Our AirBnB host arrives at 10am to help us check out and we have a brief chat with her, including asking her the best way to ask for vegetarian food. She tells us the word mangswirati, so I capture a screen shot of it on google translate and we head off. Turns out this translation will help us A LOT over the next week in Thailand. We grab a few things from the convenience store next door before commencing our cycle towards our planned destination of Bang Saen.
We commence by following Highway 3 and the roads are busy but manageable. Along the way we pass the three-headed elephant statue at Erawan Museum in Samut Prakan, and I also notice a bike shop on our left. About 30 minutes into our cycle, I hear a loud bang behind me. Cheye stops and I discover his rear tire has exploded. We pull over outside a closed shop front and Cheye starts pulling the wheel off to see if he can fix it. There is a huge hole on the inner tube. Unsure if he catch patch it up, I recall the bike shop not too far back so I offer to take the wheel back to see if they have a tube to replace the busted one. I walk back with the wheel, past the three-headed elephant, and it takes a good 10-15 minutes before I see the shop. The front door is closed but through the glass I see an old Thai lady in the back room so I knock on the door to get her attention. She unlocks the door for me and I show her the wheel and try to communicate than I need a new inner tube. She shakes her heads, says something in Thai and closes the door. I leave the shop feeling defeated.
On the walk back a local man cycles past me and says something in Thai when he sees me with the wheel in my hand. I try to tell him I need a new inner tube, signalling that the other one exploded. He says a few more things in Thai then says what I think sounded like “You ok?” I wasn’t ok but I left it and went on my way. I saw him two more times as he seemed to be having a cruisy cycle back and forth around his area, so when I saw him again not too far from where Cheye was waiting, I pointed out where we were so he could see what I was talking about.
After having a look at the wheel, the man says in broken English that there is a repair shop that should be able to fix the tire. I bring up the map on my phone and he points to the next busy looking area on the map. We ask how far it is and he says “60”. We assume he means 60 minutes but we are unsure if that’s by cycling or walking. He offers to take the wheel down so I decide to cycle with him while Cheye stays with his bike and bags.
It only takes about 10-15 minutes to cycle there and we arrive at a small bike shop that actually has some decent mountain bikes for sale. I’m starting to wish we had bought our bikes from here as they look newer, better and cheaper than the ones we have (3000-3500 baht). The shopkeeper has a look at the wheel and tells me that it not only needs a new tube but a completely new outer wheel as the current one is extremely worn. They ask where we are planning to cycle to and I tell them Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Both men gasp as if we’ll never make it. I also have my doubts but try not to show it. As the shopkeeper fixes the wheel, the local guy says “He always fix my bicycle. Very good quality”. Five minutes and 250 baht later the wheel is good as new and I’m ready to head back. However the local man stops by the police station and starts chatting to one of the cops outside the station, pointing to me and the bike wheel. I’m not sure what is going on but the man ends up leading me inside the station and I sit there in confusion for 10 minutes before anyone says anything to me. The man has a brief chat to two of the officers then one of them starts asking me questions in broken English. “Do you live / work here?” “Where are you from?” “What are you doing in Thailand?” “Are you travelling alone?” “Where is your friend?” I’m not sure if they understand my answers.
They decide to call over one of the younger, female officers who speak a bit more English and she starts translating for them. I ask her what is going on and why the man brought me into the station. She tells me “He thinks you don’t know the way back so we are going to take you back to your friend”. I’m still confused because I figured the man would be leading the way back on the busy road but I just sit and await their instruction. Meanwhile I start chatting to the girl (whose name is Rommi) about life in Thailand vs life in Australia, and how / where she learnt to speak English so well (“I have a lot of international friends”). Finally another officer walks in and signals for us to follow him. Before I leave, Rommi exclaims “Oh wait! Can I get your Instagram?!” I punch in my Instagram account, tell her to follow me and I will follow her back, then continue following the officer.
The guy leads us and our bikes to what looks like an ambulance rescue vehicle. He opens the back section up attempts to squeeze our two bikes between the second officer and the stretcher. Three of us cram into the front and we drive five minutes back to where Cheye is waiting. I think he is a little worried when I get out of the ambulance but I tell him everything is ok and I will update him later. We say thank you and goodbye to the ambulance guys and get the wheel back on the bike. Local guy is a little too eager to get the wheel on and it gets stuck between the brake pads. We end up having to remove one of the pads so the wheel can spin freely, and Cheye now only has one working set of brakes on his bike. It keeps getting better!
It’s been nearly two hours since the wheel first exploded and I can’t believe Mr. Local guy has stuck with us the entire time to help. He goes to say goodbye but we stop him and hand him a few hundred baht and some bread as a thank you. He takes it then tries to give back half the money but we refuse as we’re so grateful for his help. He thanks us and we part ways. Before we continue I quickly eat the sandwich I bought before we left this morning as I hadn’t eaten anything that day yet.
As we continue cycling, the day gets hotter but we barely stop for any breaks as we’re trying to make up for lost time. There are many times where the road splits into two and we’re unsure which route to take, but they always meet back up so I’m not sure what the point of that is other than to confuse foreign cyclists. The road seems endless, as is the traffic and the longer it gets, the slower we seems to go. We are starting to doubt we’ll make it before sunset.
At one point my chain slips at a major intersection so we have to stop by the roadside to pop it back on – by this time it’s about 4.30pm. As we stop to fix it there is a road cyclist nearby who asks if we are ok. He helps me put the chain back on and asks where we are headed. We decide there’s no way we’re making it to Bang Saen today so we tell him Chonburi. He tells us it’s about 20km away and to be careful as it’s rush hour and approaching sunset. He offers to lead and let us follow so we go with him for a few kms. He pulls into a gas station not far down the road asking if we need water or the toilet. We have a quick chat and exchange Facebook details before we decide to continue.
The roads continue to get crazier during rush hour. Long day. We’re exhausted. Cheye sees some food markets to the side of the road and we decide to look for accommodation as it’s already 5:30pm but still another 10km from the centre of Chonburi town. We check maps.me for accommodation and it turns out VC Residence across the road is actually a guest house rather than what I originally though were rented apartments. Cheye carefully crosses the road (whilst jumping over the centre barricades that separates the two sides of the road). There is a room free but we can’t cross the road with our bikes due to the barricade so we have to lug them up and down the pedestrian overpass a few hundred metres down the road. The stairs are super steep but we manage with our last ounce of strength. We check in, leave our bikes in the car park with security, shower, want to lay down and nap but head back over the pedestrian overpass to get some food.
We walk through a flea market before reaching the giant food market. The place is amazing and we spend the next hour exploring and trying loads of food. Our favourite was the rice paper rolls – we sit down to eat them and haven’t even finished half the box before we order another serve. The owner speaks good English and introduces us to his Aussie friend who we discover has also lived in our town, just two blocks away. We also try BBQ’d bananas with caramel, pancake, fresh orange juice, spicy veggie skewers, pineapple and watermelon. On the walk back we see a live band playing and people dancing at the University next door to our accommodation.
One of the great things we discover that really helps us during our trip are these water dispensers that allow you to get 1.5L of water for 1 baht (BYO container). These dispensers are everywhere and while the water isn’t cold, they are really handy to have especially if you have a fridge at your guesthouse so you can have water ready for the next morning or put straight into your hydration packs like we had. We head back to our room and crash out from the long first day cycling.
Distance cycled: 80km (busy highways, flat)