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Off The Map

In 1990 we finally moved from a rented townhouse to a brand new townhouse in a Nonthaburi subdistrict called Plai Bang. Not having to worry about suddenly being given a two-week notice was great, but the location was another story.

I had some maps of Bangkok, but this area was completely absent…

Oops, end of the road!

There were also some other issues, such as no phone lines and the 800 meter stretch to the main road being a dirt track…

I still vividly remember the first time I walked to this main (big, 4 lanes!) road and asked a local it's name, his reply “No idea…” This reinforced my feelings only more that we had literally moved ‘off the grid’.

Being inspected by a local...

Only much later did I discover that it was Kanchanapisek Road, the main highway to Suphanburi (*).

Watch carefully where you cycle...

The first few years I didn’t cycle much, just in the neighborhood and seldom beyond that.

I guess joining Co van Kessel on one of his bicycle ‘expeditions’ in 2003 was an enormous eye-opener (**).

However, it still took a long time before I got another bike and started exploring beyond my comfort zone.

Having a mobile phone with GPS helped a lot as well.

Watch the speed limit!

Then followed a period of doing other stuff and my old bike was gathering dust…

Despite this the thought of ‘wouldn’t be great to have my bike here at this place’ popped up more regularly.

Meeting my old friend Dave who told me about the advantages of his Brompton folding bike planted a seed…

When 2 other friends invited me in early 2019 to join them on a cycling trip in Cambodia, I didn’t hesitate and bought a Dahon Dream. That was my first big trip on a folding bike which went surprisingly well.

Cycling on a dusty dirt track towards Banteay Toap, Cambodia.

Back home I began a daily cycling routine from which I seldom waver.

I use my mobile’s GPS sparingly because at times it can be interesting to see where you end up, which to be honest is in most cases a dead end, but once and a while I do find an unusual route that is missing on Google.

According to my GPS, I was in the middle of the khlong... Continue cycling to the other dead-end road was easy!

On the other hand, occasionally I follow a possible Google Map route but encounter ‘obstacles’, e.g. no road at all!

More than a few times I’ve bumped into a private dirt road which according to Mr. Google was a ‘proper’ road…

As I'm not a fan of trespassing, this really pisses me off...

There is NO continuing road either straight ahead, left, or right... The satellite view makes it perfectly clear!

Still, most of the time the GPS is working fine, but I have to be careful with the small screen as some routes turn out not to be connected at all which only becomes clear after zooming in!

The first map from a few months ago showed a 'road' above Khlong Mahasawad branching out to both sides! As I have traveled by longtail boat here many times I knew this had to be nonsense.

I cycled to a supposed entrance road (photo 2, red arrow) and had to turn around, a private road...

Last month I checked again on Google Maps and saw to my big surprise this whole stretch gone!

At the same time, I've started to recognize certain 'glitches' (***) which even look odd without actually being there, such as the above area map of Wat Molee. I went there and for sure, no such road on either side of Khlong Om Non...

Here's another weird one...

And the reality underneath...

Sometimes Google Maps does show obscure bicycle/walking tracks correctly, such as the one alongside Khlong Choen Len.

No complaints!

But keep in mind that other times following your GPS map can end up as an exercise in wishful thinking!

(*) Crossing Kanchanapisek was always an adventure since there was no footbridge, look right, left, right again, run to the green stroke in the middle, and repeat. This continued until a few years later a mentally disturbed man got killed while trying to cross, afterwards a footbridge was finally built.


(***) Usually, roads above canals/khlongs ending suddenly.

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