Welcome to our blog! Our plan is to ride the Honda Transalp from Paris, France to Sydney, Australia beginning in April 2005. We expect to be in Sydney in a year or so, give or take a few months. Along the way we hope to meet some people and have a bit of fun, but more importantly learn a little more about the world and ourselves.
We expect to visit the following countries along the way: France, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran or the Central Asia 'Stans, Pakistan, India, Nepal or Bangladesh, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia & Australia.
This blog will be our travel diary throughout our journey. We will try to keep it updated as often as we can, hopefully at least once a week. Thanks for visiting!
Dave & Erika
The advantage of an airplane is that it saves you a bunch of time and gets you across Nepal to Thailand when you are not allowed to take your big bike into Myanmar. The advantage of a motorcycle is that you don't have to check your lighter and manicure scissors as potential weapons of mass destruction before boarding. There are actually a few other advantages to motorcycle travel as well.
After months of awe when shops offer more than a dusty shelf of tinned sardines and vodka, Bangkok blows us away. Feast your eyes on freeways! Drop your jaws at shopping malls! Gawk at people everywhere! Wonder why not a one of them is sweating a drop in this stultifying muggy heat! Dripping impolitely, we scramble aboard the air-conditioned Sky Train, which will be used until the bike can be retrieved from the airport. Someone in Nepal, shipping the bike on Saturday, forgot to mention that airport cargo is closed on Sundays and Monday is a Buddhist holiday.
The traffic is so bad in Bangkok that the Sky Train will come in handy even after the bike shows up. Whizzing along its elevated tracks feels like being a kid on some futuristic ride at Disneyland with wall-to-wall skyscrapers rushing forward at every bend. At the same time, curly temple roof corners and market sellers' umbrellas peek out through the concrete. Both of us visited in Bangkok over 20 years ago; neither remembers so much development.
Right side, left side, right side again. Side of the road one drives on, that is. Cruising over the Mekong River via the Thailand-Laos Friendship Bridge, you're on the left. But as soon as you touch Lao soil, it's over to the right. This should make driving a familiar breeze since that's the way we do it at home. But we've been driving on the left for so long now that it takes a minute to get used to switching back. We'll find out later that ours is one of the last motorcycles allowed across the bridge at this time due to some mysterious bureaucratic reaction to who-knows-what. This apparently happens from time to time.
Laos immediately feels more sparse and poor than Thailand. It's not far to the capital, Vientiane. We're barely sure we've entered it, as the broad streets are rather nondescript and virtually empty of cars. Near the riverbank is a smaller, pleasant neighborhood centered on one of many gracious temples (wats). Its guardian makes sure all are behaving properly within.
There is a small children's festival taking place, which we stroll through while snacking on pounded dried squid with spicy vinegar sauce. Rather, Erika snacks on pounded dried squid with spicy vinegar sauce while Dave looks for something else to eat. He'll be happy to learn that baguettes are common due to France's history in Laos and will enjoy their legacy with eggs daily for breakfast. Some of the older people here still speak French. Erika keeps forgetting to try to use hers.
Electronics and dried medicinal fungus sit side by side at the large covered Morning Market. Got all the medicinal fungus we need, but Dave finds a calculator.
The young monk is also more interested in modern amenities.
The Lao doctor told Dave to stay off the bike for a month so his fractured collarbone (incurred during The Pakse Bovine Encounter) can heal properly. Dave's been bearing up like a trooper; but unable to do much of anything for the last week, he's starting to go bonkers. His second favorite thing after feeling wind on his neck from the seat of a motorcycle is feeling breeze of the air conditioning from the heart of a shopping mall. So after a week's rest in Pakse, Laos we're heading via bus and plane back to Bangkok. While border crossings from inside passenger vehicles are less than ideal, this one will have to do given the current circumstance. One last meal at the napkin-strewn feeble-fanned cafe with great coconut noodle soup, one last view of the Mekong beyond old town Pakse rooftops, one last longing look at the bike from which we'll be separated for the next 3 weeks, and it's off to Thailand again.
March in Thailand and Laos ain't no cool and breezy picnic--even the dust pants, dehydrated and paralyzed in a stagnant haze. Half an hour shuffling through customs is only good in that it makes you appreciate the air-conditioned bus. Otherwise, being on a bus is sending Dave into fits of antsy fervor to be back on the bike. Erika on the other hand kinda likes the cushy seats.
We arrive in Ubon Ratchathani at dusk and indulge in some excellent international-chain pizza. Ubon looks modern in that bland mid-sized-Thai-city way, especially compared to much less developed Laos. Erika's camera kicks the bucket, leaving her fingers twitching uselessly at scenic spots. She borrows Dave's until the next shopping spree in Bangkok.
We're making one last foray into Laos to pick up the bike after Dave's collarbone's three week recovery in Thailand. Back on the plane to Ubon Ratchathani, back on the bus through customs into Laos, back on the bus some more into Pakse. Jerome at the Pakse Hotel has generously allowed us to store the motorcycle even though we never actually stayed there. In appreciation and self-indulgence we treat ourselves to a decadent couple nights' lodging at the Pakse. As if reuniting with the motorcycle wasn't heaven enough for Dave.
It's April 5. This marks the one year anniversary, more or less, of the trip's inception. According to original plan, right around now we'd be heading back home. In reality there's a long way to go. Adding in an extra month to more fully explore Pakistan, an extra 3+ weeks to recover from various and sundry minor illnesses, and an extra month to recover from the fractured collarbone has put us a quarter year behind schedule. We have to skip Cambodia but still plan to travel through Malaysia, Indonesia, and Australia. That's gotta be another 8000 miles. Dave never loses inspriation, but sometimes Erika questions whether she has the energy to keep on going. Sometimes it feels like she doesn't; but she doesn't intend to quit, either.
We stroll through town, checking out the indoor market near the famous Pakse hospital and watching people loading stuff on buses bound for elsewhere.
You wonder where they're going and what kind of lives they lead. There's so much you can't understand when you don't speak the local language. You can only wonder, making up stories about fishermen wrestling with sea monsters as you savor your last Lao dinner on the dusky Mekong.
It's a short ferry rideacross the river from Thailand into Malaysia. Since it is Friday afternoon, most everyone in this Muslim country is praying. If they're not praying, they're certainly not hanging out at the customs office. We're anticipating a long wait for someone to return but somehow manage to locate an official who runs through all the usual border-crossing routines.
While majority-Buddhist Thailand's southern corner was largely Muslim, this corner of Malaysia reveals a surprising number of Buddhist temples. Some are full of people celebrating Songkran, the Buddhist New Year. We don't get cleansed with any roadside water dousings though. Eastern Malaysia is more conservative than other parts of the country as evidenced in peoples' dress and religious sensibilities. Signs are written in Arabic, Chinese and Bahasa Malaya. It's nice to see Latin script used in Bahasa Malayan signs after dealing for so long with the mysteries of written Thai, Lao, Hindi, Nepali, and other indecipherables. Even though we still have no idea what any of it says. The three predominant groups in most of the country are Indian (not an Arabic speaking nationality), Chinese and Malay.
As a typical tourist, you enter a country via the largest city's airport. Traveling by road, we cross borders via some pretty obscure places. Don't tell the people who live in those places we said that. We've never heard of Kota Bharu but it's actually the capital of the state of Kelantan. This large city boasts numerous museums and attractions but they're all closed Fridays. The night market is open so we head over, still hungry after a restaurant noodle dinner. Dave likes to go to the Chinese places since they're the only ones that serve beer.
HUGE, 11.5 x 16.5 inches, beautifully printed in Germany on top quality stock! Photos are the winning images from over 600 entries in the 9th Annual HU Photo Contest!
"The calendar is magnificent!"
"I just wanted to say how much I'm loving the new, larger calendar!"
We share the profit with the winning photographers. YOU could be in the HU Calendar too - enter here!
Next HU Events
- UK Haggs Bank: Sep 19-21
- USA California: Sep 25-28
- Aus Queensland: Oct 3-6
- Aus Perth: Oct 10-12
- Germany Autumn: Oct 23-26
- Aus VIC: Oct 24-26
- NEW! Aus NSW: Oct 31-Nov 2
- NEW! South Africa: Nov 13-16
- NEW! USA Virginia: Apr 9-12, 2015
- NEW! HUMM Morocco: May 13-16, 2015
Take 40% off Road Heroes Part 1 until October 31 only!
Road Heroes features tales of adventure, joy and sheer terror by veteran travellers Peter and Kay Forwood (193 countries two-up on a Harley); Dr. Greg Frazier (5 times RTW); Tiffany Coates (RTW solo female); and Rene Cormier (University of Gravel Roads).
"Inspiring and hilarious!"
"I loved watching this DVD!"
"Lots of amazing stories and even more amazing photographs, it's great fun and very inspirational."
Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to use Coupon Code 'HEROES' on your order when you checkout.
What others say about HU...
"I just wanted to say thanks for doing this and sharing so much with the rest of us." Dave, USA
"Your website is a mecca of valuable information and the DVD series is informative, entertaining, and inspiring! The new look of the website is very impressive, updated and catchy. Thank you so very much!" Jennifer, Canada
"...Great site. Keep up the good work." Murray and Carmen, Australia
"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders
10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!
NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!
Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!
What turns you on to motorcycle travel?
Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!
New to Horizons Unlimited?
New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!
Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.Read more about Grant & Susan's story
Membership - help keep us going!
Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.
You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.
Books & DVDs
All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.
MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!
Story and photos copyright © All Rights Reserved.
Contact the author:
Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.
Hosted by: Horizons
Unlimited, the motorcycle travellers' website!
You can have your story here too - click for details!