Biking Rural Thailand

“It is calm and breezy, aside from the occasional quaffic jam – that’s what I’ve dubbed the times I have to pull over to wait for the ducks being herded down the road to pass.”

Biking is a great way to see an area when traveling abroad, but there are a few safety concerns to bear in mind if this is the way you choose to explore.

Most recently, I have been riding around Ayutthaya,Thailand. I have a beautiful daily commute (which I never begin without my helmet!) down a dirt road that runs along a canal. There are three miles of rice fields on either side of the road. The palm trees and sunshine provide the backdrop for the egrets and swallows flying past in all directions. It is calm and breezy, aside from the occasional quaffic jam (that’s what I’ve dubbed the times I have to pull over to wait for the ducks being herded down the road to pass). Once I get to the paved road though, things get a lot busier. On busy roads biking becomes slightly more stressful. I feel big tour busses whizzing by, and there are tons of scooters (here they call them motorcycles) that come out of nowhere and often drive on the side of the road or against traffic. I’ve been here long enough now that seeing a helmet-less family of four squeezed onto one scooter doesn’t command a questioning stare from me anymore.

Soi Dogs

There are almost as many soi dogs (stray dogs) as there are motorcycles. At first I thought there were dead dogs in the road everywhere, and maybe there are, but a lot of them are just sleeping. I would think they’d find a more peaceful spot… like, say, off the road. Whether they are sleeping or standing around hungry and curious, you have to be on the lookout for them. If they are startled, they could dart out in front of you or try to attack you. Just ring your bell, and yell out to them with a firm, assertive voice to warn them of your approach. Sometimes ringing your bell can get them out of your way, but more often than not they will require you to navigate around them anyway. If they are barking aggressively, keep your eye on them even when they are behind you. If they are showing their teeth or gaining on you, turn around, look them in the eye, and firmly assert that they take it easy.

It starts to get uncomfortable when you run into a gang of loud, territorial dogs. They can get each other going and start chasing you, threaten and even attack. It’s not uncommon for these dogs to have rabies, and I’m sure lots of other unclean things going on that you’ll want to avoid. You have several things you can do to deal with this. The best method may be to dismount and put the bike between yourself and the dog. This usually discourages them, and they will go about their business. You could also pick up or pretend to pick up a rock or a stick. Most dogs will back off if they think you have a weapon. You can scream at the dog and pretend to throw a rock as you ride away, or you can use your water bottle to squirt water in their direction. You can try ignoring them and continue riding. Sometimes when I do this, I just pick up the leg closest to the dog and put it on the frame of my bike to avoid an encounter. If you are sure you are a strong rider, you could also speed up to out run the dog.

If you can’t get away and end up with a dog bite, continuously flush the wound with clean water for 15 minutes before bandaging it, and if you suspect things are serious, consult with a doctor rather than a webpage. Safe journey & enjoy the ride!

  1. So hoping you haven’t been bitten! Very nice to hear that you are in your new home and are adjusting well. Got my postcard today and loved it! Visited with Piper and Aileen today and thought of you. Take care of yourself, Meg, and remember that here in Alabama you are loved and thought of everyday.

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