BootsnAll Travel Network

A rough maiden voyage: Sasha and me.

I forgot all about that unnerving feeling you get as you drive down the road, a little bit tense trying not to die, and having no clue where you are going. Doing the moto thing is great when you know where you are going and can just enjoy the ride. It’s fantastic. When you drive almost four hours just to get out of a city, neck spasming frustration.

Unfortunately, I don’t have saddle bags for Sasha, so I am just strapping my backpack to the back of the seat. I had to do some bulk reduction by putting my sleeping bag and two trekking hats into storage. I got pretty much all the tools stored away under the seat, but with all the electronic crap, my bag is heeeaaaavy. I really do need to dump the laptop and accessories.

The plan was still to get across to Vietnam as soon as possible so I wouldn’t get stuck with a broken bike. I had done some quick jonts around town on Sasha, but hadn’t really done any highway action to see how she drives. Since I was in a large capital city, I figured it would be a good idea to get an early start so I could avoid the, so far, not so bad traffic. I had looked at the map in my guidebook and it looked like there were two routes to choose from. The Khao San backpacker area is in the central west of Bangkok. The Cambodian border along the coastline is to the south-east. The direct route involved cutting directly through the city while the other was to head in the opposite direction, link up to a ring road that ran along the outskirts of town and take that loop away from the main part of the city and then connect with the road to the border.

Because of traffic worries, and the simplicity of the route on the map, I chose the Ring road route. Well, four hours later, I finally got out of Bangkok. Needless to say, it did not go well.

It was a bit scary getting used to the much lighter Sasha versus the heavy SchwinnII, but after an hour, that part got settled. One huge plus was the road conditions. Excellent tarred roads with freeways and road options all over the place.

Now for the negatives. There are too many road options. Compared to India which really had a few main roads cutting through the city, Bangkok had hundreds to choose from. Many, many more cars on the road moving a lot faster and able to maneuver much better. Road signs in general had English underwriting, however it became confusing with the same road changing names and numbers. Also, every road I took seemed to have a “airport this way” sign on it. The help from locals swayed to the extremes. Outside of the tourist area English speakers are not so easy to find. Once I got them to understand where I was going (which is not an easy feat), they all were very helpful in that they all wanted to draw maps. The shortfall was that they could not gauge or at least communicate distances. Most of the maps I got were great except that they could not tell me when I was supposed to turn, just that I was supposed to. It’s hard to follow directions when they say to go up the road and turn right. “Turn right where?”, was always followed by pointing down the road and a quick right hand flick. I just couldn’t get them to understand that there was an infinite number of right hand turns and a well detailed map with a hundred arrows was useless when I didn’t know when to turn. Motorcycles are not allowed on the Expressway or the main highway under it. We have to drive along the frontage roads. What kind of crap is that. And finally, once your going in one direction, that’s it. There’s no way to turn around.

Okay, this is how bad it got. I drove for thirty kilometers looking for a single road which looks like a fairly large and unmissable Ring road. There were exits every kilometer or so, but I saw nothing that said Ring road. Oh yea, add very minimal city name and distance markers to the list. Eventually, I ended up in a whole different town in the opposite direction that I wanted to go. Luckily, I found a guy at a gas station who spoke English. He was a sales rep and said he knew the roads very well. We took a seat in the lounge and he sat there and pondered. I was getting a bit miffed as how difficult should it be to tell me which freeways to take to get me to a city not more than 40 kms away, or at worst, just tell me how to get back to Bangkok. What he finally let me know was that since I was driving a motorcycle I could not take the Expressways so he was trying to figure out how to do it by side roads. Jesus. On the map there is one big line going from one city to the other. What the hell. Finally, he gave me basic directions that were understandable and would get me close to my destination. The only thing that threw me off was the part where I had to catch a boat. What the fuck. Why in the hell is there a boat involved when I am going directly from one city to another on a huge ass road (or at least that is what it looked like on the map) and is not close to any ocean inlet (I wrote off a river as there are hundreds of bridges all over the place and with such a huge freeway, why would they still be using ferries). Well, after five more stops getting directional clarification from mostly moto-taxi drivers, I got on a ferry and crossed over a big ass river. No motorcycles allowed on the bridge, damn. I only got lost one more time after that which involved directions of driving under a double creek over pass which was only about six inches higher than the handle bars on my bike. I didn’t believe the guy that I was supposed to go under it, but apparently it was the only way to get to the other side of the barriers of a four lane highway. And then it started raining.

Close to eight hours to just get to a city maybe a 120kms away. Brutal. A huge positive though was that Sasha ran with no problems. Sure she shakes a bit, sprays oil on my boots, smokes, and coughs a bit, but she got me here and did it with no heartache. All in all, it wasn’t really any worse than any other time I went from one city to another in India, but I sure am looking forward to getting to Cambodia and Vietnam where there are a lot less roads.

So, I made it. Hallelujah.

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One response to “A rough maiden voyage: Sasha and me.”

  1. Tina says:

    Hi Steve,
    I am on a RTW trip with my husband for 1 year and I really enjoy reading your blog. Glad to hear Bangkok is so easy (except navigating it on a small motorbike apparently) as we will be heading there ourselves.
    Thanks for the great writing– you make me smile!
    Tina (of Tina and Rob’s excellent adventure fame)

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