BKK to Chiang Mai

Discussion in 'Central Western Thailand Road Trip Reports' started by bomb defuzer, Jun 8, 2007.

  1. bomb defuzer

    bomb defuzer Ol'Timer

    OK guys. I am not a great writer, but here is a small contribution. Due to a life changing event I have relocated to Thailand from Ridgecrest, CA. I bought a bike, got a living, breathing long haired Thai dictionary and have decided to tour Asia as much as I can. Many GT Riders are far more experienced than I and thanks for my newbie post.


    Day 1

    My girlfriend and I and I finally rolled about of Bangkok at approximately 1130 AM on June 3rd Sunday.

    Destination: Chiang Mai, Thailand.

    Distance: 650 Km’s North of Bangkok.

    Bike: 2000 Honda XL1000V Varadero.

    GPS: Garmin E Trex Legend CX.

    I had the trip from Bangkok all planned out on my GPS. We loaded all our gear and clothes on our 2000 Honda XL 1000 V Varadero with GIVI luggage. I bought a cheap tool set from Lotus (Wal-Mart) and hoped to get the complete encased set in the top box. After arriving downstairs from my condo and already sweating like crazy in the Bangkok heat, I loaded the bags on the bike only to find the tool set did not fit in the top box. I decided to disassemble the tool set into a smaller package. We hopped on the bike followed our route provided by our Garmin GPS software. It did not take long to realize the software wanted to route us on the toll road which motorcycles are prohibited. I did a re route while riding and pulled into the right hand lane of a 3 lane roadway. We were waiting at the light and a policeman came walking over to us and motioned for me to pull over to the other side of the road. My first reaction was to get angry. This is the second time I have been pulled over in 2 days. The last time I paid a 500 baht fine $15 (bribe). The police man tells my girlfriend for us to follow him to the police station..now I am a little pissed. WTF. So I do as he says, we get there and he has his ticket book out asks for my drivers license. I only have a CA license…Then all of a sudden he says..ok, please don’t ride in the bus lane again. We got off with a warning. I had visions of hours of delays in the police station negotiating my release, but he says have a nice day….sabai dee krap.

    We finally get out of Bangkok via the gas station with a fill up and oil top off. Once rolling on the secondary interstate, we are making good time, maybe 110 – 140 Km’s. Although we were moving good we still had a few drivers fly past us at least 160 Km’s.

    It was a really warm day…probably 90 degrees. We stopped to eat and had a few lookers checking out our bike. Not a lot of big bikes like ours on the road so everyone has a few comments or questions.

    After our first stop we headed North again. Every so often we would pass through a small town and there would be a stop light. On one such occasion I slid between the cars and made my way to the front of the line. After the light turned green and we traveled a few hundred meters, I noticed a group of policemen on the side of the road with several cars pulled over. As I passed I thought I saw one of the policemen wave me over…well as I say I thought I saw him wave me over. I even confirmed it with my GF. She said she didn’t see anything. At this time I felt it appropriate to clear out the carbon from the engine of my 1000 cc Honda. At the next exit I decided to take the scenic route to our destination of Chiang Mai…I believe it was a good call, I am almost positive the policeman did wave me over. Police checkpoints in Thailand are common. It is a way for the police to supplement their income. Basically, you pay a small fine and they let you go. Most of the time they see a big import motorcycle and it is an instant cash cow with some farang riding it with a wallet full of Thai baht. Been there done that, sorry Joe, gotta get up earlier to catch me.

    The road we ended up taking was really a nice road and I wanted to take it anyway, but we wanted to make it to Chiang Mai that day so we had originally planned to stay on the main highway 1 North. I am glad we took the secondary roadways. We rode along and stopped for fuel once again to top off. Soon after departing the gas station we saw dark rain clouds ahead. Within 20 minutes the wind was at least 50- 60 KM crosswind of us. Road garbage, signs, and all kinds of shit was flying into the road, it started raining…hard. I had rain gear in my bags, but I was so hot from the days ride, I didn’t care if I got wet. My GF had a light riding jacket on and she was holding on for dear life as we sped along at a 30 degree angle in the high wind and rain. We passed herds of oxen, motorbikes loaded with wood and construction material, it was raining so hard I saw a goat standing on a bench at a bus station..hahhaa. We finally decided it was time for a hotel. It was getting dark and we pulled under cover at a local gas station. I looked at the GPS and did a search for a hotel and found the nearest one 2.7 KM away. So follow the GPS through the continuing storm to the hotel. We end up on this dirt road and next thing you know we are at a rickety homemade bridge I wouldn’t even consider taking an XR 250 across. We had to scrap that route, backtrack and try a different hotel. We made it through to the next town and pulled over and asked some locals under cover of a roadside shop for directions to the hotel in town. I was showing it on my GPS since we scrapped the previous hotel due to the bridge crossing. It was still raining really hard with lightning. So off we sped to the hotel. I found it, barely. It was very difficult to see with the hard rain. I pulled right up on the sidewalk to the hotel under the cover of an awning. My GF jumps off and checks if they have rooms available. I asked her how much, she says 400 Baht $12. Ok, cheap and at this point I don’t really care, I am soaked to the bone and ready for a beer. The owner directs me down the alley beside his hotel to the large garage connecting to a staircase to the rooms. I take the bike and park it there, secure and dry…perfect. May and I unload the GIVI luggage and head up to the room. We grabbed a few drinks out of the mini fridge and toasted our long day on the road. We planned the next day’s trip, drank a few beers and headed downstairs in search of some food. There was a small jim jun restaurant out on the sidewalk next to the hotel. Jim jun is a small pot of hot coals with a open pot of water on top. You get trays of seafood, chicken or pork and vegetables and you cook your own little soup. It’s really good and with a 20 OZ beer costs less than 3 bucks. We returned to the room and had a good night’s sleep.


    Day 2

    Departed in early in the morning Monday, June 4th from Nakorn Sawarn. We had about 300 Km’s to travel to Chiang Mai. I wanted to see some of the countryside and mapped up out for a ride through the mountain and rain forests. We started out at an easy pace, the weather was a bit overcast and on the cool side, low 80’s. Since there was cloud cover low 80’s was a heck of a lot better than the previous day. We traveled through a few small villages and then into a bigger town. I planned to hit this town because we needed to find an ATM machine to get some cash. The remainder of the ride into Chiang Mai was going to be rural at best and cash is really the only option. This is especially helpful with the all too familiar Mr. Thai policeman. While in the small town we ate a late breakfast/early lunch. Most food places in Thailand would not come close to passing U.S. sanitary standards, I have come to accept this and eat where the locals do. Most of the time there is no other choice. I have made it standard practice to carry Imodium and a good oral antibiotic for the occasion’s where I do get sick. I have been sick a few times already since being in Thailand. This is not a pleasant experience and the quicker you treat it, the better. May and I sit down and I am probably the only farang (foreigner) in this small town. I got quite a few looks and a bit off attention from the local’s. This is pretty normal and I accept it, smile and don’t let it bother me whether the attention is positive or negative. After we ate our meal, we strolled to the local motorbike shop and bought a new pair of gloves for May. We loaded back up on the bike and headed North.

    Since the day’s start on the motorcycle I noticed a vibration or rattle coming from somewhere on the bike. We continued on and I tried to pinpoint the cause of this rattle. I was a little concerned, but I felt it wasn’t really a serious issue. We stopped for fuel and while the attendant was topping of the massive 6.5 gl fuel tank, I looked over the bike. Upon close inspection of the bash plate I found a spot where there was supposed to be a fastener. The fastener screw was gone but there was a spacer still present between the plate and the frame. I plucked the metal spacer out and put it in my pocket. I was hoping this was the cause of the vibration or rattle that I had been hearing all morning. We departed the gas station and the noise was gone. Mystery solved. Since there were three more fasteners left on the bash plate and I checked them for tightness, missing one wasn’t going to hurt.


    The rest of the day was really some of the best street riding I have ever done. The road surface was decent, although a few potholes here and there. The rice paddies and green rainforests were really nice. It reminded me a lot of Hawaii, like the central part of Oahu. I would have liked to stop and take pictures, but almost all the roads have no shoulder and it is very dangerous to pull to the side and stop. Keep in mind Thailand roadways are left handed. The driving is like in England, you drive on the opposite side of the road as the US. Learning to overcome the right hand driving instinct is hard enough without having to add to the danger by stopping alot. We rode up a really twisty mountain road. We hit a few refreshing rain showers along the way. I was really enjoying the twistys on this road, on a few occasions I scraped the pegs leaning into some hard corners. The bike really did handle well with a full load of luggage and a passenger. I was really pleased with the torque of the V Twin motor too. The only negative event we experienced that day was I hit a deep pot hole at 50 - 60 Km’s because of a motor scooter pulling into my lane. I had to get over quickly and all of a sudden there was a big pot hole in front of me. All I could do was accelerate and try to lift the front end through it. It was a big hit, but the long travel of the Honda handled it in stride.


    The rest of the ride was nice and we pulled into a gas station for our final fill up 40 Km’s outside of Chiang Mai I looked the front wheel over and found a dinged on the rim. I imagine it came from the pot hole. One thing I did learn in Thailand. Don’t let the little things bother you. So yeah, I was a little pissed because I now had a small flat spot on my front rim, but anger cant fix it now. It’s done, forget it and move on.

    We made the last 40 Km’s without to much fanfare except for the Garmin GPS wanted to auto route me over a one way bridge into the downtown area of Chiang Mai. I fixed that and we pulled into the hotel I picked from the lonely planet guide and was also conveniently listed in my GPS. I use a Thailand software map and it is loaded in all Garmin GPS’s purchased in Thailand. It really is a great tool and has a lot of gas stations, hotels, and important points of interest loaded into it. The ride was one of the very best I have ever experienced and my first big ride in a foreign country. Yeah..I could have a license or done a few things differently, but all in all we made it safely to Chiang Mai and had a great trip.


    A big thanks to all the G-T Riders http://www.gt-rider.com/ and new friends I have made in Chiang Mai.

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  3. BignTall

    BignTall Ol'Timer


    Gread write-up!!! Glad to see it was not boring for you on the ride up. A pleasure meeting you in the Kafe and enjoy yourself. See you again on your next jaunt north.
  4. BarryBBQ

    BarryBBQ Ol'Timer

    Hey Chris,

    I'm glad you made it to Chiang Mai and I'm glad I finally got to meet you. I trust you're back in BKK safe and sound and your Varadero is parked at your new apartment here in CM.

    I was thinking about you today as Big&Tall and SuzukiLuke dragged me across some knarly single track on my DRZ400 (which is still geared too tall after putting a 49T on the rear!) You would have loved it, bushwhacking and slipping in the mud, classic north Thai off-road.

    If you're up for it, I'm heading back to Dansai in Loei province on the 23rd and 24th of June to chronicle the 2007 Phi Ta Khon festival on my GS. I only got to spend one day enjoying the festival last year as Wrong Way Robert crashed and we spent Sunday getting him sorted out. It was about 510 km from CM to the Festival, a nice day trip on road bike.

    My report from 2006 is here: http://board.gt-rider.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=1458

  5. bomb defuzer

    bomb defuzer Ol'Timer

    Thanks, I was glad to meet you all. I am in BKK now and will return in 2 weeks to CM. I want to ride dirt. The Varadero is in CM until my return. I did the Samoeng loop on Sat AM. Nice ride.
    See you guys soon.
  6. bomb defuzer

    bomb defuzer Ol'Timer

    I will send you a email. I would like to do it. Thanks for the invite.

  7. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Good to meet you at the Kafe & welcome you to Cnx & The GT Riders.
    It looks like you are going to fit right in & do lots of riding with us.
    I was glad & pleased to see your decisiveness in taking an apartment at Boonthavon straight away & leaving the Varadero in Cnx for a speedy return.
    See you back soon - just fly in, jump on your bike & away you go on some of Asia's best motorcycle roads.
  8. bomb defuzer

    bomb defuzer Ol'Timer

    Thanks David. I am extremely happy to have met all such a decent bunch with so much knowledge of SEA and motorcycles. I will see you again soon.


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