Thursday, 17 December 2009
SCHOOTING THROUGH SIAM
After sharing a barge with a number of large trucks across the Mekong from Laos, Leana and I were not surprised to only receive the miserly 15-day Thai visa usually issued at land borders. We weren't sure about a visa extension in Bangkok, so we made haste in a Southerly direction. Fortunately the route allowed for some speedy cycling, and even on the few occasions where we had to cross hills the good road was a pleasure. We mostly camped on the grounds of Buddhist temples and at petrol stations (convenient toilets, water, and usually a 7-Eleven shop). Just North of Bangkok we arrived early at the former Siamese capital of Ayuttaya, where we fortunately found cheap rooms. The place was pretty much destroyed in a war a few hundred years ago, but walking around the old river-bound city one can still observe many interesting remains of the former glorious palaces and temples. Then it was on to the present Thai capital, Bangkok, working our way through many kilometers of heavy traffic before reaching the crazy tourist-haven suburb of Banglamphu. Eight months and 12641 km later, we booked into another cheap guest house not far from where we'd stayed on our first visit to the city. Hoping for a visa extension it was a bit of a mission finding the Bangkok Immigration Bureau. Traveling by river ferry, sky-train, and taxi, we were dismayed to discover that the visa office had recently moved to the far Northern suburbs of the city. Another train and bus ride later we reached the place, and after going through all the bureaucratic "red tape" only Leana got an extension for a further 7 days. (The short extension costs a lot of money, and none of the many ATM's there were prepared to give me any. The next morning I managed to squeeze out my last few cents, and I had to go all the way back to that miserable office for the essential stamp in my passport). Today we were still in Bangkok as Leana had some unfinished business to take care of, so I spent most of the day working on the bikes. Daily distances cycled since my last update were:- Thoeng 88 km; Phayao 103 km; Rong Kwang 130 km; Uttaradit 102 km; Phitsanulok 107 km; Nakhon Sawan 149 km; Chaiyo 126 km; Ayuttaya 50 km; and Bangkok 83 km. Total distance cycled on this trip is 51286 km.