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The Audacious Project: How We Rode From Mumbai to Bangkok

Planning an audacious journey from Mumbai to Bangkok? The story of this duo might help. 

Published
Life
6 min read
Prashant Madan and Vijay Kumar on their audacious ride from Mumbai to Bangkok on bicycles. (Photo courtesy: Aanchal Dhara Photography)

When we explore our audacious side, we gain a sense of confidence that’s truly genuine. Our audacious ride from Mumbai to Bangkok started out as a random thought on a rainy day in the city. But in a year and a half, we had trained enough to do it for real. We cycled 5883 kilometers from Mumbai to Bangkok over 62 days.

Our adventure was going to need extensive planning, logistics, visas, safety measures, etc… but one cannot let the details get in the way of our dreams. At the end of the day, nothing is supposed to go according to the plan and that’s when how strong we mentally are, really counts. We didn’t expect any rain throughout our ride and carried no rain gear… yet we were lashed with storms in Orissa & Assam. As Vijay liked to say, “let’s just take it one day at time”. We did just that and didn’t worry too much about the magnitude of the task ahead.

The Bombay-Bangkok road trip is definitely challenging but totally worth it. Here are some tips that might help you plan your audacious journey-

Time Off

Vijay and Prashant brave it all as they ride from Mumbai to Bangkok. (Photo courtesy: Aanchal Dhara Photography)
Vijay and Prashant brave it all as they ride from Mumbai to Bangkok. (Photo courtesy: Aanchal Dhara Photography)

Our endeavour was to attempt the 6000-odd km distance between Mumbai and Bangkok and also treat it like a road trip on bikes. India had a treaty with Myanmar last year that allowed us to take an overland route through Myanmar connecting to ASEAN countries like Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, etc… and we were very excited about exploring our potential on this route. We decided to take 2 months off from our city lives. It eventually took us 62 days to make it. We averaged about 140 kms everyday with 17 rest days peppered throughout. We also met a couple from the UK, who were cycling 10,000 km in the opposite direction over 9 months. So yes, this one’s neither for the faint hearted, nor rushed holiday makers.

Vehicle & Terrain

  • Choose your bike for the Mumbai-Bangkok road trip wisely. (Photo courtesy: Aanchal Dhara Photography)
  • Riding along through the picturesque landscapes of India. (Photo courtesy: Aanchal Dhara Photography)
  • Mumbai to Bangkok, challenges galore. (Photo courtesy: Aanchal Dhara Photography)
  • The occasional smooth road along the way. (Photo courtesy: Aanchal Dhara Photography)

The time one has defines the type of bike that’s used. Because we had 2 months to complete, we decided to use road bikes for our attempt. This was the only way to cover the distance and meet our average daily target of 140 km. Any other kind of bike would have slowed us down and taken longer to finish. This also meant that the ride would need a support car behind us that carried our crew, luggage and gear…leaving us to focus purely on the cycling. Again, it’s possible to do this journey on a hybrid or a cyclocross bike, self-carrying the luggage and gear… but it’s going to take much longer than 2 months.

While we were generally lucky with road conditions but did suffer on some long 80-100 km patches of bad roads in Orissa and Manipur. Northern Myanmar was also very hard riding. While there are proper roads there, they’re laid by hand with little or no use of heavy machinery…so they can be really bumpy and painful on road bikes. Central Myanmar and Thailand have excellent roads, so the last part of our journey was very smooth and welcoming

Our journey took us through seven states in India (Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, West Bengal, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur) & three countries (India, Myanmar and Thailand). The terrain from Maharashtra to Orissa is flat with some undulating climbs. It gets really flat in West Bengal and Assam. We hit the mountains in Nagaland and Manipur and combined with bad roads, they were very challenging. Northern Myanmar from Tamu to Bagan was a combination of our hardest climbs and harsh, bumpy roads, making that the hardest section to cycle through. Then, from Bagan all the way to Bangkok, the road gets better and flattens out again (with a few exceptions).
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Must Carry Essentials

  • Vijay and Prashant set their target. (Photo courtesy: Aanchal Dhara Photography)
  • Prashant opens their bag full of essentials. (Photo courtesy: Aanchal Dhara Photography)
  • Road trip hiccups. (Photo courtesy: Aanchal Dhara Photography)

For an endurance project of this scale, we were going to need large amounts of baggage and equipment. Here’s an essential list:

1. The right clothing – the temperatures on our journey varied from a chilly 10 degrees to a melting 42 degrees celsius. It was important for us to be ready for both extremes – warm jackets, base layers and full fingered gloves for early mornings and dry fit jerseys, protective arm & leg sleeves for very hot and sunny days.

2. Equipment – Spare tires, tubes for punctures. We also carried a spare chain, cassette and a saddle in case we needed it. Finally a few spare pairs of brake pads in case the ones on the bike wore out.

3. Nutrition – We were burning 3500 calories everyday. A nutritionist helped us with a daily food plan, that required us to consume specific foods at certain times through the day. We carried dry fruits, granola bars, energy gels and whey protein. The rest we ate locally.

4. Sunscreen, Sunscreen, Sunscreen – Probably the most essential part of our kit. We were spending from sunrise to sunset outdoors, so if not for the sunscreen… we would have been burnt to a crisp in the first week itself.

5. Other Accessories – A clear glass wrap-around eye protection, really helps after sunset when little insects fly straight into your eyes. So does a spare set of sunglasses. A good air pump is essential.

Immigration Woes

  • Crossing landmarks, riding on. (Photo courtesy: Aanchal Dhara Photography)
  • Vijay and Prashant take a break from pedalling to pose. (Photo courtesy: Aanchal Dhara Photography)
  • Welcoming borders. (Photo courtesy: Aanchal Dhara Photography)

Both Myanmar and Thailand need a basic tourist visa for overland journeys. The visas need to be stamped before leaving, as there’s no visa on arrival at the border immigration for both countries.

Myanmar has recently changed its rules on overland border crossing. Earlier it was possible for one to enter from India into Myanmar by road and exit to any other country (like Thailand) by road as well. The recent rule now states that if you cross over from India to Myanmar by road, you have to exit back from the same border. So it still works if one wants to do a road trip from India to Myanmar and come back to India, but not if the exit is to another country (which is what we needed).

However, this rule does not apply if you fly into Myanmar. So we rode till the India-Myanmar border in Manipur. Then took a flight into Myanmar, came by car to the other side of the border and started riding again. But, the border crossing rules keep changing and it’s best to check the latest update before embarking on a road journey

The Thailand border crossing & immigration rules are very simple and consistent and we had no problems whatsoever in getting across from Myanmar.

Must Do Night Halts

  • Cycling through Bhor Wildlife Sanctuary. (Photo courtesy: Aanchal Dhara Photography)
  • Riding through Orissa sunsets. (Photo courtesy: Aanchal Dhara Photography)
  • The colourful countryside of Orissa. (Photo courtesy: Aanchal Dhara Photography)
  • The first glimpse of Kohima. (Photo courtesy: Aanchal Dhara Photography)
  • Friendly faces in Kohima. (Photo courtesy: Aanchal Dhara Photography)
  • Riding through the Kaziranga Wildflife Reserve. (Photo courtesy: Aanchal Dhara Photography)
  • Soaking up Kaziranga. (Photo courtesy: Aanchal Dhara Photography)
  • A misty evening in Old Bagan. (Photo courtesy: Aanchal Dhara Photography)
  • Old Bagan, a landscape of pagodas. (Photo courtesy: Aanchal Dhara Photography)

1. The wild life sanctuary at Bhor in Maharashtra is extremely beautiful. (Nagpur is the nearest airport) with a winding road running between the forests. The MTDC resort next to Bhor Dam is a lovely place to stay, far away from everything.

2. The landscape of Orissa was one of the best we experienced. The trees had blossomed into reds and yellows, the fields were lush green and we would always look forward to the sunrise on the horizon. It was always magical

3. The city of Kohima in Nagaland was mesmerizing. Thousands of brightly colored houses with conical roofs dot the mountains. The food is delicious and one can spend weeks there exploring the charms of this hillside city and its welcoming, friendly people.

4. Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary – This is an absolute must-do. The whole area is extremely tourist friendly with beautiful resorts in the forest or right in the middle of tea estates, dotted with colonial wooden homes and chalets. I would highly recommend the Wildgrass Resort, where we stayed.

5. Old Bagan – probably the highlight of our journey… The Old Bagan area with it’s thousands of Pagodas that attract throngs of tourists and photographers. These Pagodas are best viewed at sunrise or sunset…and we went there not once or twice, but three times! It’s an ethereal view that’s oft seen in tourism photographs but it really has to be seen in person to be believed. And just as the sun rises over the horizon, many hot air balloons will rise up and float over the whole area providing the best view possible (it costs $400 a person, so we couldn’t afford it). Bagan is also famous for paintings made or carved from sand. These are beautiful, intricate pieces of art that showcase mainly Buddhist history.

Budget

Our 5883 KM journey over 60 days cost us approximately 5 lacs per head. A large part of our cost was the support car running behind us at all times. Without this, the we would’ve spent about 25% less. We also spent money on air tickets and excess baggage, that we would’ve saved had we crossed overland into Myanmar. So overall, a realistic road trip will be in the range of Rs 3-3.5 lacs per head. The hotels along the highways are inexpensive and can range between Rs 700–2000 per night. Dhaba food is also pretty cheap and can range from Rs 100-200 per meal, per person.

(Prashant Madan is a film director, a serious rock climber, a passionate road cyclist and an avid drone photographer. Chidambaram Vijaykumar is a founding member of Center of Gravity, a human centered business strategy company, along with being a rock climber, runner, mountaineer and a keen photographer. https://www.facebook.com/theaudaciousproject/)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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