130km approx, and around 2.5 hours riding.
The alarm was set for 6am but we switched it off and woke up again at 7am, packed quickly and left our hotel about 8am, stopping for fuel just down the road and then heading out to Highway 7, bound for Bangkok.
Aad had already alerted us via email to the fact that motorcycles aren’t allowed on the expressways that run into and through Bangkok (on pain of a 2000 THB fine I recalled later in the day) and I thought the route I’d plotted yesterday on the GPS avoided any expressways, but this morning we quickly found ourselves breaking the rules once again, but at least we had a good ride into Bangkok!
I honestly didn’t see any signs saying that motorbikes weren’t allowed, and a highway police car that came up on us from behind with his lights flashing didn’t pull us over – I quickly realised he was escorting three large tour coaches to give them a clear run up the motorway so I dropped in behind the last coach and joined the convoy. They turned off the motorway at the Chon Buri exit, maybe halfway to Bangkok, so we picked up the pace a bit and cruised along at 120kmh for a while, the designated speed limit for cars.
We passed a motorcycle policeman parked on the side of the road and it looked like he wanted to have a chat with us as he started to pull away from his position, but I never saw him again so perhaps he changed his mind.
We came across a toll booth but we’re that accustomed to slipping through on the free motorcycles lane that in the absence of such a lane today I made my own, taking advantage of a truck rolling through the boom gate to sneak through ourselves. Someone yelled out to us from the gate booth – I’m sure it sounded like “Have a nice day” or something similar 🙂
We found another coach convoy with four buses under police escort and dropped in behind them, enjoying the slipstreaming as we clocked up 100km from Pattaya, but then another toll booth appeared and we took the opportunity to come off the motorway at this point rather than continue to press our luck. Two highway police officers with fluro vests were waiting at the boom gate and I thought we’d be well and truly busted but they just waved us through with a smile! “Great” I thought, as Aad and Mike had been forced to turn around and ride back down the motorway into the oncoming traffic when they got stopped a few days ago.
On the urban roads with about 26km to go we quickly got bogged down with stop-start traffic, full of cars and trucks and tuk-tuks and scooters. At times we’d have a little break and could scoot ahead, and at times we squeezed quite neatly through the gaps between the cars, but the closer we got to Bangkok the narrower the gaps and the less confident I was of squeezing through, so often we just sat and sweltered in the morning heat, watching the scooters and motorbikes swarm all around the cars. It took us about 70 minutes to cover the 26km.
Our first stop today was the Olympus camera office. Yesterday we’d booked a hotel within walking distance of the office, and then afterwards I found out that google maps was showing the wrong address for Olympus, so they were 4km east of our hotel (fortunately just off the main arterial road I thought they were on). Anyway, we went to Olympus in the hope of getting the faulty TG-4 either replaced or refunded on the spot but they insisted that it needed to be checked first so we left it there and will return on Monday to collect either it or its replacement. There’s a whole blog waiting to be posted about the camera and our views on world-wide warranties and customer service, but I’ll wait to see how things eventuate on Monday before finishing off that post.
Back on the bike we rejoined the arterial road and crawled towards our hotel, whilst local riders just mounted the footpaths and scooted along them – how I wanted to join them – but bollards placed on the footpaths looked quite narrowly spaced and I didn’t want to get jammed in.
It took around 30 minutes to cover about 4km, but eventually we turned off the road down a little alleyway and quickly arrived at our Travelodge, home for the next three evenings.
Bike unloaded and dingy room moved into, we went for lunch back near the Main Street at a little Italian place – spaghetti and red wine for Karen and chicken with cashew nuts and Chang beer for me. This was our first meal of the day and it was about 2pm at this stage, so we were hungry and ready for a bite to eat.
In the afternoon I had a little nap – I was tired either from not sleeping too well last night and/or exhausted from the ride into Bangkok, and Karen worked on her photos.
In the early evening we went for a stroll around the local area, finding flash hotels nearby like the Sofitel and the Sheraton, and an airport-themed mall called ‘Terminal 21’ where floors are given names like ‘Paris’ or ‘Istanbul’ rather than floor numbers. We had Mexican for dinner here, walking past the Swenson’s icecream place that Mike would have enjoyed had he been here 🙂
Back at our dingy room Karen has been organising a few sightseeing activities for us whilst we’re in Bangkok this weekend and I’ve been blogging and reading the news. Check back tomorrow and Sunday to find out how we spent our weekend in this sprawling mega-city !!!