Fast rides in Kanchanaburi (Part 2)

By Graham K. Rogers

Fast roads, fair weather and some Thai essentials

There are a lot of images on this page. I have tried to reduce the size but there will inevitably be some delay in processing the page.

After a fast run down the hill -- about 12 kms -- from the university campus to Saiyoke Noi, I turn right.

The road from Saiyoke Noi (where the railway now ends) across to the Srisawat road runs through a gap in the hills that separate the two arms of the Kwae river. I normally like to ride quite fast along here but today I slowed it right down so that I could take some pictures while riding.

Traffic is low, so the risks from other vehicles is minimal. I agreed with myself that, if in doubt, I would immediately drop the camera (I had it tied up so that it would swing out of the way).

The road is lined with trees for much of the first part and is reasonably hilly, although photographs tend to conceal this. I have noticed this about motor racing circuits shown on television: the screen flattens the contours.

I took some nice pictures of the curves and the surrounding countryside and as I came towards the river, stopped to snap the "beware elephants" sign that is there.

Around the corner is another elephant trekking establishment. It was here, about 7 years ago, I realised the value of "what if" when it came to sightings of elephant dung. Apart from the danger of hitting this stuff anyway, it probably signifies that elephants came along the road. At that time, I came round the corner to face three of them: benign and sad. There are some wild ones in Kaeng Krachan (Petchaburi) that are less benign as they are in constant battle with the farmers growing pineappple there. An elephant drunk on fermented pineapple must be a sight to behold. And to run away from.

What if I had not taken the picture of that warning sign? I would have cme around the corner in time to see a couple of these noble beasts crossing the road with some tourist trekkers heading off into the bushes. I stopped anyway and walked across the road to the entrance -- this place has moved as it used to be right next to the river, now it is about 100 metres way. Perhaps this is a seasonal change, with the river -- clean here, not muddy -- running so high.

As I walked across the road I began to doubt whether or not I had a real elephant here. It had not moved at all, other than a mechanical nodding, like some donkey engine (those of you who know Dickens' Modern Times will get the joke). The tusks were huge and almost-unrealistically shiny; but then the ears flapped. It was real: tethered. I took a couple of shots of the elephant then tried to take some of the entrance with the hills in the background. Camera no work

I wasn't out of film, but I was out of memory. I had managed to fill a 64MB memory stick. I went back to the bike parked under a tree and got out my spectacles: I can see fine for long distances, but these days I am in real trouble when it comes to print and suchlike. The memory stick was indeed full but there was a lot of worthless data on the camera, including one of me that I had accidentally taken when trying to see if the flash was working: that was a surprise.

I was also carrying the original 16MB stick that came with the camera, so I put that in my pocket for quicker access and headed off to the fast road. For once, having done this so many times before, I decided I should ride this slowly, stopping often (heresy) to show, not tell.

After the village, the road goes left after the entrance to the lower dam then bears right, uphill. There is a fairly sharp left-hand bend at the crest, which tightens up, then drops downhill and to the right.

For the next couple of kilometres, the road meanders gently: not straight, so it is interesting, and not too twisty so speeds can be quite high. With a couple of blind brows, you need to keep on your toes. Gently downhill with the lake just the other side of the crash barrier, the road finally takes a sharp right turn.

This next section is really worth riding again and again (indeed it all is). I think that I have only ever got it right once. After the bend, there is a really short straight and a left bend that gets tighter as it goes on and then starts to go uphill.

As it ends, the road has a sharp right bend uphill, which crests as the road turns sharp left again.

After this, the road (still uphill) is straight for a bit longer then there is a reasonably gentle right hand bend.

Uphill for about two kilometers (I took a photograph about half way up the hill from the right side of the road), the road now has a series of longish straights linked with wicked (but quite fast) bends.

Tyre marks, scars to the crash barrier and to the verge all suggest that larger vehicles sometimes do not get round. At this time on a Sunday mornng, the roads are almost empty. About halfway along the entire stretch, I ran out of memory again so stopped to change the stick. There were a few spots of rain.

Coming towards the end, I saw several riders coming towards me. They were all on offroad machines and all covered head to foot in mud. I shoud think they had either spent the previous day in the Sisawat area, or beyond the Erawan waterfall.

And then I was at the intersection myself: up the hill for Sisawat and to the left for the Erawan waterfall and the hydroelectric dam. The road was being resurfaced all the way up the hill.

I took a run up there but it began to rain as I got to the top, so I returned and went to the dam where I had a can of Sprite and started the Sunday crossword.

When it was time to go, I saw that the clouds had thickened considerably, so decided on making my way back early. At the village, it began to rain slightly, but I decided not to stop for wet weather gear. The rain soon passed over, but it rained three times briefly and I was a bit damp. Coming along the section where I had seen the off-road riders, I got behin a couple of slow cars and was readying myself to pass when I saw a buffalo near the verge on the right. What if?

It was not tethered (it had broken the rope) and it ran across the road in front of the first car. Both braked and I did too, moving slightly to the right, away from the rear end of the one in front. The buffalo's eyes transmitted fear as we went past. I passed the two cars and headed back towards Kanchanaburi.

When I got to the city outskirts, it was obvous that more rain was imminent, so I pulled the bike onto the edge of the road beside some traffic lights and took out the gear. Three small bikes also stopped on the edge, as if that were the place to be. I missed the first green light, but went with the second: straight into a wall of water. I was out of fuel anyway, so pulled into a Thai Petroleum (PTT) service station and filled up. While there, I opened the top box and took out sme rubber gloves. The attendant looked at me quizically: the dye runs from the riding gloves, I said. Enlightenment. His face said "What an obvious solution."

I made good time through Kanchanaburi back to Nakhon Pathom but at the end of the bypass all traffic was stopped. Like other riders, I made my way to the front and saw the police there. I had stumbled on another Royal convoy, so had to wait for the cars to go on their way. When the police released the traffic, I was off but saw that I was catching the escort and knew that I would be stopped again -- no one gets close at all.

Halfway to Nakhon Chaisri a policeman stopped the traffic. As I was coming to rest near him, a police car reversed into the road to try and block all lanes. As I was in his way, I rode past and stopped a few metres past, in time to see a large police motorcycle, so I went over and chatted to the rider. The bike was a Honda -- 750cc, 4 cycliders, he said -- with that box-type frame (like the Bros) that I like so much. The fairing was completely closed in and it loked like a nicely designed bike: apart from the chain that is.

After about 5 minutes, we were waved on and the rider saluted me as I left (provincial police are so much nicer). With the Royal convoy having passed through, traffic was quite light and I made short work of the remaining few miles back home, in time for a late lunch and the afternon rain.

© Graham K. Rogers
Bangkok: September 2003

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More Rides in Kanchanaburi (2): a Sequel

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