Thank you New Zealand, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, East Timor and Australia for the people we met, the friendly welcome everywhere, the roads we rode, the food we could taste, the adventures we could master, the experiences we made and finally thank you for all the dust in our faces ;) All the best Kerstin and Sascha, www.RTWbyBIKE.com
Do we get lazy a bit writing and posting? Yes… we do ;-) Sorry for that but 1. It is getting dark here much earlier than in NZ (still we work on getting used to it) 2. Up from 1pm until sunset it gets incredible hot even though we need every blanket we can get at night, because it turns quite cold here in the mountains when then sun is gone 3. Days are just too short!
The first part of the ride from Sukhotai to Mae Sot was quite boring but after that we really enjoyed the road along the Burma border going with loops to Mae Sariang. We passed the refugee camps in the hills which were climbing up the hills along the street. The room we could get in Mae Sariang was really basic and a bit muggy but as the most of the guest houses were reserved for police and army because of a visit of a royal family member we did not had a choice… Actually we slept well after this long day riding! And we got wake up by the sound of the parade going through the village so we had an early morning with Pad Thai for breakfast at the market watching the parade.
Next destination was Chiang Mai to have one or two days checking out some bike roads, crossing border information and enjoying the Flower Festival… We met Harry who is on the road with his “Vegi Bike”, an Enfield 500 Bullet modified run on vegi-oil what really impressed us. (Harry please correct if we are wrong here and GOOD LUCK to you!).
Now it was time for the famous “Chiang Mai Loop” and we chose some smaller roads partially over the mountains going to Mae Hong Son which were containing lovely turns up and down the hills again and again. Arriving with the sunset in Mae Hong Song we followed the hint of a motorbike driver we met on the road and were looking for a hut place which he recommended. Searching and asking for the place we finally entered the place. Out of the dark, a German, Peter, was asking who we are and if we are looking for a room. As the place was looking even posh without lights we said “Yes, but we think this place does not look quite fits our budget” he was grumbling a bit and telling us we will find a solution and we should first come in. So we did and in the end we paid a fair price to sleep in his private guest room instead in one of the huts… nevertheless using the pool and the lovely garden… in the end we stayed 2 days ;-) Peter is working and living here in the refugee camps (actually all over the world) for many years and had good information about the whole area and the history. We did a boat trip to the long neck village, meeting the elephants, enjoying the temple in the sunset as well the dinner in Peters place with his other guests.
Following the loop we started the part with more than 1800 turns from Mea Hong Son direction Pai. We did some additional tracks to the Burma border again, having a taste of their mountain Jasmine teas dried fruits and in the end we reached the Tham Lot cave and stayed there for the night in a bamboo hut next to the river. We explored the great cave on a bamboo raft. We had to hire a local guide and his gas lamp to guide us through the cave and at sunset time we saw the 100.000 birds and bats goind inside the cave after hunting. It was a lovely experience! There was nobody else around except us and thousands of swifts and bats flying into the cave for the night with the sunset!!! An amazing big cave in 3 parts which we could walk through and enjoy with real breathtaking moments – incredible big! Huge! Labyrinths with stalagmites and tides everywhere…
Getting more north direction Golden Triangle we chose the real small roads in the mountains and finally a narrow windy road following directly the border line of Burma. This was one of the most wonderful rides we had so far in Thailand – with beautiful views and passing little mountain villages and a military border station with a breath taking view where we could not overcome the temptation trying on the helmets and walking down the dugouts. Passing Mae Sai and the Golden Triangle we reached Chiang Saen and the (Me)Khong River which attracted us immediately! In a Guesthouse at the riverside the owner presented us very proud his leather motorbike jacket – he does not have a bike yet, he is saving money for getting it one day, but he has already the jacked he told us with a big smile!
The Khong River(Mekong)! It is a real impressive stream with a very own spirit! Even though boats are passing and people are always around the shore washing, fishing, bathing… it exudes calmness in a very majestic way. Nothing is really loud or aggressive; everything is absorbed by this beautiful river. We were driving along the Khong until Chiang Khong where we moved in a room with balcony directly at the river. Here we will cross the border to Laos, but as we have to fix some small things at the bike and the border police supervisor at the port told us it is no problem anymore to do so at the weekend we decided to stay two nights. The city goes to sleep really early here. When we went out again at 7:30pm we could hardly see anybody on the streets or find any shops open. Finally we found a little kitchen open where we got some food. We do not miss anything having our balcony and to be honest, I could sit here on the balcony for ages ;-) watching thinking relaxing… does not matter what time of the day. It is just beauty with a little breeze, sounds of wind chimes, small boats, working people and the smell of incense and all the different cultures around here.
Tomorrow early morning we will cross the Khong and entering Laos. Now it is noon, we had a coffee on or balcony early morning, thai breakfast on the street, we found the missing tools we needed, did some maintenance at the bike and now we will go for a relaxed tour along the river direction south before we leave the country… but we will come back soon…
First rides and impressions outside of Bangkok; central and west Thailand
On the way out of Bangkok our first stop was a big Honda shop which we saw on the side of the street and reminded us of our broken speedometer cable. Immediately 3 guys were surrounding us, observing and discussing while Sascha tried to explain what we need. In the meantime another boy came to me and gave me a big bottle of cool water with a big smile – what a nice service. After it was clear what we need one of the guys left on his scooter and came back after 10 min with a cable… unfortunately too long. So he left again. The second one was fitting, hurray! The cost was 150 THB (not even 4 €). Happy we continued getting out of the city.
In Kanchanaburi next to the Kwai River we spend our first night in a raft (room on the river) watching the moonlight and the jumping fish after a nice curry from the street. Restless and excited to see more we left the next morning to Sanklaburi, a dead end street because of the border to Burma (Myanmar) with plenty of villages and their kitchen streets along the road. Up in the mountains we found a place to stay with a view over the lake and had some nice small tours on the bike around the area. Of cause we had a look at the border (which was more or less unspectacular as we did not tried to cross it ;-)) We met a group of Thai-Biker who went out for a weekend trip and had some nice chats with them as one of them studied in Germany – we were meeting them again and again on the road.
When we left we decided to go through the National Park as we saw there could be a ferry to cross the lake. We followed a nice small road which turned dirt road after a while climbing up the hills and going through the jungle in the end. A bit scary as we did not now what animals they have there around. We heard later on that they have Leopards and some other things… We had some stops there and every sound in the bush let us …. ;) When we arrived at the ferry stop cars were already cuing up for the ferry in the middle of nowhere! Lucky we just could fit the bike in a small corner. We hopped on the ferry and crossed the lake. Following a great curvy mountain road finally we arrived again in Kanchanaburi. But back to the road through the mountains for a second. There was fire everywhere in that forest, anyway there is fire around us most of the time, either they burn the sugar fields down after harvesting or the forest is just burning somewhere. It doesn’t bother the Thais so why it should bother us at the moment – except for the smell of fire surrounding us.
For the next segment we decided to go for a longer distance direction north, to Sukhotai which is about 450 km north. The sky was grey when we started and we were quite happy about it as it not that hot. Nevertheless our bumps were hurting after a short time already and we had to make some more small stops before we reached a small nice guesthouse in Sukhotai. Time to relax and recap a bit and we negotiated a good price for a very big, nice and clean fan room for the next two days. We like the spirit here around, street markets, night markets, and street kitchens and not to forget the old Sukhotai, 12km away which we could enter and explore with our motorbike. We drove around the ruins and reconstructed temples of this town which is considered as the first independent Thai kingdom.
Today Sascha did some maintenance work at the bike: screws just getting loose because of the vibrations all the time. Our Voltmeter showed that the battery was charged with only 12.1V instead of 14.4… Yeah right the vibrations … Actually he didn’t screw the battery screws tied enough when we got the bike out of the airport in Bangkok… So he had to do it again properly… “I said Vibrations!” “Yeahhh right!”
Tomorrow we will go west once more following the border line of Burma on the way direction Chiang Mai… It is supposed to be a narrow winding road with not much traffic or people around and we are already excited!
Early morning we started to get done the insurance and the plan was to pass by the cargo air. Not expecting too much but gathering information and showing up in front of the responsible lady with a big smile to make it easier for us for the next day…
When we found the office of the insurance and explained what we need they told us it would cost around 1000 THB…Luckily we knew from our guesthouse neighbors it cost only 160 THB for three month As we were mention that they looked irritated but they were willing to check double and they apologized having done a mistake (^Oh sorry mister, this was price for 3 years^). Never mind but we knew the correct price in advance.
Done that we left to the airport. When we arrived at the Emirates Cargo Office around 11 am they let us surprisingly know that the bike has already arrived and we should go to customs to get it out. The process started! We were looking each other and realizing that we will fortunately get the bike within that day – meaning as well driving it back to the center of Bangkok!!! Uuuups
Everybody was friendly and the process is quite organized. Of course we needed some patience, a lot of paperwork needed to be done (we counted more than 160 stamps and about 70 signatures from Sascha) and running back and forth to different departments within the airport. After 5 hours we were allowed to pass the security and leaving the property declining the invitation for coffee and snack as we wanted to drive as much as possible with daylight. Not allowed to enter the highway with 2 wheels it was not that easy in the beginning and we had to sneak out over the green wall 10 meter before a toll station once. As well the GPS was not really helpful as it always wanted to lead us back to the highway. It was not understanding this many streets close beside and above of each other – never trust the GPS is my opinion anyhow! The sunset and some tucktuck drivers were much more helpful showing us the direction to go. After a while we were just floating through the traffic and after 1,5 hours ride we knew we must be close the area where we stay. We stopped to have a look at the GPS and the tourist map when we recognized a shop next to us which looked very familiar… We were already there, just around the corner. Sweated but happy we reached our guesthouse. Jippiiiahjeah! What a successful day!
The day after we got sorted and packed our things. Everything needs to find a new place as we are travelling in a total different climate and some items we decided to send back to Europe. The rest of the day we spend looking around for maps and enjoying food in several small street kitchens and in the evening I had to put up my swallowed elephant feet – we definitely need to drink MUCH MORE WATER!!!
Tomorrow we want to leave Bangkok direction north and we spend the day arranging the last things. A heavy rain started just when we arrived back at the guesthouse and we are enjoying the fresh breeze and cleared air while sitting here and planning the route. So excited what Thailand looks like outside of Bangkok…
Here just a few words about Bangkok. We love running around the narrow streets full of markets and street kitchens with smiling people; every corner smells different, sometimes good like herbs, curries, spices , veges, fruits, flowers, perfume oils,… sometimes less good like emissions, heat, sweat…It is a potpourri of everything – it is alive! People let you do your own thing, always smiling; the food is fantastic, always fresh and cooked in front of you. We do not speak the language but that does not matter much; we know some vocabularies and the rest is communicated with hands, feet and always with a big smile :-} our preferred mean of transport is the river taxi, which we have around the corner, it is cheapwith a good view and fresh air outside the streets. Millions of impressive temples, palaces, gardens where you can find a quiet corner to relax if you like…
Finally we had to say good bye to New Zealand and after 12hours in the plane we arrived 9pm local time in Bangkok. Cueing up for a taxi we already could feel the heat. Around 11pm we arrived in our little guesthouse in the middle of the center where surprisingly another couple with their bikes arrived today. We took a look at the closer area, got two beers and were wondering if we are really in Bangkok now ;-) Just the heat and the humidity made clear that it is not a dream!
The next day, Saturday, we did the tourist tour. Taking the river taxi boat with a fresh breeze we had a look at the Grand Palace and its closer surroundings. Sweated and full of impressions we went for food in one of the street kitchens next to our guesthouse. Just being happy we enjoyed the evening relaxing and realizing that the next chapter of our trip already started.
Chatting around with the nice people in the guesthouse we get prepared for tomorrow: Picking up the motorbike from the customs at the Bangkok airport. As we have as well Chinese New-year tomorrow we hope we will find the way back to our guesthouse on our bike tomorrow…