Yesterday, Saturday, the sixth day of December, 2008, approaching an evenly waxing moon, the Siamerican Wanderer made a snap decision to hop on the bike southbound to visit family, and secondarily, to free his mind with the road and wind in preparation for redundant university examinations after next week.
In the previous two ventures this year, SW had broken each leg into two days, at most, travelling some 750 kilometers in one go (Phetchaburi to Phuket) and stopping overnight in Chumporn or Phetchaburi. This time, SW was determined to do the entire 900ish kilometer trip in one go-one day. He knew it could be done safely granted the Gods favored him with favorable weather, and time was handled preciously.
And so it went throughout Saturday, driving non-stop for two hours at a time, stopping only to fuel, stretch, energize and release bodily fluids, allocating just 20 minutes each break.
Considering the departure was at a late 6.20 a.m, this trip would call for the SW to pick the shortest and quickest possible route to ensure an arrival to Phuket before midnight.
From Bangkok, take Rama II Road southwest as it eventually becomes Highway 32, merging with Highway 4 about 90 kilometers west of Bangkok. From here the bulk of the trip is southbound on highway 4 through Phetchaburi and Prachuap Kiri provinces, into Chumporn province, where Highway continues as Highway 41 into Surathani.
From Surathani, there are multiple routes to take across the Isthmus of Kra, but the route that the SW took this turn proved to be worthy in saving time and kilometers. Just south of Surathani Airport exit, there is an exit connection with highway 401. Currently, parts of 401 are island-separated double laned, but the rest seems to be in the making, so advise caution at high speeds and limited visibility.
Take the newly paved 401 west for about 45 kilometers until you pass a district called Bahn Da Khun, where you head south on highway 415. Alternatively if you keep going west for another 13 km or so, there’s another highway 4118 that runs paralell with 415. In the previous two legs from Phuket to Bangkok, this was the route taken.
However, being late and dark, the SW decided to try his luck with 415 this time, and it proved to be smooth and straight throughout with slightly more civilization than 4118, still with a few segments not fully paved.
If you’re traveling during daylight and not in a rush, 4118 will do fine, but for safer and quicker travels, particularly in the dark hours, 415 is more suggested. some 45 kilometers south, both 415 and 4118 connect with Hwy 4 at Tup-Boot district.
One can then continue west on Hwy 4 some 30 kilometers of mountain highway to Phanga city, or as most do, cut south on the contuation of highway 415–a short cut bi-passing Phanga city, rejoining with westbound highway 4 on the west flank of Phanga city. While mostly short and smooth, this segment of 415 is still quite stressful to drive, as it’s usually packed with trains of cars tailing a slower motorist, and a two lane, two way highway, you’re gurunteed to find speeding cars overtaking eachother racing against oncoming traffic. Be advised and stick to the shoulder as much as possible!
At this point, on the west end of Phanga city, highway 4 continues for 20 to 30 kilometers towards the west coast, where it joins with highway 402, the southbound highway that takes one in/out of Phuket via Sarasin bridge.
The trip report result: A charming third trip thus far; East Bangkok to South Phuket in some 880 kilometers paced in 16 hours, making the overall speed average 55 kilometers every hour. (keep in mind the actual speed driving was between 70 and 100 kph, but with breaks the average goes down) A total of seven pit stops were made, consuming a little over 21 liters of Gasohal 95 petrol at a record low of 380 baht–currently that’s not even 12 bucks US! Either way, it is about half the cost he paid back in March.
Unlike previous trips/routes, the SW was not only able to establish time/distant/fuel costs records, but was able to stay dry throughout. Not that it hadn’t rained, but the timing had him arriving at locations just after it had rained. Sometimes, you run right into a storm, while others the storm runs circles around you.
Before this entry ends, a quick note about day versus night driving: This time of year, Thailand gets about 12 hours of sunlight, roughly 6.30 to 18.30. Some highways actually seem easier to drive at night thanks to the easy contrast-visibility of oncoming/approaching cars’ headlights. While night driving can be cooler on the both the body and bike, and not to mention less stressful with less traffic, one should also consider the disadvantages such as the possibility of breaking down in the middle of the night-middle of nowhere. Also one must consider that a greater percentage of motorists in the night hours are intoxicated or sleepy for that matter. Bottom line, always apply the maximum caution and sense.
And in only a few days, he’ll have to do it all over again, arriving safely back in Bangkok to attend the last classes of the term from Thursday to Saturday, as final examinations approach the following week…sigh He’ll be sure to update the blog with an optimized video clip of some of the driving.