Phi Ta Khon 2008 - Dan Sai, Loei Province - 1st Impressions

Discussion in 'Northern Thailand - Road Trip Reports' started by Kiwi Cruiser, Jul 6, 2008.

  1. Kiwi Cruiser

    Kiwi Cruiser Ol'Timer

    Phi Ta Khon 2008 - Dan Sai - Loei Province
    Day 1: Chiang Mai to Dansai
    Day 2: Dan Sai
    Day 3: Dan Sai - Loei
    Day 4: Loei - Chiang Mai

    The Riders:
    David Unkovich - Africa Twin 750
    Ben Kemp - Honda Shadow 1100

    Departed Chiang Mai at 1100 hours in wet weather gear, owing to the steady rain. David had kindly loaned me a pair of undersized PVC rain-pants which were so tight, I could not extract my wallet whilst wearing them - to the amusement of the ladies at the Kafe... dropping one's overpants to pay the bill is apparently not something they see every day! What with the jeans plus the overly tight overpants, and the raincoat over the flash new Alpinestars armoured jacket, I was feeling like a mobile sauna as we pulled away from the Kafe.
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    The weather was less than optimal for the 187 kms run to Den Chai. At that point, it absolutely pissed down while we were having lunch and coffee. David set an extremely brisk pace, and I can't say I liked the feeling of the new Michelin rear tyre when we hit smooth wet asphalt... slicker than snot on a doorknob!

    The Shadow proved extremely thirsty at high speed - not sure if the airflow is impeded by the Mustang aftermarket seat sitting too close over the air-intake or what... On the run to Den Chai at a steady 80 - 85 mph, I hit reserve at 80 miles! Usually, its 125 miles when cruising at 65 - 70 mph. As a result, there was an anxious period where I ended up coasting downhill for a couple of kilometres. Due to my foresight, I was wearing my lucky necklace, and I came to a halt within rock-throwing distance of a rustic village 'shop' which had a few nam pla bottles of gow neung tamada for sale at 100 baht apiece... 3 of those got me rumbling down to Den Chai. We compromised on a steady 75 mph velocity from that point onwards, which made the fuel consumption manageable again.

    Not long after Den Chai, the rain faded away, and we shed rain gear like lizards changing skins as we emerged into the sunlight.

    A Captain Slash hotspot appeared in Nakhon Thai, just as my caffeine levels dropped into the red zone - time for the obligatory snack-stop, and cafe yen x 2. FL ate icecream+chocolate+sport drink - he wound the AT up, blasting out 2013 on a sugar high!

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    Fuel stop at Nakhon Thai - the AT is a monster, and guys often wander over to check it out while its being fuelled up.

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    Arriving a couple of days ahead of the main event was great as the place was a hive of activity and we sat and relaxed and watched as the locals prepared for the influx of festival goers. The main food court was excellent, and we met up with a couple of gents with their wives, over from Udon Thani and had some refreshments with them on Thursday evening.

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    Friday was a tough day... Its damned hard work sitting and watching busy people, and drinking beer for hours... my arms were tired from lifting glasses, and a couple of friendly locals offered to give me a shoulder massage... 8)

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    There was a rehearsal during the afternoon, with the main parade sheduled for Saturday.
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    The phallic symbolism is not always subtle...
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    Modest crowds on Friday, and it was still possible to ride though the streets.
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    After the culture shock of enormous phallus displays, we retreated to the lovely temple overlooking the town of Dan Sai.
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    The group was a little bigger this time, a couple more guys from Udon tagging along for the ride up the hill.
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    The locals are lovely people - we stopped to talk to an elderly couple that David knows - and before long we were drinking coffee on the edge of the street with a bevy of Dan Sai sisters...
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    There's a relatively new museum behind the white temple, on the main street midway between the bridge and the highway. There is a display of masks and costumes, and information panels explaining some of the history of the festival and the area. A couple of craftsmen were at work, this gentleman was painting a mask.

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    The nice lady at the museum shop has the cutest dimple! Its about the same size and placement as mine...
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    This young gentleman wanted his photo taken... with me - but he looked a lot better on his own :)
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    A novel twist to the PG girls scenario - promoting cigarette sales...
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    There are an extraordinary variety of colours in the costumes...
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    This little angel missed most of the excitement... :)
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    But this little angel was right in the thick of it...
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    God help these boys when their mother's see the state they are in...
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    First, there was one photographer... then there were two...
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    and soon thereafter there was a veritable swarm of them! :roll:
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    There were actually quite a lot of bikes around...
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    And the legendary Dreamchaser himself was there - khun Sukie (white t-shirt)
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    Like several others present, this was the first time I've been to this festival. It was David's 14th attendance, and I can quite understand why!!! Hell, its a "must see" deal, and its great to see country people having a ball, and warmly including outsiders in their big event. The food and hospitality was excellent, and all in all - I had a ball... :)

    Late Saturday we went to Loei - a fast and wild ride through heavy motorcycle traffic - the highway was congested with hundreds of kids on various scooters / step-thru's / Vespas and 2-wheeled vehicles the likes of which I've never seen before :) We met a group of other Chiang Mai gentlemen there (Mike, Richard, Robert etc) plus Sukie and his riding buddy. We all stayed at the King Hotel - a good choice! 450 baht a night, excellent rooms, good little coffee shop... After dinner, we attended a Loei biker's party for a while.

    The plan for Sunday morning was for the Chiang Mai contingent to assemble for breakfast at 9am, departing homewards at 10am... I woke up at 6am, could not get back to sleep! Slipped a note under FL's door advising him of my early departure, checked out and headed sedately off homewards.

    Never having been to Loei from CM before, and having neither map nor GPS, I was relying on memory to get me home. :) The advantage of this route-finding methodology is that you get to go places that you did not know you were going to...

    It all worked well until some time after Nakhon Thai... I left there on the right road, but must have zigged when I should have zagged somewhere... I do remember a sign that said 97 kms to Utteradit... but about an hour later, I saw another sign that said 64 kms to Utteradit... at that point I'd done a hell of a lot more than 33 kms, and a hell of a lot of miles after the fuel stop at Nakhon Thai - and I concluded I was probably heading north to north-east of Sirikit Lake... :)

    Right about then, 64 kms to Utteradit seemed like a good deal, calculating that the reduced pace should mean enough gas in the tank to get that far! I finally found a gas station about 20ms out of Utteradit - 106 miles / 170 kms with out seeing one!!! Starting to sweat a little, I was... The odds of running out of gas along side a benzine vendor twice in 3 days would be stretching the powers of the lucky necklace a little... it worked hard all weekend.

    Coming home, there was a ittle boy - maybe 4 or 5 yrs old - in a little village along the way, riding his bicycle on the left verge... The little tyke decided to do a wheelie and swerved out almost to the centreline just as I was about to go past... He was lucky as well - bloody lucky I was already out on the centreline giving him a wide berth, but he got real close! :shock:

    An hour or so later, damned if a small dog did not do the same kind of thing - a last minute dash for the opposite side of the road. Not sure how lucky he was... the front wheel missed him by a whisker, but there was a hell of a thump and a yelp when he went under the right side footboard! I was cruising at about 70 mph at the time and dramatic swerving is certainly not a viable option. In the mirror I saw him keep on going, but he must have been hurting...

    My return trip was 378 miles (608 kms) and I arrived home from the rain-free run at 2pm, after a 7:30 am departure from the preliminary fuel stop at Loei. Four more 'Michael Schumacher' fuel stops, plus a khao pad gai kai dao and a Sprite at Den Chai - and my inadvertent "scenic detour" did add a little overhead to the journey.

    However, I rather like being misplaced - and the ride down the river from the Sirikit Dam entranceway was very cool... as was the stretch of mountain that delivered me to there... I'd like to know where the (wrong) road I was on was going to end up - it looked interesting... :lol:
     
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  3. Rhodie

    Rhodie Ol'Timer

    Tremendous Report Ben.
    Thanx for the effort.
    Pity the weather wasn't like last year
    v hot with blue & white puffies.
    But then there were only 2 GT riders!
     
  4. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    Very nice report Ben. That temple in Dan Sai is probably my favorite temple in Thailand. It seems a cross between Asian temples and western churches.

    The crowds look much less than previous years, good for you guys but probably not so good for the local economy.

    How were the accommodations in Dan Sai? Had some pretty poor rooms in the past.
     
  5. Kiwi Cruiser

    Kiwi Cruiser Ol'Timer

    Ah yes... another example of the power of the lucky necklace... :lol:

    Actually quite nice little bungalows, and in mine both the tv AND the hot water worked... not the case in Bungalow 1, according to FL :)

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    These are "rent by the month" units, and a couple of temporarily empty ones were assigned to the GT Riders. Pretty good - although the despicable rooster that perched on my window ledge and crowed with vigor at daybreak is lucky to be alive!

    I had a kindly neighbour who provided the hottest cup of coffee I've ever held in my life on Saturday morning! Damn... the cup nearly burned a hole in the saucer, but it was GOOD!!! Eating rice 3 meals a day is no problem for man who has survived 24 years of multi-cultural relationships... but don't give me coffee, I get a little frail... :)
     
  6. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Ben
    Glad you enjoyed the fun & spectacle of Dan Sai 'n Phi Ta Khon.

    We were lucky with the weather, as it certainly wasn't great departing Chiang Mai.
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    However, it was absolutely glorious after Uttaradit when we got onto 1246 & 1143.

    Ben removing his undersized waterproofs on R1246..
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    R1246, the start...
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    Nakhon Thai & Captn Slash Central..
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    R1143 the views
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  7. Franz

    Franz Ol'Timer

    Ben, incredible report & pictures !! You must have loved it except the petrol topic...........
    Went up to CNX on Sat evening to fetch the F650 and bring her down to Rayong "bahn-nohk" for selling her. From Nakorn Sawan on I met quite a lot of big bikes down to Lopburi, they all came from this festival. Had coffee & cigarette at a petrol station with a guy on a R1200GS, he's Thai and does a good 30-40.000 kms a year on his bikes. So it's not just us Farang who do a lot of driving. Will try to contact him for a ride soon.
    Next year, would be good if David or you make a post as I intend to go up there too, never seen it in my 16 years in LOS. Might be others from the eastern section who are interested too.
    Well I didn't get soaked like you on this iron-butt ride, left CNX at 09:30 and was home at 18:30, 872 kms of next to dry ride, only 40 kms before reaching home I got a good soaking, but that's what biking is about. Average fuel consumtion was 4,9 liters with a steady 130 km/h. Filled in 91, 95 and one time 95 Gasohol, with the F650 no problem & difference. Cheers, Franz
     
  8. BignTall

    BignTall Ol'Timer

    Awesome report Ben. Thanks for bringing the color of the event to the board.

    Love your quote "I enjoy being misplaced.." wonderful outlook.

    Glad to see you enjoyed the ride and event.
     
  9. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Continued..
    What really impressed me this year were the hundreds of motorcyclists there. And these were mainly kids on their classic 80-90-100cc Jap bikes. Many of them had ridden hundreds of kms, some of them literally camped out overnight beside the road or wherever, and they were all having fun to the MAX. So when you see this there's no doubt motorcycling & touring in Thailand is in a very healthy state.

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    The Dan Sai folk museum is also an excellent first class addition to Dan Sai & the festival. Make sure you check it out when you're next at Phi Ta Khon.
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    The dimple twins at the Folk Museum
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    As usual I had a brilliant time in Dan Sai....Catching up to old friends at the festival every year makes it feel a bit like your annual family get together at Christmas I reckon. And the food court & beer centre is the place to start at night time.
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    If any of this gets to be a bit much, you just have to chill out & watch some of the festival characters doing their bit for the festival.
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    Whilst the show is pretty outrageous & raunchy, it's also a "family event" with all the villagers, young & old participating.
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    This was my T-shirt of PTK 2008
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    It really is an exceptional photographic sensation & watching the Canon team literally hunting in a pack was highly amusing!
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    To be continued..
     
  10. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Once the festival was over it was onto Loei for the night to meet up with other bikers & at the KSRThailand Loei Bikers Party.

    As luck would have it The SEO Guy & I arrived a bit late only to catch events winding down, before heading off to the Robot Disco with the party gang - Sukie, Jort, Richy, Hoghead & the SEO Guy, plus assorted locals whom I did not get the names of. It was a great night & somehow we managed to be the last ones out of the Robot & miraculously ride home. Thanks guys for setting me on the straight & narrow.

    I thorougly enjoyed myself & will definitely be back & drop into your moo krataa KSR Thailand place for a drink or two.

    But before we got to Loei, leaving Dan Sai we were all held up on the road 40 minutes for an official motorcade that never came. The line of cars & bikes stretched back a few kms, & dangerously over a hill...
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    Leaving Loei the next morning there were 6 bikes & 7 of us.
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    60 kms out of Loei at Kok Ngam we were all pulled over by the police.
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    Given cold face towells & a can of iced coffee to ensure we had a safe journey.
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    ONLY IN THAILAND?
    I don't know, but what a totally wonderful attitude. It's little things like that make Thailand a wonderful place to ride & tour on your motorbike.
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    Thanks guys. I'll keep riding a bit longer & see you all at Dan Sai for Phi Ta Khon in 2009.

    Ray, Dilwyn & Lukey from Udon it was a pleasure meeting you guys in Dan Sai. I hope to see you & a few more guys there next year.
     
  11. Rhodie

    Rhodie Ol'Timer

    Great pix & great report
    The Phitakhon Festival is probably the last unadulterated truly Thai festival
    that has yet to be commercialised or ruined by Farangs trying to get in on the Thais' act.
    Thank you for posting.
    Only sorry to miss it this year.
     
  12. Dougal

    Dougal Ol'Timer

    That looks like a lot of fun.

    Thanks for the report and pics.

    Like everyone else commented, it is definitely on the schedule for next year. Accommodation seems the only issue. How early to book?
     
  13. Kiwi Cruiser

    Kiwi Cruiser Ol'Timer

    Well sadly, it looks like that's in the process of change as well.... I noticed with dismay one very tall falang plonker prancing around in a full Pii Dta Khon costume in an amusing (but pitiful) attempt at imitating the Dan Sai locals. :shock:

    Aside from looking like the village idiot :lol: he was obviously a mild embarassment to the friendly locals who were cringing a bit - and rolling their eyes. :roll: I think everyone was relieved when he put his hood on and hid himself from view! :oops: No idea who it was, never seen him around before.

    It seems some people just don't "get it" in terms of following standards of behaviour expected of GUESTS. By definition, that does not make you a PARTICIPANT. It certainly does not include muscling in on other people's parades!

    Far better to sit back, have a beer, relax and enjoy the spectacle of local people doing traditional local things, and be welcomed back as a guest, or as an old friend, next year...
     
  14. Rhodie

    Rhodie Ol'Timer

    Oh dear... what a shame...
    There always has to be one pr*ck at the party...
    :shock:
    Must be Penis Envy!
     
  15. danwhite

    danwhite Ol'Timer

    That thing with the police is great. A couple of years ago or so, I got pulled over by the cops near Loei..... I thought I was going to have the whole licence, document, money manouvre..... Not at all. They just told me it was very hot and insisted I drink a cold coca cola..... That whole area from Nong Khai round the corner to Nan through Loei is superb.

    Festival looks like a gas.
     
  16. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

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