The border crossing is at Sadao. It was a breeze going through Malaysia immigration and customs. This was the first time a customs guy has been able to fill in and stamp my carnet without my help. It was then through to the Thai immigration and customs. It was pretty busy here and I had to wait for about 25 minutes to get through. The language barrier struck again and I was lucky the guy behind me in the queue spoke good English and he could interpret back and forth. The end result was even though I had a 60 day visa the bike is only allowed in for thirty days as I am passing over the border by land.
While I as was at customs I noticed a few rain drops, the sky had gotten very grey. I pushed on from Sadao for 40km before the rain came. It wasn’t heavy but it was going to get worse and be in for the rest of the day. I tried to find a hotel but my internet didn’t work on my phone and there was nothing on the GPS. I tried to ask people if they knew of a hotel or place to stay but no one spoke English. I decided to ride back towards the border about 35km to where I'd seen some. I checked into a place that was nice and comfortable and in my price range. In fact it seemed like a great deal as breakfast was thrown in.
I wanted to get a new sim card so the woman at reception in broken English said go to 7/11. I walked up the road in the spitting rain. When I got to the 7/11 no one really spoke English, they got the person who had the best English and I managed to get across what I wanted. They didn’t sell the sim I needed so I would have to go to a phone shop. He couldn’t explain the directions to me so he said “jump on scooter I take” which he did. This was another kind gesture by a complete stranger.
When I got back to my room I had a nice hot shower and decided to go to bed all relaxed. As my head hit the pillow a loud driving base riff started from the club across the road. It didn’t stop until 2:30 am.
Up and out early to make up for yesterday's lack of progress to Phuket. It was spitting and overcast. The roads are smooth and slippery in the wet. A guy at the border warned me about the slippery roads and vehicles doing u turns in the right-hand lane. It was good advice which I heeded.
I headed north towards Phattalung, then west to Trang, then North West to... guess where? The picture will give you a clue.
Well, the curry was nice, it was hot and it made my nose run. My lips were throbbing and I could feel this burning sensation leaving my throat and heading to my stomach. I would hate to know what the hot curry is like; you’d need to stretchered out of the restaurant and placed into a blast freezer for 5 minutes to recover.
From Krabi to Phuket there are numerous limestone hills which just jut out into the sky. It is difficult to appreciate the size of these from photos.
Day 104 Tuesday 16th December 2014
I didn’t get much sleep last night. There was nothing wrong with the bed or bungalow, it was like being a kid on Christmas Eve waiting for Christmas morning, just too excited to see Alana and the girls.
At 12 I checked out of the bungalow and Headed the 15km North along the coast to Patong. Patong is party central. It’s where everything happens. We stayed at the Sea Sun Sand Resort and Spa. It’s on the edge of Patong and is up the hill off the main road. It’s quiet and has pretty good views of the ocean. We had a poolside room which was pretty fancy. I checked in early, went for a swim, watched some tv, went out for something to eat.
At 9:45pm there was a knock on the door. I opened it and standing there was my lovely Emma, then my lovely wife and finally my lovely Mandy. I always call them my lovelies. It was so good to see them. They’d come especially for my 50th birthday and Christmas. Them being here was the greatest gift of all.
Day 105 Wednesday 17th December 2014
I am officially half a century today. Sounds decrepit!! Although classic has a nice ring to it.
The tribe and I went for a walk along Patong beach. I haven’t seen so many white faces since I left Australia. Then it was to the market stalls. It was a 10 minute a tuk tuk ride to Karon beach markets. We strolled around here and then headed south by tuk tuk to Kata.
Amanda was first out the blocks with 4 pairs of Nike trainers closely followed by me with some new shorts and light weight T-shirts. The ones I have are a bit big now and pretty worn. I think Alana summed it up best when she said shabby.
Alana fancied a fish spa so I joined her. A fish spar is a tank of fish that eat the dead skin off your feet. If you have ticklish feet, you will need the mind control of a ninja not to breakdown laughing. The fish really get in between your toes and up your legs. I might have mentioned this once or twice to the kids that it feels like pins and needles.
Worn out from shopping we headed back to the hotel for a swim in the pool.
At the end of the day, we headed up to the rooftop bar for a few celebratory drinks to top off a fine birthday.
I dropped Winston off at Saphantong Motor Company Ltd (they’re the Triumph service agents) to get his 20,000km service. They will replace the rear spring also. They have lent me a little Honda click 125cc scooter until my bike service is complete.
It took longer than expected as the y had to clean the bike, inspect it noting any damage (there wasn’t any) and taking my panniers off so they could get it through the shop door into the workshop.
When I got back to the hotel it was early afternoon and the family had decided a walk around the markets were in order. So off we went.
Day 107 Friday 19th December 2014
All the family headed off on a half day van tour of Phuket. It was nice to sit there and be chauffer driven with cool air blowing in our faces from the air conditioning unit. We went to the Karon lookout, then the big Buda which sits at the top of a hill and can be seen from most vantage points in Old Phuket town. Then it was off to see a snake show, a monkey show, ride elephants through the jungle and finally finish at wat chalong (wat meaning temple) at dusk.
We had a great day with plenty of laughs.
My bike is only allowed in the country for 30 days so I need to get an Extension on the paperwork. Firstly, I went to the immigration office in Patong, once there I was told I needed to go to the immigration office in old Phuket town. Once there I was then told to go to customs which is about 150 metres down the road. I ended up finding someone who spoke a little English, they told me that the extension was for 1 month and they would have to sight my bike. As Winston has the rocker covers removed and is in a state of undress, I was not able to get the extension. My last day on my current paperwork is 11th January. After that I am fined 1000 baht (NZ$40) a day up to a maximum of 10,000 Baht (NZ$400). I also found out today that the dealer doesn’t have the valve shims for the service and they are unable to tell me if Bangkok have them as they are now closed for Christmas. This means that the earliest they can contact them is the 5th January. This means I have to stay in Phuket for at least another two weeks. This is so frustrating; all I want to do is move on once my family have gone home. I suppose there are worst places to be.
Day 109 Sunday 21st December 2014
We had a lazy day today messing around in the pool.
The day was overcast with intermittent showers so we decided to visit the Tiger Kingdom. The tiger kingdom is a facility that houses many Tigers and you are able to go into the room with them for a fee. The Tigers are not chained and lie on a wooden platform. Once in the room the door is shut. You are able to touch them and get your photo taken by either a professional photographer for a fee or take your own for free. Being a skin flint, I opted for the latter. This was a good move as the staff will take your photo. Visitors are able to choose which tiger they want to see. The baby tigers are the most expensive as they are obviously the cutest. We went in with a medium sized one that was one and a half years old. He was actually pretty big. Alana was pretty nervous. I said there’s nothing to worry about they’ve probably just had breakfast. I didn’t say they might have been waiting for brunch, one Alana with an Amanda and Emma on the side please. The big ones weren’t available today. I would imagine it’s their day off so they’re probably kicking batch watching culinary films like Bambi….?
I wasn’t sure what to expect before I got there. I’m an animal lover so like to see them in their natural environment. The Tigers were alert and seem to be well looked after. They are born into this and know no different. They have areas where they can exercise. You can see the handlers really care about the animals.
I felt good when we left the animals were happy enough.
Alana and the kids wanted to go to the Trick eye Museum in Old Phuket town so we grabbed a taxi and headed off from Patong.
The Trick eye Museum houses 3D paintings. You stand in the prescribed place marked on the floor and get someone take a photo from another marked spot and you are part of the 3D image. It was actually really well done and the kids had a great time.
Chilling out and deciding what to do Christmas day. In the evening we sat outside our room taking in the view of the Patong light show.
We decided to celebrate Christmas with a traditional dinner at an Irish pub. It was a three-course dinner with Turkey as the main. It’s certainly not the same as Christmas at home but it’s as close as we could get in Thailand. We were pretty disappointed with the food. The carrots and sprouts were so hard that when you tried to cut them, they disappeared off your plate like bullets. Not a good look in an Irish pub!!
Day 114 Friday 26th December 2014
Boxing Day was spent lunching at Patong beach and a beer on the sand. For some reason an ice-cold beer always tastes better on the beach.
In the evening we walked up Banglar Road. This is the epicentre of the night life in Patong. There are lots of Go Go bars, ping pong shows, (no paddles used!! I wonder how they play? Hmm, hmm?) We didn’t go in but it gave my daughters an insight to a different world which they weren’t keen on exploring further. Of course, I was pleased to hear this.
This was our last full day together and there was quietness in the air. The thought of us going our separate ways tomorrow was an unpleasant one.
Day 117 Saturday 27th December 2014
Our final day started as usual with the breakfast buffet. I must admit I’ve been indulging in all the goodies on offer. Make hay while the sun shines, I say.
We spent the afternoon having lunch and Shopping. It was Alana and Amanda’s last chance to shop. Amanda was full steam ahead bargain hunting and managed to get it done in the nick of time. Emma and I are not keen shoppers.
The time had come for Alana, Amanda, Emma and I to say our goodbyes. We haled a yellow tuk tuk and they jumped in. It was very sad. This was so much harder than saying goodbye back in Auckland. We waved each other goodbye and I watched as they disappeared into the distance.
That evening I felt empty, deflated and sorrowful. I jumped on the scooter and rode to help clear my mind. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger I thought. I tell Alana as a percentage of our lives this trip is small and before we know it we will be reunited.
Day 118 Sunday 28th December 2014
Today I needed to busy myself so I headed off to Chinprach House. This is a Sino Portuguese house and was built in 1903. From there I went to a couple of lookouts, KhaoRang Hill and Khao Khat.
I wanted to visit the Royal Phuket Marina but couldn’t find it. I’ll find it tomorrow.
I found the Royal Phuket Yacht Marina. The marina has won numerous design awards and there are some lovely boats moored there. I used to work for a marine electrical company so recognised many of the boats in particular the Australian Riviara’s and Maratimo’s.
Black clouds rolled in and the rain soon followed. Yes, I got soaked on the way back to the hotel. I need to get one of the light weight rain jackets the locals carry with them on their scooters.
First thing this morning I went across the road and got a $6 haircut. It’s the best one since NZ. I also traipsed around five floors of Robinson’s shopping mall trying to find a light weight plastic rain jacket. I got sent from floor to floor by people who could only speak in broken English and could not find one. I went back to the hotel and the owner who is a very amiable bloke asked me what I had been up to. I told him I was looking for a rain jacket but couldn’t find one. He said I have one a guest left behind; you can have it. That was very nice of him. He had seen me yesterday when I returned, looking like a drowned water rat. He was probably thinking about the trail of water I left behind when I walked through the lobby.
With time to kill I decided to head off around the south and west of the island to visit Patong, Ruwai, Kata, Karon, then back to Phromthep cape lookout for the sunset. I was told this is the best sunset you will see in Thailand. It looked like everyone else had been told the same thing because when I arrived the car park was jammed packed and there were hundreds of people in the viewing areas waiting for the sun to go down. The sunset was nice although the Darwin sunsets are the best so far, and there were no crowds.
I went to Rider's café. This is where the local bike fraternity meet for coffee. Unfortunately, it was closed until the 3rd January so I meandered down Thalang Road which reminded me a lot of Penang with their Sino Portuguese style shops.
In the afternoon I jumped on the scooter and went for a meander. The smell of smoked chicken kebabs wafting through the air drew me to an outdoor restaurant like steel to a magnet. When I enquired how much the kebabs were the lady said they were free as it was New Year. They were very hospitable and kept bringing more food until I could eat no more. It was a real belly buster. I felt bad that I had eaten so much and offered to make a donation to them for the food. They refused and wished me happy New Year. I think the scooter struggled a bit on the way home.
New Year’s Day and most places were closed. I decided to explore an island to the south east of Phuket. When I say island, it is only just. The bridge must be no more than 10 metres long.
It was pleasant riding around the coast. There are few resorts which are tucked away in the hills. There are boats for hire that can take you to nearby islands. The east coast of Phuket Island is not really for swimming its mainly fishing, a few sandy beaches and mudflats. The west coast is where all the golden sandy beaches reside facing the Andaman Sea.
Updated Thailand blog.
Day 124 Saturday 3rd January 2015
After Skyping my family this morning for our daily chat, I headed off to Rider café for a nice western breakfast. The café has lots of memorabilia, US license plates, pictures of motorcycles and other interesting stuff. The food was good and I spent about half an hour talking to the owner. He’s Swedish and used to be a spinal surgeon. 11 years ago, he gave it a way and moved to Thailand. He owns a Harley Electric Glide and is a keen muso. I will defiantly return here for dinner at some stage.
I then headed towards the beaches on the west coast. I had a nice masaman chicken curry at Kamala beach where I shared a table and beer with a German guy who had just arrived from Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. It was nice to have a good conversation in English.
I headed north to Bang Tao beach. It was relatively empty for high season. I read on trip advisor people complaining that the beach was dirty. Where I was, was beautiful and clean. It was 4pm when I went for a swim and the water was lovely. I enjoyed it because there was plenty of space on the beach.
I arrived at Patong beach about 6pm. Many people were leaving but I decided to get a photo. I was pleased I made the decision to head to Bang Toa rather than Patong.
I spent half the day whiling away the hours at Riders Café chatting to Tony a Brit who has lived in China for the past 10 years. It was interesting to get his perspective on the changes that have occurred in that country over his tenure.
Day 126 Monday 5th January 2015
Today was the day to find out if Bangkok had the shims Winston needed. Instead of ringing I decided to go to Saphanthong Motor, they are the Triumph dealers.
Tony and I met up at the Riders café for a drink before we went across the road to the Blues Bar. The blues bar is a small quaint place where they have a resident band. The band is only a two piece but they are good at what they do and we had an enjoyable night. It’s pretty quiet in Phuket and nothing really starts until 10pm.
While I was checking on Winston’s progress on Monday I bumped into Richard. Richard is a Brit who is now retired here with his wife Christine.
Today I met up with them for lunch and a beer. They are an interesting couple to talk with. They used to run a bed and breakfast in Iron Bridge, England. They decided to lease their B&B out, brought a boat and then spent many years cruising the world. They had lots of fascinating stories. They have sold their boat and now spend time touring Thailand by motorcycle.
Richard brought a map along to lunch and highlighted some good roads to ride, nothing better than information from people who have actually done it.
I spent the evening plotting my entire Thai route which will be loaded onto my GPS.
Day 129 Thursday 8th January 2015
My bike was supposed to be finished yesterday. Of course, it wasn’t. They have completed the service but need to now do the rear shock. Tomorrow is my last chance to get my extension. I went down to the customs office just to make sure they are open tomorrow.
I’ve also had to stay another two nights at the Pacific Inn. The room I had was booked so I’ve now moved down a floor and have a cold shower. I was pretty spoiled having a hot one!!
I picked Winston up at 5pm yesterday with the service and rear spring replacement done. This morning it was off to customs to see if I could get another 30-day extension for my bike.
I must say customs were really helpful. They required my passport, my bike registration papers and my Thai Insurance, whoops, Thai insurance? That’s the one thing I didn’t have. They directed me to where I could buy the insurance. It was only a couple of blocks away. I was in and out in less than 10 minutes. The insurance is for personal injury to you or another person, not the vehicle. It cost 649 Baht (US$20, NZ$25).
I went back to the customs office gave them all the paperwork again including the insurance and they had me fill in a form.
I then went outside with one of the customs guys and they checked the bike registration and vin number.
They processed the paperwork and gave me the extension within 15 minutes.
They were so easy and helpful to deal with, it was a breath of fresh air.
Tomorrow I will be heading off towards Northern Thailand and will ultimately ride the Golden Triangle loop. It’s such a good feeling knowing I will be on the move again.
Hooray I’m finally on the move.
I was up at 6:30 this morning packed my gear, went for breakfast and then loaded Winston the willing work horse with all the gear.
Richard and I had arranged to meet in Northern Phuket and we rode for a couple of hours on the less busy back roads on the west coast. It was good to ride with someone. Richard has a cruiser and is considering buying the new Tiger Road bike later on this year.
We pulled into the petrol station and we bid each other farewell. Thanks, Richard, for you input on the route planning for Thailand it was a great help.
Tomorrow, I head off to Kanchanaburi where the death railway lies.
I left the pink room with the wall length mirror and headed north via Hua Hin to Kanchanaburi.
On the way I stopped for brunch, rice, chicken with onion and a bottle of water. The price? 50 baht (NZ$1.95, US$1.52). It’s pretty cheap eating here. Mind you the chicken has chopped bone in it so you have to spit them out. I was surprised how modern and how much new infrastructure was being built in Hua Hin. There are lots of western tourists. It’s only a couple of hundred km from Bangkok international airport so it’s pretty easy to get to.
I arrived in Kanchanaburi and headed to the bridge over the river Kwai. The bridge is part of the death railway, so named because around 120,000 allied P.O.W’s (mainly British), and locals died constructing the 400km railway line to Burma during the Second World War. As the Japanese were being pushed back towards Japan and the war was turning in the allies favour the Japanese were desperate to get the railway finished on time. This track would be a major supply line for their troops. The conditions for the P.O.W’s were terrible, many were malnourished, diseased, murdered or worked to death.
Standing by the bridge I thought about the cruelty of the Japanese and how the prisoners must have felt about their captors. The Japanese had not signed the Geneva Convention so P.O.W’s were treated worse than a sub species.
Being British I felt proud that I had arrived here on a British Bike, one called Winston!
I left Kanchanaburi and headed to Ayutthaya world heritage site. On the way I detoured to the monument of King Naresuan the great, near Sankhaburi. King Naresuan reigned from 1590 to 1605 and introduced Muai Thai boxing into the local army to defend against the Burmese.
Last night I did some running repairs to the bike. The left-hand heated grip had decided to spin on the bars, so I whipped the hand guard off and used one of my tubes of super glue to secure it back again. I also bent the positive socket on the 12-volt power outlet by the ignition switch back into shape as it had been bent out of position and I was unable to charge my electronic gear in my tank bag
My Spot 2 GPS tracker has also decided not to track which is bad news as I’ve only had it in use for four months. This is my lifeline if all goes pair shaped and I have no phone coverage. I will call the US and see if they can get me a replacement straight away. Here’s hoping their customer service team are onto it.
Today I headed north to another World Heritage site at Sukhothai. Lots of different Wats and Buda statues.
Today was 26 with a beautiful blue sky.
I ended up staying the night in Sukhothai.
Today there would be no historical or cultural sightseeing, today would be about riding the bike.
I headed west from Sukhothai on route 15 to Tak. It was all dual carriageways and a bit boring. From Tak it was onto route 105 to Mae Sot. This was over Magic Hill. Well, I now know why they call this magic hill, it’s because it is. It reminds me of when we used to take our dog to the beach. We would walk him from the car on his lead, out of the car park and onto the sand. We would then make him sit, take off his lead, tell him good boy (that was the command to go for it) and off he would run barking for joy along the beach. Well, that’s how I was today on this road, it was fantastic. Steep ascending and descending hills, hairpins, sweepers it had the lot. When I arrived at Mae Sot, I felt totally alive.
From Mae Sot I headed north on 105 to the Burmese refugee camp. At first, I thought it was a traditional Thai village. It was a small city perched in the valley and hillside.
I pulled into Mae Seriang feeling like this was the best days riding I had had in a very long time.
On the way I had spotted a guy on a black Kawasaki Versys pulled over to the side of the road. I gave him a toot on the way passed and wondered where he was heading to.
I pulled into Mae Seriang feeling like this was the best days riding I had had in a very long time.
I checked out a couple of guest houses before I found one that suited. After I had settled in I decided to have a look around. I spotted the guy on the Versys, he had just arrived. His name is Daan and he is from the Netherlands touring around Thailand, Laos and Cambodia on a hired bike. He couldn’t start his bike so I got the multimeter out and checked his battery. It looked like he needed a new one.
The owner of the Guest house is a biker too and he had a friend who owned a motorcycle shop so Daan and he will go there to pick a new one up tomorrow morning.
I awoke to a cool morning. When I pulled the curtains back there was fog all around. It was 14 degrees and the coolness was a shock to the system.
Daan went and picked up the new battery and his bike was all go again. We decided to ride together today. Daan will stay a few days at a friend’s place in Pai. This is on the same route I will be taking to Chiang Mai.
We headed off at 10 am which is later than usual but by then the fog had gone and the temperature was rising.
We headed north on the 108 which was as good as yesterday's road and enjoyed all it had to offer. We stopped at Mae Hong Son for lunch right opposite the lake.
I called into Brit Bikes to arrange for my replacement clutch to be installed when it arrives from Fast Bike Penang and walked two doors down to Rider Corner Guest house where I checked in for at least the next three nights.
Day 137 Friday 16th January 2015
I headed off to Karen village. This is where the women with the long necks reside. They are mainly Burmese refugees.
The females have brass rings fitted to their necks from the age of five. By the time the girls have matured into women they have many rings fitted. These rings are permanent and weigh a couple of kilograms.
The reason the woman wear these rings is supposedly to stop Tigers ripping out their throats if they are attacked.
Their necks appear to be stretched but this is not the case. The weight of the rings push on their collarbones and upper ribs and distort them downwards.
There are lots of stalls many sell handmade scarves and other types of souvenirs.
I met up with Ed and Tam who are staying at Riders Corner. Ed is an American who has been travelling around the world by motorcycle for nearly two and a half years. I used to follow his original blog on the ADV Rider website. I learnt a lot of useful information from his writings.
Ed now travels with Tam an English girl he met in Vietnam. You can follow their latest blog here.
I had time on my hands so I went for a walk around looking at all the different Temples and architecture.
I spent some time chasing up the whereabouts of my clutch. It was posted on Monday in Sadeo southern Thailand.
Tuesday night was spent at the Thai boxing at the Thaphae Boxing Stadium. 400-baht entry (NZ$16, US$12). There were seven fights in total; each fight is scheduled for five rounds. There were only two that lasted 5 rounds with the rest being knockouts. One of the bouts had women fighters; this was one of the more aggressive fights. It’s a great atmosphere and well worth seeing. The beers were flowing and judging how I felt in the morning I might have had a couple too many!!!
Ed, Tam and I said our farewells before they head off up to Northern Thailand and into Laos. It was nice to spend time with them, they ‘re a nice couple.
Brit Bikes rang to say my warranty clutch had arrived and to bring the bike in to the shop. They told me I can pick it up tomorrow at 1pm.
The order of the day was a full English breakfast. Very nice and just what the doctor ordered. Actually, it’s probably opposite to what the doctor would order but neither the less very enjoyable.
I left Chiang Mai and headed north east to Chang Rai. On the way there were thermal pools and one giant geyser by the side of the road.
The falls were good and the plunge pool looked pretty inviting.
I ended the day just outside of Thoeng.
Tomorrow I will enter Laos