This story is about “LOVE”. It started 3 years ago in an inaugural #Festive500 in 2013. My first time was a torture. My second #Festive500 was devastating case of natural disaster with massive flood half wheel depth on a highway surrounding me. I managed to finish them somehow. In 2015, I have something in my sleeve. Here is how it happened.
2015 Audax event was introduced in Thailand. Long ride has become my old friend. A lot of people join an Audax event only few know or even care about #Festive500. This year is different. Audax 2016 which started around the end of 2015 offer 400km distance on 26th December. I could not pass this opportunity to trick my friend into riding #Festive500. Our little tribe called V40 (Very Forty) registered 8 people into the event. 4 veterans including me and 4 newbies. Even though it is a risky business to announce that we would all ride together and wait for the slowest one. Accumulation of late arrival could turn into a sleepless night ride or even miss a control point cut off time. With two BRM400 medals each under the belt for veteran, everyone agree to this plan.
The ride started at 7am in the heart of Bangkok. We have to push through the morning traffic out to outskirt of Bangkok and then crisscrossing along several sort of outer loop of each passing provinces heading to Ang Thong province for lunch at approximately 100km. Everyone is still in a good mood. Sun was not so strong this time of the year. With noodles from an organizer and BBQ chicken bought along the way, we had nice meal getting ready to meet the highlight of today route. BRM400 Chaopraya was organised for 3rd time along similar route, a little bit modification at the beginning but the next 100km section remain to be the name of the game.
We left Ang thong going toward Ayuthaya province around 1pm. Everyone is ready for Noi river route, 80km along an abandon road next to the strategic Noi river. During Ayuthaya period, Noi river was used for suppling weaponry and earthenware made in upper area down to the capital city, Ayuthaya. Transportation along Noi river has become thing in the past. Resident settle along the river next to the small road restrict the expansion of the road along the river. New two lanes streets were replacing the old one on both sides of the river. We are now back travelling to the day when Ayuthaya was flourished. The road section were comprised of concrete, asphalt, dirt, ditch depend on density of people relying on it. Since there is an alternative many of the sections were terrible. The organiser has to put a secret check point along the river to prevent someone to find easier road next to it.
Our tribe members who rode today BRM have very strong spirit so far. Two newbies who are about 10 years younger than the others prefer to ride out together by riding faster and rest longer. We took turn leading and take over along that 100 km stretch. It was felt very lively when kids ran along to sheer us up or waiting to give high five and there are quite a lot. The first time last year when Audax choose this road, it was very quiet. People looked in awe asking where were we heading or we were we coming from. No sign of shops or activities except a limiting pass through. But one year later, we can see a lot of changes. There are plenty shops along the river and many choose to stop fill up their bidons. People seem to get use to bicycle riding along the section. We stopped at one shop around 30 km into the section to have some cold beverages and sweets. These condition were tough not only for us but for the bike. I snap my spoke once on this road. This time we have 3 mini-velo in our group including mine. Bumps were getting much larger with small wheels.
We have to ride about 35km to a little village where my family were waiting to have dinner together today. My mother-in-law live on Noi river bank at the section where Singburi province meet Chainart. In a small vanishing village called Chanasoot. Next to the village is an archeological site, an old furnace used to produce earthenware as well as foundry for weaponry. We can imagine the market was bustling with people as the goods transportation started here. Now the market is very quiet. It has to move itself across the street to be out in an open to survive. Most new generations left or building there new place further down the road. We can predict its near future very accurately that soon it would vanish. When I first came to visit my future wife and mother-in-law, it was amazing to see the life in the village. It was like finding old wild west hiding 15km from major Asian highway. Within no more than 1 square kilometre this village have everything. Markets, grocery stores, two clinics, a hospital, a bank, barber shop, salon, Wats, all necessity to operate as a community. I can imagine how people were settling back in the old day. Main business would have been earthenware and metal works. Same as every community in Thailand we gather around Wat and it is still clearly see an influence of monks on community.
After the dinner, we had to push through the turn around at Chinart. From now on there will be no resident along Noi river which confirm the contribution of little village we just left to the capital, Ayuthaya. We rode until the end of the river where it meets Chaopraya river. We didn’t have much time to spare we have to leave within half an hour at 8pm heading back along now different river Chaopraya where it would lead us finally to Bangkok but tonight we had to make it at Ang thong as fast as we can. Every minute wasted from now was a minute deducted from our sleep for that night and it was 100km away. In my experience of the ride this is one of the toughest part of the ride. You have used all of the dinner you have had. You have been riding for more than 12-16 hours into wee hours. You would be so tired and can easily be sleeping while riding which I have done several times that night. We need to stop at midway around 30km to Ang thong to take a little map right in the middle of the highway where the light was plentiful. We reached Ang thong around 2:15am and need to leave at 3am to make the next control point 40km away before 5:44am. I took a 10 minutes nap then got myself ready for more ride. Now we had been riding for 307km, next stop Ayuthaya.
For me that was the hardest section, I was so sleepy that I can’t keep my eyes open. Coffee didn’t work anymore and I could handle Redbull. We need to stop half way, many of us choose to eat but I tried to get some more sleep, 5 minutes was very valuable at that time. Luckily we reach Ayuthaya around 5am and have time to spare. I took a quick nap for another half hour. Every one in our team looked battered. We all need that half hour. Then our last 60km started at 5:40am. I felt much better. Strangely no one complain at all, 22 hours passing by. We all kept riding, enjoying the scenery, smelling the environment, soaking into friendship that harden through hardship we shared.
Sun slowly came up. We can see rice patty along Chaopraya river bank. It was so beautiful not only because it was toward the end of our ride but also it was the life of our country. We depend on rice so much that our greeting was not hi nor hello but “have you eaten rice?” Every one now seem very relax even tough tired. Veterans started to let newbies loose. They don’t have to keep the pace anymore. We started to spread out some starting to stop taking picture of life on rice patty some kept riding slowly as we planned on meeting at next town few kilometre ahead for breakfast. It of course one of the most delicious breakfast I ever had. We all made it through the night and it was about to end with 400+ km on our bike computer and then Strava. We finished around half hour ahead of the deadline tired but fulfilled.
I flew back to my province 1000 km from Bangkok. I need to ride 100 more for #Festive500 in no less epic route. It was tough ride with sun, wind, flat and then rain. I documented my first #Festive500 ride with the feeling that I felt every time I went out riding. It has not change.
I live in Pattani, Thailand. One of the Southern most province of Thailand close to Malaysia border. Twenty years ago even Thais have trouble locating Pattani on Thailand map. Not until recently Pattani was included in an incident called “South Thailand Insurgency“, embassy of most country issue a warning not to travel to the area or else void your life insurance. Now everyone know Pattani and every time when I tell someone that I am from Pattani something changes in their mind and their face. It started 10 years ago on 2004. Now everyone living in the area know someone in person who was affected by incidents. This could be bombing, drive by shooting, arson or raid with assault rifle. It was so bad that carrying a conceal weapon is legal. Police and soldier having lunch with M16 on their lap. Just drive to work on certain day could be so challenging. My three bikes were hung up on the wall since the start of the incident as my wife told me that she would file a divorce if I pick up my bike and ride to work. My family business was burned down three times. Some nights I have to load my guns preparing for the worst after soldiers in the area came to warn us of potential attempt on our business for one more time. Ten years has passed but nothing seem to improve much. However, we changed. We have kids and we view our life differently. Now I ride my bike to work. My wife got herself a bike and my training ride take me to where it consider red area so far out of the city. I want to take this opportunity to write about my hometown and our life riding #Festive500. I have never ride so far like this before. In my life I have ridden 100km only three times, months apart. My training ride usually 40km and 60km for the long ride. It also depends on the situation. When I have down from bedroom seeing my gun and shotgun fully loaded from the night before and grab my bike. I would think “now it is safe to ride, let’s do it”. But 500Km in 8 days would force my to ride no matter what (in fact I have only 6 days to ride since I knew about Festive500 late for 1 day and I have full working day on another day) So if I wake up realise the situation thinking “this could be my last ride” then I would have to tell myself “I might as well enjoy all of it”
I wrote this article in my head during my last ride of the year. It was 31st December when everyone else heading home prepare for celebration. For me though finishing #Festive500 yet another year is a celebration.
This story is about “LOVE”. Love of the simple two wheels machine. Love of the friendship that grew by the length of time we spent together riding. Love of the sight that we were allowed to see by the speed which is perfect for human to interact. Love of the smell in which no other way of transportation could give you.