#7 from South East Asia — The ride south, wild elephants, pigs, and tigers January 12th, 2011
Prachaup Khiri Khan
We had the good fortune to head out of Bangkok on a Sunday morning. The traffic was still crazy, but just not as bad. Jeff and I struggled south through the maze of streets that arbitrarily shifted their one-way directions, with no clues from the maps. The maps did not show when there were two, or three, levels of highways at the same location.
When we finally came to the Chao Phraya River that divides Bangkok, we were relieved. We carried our loaded bikes up 6 flights of stairs to the bridge. Then we walked our bikes over the river. At least we knew where we were. How to get out of the city would be much more taxing. It is not enough just to ride away from the city. You must find the major road going in your direction in a script written on a map that you will never understand. Thai, you see, has 44 consonants and 32 vowels. None of them look anything like the western alphabet. At this point in my life, I am not going to learn them.
Eventually we got onto a road that was going southwest in the direction we wanted to go. We kept riding and following it until we realized that this actually was our desired road. What a relieve. It took 4 hours of hard pedaling to get out of Bangkok. We were still in traffic, but it was dropping off.
We worked our way along the western coast of the Gulf of Thailand, passing 100’s of kilometres of salt drying beds and shrimp farms. These are very labor-intensive industries. I watched large numbers of people working ever so hard under the sun. At times I wondered, ‘How can the US compete against people who work so hard, for so little?’ I don’t have the answer for for, and I can assure you that the US does not yet either.
We were hit by garbage-picking beggars along the roadside. Macaque monkeys, going thru garbage, and asking for food. We kept pedaling.