In Samut Songkhram I get the flair of a larger Thai provincial town again, after a long sunny day on the bike and a somewhat unfriendly landscape. I have now said goodbye to the northwestern beaches of the Gulf of Thailand. Chao Samran was the last nest in which several beach resorts vied for guests and where the first-class touring coaches from Bangkok apparently made the first stop south to unload their passengers at a large, mass-processed beach restaurant for about three-quarters of an hour.
The bus then drove south, for me the landscape became more barren in the north. On a large surface, water is distributed and evaporated from the sea from an extensive trench system, and the salt that remains is then laboriously extracted. On some surfaces there is simply water, on others the salt sludge that has already remained due to evaporation is leveled evenly with small rollers. No tree, no shade, for many kilometers.
The city of Samut Songkhram is a little north of long-distance connection 4, on which I had to drive a few kilometers due to a lack of alternatives. The hard shoulder is wide there, but the constantly passing traffic with its permanent noise annoys and is quite a burden. It is almost relaxing again to slowly move through the streets lined with unadorned, dilapidated concrete buildings. I have to drive even more attentively here than on the edge of the trunk road, because the many motorbikes, shared taxis, small vans that stop abruptly at the side of the road or come from an entrance or side street are no exception, but rather the rule. Moped drivers also like to drive in the wrong direction.
The streets of the city are hopelessly congested when I get there in the late afternoon, but over the weeks I’ve got used to cycling past the traffic jam as cheekily and persistently as the motorcyclists do, and if necessary between the standing cars change lanes to advance to the next set of traffic lights. Later I am cut or ‘disconnected’ by vehicles that are illegally stopping at the side of the road.
I still find my hotel near a sports stadium without any problems, however, and I get a room on the upper floors for well under 1000 Baht. The prices in the holiday resorts near the beaches have been significantly higher lately.
I don’t have much time to explore the city because of the dawn. There is already a night market around Wat Phet Samut, the streets are full of people and only partially closed to traffic. Getting through on foot is not that easy, but it is extremely exciting. The background noise is indescribable, where in the twilight thousands of birds are now settling on the roofs of the houses and in the many cables that are routed above ground all over the streets.
For dinner in a street restaurant on the outskirts of the city center, which is very popular with locals, I first have a wok serving and later a second portion of rice noodles with seafood, vegetables and eggs. Since I have asked again for a version ‘not so spicy’, the cook does not use any spices at all, so I still have to order a bowl of fresh chili. I also eat it empty, because now I’m used to a certain hotness that I don’t want to miss.
At night it is somewhat cool at the moment, the temperature drops to below 26° C, but the next morning brings a lot of sun and I have to do an 80 km stage. From Samut Songkhram I first drive on the smaller route 3092 for less than 20 km almost straight with a few kilometers distance parallel to the wide long-distance route 35. Furthermore, there are salt pans that take up space on both sides of the road. After about half the distance, however, the asphalt suddenly stops here – the beautiful road turns into a construction site. Fortunately, only for a short piece of road.
But the side route then flows into the trunk road just before it crosses the Sunak Hon River, and on the edge of this 2x three-lane, highway-like road I cycle towards the capital Bangkok. If it weren’t for the noise and exhaust fumes of the many vehicles, it wouldn’t really matter. I benefit from truck traffic on the edge of the broad road, in that the air vortices that these vehicles bring, reduce the wind resistance a little bit, so I ultimately make much faster progress than if I were just pushing the air in front of me. But the noise and the dust are very unpleasant in the long run.
Along the wide trunk road there are industrial and commercial areas, car dealers, a kind of amusement park, a shopping mall, but also a large temple complex and after about 40 km I take a longer break in Samut Sakhon and eat fresh from the wok again in a side street. The women who run such small food stalls keep laughing when I try to put together a dish by pointing to their ingredients, some of which are in bowls, some of which are spread out.
Samut Sakhon is also located not directly on this expressway and there is no direct junction there. I have to take an exit with the traffic that first leads in a different direction and then catch the right way at a larger roundabout. When changing lanes, of course, I’m careful, but I’m sure to drive, pushing myself between the vehicles with my hand signals, which is not that difficult because you can’t drive fast in a column. Because nothing is worse than having to stop somewhere on the left edge with the heavily packed bike and then cross over several lanes to the other side from a standstill because the desired exit is there.
At this point, the roundabout leads straight to the ramp of a bridge, which then crosses the motorway. Behind me is a police pickup truck, on the back of which there are several officers, one of whom later, when the car pulls past me, waved my gestures while maneuvering across the various lanes and rewarded them with his thumbs up.
I then reach Bangkok in the afternoon. From Singapore it has become a little over 2600 kilometers, which I have covered by bike in the last six weeks. Highway 35, along which I mainly drove from Samut Songkhram, became a 2x five-lane imposition, whereby the traffic out of the city was apparently even denser than that in my direction towards Bangkok.
But I set off of this street about 15 km before the center, drive on one of the smaller suburban streets, which also run straight to the center, in the direction of Chom Thong or Thon Buri, where I ultimately find a nice room for three nights in one of the smaller hotels. Extend your legs on a wonderfully designed, padded windowsill.