22-12-04 THE BORING CHRISTMAS BREAK (OR SO I THOUGHT)
After getting total rejections from every VIETNAMESE Consulate, in Thailand, Lao and Cambodia, about traveling with my bike in VIETNAM, it was time to bite the bullet and retreat back into Thailand.
The countries of China, Burma and Vietnam, are really stifling motorcycle traveling in Asia.
We got to the lovely island of KHO CHANG, found some great little huts on the beach, and settled in for a few days of R and R. The first thing to do was to look after our bruised and battered old bodies, (after all we are all over 50). Our bikes were next, with a welcome clean at the local car wash, (a little Thai guy, with a bucket and sponge).
It was great to swim in the ocean again; the sun and salt combine to reinvigorate the old body.
The beach resort was run very efficiently by Kattoys, Thai lady boys, and was really set up for rich Thai families, not 3 old foreign bikers, with dubious morals.
The inevitable trouble began on the 2nd day, when Mark wanted a Thai message, from the local girls that frequent the beaches. He wasn’t happy about lying on the sand or grass, so off to his hut he went with the masseure.
There was an immediate reaction from the management, accusing Mark of laud behavior. The end result was a very pissed off Mark. And a very cold management.
So it was decided to head for Pattaya the next day, reluctantly I agreed, I really enjoyed chilling out on a relatively unspoilt island, unlike Pattaya.
The highway west to PATTAYA is the typical 4 lane THAI road; most cars are sitting on 110k, with the occasional fast mover.
A good speed for us was 120k/hr. so it was PATTAYA in a couple of hours.
An interesting fact about the bikes involved, at the fuel stop, DORIS took 13 litres, and the KTM and GS1150 took 18 litres. This is despite DORIS carrying a heavier load, and all 3 bikes arriving together.
It certainly vindicated my decision to ride a GS650 through Asia.
We finally got through the ever increasing traffic of PATTAYA, and booked into a good hotel in the centre of town for 650b, complete with pool.
That night, I went around to a well established bar, called TIM’S, the owner is a middle aged Thai lady, who has been in PATTAYA for over 25 years. I was introduced to Tim by a colleague from SHANGHAI, when I worked in CHINA, over 5 years previous.
After telling Tim about our bike travels, she informed us of a poker run by the local chapter of THE MAD DOG MOTORCYCLE CLUB, on the following Sunday.
TIM gave me a contact phone number of the MDMCC, his name was also TIM. The contact made, the three of us chilled out with a few beers at TIM’S BAR.
Sunday morning arrived, typically hot, sunny and humid, Mark and I arrived at SALLEY’S bar (the official Bar of the MDMCC) at around 10.30am for the 11.am start.(Robert decided to give the ride a miss, as his girlfriend was arriving from CHIANG MAI)
People in THAILAND don’t get out of bed real early, so the 11am kickoff passes, and a few HARLEY’S turn up, mostly from the JESTERS M.C. all Scandinavian guys, with good jobs on ships and oil rigs.
The bulk of the MDMCC arrived after 11am, with big hangovers from the night before, I was surprised to see colours from SINGAPORE and THE PHILIPPINES, the guy’s just fly up (it’s cheap) and rent a bike, anything from a VMAX to a HOG.
Hell , our two dirt bikes looked like the two ugly twins!
After all the hand shakes, hugs and back smacks etc. (I’ve seen it all in OZ, riding with my mates) a bewildered Mark, on an out of place 950cc KTM and me on DORIS, join in the run.
Forty odd riders begin to get in to some formation, in the usual staggered position that these type of rides are accustomed to.
The first drama of the day occurred, the little pommy guy on the scooter, who was commissioned to take a video and photos, got a flat tyre, and so a replacement bike was arranged.
Then a late starter arrived, and immediately, grunted his HARLEY, with his THAI girlfriend as pillion, and totally threw her off the back, dressed in shorts and a flimsy top, she hit the tar rather hard!
The rest of the poker run was running quite smoothly at a very unaccustomed slow pace (for us anyway), until we stopped for our 2nd card at the WHEREHOUSE BAR, about 30k out of PATTAYA.
For all you bikers that are old enough to remember a Clint Eastwood movie, called “ANY WHICH WAY, BUT LOOSE”. The totally bizarre happened.
Imagine 30 odd HARLEY’S lined up, with their back tyres to the gutter, the riders, having a beer in the local inn. When all of a sudden, a Toyota pickup truck, rams into the first bike, setting off a domino affect on all the bikes! Luckily Doris and the KTM where parked a little distance away and didn’t sustain any damage.
Over 30 odd pissed off bikers surrounded the pickup, to find it had no driver, with the steering lock on and the gears in neutral! The vehicle was parked across the road and had simply moved down the slight incline under gravity. The police were called and a perplexed Thai cop, scratched his head and wondered how to write this one up!
Soon a middle aged plump Thai woman turned up, admitted to owning the vehicle, and then went into some via tribe about karma and Buddha!
As they say, the party goes on, so leaving the damaged bikes behind, the rest of the poker run continued.
The 3rd stop was a bar in the north of PATTAYA, unfortunately, Mark is not confident in Asian traffic; he lost the entire 30 odd HARLEY’S, and DORIS, and went back to our hotel.
Another HARLEY broke an accelerator cable and had to be towed back to the bar.
(I have ridden over 20,000k, through ASIA, and haven’t had this much drama!)
It was back to SALLEY’S bar and a free BBQ, the blokes were great, and after a few beers, it was time to head back to the hotel. Any bikers traveling through PATTAYA should give TIM and his mates a call at SALLEY’S bar, they are good value.
Two days in PATTAYA for any sane person is enough, so I decided to head for BANGKOK and stay at a mates place for a few days before flying down to KHO SAMUI on personal business.
As I left PATTAYA on the main highway, I seen one of the most disturbing sights I have witnessed on my travels so far. The traffic in front of me had come to a sudden crawl, and as I passed a policeman controlling the traffic jam, my eyes suddenly focused on a young girls body, just lying there, on the hot bitumen, arms and legs contorted. All she was wearing was shorts and tee shirt, no helmet or safety gear.
There was no effort to help her, or cover the body, it appears she was dead.
Her motorbike was 100m down the road, and a car was in the grass drainage ditch, between the traffic lanes.
Riding the 140 odd k’s to BANGKOK is pretty boring and dirty with all the diesel fumes from the trucks. Being aware that no motorcycles are allowed on the expressways, I struck to the ground only roads, not the overhead ones. Little did I know that both are classified as no go areas for bikes!
Flying along at 120k’s an hour, the absence of motorcycles was noticeable, until two traffic cops on 750cc Hondas stopped me in traffic and motioned me to a nearby café.
One of the cops, who could speak English, was really pissed off, and yelled and grunted at me, about riding on the expressway. I just put up my hands and smiled. Now remember, these guys are armed, so when they asked me were I was going, I showed my friends address to them, they immediately asked me to phone him, and as he spoke Thai, a protracted conversation commenced.
After the cop hung up, he said “you pay, how much money you have?” I quickly got my wallet out and produced 200b. Both cops immediately broke out in a fit of laughter, and said, “ok, now you go to police station.” Now the last thing I want is a lengthy problem with the local cops, so I said, “how much?”
“1000b” was the immediate replay, “Piss off! ,“ was mine. I then decided to phone my Thai mate again, maybe he could strike a better deal. 500b was their final acceptance.
They explained to me as the offence was very serious, not only had I entered the expressway, I traveled the full length of it at over the speed limit!
Ok, I gave in and handed over the 500b. Immediately the serious tone vanished, out came 3 bottles of beer and three plates of Thai food.
An hour later I was on my way, making sure to stay off the expressway, courteous of the local police. Now that’s what I call diplomacy!
Two weeks can go by very quickly, especially when I am staying in my mate Ken’s hotel on Lamai beach in Koh Samui.
I had to get back on the road, so it was a quick flight back to Bangkok and a 9 hour ride of 850 odd k’s back to Chiang Mai, along the boring 4 lane highway 1 and into the best bike riding area in Asia.
I eventually caught up with my two riding mates, Dave Unkovich (D1) and Dave Early (D2), who had just got back from an epic 6 week ride through LAO, so we had some wild stories to exchange. Remember, I left them in LAO when I carried on south through CAMBODIA.
D1’s Africa Twin had to be towed back to CHIANG MAI with some electrical gremlin, stopping him from riding his beloved stead. It didn’t stop D2 and I, so after a health check for the bikes from Joe’s Bike Shop, it was off on a day ride to the highest mountain in THAILAND. This is supposed to be a leisurely ride of around 200k’s, so after a hearty breakfast at the KAFE in CHIANG MAI it was the usual 10am kickoff (gentleman’s hours of course).
Well it did end up as a very casual ride as predicted, it was a great feeling to ride the twisty roads again in Northern Thailand. The dramas began as we were just about to leave the national park. Dave stopped at a dirt road, with a sign in Thai and English, pointing to a “cave”. Dave mentioned that he had often passed this track and wondered what was down there, so off we went, down this gravel track, that prior to our LAO adventure, we would have been very hesitant to take.
This time it wasn’t the bikes that give us dramas, it was the track up the mountain that we weren’t prepared for, straight up through the bamboo and into the bloody clouds, we just kept walking, straight up for about an hour, with no water, both of us were about to give up, with me constantly checking my pulse rate, this was really hard work.
Just as we were about to give up, we got to the top of the hill, then surprise, the sign pointed down the other side! So off we went following the near vertical decent, straight into an eerie cave with stalagmites and stalactites hanging from the huge cavern which was around 30m high and cut into the mountain for about 100m.
An exhausting walk back to the bikes, and a quick ride to the nearest café for a couple of litres of fluids, then head back to Chiang Mai, for a shower and a nap, talk about stupid ideas, from now on I will stick to riding my bike.
The 2nd DECEMBER, and a quick ride to MAI HONG SON.
The usual suspects take off to spend a few relaxing days riding through the mountains, near the Burmese border, we spent the night in Pai, with its recycled hippy community and headed for MHS the next morning. D1 and D2 were in front of me going around the twisties, we were just relaxing, enjoying the beautiful winter weather, when about 8k out of MHS, I rounded a bend, and in front of me lays D2’s, TDM Yamaha, lying under the front bumper of a truck.
Many thoughts go through your head during emergencies like this, is your mate ok? What if?... Then I see D1 in front of me, waving me down, I immediately stop, and expecting the worst, look up the road and to my amazement, standing next to the truck was D2, he just walked away, one lucky bastard.
His weekend ride now cancelled, D2 arranged a pickup truck to get his bike back to Chiang Mai and straight to Joes Garage. He caught a flight back to CM the next day, D1 and I just kept to our schedule and finished our ride, there wasn’t anything we could do.
The 10th DECEMBER, and CHIANG MAI BIKE WEEK.
I have been to many bike shows over the years in OZ, the usual Harley posers, the outlaw bikers, with all their intimidating black leather riding gear and colours, telling the world of their tribal tendencies.
Also I expected the usual entertainment, you know, wet tee shirts, strippers, heavy rock bands, etc.
WRONG! The Thais and resident expats certainly turned up in all there regalia, their custom bikes were over the top and a credit to their owners. They were also dressed in there mandatory denim and black leathers, with colours.
The difference is that their behavior was beyond reproach! Bloody gentlemen, no biker moles, just beautiful Thai girls, out for a bit of fun.
The entertainment was a cross between funky dancing and traditional Thai dancing, all performed by fully dressed beautiful young Thai girls, very tasteful, and the food was great.
Full credit goes to the organizers, police and major sponsors, I enjoyed a great weekend.
The Thai’s really do things differently than us foreigners!
I am flying back to OZ for XMAS to see my family and friends, planning to continue my journey next January, leaving Doris in the capable hands of the BMW Dealer in Chiang Mai.
Posted by Tom Forde at December 21, 2004 11:01 PM GMT