It seems that things in the Khrungthep cycling scene are heating up, which has nothing to do with the coming hot season. It started with the first-ever Khrungthep Critical Mass on the final day of February. Then this past Sunday there was a 45-km trip around Khrungthep, about which I’ll write in a moment. It continues with a 160-km one way ride to Hua Hin this coming Sunday followed by the second Critical Mass the next Friday, and then a 70-km ride on March 30th that begins in Phra Padaeng on the southwest side of the river.
Crazy, huh? 160 km is way too much for me to do at this point as a one day trip. Maybe when the annual ride comes around next time. But I’m excited to see so much interest and enthusiasm in cycling in this City of the Perpetual Traffic Jam.
This past Sunday’s ride was a bit of a Tour de Khrungthep in the non-French sense of the word. About 150 riders met at National Stadium, which is just to the west of the Siam Square area. At 8:00 we headed out, stopping just a few minutes later at Hualamphong Railway Station for a tour – in Thai – from a docent. Hualamphong is a beautiful station and a good example of Thai Art Deco.
We then paid a visit to the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, a Red Cross-run “Snake Farm” whose primary purpose is to study and develop anti-venom serums for the many types of poisonous snakes found in the Kingdom. There is a fascinating and well-organized educational exhibit on snakes and you can see dozens of different poisonous and non-poisonous species.
Some people are really scared of snakes and other reptiles. I find them really fascinating. When I was in secondary school – I forget which grade, maybe seventh – we could check out a reptile for the weekend from our biology class. I brought a snake home and while it was interesting (I love the way they move), they really aren’t very fun pets.
Afterwards, we rode to Lumpini Park and on to the park next to Queen Sirikit Convention Center. This is where Markus and I often ride as it has a good 2-km dedicated bike path around the lake. Below, you can see the progress on the four towes of the Millenium Condo project between Sukhumvit 16 and 18. More on that in an entry here. Below that is an atist’s rendering of what the finished project will look like. Way, way out of scale to the skyline.
After some pretty short legs, we finally started some serious distance riding, heading up Asoke Road to Ratchadapisek, cutting under the Rama IX expressway on a small local street, and then continuing up by the Thailand Cultural Center where we broke for lunch.
After lunch we continued up Ram Intra to Lad Prao, one of the main east-west arteries on the north side of the city, and then all the way to the very large and busy Phahon Yothin / Lad Prao intersection. Thank goodness we had a large group of riders still so we could command traffic as we made a series of turns to get to the far side of the de-facto traffic circle.
There we arrived at Railroad Park, a former State Railways of Thailand golf course that has been converted into a beautiful public park, below. Hard to imagine that this is in the teeming metropolis of Khrungthep, isn’t it?
By this point it was nearing 2:30 and the group was starting to thin out. People who lived on the northern side of the city headed home directly, while about thirty of us headed back towards National Stadium. This part of the ride took me through some areas that I’ve driven before but was not very familiar with, especially the frontage road that follows the railways tracks past Bang Sue station, parallel to the Rama XI expressway. It was good to cover this area on bicycle because now I know it better. It is also easier to navigate on bicycle because you can ignore the forced left turns that keep cars from using the frontage road as a raceway/shortcut.
Returning to National Stadium wasn’t really the end of it for me, as I still had to bike home. All told, the ride worked out to be about 65 km for me, the longest I’ve done since I moved to Thailand.
Since Markus had church to attend, I drummed up another riding companion, Stuart.
He’s expressed interest in going for a ride before and this was certainly the one to give him a taste (a big, heaping taste) of what urban riding is like here. By the end of it he seemed pretty positive about the experience, so maybe he’ll be heading to ProBike and spending some money soon!
Stuart’s blog entry about the ride, along with a map of the route, is here.