forced upon roads that you do not prefer. So I had to cross high, narrow bridges again and and again. The mid day heat got up to 104 degrees. But above the hot asphalt, with the vehicle exhaust, it was hotter still. A liter of water an hour no longer was enough.
I finally rolled into my friendly guest house in Bangkok in the early afternoon. I took a cold shower, and then proceeded to drink 3 more liters of water.
Then I went to my dentist. I had an appointment within an hour. Here are the boring details. The verdict was that I needed one root canal, root surgery to relieve an abscess, and I had another tooth that had become sensitive to pressure. The dentist said that this tooth would probably need a root canal soon. My flight left in 5 days. So, a team of dentists did the 2 two root canals. Then a dental surgeon opened and cleaned out the side of the root. He said he did some sort of rebuild of it that I am still unfamiliar with. Then on my last day in Bangkok, they mounted the permanent crowns. In 6 weeks without problems. We will see. Total bill? $1000
I am now back in the USA, in good health and spirits. And South East Asia is still my favorite place to bicycle tour. I imagine I will return.