An Isaan Odyssey - To the Ends of Isaan...

Discussion in 'North-East Thailand Road Trip Reports' started by Blue Max, Apr 1, 2009.

  1. Blue Max

    Blue Max Ol'Timer

    Part 1

    Prelude to the adventure.

    Originally the plan was to scout out Pranburi�s biker event in February, but an old friend from Bang Saphan � Ulrich, a wild and eccentric German biking buddy from down south was interested in going up into the Mekong river area of Isaan and touring along it. I checked the calendar of events and noted that on exactly the same day as Pranburi�s biker week there was one in Khon Kaen.
    What the hell, I figured; I might as well check out the Isaan one last time.
    The bike was in seemingly good order apart from a looming oil change everything seemed well, I dusted off the trusty saddlebags and prepped the kit. I�d be filming the entire journey on helmet cam and carry the all-seeing Lumix for photos and other video.

    No laptop this time, I�d be saving on space and weight by using net cafes for processing the video data onto the external HDD.
    The route would be a long one, from Prachuap Kiri Khan Province we�d be going around Bangkok, up to Saraburi, past Khorat (Nakhon Ratchisima), through Khon Kaen, past Udon Thani and then finally to Nong Khai. Once there it would be either west or east along the river highways.
    Hopefully then there�d be enough time to scoot back down to Khon Kaen for the Biker Week there on the 20th to 21st Feb.
    Ulrich was staying out in Cha-am and it was there I�d meet up with him.
    To put it mildly, he makes even my quirky style look conservative. Germanic style with a towering, loping gait that�s all his own, although he didn�t smoke he certainly drinks enough to make up for it.
    The weather was pretty hazy setting out but there were no problems and located Ulrich off to the side of the road on the pavement in Cha-am. With him was the Blue Wolf, a CBR 150 I�d sold him months ago.
    Ulrich was of a rough and ragged disposition, volcanic blue eyes bleary and bloodshot.
    �A hard day�s night� would be the opener if the previous nights involved wine, women and song. Today was no exception; I�d have to take it easy as Ulrich was a complete stranger to the highways and traffic of Thailand north of Cha-am. Having gone over the route with him off we went.

    Video Feed. ... 02f0737800

    It had been a month or so since I�d last done any real touring and I was a bit skittish for some reason.
    This along with worrying about Ulrich behind me might of been why I didn�t notice the 7 series BMW that nearly smash into me!
    It was a near miss and I soon recovered and got into the riding groove. As it was still early the morning air made for a pleasant ride.
    Deep down I knew that worrying too much about the rider behind me could be as dangerous as riding with your eyes closed especially with my bikes restrictive mirrors.
    I�d intended to turn off at Highway 35 so to have a clear run to the highway 9 ring-road and save us some time.
    However in my second blunder I missed it, getting confused with highway 32. This wasn�t a problem, I figured as we�d plenty of time and the road surely wouldn�t be too crazy going into Bangkok. My optimism faded as I weighed up the facts.
    It was a Monday and millions of Thais would be streaming their way into the capital from all directions from the weekend.
    Highway 4 aka Petchkasem being one of the main avenues of entry would be no different.
    Sure enough as we moved onwards to the east the endless rows of traffic lights, the stream of cars and diesel spewing trucks and buses soon reached gridlock point. Ulrich�s usual flare and prowess at blasting ahead to gliss between traffic was of no use here. In fact he was very much a low traffic rider. Filter-streaming between stationary traffic unnerved him. I understood this as I was similar when I first got started in Bangkok years ago.
    I was getting unnerved a touch also though and it wasn�t the traffic either. I nagging doubt soon formed and reinforced that the route would pass under the highway 9 without any means to join it. This may seem a little crazy but the map showed Petchkasem as a normal road now with no obvious intersections. If this were the case then we�d have to face the exquisite joys of an inner city transit, something that would surely prove to be Ulrich�s undoing and have him into the nearest 7/11 for Dutch courage!


    It was plod and filter for what seemed like an age but the new CBRs first taste of city riding seemed to be ok, as long as the auxiliary fan was engaged she�d keep to the safe zone of the water gauge temp.
    Having owned Ulrich�s CBR previously I knew it would have no problem either. Half an hour later this went on for. At one point I cross-filtered a bit faster through a narrow column of traffic, eager to get some air-cooling around me for a bit. After a minute I glance back, my buddy had vanished, unable to keep up!
    Bloody hell he really is softly, softly when it comes to filtering! God help him if he had to ride and live in BKK!
    I pulled over and, out of a sea of traffic came the brooding German spitting flames and howling like him namesake.
    �This isn�t funny! I could not see you!� He exclaimed. Volcanic eyes bugged out as he raised his clear visor. He was unnerved alright.
    Luckily, as if by providence, the turn-off onto the ring-highway was just ahead on the left.

    Suppressing the desire to chastise his slow-coach filtering I pointed to the escape route.
    �Look!� I shouted, pointing to the hallowed turn-off.
    He nodded; the nightmare road could be left behind now. Had I not pulled over so suddenly I�d surely of overshot it, such was the traffic.
    We took to Highway 9 like bullets and soon after made it our first stage check-point.
    The journey to Saraburi was uneventful for the highway was a world away from Petchkasem. We soon reached Saraburi by late mid-day.




    Since my last Riding this place had scarcely changed. The Hotel Babylon still stood gaudily high with the prices bill-boarded onto the side.
    My travelling companion, despite being widely considered the master of kee-niowship, readily agreed to the 350 baht a night rooms. Yet I think my careful explaining of the horrors of the Timewarp Hotel nearby might have had something to do with it ;)


    There was nothing else to do but wait out the balmy and sweltering day for the next day�s riding. Before I settled in, I recalled the oil-change was due on the CBR.
    Figuring an oil change is an oil change I checked at the nearest bike dealership, in this case the Suzuki dealership...
    �Yes can change oil on CBR 400� the dolly behind the counter chirped.
    With those fateful words the Isaan Odyssey merged with an entirely different one as I rolled the Storm Child in and up the ramps and into a right royal cock-up.

    The Most Expensive Oil Change in Saraburi!


    It started simply enough, first off came the sump plug and out glugged litre after litre of black crude oil into the pan. Only 3000 kms was on the clock from the last oil change. Demanding beasts these CBRs!
    In fact so much dirty oil poured out it nearly reached the brim of the drip tray!


    One of the dolly birds behind the counter asks me to sit in the waiting room, I decline. One reason being I like to see things happen as they work, the other is I had a lingering intuitive fear that to not do so would be unwise.

    Sure enough my biker-sense paid off as two one litre oil cartons were lined up next to it.



    I took one look at the oil rating and winced; SAE 40 was the cheapest stuff out there and nasty. Sure it does the job for somchais scooter pootling about town. But for a big cc, old engine that gets ridden long, hard and fast it was beyond the pale.
    I knew it was time to phone a friend; in this case the all-knowing machine navigator Mr Kitt.
    After burbling the script about the scene in thai he asks me what grade oil. I told him.
    �Mai dee, mai dee, MAI DEE� He chastised.
    �Use Mobil 1 premium racing grade� came the next piece of Gnosis from the oracle.
    I asked the mechy if he had any. �Mai mee� came the reply.
    It was time to invoke higher authority and the power of native tongue; I passed over the phone to the mechy.
    And so the quirky verbal duel began. Some more oil came out, it was a better than the other stuff with a higher rating, but not by much. I knew though that if the worst came to the worst I�d have to take my chances with a can or three of Suzuki�s finest.
    By now the entire staff were turned out and looking on. Little brown and yellow faces poking out of hatchways and around doors along with cautious customers wondering by a mighty Honda machine was in their midst.
    Passing the phone back to me the mech took off on his motorbike. Now on a mission for the sacred oil it was a waiting game. Mr Kitt rang back and we palavered talking about the upcoming Pranburi Biker Week and how I�d be unable to make it and so on.
    For the Thais it was a talking game and one of interest.
    A little Thai dude shuffled across the workshop with a calliper and began measuring the brake-disc wear. They�d both need replacing soon I reminded myself for the umpteenth time.
    Chatting to the TMB clerk about this and that took up time and after what seemed like nearly half an hour the questing mechy came back with the hallowed oil.

    [​IMG] ... _5W-50.asp

    I don�t know where I squirreled it from but it was the real deal at 1900 baht! As if on cue Mr Kitt rang up. Telling him the update he asked the price of the oil, telling him this he reckoned that it was a fair price.
    It took nearly the entire 4 litres to get it to a touch over the max level. I paid the money, wincing at how this cost over ten times what it�d normally cost on a CBR 150! Gotta pay for the real deal though, that�s how life usually works...


    I got back to the Hotel Babylon and the brooding Ulrich was there.
    �Here, I�ve got a story about the most expensive oil change in town I jested...�

    End of Part 1.

  2. Loading...

  3. Blue Max

    Blue Max Ol'Timer

    Part 2

    Leaving Saraburi


    After leaving the city behind up the roads went quieter and appeared a world away from those further south.
    Swooping hills, dips and shallow corners were the norm.

    Video Feed ... art-2.aspx

    A steelworks loomed on the hilly horizon creating an impressive scene as we blasted down a hill then climbed the next one towards it. I felt that this was the unofficial crossing point into outer Isan, with the low-lying lands behind us we’d climbed the plateau that Isan sits on.
    Once the hills and turns were behind us it was just routine overtakes and straight roads until Khorat.

    The by-pass road around it I ignored, both of us were hungry and there’d be plenty of fast-food places to grab a bite to eat.
    We moved through the city outskirts until Tesco’s, which had a KFC.
    Once in the parking zone, I was about to go inside when Ulrich moodily sulked that he preferred McDonalds, as they had burgers. He followed me inside though and I tried to persuade him telling him that KFC now have a zinger burger. ‘No, I can’t eat it’ He shrilled in his peculiar Germanic accent.
    ‘Why not, it’s only chicken I reasoned.’
    ‘No I cannot, It’s not my style’ He explained in his own way. His hands betrayed another reason; they shook with the signs of booze lust.
    Giving up on him I ordered my own food.
    I made a camera fck up and the next 2 hours of riding weren’t covered. Apart from a couple of near-misses and a police warning about using the right-hand lane it was uneventful.

    Khon Kaen

    Getting into Khon Kaen was a bit tricky from memory from my last visit. Found a McDonalds for Ulrich, who strangely didn’t even notice it until I repeatedly pointed the place out. On entering I noticed some fat, bitter and bleary faced expat. Age hadn’t been kind to him and he sat with an ugly thai woman. He glowered at us, unsmiling. I glowered back and then went to the counter. It’s strange but for some reason a lot of expats seem anti-biker. Sure they’ll use some poxy scooter for shopping about in, but this aside they’ll be content to sit their fat ass in a fortuner in someone else’s name .
    Perhaps we ‘intruded’ onto ‘his’ little piece of Thailand and feel ‘unmanned’ by other Caucasian bikers who actually do like to adventure about a bit.
    We stayed at the M-Plus Guesthouse. The digs were fairly cheap at 300 baht a night. On arriving there 3 cackling old witches of Isaan were outside. Their bombastic gossip quietened as we both pulled in. As I asked in Thai for rooms and the price two of them both guffawed and howled in surprise.
    The buzz died down and we settled in and took stock.


    This area of Khon Kaen was a different one from the last time I’d stayed here. Nightlife karaoke’s and bars were around and this at least took care of the nights activities. Net Cafes, were another matter. A working thai city not connected to tourism does have them, but on a much smaller scale. With no laptop and MMC reader I was forced to trawl from net cafe to net cafe in Saraburi, here I strike it lucky and my first cafe is a success.
    The pretty, yet sly-looking girl digs around and eventually pulls one from a drawer. Nearly 10 Gig needs transferring this time to the external HDD. With a shudder I see it will take at an hour at the most as the data-transfer begins. Ho, hum, it’ll be a long sojourn at this place.
    Getting back to the M-Plus Ulrich was sat at the witches table with about ten leo cans around him. Joining him he mentioned the three witches were with him earlier. He went on to say he didn’t like the witches ‘style’. Going on to say that they were laughing about him in thai (which he couldn’t understand).
    I took a sleep break and manage to persuade the wild German to come out for some bar hopping. Ulrich was paranoid about drink-riding and smashing his bike up (he’d done this once before and was lucky not to be in jail) while pissed. I couldn’t be arsed taking a pillion rider around with me so it was by shanksy’s pony we went down to the bars (on foot).
    We struck gold in finding a drinking den after about ten minutes walk. It was a thai/westerner style bar restaurant. Five girls, 2 of whom were lookers and no other customers!
    Out came my trusty bottle of Sangsom rum and it was time to reward myself for the journey so far.
    After several hours we headed back to the digs. Ulrich, being the master alcoholic, insisted on a can of leo at a mom and pop store adjacent to the digs. All seemed well until a drunken thai low-life started harassing us. Talking inane sht about football and basically gobbing off. We both knew the score though and played it like the grey men, ignoring him and talking among ourselves.
    He soon got the message and cooled his heels a touch.
  4. Blue Max

    Blue Max Ol'Timer

    Part 3

    Leaving Khon Kaen

    Video Feed ... art-3.aspx

    The route 2 out of the city was clogged with trucks and pick-ups. No such time for following like sheep we built up speed to 110-120 kph and began the leg to Nong Khai.
    This was not insanely fast, but aggressive riding. Both of us were used to the roads now and we rode like we owned it. Ulrich’s machine had the moves, while mine had the outright power to blast clear of danger and out-ride Somchai’s pick-up truck if he got too crazy.
    The first 30 kms were interestingly grim. The road was filthy black in places. Like old cooking oil that had progressively worked its way in over the years.
    Although the surface didn’t feel slippy, it certainly didn’t as stable as the other highway sections.
    That said there were few, if any potholes. The surrounding areas seemed desolate and deserted; although I felt that the rice harvests being already taken in gave this impression.
    We’d soon reached the halfway point and had passed through Udon Thani with no problems. The traffic was steady and I made the right turn-offs at the 4-roundabout chain without error.



    Now the terrain was interestingly flat; a few high-speed corners meant you could really get your lean on if you pushed it up to 120kph+
    Soon we reached the edge of Nong Khai. Compared to my last visit though, there were scores of police waiting and it was here that the next mini-drama unfolded.

    Ahead of us, still several kms from the city was one of the most comprehensive check-points I’d ever seen in Asia. Set up at two sets of traffic lights were police bikes, cars and even tables and chairs. Instead of processing traffic violators at the nearby police station there was a fine-station set up and ready to roll in the baht!
    I clocked this early enough to gliss into the far-right hand lane, but there wasn’t enough traffic queuing at the lights to hide among and we were both spotted as we closed in.
    Both of us had slowed down plenty and of course wore helmets but I felt they were surely hungry for the money. Big biker money!
    Sure enough one of them actually walked out to the lane to marshal us off to one side.
    I kept the camera rolling as the fun and games began.
    ‘Bai Kap Ki’ Snapped the arrogant-faced cop harshly before switching to English. ‘Driving license’
    The shades he wore on his face betrayed no emotion.
    I understood him first time and passed over my thai bike license. It was in date and therefore good for the highways, he passed it back. This Thai dude was gonna have to try a little harder if he wanted his tea money.
    ‘Pragem’ Was his next angle of attack.
    This sounded like ‘Pragam’ the thai word for insurance. In my case bike insurance.
    Popping open the pillion seat all was revealed. Valid insurance until June 
    Nodding, the highwayman had lost this battle and waved me on.
    I glanced behind me, Ulrich was not so lucky and the police swarmed around his machine like ants.


    His bike confiscated he had to take the walk over to the fine-station set up under a tree.
    ‘Arrrgh, I have to go and pay this fcking fine’ He roared, not unlike an angry wolf.
    I didn’t have to even ask what the fine was for. Time and time again I’d told him to get a thai license but he wouldn’t listen, instead he carried a shtty copy of his German one and wasn't interested. Now he was paying the price.
    It wasn’t much of one though, only 200 baht. But the wait was nearly 30 minutes but I made it pass by quicker for him by reminding him it was sooo much better having a thai driving license 


    Here are some of the machines the thai cops ride about on...



    Nong Khai



    We finally reached the main destination, the Mighty Mekong! It wasn’t filled with Naga's or dragon boats but we’d arrived safe and sound. Finding a guesthouse was childsplay, for along the Mekong River there’s a lot of places to stay. 200 baht got us a back-to-basics room with fan. No frills but then I’m the kinda guy who sees a room as a place to sleep while on the road.


    Soon after we arrive Ulrich’s raging boozing and alcoholism takes root.
    The first of the Leo’s have landed!
    I don’t mean to sound like the temperance movement here but even I think that chugging Leo at 12-noon is a piss-take, right?


    This was happening day-in day-out to the extent he’d be incapable of doing anything on arrival, just stuck on his arse in the digs.
    Not really my style, I’m a night-hawk, keeps the drinking and smoking under control so I can do stuff by day. But day-and-night was Ulrich’s groove I guess.

    Off I went exploring...

    The much vaunted and spoken-of Friendship Bridge. Friendly to all but bikers wishing to cross that is.


    Mekhong River.

    A glut of farang were in town, most of them walking around like aimless sheep, led by wives or girlfriends. Few seemed happy to be there but the they seemed to be 1990s minded-man along with emasculated ones shuffling along behind their partners. I knew I wouldn’t be staying here very long.


    For those interested this is what the massage groove is, pricewise. Happyendingswise I have no idea as I didn’t have any time for that.

    I called in at the digs to see what was what. I still had the chore of data-transferring near 16 gig of data. With this looming I found Ulrich in a gloomy corner (well, as gloomy as early-afternoon Isaan gets) with half a dozen Leo’s around him. Sat next to him was a stranger. He too had a fair few leo’s around him and I figured that Ulrich had made a new friend.
    Where Ulrich was brooding and wild eyed which leant him a curious eccentricity this other guy was something else.
    Slightly over-weight through inactivity his soulless mud coloured eyes betrayed no emotion.
    Reading Asians is tough because they hide their emotions well, but this fellow didn’t really have to hide his, as he seemed such a shallow individual.
    “You look like a T£”us£” He droned in a faint Kiwi/Aussie accent. I couldn’t be sure what he said.
    Thinking the man had said ‘Taurus’ and almost guessed my star-sign. I moved towards the pair and sat down.
    “You look like a tourist’ He now said.
    The look on my face must have changed from interest to contempt as he swiftly tried to change the subject. I played it off.
    “Well not many tourists can ride from x to x’ I breezed leaving the dull-pair to their cups.
    The video data wasn’t going to get done sitting on my arse with Ulrich and his clown friend and I set off into another lunchtime cock-up adventure...
    After 6 hours of ball-ache traipsing about Nong Khai I’d reached the end of my tether. Swarms of Thai kids clogged what few Gaming/Internet cafes there were. Those that weren’t full either couldn’t cope with the External HDD, chip or had removed the usb ports on their pcs.
    Disheartened I managed to find a photoshop just before it shut to sell me a MMC interface usb.
    I needed the chip empty for the next day’s riding along the River Highway. I managed it just before the last cyber cafe shut at 2200. ‘The next time I do this shit I’m taking a laptop’ I vowed there and then.
    I was too tired to have drink at one of the bars (which looked pretty lame to be honest) so hit the sack by midnight.
    Both Ulrich and I had been taking separate rooms for the tour and I was only too happy for sharing a room with an alky reminds me of the struggling days in the Construction industry and armed forces. I didn’t really miss it that bs.

    Tomorrow is the big day for touring alongside the Mekong River going east. This is the real deal now, we’ll be miles from fck all if anything happens. I say a few prayers to the biking gods up there to keep an eye out and drift into the land of dreams with fans faintly spinning in the background.

    At 0200 I wake up to Frankenstein-esque clumping steps; it’s Ulrich and I feel tomorrow there will be a reckoning, in one form or another. For there’s no way he can make the mornings ride at the pace I want to ride at. He’ll be too wasted and on a lower cc bike the combination could be deadly. Also, In typical reclusionist mode, he’s been less than enthusiastic about wanting to go to the Biker Week in Khon Kaen. We’re both independent riders and I know that he won’t get pissed if I just took off in the night if I chose. But even I felt that would be a bit ignorant so I vow to knock on his door and see if he’s ready to rock and roll in the morning, if not it’s time for a parting of the ways.

    But tomorrow we’ll see what will be.

    End of Part 3
  5. Blue Max

    Blue Max Ol'Timer

    Part 4

    Departing Nong Khai


    I was up and at it early doors (0630), I had the eager fever to get the fck out of Nongy and riding. I’d nearly finished my packing when I heard movements from next door; Ulrich was up and about too! Perhaps I’d been a bit too harsh in expecting him to be wasted. A part of me even felt he’d be as up for the adventure as I was.
    My door was open and Ulrich popped, or should I say, fell around the doorway on shaky legs and staggered a bit into the room. How wrong I was, he was wasted alright. Probably still fuelled by the night before.
    ‘Rawargh! I was drunken last night, still drinking until they closed the door...’ He droaned on. He was in no state to ride and we both knew it.
    But it wasn’t my place to control another rider’s free-will either.
    Either he took the risk and followed or he used his brain and waited. Choosing caution over crazy saying he’d be staying another day at the town.
    He knew I was in no mood to babysit him and wait around, besides which, on a piss-heads whims he might start all over again.
    Besides which he’d also been less than enthusiastic at wanting to go to the Biker Week in Khon Kaen.
    If it wasn’t now it would be later.
    I wished him well and he clumped back into his room.
    I loaded the bike up swiftly. A part of me expected Ulrich to come charging down the stairs saying he’d changed his mind.
    I throttled it away and bore away eastwards on the Mekong Highway!


    To The Ends of Isaan!

    Video Feed ... art-4.aspx


    The Highway 212 follows the river almost perfectly and carries on past Nakhon Phanom. But it’s at Nakhon Phanom where I’ll be interested in going to. A fine place by the Mekong River it was (by its namesake) a large city worth exploring.
    John Galt, he bane of the internet buzzcock; Stickman Bangkok dwells in Nakhon.

    Man of Galt aka Keith Summers he’s a controversial entity in the game of life in Thailand. With luck I’d run into him whilst there...
    I’ve also set myself a speed challenge to reach the city in less than 3 hours. This is not wild-crazy, nor is it careful. The middle ground you might say, with leanings towards furious gallop! LOL
    Some people think I’m a little bit speed-crazy and out-there, but for me it’s testing yourself and pushing the adventuring envelope. Besides which who wants to just go along life at a boring pace all the time. Not me baby. You’ve got to rev-up the rocket-thrusters now and again, blow the cobwebs away and ride!
    Whether it’s some hot babe in a bar, or a 100 HP sportsbike on a racetrack, you take her for a wild ride and keep it to the limit!

    It’s great setting off early, you really feel like the day is being put to good use rather than wasting it away in bed.
    Speed speak:

    Cushion – 50 to 80 kph
    Debatable – 80 to 110 kph
    Live – 120 – 160 kph
    Edge – 160 to 199 kph
    Death-Watch – 200 to 270 kph
    Ghost-Watch – 280kph+++
    The Abyss! 320 kph++++

    This morning, roaring out of Nong Khai was no different.
    I took it steady at first, leaving a settlement, town or city first thing at speed is dicey. Many folk are to-ing and fro-ing from homes to work and the journey could end in tears before it’s even started.
    I hit the first fuel station and am out of there in a flash. I’m well outside the ‘zones of congestion’ and stretch her legs...
    Straight roads, cruisin’ traffic and WR flying towards ‘em. Go get ‘em WR!
    I take her beyond the ‘cushion’ of 80 - 100 kph and well into the ‘live-wire’ band of speed in the 120-150 kph region. I even went beyond that and into the ‘edge-rider’ speed category (151-199 kph) and once into the ‘Death-Watch’ speeds of 200 kph++
    It’s worth saying that the traffic in the Isaan fringes is very easy-going compared to around Bangkok. It travels slower, is less edgy but still a bit ‘care-free’ with regards to pulling out in front of you.
    I carry on, letting the fates and my ridermanship decide on the lottery of traffic as I ride.
    The roads are in fine form for the first hour or so. I make a forgivable error on a sharp turn here.

    The road banks to the left and although I powered-down for it, the camber ‘dipped-in’ towards the centre line taking me dangerously close to the middle line. Any faster and Somchai’s pick-up would of met the Storm-Child and Watch Ryder head-on! ... orner.aspx

    This disaster avoided I cooled my speed-fever a fraction. I’d keep the power on for the straights and bends, but allow for dip-ins and keep the revs higher.

    Some cheeky and crazy overtakes followed, then an even crazier pick-up shows off his ‘moves’

    As the sun passed higher I felt the burn hitting my leathers. Usually at high speed I hardly feel the heat that much. Recently the hot season’s heat was beyond the pale and I knew that today was going to be a scorcher!

    I pulled over for a quick bite to eat at a 7/11. Ham and Cheese toastie with liquid refreshment, a trio of thai bozo’s (troublemaking sorts you might say) lounged about outside, up to no good. There was an uneasy silence while I stood at my machine and ate, I ignored them as I finished my snack and got out of there. Some say that most thai folk are incapable of riding a heavy sportsbike. While that theory has some merit I certainly wouldn’t want to put it to the test!

    Traffic was getting lighter though, and there were times when I felt like the road was my own private racetrack, which I certainly took advantage of.

    Indeed this area, being so far away, is possibly one of Thailand’s best kept secrets for highway riding.
    I kept the pace at the edge of the debatable band, with nuances and changes accordingly. Make no mistake I was going for a sub-three hour time. I’d set myself a challenge and was going to keep it!
    No pick-ups behind me trying to blow their engines in keeping up, it was a cool blast in the fast-lane.
    With no Ulrich behind me to worry about, I could focus every facet of my being on speed, the road and my surroundings as I kept on edge riding.
    Beyond every corner was a rise and fall of the land with forest, wood or copse. Beyond every tree was a potential track, at every potential track was a potential machine, beast or person who could step out and spell disaster!
    I passed them by without incident or evasion, and then the whole cycle repeated itself.
    Beyond every rise was another corner... The dangerzone of risk/reward versus caution/unfulfilment.
    A deadly unwritten equation that has both bedevilled and enlightened man from the first chariot machines of old to horseback riders and then onto modern machine carriages and bike in modern day. The speeds and devices may have shifted. But the hazards are same nonetheless. You hit one and its game over, time to check out in a destructive fashion.

    I was fortunate, I didn’t have to risk my luck and skill at accident evasion although once a beast of the field lumber out, but I locked-on early and gauged for it. As it was on the other side the danger was slight, but present.

    I slowed down three times for fuel top-ups and for two checkpoints. Stopped at one then away once he saw I was farang.
    The long roads continued their allure, great long runs of highway off to the horizon. Overtaking began to take on a surreal aspect now. With clear runs to the next set of vehicles ahead you could see to the vanishing point a distant dot of oncoming traffic change form. You allowed for it as you either picked up speed, slowed down, moved over or a combination of moves as you planned to overcome the next line of traffic and so on.
    After 2 hours of hard riding the heat really was pounding down. I stopped a couple of times to get some pics.




    I’d reached the mid-point of the leg and was happy with the progress I was making. 130 – 140 kph and all was well. At this rate I’d be in Nakhon Phanom in no time at all.
    I took the corners with more edge now, leaning a bit more than I should have but ripping through the distance with ease at 130 kph on a half to ¾ lean between traffic.
    A straight period of riding later I casually glanced down to my instruments. Not good, my water temperature was at 3/4. Any more heat and It’d be in the nightmare zone. Too long in the nightmare zone and the head gasket would either blow or the engine otherwise seize up. I wasn’t about to risk that, not even for setting a wild and rapid record. I eased back gently to 100 kph and flicked on the auxiliary fan. This helped bring the level down a fraction, but power response from the throttle was less than enthusiastic. The revs weren’t falling though so I knew there was enough fuel. Benzene 91 was in the tank which wasn’t a brilliant fuel for edge riding with. To be on the safe side I kept her slow for about ten minutes then I took her up to 140 kph again. No problems now, still plenty of punch in her. My enthusiasm for edge riding was spoiled though and I didn’t have the heart for another session of ‘wire-riding’. I eased back again and cruised into Nakhon Phanom after a total journey time of 2 hours 40 minutes. Not bad going if I say so myself.

    Arrival in Nakhon Phanom


    Entering the city there was no panorama to see, the land was too level for that, but I rode in with the Mighty Mekong on my left and quiet roads ahead of me.
    This became a road with a promenade alongside allowing you to cruise with the Mekong river.

    I approached Mr Galt's complex soon enough.

    Noteworthy in the farang internet scene for pole-axing StickmanBangkok’s operations he’s managed to successfully carve out his own niche in Thailand. That it’s actually in the byzantine and cut-throat world of manufacturing speaks volumes. A captain of industry? Perhaps.
    He has trained and built up a small private army of workers to help run his fledgling base that much I know. Some speak ill or him, some do not. OTRTs stance has always been favourable to the Galt. As he’s a make-do, can-do, tell-it-like-it-is kind of guy. He’d made his fortune in Thailand legally it would be a fine opportunity to forge new links and allow for a meeting of minds. If nothing else I’d be able to meet the man and make up my own mind about him
    I reached his building...
    True to his word and picture the building is indeed where he showed. I know that sounds a little crazy but seeing it on a pc screen and actually riding up to it are two different things. It was a three storey complex, well maintained and with steel shutters on all three entrances.
    It didn’t have the private army of Thais standing guard nor a convoy of oompah lumphahs to-ing and fro-ing with parts and materials but I did notice his black ‘swimming bowl/vat’ atop the roof.
    I actually laughed at this, the man certainly seems to be the selective exhibitionist!

    I hung a right at the junction it was on. The shutters were up and his silver CBR 150 was inside! If nothing else the Galt has good taste in bikes.
    I was knackered from the riding though and didn’t feel like barging into The Galt’s domain uninvited.
    Knowing my luck he’d be in staff meeting or experimenting with his funktastic light arrays and end up blinding me or something!
    First things were getting a place to stay. Whenever you arrive in a city, especially an unknown Isaan city finding a decent priced hotel or indeed anywhere to stay can be a pain.
    The first hotel by the river was 700 baht, too pricey.
    The next was more reasonable at 450 baht a night. A bit of friendly haggling later and down it came to 400 baht.
    After showering I explored the city, it’s well planned and spread out. The roads are good and traffic is light for a city of its size.
    As I passed Tesco’s I noticed the Galt’s CBR parked nearby! No sign of the man himself and I wasn’t about to wait around to see if he’d show up (busy business being a Watch Ryder! ;) ). I made a note and stuck it in the seat, basically to the effect of ‘Hey, this is WR, give me call and lets meet up.’
    I continued buzzing around. Nice markets and friendly people lived here, matching Galt’s own description.

    I counted my good fortune as nearby to the Galt’s building is a big bike specialist. Both Sportsbike and Scrambler were for sale outside. I looked over the sportsbike – A CBR 400 like mine. But the price they wanted were a fair bit high for a bike without book and it looked like it’d led a harsh life, with signs of abuse around a shiny fairing. The staff were friendly though. Most of them though, had already set off for the Bike Week in Khon Kaen. Reminding me that I’d be having to get a move on for tomorrows journey to Khon Kaen I enquired after a tank bag, they had one, but only the small size for bottles of water and food.

    A thought occurred to me and I made some enquiries with the local Thais who lived near to the Galt. It seemed that the Galt was not home; his busy work scope had him elsewhere in Asia at the time I visited. Busy business being the Galt!
    From his building came the sounds of work and industry, if nothing else his workers were busy.
    I left another calling card in his post-box, just in case the one in the bike had been binned by the Thais; it was now obvious that they borrow his bike for errands and the like.


    Until some other time Man of Galt!

    Just before sunset I forced myself out of the sanctuary of aircon to walk the Mekong. Without decent light It’d be poor photography, besides which the sunsets are rather cool in this part of Thailand...



    It’s a nice part of the city here, along the river. I can see why Keith goes jogging and running about here, as do a few of the thai local people. Local couples walk and chat while the bachelors hang out of pick-up trucks drinkin’ the booze and watching the sun go down.
    No tourists or backpackers clogging the place up.

    Looking to the opposite shore Laos seems a peaceful and tranquil zone.


    What looks to be a hotel complex and slipway stands out in the wilderness drawing you across somehow.



    Ancient, Isaan-style tuk-tuk


    I wonder about travelling across to Laos for the future but, at a shop with two friendly Alsatians I am told the nearest place to get the ferry is a city called Mukdahan further south. Time enough for that another day I advise myself.


    Night was falling now and the neon night scene of markets came to life.
    Nakhon Phanom has a healthy night scene a few karaoke’s and bars along the Mekong River road. But thankfully not enough to generate hordes of tourists. In fact I only saw a few old expat couples of Vietnam era vintage almost certainly.
    The whole place is a breath of fresh air.


    My musings are all over the place tonight, but that’s partly to do with the karaoke bar I’m sat in scribbling this sht down in ;)
    Rough and tumble with Isaan Charm describes it well.


    Mossies buzz around while the prickly heat burns into you. The women who work at the bar are plump and matronly, one of them squawks terribly into the microphone. I check my watch; it’s already 2030 hrs, early doors yet.
    Apart from myself incognito in the corner there’s a thai-chinese sugar daddy easing back on his laurels, grinning like a devil one of the plump goose women rejoins him pouring out more whiskey. Go get ‘em sugar daddy!

    Well, I've reached the Ends of Isaan now, the long trip and odyssey was well worth it!

    All that's left is the next days adventures to Khon Kaen Bike Week and homeward!
    But that's another story ;)
  6. Noel Akers

    Noel Akers Ol'Timer

    Excellent story telling skills......certainly got me in the groove...can't wait or the next run down the white line.
  7. Auke

    Auke Ol'Timer

    Great story and nice pics - read it all in one go. However your advisors with the Alsatians must have been "out-of-towners" as the picture shows the ramp for the ferry between Nakhon Phanom and Thakheak in Laos. The low buildings on the left side of the picture are the Lao immigration and customs offices.
  8. Blue Max

    Blue Max Ol'Timer

    You know what?

    I felt it was strange them saying that as well. They might of been from one of the inland cities maybe.

    They were harping on about Mukdahan for the crossing and I was thinking?
    Why not here as well!

    Could be a sneaky way of discouraging farang from staying?? :)
  9. pseacraft

    pseacraft Ol'Timer

    Great report! The BIB have really stepped up the check points around Nong Khai and between NK and Udorn on Highway 2. I want to make the NK/NKP/UT/NK loop one of these days. Highway 212 is fairly quiet the few times I have been on it.

Share This Page