Expecting to go wake boarding this Sunday, the Wanderer found himself spontaneously changing the plan when all his friends ended up backing out at the last moment. After doing some work on the computer all Sunday morning, the Wanderer finally got himself together, showered, packed a bag and set out by 4 pm.
Bike Mileage at 2770 kilometers;(how far driven since obtaining new bike) Destination: Phetchburi, an expected 50 plus kilometers to the south west of Samut Songkhram–in seek of a peaceful, scenic back road drive, the route ahead was an uncertain short cut.
The standard route from Samut Songkhram to Phetchaburi, along Rama II expressway, straying far away from the coast some 15-20 kilometers west of Samut Songkhram before finally turning south at the Phetchaburi-Ratchaburi highway junction, is over 60 kilometers, and, not to mention much more fast paced and congested than the back roads along the coast route as follows–an unseen yet uncertain coastal route awaiting venturous explorers.
Getting on Rama II at the Samut Songkrham exit ramp, the Wanderer crossed the mighty Mae Klong river several kilometers down. About 6 kilometers west of the Mae Klong river, a narrow road on the left hand side turns sharply to the south. Zigzagging in a southwest direction, through partially paved, partially smooth dirt, the road with the occasional pot hole cuts through the fertile coastal-canal irrigated fields with rows of mangrove forests shielding view of the sea on yonder to the left.
8 kilometers southwest of the rush of Rama II, just after crossing a large canal, the Wanderer found himself at Yi-Sarn hill village บ้านเขายี่สาร. Coasting through the village, the road suddenly turned into a narrow residential soi. After asking a villager the direction to Phetchaburi, it was confirmed that the Wanderer had missed the turn a kilometer or so before reaching the village. The wanderer suddenly recalled a fork in the road a kilo or two back; the left hand option looked in quite bad condition all muddied, thumped and fresh in heavy construction. Stopping at the the police station just before the fork, the Wanderer confirmed the left path was the way towards Phetchaburi.
For the next 8 kilometers, the last stretch of Samut Songkhram province was the worst condition road the Wanderer has yet driven, somewhat resembling the memory of certain Cambodian roads. The kind of road that seems like ten thousand jumbo bowling balls were dropped from space after a flood.
Amidst all the holy and bumpy dirt path excuse for a road, were huge construction trucks and machines slowly moving red dirt every which way, with the other occasional four wheeled vehicles speeding by at up to 60 kph in either direction. The Wanderer could only safely navigate such archaic path at an average speed of 20 kilometers per hour and eventually happened upon a large bridge.
Finally, the Wanderer arrived at Bang-ta-Boon, บ้านบางตะบูน, right inside Phetchaburi province, a community at the mouth of the Bang-ta-Boon river, where various river and canals in the area drain water originating from Myanamar and Thailand mountains to the East into the gulf of Thailand. The Wanderer parked the bike out in the middle of the bridge to scope the reassuring if not refreshing view. It’s just so energizing to see and soak in such grand geographical locations where river meats ocean. Moments after parking the bike, an 8 man canoe was enduring to meet the mighty sea. After a quick pic, the wanderer hit the road again.
Now in Phetchaburi province, the road was smooth, hard, and paved with only an occasional pot hole all the rest of the way. Only in contrast to hell, can you truly appreciate heaven–visa versa. South of Bang-ta-boon is a smooth, straight and scenic road 7 kilometers to Ban Laem district, Phetchaburi’s historically significant coastal city. The road continues on the western edge of Ban Laem for some 4 kilometers before heading on to Phetchaburi some 15 kilometers to the southwest.
Halfway in to Ban Laem, the Wanderer recognized some large white towers that he had seen on a television program previously. These were fake buildings, or buildings built specifically to attract and lure migrating swallows to come and make nests with the help of a loud audio system mimicking artificial mating calls 24 hours a day.
The nests of these particular swallows–which much resemble bats swarming out and about towards evening, sell for good money. Companies purchase the raw scaled nest for as high as 80,000 to 100,000 baht per kilogram! The companies turn the raw nest into a bird nest drink, popular among Chinese and mid-age to senior groups. The much sought after drink is believed to have powerful energy and healing properties if consumed regularly.
Such a practice to utilize and exploit the bird nest market was initially practiced by the temple across from these fake buildings, Wat Luck-sa-na-ram วัดลักษณาราม some 10 years ago (though the temple apparently didn’t have to use any special techniques to lure the swallows as they had come naturally. Anyhow, in recent years, local entrepreneurs decided to jump on the band wagon, paying almost 3 million baht for nest section ownership rights of one small boxed section of a fake building.
After talking to a knowledgeable senior local about the bird nests, the Wanderer continued on the path as to be sure to get to Phetchaburi city some 15 kilometers to the South West; The shade of the day was darkening as sunlight waned. The smooth and un-congested road to Phetchaburi city allowed for 90kmph hour + coasting through lush green treed fields, initially passing fuel pumps and a small Muslim community marked by the head dress of villagers and of course, the Green domed Mosque.
Once reaching the outskirts of Phetchaburi city, mileage at 2828 kilometers, there was still 40 minutes of day light left, but the Wanderer had no particular place to go, and headed to an old Thai friend’s house on the Southeast side of town, P’ Tor, a 50som, hard working, hard drinking electrician.
The night catching up with he and his 30 year old nephew, P’ Ti, involved drinking, joking, singing and laughing. After our first small bottle of Sang Som, the three went to a Karaoke drinking hole nearbye where sharing another big bottle of Sang Som along with some shrimp based raw and deep fried platters, which the wanderer would later end up puking all out. Sang a few songs and seemed to impress at least a few people with clear and pleasant singing of both a Thai language and English language song. The Thai song was Jai Ter Gort Krai ใจเธอกอดใคร (Who is your heart embracing) by Neo X, and the English Language song was More than Words by Extreme.
One of the waitresses and her younger assistant cousin must have been impressed as they agreed without hesitation to go out with the three guys after finishing work after 12 am. It was approaching 11 pm by then and P’ Tor was really drunk, wanting to get back as he had to work the following morning. After taking the girls number and agreeing to meet up later, the three left back to P’ Tor’s house. P’ Ti and the Wanderer were waiting around deciding if to really go and meet the two girls. They weren’t amazingly knock out type, and the one that was cute was dangerously borderline young, only 17.
At that point, inside P’ Ti’s house on the same soi, the Wanderer stubbornly sat on a coffee table that he thought was a couch, and immediately, the glass table was shattered into many pieces, frame all bent out–and then he realized there was no point or benefit going to meet these girls, and it was time to retire back to P’ Tor’s place. Turning off the phone, lying down for just a moment, the spinning came, and than a trip to the toilet to clear the drink and unsettled food out.
Said goodbye to P’ Tor at around 8 am and headed through the heart of Phetchaburi market-downtown for some breakfast of on the other side of town, at a road side made to order joint I was fond of in the day. Particularly, the cook’s delicious crispy Put-gra-pow-mhoo-sup-kai-dao (Basil, garlic, chili, and minced pork stir fried with fried egg)
After breakfast, went to the agency- employer’s office to say hello as well as obtain a salary guarantee document that can be used later with banks and credit if needed to make payments on anything.
Lounged around and finally set off about 11 am. Starting at the Northwest edge of town, behind Kao Wung, or Palace Hill, navigated down memory lane through Phetchaburi city some 8 kilometers to the Southeast edge of town on the highway heading to Jao Samran beach, 15 kilometers east. At Hat Jao, stopped for some pictures and headed north bound along the coastal village road. Some 2 kilometers north of Hat Jao, found a nice little vacant white sand beach to park the bike near and go for a swim.
About noon, continued on the north bound coastal road for some 30 kilometers to Ban Laem district passing through vast irrigated fields just 100 meters west of the mangrove forested coast, passing two small coastal town junctions (Pak Talay ปาทะเลand Khun Sai บ้านขุนทราย). Filled the tank at Ban Laem, 3.3 liters at 30 baht a liter; slightly inflated rural price, which meant the Wanderer used up some 3 liters of petrol on this journey to that point, going about 140 kilometers, with still 30-40 to go. A few kilometers before reaching the river mouth at Bang-ta-boon, a storm was threatening so the wanderer stopped at a temple, Wat Phet-suwan วัดเพชรสุวรรณ, where a massive Chinese circular shrine Viharn was under construction. After parking the bike under the construction equipment shelter, the Wanderer learned from a construction worker that the massive shrine has been under construction for many years and still has many to go.
Even though it still has long ways to be completed, the basic structure and concrete is all laid out with various working platforms constructed against it. It was interesting to see it at this phase of construction, rains pouring down full load as the wanderer found shelter in the abandoned massive concrete structure amidst overgrowth, weeds, and vines. It almost seemed like an ancient holy ruin, though it had yet to be completed.
After a while, the rains finally let up and the path back home continued. Crossing over the over the Bang-ta-boon river mouth in Samut Songkhram just after a big rain was the much dreaded option other than back tracking all the way back to Ban Laem and finding a long way to the Rama II, which would ultimately be much longer than necessary. The next 7 kilometers of the worst road the Wanderer has driven was even worse at this point, with mud, flood, and clumps of slowing the average speed of the wanderer to 10-15 kilometers an hour.
The bike and shoes were all painted red from the mud when reaching Yi-sarn village, and the wanderer was ever greatful to be back on to smooth dirt and some paved road back to Rama II highway, and on back home to Samut Songkhram, where he stopped for an early dinner at Lotus as the Car spa washed and waxed the bike for 100 baht.
Upon arriving home, the mileage was at 2944.6 kilometers which put almost 178 kilometers on the bike for this journey.
Overall, it was a great drive, minus the muddy and bad sections of road between Yi-sarn and Bang-ta-boon. Eventually, the construction will be finished and the road will be better, which will make such a coast drive perfect not only for the scenic and rural setting, but for a short cut to Phetchaburi’s coast and beaches. Though I imagine if and when they make these bad sections of road good, more traffic from Rama II will start taking the route and make a the two lane road congested.