February 13, 2003 GMT
Out of Asia

Sitting contemplating my pleasantly sweaty navel in the Indonesian touristic vacuum otherwise known as Bali, South East Asia has left me with decidedly mixed emotions. There have been many high points, but these are tainted by the disappointment of missing both the Golden Triangle and Laos when the second cylinder head stud popped out on the way to Chiang Mai.

Can this guy clean a bike or what! If you're heading to Aus, it's well worth checking out Melaka for that all important pre-quarantine bike wash.


First indication of trouble came in the form of an astonishingly loud death rattle from the right hand cylinder head whilst driving the beautiful road that winds its way North through Thailand alongside the Burmese border. I hoped that either the head needed re-torquing or that the tappets had gone badly out of adjustment, and wouldn’t contemplate another stud problem. Front brake pads were getting low anyway, so I abandoned the wiggly stuff before reaching the (in)famous Mae Hong Son loop and picked up a main road into Chiang Mai.

German Jo at Jo’s Bike Shop was extremely helpful and allowed me space to checkout the bike. Two of the head studs were loose, so I torqued them all down to 35Nm and reset the tappets. The exhaust gasket had also collapsed, so the Coca-Cola company provided a lightweight aluminium replacement. With the rattle now eliminated and the silencer silencing, the bike was cleaned to perfection by one of Jo’s beautiful assistants. You just don’t get staff like this at Birkenhead’s All American Hand Wash.

The following night, I met up with David Unkovich and Greg Frazier at the Kafe. David is pretty much the authority on motorcycling in Laos and the Golden Triangle, whilst Greg has written many books and articles on round the world touring. Seemed like a good place to pick up some local intelligence… What I didn’t account for was that Greg had been leading a bunch of Americans around the area on enduro bikes, and these guys were real thirsty. Apparently I held my own and talked the legs off the lot of them! Cheers Jim and company (in the unlikely event that any of you are sober enough to read this).

As luck would have it, my old school friend Rupert Smith was in town and it was great to finally visit him, his wife Noi and their baby Tara in their home. Obviously a night out followed, accompanied by chap who makes saxophones out of bamboo. And they work too, but he’s since rejected requests from Porsche to produce pistons from the large diameter growths.

I wanted to give the BMW a shakedown run and make sure that the problems were fixed before heading into Laos. So, Rup hopped on the back with a ridiculous helmet and we headed off to spend the night in the small town of Pai. It’s a really nice town and a great run out, but half way there the rattle returned with a vengeance. It was so loud that Rup actually woke up and I finally knew my plans for Laos were scrap. A quick peek under the rocker cover confirmed that the second exhaust stud was indeed going AWOL. We limped the bike back to Chiang Mai and stuck it on the next night train back to Bangkok. This was not an easy thing to do, and I got comprehensively ripped off doing it. But that’s another story.

Africa Twin riding Maarten (last seen in Islamabad) was enjoying breakfast at the Bamboo Guest House as the BMW rattled into view. We were soon joined by Belgian Transalp pilot and good egg, Phillipe, who I had run into earlier in Chiang Mai. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to their many tales of complete and utter reliability from their Hondas. Phillipe’s even caught on fire and still ran.

I must just mention the public transport used on the river North of Bangkok. They’ve got these long thin speed boats that seat about 10 people. And there’s a massive un-silenced diesel engine nailed on the back. The driver and co-pilot wear crash helmets as these things hammer down the river, exhausts glowing in the dark and spitting flames. I swear they are doing well over 40mph and the noise is louder than a 747 on full throttle. It’s eerie to watch them rocketing down the river into the dark and wonder what would happen if, heaven forbid, one hit anything.

Eventually the bike is fixed, so I load up and make my way South towards Singapore. The boat that will take my bike to Darwin is due to leave on the 11th Feb, and I must be there on the 7th to clear the paperwork. News also reaches me that Adrian will be back on the 2nd Feb, but it will be impossible for him to make the boat, and I just can’t wait until the next one at the end of Feb.

I press on and get as far as Krabi, where the beaches were used for ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ or ‘Dr. No’ or something. I never did find out as I spent my time there trying to find the cause of the disconcerting backfire that had developed over the previous 500 miles. Coca Cola’s exhaust gasket material must have melted in the heat, so I got some slightly thicker gauge metal from a Porsche chassis and made yet another new gasket. As Rupert would say ‘TIT’ (This Is Thailand)!

Next up was Malaysia and a two day stop-over in Kuala Lumpur. At the tail-end of Chinese New Year, the city was clean, peaceful and quiet; a pleasure to explore in fact. I even took in some traditional Malaysian dancing and joined the other tourists at the Petronas Towers. But what’s the point in visiting the world’s tallest building and only being allowed halfway up? Apparently, the architects didn’t think it would be the tallest and so didn’t bother with any observation areas. Oh well, the KL tower just across the road is actually higher as it stands on a hill. So I went up that.

It might be the end of Asia for my road trip, but Singapore’s quite nice too. Not the cheapest place to buy consumer electronics anymore, and the beer can be steep at up to 5 quid a pint, and the only hotel room I can afford resembles a glove box. But, look around and there is great, cheap food everywhere, old colonial buildings are fabulous and there’s a great bar in Little India where they have absolutely no respect for opening hours.

However, nothing is ever simple in Asia and the shipping agent for my boat changed at the beginning of February. When I arrive at the port to put the bike into a container, I discover that the new people have never loaded a bike and that the ship’s captain wants it to rot in the salt spray on deck. Some nonsense about a potential fire risk. Of course I don’t want the bike rusted to its constituent elements in the South China Sea and insist on an enclosed container. One becomes available after only 6 or 7 hours, so I steal some ratchet straps and secure the bike myself in the 40 degree heat. I hope they’ve not been missed, but that load of steel pipes did look a little precarious afterwards.

Next day, I throw away my first parking ticket and fly out of Singapore to Bali for a four day break from motorcycles. Rather than get bored and just stew in the heat, I immediately enrolled on a PADI scuba diving course and have just completed the first day as I write this epistle. In one short reef dive, I saw two sea snakes, poisonous stone fish, poisonous lion fish and two ruddy great eels. The plan (Ha!) is to finish (hopefully successfully) the diving course by the 15th when I have to fly straight out to Darwin in time to pick up the bike. We shall see….

Posted by Sean Kelly at February 13, 2003 01:04 PM GMT

Hi Bro
So this PADI lark could be useful to me - perhaps you could go swimming beneath the carpets in my car and tell me where all the water is coming from. I suspect that the structural engineer from Porsche was related to the guy who made titanic unsinkable. Tims having his serviced at the moment - each time we speak the bill seems to go up by the equivalent of a good holiday in the Domincan Rep. Have heard on the grapevine that Adrian "superglue" Scott seems to have fooled the relevant authorities into thinking he is Hugh Grant and is currently hot on your trail (or is that trial!). Anyway have fun - by the way it is -4 tonight!!!

Posted by: Liam on February 13, 2003 09:40 PM GMT


Sounds cold, it's so hot you could make tea with the sea water here in Bali. Final dive tomorrow as passed all the theory today 100%, hooray! Like being at school, even got the little desks as per the Blues Bros. Lovely underwater listening to the fish and the sound of your wallet emptying.

If Adrian gets any closer - like onto the same continent - I may change my name too...

Cheers and happy valentine's

Posted by: Sean Kelly on February 14, 2003 10:26 AM GMT

Hi Sean
Hope the 'BRONS' in Aus are ready for the return of the Nightrider and the Toecutter. Max had better top up his nitrous tanks...

Posted by: Johnny The Boy on February 14, 2003 06:32 PM GMT

Hi John

Thing is, if the bike's coming home in a container - maybe I could slip in one of 'the last V8 interceptors'. Holden's are pretty cheap out there....


Sean Cousteau

Posted by: Sean Kelly on February 15, 2003 11:59 AM GMT

Hi Sean,
just a sign of life from the two Dutch girls to tell you that we're often reading your website. The stories about the other Asian countries are very enthousiastic (apart form the road conditions in
Cambodja...). I'm really jealous that I'am walking in a grey and cold Holland instead of having a diving course on Bali. But fortunately I'll have a one week walking holiday on Mallorca (no, NOT near the beaches and the appartmentbuildings with al the fat (and drunk?) British (and Dutch??) tourists, but in a nice small town near the moutaings on the north of the island. Of course, it's nothing compared to your trip, but you know: Dutch women are very humble and satisfied with almost nothing...
Do you remember the French couple + Vincent from the hotels in Isfahan and Yazd? I received this week an e-mail from them; they're now on holiday in Oman. Very enthousiastic stories about a beautiful country and very friendly people (again a lot of very special friends, I suppose....).
The 2 German Bikers have safely returned to Germany. They made it without serious to Katmandu and arrived in Nepal around half december.
Wish you a safe and nice trip in Australia. You made it already, yeah!! And give our greetings also to Adrian if you meet hem somewhere in Australia (where?). Take care of yourself and enjoy the rest of your trip.
Elisabeth and Marijke

Posted by: Elisabeth and Marijke on February 15, 2003 03:43 PM GMT

Hi Shameless,

I hate to say I told you so, but I don't remember Ted Simon having all this trouble with his Triumph when he rattled round the world a few years ago. I think you should recommend to BMW that they use a new material for their engines. I think that cast iron could be the answer! It also takes a lot of salt spray to rot through.

Sounds like you are still having fun though. I guess you must be in Oz by now. I must seem like plain sailing from now on. I've looked on my Atlas and it looks as though it's all down hill from darwin to sydney, so that should siut the BM.

Things in Nottm a bit frosty at the moment and quiet on the social scene (unless I'm just not being invited anymore). Suits me though as I'm recovering from a wrecked back after falling down the inspection pit and also from the financial shock of a porsche service, just to add insult to injury. Liam's prediction of servicing costs (one of the criteria of purchase) was as far out as your dress sense!

Hope all's going well. My mate Jonny (Port Douglas) will probably swap his Bonnie for the BM, (with cash adjustment) if you are struggling and have a couple of thousand dollars to spare! Take care.


Posted by: Tim on February 19, 2003 07:58 AM GMT

Hi Tim

Funny, I seem to remember Ted going through at least two sets of pistons, flown out courtesy of Triumph of course! And did you know he's been retracing his original journey over the last 12 months - at the tender age of 70? He's on a BMW R80GS paralever this time of course.

Currently I'm languishing in the tropical humidity of Darwin whilst waiting for Priscilla (Queen of the Desert - new name for BMW?). Intermittent torrential rain showers are the order of the day. And the highlight of the tourist attractions here? Fish feeding.

The bike is here, in it's container waiting for customs clearence, as soon as it's free I've got to change the oils quick service and off down 'the track' to Alice.

Are you sure that's how you cricked your back?


Posted by: Sean Kelly on February 20, 2003 01:24 AM GMT

Hi Sean

I can't believe you're having so much hassle with your bike - but at least you've managed to get everything sorted out OK now.

I was looking through your equipment list the other day and came across 'nodders' which made me laugh out loud! The only other time I have come across this expression was from a friend who uses the term for those personal items one can purchase from the chemist - I thought he'd just made the name up until I saw it amongst your Carbtune & socket set.

PS Did you take the Carbtune and has it been of any use?

PPS My GS is running quite well at the moment - I just thought I'd rub it in!!! :o)

Take care out there - and have fun in Oz.

Posted by: Fuzzy Duck on February 27, 2003 05:35 PM GMT


Sorry I meant Twinmax - the thing you use to balance the carbs - sorry, it's been a long day...

Posted by: Fuzzy Duck on February 27, 2003 05:38 PM GMT

Hi Fuzzy

Yes, one or two problems. And the run from Darwin to Coober Peedy has left me gushing oil from the left hand pushrod seals and with a leaking right hand head gasket. I'm a rattling, travelling ecological disaster - but still mobile.

Just had a note from Adrian in Chiang Mai, seems his bike is disintegrating around his ears. But we're both still mobile...



PS I would have used the Twinmax once or twice if Adrian hadn't taken it home. NOt sure if I'd bother taking one next time though.

Posted by: Sean Kelly on March 1, 2003 06:46 AM GMT

Hola from Gran Canaria!

Posted by: Michael and Jane on March 13, 2003 04:53 PM GMT

Hola from Bondi Beach, Sydney!

Yes, we made it.

Bike and I slightly secondhand, but hey! 20,467 miles and we're here.

But what next?????


Posted by: Sean Kelly on March 14, 2003 02:04 PM GMT

Hola from sunny Stapleford `next the Erewash and Trent. We hope the weather in Grand Canary and Bandy Beach is up to all your expectations. Its not bad here either - very nice in fact.

Glad you`ve reached your goal safe and sound Sean. I must admit to having doubts at times - owing to your transport problems. However, it is obvious you must have been watching me intently, whilst giving the impression you weren`t interested, when I used to do battle with the innards of the fabulous Hillman Hunter a century ago. I suppose that`s where Michael gets it from too !. I find that very comforting.

Have a really enjoyable "finale" to your holiday all three of you (yes that includes M. & J.) and steer clear of the Iraq area on the way back.

Looking forward to seeing you all again - its not so long now.

Bye for now.

Love from Mum and Dad.

Posted by: mum & dad on March 15, 2003 07:08 PM GMT


Have followed your sexploits with great interest, thanks for private email and didn't know that ladyboys could be so sneaky. Best take antibiotics. Sorry to hear that you are "gushing oil from the left hand pushrod seals" but we all grow old and perhaps it's time to take a bold (bald) view on this. Desperately jealous of all that you have achieved (save the ladyboy - but not for me)and will immensely enjoy buying you proper beer in about a fortnight or so. Take care mate,


Posted by: Barry on March 15, 2003 11:20 PM GMT

Hi Sean

Apparently there's a Birkenhead Point at Drummoyne, Sydney. I reckon you should officially terminate your tour there with a few Woodside-type photos like when you started out (we can compare the condition of the bike!). And of course a pint of Directors if you can find one.

Also, forget being the Nightrider and the Toecutter, you can be the Nutcracker (remember 3 sisters?) and the Toenailclipper.

See you all too soon..


Posted by: John on March 18, 2003 06:21 PM GMT

Hi Bro
Are you anywhere near Perth ? If so could you pop in and say hello to Brad Logan - he has e-mailed expressing an interest in buying the porsche so you can tell him what a thoroughly decent chap I am and of course the car is wonderful and worth every penny of the extortionate price I am asking for it!! Ain't that just typical - no one here wants it and the only guy interested is on the other side of the world. Could you check out Aston Martin prices while you are there - I may do him a swap!!!
Keep in touch

Posted by: Liam on March 18, 2003 07:59 PM GMT

Hi chaps

I think there's quite a lot of legacy stuff going on here. I rode through Epping today for pete's sake. And everything here has a name or a tour attached to it. Every rock, hill or creek that hasn't seen water in a century. I fell asleep in a roadhouse and someone put a sign up 'kelly creeks'. If I here "i come from a land down under" once more I swear the ladyboy will shriek!

And thanks for reminding me, John, that toe nail clippers were missing from my equipment list, is that why I can't get my German army para boots on any more? 6 months growth...

Porsches here are 10 a penny - so many mint old cars it's ridiculous. Alfasuds even, fab old mustangs, mad max falcon XAs, mark II essys, marinas. Just nothing rots with this weather. But Perth is pretty close - about 2500 miles as the BMW flies. You want me to check the dude out? Could be a lot of fun shipping the 911 to the no speed limit northern territories and hammering it through all the kangaroos and possums down to the western seaboard. Some off road stuff there too...

Flight home is now booked for the 31st March. Gulp... Gonna be so weird....


Posted by: Sean Kelly on March 20, 2003 12:00 PM GMT

Well done on getting to your destination!
Adios from GC and CU in UK.

Posted by: Mike Kelly on March 20, 2003 06:53 PM GMT

10 a penny huh?? Heres 2p, can you bring me 20 back. Brad reckons there are no decent ones there, but come to think of it there aren't any decent ones here either!!! His Manchester friend has been on the fone but I don't think I'll hold my breath, especially as I haven't done the padi course.
Flight back on the 31st - time I booked a holiday. We've got the rest of the Glenfiddich to finish !!!!
Enjoy the rest of your time there.
Oh, check out the price of Aston Martins if you get chance.

Posted by: Liam on March 21, 2003 09:25 PM GMT
Sorry, due to heavy form spamming, Comments are OFF.

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