July 21, 2008 GMT
thailand 22.06.08 - 01.09.08

All is done quickly at the Malaysian site of the border, Immigration and Customs, all in all maybe 15 Minutes.
Quite a different story it is on the Thai side.
We’re entering Thailand on a 2 months tourist visa but our motorbike should get only 1 month permit… well, Thailand doesn’t apparently accept the Carnet. It takes us 4 hours at the border in Betong to get the 6 months permit. First we’re discussing the problem with several officials at the border post and we succeed BUT the power goes off and after an hour or so of waiting we’re been brought to the head office in Betong.

1 of the 1000 wats....

1 of the 1000 wats....JPG

Here we are facing some more problems as the customs officer isn’t able to read our English motorcycle Certification papers and us unable to read the Thai forms…
It’s already 3 PM, we didn’t eat yet today and another 200kms riding stretching ahead of us to be able to leave the tense region. Everybody is advising us not to stay overnight in the border provinces Yala and Pattani. It doesn’t help to see the Police and Army road blocks every 2-5kms, mostly equipped with machine guns and some even with tanks.
We stop only for refilling and short lunch and reach the coast north of Pattani before dark.
Thais don’t make it easy for us in this part of the country, there is NO English signs for anything, not for hotels, not even on the menu plus NOBODY seems to speak even a word English! We’re guessing (and sniffing) when it comes to refilling the tank, we’re trying to figure out the Thai signs for hotel and we end up ordering food without knowing what we’ll get…
Its getting easier with every kilometer we travel north, people seem to know some English and the road blocks gradually disappear – great!


pretty girl in sichon

pretty girl in sichon.JPG

After a few days break in Sichon we eventually end up on Koh Phangan, a place of serious beachcombing and laziness for us, with all the advantages of a fully developed tourist place. Here we can have European food, WiFi internet connection, cable TV and English speaking Thais.


beach life on ko phangan

beach life on ko phangan.JPG


We spent more than a week on Ko Phangan doing nothing. Eventually we decided to leave and force ourselves to wake up “early” at 7am and try to catch the 9am ferry to Don Sak. The weather has been fantastic all the time but it seems like a storm is hitting the island as we’re waking up. Heavy rain and strong winds forcing the water into our cottage and within minutes all stuff on the floor is floating… The news aren’t that good either at the breakfast. Apparently the 9am ferry broke down due to bad weather and there will be another ship coming at 11am. That gives us some time drying our stuff and enjoying our food.
The rain stops as quick as it started and we’re leaving the lovely place at 10am. The sandy road leading to the main road is soaked with rain and we’re sinking in deeply with our heavy loaded bike.
There is already a long line of pick ups and trucks by the time we’re reaching the harbour in Thong Sala, all waiting for the delayed ship.
Instead of the big ferry, only a small version arrives 2 hours late. Very soon we know why its so delayed… Our ship seems not be seaworthy at all. Its not only slow with its 12km/h but its rocking and bouncing with every wave and causes us to look for life jackets… well, we can’t find any! They supposed to be under the seats, so far the German instructions stated on the signboards, but there is no jackets to be seen anywhere!!
The passenger’s faces steadily change colour to a kind of green and there are cues at the comfort rooms.
My concern is mainly with our bike, which I have to secure from tumbling around with some straps in between a truck and a wall.
More than happy to be on solid ground again, we reach Don Sak harbour 4,5 hrs later!

footprints in the sand

footprints in the sand.JPG

sunbathing....

sunbathing....JPG

palms

palms.JPG

ao khanom beach

ao khanom beach.JPG


in prachuap khiri khan

in prachuap khiri khan.JPG


naughty macaque

naughty macaque.JPG

reclining budha in petburi

reclining budha in petburi.JPG

With Ao Khanom we find Thailands best beach so far, kilometre wide white sand, gentle slope into the crystal clear water, framed by palms and almost exclusively for us alone!
From Khanom to Bangkok we only stop for a nights rest and refilling and some more Wats.
On a Sunday we’re entering Bangkok as advised by our friend Frank and reaching his place with no problems.

police officer in bangkok

police officer in bangkok.JPG

Frank has been leaving in the suburbs of Bangkok for the last 12 years or so and therefore he is a great source of information to us. Together we’re visiting a huge wet market close to Pathum Thanni, shopping downtown for motorbike tyres and emptying some glasses of Sang Some (Thai whiskey).
Next stop after 1 week in Bangkok is Kanchanaburi. Here we’re visiting the Tiger Temple. As soon as I’m reading about the possibility of actually petting a tiger, I know I have to get there…
Well, its not quite like I expected it. By the time we reach the entrance, the parking area is clogged with cars, busses and sawngthaews. Still, I want to touch the tiger!
Even the 300 Baht entrance can’t turn me off; Jane is already discouraged by the amount of people and the high entrance price.
With a bit more than half an hour left before closing we’re rushing towards the little canyon. Somewhere behind the 300-500 people cueing must be the tigers but I can’t spot them. Its very clear to me that not everybody will be able to pet the huge cats and carry home the pictures for evidence.
Thanks to Jane who “found” another line for cueing (or lets say “she simply ignored the existing line”) we’re still able to get our tiger shots but many people are being turned away with the hope of repeating it the next day. For today my lesson is that one can’t count on luck alone, hehehe.
It is simply to say now, with the tiger shots in the cam that we want to avoid such tourist traps in the future but it just had to be done!


darius and tiger

darius and tiger.JPG


jane and tiger

jane and tiger.JPG

From Kanchanaburi we’re following the no. 323 to Sangkhlaburi, a border town with a large variety of ethnic groups. We hear different stories about the existence of the road connection between Sangkhlaburi and Um Phang, some 150km north.
At the end we don’t want to push our luck to hard because the political situation in the border region isn’t stable at all (the trek supposed to cut into Burma several times) and the rainy season doesn’t help us either.


sangklaburi

sangklaburi.JPG

pass to pilok

pass to pilok.JPG

monks pet

monks pet.JPG

So, we got to ride a big detour to actually be able to reach Um Phang. No problems, after some map-studies I discover that a little, winding road no. 1117 is connecting Khlong Lam with our target. Too bad that there are 20km of road “missing” and the only way to reach Um Phang would be to walk through the mountains. It seems like the only way to reach the little town is from Mae Sot. So, we end up riding to Mae Sot first, bugger.
Mae Sot isn’t quite bad though. The town is inhabited mostly by Burmese immigrants, roughly 60%, and there is a big number of volunteers helping the people in one way or another. It has a vibrant market and flourishing gem and gold trading along the streets, which leaves me with some opportunities for good pictures.

river kwae bridge

river kwae bridge.JPG


thai monks

thai monks.JPG


jane and boy in thong pha poom

jane and boy in phong pa poom.JPG

jane on the ATV

jane on the ATV.JPG

buddha in mae sot


buddha in mae sot.JPG

deals with gems


deals with gems.JPG

gem trading in mae sot

gem trading in mae sot.JPG


improving the africa twin


improving the africa twin.JPG

mon girl in traditional costume


mon girl in traditional costume.JPG

rambutan

rambutan.JPG

During the 1 week in Mae Sot we’re visiting a Gibbon farm, Jane is taking up Burmese cooking and I have time for servicing the bike. Here in Mae Sot we meet Peter on his Suzuki DR650 and spend some time chatting and exchanging information. Peter has been travelling on his bike for about 2 years and is involved in some kind of volunteering while waiting for the end of the rainy season in Mae Sot.
From Mae Sot our ride continues along the famous Mae Hong Son Loop, passing Mae Seriang, Mae Hong Son, Pai and arriving in Chiang Mai after 1000 hairpin curves and several passes. What a great motorbike trip!!!
On the way we’re paying a visit to one of the last “Longneck” tribes – the Kayans and taking a bath with the elephants.

papa again...

papa again....JPG

elefants crossing...


thailand105.JPG


longneck women in mae hong son


thailand106.JPG

earfashion in the Kayu tribe of northern thailand


thailand107.JPG


off the bike on the elefant!


thailand108.JPG


pai elefant camp


pai elefant camp.JPG

pass close to pai


pass close to pai.JPG

Chiang Mai gives us the opportunity to check our bike and get the spares sorted out. For quite a while now our bike consumes more than me… 7,5ltrs of gasoline every 100km is definitely too much. I’m trying to fabricate a new air filter using available commercial parts but the bike wouldn’t work properly and the consumption wouldn’t go back to the original 6ltrs. Finally I can make out a shop selling K&N filters surprisingly having stocks for my old twin!
Now, I can only hope that the problem is solved.
Besides the air filter the bike is getting a brand new front tyre. Sadly I can’t find any fuel pump which would replace our weak original part. The Mitsubishi fuel pumps sold in Chiang Mai are all too big to fit on the bike. Now, the only solution is to take the pump out and connect the fuel hoses, in case it stops working completely.
Before leaving Chiang Mai for Mae Sai and Burma, Jane is joining another cooking class, this time Thai Cookery! I can’t help, I’m looking forward to see Jane using her new skills and feeding me the delicious specialities.

at the northernmost point of thailand

at the northernmost point of thailand.JPG

another misconception of germany...


another misconception of germany....JPG

buddha in mae sai


buddha in mae sai.JPG

There is not much to do in Mae Sai, people are coming up here to the northernmost point of Thailand mainly for the Visa run. So do us.
Its not allowed for us to take the bike over to Burma, so we got to walk in. On the Burmese side we have to pay 10US$ each for the entry permit up to 14 days. Our passports staying at the border and we’re handed out some kind of temporary Burmese travel documents. All this precautions are making sure that we’re not going to sneak around the locked up country and not going to exit through another border checkpoint to china for example.
We’re not having any intentions to backpack around Burma and leaving our bike behind, for us its just a visa run, like for so many others.
The short trip to Burma doesn’t reveal its secrets of course but my first impression is that this country is much poorer than its neighbouring Thailand. The state of the main road reminds me on the Philippines, plenty potholes, missing tarmac in places and, it seems, no rules on the road.
Otherwise the market is almost the same like on Thai side with the exception of selling porn DVD’s, tax free cigarettes and Viagra in Burma.
The seller would approach me stating loudly the price for his fake Marlborough’s and then coming closer offering me Viagra for cheap. It’s so ridiculous it’s almost funny!

trip to burma


trip to burma.JPG


burmese passports for us

burmese passports for us.JPG

crossing burmese border without passport


crossing burmese border without passport.JPG


concrete believers in tachilek


concrete believers in tachilek.JPG

burmese kids in tachilek


burmese kids in tachilek.JPG


at the golden triangle


at the golden triangle.JPG


buddha at the golden triangle


buddha at the golden triangle.JPG


chinese buddha close to chiang khong


thailand126.JPG


on the road again


thailand127.JPG

buddha in chiang mai

buddha in chiang mai.JPG


We spend another week in Chiang Mai enjoying a comfortable hotel room, good food and WiFi while waiting for the big rain to stop.

buddha impressions in chiang mai


thailand119.JPG

thailand123.JPG

thailand125.JPG

deteriorating driveshaft on our africa twin...


deteriorating driveshaft....JPG

Since weeks the driveshaft of our bike is giving me headaches - another weak point on this otherwise very robust built motorbike.
The removal of the sprocket is revealing the deteriorating shaft. It looks like the third is already gone and we can only hope that the remaining material on the shaft is going to last till europe, where I could replace it... lets hope for the best!

Leaving the mainstream tourist route, we’re making a detour to Nan province and from there up to Chiang Khong. We’re enjoying every Meter of that beautiful, winding mountain road!


great roads in the Nan province

great roads in the Nan province.JPG


petrol station


petrol station.JPG

thailand actual trip


birthday on the mekong


birthday on the mekong.JPG

On Jane’s Birthday, 1st of September, we finally are leaving Thailand! There is lots of confusion about how to cross the Mekong and where to get the papers done.
First some people send us to the Custom office in town, where we’re being sent to another Custom office at the passenger pier and again being sent away to the cargo Custom office… Our passports have to be stamped at the passenger pier also, so eventually we left Thailand officially while still cruising around Chiang Khong!


leaving Thailand

leaving Thailand.JPG


The guys at the passenger pier would love to put our bike on one of these little longboats, which are cheap and “safe” of course. I can resist…
We’re crossing the Mekong on a barge, which is transporting 1 truck at the time. There is 5 trucks to be shipped over to Laos, so the drivers start to stress, start their engines and move the trucks forward and backward. As soon as the barge comes about 5 meters close to the ramp, the first truck ploughs through the half a meter deep Mekong, just to be the first!
On the second go I’m not going to be the looser and copy the first truck, behind me another truck straight on and, following the truck, Jane wading through the knee-deep, brown Mekong. This time Jane’s waterproof boots aren’t of any help, hehehehehe!!!

Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at July 21, 2008 03:37 AM GMT
 


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