Monday, December 19, 2016

Cycling Isan Thailand - Laos 2016 : Day 2 - Cycling Bangkok & Ko Kret

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Cycling Isan Thailand - Laos 2016 : Day 2 - Cycling Bangkok & Ko Kret
Tour of Isan Thailand & Laos : Day 2, 3rd December 2016

This is page 2 of a 11-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D1 - One Night Bangkok     |    Go to Other Days  |             Go to D3 - Loei >

Route Recommendations :
1. Traffic Directions & Ride Conditions
Thailand is right-hand drive so ride on the left side of the road. Bangkok's main roads have heavy fast moving traffic, so do cycle with care.
- The route was relatively flat with temperature between 24-29ºC.
- There were a couple river crossing, one by a small ferry, the other by a small wooden boat. The fare for most ferry and boat crossing is THB5 per person.

2. Communicating with Locals
    For the uninitiated cycling in foreign lands can be a daunting experience, especially when one can only speak a smattering of the local language or if there is no common language to speak to each other (like English). Most Thai can hardly speak English, and learning some basic phrases will be helpful.
    This could be partly overcome by using translation apps like Google Translate. Do install this app into your phone and before you leave on your tour do some basic translation as it will be saved onto a list of recent translations.
    And do install memory-resident translation apps into your mobile phone.
In Thailand, doctors and pharmacists speak relatively good English. Seek out clinics or pharmacies for help when necessary. A friend who regular tours the country even carried flash cards of crucial personal and medical details printed in Thai, basic daily terms, etc.

3. Staying in Connected
    When travelling in a group it's important to be able to communicate with each other, especially if one got lost or just to share photos and moments.
We arrived at the Don Muang International Airport and bought pre-paid SIM cards from a TrueMove Mobile stall located at the arrival hall. High speed 4G packages with 1.5GB data for can be obtained for THB350; beyond usage of 1.5GB it still works but at a slower speed. Click here to view other TrueMove pre-paid sim packages. If not familiar, get a staff to set up your phone for their system for it to work properly.

4. Places of Interest
- Flea Market at Sanambin Nam Road (GPS: 13.86912, 100.48222).
The Maha Chesadabodindranusorn Bridge (GPS: 13.85377, 100.48052).
Chaloem Kanchanaphisek Park (GPS: 13.84905, 100.48088).
Wat Chaloem Phrakiat Worawiharn (GPS: 13.84813, 100.48485).
Ko Kret (GPS: 13.91144, 100.47618).
Wat Poramaiyikawas at Ko Kret (GPS: 13.91266, 100.49004)

5. Currency Exhcange
For better exchange rates, get your Thai Bahts before leaving before leaving Malaysia. Also at some towns, it may not be possible to change the Malaysian Ringgit to Thai Bahts.

6. Accomodations
Our accommodations for two nights at Bangkok was at the V.Resotel Hotel (GPS: 13.8718, 100.4808) in Nonthaburi, a twin-sharing room for THB1,900 per night. Wifi is include but the speed was not as fast as our phone 4G data.

7. Food
- Breakfast was Stewed Pork Trotters (Khao Kaa Mu / ข้าวขาหมู) at a coffee-shop along the Sanambin Nam flea market (GPS: 13.86912, 100.48222).
- Lunch was cold glutinous blue porridge ride at ครัวคุณนิต เกาะเกร็ด (GPS: 13.91346, 100.48784) on Ko Kret.
- Stopped for some crafted beer at Chit Beer on Ko Kret (GPS: 13.90925, 100.49084)
- Dinner was a delicious seafood fare at the River Tree House Restaurant at Nonthaburi (GPS: 13.88109, 100.48288).

8. Weather
November and December are good months to ride in Isan and Laos as the weather is quite cooling and the possibility of rain is low. Early morning temperatures is between , mid morning between around 22 °C and afternoons 26-28°C.

9. Navigation
Where data signal is available and strong, one can use Google Maps to navigate around. If the cycling options may not be available, just use the walking options.
In cases where data signal is weak or unavailable (like in remote rural areas), install MAP.ME into your phone. It's an off-line map app.   
Alternatively, use a dedicated GPS unit like those from Garmin. However ensure that one install the Thailand and Laos maps into the unit.


PRELUDE

The previous day we had flown in to Bangkok from Kuala Lumpur and had a quick debut ride of the city around the Nonthaburi neighbourhood. This had whetted our cycling legs, and today we look forward to more of Bangkok cycling!



THE RIDE

 

Total Distance: 48.15 km.     Cycling Distance: 23.82 km.          |         Level: Medium (due to the busy traffic along the streets of Bangkok).
From Nonthaburi, we took on the crazily busy streets of Bangkok to reach British Cycle Square and from there took a short car ride for some calm cycling on Ko Kret, an island in the middle of the Chao Phraya. Would have been an easy ride except for having to traverse across the busy streets of Bangkok.
  
We started the day with a visit to the flea market at Sinamban Nam. The market was a hotch-potch of stall on the wide pavement on one side of the road and start from the junction with Rattanathibet Road and stretches on for slightly more than a kilometre. We were happily pushing our folded bikes along, viewing with keen interest the wares that the traders had to offer until we realised that it was a long, long, long market; and a quarter way through decided to plonk onto our bikes and ride along the road .... only stopping when there were stalls that caught our eye.


Here they sell all sorts of goods, both used and new. Used army fatigues, new T-shirts; old sneaker, new flip-flops; old antiquish mobile phones, new phone accessories, belts, tools, hardware, plastic-ware, antiques, street food and so on and so on... stretching for a kilometre. Like most flea markets in the region, most of the new stuff came from....
China!


There's even several stalls that were selling old coins!
A few enthusiasts were rummaging through hoping to find a FIND.


Somewhere among that walking/pushing - time to refill our stomachs, an early brunch of Khao Kaa Mu (stewed pork trotters). I never get tired of this Thai dish and the one served here was real authentic with just nicely tender and juicy meat coupled with a good layer of fat (sinful yah? No worries, will burn it off soon with cycling). The gravy used here was much better than those I had in Malaysia; there was some underlying herbal taste and aroma.... can't quite put my finger on it.... it's..... something Thai 😋


Amidst all the serious haggling... a small lion danced it's way through the crowd; no drum troupe accompanied it... from somewhere within its body, speakers were blaring out a dance beat and tune. That's modern days for you.


Our route took us across the Chesadabodindranusorn Bridge, if it had looked impressive the previous night... now, in the bright daylight, it looked majestic ... 


..... with its tall piers crowned with giant golden lotus blooms.


From the bridge we espied a park on the other bank of the river; this is the Chaloem Kanchanaphisek Park. We made our way down the stairway of the bridge (carried our bikes down actually), cycled through the wending streets of an adjacent village and ended at the park. No cycling is allowed within the park so we pushed our way around. It's a fairly large park, nicely landscaped.


With small ponds dotting its ground and flowers all around, it was a calm haven amidst the cacophony of Bangkok's traffic which made it a favourite for locals to come and exercise here.


Cute guinea fowls.


In the park were several pavilions, this one sat withing a pond, it's multi-tiered roof with gilded eaves proudly pointing skywards.


This one seems to be dedicated to the birds, many of which could be seen flying around it.


From here to can be seen a complete view of the Chesadabodindranusorn Bridge, its twin piers shooting out golden threads to hold it up.


Just next to the park is the Wat Chaloem Phrakiat Worawiharn. Built more than a hundred years ago on orders by King Rama III, this temple has a unique architectural blend of Thai and Chinese styles.


Golden dragons decorate a stairway leading up to a white stupa, further up a Chinese style roof decorate the top of a doorway.


A blend of Thai and Chinese, instead of elephant trunks decorating the roof ridges, there are dragon heads.


I have always admired the Thais - friendly, always offering a smile, and from young they have been disciplined to be religious.


Okay, time for some serious cycling; time to make our way across Bangkok to go visit our friend Jenvit of British Cycle Square.
We were happily navigating with Google Maps until it led us to a dead-end.... "Hey! Isn't there suppose to be a bridge here?" We looked closely at Maps .. "Hah! it said by boat!" And there was actually a ferry crossing here!
"Alllllll On Board!!" Let's cross.
The fare was THB5 per person.


Just at the jetty waters, large cat-fish were swimming around; so tempted to stop and do some fishing here; we were running late, so got to move on. Bye fish.... lucky for you all 😆


It was not easy traversing across, most of the streets were full of traffic. Most of the times we cycle with the traffic and at times had to cycle against it (we were not the only ones, motor-cyclists often do that too), and all the time it it was with our eyes and ears on alert.


A few times we had to use pedestrian bridges to get over to the right side of the road; some of these bridges had wares laid out for sale.... Hmmmm.... time for shopping?


Jenvit & Chew.
Somehow we managed to reach our destination - the British Cycle Square shop. Fortunately, nearer here Maps took us through quieter neighbourhood roads and away from the maddening traffic.
Jenvit was there, happily waiting for us to arrive. They have a coffee bar here and soon we were having nice iced coffee while admiring the bikes on display here.


Together with another guest, Steve from Moulton Bicycles, we loaded our bikes onto a car and drove over to Ko Kret. Crossing over to the island was on an even smaller wooden boat.


For those interested in Ko Kret, here's a map of the island. Ko Kret is a small island situated in an almost ox-bow lake within Chao Phraya. The island dates back to 1722, when a canal was constructed as a shortcut to bypass a bend in the Om Kret branch of the Chao Phraya river. As the canal was widened several times, the section cut off eventually became a separate island. The island continues to serve as a refuge to the Mon tribes who dominated central Thailand between the 6th and 10th centuries and have retained a distinct identity in their version of Buddhism and, particularly at Ko Kret, their pottery.


Cycling here was a pleasure, there were no cars! We rode on board-walks...


... onto concrete pathways that led through a bazaar market which was so packed that we had to dismount and push.


Went pass nice river scenery and ...


... and wooden attap huts located in small farms.


At Wat Poramaiyikawas outside were segmental stupas ....


..... inside was a golden sleeping Buddha .....


..... at the staute's soles were etched Sanskrit mantras.


There are still Mon people residing here, and they still carry out their pottery and many stalls sell smaller tourist pieces.


Others have been more enterprising, selling food (like lasagna, glutinous rice) in these mini versions of the clay pots.


At one of the shops, we had this unique broth. It's blue (dyed with butterfly pea flowers) in ice water. This is suppose to be good for a hot day; the blend broth came served with a bowl of tasty side dish.


Another stop was at Chit Beer where they made they own crafted beer. Idled here for a while while tasting their great beer.

Jenvit dropped us back at our hotel; and later we met up with Huat and Peow (who had arrived today) for dinner at the River Tree House Restaurant.
Among the food we had - a nice claypot of sea-food Tomyam, this was very nice not overly spicy with lots of herbs to add their taste to the soup and the seafood.


A deep fried fish served in Thai sweet-sour sauce. With slits cut in, the flesh had a good crispiness at the edges.


and the pièce de résistance - grilled large fresh-water prawns. !YummY!


It had been one long but fruitful day, one of flea markets, crazy traffic, and a beautiful island.

CHEERS!

Tomorrow we head for Isan.

This is page 2 of a 11-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D1 - One Night Bangkok     |    Go to Other Days  |             Go to D3 - Loei >

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