Cambodia to Southern Thailand
Well myself and a couple friends bought bikes about 2 1/2 months ago and have found it difficult to get off them to write this post.
My name is Cameron and I am travelling with 2 friends named Hartt and Tim. We are all canadians traveling from Japan to the UK mainly overland. At first we wanted to do it all on dirt bikes, granted we have a lot of time on our hands, but ran into numerous problems that only large quantities of dough could fix. ie.. China was not letting bikes be imported through Shanghai's dock's (who knows why), Vietnam is really tough to get bikes larger than 150cc in, tibet we were going to have to hire a certified tibetan tour dude to drive a land cruiser to portage gas for us for three days, and India wants a 400% deposit so you do not import the bike illegally. So with all the problems at hand we decided that unfortunately, public transportation was the key.
Then we arrived in Cambodia to find a plethera of used dirt bikes in all ranges and sizes, most in beautifull shape. Tim decided to travell ahead of us to Thailand early to follow a piece of ass. Hartt and I decided to look into purchasing bikes a little further. Immediately the dealer at Lucky motorbikes said crossing borders was totally okay but we wanted another opionion. Getting ahold of the Thai embassy was a fruitless attempt and were absolutely no help and could not find anything out for us. Then good old David here at GT-Rider filled us in about the amazingly simple temporary import agreement between the countries of Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, that lets you keep a bike in any of the countries for the duration of your visa making sure it returns to the country of origin when all is said and done.
So Hartt and Myself picked up two 1997 Suzuzki DJebel XC 250's on Nov. 30 in Phnom Penh, Cambodi. We purchased them from Lucky's, he was a great help and a nice guy, he also lined up or helmets and registration and plates. Mine had 11k km on it, Hartt's with 30K, and were both in imaculate shape, very happy. We were a bit rushed with a deadline of Dec. 3 we had to be in Bangkok. The roads in Cambodia are a backpackers nightmare with 150km bus rides taking up to 8 hours. If you have not been there it is tough to even imagiane, washed out, pot holes a few feet deep, rutted and all kinds of changing surfaces. A dirt bikers dream! We made it from Phnom Penh to Siem Riep in a long days drive. The first bit was well paved, changing to rough dirt to ending like a ammuture motocross course. Dips, whoops, hills, bumps and burms curving around all sorts of random construction. Got a good nights rest and made the drive to Poi Pet crossing into Arranya Prathet that day. The drive was a fun lond single lane dirt road that was like driving on an oversized washing board. The best part was passing the over packed tour busses crawling over the bumps at a gruelling 15km while we had her in 5th gear ripping past at ninety. I am so glad I have been to Cambodia and still not taken a bus. Suckers
As for Tim, he was meeting us in Bangkok and started looking for a bike for himself. The Drive in was very tame and the first time great roads have been a let down. That is untill we reached Bangkok. The last 70km was all city driving, with out a map, to get to Khao San Road. We circled for a while then hired a motorcycle taxi to follow there. Not my first time to Bangkok I knew the absolute mayhem driving in the city was. So following this taxi weaving in, out, and around traffic, him not realizing our handle bars are much wider than his little scooter, was in its own way, kinda fun. Cause back home we would have been nailed with thousands in fines for the stuff we can legally pull here.
Any way, Tim found Peter Ried at Siem Super Bikes and we got a small lesson on the maddness of getting and licensing bikes larger than 200cc here. Tim ended up shelling out, I think, 65,000 baht, about the same price we paid for a 1991 Honda Baja 250. For a 91 it is in great shape and runs like a charm, and now knowing the Thai politics a good portion of the sticker price is for the full license, plates, and papers it has. Then we made the long journey out to the Dirt Shop and got lined up with Tims helmet, goggles and gloves.
Now that the 3 of us are back together and all on bikes we decided to head down to Ko Pha Ngan to relax for a while. The drive down was uneventfull, but I really recomend in overnighting in the town of Pratchup Khiri Khan and taking in their killer night market, Mmmmmm. We arrived into Surat Thani in the evening and bought tickets on the night ferry to Ko Pha Ngan. It was a large boat not a vehicle ferry so we wheeled our bikes over a sketchy ass wooden plank 15 feet over the water. Then our handle bars would not fit throught the door way so we were forced, over the water, to tip our bike sides ways and take one side in at a time. All our hearts were racing over that one.
When we arrived we checked into a place called Fanta bugalows on the North Western side of the island near Chalocklam. We stayed here a few years ago and new we wanted to post up here for a while. Actually for 6 weeks, at this point we had been travelling for 4 months and wanted to be stationary for a while, not having to pack up and move daily. The Next month and a half were a blast. There is only one paved road going from one end to the other. And in that time we covered every square inch of the place. There are amazing dirt trails in every direction through palm jungles, over coconut husks, on really killer diverse single track everywhere. And it is possible to make it to Bottle Beach on a bike despite what everyone will tell you! In the town of Thong Sala, accross from 7-11 there is a little bike repair shop. They were very nice people and managed to get there hands on a new head light for Tim and home of our 100baht oil changes.
From There we crossed the country to Phuket, which was a beautifull paved drive. We stayed on the southern tip on the beach of Nai Han. In the town of Phuket we went to the Suzuki dealership and they hooked us up with new rear tires, but that is about the only thing even they can do for bigger bikes. Spent a few days there motoroing around and sorkeling then back over to Ko Samui a few days later. Ko Samui was all right, it is very inhabitted and most of the dirt road we found where pretty wide and generally in good shape. Here we also went to their immigrtion office and paid an additional 1,900 baht for a one month extension. A week there and we decided to cross over again and go to the island of Ko Lanta. If any one ever makes the ride to Ko Lanta look for highway 44. It is on no map what so ever, it is fairly new and cuts pretty much straight from Surat Thani to Krabi. Two lanes of open high way in both directions with little traffic that make for good time. But make sure you fill up before hand cause the gas stations are few and far between.
Ko Lanta has the best beaches in all of thailand in my opinion. Wide, soft, white sand beaches that stretch forever. Even to main road crossing Ko Lanta is a fun dirt road to drive with endless possiblilities of hilly dirt trails crossing in every direction. And there is a lot of killer food all over the place.
And now we are back in Bangkok. We made the 900km drive in two days conquering the first 600 the first day to have a short second. We are now relaxing taking in all our western fetishes cause this is it for the next 7 months. It is tough getting parts for anything bigger than a skooter anywhere but Bangkok so I recomend doing as much here as possible. We hit up Red Baron, they are great people, for oils filters and new brake pads to get us ready for the journey back to Cambodia.
We are off to Cambodia in two days to meet another friend on the 1st of March in Phnom Penh. Unfortunately we will be missing northern Thailand this time. Last time we were here we rented bikes and did a few week loop from Chang Mai, Pai, Mae Hong Son, Chang Rai, up to Mai Sot and back around. So we are not missing much that we have not already seen. Once in Siem Riep we are heading north and taking back roads along the Thai and Laos border avoiding as many land mines as possible to Phnom Penh. There we will tour around a couple more weeks then sell our bike the middle of march and Tim will drive back to Thailand to sell his.
I hope some one out there has enjoyed my ramble. And if anyone has any questions about Southern thailand I have been on almost every road and would love to try and help. Ill post another meesage filling in the remaining month on the Cambodian message board.