KL to Kanchanaburi June 08'

Discussion in 'Central Western Thailand Road Trip Reports' started by locoduc, Aug 12, 2008.

  1. locoduc

    locoduc Member

    This was my second trip north of the border this year, having ridden up to Hat Yai, Phuket and Ranong over the Deepavali weekend. Along on this trip would be Man, the intrepid traveller and local iron-butt champion having travelled over 40,000 km to reach Europe last year. New to the touring group was K, the northern x-border virgin.

    DAY 1

    We head off north towards Penang for our first pit stop for the day to check on our bikes as well as to drop by to see our friend, BB who'd moved north with his family last year. My MTS had just recovered from a high-side about 6 weeks previously and had only come out of the shop about a day before the ride so I wasn’t sure how it would hold up. But other than a broken mirror stalk, all seemed fine.

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    K’s bike, a Kwak Z750 had been on trips around Malaysia and seemed to be doing fine. I wasn’t expecting anything less than sewing machine reliability from the Jap machine anyway.

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    And of course, we had Mo, the totally reliable, indestructible BMW R80GS with its gargantuan 45 litre tank.

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    We leave Penang reluctantly having stuffed ourselves silly with the best pizza in Penang. After 3 hours or so, we reach Sadao and get past Customs & Immigration pretty much without a hitch except for a brief scare at the Customs complex when a group of officers suddenly beckoned for us to stop. But they only wanted some pics with us for the scrap book and we naturally obliged! We reach Hat Yai in the early evening and headed off to our usual joint, Restoran Hamid, near Lee Gardens Plaza in the centre of Hat Yai for dinner. Here’s the view from inside the restaurant, looking out.

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    DAY 2

    The next morning, having had our poor feet throughly kneaded, pressed and oiled at one of the many reflexology joints the previous evening, we had our final “Malaysian” breakfast of teh-tarik and roti canai before setting off on our marathon trek northwards along the Kra.

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    Along the way and whenever we tired, we stopped at the many shelters that can be found by the road side. This particular one was a welcome sight as it had been raining heavily and we were quite happy to rest and snack for a while.

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    Our main stop along the Kra was Chumphon, a sleepy town on the east coast where one can get ferries to the island of Ko Tao. The hotel we stayed at is a regular stop for Malaysian bikers, being cheap (600B if memory serves me) and cheerful. Here’s a view out of my hotel bedroom window, looking south.

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    DAY 3

    As is sometimes the case when travelling in a group, even a small one like ours, one gets separated from the other. This time we had lost Man who'd decided to stop for a break in one of the small towns we passed through. We decided to wait out for him at this particular chain of petrol station (UTT) which throughout our journey became our favourite. A 7-11 is always on the forecourt of these UTT petrol stations and we would run in to get our favourite drink in Thailand – VT Soya Bean Milk. This brand of soya bean milk has got to be the creamiest, smoothest and most delicious of all I’ve tried.

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    Having staked-out Man for 2 hours at the petrol station only to see him sail pass without noticing us, we decided to push on towards Kanchanaburi on our own. Struggling through rain and darkness, K and I eventually found Kanchanaburi having successfully negotiated the Spaghetti Junction near Ratchaburi. I did bring a GPS unit with me but since the maps were not routeable, it came down to looking at paper maps – so much for technology! We get into town but Man somehow arrives an hour behind us. By chance, we spot him dismount across the street from the restaurant we were holed up in. We were worried that he’d be annoyed with us for having left him behind and I ask K to hurry across the street to greet him whilst I thought of suitable words of apology to offer our Jedi Master, seeing as we were but his Young Apprentices. Here’s Man contemplating our fate.

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    After dinner, I retreated to my room on the 3rd and upper-most floor of Hotel Pon Peng. For Baht 800, we got a King-sized bed, air-conditioning, separate WC and a view of one of the Kwai rivers from the window. It was also an opportunity to do some laundry which was, in my humble opinion, tastefully hung as décor in the rather drab room.

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    Kanchanaburi rests on the foothills of some wonderful mountains and the morning air here is truly wonderful.

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    From the balcony of my room I could see down to the café and life-centre of our hotel.

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    There was also a small aviary of Mynah birds next to the café and we made sure they learnt some choice phrases from the various languages of our country so that future visitors would feel at home.

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    The hotel has some very nice chalets on the ground floor, with colourful roofs to match.

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    DAY 4

    The plan the next day was for us to ride to the 3-Pagoda Pass, a distance of about 200 km. But seeing as we were still tired from our long and arduous ride the previous day, we unanimously agreed to rent a car instead. I was designated 1st driver. Man was co-pilot and navigator and here, he’s teaching me the hand-sign for “cow” in case he needed to warm me of such creatures up ahead on the road.

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    K was very excited about our day-trip to the 3-Pagoda Pass and prepared himself by going into a Jedi meditative state for the next 3 hours of the journey.

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    Looking up at the dark sky and despite some of the best roads we had encountered on our journey so far, we were glad to have chosen the car over the bikes.

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    Along the way, we came across these floating houses, home apparently to Myanmar folk who've settled on the water.

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    After miles of winding roads and security check-points, we eventually reach the Myanmar border and the 3-Pagoda Pass. Whilst I was busy snapping away outside in the rain, our Jedi Master was busy instructing young apprentice K on the finer art of holding a mug the proper way.

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    The 3-Pagodas in all their glory(?).

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    K wanted to nip across the border but we advised him that although the border guards were in Longyi and would not chase him, they could choose to shoot instead. He agreed with this sage advice and agreed to pose in front of the signage instead.

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    DAY 5

    On our last day in Kanchanaburi and not having visited any of the war memorials, we agreed that we would stop by the Bridge-over-the-River Kwai.

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    We headed off south towards Ranong soon after only to find ourselves separated again. I proceeded alone towards Ranong, a fishing village and across the border from Kawthoung, Burma. We had stayed at a particular hotel on our last trip and I was excited to return as it has natural spring water piped in. After the butt-numbing ride, I was looking forward to soaking myself in the hotel’s jacuzzi all night.

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    Though I did not expect it, seeing as he was still on the road at 730 pm when I checked, Man made it through the mountains and reached Ranong at about 930 pm. K, who had called earlier to say that he had lost Man, headed off to Chumphon instead since the mountain roads to Ranong are not easy to negotiate in the dark.

    DAY 6

    Having had another soak in the jacuzzi in the morning, Man and I loaded up our bikes and went off to rendezvous with K at Chumphon. Man, being the experienced long-distance rider he is, managed to load up the bike whilst still asleep. I made another mental note to ask him about this aspect of the Force which I had yet to learn.

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    Unfortunately, by the time we got to Chumphon, K had moved off further south to Surat Thani and we agreed to simply meet in Hat Yai. Confident that K would find his way, Man and I decided to proceed along at our own pace to enjoy the last few hundred kilometres of our wonderful journey.

    DAY 7

    After another night in Hat Yai, we moved off southbound towards KL. As I rode along slowly behind Man, plans for the next trip were already being hatched ...
     
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