Date: 10th October 2007 Bike: Yamaha Raid TTR250 Distance: Round trip 1031 kilometers Days riding: 1 Long day, 2 easy days Reason for Ride: Visa Run. I dread to think how many times I have done this trip over the years but it is still one of the most enjoyable rides in the north West if you want fantastic scenery and good roads (most of the time). 9:30am I pack my bag on the bike and head off with the intention of going through to Mae Sariang, stay one night then continue onto Mae Sod, a total one way trip from Soppong of around 500 Kilometers. The weather was absolutely perfect, overcast, no rain and a cool breeze. For me the trip from Soppong to Mae Hong Son is a regular trip being the closest major town to me, always a great trip but after Mae Hong Son the ride starts to feel more enjoyable so I plug on through without breakfast aiming for my first stop to refuel, cigarette and the 7/11 in Khun Yuam for one of their traditional 21 Baht hot dogs and all the salad you can throw on top. From Khun Yuam the road widens a little but still loads of sweeping bends with a few straight sections thrown in for good measure. I haven't ridden for a few months but after 160 clicks and having most of the road to myself, winding through a multitude of corkscrew bends in glorious secenery, with the dulcit tones of Peter Gabriel (Genesis) banging through the Ipod I was really getting back into the swing of things so much so I cant really remember much until I got to Mae Sariang for another 7/11 stop and another of those tasty dogs swilled down with an ice tea and another ciggy. Looking at my watch it was only 12:20 so stopping at Mae Sariang seemed silly but, knowing what lies ahead I did need to consider the situation. For me it's easy to think "oh I'm half way there I might as well carry on" but that last 300 kilometers can be an absolute killer but it was only 12:20 so plug on through...Peter Gabriel (my only companion on the trip) has just started Suppers Ready a 26 minute epic of awesome driving/Riding music so, I fill up and headed on with the scraggy voice of my mate Pete bellowing in my ear. Mae Sariang is the last major refilling station for quite a while apart from a few local gas shops here and there and not all of them carry 95 grade. After Sob Moei (RTE 105) there is a section of seemingly no mans land for about 50 Kilometers going past Mae Ngao national park. This is spectacular with thick forests hilltribes, no westerners, hardly any cars and the road seems to deteriorate very quickly with pot holes, falling rocks, landslides and getting narrower and narrower as you ride. Its hard to believe you are still on a main A road! Be sure you are filled to the brim as the next major fuel station is Mae Rammat. Those doing it on dreams or waves will struggle if you don't get fueled up at Sob Moei! I'm climbing up and up over the mountain and notice the darkness ahead with a serious storm brewing! Obviously rain is never welcome but why here in the middle of bloody nowhere? Should I plow on through or should I stop for a smoke?.... I light up and listen to the contenting sound of nothingness apart from the odd rumble of thunder in the distance it is the most peaceful place. While sitting looking at the awesome scenery I remember of another GT Rider who was chased down a road by a tiger and thought to myself If, there are any wild animals left in Thailand and the Thais haven't eaten all of them, this is where they will be, joyfully playing in the jungle undisturbed by Thailand's equivalent of Jamie Oliver. As I brought out my camera it was like a scene from Dr Doolittle..... animals leaping through the trees, charging down the road, coming out from the jungle came really weird sized Cartoon Tigers normally only seen on a breakfast cereal box but there they roam free, Monkeys bigger than the bike, Pygmy African elephants (he was lost), Minature toy Giraffes (he was following the elephant) Massive Hyenas (he was trying to eat the giraffe) and all of them wanting to be in the photo, ....This part of the North West is Animal magic! I must add at this point if you make it here the African animals will probably have gone home as they were only allowed 30 day visa's and no chance of an extension and if they over stayed they could be imprisoned in Chiang Mai night safari and this they did not want! Talking of Visa's I must crack on and get mine done.... Onwards and upwards and only 250 kilometers to go I turn Peter back on and one of my favorite albums "selling England by the Pound" I head off into that stormy darkness that now looks as if it's just sitting there waiting for me to come along...Sure enough I make it to the top, and tried to slip by un-noticed but the storm saw me and dumped down bucket fulls along with thunder, fork lightning and wind like a mini hurricane. Have you ever noticed those little sitting areas covered in Thai Graffiti usually situated every kilometer or so apart? I think they are made of Sugar because when it's raining they seem to dissolve into thin air not to be found anywhere until the sun comes back out! But this time I find one, still in tact covered in Graffiti and Hill tribe girls phone numbers. Amazing Thailand.. After the storm passed I headed down the mountain into Ban Tha Song Yang. From here the road straightens out a little and you can make up for any lost time however, the road has more wildlife (but of the indigenous kind) especially goats, (bloody hundreds of them), and don't hit a goat for god sake or it will scream like a little kid, Buffalos are in abundance and more cows than you can shake a stick at conveniently sat on the road either just over the crest of a hill or directly on your line on a sharp left hander. Along this straight section there are few guest houses if you feel like splitting up the trip. Per Pron Guest house on the first corner going into Ban Mae Salit Luang on the right. 100 baht per person. Big bungalows over looking the Moei river (which conveniently doubles up as the Burma border.) sleeps 4 people but if you want it to yourself 200 per room. They aren't so keen on doing food and the last time I was there regardless of the questions you ask the girl she always replies with NO! Which made me feel as if she wanted me to die of starvation! Do what I did and totally disbelieve her statements that there were NO shops, Selling NO Beer and NO food in the whole village! Just around the corner is a fine diner selling Burmese and Thai scran and selling posters of famous Burmese movie stars looking like Doris Day on a bad make up day if you feel the urge to make a purchase. Farther on there are 2 more guest houses one on the left hand side which looks dodgy to say the least and another on the right after Tha Song Yang ( about 50 kilometers past BAN Tha Song Yang.) The one on the right looks as if it is undergoing major refurbishment and I think they have changed it from a guest house to a Resort so probably the biggest change there will be the price. Sadly I was still plugging on through and didn't have the time to stop to check it out and I don't write anything down (apart from hill tribe girls phone numbers) and with a memory of a fish I forget the names of the guest houses but I am sure David has them down on his maps. The section 50 kilometers before Mae Sod is a little boring but a gentle relief from the twist and turns, especially after 450 clicks on a TTR seat when your arse is starting to feel it's been subjected to a sick party game at an Elton John bash! Now my Thai is not perfect but I can communicate pretty well with most (especially after a few beers) but it seems that many people in this area dont speak Thai and asking one guy at a petrol station he wasn't entirely sure which language he spoke himself... It was time for another re-fuel so I pulled in took off the helmet smiled and said "Gow hah khrap, Dem dtang Khrap. (trans: 95, fill her up me old cocker) he replies with "50 baht?" "No fill her up please" I reply He looks at me dumb when I said it again.."Fill her up" along with all the sign language pointing to tank etc. Finally he gets it so I go off to buy a red bull. Now I have traveled 175 kilometers or so since the last fill up and was about ready to put it on reserve so I was surprised to be given the price after he had "filled it up" of 60 baht! 50 baht for the fuel 10 for the pick me up drink! I ask him "Khun poot phasaa alai lepau" (Trans:What planet are you from then sunshine?) He replies with "Mai Lou Khrap" (Trans:I dont know). Starting to get a bit frustrated I raise my voice slightly and say in purest Somerset "Are you gonna fill her up? If not get some one over yer that speaks a bloody language and knows how to pump fuel" and with that in went the nossle and he said "Oh Dem Datang OK" and started pumping like a good un. Amazing Thailand. At a respectable 4:20pm I was glad to pull into the 'First Hotel' in Mae Sot to be greated with the language of my choosing Including English,Chinese,Burmese, Thai but as yet not fluent in my native Somerset language. For 450 baht you get a clean room, air con (Mae sod can get hotter than a snakes ass in a wagon rut), clean towels a piece of soap looking like wrigleys double mint only smaller and thinner and decent parking for the bike. Thankfully, security for your bike will be professionally dealt with by 5-6 tasty looking ladies loitering with good intent around the hotel foyer during the wee small hours which is re-assuring as the hotel does back onto the Police station! (Deportation here I come!) I check in and given the biggest bunch of keys impossible to lose. 1 kilo of, Iron spanner (for opening the complimentary water) a dog tag and a stainless steel metal loop with a key threaded through all welded up to make it unable to remove the said key unless your name happens to be David Copperfield. After fumbling with the Wrigleys gum/soap I shower I head out for a night on the town only to be hit with serious biker fatigue so I head for 7/11 for my evening meal of Chicken steak BBQ burger, Hot dog, 4 packets of salted peanuts and 2 big bottles of Leo and head immediately back to the hotel only to find the security guards doing their best to look cool on a Yamaha TTR! After a tentative promise from me that yes "I would probably be keen on a massage a little later" I slip into the room ate the food, drank the beer and next thing I knew it was 7 am in the morning. The Visa Run: Mae Sot is not the easiest and quickest place to do a visa run but Comparing Mae Sod to Mae Sai is like the difference between shopping at the Kwiki mart or Marks & Spencer it's all down to class my dear fellow. The immigration guys are the nicest I have ever met even going to the lengths of welcome drinks on special occasions such as Loy Kratong or on birthdays. I say guys, but there seems to be a mixture of girls and guys which probably helps the whole ambience and friendliness of the place. There is one very stunning girl who hands out the pens that would be more suited on a catwalk. After stamping out, I walk across the bridge which seems over sized about 1 kilometer across when the river is only 15 meters at it's widest? Greetings from the Burmese side at the other end where you will be forced to take a seat pay the 500 Baht get the stamp and back across. Hassle free, no waiting, and always a smile. I timed it from Thai side back to Thai side and walking the bridge (you can get a taxi) total time 16 minutes including purchasing of London Cigarettes. Be warned though...Most of the felang are doing visa runs are NGO's from UN HCR and Red cross etc they don't get too many tourists, one time I was waiting behind a french NGO for over 20 minutes while they were sorting out his 27,000 baht over stay fine, Hell! I went one time with a friend of mine who had been on 30 day stamps from Mae Sai. The Thai side stamped him back into the country but called him inside the office where he was told not to return to Mae Sod immigration again and to go to Mae Sai instead! "Tourist go Mae Sai not Mae Sod"! With all done and dusted at immigration I head off for a relaxing ride back home the same way I came but stopping of at Mae Sariang for the evening where I decided to get some good Thai food (none of that 7/11 krap) and a few beers at the Highway Guest house (the old owner of Sea View guest house) who serves a fantastic fried ice cream and fried beetles MMMMmm, and reasonably priced beers. After there I headed off around 1 am in traditional Thai manner of more beers inside a pokey, concrete building covered in fancy fairy lights with over weight, under dressed girls singing karaoke with the echo pumped up to the max. but thats another story... From Chang Mai if you need a visa run a great ride and a little holiday all mixed together take 4-6 days and do the 1095, 108 and 105 down to Mae Sod. Going back you can either take the road into Tak... from Mae Sod jump on the main highway up to Thoen turn off for Li and take the 106 into Chiangers or.... go back to Mae Sariang hook a right onto the 108 onto Hot and into town. Better still during November the Bua Tong Flowers will be in bloom (actually they already are)for the once per year spectacular when the mountains in Bua tong are alive with the colour yellow from the blooming blooms. In this case come back from mae Sod to Khun Yuam, turn right after Ban Felang guest house to Bua tong flower fields on the 1263 see the blooms and onwards to Mae Chaem and Doi Inthanon. Going to Inthanon this way you will save yourself a bob or 2 on certain (over priced for westerner fees) and then carry on into Chiang Mai. Time for a plug...When you pass through Soppong stop in the Border Bar now fully operational and the trendiest bar in town as depicted with a wine glass on the GT rider MHS loop map. Grab some food, info, fresh coffee ice cold beers and all major sporting events (on the telly not actually played in the bar, its just a small place). By the way, the band is John from Jonadda and his friend John live on stage one night only in March for our opening night!! That's me done and dusted and I believe my first trip report! Coming soon though (December)dont miss 14 days riding Thailand, 6 days Pnom Pehn to Siam Reap, Preah Vehear return with 6 guys looking for shits and giggles and a whole lot of fun. Please reserve some bandwidth for that one.