Chang Erawan alongside the Outer Ring Road in Samut Prakan
It has been about three years in the making, but the southern stretch of the Kanchanapisek Outer Ring Road was finally opened on Thursday 15th November 2007. We have been waiting for this for years as the rest of the ring road has long been completed. For the people who live in the southern border areas of Bangkok, this new highway is a godsend. It means we can now quickly go to all points of the compass without going through Bangkok first. It is also good news for people arriving at the new Bangkok airport at Suvarnabhumi. Now there is really no need to go into Bangkok first to stay the night before moving onto other locations around Thailand. The airport is alongside the motorway which goes down to Pattaya. Now, the quick access to the Outer Ring Road will whisk people off North to Ayutthaya and beyond and South to Hua Hin. To celebrate the opening, I decided to set off this morning on a non-stop drive around the outskirts of Bangkok on the Kanchanaphisek Outer Ring Road. I love road trips!
I started my trip at Chang Erawan, which is the giant three-headed elephant in Samut Prakan. This is only ten minutes away from my house. I could also have chosen to start my trip at the entry ramp on Srinakarin Road near Tesco Lotus. Before I started, I filled up with petrol at Jet. The price of petrol has been going up so much recently. A full tank cost me 1,800 baht. It wasn’t that long ago that I would get change from a 1,000 baht note. Not any longer. I am still using Benzin 95 which is the most expensive at 32.49 baht per litre. It was less than 15 baht when I first came to Thailand. Road trips these days are costing me quite a bit. If you are wondering how much today’s outing cost me, then scroll down to the bottom of this article. I suppose I should be lucky I am not doing travel blogs in the UK. The cost of petrol there is double what we have to pay. America is not as expensive and I think we are fast catching them up.
Now that the Outer Ring Road is finished, the bad traffic jams around Chang Erawan on Sukhumwit Road have cleared up. It is actually quite a complicated intersection now as there are numerous exit and entry ramps. Dominating the landscape is of course the three-headed elephant. However, it does somewhat look smaller now than before. The plans for the outer ring went back many years. There was a lot of local opposition including from the owners of the Chang Erawan. The story goes that to stop this ring road, he built the giant elephant on its projected path. But, it didn’t really stop it and, probably out of spite, they went around the elephant and straight through his front living room! You cannot stop progress and ring roads like these are really needed in order to help keep traffic off the local roads.
As the highway has only just opened, I was really hoping to stop my car somewhere on the entry ramp and hop out to take a quick photo. However, there was surprisingly a lot of cars and trucks on the road. Although it was six lanes, there were vehicles in all lanes and I couldn’t travel much faster than 100 kph. Despite that, in less than five minutes I had reached the new Kanchanapisek Bridge and had crossed the mighty Chao Phraya River. At this point the river is 500 metres wide so that will probably make it the longest single span bridge in Bangkok. You know this is such good news for us. Up to now, it would take us an hour to go by car to the other side of the river as we had to head further into Bangkok. But now we can cross the river so much quicker by car. However, it won’t always be free. I didn’t have to pay when I entered the outer ring road today, but I could see markings on the road where they are planning on building toll booths. It will probably be about 30 baht for this section (less than $1).
Once on the other side of the river, we joined the stretch that had already been completed for many years. Up to now it just stopped in the middle of no-where by the river. You then had to catch a car ferry to the other side or go into Bangkok for the Rama IX Bridge. Now of course we also have the Mega Bridge which will take us across to Samut Prakan or to Rama III road in Bangkok. The last time I was on this road it was virtually empty. It is like driving through the jungle as we were at tree tops. But today the road was very busy, but I was still able to keep an average of 120 kph. Ten minutes after leaving the elephant, I reached Rama II Road which is Highway 35 which takes you down south to Samut Sakhon, Phetchaburi and Hua Hin. Last year I went down that road to the floating market at Amphawa. Before it had taken me 80 minutes to get to this intersection. For sure I am going to be planning some day trips down south soon. Look out for some new travel blogs in the coming months.
From this point the traffic slowed down a lot. In fact we had to stop a few times. This is in despite the fact that it was an eight lane highway and two lanes on the frontage either side. But, this was now a local road as well so there was a lot of people coming and going. The intersection for Nakhon Pathom was only 8 kms further on but it took me 24 minutes to travel that distance. Maybe I should have done this on a Sunday morning. But, I wasn’t trying to break land speed records. Though I am probably the first person to drive the complete loop. Anyway, 35 minutes after leaving the elephant I was now at the intersection for Nakhon Pathom which also goes to Kanchanaburi. Maybe I will do a day trip down this road soon. Lots of possibilities here. After a short while, the traffic started to speed up. There had been some roadworks that had slowed us down.
I like doing road trips, so going around in a big circle is no problem. About 52 kilometres after leaving the elephant, I had now reached the intersection for Highway 345. This is the exit for destinations towards Suphan Buri. I guess I will have no excuse now to visit our Steve again. I have done some blogs in that area but there is still a lot more to do. As I drove along, my mind kept buzzing with ideas of new road trips. Where should I go first? One hour after leaving I reached intersection for Highway 346. I hadn’t gone as far as I had wanted to as the odometer only registered 65 kms. So, that meant an average speed of 65 kph. A lot slower than I was hoping to do. Actually, I thought I could do 120 kph all the way which is the maximum speed limit. But, I was speeding up now. This whole section in the northwest is out in the country side. It is only four lanes but not much traffic. I came up this road before to see the open billed storks in the temple. You might remember the blog on that.
After one hour and eight minutes I reached the bridge which crossed back across the Chao Phraya River. I had done 77 kilometres. This wasn’t that bad going compared to the past. Just after the bridge there was a turning for the Bang Sai Arts and Craft Museum. I love that place and often take visitors there. I am sure I did a blog on it if you search. I might go again soon as it is now so near. A short while late I passed the intersection for the expressway from Bangkok. This is the route I normally use to go up north. Around here is also the intersection for Ayutthaya and Bang Pa In. A couple of excellent destinations for day trips from Bangkok. This is also the northernmost section of the outer ring road. I actually almost nearly got a bit lost here but managed to get on the right road to take me back down on the eastern stretch of the Outer Ring Road. I had been driving now for one hour and twenty minutes and had only done 92 kms. I had a lot of time to try and catch up on.
In comparison, the first part of this stretch was excellent. It was only a four lane highway but it was purpose built. No local traffic as there were tall fences on either side. Let’s just say I managed to do a minimum of 120 kph for a while. A sign said that the new airport was only 60 kms away. So, probably wouldn’t take long to get to Ayutthaya from the airport if you wanted to. There isn’t really much down this side. It is literally in the middle of nowhere so not many intersections. However, Highway 305 was signposted for Nakhon Nayok. I haven’t been that way before. I will make a note and maybe see if I can do a day trip that direction. I am sure there must be something.
After a good start on the eastern stretch, we then had to slow down for some road works. Also the first of two toll booths which cost 30 baht each. We had a few more intersections that included Rama Inthra and the motorway for Chonburi and Pattaya. Time was passing quickly now. I was trying my best to get home in two hours. However, one hour and 55 minutes after leaving I was passing the intersection for the new airport. Two hours after leaving I reached the Bang Na Trad Highway. I had now done 154 kms which meant an average of 77 kph. I had made up some time but not a lot. I was now on the new stretch of the Outer Ring Road. This was above the ground and although there was a lot of traffic I made good time. Normally from the airport it would take me 45 minutes to get home. I had just gone from the airport to Bang Na Trad Highway in ten minutes. Then in less than ten more minutes I was passing the exit ramp for Srinakarin Road. My house is 8 minutes from that point. So, less than 30 minutes for me to go to the airport and almost a guarantee of no traffic jams as there would be no local traffic! Five minutes later I had gone from Srinakarin Road to Sukhumwit Road (usually takes 30 minutes) and I was back at the start. As I approached I could see the giant three-headed elephant on the skyline.
I made it back in two hours and eight minutes after leaving. The odometer read 168 kilometres. I went back to the Jet petrol station to fill up the tank again. It was the same bloke I had seen two hours previously and he gave me a funny look when I asked for him to fill up the tank again. Of course, this wouldn’t be an accurate reading of how much petrol I had used as I couldn’t be sure he had really filled the tank up before. They usually try to get round numbers with the price. Anyway, he put in 13.2 litres which cost me 430 baht. So, about 2.5 baht per kilometre. I guess a bit of an expensive two hours if you also add the 60 baht for toll booths. It cost me about $14 in total for this experiment. Once the new toll booths open, then the complete circuit would probably cost 120 baht in tolls. But, it was all good research for me and I am feeling very fortunate I now have plenty of opportunities of new road trips to go on in the coming months. I just ned to decide where I will go first! Maybe I will head north to Saraburi and Lopburi next weekend.