Bangkok was steamy and hot in contrast to the dry heat of India. Getting the bike out of customs was a marathon effort and Bangkok airport cargo on a Monday morning would have to be one of the busiest we have seen. Connor's story of releasing the bike taking a day without an agent had us engaging one, hoping this would speed things up. No such luck and we departed the cargo terminal at 5pm charging into the peak hour traffic. This was after negotiating a substantial reduction in our fees, 3,800 Thai Baht to 1,500 Thai Baht. Avoiding the freeways we lost ourselves and extended our journey back to the hotel by over an hour and several kms.
Sight seeing around Bangkok was fun using the local buses we visited a few Buddist Temples. Our hotel, New World Guest House was surrounded by sidewalk restaurants where the food was superb and we tried almost everything.
After purchasing a new rear tyre, we headed to Kanchanaburi or the famous bridge over the river Kwae. This was not our day as we left Bangkok, we missed a turn and ended up on a freeway, a no go area for motorcycles. We were chased by a motorcycle cop who promptly demanded a 1,000 Baht donation. After much discussion, the policeman, after a very deft move, absconded with our map and compass. We gave chase. This was a ploy to get us back to the station where he had moral support. He was out numbered three to one on the freeway. A disscussion was had for several minutes (loud) with our apprehender leaving in disgust as his superior gave us the benefit of the doubt and said 'go'. The chant of 'money, money, money' still rings in our ears as we leave. I might add it was Carol's negotiating skills and determination that saved the day. Although very touristy, Kanchanaburi was very interesting. We visited the Jeath War Museum which displayed a lot of photos of Australians building the death railway and bridge. Aussies dominated in the photos although there were several nationalities involved. The bridge was some kms away and we spent the afternoon walking across the bridge and taking photos.
Next day we make it to Kamphaeng Phet. The roads in Thailand are excellent, the traffic minimal and orderly (compared to India!!!) and we travelled much further in the day than expected. A tropical storm soaks us as we ride into town. Dinner at the hotel was punctuated by young Asian girls preparing themselves for a night of karaoke. This was one of those famous Thai bars. The singing was terrible but the locals didn't seem to mind. We left early as the drink prices were way too high.
Our departure to Chiang Mai was delayed with the turn signals on the BMW failing. In India this would not be a problem but in Thailand we considered it a must. Diagnosis of the problem took time and it turned out to be a dirty switch.
We spent three days in Chiang Mi seeing the sights, dodging the thunder storms, fixing bikes, killing mosquitoes, eating delicious food but mostly waiting for the rain to stop. The shock spring, replaced in Varanasi, India, had collapsed and with our load there was only 30mm of travel. A friend in Australia purchased a replacement so after several e-mails we arranged for it to be sent to Bangkok and collected by a local BMW rider (many thanks Graham).
On the road again we get doused with several heavy showers. Road works were turned to slush as we pushed on to Chiang Saen. This appeared to be almost a ghost town, very quiet. Dinner at a little restaurant was very nice but the floor show of several large rats visiting a small altar/shrine to eat the provided food was a little too much.
Sunshine and blue sky greeted us the next day. Following the mighty Mekong River we reached the Golden Triangle. Tourists, coaches, souvenirs and high rise hotels, this was why Chiang Saen was so quiet. We took the obligatory photos and rode into the lush green hills wishing the bikes suspension was fixed so we could enjoy these superb roads.
We visited the border town of Mae Sae. The Thai side was open but the Burmese side remained closed due recent border clashes. Phayao on picturesque a lake was worth the visit. Enjoying a cold Chang and watching the sunset while eating a spicy meal of chicken and vegetables. Super!!
Heading back to Chiang Mai we tackle a lot of smaller roads. Even the food in the smaller villages was superb and quite safe. We never went hungry in Thailand.
Leaving Chiang Mai the next day the steamy weather had us looking for a relieving shower of rain. It was not to be as we pushed the bikes close to their limits. We climbed up and down the mountains several times with each hairpin seemingly getting tighter and tighter. We arrived in Mae Hong Song around 4pm soaked in a lather of sweat, screaming for a cold shower.
The road to Mae Sot was similar but with more open road thrown in. What variety. Elephants walking down the highway and elephants hitched up on the back of a truck, what a sight. In the heat of the day we savoured roast chicken with sticky rice for lunch at Mae Sariang, I can still taste it now. This road is close to the Burma border so there are a few police road blocks. Most of which we ride straight through but once we are checked. This was near a Shan village about 60 kms from Mae Sot. We were later informed it was probably a refugee camp from Burma, hence the extensive police presence.
Departing Mae Sot, the rolling sweepers was the icing on the cake. Filling up with fuel near Tak, Connor and I both had huge grins from the last section of highway. All good things come to and end as we make time down the main highway to Bangkok (read straight and boring). At Bangkok we meet up with Dr. Gregory Frazier again and within a couple of days a number of other motorcyclists we have met enroute arrive. Angela, Leo, Yolander and Trond the bicycle rider. Much merryment and many tales were exchanged at our little Thai restaurants near the hotel.
With our replacement spring collected and fitted (thanks again Graham), we depart Bangkok as Angela, Leo and Yolander head to the airport to play the customs/cargo game to get their bikes. Dr. Greg headed north to see if the rain was as heavy as we said and Trond travelled south as he had already tasted the delights of the north. We took two days of steady riding to get to Krabi near Phuket. The road was smooth with plenty of variety, twisty rainforests to straight coastal roads through fishing villages.
It never ceases to amaze us that if a hotel or guest house gets mentioned in the Lonely Planet the price of the rooms increase dramatically and it is often difficult to get a room for a reasonable price. We have often found accomodation, that does not receive a good report in the L/P, has been more than adequate and the prices have changed little.
Krabi was touristy, the seafood good but overrated, the long prop boats were fun and the beaches 'hot'. We were amazed to see so many westerners 'fried' to a colour that was darker than the locals. Fruit was a big part of our diet in Thailand. We felt so healthy mum would have been proud of us!!
Krabi to Songkhla, we cooled down in a tropical downpour again. Plenty of rubber trees through the mountainous areas and rice paddies on the swampy lowlands. The houses were built on stilts and we imagined the mosquito populace would be quite substantial in this area. Along the coast were several shrimp (prawn) farms and judging by the number being built there is a big demand for this food in Thailand.
After one night in Songkhla we made the short hop to Hat Yai and meet another BMW rider. He escorted us to our hotel that was most luxurious for us, even had t.v. Peter had to work so we headed into town for some sightseeing. Modern city with only a little highrise and very little polution. Enjoyed dinner with Peter and Coco trying a number of Thai specialities. Yummmm!!!
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