I started teaching English in Pak Chong, Nakhon Ratchisima Thailand in May. As soon as I realized I might be able to afford a bicycle I was super excited. I’m not exactly sure why I decided on a pedal bike and not a motorbike but the decision was one of the best I’ve ever made. Thinking back on it, probably the price and the potential for exercise were two of the main factors in the decision. Now I realize reasoning is superfluous; it was destiny.
After a fair amount of deliberation, and a little bit of comparison shopping, I decided to buy my bike at Probike in Bangkok, Thailand. I ended up getting a Trek 3900, basically the bottom tier of mountain bikes there. My goal was to purchase a Trek ‘dualsport’ bike but they were out of stock at Probike and it was a bit out of my price range anyways. The 3900 was priced at 12,500 baht versus 18,000 for the ‘dualsport‘ (since then Probike has gotten the ‘dualsport‘ in stock). I got a fair amount of accessories along with the bike, but the sales person gave me a few of them for free, dropped the price of the bike to 10,000 baht, and gave me a 20% discount on everything else.
I’ve ridden my bike almost everyday since the day I bought it back in 2012. Every lunch break, and every opportunity I get to bike around I am filled with joy. Whether it’s going to the post office, getting some food, or just cruising has been a great means of transport and a way to explore Pak Chong. Often I leave work on my bike, excited by the freedom and the mobility, with the Queen song, ‘bicycle’ stuck in my head. “I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike. Bicycle, bicycle.” Not sure how it goes.
I didn’t go on any long trips for the first couple of months, I just biked around town, cruising between cars and dodging motorbikes. I know it’s probably not all that safe, but there is this strange satisfaction I get from muscling my bike past gas-powered vehicles, and squeezing in between the smallest spaces to skirt through traffic. It’s invigorating and satisfying to know that I’m not contributing to the world’s carbon problem. Not only am I getting exercise and saving the environment, but I’m also getting a much more visceral experience.
After a couple of months I started taking some day trips to Khao Yai, Thailand’s biggest national park. It’s about a 30 km bike ride to the entrance from where I live. I didn’t realize until I got there that it’s another 14 kilometers of uphill mountain roads before you get to anywhere interesting in the park. So on my first few trips I turned around at the park’s entrance. However, I did finally make the full trip there and went camping a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, I picked children’s day to go so the park was very busy and I had to camp in the median between two parking lots.
Just after my first trip to the entrance of Khao Yai, I also discovered there’s a few bicycle clubs in Pak Chong. On my way to my favorite Italian restaurant one evening I stopped by the meeting area of one such club and asked to join. So far I’ve been on a few rides with them, and I can tell that the pressure to keep up with these seasoned cyclists has made me faster and given me more motivation to bike longer distances everyday.
I recently decided to attempt a long-distance bike ride from Pak Chong to Surat Thani. Realizing that I’ve already made several 30+ km rides and one ride of 100 km (over 2 days), has given me the confidence that I can brave the approximately 650 km trek from Bangkok to the south of Thailand.
Perhaps I’m just a serial shopper, or I wanted to make a large investment and thus force myself to make the journey, but I just made a super shopping trip to supplement, and virtually complete, my collection of cycling accessories in order to equip me for this long-distance journey.
From cycling to work and meandering through crowded Thai traffic, to cycling 650 km down the isthmus of Thailand, my cycling journeys here appear to be evolving exponentially. While at first, having a bicycle instead of a motorbike seemed a limitation, now it seems a fated and serendipitous choice. One that is opening gateways of opportunities and providing me with a much more interesting adventure.
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