Experience Thailand

The morning is a tumultuous blur of traffic, shops and people. Bangkok is overwhelming and confusing. I don’t have a map of the city and have no idea which road we are on. All I know is that we are on bicycles going in the opposite direction to all the other traffic. It is scary.

When I had told friends at home that I was planning on doing a bicycle tour in Bangkok, they thought I was crazy. Now faced with some of the world’s worst traffic, I am starting to agree. Why would anyone do this?

I have joined about seven others at the Intrepid tour office in Bangkok. We are given helmets, a bottle of cold water and bicycles and briefly told that for the next five or so hours we will be on an adventure. I sheepishly look around. Which end of this helmet points forward? Will I make a fool of myself when I try to ride? The twenty years since I have been on a bicycle seems an awfully long time.

There are many people around so I wheel the bike down the road a little and find a kerb about the right height to enable me to mount in relative dignity. I push off and am pleased that after ten metres I haven’t fallen off. I feel the need for a short practice before we head off and this quiet lane is perfect.

I was taught to ride by my father when I was seven or eight. We had an old bicycle that belonged to my grandfather and one day my father brought it out and said I could try to ride. In reality it was too big for me but he lowered the seat and I could sit and just reach the pedals.

He told me to pedal and he would hold the back of the seat to make sure I didn’t fall. We went up and down the driveway several times with him supporting me and then suddenly I was on my own. While I kept moving I was OK but when I wanted to stop I sort of crumbled in a heap. I feel pretty much the same now.

I am back with the group and everyone seems more or less organised. We have a guide and are about to head off. The adventure is about to begin. We start off down a quiet street but then quickly hit a main road. Miraculously, I manage to miss pedestrians, tuk-tuks, delivery trolleys, cars and trucks and make a half dignified exit at the next corner.

This brings only temporary relief because I suddenly realise that we are going down a one-way street – the wrong way. Interestingly no one is blowing their horns at us and pedestrians even get out of our way. Thailand is living up to its reputation as a tolerant country.

 

This is a short extract from Experience Thailand.

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