Wednesday, March 5, 2008; early evening
Today, the Siamerican has aspired to finally embark on what has been an often anticipated and heavily considered journey; To drive his Kawasaki ZX130 street moped from Bangkok down and across Thailand’s peninsular Isthmus of Kra to the island of Phuket demands some 900 kilometers (aprox 540 miles) of sharp curving, dangerously fast paced highway.
As the day is rapidly fading away, the Siamerican has to get a head start and make it to Phetchburi city (140 kilometers southwest of his current Bangkok location) before sundown, where he plans to stay with friends for the night, and execute the rest of the massive journey on Thursday.
If anything unexpected should happen, it is in the highest hopes that everyone is informed promptly–let news, bad and good alike be spread without delay…
In his rush to hit the road and beat rush hour, the Siamerican jotted the above in his journal, and set off from his Sukhumwit-Prakanong apartment, pack and essentials snuggly strapped onto his 100 kilogram prized transport medium. Kilometers accumulated to date: 7065.9.
Though the idea to cruise the Phuket-Bangkok leg–a route promising endless expanses of road, sky, wind, scenery, thought, and inspiration–had lingered in his thoughts over the last year, he had never previously found himself with an ample opportunity to make the vision become reality.
The essence of spontaneity is powerful. As readers may be aware, the Siamerican was planning to spend a week of this spring break down in tropical Phuket with his son & company. Not looking forward to catching a 200 baht taxi to the southern bus terminal, to wait around and board a double decker bus for another 700 baht–which highlight would most likely be an American film dubbed over with horrible Thai voices, just to arrive at the Phuket bus station early in the morning to pay an inflated 100 baht to a local motorcycle taxi for a three kilometer trip, yet again–the thought to be completely independent this trip had resurfaced.
Being that his material possessions would not hold him back as in the past (now that he is comfortably settled in a Bangkok apartment near University) and the fact that classes aren’t scheduled to commence until the second half of the month, the Siamerican could find no valid excuse not to go.
Several of his friends and family had no difficulty offering excuses not to do it when he suggested the idea in the past: ‘Are you crazy?’ ‘It’s so far’ ‘It’s too dangerous’ ‘You need a super cruiser motorcycle for such a trip’ ‘The bus ticket costs just as much as expected petrol consumption, not to mention being quicker’ ‘what if your bike breaks down in the middle of nowhere, etc. etc. etc.
Well, as the Siamerican has done it again. He has proved to himself and the world that making decisions based on fear, doubt, or ignorance will get one nowhere, while challenging those fears and doubts head on will give one at the least, favorable results. And today’s favorable result is 10 provinces and 931 kilometers down the road–a trip that saw invaluable visions and thoughts, of which only a small portion can be relayed to you all here.
Rather than try to give a worded detailed account and lose those who don’t fathom bouncing around long bodies of texts from computer screens, the Siamerican will simply provide his logistics notes, particularly in relation to mileage (kilometers), pit stops, and other relevant notes and facts about the trip:
5-Mar-2008; 16.00: leave Bangkok apartment; 7065.9
16.30: arrive at Prapradaeng pier;
cross Chao Phraya river; 7079
17.55: cross Mae Klong river; 7157
18.00: petrol stop; 3.4 liters;100 baht; 7163.2
18.30: Wang Manao; 7176
19.00: Kao Wang, Phetchburi city; 7209
19.30: retire at friend’s house
6-Mar-2008; 07.00: depart Phetchburi; 7213
08.00: Prachuap kiri khan border near hua hin exit; 7274
08.15: Pranburi; petrol; 3 liters; 90 baht; 7300.8
<08.45: Eat rice; drink coffee; 76 baht
09.45: pass Prachuap kiri khan exit: 7373
10.30: petrol stop near Tup Sa Gae district; 3.5 liters; 107 baht; 7426
<10.50: stretch-engine rest break
11.10: pass Bang Sapan district; 7453
11.45: stop at Kao Po rest stop near Chumporn border; 7488.2
<12.00: break; rain is threatening to fall, take chance, get lucky
13.00: petrol stop near Chumporn city; 3 liters; 90 baht; 7551.8
<14.00: tea break; rain fall delay; chat with coffee girl
14.10: Highway 4 splits westwards towards Ranong; 7559
15.00: stop at Thai-Burmese border view point @ isthmus of kra; 7606
15.20: enter Ranong province border; 7613
15.45: cross scenic river near La Oon district; 7646
16.00: arrive in Ranong city; petrol stop; 2.67 liters; 80 baht; 7677.2
<16.20: milk break; 20 baht; notice chain is loud and loose
<17.00: find local motorcycle shop, tighten chain; 20 baht
18.00: sidetrack to Prapaat beach near suk samran district; 7772.9
<18.15: scope Andaman sea view; reminisce first time 6 years prior
18.45: petrol stop at Kuraburi, Phanga; 3 liters; 90 baht; 7801.8
<19.10: eggroll, juice, coffee break; 60 baht
20.00: pass Ta Kua Pa district: 7858 – 7861
20.45: pass Kao Lak beach: 7888- 7893
21.20: pass Tai Muang district: 7923- 7925
21.45: petrol stop; 3 liters; 90 baht; 7940.8
<22.00: take break, send sms to announce near arrival
23.00: Arrive safely at Phuket home; 7996.8
…driving a total of 930.8 kilometers on two separate days—the first day driving 147.1 in 3 horus in 30 minutes (rush hour slowed it down making the average speed to a mere 42.02 kilometers per hour, or about 700 meters per minute.
The second day, he drove 783.8 kilometers in 11 hours, making the days average about 842 meters per minute, or 50.52 kilometers per hour. Keep in mind these averages included various pit and rest stops. The actual driving time, average speed is slightly higher.
In brief summary of fuel efficiency and budget, the Siamerican made a total of seven petrol stops, filling the bike with a total of 21.6 liters at aproximately 647 baht, covering some 931 kilometers via an accumulative 18 hours on the road (excluding pit stop breaks = aprox. 15 hours of raw driving).
The trip from Bangkok to Phetchburi was standard. The Siamerican got stuck in some Bangkok-Samut Prakarn, and Samut Sakorn rush hour on the way out, but was a smooth ride after that for the most part. In Samut Songkhram, it seems that the highway department finally got it together as it was smooth and not crowded with construction obstructions as has been the case in previous years.
Though Thursday was a long and aching day of driving, the road conditions and traffic were for the most part favorable all the way. Traffic was light and the roads were smooth and straight all the way down Phetchburi, Prachuap Kiri Khan, and Chumporn. The highway in question is smooth two lanes each way split by an island, and offering motorcyclists a two to three meter shoulder. As was expected, endless trains of huge eight to 14 wheelers either slowing down the pace, or recklessly speeding up and scaring the pace.
Upon the split towards Ranong near Chumporn, the road suddenly decreases in size by half, and the separating island is no more. Even the shoulder is half the size. As the crossing to the other side of the peninsula hosts curving and inclining mountain roads, the route provides top class jungle mountain scenery, though one must be very careful soaking it in. One split second of distraction has and will be the difference between life and death.
The bright side to this route as opposed to the other more used route via Surat Thani-Phanga is that there are rarely any more 10 wheelers or other large industrial trucks obstructing the road, and less cars overall. This is also what makes it dangerous. Being a mountain winding highway with less cars means the cars that are on it will unleash at dangerous speeds down and around curves. Many drivers have no respect for ‘no passing’ signs, and lane separation paint.
Just looking at various beat up and dented steal cliff barriers will give one an idea of how dangerous this road has been in the past and will likely continue to be as long as there are inconsiderate motorists in a rush. The Siamerican even witnessed a speeding police truck anxiously make an illegal pass going up a blind curve!
Well, this monkey sees, but this monkey ain’t gonna do, for life is too precious. And it was certainly essential to keep this in mind throughout the trip, particularly through Ranong and Phanga’s dangerous curving and inclining roads. He was particularly worried about the four hours post sunset through Phanga’s coastal mountain stretch, though some aspects of driving at night actually proved to feel a little safer–granted ones senses are fully intact, and all mirrors and lights are in working order.
If anything, he was more afraid that wild life or some stray cattle would randomly obstruct the road. Motorists at night at least provide sufficient warning forth and behind with their lights, though some can be quite inconsiderate refusing to turn off their brights coming head on.
Well, there’s still the return trip sometime next week, and the Siamerican has yet to decide if he will take the same route back. It would be great to see Phanga’s scenery during the day at least .
In conclusion, the Siamerican is not crazy nor does he ever take life for granted, that is why he is still alive, and plans to be. Yes, motorcycles are dangerous, just like guns, knives, and bombs. However, in the end, it is the human that is most dangerous. Just as the soldier must respect his gun as his own wife, anyone who gets on a motorcycle, must realize that it is not a toy or simply entertainment. It is a tool to achieve transport, not speed and certainly not adrenaline.
If one wishes to stay alive on it, then they must remind themselves of all the tens of thousands that have unexpectedly lost their life on it, for simply taking it for granted. As a master of your potential death ticket, it’s vital to not let yourself become vulnerable and ignorant, but rather strive to always be conscious, educated, and sensible!
And for visual stimuli of both trips…
Click here to view images from the entire Bangkok to Phuket to Bangkok trip.