Back Roads And Bayous

By Stephen Ewashkiw | April 2, 2014

12,166 km so far.

We arranged with the guest house for an early breakfast today, so that we could get on the road before the blistering heat did. Things didn’t go as planned, thanks to technical difficulties.

All was not lost though, as we had a beautiful ride through farmland for most of the day, instead of being on the highway, which is the route most cycle tourists take from Ayutthaya on their way to Cambodia. A little bit of extra time looking at the route usually pays off.

Hide That Tangled Hose!

Our technical fault was a broken power cord for the MacBook. This small piece of tech is vital when trying to maintain a daily blog. So, all for you dear readers, we delayed our departure this morning.

First we headed to Ayutthaya’s Sky Mall. Sadly, it wasn’t the hilarious inflight consumer magazine come to life. It was, in fact, barely a mall at all. Instead it’s an almost completely empty shell that, from the outside, looks operational.

Why they have signs up all around town advertising a completely empty mall we do not understand.

This is yet another in a long list of ways Thailand reminds us of China.

After stopping by another computer store, we found out about Robinson Mall.

Though it wasn’t far away, it involved a ride through a maze of freeway on- and off-ramps to get there. And by there, I mean, across a gigantic freeway from where we needed to be. The only way over was to take the pedestrian bridge, so I left Jane waiting in a glamorous parking lot with the bikes while I made the trek.

pedestrian bridge over highway

The pedestrian bridge across a major highway, Ayutthaya.

There, I discovered that the mall, including the giant Tesco store, didn’t open until 10am. After walking around a bit, I found iBeat, the same chain that helped us back in a Chiang Mai. The staff of iBeat slept in today, not showing up until well after opening time. Just as I was about to give up, they arrived, and provided me with a replacement plug.

For 83 dollars! That is just stupid.

With our new power cord in hand, we finally hit the road, at 11am. By then it was easily 35C.

On Dirt

Why most cycle tourists ride the highway through here I will never understand. It may simply be a case of technological advances, meaning we are currently better able to navigate than they were a few months (or years) ago. Or they’re not making use of the technology that’s available. Maybe most people just don’t think about it.

I know a lot of cyclists avoid dirt roads like the plague, and there were a few on our route today.

But why would we want to be on the fast road, with the fast trucks, when we have purposely chosen to go slowly?

I would rather ride a couple of extra kilometres and hit a bit of dirt in order to avoid the main roads. This allows us the chance to ride through farmland, some barely inhabited areas, and into small villages.

Canal Plus

We had noticed on the map that the roads here make a complex geometric pattern, but it wasn’t until we were riding through the area that we understood why.

The grid we rode through today, near Ban Na.

The grid we rode through today, near Ban Na.

This is a heavily agricultural area, with hundreds of canals that have been dug to irrigate the bananas, corn, and papaya growing here.

Lush agriculture area, near Ayutthaya.

Lush agriculture area, near Ayutthaya.

They are planted row upon extremely straight row, creating a patchwork of bright green plants and murky canals. Along with providing enough water for agriculture, the canals also provide a home for fish (and pythons), and smaller water dwellers, who in turn feed the birds.

Canal irrigation near Ayutthaya.

Canal irrigation near Ayutthaya.

There is a big picture view to the ecosystem at work here, and it has been very carefully laid out in a beautiful, and effective, way that many other farming areas of the world could learn from. Then again, this was probably a complex natural ecosystem of forest before it was razed and turned into farmland.

Not in the canals. Our salt-water pool in Ban Na.

Not in the canals. Our salt-water pool in Ban Na.

These backroad routes are always bit longer and more complicated, but they are so completely worth it. At the end of the ride, we have a much better picture of what life is like in the area we have just passed through, and that is why we are cycle touring in the first place.  

Want to see the route map? View it on Ride With GPS.

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