Mukdahan - Khon Kaen Homeward Bound for Cnx

Discussion in 'North-East Thailand Road Trip Reports' started by DavidFL, Jun 14, 2009.

  1. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member


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    Exiting Laos across the Friendship Bridge from Savannakhet was easy & straight forward.

    Entering Thailand at Mukdahan was almost the same, but with one minute hiccup.
    I’d processed Thai immigration with my regular 3 month entry granted. Next step was Customs 10 metres away. I handed my papers in & incredulously the young customs officer asked if I was entering Thailand. Well yes I think so; I’m not riding back across the bridge into Laos I thought, or was I?
    OK, but your Thai temporary export papers say you are going to enter Thailand at the Friendship Bridge Nong Khai, not Mukdahan. You can’t come in here.
    Well I’m here & I’ve been stamped in by immigration so I don’t think I‘m going back to Laos. You’d better talk to your boss.
    Off he goes & comes back in 5 minutes & says “my pen rai” you can go.
    Yes that’s what I thought too. You’ve gotta laugh at their efficiency & lateral thinking capacity sometimes.

    So I was in & off, flying down the road route 212 heading for Khon Kaen to link up with GT Rider John Gooding.
    John has SMS-ed the best way & route nos to get from Mukdahan to Khon Kaen. 212 – 2136 - 2116 – 209. A piece of cake. R212 south from Mukdahan is a superb fast smooth 4-lane dual carriageway & wasn’t it great to be in the Kingdom on a real road again. Cruising at 130-140 kph Khon Kaen would not be too long away. But I could not see R2136 & I was looking out for the route sign numbers. I thought I must have missed it – I was 45 kms out of Mukdahan & doubled back to check one turn off.

    Then 30 minutes in Thailand, at 135kph the bike suddenly shut down – no electrics. Beautiful I thought, here we go again a replay of the previous year’s nagging electrical problems? At least it was not in Laos so I though good luck whatever the problem, the bike’s broken down in Thailand.
    It was bloody hot out on the super & fortunately 50 metres up the road was a little house with some shade. I pushed the bike along to the shade, unloaded everything, cursing politely as I went.


    The saddle bags have to come off to take off the side covers to get to the fuses, plus the bag has to come off to get under the seat & check the battery.
    It was hot, I was pretty grumpy but my new rural hosts were very jovial & incredibly generous – bottled water + a can of Beer Chang was even offered. I took the water & declined the beer – I was not quite in the mood for a hot beer in the midday sun. :x

    After 40 minutes I’d been able to ascertain that all the fuses & battery were ok. What next? Arh yes I recall the Snail & I working on the ignition switch 9 months earlier – a broken wire, with the decision that the 150 baht Chinese switch should be replaced sooner rather than later.
    And ..

    I’d forgotten to replace the switch. :oops:

    So, it "must" be the switch, but it would be better to get this checked out in a bike shop or by a local mechanic who would know what & where to go for parts. Not by the road in Nakhon Nowhere.
    A phone call goes out & 5 mins later the local chang arrives. He wants to take me & the bike to the school. No, no, no motorbike shop. Not school. No, no school number one. No no motorbike shop. No, no school. Ha. Ha...... here we go another cultural misunderstanding.


    :eek: I lost & we went to the school. I could not believe my good luck.
    1. The school was less than 2 kms up the road. Good luck. :lol:

    The bike was towed up the road :oops:
    much to everyone's enjoyment.
    The ol breakdown must have made the villagers weekend I'm sure.

    2. The school was the local vocational training “Fix It” centre. Good luck. :lol:

    3. The school only operates on the weekend. This was Sunday. Good luck. :lol:

    Under the Ajarn’s supervision the students swarmed over the bike excitedly yapping & joking away madly. They must have though Christmas was here early. :lol:

    After getting them to check it out systematically fuses / battery, the ignition switch was the next step.

    And lo & behold

    Yep broken wire again.
    No problem, solder it all up & get a pretty good warranty “I guarantee all my life” & a big cheer goes up.
    Then there was a huge photo session + a report to be done & signed. The photo sessions with the ajarns & students too more time than the repairs I think. Ho. Ho. Ho.
    I forced a 500 baht tip on the boys for a moo krataa meal that night + 150 baht for the tow + 100 baht for the local drunk pestering me. You gotta keep ’em happy & buy some merit as you go. After all this could have happened in Laos & it would not be quite so easy or so much fun. It was all good luck I reckoned. :lol:

    Anyway back on the road, R212 & in the hunt for R2136 to Khon Kaen. Another 30kms down the road I was approaching Amnart Charoen & new I’d definitely overshot the mark.
    To hell with 2136 & KK I thought, just work your way towards KK & overnight somewhere convenient. At the PTT on the outskirts I used a 7-11 for a cold drink in the aircon + to get a peak at road atlas & suss out where I was & what towns I needed to pass through heading for Khon Kaen.
    I sent out an SMS to John to suggest they give up waiting for me on R2136 & head home to KK. I would catch up to them late that night or even tomorrow, depending on my bush navigation skills.

    I forgot about a reply from John & carried on - & riding directly into the setting sun for kms & hours aint no fun.
    Yasothon passed by & Roi Et was the next town. Then 170 kms after the Fix It Centre the bike shuts down again - no electrics. Curses, where's my "I guarantee for my life" warranty.
    It was hot & almost in the middle of nowhere again, but I could see a PTT 100 metres up the road. Oh well more good luck. :lol:
    I will push the bike there & start the whole operation again. :x
    Muttering sweet revenge I dismount & start taking my gear off sweating profusely. The phone rings. It's John Gooding. Aha. What should I say, for sure he's going to take the piss once out of me once he knows I’ve broken down again. :p
    But nope he says "is that you stopped beside the road David?"
    "Well yes actually I am stopped by the road, bloody well broken down again. But where are you?"
    The reply" " I’m standing outside the PTT watching you!" :lol:
    No! Unbelievable. My good luck again. I could be in Laos, but nope this is my lucky day - breaking down in Thailand. How I love this country to ride & tour in. :D
    John receiving my SMS figured I would be coming in on the Roi Et route had taken a gamble & ridden over with Bat from the Khon Kaen riders to meet up with me. What great guys. :D
    My good luck continues. :lol:

    Bat it was brilliant meeting you & a million thanks for pushing me across the road to the PTT!

    My good luck. The PTT has a huge workshop for servicing tour buses. :lol:
    It's Sunday & it's late so I decide to lock up the bike in the workshop & return the next day for the MK2 repairs.

    Bat heads back to Khon Kaen in the dark & JG offers to stay the night to help out tomorrow.
    Unknown to me we are only 2 kms out of Roi Et town. Just across the super. More good luck. :lol: So Roi Et for the night it is.

    After an amusing night celebrating my good luck return to Thailand, - a gay receptionist gives John & I lift down town 3-up on his Mio to the local Pub & Restaurant hot spot :lol: ; JG & I strike gold again the next morning pondering where the# 1 big motor bike shop is in Roi Et. The hotel reception ask what is going on & we luck out with a lady being a member of the local big bike club & the # 1 shop is just around the corner. Unbelievable & more good luck. :lol:

    We locate the shop


    Daeng Charoen Yon
    15/7 Senaroemkid Road
    Ha Yaek Sai Nam Phueng
    Amphur Muang. Roi Et
    Mr Krisda Muangwong (Khun Daeng)
    Tel 0810600849. 0894217999.


    I explain to Daeng what the problem is & would like to install a new switch if we can find one that will fit.
    No problem. In 40 minutes the ex-trusty old Africa Twin is parked in the shop, after Daeng follows us to the PTT hard wires the bike & we ride it back to his shop.

    Another 1 1/2 hrs later it is all go.
    As a precaution Daeng installs a new relay to control the ignition switch power & prevent it from overloading & burning out.

    JG & I return to the hotel & check out at 2PM in the afternoon. No trouble. Thank you Mai Thai hotel Roi Et.

    Khon Kaen it is then & arrival time is around 5PM. JG escorts me to the delightful Khon Kaen Orchid & I settle in - relieved the day is over with no more breakdowns.
    At 8PM we head off down town to the Roma Hotel, owned by a Khon Kaen rider. The Sorrento Cafe is the place to eat for the night & meet the hotel owner & Yamaha FJR300 rider. At 10PM we walk out of the hotel to head his other hotel night club. I get on the AT to ride there AND, loh & behold no electrics. Dead battery. :cry: :oops:

    To be continued
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  3. Marco

    Marco Ol'Timer

    WHAT A Day you had matey,, but like you said,, lucky that it happens in Thailand, where is actually goodlink of us all around,,,and relatively good bike shop's as well.

    hope that rest of the drip is troubble free.
  4. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    The problem with finding R2136 off R212


    You have to look out for R2047!
  5. Ally

    Ally Ol'Timer

    Your story was a real 'page turner' and I hope the final fix was permanent for your journey.

    Bad luck turned to very good luck !

    Welcome back to Thailand.

  6. johngooding

    johngooding Ol'Timer

    Hi David,
    Great report and pics and bring back memories of what started as a frustrating day, but ended up a suprising and great fun day and night out.

    I realise looking at your posting and map that the turn to the 2136 is not easy, I had done it reverse direction and then its well signposted to Yasothon or Mudkahan. Sorry for that, but it occurs to me that you seemed to end up where you were supposed to be to get the approriate help. Is that not part of whats so great about this country. Somehow it just works out, as it did and on the way you meet some great people!
    Just a couple of phone pics to show you in the shop directing things.

    And just one to give a peek of things to come.
    Great riding with you, look forward to the next time, never any dull moments?
  7. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Continued & the last bit..

    So it was yet another dead bike. The hotel owner took great sympathy on me & JG so invited us to his other hotel & night club. The Harem. Well what can I say - I was impressed - with the service & especially the bill = Zilch. Free JW whisky, tequilas 4 the staff ++. First class all the way with the Khon Kaen Riders!
    Yet again my great misfortune with the trusty AT breaking down at an inconvenient spot & time. I staggered out just before closing time for a free lift home from JG. It was a good night, but the bike could becoming a bit of a problem.

    So it was back to a cozy night at the Khon Kaen Orchid. It had been just another day at the office….

    The Khon Kaen Orchid – great place!



    The Khon Kaen Orchid is a really cool, excellent value for money place to stay in KK. Highly recommended all you riders out there!
    Check it out at
    Thanks JG for taking me. And thanks Derek & Ja for your warm hospitality. I left with the intention to return soon. :D

    The next morning it was back to the Sorrento for a late brekky, after which the seat came of the AT & loh & behold a loose battery terminal. Simple, but you have to wonder why. Which of the guys - The Fix It Centre or Mr Daeng - did not quite tighten everything back up? ……..My pen rai. I was back on the road once more.

    I checked out of the Orchid around 12.15PM & moved north to Udon.

    The master plan for the day had been to meet up with Ray23 for a late lunch. I'd SMS-ed Ray earlier in the morning advising I would be in town around 2.30-3.00 PM. We agreed to meet in the aircon - in the Black Canyon at Tesco Lotus. I was ahead of schedule, but thought never mind I can sneak into town & have a quiet 30 minutes in the aircon before Ray arrives. I was wrong! As I turned into Tesco Lotus Ray pulls up alongside laughing, & calling out "you're early!" Just my luck yet again!! :lol: :lol: Ray & Tung Dee it was a great little lunch we had - thanks for the conversation & sponsored meal. I'll be back! :) When are we going to form a political party to solve the world's political & economic problems?

    Next stop was Nong Khai, a mere 51 kms up the not so exciting 4-lane dual carriageway. Coupled with the 121 kms from Khon Kaen to Udon it had not exactly been a big day. But the new master plan was to go slowly, pay attention to the electrics & get home.

    In Nong Khai it was the "ladyboy" Pantawee Hotel.



    Laugh, as I was checking in a farang comes up alongside to check in at the same time & says "hello David, what are doing here." Who was it - none other than the brother of Maurycy from Eagle GPS in Chiang Mai. We had not met for at least 18 months & I did not recognize him. Yep it was one of those trips alright.
    The night passed quietly - it was a rest night after the previous freebie at The Harem.

    The next morning whilst loading the bike up carefully, looking for loose wires or whatever JG arrived on his FJR1300 for the run alongside the ’Khong to Loei. JG & I had been in constant SMS contact for several weeks, trying to co-ordinate so that we could actually do a ride together. It took quite awhile to set up, but the wait was worth it.

    Good riding & touring buddies are difficult to find, but JG certainly impressed me
    1. Waiting & finding me on the changed route to KK after I had broken down.
    2. Staying overnight in Roi Et to make sure I had transport & help get the AT back on the road
    3. A compatible mature socializing attitude, similar to myself. (Gotta pat ourselves on the back.)
    4. Plus a smooth sensible no stress rider.
    (Gee John I must have scored a few good brownie points there eh?)

    R211 along the Mekong is one of my fave all time roads & rides. So it was a thoroughly enjoyable potter along R211 indeed; both JG & I were interested in smelling the roses & taking happy snaps that day…







    The Mekong River along here is absolutely amazing with the changes in the river channel. Alternating between rocks with a very narrow dangerous channel to wide flat open. Ride Route 211 Chiang Khan - Nong Khai sometime & you will be highly impressed & invigorated.

    More happy 'Khong snaps...






    Highlight of the daytime was the roadside band & dancing girls reception for us.


    All pretty funny because the band was on one side of the road & the audience sitting across the road & "the other side."

    True to from I could not resist a GT Rider photo & the show

    But back to the Mekong





    It's 250 undulating kms from Nong Khai - Loei
    Right John?

    Plus 485 kms from Loei to Chiang Mai
    Not sure who won that one John, might be 50/50 I think I was claiming 400 & you were 500+

    A good night was had in Loei starting with a 2hr traditional massage at The Kings Hotel, followed food & drink at the Muang Loei Pub.
    JG left for Udon the next day & I headed home S-a-f-e-l-y to Chiang Mai.

    Thanks for the ride JG I enjoyed your company immensely & we should do another one soon.
  8. johngooding

    johngooding Ol'Timer

    Well thanks for that David, I will deposit the money in the Brownie points box as agreed. You are too kind, but I also had a very good time. I have found over here that it takes a bit of time to find compatible riding partners, as we are all a bit different, riding habits, travel speed, distance between stops, accommodation likes, dislikes, eating prefs, entertainment choices, etc etc etc, so really great to find others who fit in the same window. Your knowledge of the country, its language and people, your positive relaxed attitude to what could be depressing or stressful situations, make it informative and enjoyable to be alongside. Also your training in distance estimation very useful, I decided that my brain must reduce the distance of regularly travelled routes, each time I use them. Adjustment needed.
    Thanks for the rest of the report and the pics, very well composed.
    I do hope we see you back in Isaan before too long, we do have some roads more interesting than some of the major straight ones we travelled.

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