Monday, March 5, 2012

Weekend Spins: Pakkret Ayutthaya Rural Route

The Spin:

Looking for a weekend escape from The Big Mango but can't bear the thought of a hectic drive to get out of the city? A weekend cycling trip to Ayutthaya starting from the edge of town could be just what you need. There are beautiful cycling routes through the rice farms and mango plantations to the west of the Chaopraya River. 

Pakkret pier, where Chaengwattana Road crosses over the Chaopraya River, is a convenient starting point. There are a variety of ways to get your bikes to the Pakkret pier. You can take the express ferry up river, take the train from downtown and pedal west to the pier or have a car or truck haul your bikes there for you.

Only a few minutes riding north of Pakkret, and you'll feel like you've left the city far behind.  Rural farm houses replace urban shop houses. Traffic becomes light and interspersed with tractors. You'll even have the chance to see a bit of wildlife including monitor lizards and birds like storks, egrets, herons, and kingfishers.

With the many rural roads north and south, it is easy to create a loop to Ayutthaya and back. The route we took heads north-north-west to Chedi Hoi then straight north to Sena. From Sena, we headed east to the Old City of Ayutthaya. On the return, we went south and crossed the bridge at Bang Sai, went a few kilometers west past the Bangsai Golf Course and headed south through the farms down a variety of small canal-side roads and dirt farm roads back to Pakkret. 

There is no need to pack excessive amounts of liquids and snacks. There are numerous mom-pop shops scattered around the area, so you can easily reload you camelback and get food along the way. Noodles or grilled chicken are your best bets for lunch.

The Scoop:

My wife Laura, my friend Don and I were looking for a training ride to get ready for a tour of southern Laos. We needed something we could start from home in Pakkret, but was interesting enough to make it fun. This was the ride we decided on and it was well worth the time spent. A little adventure on the edge of the big city.

We met up at my place on a hot Saturday morning, loaded my new paniers with just enough clothes, spare tubes, etc. for a two-day ride and were off by 8:30. March is the hottest month in Thailand. We knew that temperatures would probably reach at least 35 degress C, so we planned on stopping frequently to get out of the sun and rehydrate. 

Our planned half-way point was Chedi Hoi temple, where we had often eaten som tam, grilled chicken and sticky rice at a family run shop. In our minds, we could smell the chicken sizzling on the grill and the lime and fish sauce being pounded in the krok. But the shop wasn't there. In fact, the entire market area in the back of the temple grounds was deserted. The abandoned buildings still showed the broad dark scar of the flood waters that had risen to 2 meters. People all over the Pathumthani/Ayutthaya area are still repairing homes and rebuilding their lives. Some, like our grilled chicken vending family, have packed up and moved on.

We've always enjoyed visiting Chedi Hoi where we could feed the huge turtles chunks of cucumber on the ends of long wooden skewers and visit the make-shift museum with an odd assortment of items from dinosaur and whale bones to old typewriters and Chinese pottery. According to the a monk at the temple, the turtles had been washed away but had returned because they knew it was safe. Hopefully, they are predictors of the future and know that next October they will be safe from the kinds of floods they saw this year.

If you follow our trail during the hot season, be sure to look for fresh mangos on the right side of the road when you cross over the Bang Sai bridge. They are sweet and delicious.

Have you been on this ride? 

What have you seen? 

What adventures have you encountered?

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