Riding From Singapore To Chiang Mai To Do The Mhs Loop

Discussion in 'Northern Thailand - Road Trip Reports' started by sgBikerBoy, Aug 9, 2016.

  1. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    I had initially hesitated to publish this on gt-rider as I didn't know which forum to post in. You see, I did a multi-country SE Asia Tour travelling from Singapore through Malaysia and into Thailand, Myanmar (for a day), Laos, and Cambodia. So this is the first leg of my tour - Singapore-Malaysia-Thailand to do the Mae Hong Son loop.
     
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  3. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 1

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 1
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    I slept really early last night. By 10pm, I was already in bed. I set my phone alarm to 0400h. I’m generally a morning person, so getting up early was not an issue. In fact, I wanted to beat the possible morning Causeway jam and also anticipated some delays as Malaysia was supposed to start implementing the VEP system today.

    It was with mixed feelings of excitement and trepidation that I begun the trip. Is this trip even possible? What if the bike breaks down? Can I really reach Chiang Mai? I woke up before the alarm went of. 3:40am. And since most of my stuff were already packed, I left home at approximately 4:00am. The plan is to reach Penang by noon, and that will give me some time to roam the island and also to get withdraw some cash from the ATM machine there.

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    Singapore to Penang. Total time – approximately 9hrs. Distance covered – 720km

    I had initially thought of pushing up a little further – perhaps to Alor Star. But I’ve not visited Penang since 30 years ago, so I thought I’d just stay here for the night. Also, I was conscious of the fact that I started the day really early, so I thought I should get some early rest too.

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    The view from somewhere along the way after Kuala Lumpur

    Although done road trips to Malaysia multiple times, I have never went beyond Kuala Lumpur. So I had assumed that the entire NSHW (North-South Highway) journey would be as boring as the stretch from SG to KL. Boy! Was I wrong! The roads and views started getting really amazing somewhere between Ipoh and Taiping. Little bit of winding highway makes for some high-speed fun tilts! Really, if you’ve not done beyond KL before, I highly encourage you to try!

    Anyway, found myself a nice accommodation with private parking space – which was important to me. I didn’t like the idea of leaving my bike out in the public street carpark.

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    Hutton Lodge. RM55 for a room with shared bathroom facilities. Not bad!

    It was almost 1:30pm after I’ve checked in, and I was a little hungry then. So off I went to seek for some Penang Food.

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    What better way to eat in Penang than having Penang food?

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    RM5 for a plate of yummy Penang Fried Kway Teow.

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    Interesting street art in Penang

    So after lunch, I did some banking stuff and also did a little shopping. Feeling physically exhausted, I went back to the room and slept for an hour. And by the time I woke up, it was about dinner time! And where better to have dinner than at the famous Gurney Drive Hawker Centre!

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    The famous Gurney Drive Hawker Centre

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    Penang Asam Laksa

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    Yum, yum, yum!

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    That spikey shellfish looked interesting. I didn’t dare try it as I didn’t want to risk ruining the start of the trip with a bad tummy.

    Okay, I’m not feeling very wordy today. Probably need some rest now. Tomorrow, I’m heading to Hat Yai. Hopefully the border crossing is going to be easy.

    Goodnight everyone!
     
  4. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 2

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 2
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    Today’s route – approximately 360km including the border crossing.

    I made it to Thailand! Left Penang at 8am this morning and reached the Malaysia-Thailand border approximately around 10am. Border crossing was a lot easier than I expected. Easy, but definitely alot more disorganised than, say, the Singapore-Malaysia border.

    This is what I did –

    1. Exited Malaysia and got my passport stamped.
    2. Entered Thailand – riding pass the passport control. (Really!)
    3. Parked bike where directed by immigration officer.
    4. Walked back to the passport control area.
    5. Go to “Customs Declaration Form for Car and Motorcycle” booth. The counter girl will ask for your log card and passport to key in the details and generate a printed form.
    6. Go to “Customs Form” booth just beside (5) with the printed form. Hand over the form and your passport and log card (again). They will process it and then hand you the temporary import papers for the bike.
    7. Go to immigration office to obtain an Arrival / Departure form. Fill it up.
    8. Walk back to the immigration counter (which is different from (7) to get passport stamped.
    9. Hooray! I’m now officially legal in Thailand.
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    Right side of booth for generating form. Left side of booth for processing form. These people don’t understand the concept of streamlining. Or perhaps this is a form of job creation?

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    The ONLY immigration counter opened – for both cars and pedestrians.

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    Purchased my insurance here in Thailand. Could have done it in Malaysia, but opted to get it here instead. Reason being that if an accident were to occur, I would like the Thai party to be able to claim from a Thai company. A Singapore-registered vehicle with a Malaysian insurance involving in an accident with a Thai = extremely messy!

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    THB450 for a 3-month 3rd party insurance. Edit: I was scammed here. Very clearly, it says the minimum period for motorcycle insurance is THB450 for 3 months. After payment, the insurance papers was immediately folded and inserted into a nice envelope before presenting to me. Silly me for not checking. Only after I left the counter (and some days later), did I realised that the insurance was good only for ONE month, and was worth THB175! Scumbag!

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    Happy Tourist SIM card. THB300 for 1.5GB for 7 days. Includes 100 Baht calling credit. Can top up later at any 7-11 store. Comes with 3 sizes built in – mini SIM, micro SIM and nano SIM.

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    Lunch at Hat Yai. THB85 for beef fried rice, a glass of tea and a bottle of Coke. Yes – I was THAT thirsty!

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    Between Hat Yai and Phatthalung. I don’t know what the Thai words meant, but I was pretty certain the sign meant “beef served here!”

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    Meet the roadside cow. Say moo!

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    The obligatory wefie… I meant selfie.

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    Interesting contraption for fishing. I wonder what their success rate is.

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    Selfie moment. Yes – I was in a raincoat. And it didn’t rain. I wasn’t in one yesterday, and I was drenched. Murphy Moment. =(

    And since I had internet connection on my phone, I decided to book an accommodation in Phatthalung area. Found this sweet resort for THB600 a night.

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    So touristy in Thale Noi.

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    Thale Noi is a swamp!

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    Nah – I’ll skip the boat ride. Don’t look too safe to me.

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    Hungry – so I got some street food snack.

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    Duck confit for tonight?

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    I wandered into the residential area. These houses are built on stilts.

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    Green, brown and colourful clothes.

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    More street snack. Pancake with sweet corn fillings.

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    Schweeeeet!

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    My first tank of Gasohol. Wonder how my carb will fare. Will find out tomorrow.

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    Dinner. Fried rice again. I didn’t know what else to order. I couldn’t figure out the menu.
     
  5. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 3

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 3
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    Day 3’s route. Some 800km from Thale Noi to Ratchaburi.

    Yes, I’ve broken every rule I made before I started the trip. No more than 500km a day after Malaysia. Broken. No riding in the dark. Broken.

    I did a somewhat iron-butt distance of 800km. On Thailand roads. This is no Malaysia NSHW – where the road condition is generally very very good. In Thailand, you get from smooth, recently paved tarmac to pot-holes filled roads – so full of them that it’s practically impossible to avoid. Speaking of which, pot-holes aren’t the only things to avoid on the roads.

    Let’s see what I had to avoid in the last 2 days…
    • Pot-holes (yeah, of course). Lots of pot-holes.
    • A cow
    • Dogs. Dogs running across the road.
    • A dead dog. Probably freshly hit by a vehicle. Blood still looked fresh.
    • 3 ducks.
    • 2 dogs. Oh did I mention dogs already? Anyway, these 2 were humping in the middle of the road. I kid you not!
    • A fallen tree.
    • An egret (or what I thought was an egret). I flew so low, so near that I swear I could have touched it if I reached for it with my hands.
    • Cars and trucks from the opposite direction trying to overtake and expecting me to give way all because I’m on a bike.
    • Sand falling from a truck in front of me. Kinda reminds me of an hourglass.
    • Oil palm fruits falling of a truck in front of me.
    But really, riding in Thailand is not as crazy as it sounds. Just remain predictable and always predict what other drivers are trying to do, and you should be fine.

    Anyway, my room for last night came with breakfast. Traditional Thai breakfast. So I was up by 6am and had one of the best rest I had in awhile.

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    Eating the Thai breakfast is like a birthday. There are so many presents to unwrap.

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    Present #1 – Gluttonous rice with banana filling.

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    Present #2 – Sticky rice with kaya (coconut jam)

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    Present #3 – Gluttonous rice with sweetened ground / minced coconut.

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    That’s the guy who runs the resort. He gave me a biscuit and 2 mangoes as a parting gift. So sweet.

    So after breakfast, I packed my stuff and loaded up my bike. Inserted my key and turned on the ignition. Hit the starter button, and….. nothing! “Oh, sh*t! Stupid Bajaj!” I thought to myself. Was it the battery? Could it be the starter motor? Is it an electrical problem? Am I gonna get stuck here? Can I push start? After about a minute of meddling, I realised I had the 1st gear engaged. Pulled the clutch lever in and tried cranking again, and the bike fired up beautifully. It was Bajaj’s built-in safety that prevented cranking when the gear is engaged. Phew! Clever Bajaj and stupid me after all!

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    In some countries, people walk their dogs. Here in Thailand, people walk their cows. I’ve seen quite a few cow owners taking a morning walk with their cows.

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    Along the way, I soptted a fellow biker travelling with his BMW F800R. He was on his way to Ranong to meet a friend. We happened to stop at the same restaurant for lunch. I later found out that the restaurant was called คุณภูมิรีสอร์ท.

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    Lunch. The green curry was really spicy. REALLY spicy.

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    My lunch buddy and new-found friend who bought me lunch. Can’t remember his name though. (Sorry, I’m really bad with names.)

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    It was raining and I pulled over into a Caltex station. After I put on my rain gear, I noticed my top box rack was loose. Had to perform my first roadside repair.

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    Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side, of course!

    By the time I got to Ratchaburi, it was around 8pm – just when it turned dark. I had initially intended to not travel that far up north. But when searching for accommodation at one of my rest stops, I found this sweet place in Ratchaburi for THB650 including an attached bathroom and private parking space. And since I rested well last night, I thought I’d just push it a little further.

    After checking in to my room, I was hungry. There was a restaurant 150m down the road and the hotel reception recommended it. But it was already closed by the time I got there – which was around 8:30pm. So I walked back to the hotel, hungry. The reception was apologetic and recommended another place to eat. After a 10min ride, I found myself in a local Thai late night hawker centre.

    When in Thailand, do what the Thais do, right? As I was felt really drained and warm after the long ride, and since the food place was a nearby 10 mins away, I rode the bike without my helmet for the very first time. Why? Partly to get the fresh air, and mostly because it now resembles more like a bugs graveyard with bug-juice splatter all over, and I was too hungry to be in the mood to clean it up. Like most of the local kup-chai’s, my speed rarely exceeded 40kmh. Shhh… Don’t tell anyone!

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    The night market / hawker centre.

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    Street food for dinner.

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    I’ve got no idea what this is. I just pointed to a picture of this on the stall’s front, and ended up with a bowl of soup. THB30.

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    Sweet desserts… I got the one with the cream and cheese fillings. Yum!

    On my way to and back from dinner, I heard some worrying rattle around the chain area. I’m too tired now to check it out. I just wanted to head to my room and rest. Will probably perform some bike maintenance tomorrow.

    Good night for now…
     
  6. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 4 morning maintenance
    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 4 morning maintenance

    Chain slack checked. Was kinda loose.

    Also lubed the chain. It’s been 1,000km since I last lubed it 2 days ago. Silly me – I took the can and just sprayed. Then I was wondering why the lube felt so thin. Looked at the bottle and it says “chain cleaner”. Silly me!

    Took the opportunity to inflate the tires too. Quick job with my electric air compressor.

    Noticed my left hand MIC fog light had rattled loose. Nothing some basic tools cannot fix. Got it done.

    Did a very short test ride and all seem okay for now. No rattle. Keeping my fingers crossed.

    Oh… Good morning everyone!

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  7. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 4
    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 4
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    Day 4 – Ratchaburi to Mae Sot. 580km on the odometer.

    My accommodation in Ratchaburi was nice and clean, but it didn’t come with breakfast. Thankfully, I had that extra-large biscuit and 2 mangoes from the owner of the place I stayed in the night before. Oh! The mangoes were super sweet!

    And so after breakfast, I did some bike maintenance – the chain slack was too loose. Had it adjusted and also got my tires inflated. Lubed the chain, and I was ready to roll by 8am. At the recommendation of the fellow Thai biker friend whom I met yesterday, I’m headed to Mae Sot today.

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    Bye bye, Tulip Place!

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    The Singaporeans can understand this – CPF Building somewhere in Thailand. I wonder what sort of interest rates they have on their accounts.

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    Extremely overloaded trucks like this are a common sight.

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    Hmmm… This truck just reminds me of a military combat engineer’s mobile bridge.

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    Quick lunch at one of those highway rest stops. Actually, I needed the air-conditioning in the restaurant more than the food itself.

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    83km to Mae Sot. This is when it became overwhelming.

    Admittedly, I did not sufficiently research Mae Sot. All I knew is that it is a border town of Thailand where it meets Myawaddy in Myanmar. Although I had no intentions of crossing to Myawaddy, I thought I’d just spend a night here and check out the place. At approximately 80km to Mae Sot, this is when things started turning interesting.

    First, I was running low on fuel. The reserve light had come for awhile now. The previous gas station I pulled into had either run out of fuel or that their pumps weren’t working. Either way, the pump attendant signaled the universal “no fuel” sign with her 2 hands crossed and shaking her head side to side vigorously. I tried asking her how far the next pump station was while pointing towards Mae Sot. Well, my sign language seem to be working, and she nodded her head and said, “Mae Sot.” Well, with 80km to go and 2bars of fuel left on my digital fuel gauge, I estimated that I should have slightly below 3 liter of fuel, and with an average mileage of, say, 30-35km/l (if I’m not pushing it), I figured that I should be able to reach Mae Sot safely.

    And then, the fun began….

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    Motorcyclists’ Paradise Ahead.

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    Weee! Playground! That’s the motorcyclist’s version of the children’s play slide.

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    Minimum speed to play.

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    Steep ascents and descents. Notice the fuel level and the fuel reserve light there?

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    Twisties!!

    I really wasn’t prepared for this. As you can probably guess by now, the route to Mae Sot is a mountainous pass. First, I didn’t expect this at all. And being the newbie rider that I am (remember, I’ve only started riding in Jan this year), this was my first mountain-pass-twisty and I was naturally nervous – keeping a death grip on my handlebar.

    Next, it started raining. No. Pouring. And because thinking that I was about to reach Mae Sot soon, I figured I’ll just soak it up and then wash up when I get to the hotel. Perhaps it was the nerves. But perhaps also due to my wet jacket, pants and especially gloves. I was shivering. I was feeling cold.

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    The mountainous twisty roads leading to Mae Sot.

    Perhaps it wasn’t my noob nerves or the rain. Maybe it’s me knowing for a fact that the bike’s gonna be gulping alot more fuel than usual in elevated altitudes (I’ve got a carbureted bike), and the low gear steep climbs. What if I miscalculated, and ended up running out of fuel before I reached Mae Sot? Cold, wet, and somewhat miserably worrying about the low fuel situation, I honestly didn’t enjoy this mountainous twisty as much as I should. I’m aware of keeping the bike rev’ed in the power band while negotiating the turns, but I was in super fuel conserving mode. The next 80km of the journey was a mix of cold and worrying. And because it was raining, I didn’t have too many picture taking opportunities.

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    Is that fuel usage precision or what! Empty when I reached Mae Sot.

    Ah! Finally! Thankfully I reached Mae Sot before I ran out of fuel! Phew! Should have refueled much much earlier. So after dinner, I went to the petrol station. Guess how much of that 12L capacity tank I had to fill up? 11.6L. Which means I only had 0.4L of fuel remaining – 0.2L of which is likely unusable. Lesson learnt. Always refuel when tank is about half.

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    The view from my hotel room.

    I headed to the nearby Tesco Extra to get more Thai Baht with my USD notes I was carrying. Had dinner there. Decided to give myself a little treat for having come this far.

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    Comfort food.

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    Hotel private parking. Goodnight lil’ one!
     
  8. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 5
    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 5
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    After 4 days of rather intense riding, I’ve decided to take things a little slow and confirmed my stay in Mae Sot for another night. With accommodation secured, I left most of the luggage in the hotel room, and travelled light, exploring Mae Sot and its surroundings.

    First stop was Tararak Waterfall – an approximately 35min ride from where I stayed. Riding without the luggage was interestingly refreshing. The Pulsar 200NS felt like an agile and nimble bike all over again.

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    To Tararak. I just love the sound of that name. Tararak. Tararak…

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    I can’t read Thai, and so I assumed the sign says this way to the waterfall.

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    Okay! All ready to trek!

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    Then I saw this…

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    …and this…. *pant pant*

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    …and finally this. Yes, the last part of the climb was an almost vertical climb. It was more like a ladder than a flight of stairs.

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    And all the climb to get to this.

    Hey! Wait a minute here! If they have built this shrine here, I’m sure there’s a road that comes up here. And so I looked around, and yup indeed, there was a road leading up here. Should have rode up here instead.

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    I’ve seen a few of these little houses built underneath trees. I think they’re for worship of some sort.

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    Golden statue of Buddha.

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    View from the top.

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    I couldn’t find the way to the waterfall, so I had to settle for the downstream mini-fall.

    I didn’t stay too long here, as honestly, the fall was a little underwhelming. So I headed to the next fall, the Pacharoen Waterfall. That’s another 20min ride away.

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    This way to Pacharoen Waterfall.

    The Pacharoen Waterfall resides within the Pacharoen National Park. Just a little walk into the national park, I was greeted with a cacophony of singing cicadas. I’ve always been able to recognise their distinct song, but never managed to spot one up close… until now.

    Yup! It was a huge one – about the length of my middle finger. I was careful not to approach it too closely and scare it away.

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    Ah! This one’s much better than the previous!

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    Awesome view of the Pacharoen Waterfall


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    Chilling with a cold drink. Seems like a punch of orange, pineapple and cucumber.

    I hung around Pacharoen for awhile before heading to Maekasa…

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    Enroute to Maekasa

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    500m ahead to Maekasa hot spring! I could already smell the sulphur in the air.

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    Maekasa Hot Spring!

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    The steamy hot spring fountain.


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    Feet soaking at the constructed hot spring pond.

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    38 to 42 degC water. Not enough to cook eggs.

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    Aahhh! That feels so good… until it stated raining!

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    So I took shelter at the nearby eatery and had my lunch there.

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    Past some fields on the way back to Mae Sot

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    Travelling through some dirt road.

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    And since I was in Mae Sot, I rode up to the Thai-Myanmar border. That’s the Thai immigration block.

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    That’s Myanmar just across the bridge. I didn’t have the necessary Myanmar travel visa, so this is as far as I could go.

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    Myanmar just across the river. The concertina wire barrier reminded me of my military days.

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    The weather was hot, so I ordered an ice-cold coconut. Refreshing!

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    What I love about it here is that I can ride up to the stall and place my order.

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    The skies opened and poured from late afternoon till evening. I was warm and dry in my hotel room, but was hungry. Since I didn’t want to ride in the rain, I ordered some food from the hotel. THB120 for the green curry and the “King salad”.

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    I’ve always wanted to do this…. Not breakfast, but dinner in bed. =)
     
  9. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 6

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 6
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    Day 6 – Mae Sot to Chiang Mai. 360km

    Probably due to the bumpy Thai roads, the Bajaj Pulsar 200NS seem to be falling apart here and there. =(

    The chain was loose (again!) this morning. With a little bit of effort, I managed to tighten it back up. It could have come loose because at the last adjustment, I was cautious of over-tightening the rear wheel axle nut. This time, I made sure the rear wheel axle nut is tight, really tight. After 2,700km of travelling, anything not tightened up properly is beginning to work its way out. I found 3 out of 4 bolts of the rear passenger grab bar coming loose. One has even worked its way out so much that it could have just dropped out anytime!

    Great! As I’ll have to pass Tak again to get to Chiang Mai, so I thought I’m now all set to enjoy that mountainous twisty road I didn’t get to enjoy 2 days ago due to unpreparedness, rain, and low, low fuel. Wrong!Barely 10 mins into the approximately hour-long route through the mountain pass, my tachometer reading went bananas! Initially, the tachometer needle was jumping all over the place. And then it settled at ZERO – not registering the engine RPM at all – although I was pretty certain that the engine was still alive. Next, the throttle response started acting up, and the engine was coughing away and died multiple times.

    Oh great! In a mountain pass?! With the bike’s erratic throttle response, I initially suspected a wiring issue on the RPM sensor connection. The CDI isn’t getting a proper reading and is firing the spark plugs wrongly. It wasn’t just a display issue – else the bike would be functioning normally albeit without the ability to display RPM. In fact, there were a couple of times I heard a loud pop from the engine – suggesting wrong spark timing. But I didn’t know where the sensor was. My first thought was to drop a message to the folks at Pulsarian Singapore Facebook group to ask for help. But there was no mobile reception in the pass! Great, oh just great!

    There was no shelter around where I could safely (and comfortably) troubleshoot the bike. So for the next hour or so, I limped my way out of the mountain pass, hoping to reach the next town for some mechanic’s assistance and constantly waiting for the mobile network signal to come back on. And in that miserable hour, random thoughts filled my mind.

    “What if it’s more than a wiring issue?”

    “Is it a chaffed wire? Oh dear, I didn’t pack any wire as spares.”

    “Is it the RPM sensor? Do I need to ship an RPM sensor in?”

    “Gasp! What if it was my CDI that failed?”

    “It’s Saturday today, and most people don’t work Sundays. Would shipping parts up here take longer?”

    “If I have to wait for parts to ship, perhaps I could rent a bike and explore the vicinity?”

    And so, it was an agonising hour limping along, and even having loaded trucks bypassing me. I was in motorcycle playground. But I couldn’t play. =(

    When I finally got out of the mountain pass roads, I spotted a highway rest stop and turned in. Found a shady spot and parked my bike. Tried to search for the RPM sensor but I didn’t know where its located. Then, by intuition, I opened up the rear seat and looked at the CDI. Removed it and gave it a good shakedown. Re-seated the connector and prayed.

    Viola! The tachometer’s needle came back to life! And the engine was acting normal again! Thank you God! The CDI’s connector must have jumped itself loose on one of those bumps. Thankfully, it was just a wiring connection issue. No show stoppers here. Phew!

    So it was lunchtime, and I pulled into one of those restaurants along the highway. Incidentally, this one serves Vietnamese food.

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    Me know no Thai word. Me like pictures! Pictures looks yum yum!

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    Bowl of beef noodle soup and plate of fish. THB75 for this meal.

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    Enroute, I passed Lampang spotted the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre. So I decided to stop and do the touristy thing.

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    Beware of cute elephants.

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    Now beware of the not-so-cute ones who might trample on you.

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    I missed the last elephant show for the day, but entry to the conservation centre on a park tram was just THB25. Great!

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    My new ride! GPS tells me I’m travelling at 2kmh. 1 elephant power here. Not sure how much that is converted to HP.

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    Parked my ride in the shade and went exploring on foot.

    The Thai Elephant Conservation Center is the only government-own elephant camp. When the Thai government placed a ban on logging in the forest, many elephants suddenly found themselves out of job. Forest Industry Organization then started this conservation centre to re-purpose these elephants and to study them. The place also house the National Elephant Institute of Thailand and an Elephant Hospital for the sick ones.

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    Saw this huge golden statue along the highway.

    And finally! After 6 days of travelling (and rest stops along the way) I’m here in Chiang Mai! The basecamp of the Mae Hong Son loop. Checked into my hotel room – which is on the 6th floor. Thankfully, this hotel comes with lifts.

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    The elephant theme continues in this hotel.

    I washed up and rested a little while, and before long, it was dinner time. And I was hungry. But….

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    Rain, rain, go away! Come again another day! sgBikerBoy wants to play!

    It was raining! No! Pouring! So I decided not to ride, borrowed an umbrella from the hotel reception, and walked to the nearby shopping mall. There was water ponding everywhere. My waterproof Sidi riding boots held up really well! Even when submerged in water up to ankle height, my feet remained dry. But my jeans… not doing so well.

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    Dropped by the pharmacy and got myself a bottle of calamine lotion for the bum rash that has started developing.

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    Got myself some snacks in case I got hungry.

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    And I got myself some local snacks. Hee hee…

    Tried the packet of chrysalis – didn’t like them too much. There was some weird aftertaste. Not aroy. Haven’t opened the pack of acheta yet.
     
  10. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 7
    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 7
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    I stayed in Chiang Mai for another night. Primarily because I found out that the Sunday Market was a must-visit, but also because the hotel had laundry facilities, and it was time to do some laundry. At highway speeds, my riding jacket has been the killing ground for bugs – especially butterflies, and so it’s time to freshen it up.

    The hotel doesn’t have a kitchen and didn’t come with breakfast. So I went hunting for some Thai breakfast.

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    Found a food centre opened. Everything else was still closed at 0730h in the morning.

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    So I bought a Thai sausage…

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    …and some Thai breakfast presents. Just love unwrapping these!

    And after breakfast, I headed up to Doi Suthep. Doi Suthep is a granite mountain just west of Chiang Mai. At 1,676m (5,499ft), it offers magnificent views of Chiang Mai city.

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    Finally! I got to enjoy this winding mountainous route towards Doi Suthep.

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    Panoramic view of the nearby village.

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    The opportunists set up food and drink stalls at one of the lookout points along the way.

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    Poser alert! Me and my Pulsar on Doi Suthep

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    The Bhubing Palace was built to accomodate the Royal Family during their visits to Chiang Mai. Built on Doi Suthep, it takes advantage of the naturally cool mountain air.

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    The Suan Suwaree or Rose Garden in Bhubing Palace is particularly famous. Here’s me stopping to smell the roses.

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    One of the decorative statues in Bhubing Palace

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    This jar was covered in moss. Grossly beautiful or beautifully gross? I like how the moss looked like the jar’s coat of fur.

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    The beautifully sculpted garden of Bhubing Palace

    Oh! I spotted a hummingbird! It was no longer than the length of my little finger. When I first saw it, I thought it was a humongous insect. And from the way it flies, I then realised that it’s actually a hummingbird. Awww…. so cute!

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    I had my first plate of Phad Thai in Thailand!

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    Can you spot the odd bike out? Love the way the Thais personalise their scooters.

    So, after walking the Palace grounds, I headed towards the temple on Doi Suthep.

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    But first, I needed a drink. This was really, really, really good! I subsequently bought another bottle from the same stall.

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    Sculpture of a buddhist monk. I don’t know who he is, but he must be pretty darn important. I’ve seem him in other places, and here, he was sitting at the same level as a sculpture of Buddha just across to the right.

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    The walk up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – the temple up at Doi Suthep. Pant! Pant! Not an easy climb!

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    Some words of encouragement on the climb up.

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    Detail of the stair sculpture.

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    I spotted many of these little girls dressed in similar traditional costumes. I suspect they would pose for a tourist picture for a fee.

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    Finally! Reached the peak of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep! The entire temple was decorated in gold (as in the color, not the metal). And together with the mid-day sun, it was quite overwhelming on the eyes.

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    This umbrella doesn’t provide too much shade.

    I went back to my room to get some rest. Found out that the hotel has massage facilities, and I opted for a 2 hour package. Ahh! Feels so much better after a session of Thai massage.

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    I headed to the Chiang Mai Sunday Night Market in the evening. This place is HUGE! Really HUGE! In fact, I almost got lost, and had to rely on GPS to get back to where I parked my bike.

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    Thai pork sausages. They looked like meat, but is actually stuffed with rice.

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    Grilled pork. You can probably tell by now that I’m a foodie.

    While queuing for the grilled pork, the Thai national anthem (I think) was played over the public announcement system. It was quite a sight to witness the busy market with hundreds of people suddenly coming to a complete standstill as everyone stood motionless and in attention while the anthem was playing.

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    “Pork sausage”. The looked like rice cakes, and had the same consistency as the fish cakes that I’m more familiar with. Nevertheless, served with the Thai spicy green sauce, it’s yummy, yummy, yummy!

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    Mussels with eggs. The Thai version of the Singapore “orh-lua”

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    Wat Inthakin Sadww Muang – the place where the pillar of Chiang Mai was placed in 1296. Wat’s (or temples) like this pepper the city of Chiang Mai. Many Wat’s are in the process of restoration. This one looked like it’s been recently restored.

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    Detail at the entrance of Wat Inthakin.

    Just as I was thinking that it’s the first day I’ve spent in Thailand without rain, the sky turned dark and looked ominous. With my GPS, I navigated on foot back to where I parked my bike and scooted back to the hotel.
     
  11. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 8
    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 8
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    Yeah! I plan to commence the Mae Hong Son Loop today, doing it in the clockwise direction. I’ll head towards Doi Inthanon – the highest peak in Thailand, and then just stop along the way at any interesting spots. This is how I normally like to plan an adventure – without too much planning. Pick a destination, and head towards there; stopping along the way as deem fit.

    But first, I had to familiarise myself with the area. So I fired up my laptop and did some basic research in the morning.

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    The Mae Hong Son Loop. Some serious research going on here…

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    …and off I go! Heading towards Doi Inthanon.

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    Spotted an unknown Wat along the way. Still under construction.

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    Past some paddy fields…

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    …and saw some farmers hard at work.

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    Entrance fees for the Doi Inthanon National Park. I’m pretty sure it says “Thai prices in gold, tourist prices in white.” I paid 320 baht – 300 baht for me, and 20 baht for the Pulsar.

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    Turn in to Maeya Waterfall along the way.

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    Majestic view of the Maeya Waterfall. I had my iPhone 5s set on a mini tripod and combined 10 shots to make this look like a long exposure shot.

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    Passing a family of cow. Almost knocked into one when it ran across the road.

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    Stopped for lunch along the way. Crab meat omelette rice and a tall glass of iced coffee. This was probably the best iced coffee I ever had!

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    More waterfalls in Doi Inthanon National Park. This is Mae Klang Waterfall.

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    …even more waterfalls. Wachirathan Waterfall.

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    Another view of the Wachirathan Waterfall.

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    This looks like some terraced paddy field.

    The roads up to Doi Inthanon were twisting and winding – the perfect motorcycle playground! On many occasions, I was forced to remain in low gear as the humble 200cc single-cylinder made its climb. I prayed hard that the engine doesn’t overheat and was actually rather relieved as I felt the ambient temperature fast dropping as we ascended. It got so high that I actually had to ride through a low hanging cloud, and visibility dipped to about 150m or so. The fog lights came in useful here.

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    Finally! Top of Doi Inthanon – the highest spot in Thailand!

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    My GPS tells me I’m 2,577 meters above sea level.

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    12degC. The mesh jacket did little to keep me warm.

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    An easy trek at Doi Inthanon. From the looks of the moss-coated wooden rails, this place must be wet most of the time.

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    This hanging angel’s trumpet was as large as my face! The plant contains toxic alkaloids which can cause blurred vision, dizziness, hallucinations and, in larger doses, death. I wonder why it has the “angel” name to it. Yikes!

    What goes up must come down. While the climb up was arduous, the journey down sought to release all that accumulated potential energy. As I passed some cars, I could smell the scent of burning brakes. I was conscious to not overuse my brakes and lead to a brake fade, and so I was on low gears most of the time. The road was so steep at some stretches that even at gear 2, I was gaining speed had I not used any brakes! At a manageable 40-50kmh on gear 2, my tachometer was reading approximately 7-8,000rpm – with ZERO throttle inputs!

    By the time I got down from Doi Inthanon, it was already close to 5pm, and I haven’t made any accommodation reservations. So I fired up the Booking.com app on the iPhone and searched for a nearby accommodation. After a little browsing, I settled on Kwan Lah Homestay at the nearby town of Mae Chaem. 550 baht.
     
  12. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 9 to 11
    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 9 to 11
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    The famous Mae Hong Son Loop starts from Chiang Mai and runs through Mae Sariang, Mae Hong Son, Pai and back to Chiang Mai. With more than 1,800 bends, and almost 700km of awesome views, it’s a motorcyclist’s (and basically any traveller’s) paradise!

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    I was the only guest in the guesthouse, and so had the whole breakfast table to myself. Basic breakfast in a typical Thai guesthouse – bread, jam, coffee, and nothing much else.

    After breakfast, I took a short ride to the nearby Mae Pan Waterfall, or Namtok Mae Pan. Mae Pan Fall is the highest waterfall in Chiangmai and cascades down a cliff more than 100m high. So it must be real awesome, right? But when I arrived, I was the only vehicle on site, and the place looked eerily deserted. Doesn’t look very much visited here, and the sign says it’s a 500m walk to the waterfall. Not too bad, I thought.

    Wrong!

    It’s a 500m trekking trail. And although the path was rather clearly marked, the uneven and slippery ground with thick undergrowth flanking on both sides make the trek to the waterfall not for the average tourist. Thankfully my thick jeans, waterproof Sidi riding boots, and my military-issued jungle hat fended me from the thorny plants that seemed to booby trap the path. My arms didn’t do too well as the t-shirt did little to protect, and I ended up with some light scratches on both arms.

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    Initial view of Mae Pan Waterfall

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    Finally! Reached the main fall in Mae Pan. I must say that it’s actually a lot more awesome than what my iPhone camera could capture.

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    Thumbs up for the sweaty trek!

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    Past some corn fields along the way. Not sure if these crops were grown for consumption or for ethanol. Gasohol – gasoline (petrol) and ethanol mix in 90-10 (E10) and 80-20 (E20) is common here in Thailand.

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    Couldn’t resist a wefie moment. Me, my bike, and a corn-ny background in a corny pose.

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    Thepphanom hotspring. This one is hot enough to cook eggs. I didn’t try though – no eggs only chicken; I was too chicken to get near the hot water. That’s approximately 90degC or 194degF.

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    Speaking of chickens, I noticed an interesting pattern on my rear tire.

    So I arrived at Mae Sariang and stayed a night. Just a quiet little town. Nothing too special. But that quietness and serenity was probably welcoming, and I had some of the best rest in quite awhile.

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    Welcome to Mae Hong Son! The name “Mae Hong Son” refers to both the region and the main town in the region. This sign was referring to the region, and not the town.

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    Lunch at a roadside stall The Thai version of the Singapore’s char siew and roasted pork rice. Aroy! But you really don’t want to see the sticky fly-paper placed on the next table. Eeeww…

    After 5,000km of riding, I finally went for an oil change. Brought my own oil (not so important) and filter (important) along to a local shop here in Mae Sariang. Cost of labour – 40THB, or approximately SGD1.55!

    I brought along the necessary tools and was prepared to do my own oil change if I had to. But hey! I’d gladly pay these guys 40THB to not have to break a sweat and dirty my hands.

    Yes – the entire oil change operation was done by the road side. Lol.

    Journey on!

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    Roadside oil change.

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    The motorcycle shop in Mae Sariang where I did my oil change.

    The carbureted Pulsar 200NS has been performing decently well so far. But lately, it seem to be idling strange – sounds like a choking generator diesel engine. And now, it’s impossible for me to start the engine in the morning without it dying. Have to use the choke for a few minutes to let the engine warm up. And no, I wasn’t in high’ish altitudes when I noticed this – just about 220m above sea level. Maybe it’s just the bike not taking the gasohol too well. Oh well, I’ll just monitor it for now.

    So I left Mae Sariang after 1 night, and headed towards Mae Hong Son (the town).

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    Finally! A highway cafe with a mainly English menu!

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    I was feeling really hungry, and probably because I felt so comfortable surrounded by roman alphabets instead of Thai sanskrit, I ordered a Phat Thai, a Song Tham (papaya salad) and a tall glass of iced coffee. Too. Much. Food. *burp!*

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    The Pulsar 200NS countryside shot.

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    Kinda sums up the weather and the reason behind it. I seriously have got no idea what Ban Mong is. But whatever it is, I’m not getting anywhere near there.

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    Enroute to Mae Hong Son, I came to a scenic rest stop with a little cafe. I ordered an iced lemon tea. It came with a free pot of hot tea and some nuts.

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    The view of the valley at the scenic rest stop just before the town of Mae Hong Son. Isn’t nature just so awesome!

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    17km to Mae Hong Son!

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    An unknown Wat along the way. What? Yeah – wat.

    So I reached Mae Hong Son and started looking for an accommodation. I eventually opted for a sweet little bungalow about 4km away from town for 600THB a night.

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    My bungalow in Mae Hong Son. Stayed a night here.

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    Shortly after I arrived, I inspected the oil and coolant windows of the bike. Oil looked okay, but coolant looked strange. Despite some vigorous shaking, I couldn’t see the coolant level. So I opened up the bike checked on the radiator and overflow tank, and only to realise that the liquid level in the overflow tank was above the max mark – which explains why I couldn’t see the liquid level.

    I fired up Trip Advisor app on the iPhone to search for things to do around Mae Hong Son, and the #1 recommendation was Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu – a white wat at the top of a hill.

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    Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu in the evening.

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    Detail of Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu

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    A different angle of Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu.

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    The view from Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu. You can see Mae Hong Son airport’s landing strip from here.

    As I explored Mae Hong Son the next morning, I wandered into a pigsty, and so I decided to explore the origins of all the pork I’ve eaten in the past few days.


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    Riding into the pig farm. Yup – no roads.

    #2 on the Trip Advisor’s list of things to do in Mae Hong Son was the Sutongpe Bridge. The Sutongpe is a bridge with intricately weaved bamboo for the floor. It leads up to a monastery on a hill.

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    The Sutongpe Bridge bamboo weave.

    This little guy was playing with a dog on the Sutongpe bridge. Update: Yup – he DID eventually manage to get the dog into the mudpool below.


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    A farmer tilling the pady field at Sutongpe.

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    Dinner in Mae Hong Son – stir fried beef with basil leaves and rice.

    And after resting one night in Mae Hong Son, I headed to the nearby Kayan or Karen (aka “long neck”) village. I’m aware of the controversies of these “human zoo’s”. These villages were formerly refugee camps during the Myanmar-Thai conflict, when these Kayans fled Myanmar into the borders of Thailand. When the Thai provincial government initially didn’t allow these Kayan refugees to take up re-settlement offers – effectively turning these villages into a “human zoo”, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed reservations for tourists visiting these villages. But this was later relaxed in late 2008, and the Kayans are now eligible for re-settlement. I think the ones remaining in the villages are not coerced, but decided to remain and preserve their tradition.

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    200THB per tourist. Plus 20THB for the boat ride. Yes – they are isolated by the river.

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    The boatman taking me to the Karen Village.

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    Say cheese! Oh, I gave the little one a printout of this photo from my LG Pocket Photo printer. He was so pleased!

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    This lady was weaving a scarf using only very basic tools. I bought one from her for 100THB.

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    That’s a school in the Karen Village.

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    The walls of most buildings here in the Karen Village are made of woven bamboo.

    The next day, I headed to Pai – the next town before returning to Chiang Mai. Enroute, I visited some caves.

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    Maelana, Dimond and Coral caves. I visited the latter two.

    At the entrance of the caves, the signboard informed that it’s 200THB to visit each cave – AND you MUST be accompanied by a cave guide. Initially, I thought to myself that this must surely be a tourist trap. 200THB per cave? Really? But since I was already here, I paid 400THB for 2 caves, and off we went! They allowed me to ride my bike up closer to the cave sites, and boy! This was probably one of my scariest rides! The roads were so slippery and steep that I literally had to “walk the bike” instead of riding it for fear of falling.

    But once at the caves, I immediately understood why a guide was necessary. We had to craw through crevices barely large enough to squeeze through and the multiple paths inside the caves literally meant that one could get lost inside if he weren’t familiar! And nope – no GPS reception inside!

    The stalactites and stalagmites formations inside these caves were beautiful. And you can quite see the water droplets hanging on the end of a stalactite just above where a stalagmite was forming. The guide however, instructed me not to touch them so that they could continue to form naturally.

    While cave exploring, we came across 2 sites with vandalism scribbled on the walls. The guide later explained that these were done by some Chinese tourists. Shame on you, Chinese vandals! Boo!

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    One of the better photos I managed to take inside the pitch dark cave.

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    My friendly cave guide.

    Enroute to Pai, I came across some of the most winding roads I’ve ridden so far!

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    One of the MANY hairpin bends on the route! Can you spot the Pulsar 200NS?

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    Really?!? Who designs roads like these? And if you think this looks bad on a 2D gps map? Try imagining this in 3D where many of the bends are ascending or descending – STEEPLY!

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    I stopped at a scenic highway stop for some lunch – at 1700h! Yup – I was too engrossed caving and riding that I forgot about lunch until I smelled the barbecuing sausages. 20THB x 2! Yum! And yes – it was cold AND raining.

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    Awesome view from the highway scenic lookout at 1,436m (4,711ft) above sea level. The sun was setting soon – had to get to Pai quickly.

    I reached the town of Pai before dark and checked into my accommodation. Just I was heading out to the Pai Night Market, it started raining. So I took shelter in a nearby restaurant and had dinner there. As I arrived Pai rather late and didn’t have time to explore the town due to the rain, I was thinking if I should stay another night.

    Bah… too wet, too cold and too tired now. I’ll decide tomorrow.
     
  13. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 12. Breakdown in Pai.
    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 12. Breakdown in Pai.
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    The room in Pai didn’t come with breakfast. So I went searching for some food in the morning. Came across a roadside hawker center and tried ordering some “Chinese Roll Noodles Soup”.

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    Chinese Roll Noodles Soup. Quite good actually! See those brown cubes there? They’re pig’s blood – made into a tofu-like texture. I used to eat them when I was younger, but you cannot quite find it in Singapore these days. I later found out that “Chinese roll noodles” refers to chee cheong fun – quite commonly available in Singapore and in Hong Kong (where it’s known as “cheong fun”).

    Since I arrived in Pai rather late last evening, and that it was raining the whole of last evening, I didn’t quite get to see Pai. And after breakfast, I decided to stay for another night. And so, I quickly confirmed it with the accommodation reception (who happened to be a Chinese student from Beijing, here in Thailand working for food and accommodation with no pay), and paid for the next night.

    I went exploring Pai. As I was riding aimlessly, and exploring the area, the bike started to feel strange. There was a sudden loss of power and the engine sounded like it was choking – not too indifferent from what I experienced a couple of days ago, but only worse this time.

    And then it died. It just died.

    The started button worked the starter motor, and I could hear the engine crank. But it just wouldn’t turn over and start. Air – fuel – spark. The 3 components necessary for the engine to work. My air filter should be good – I personally replaced it just a day before the trip and haven’t really done any off-roading. I’ve got a full tank of fuel and the last person to remove the fuel tank was myself, and I was absolutely confident that I’ve put it back properly. Spark – the last spark plug replacement was barely 5,000km ago. But I was praying real hard that it was the plugs – I had spares (in the hotel room, though).

    About 5km away from the town of Pai, I initially tried to, but later gave up pushing the bike back to town. My mind was racing as to what I should do.

    Am I gonna be stranded? Stranded in Pai? Stranded in Thailand? Stranded some 3,000km away from home?

    And so I flagged down a random car and sought help, and a male local who looked like he was in his early 30’s stopped. After some gesturing, he understood that my bike is dead and I needed help to get back into town. So he signalled me to hop on board and ferried me back to Pai. Barely a minute into the journey, he turned up the volume of his car’s stereo and started whipping his head around to the beat of the music. And then, he pulled out an opened can of beer and started drinking!

    “WHAT IN THE WORLD HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO??!?!!”

    Having my bike break down was bad enough. Being stranded is unnerving but still manageable. But now I’m stuck in a car of a drunk punk?!?

    He offered me an unopened can, but I politely declined. In my head, I was praying real hard that I’ll get to Pai alive. Please, please! Let me live. It’s only 5km away! No, my GPS tells me I’m merely 3km away from town.

    And so I tried to distract him from his drink and started a conversation. We spoke about the made-in-Thailand cars and how the Japanese have moved their factories to Thailand. He then showed me the 2WD / 4WD control knob on his SUV and (from what I could understand) how powerful the car was. And out of the blue, he suddenly swerved intentionally into the path of a car coming from the opposite direction and then back again into his side of the road and seem to be telling me how great the steering stability is on this car.

    WTF?!?

    Thankfully, before long, we made it into town – and in one piece. Phew!

    And then my troubles began.

    The owner of the first bike shop that I walked into was a grumpy old man who knew very limited english. I pleaded with him to come with me to take a look at the bike (or at least to help get the bike over), but he adamantly refused. The drunk punk was still with me and told the bike shop owner that I travelled from Singapore and am now stranded with a dead bike. Nope. He refused to budge nor help, and kept saying something along the lines of “you bring bike here, I see.”

    Frustrated, the drunk punk gestured to me to walk away, and we went to the next bike repair shop just behind the first shop. And after the drunk punk (whom I’m now beginning to like) explained the situation to the bike shop owner, the owner started speaking to me in Mandarin (Chinese). A Chinese Thai!! OMG! Thank you! I can now understand and be understood!

    And so the drunk punk realised that both the shop owner and myself could converse in Mandarin, he made his leave. I thanked him profusely and was grateful for his assistance so far (except for the drink driving and car swerving part.) After explaining my situation to the bike shop owner, he told me that he doesn’t work on “big bikes” and he only deals with small bikes – the 100cc or so scooters. And so, he directed me to seek help from the *other* bike shop behind his.

    “But…but… but I just came from there, and he wasn’t willing to help…”

    Sensing my helplessness, he told me that the most he could do is to get someone to ferry the bike back to town. He doesn’t work on “big bikes”. Of course, I was grateful for that offer.

    In Singapore, a 200cc single cylinder machine would be considered “small”. Here, it’s a “big bike”. It’s all relativity, I suppose.

    And so, after about 5mins or so, a songthaew turned up. “This to ferry the bike?” I thought to myself. “I suppose I’ll take whatever works!”

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    The downed Bajaj Pulsar 200NS on a songthaew. 300THB for the trip.

    And now that the bike is back in town, the 2nd shop owner reiterated that he doesn’t work on “big bikes”, and referred me to the 1st shop. Reluctantly, I pushed my bike to the 1st shop for the grumpy owner to take a look.

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    Grumpy owner of 1st shop looking at my bike.

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    I was hoping that it was the spark plugs. Pulled one out to check its condition. Maybe the carburettor and gasohol combination was running lean? Spark plug was replaced about 5,000km ago. Nope! Still looked relatively good.

    After a quick look, in his limited English and with a heavy dose of Thai, he seem to be telling me that he cannot work on the bike and its likely a piston or valve timing issue. He told me that he has “a lot other bikes to work on” and suggested that I went to the 2nd shop.

    Oh great! Now the 2 shops are pushing me to each other.

    So I went back to the 2nd shop – at least the owner could speak a language we mutually understood. He took a quick look, reiterated that he doesn’t work on “big bikes” and kinda said something about engine / piston failure. Oh great! 2 independent mechanics suggesting engine failure. He suggested that I brought it to Chiang Mai to get it repaired – if I knew where the dealer or agent was. Chiang Mai is some 3’ish hours away from Pai and is the nearest city. So if there’s any chance of getting my bike running again, it’s got to be Chiang Mai.

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    The 2nd shop – the “small bike” workshop.

    Thailand doesn’t have a Bajaj dealership. Not even parallel imports. Oh dear.

    Then the 2nd shop owner suggested I leave the bike there, go for lunch, find out where the dealership in Chiang Mai was, and the best that he could offer was to help me arrange for the bike to be transported to Chiang Mai. But transporting the bike there is gonna cost me between 2,500 to 3,000 THB.

    So over lunch, I recalled someone on GT-Rider recommending a shop in Chiang Mai where the farangs go to with their big bikes. The Piston Shop. The owner, Nat spoke excellent english. So I googled them up and called Nat, and told him about my situation. Over the phone, he told me that he was willing to take a look at the bike, although he wasn’t confident of getting the parts. I told him that I should be able to source the parts from Singapore if necessary, but I just needed someone who is willing to take a look – the 2 only shops here in Pai weren’t willing to.

    He said, okay!

    But now I needed money. I was running low on THB, but still had some healthy amount of USD with me. I had tried buying some THB in the morning, and although it’s a Friday, it happened to be a bank holiday and all the banks are closed. Oh great! And so I asked the owner of the restaurant where I could get some money changed, and they directed me to the Walking Street in Pai.

    “Can I walk there? Is it walking distance?”

    “No. You motorbike.”

    “But my motorbike is broken. =(”

    “Okay. I motorbike you there.”

    “Thank you soooo much! Kor pun kup!!”

    [​IMG]
    The really nice restaurant owner who ferried me to the money exchange, and waited 20mins with me at the exchange. The Thai are such nice people!

    So with sufficient Thai baht in hand, I went back to the 2nd bike shop and requested his help to arrange for the trip to Chiang Mai.

    [​IMG]
    2nd shop owner helping out to secure the Pulsar to the truck.

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    The Pulsar 200NS loaded onto a truck as I scrambled back to my accommodation room to pack my belongings.

    It was 3’ish when we left Pai. And the journey will take some 3 hours or so. I called up the Piston Shop in Chiang Mai, and the owner, Nat, told me that he normally closes at 6, but will wait for me until 6:30pm. We were cutting it really close. The truck driver spoke to Nat on my mobile to ask for directions and understood the deadline.

    [​IMG]
    The Pulsar taking a back-backseat.

    After days of riding the Mae Hong Son loop, it felt surreal and so different doing the final leg in a 4-wheeler. The route from Pai to Chiang Mai was similarly mountainous and windy. But at every bend, instead of leaning into the bend as I’ve gotten so used to by now, I was actually leaning AWAY from the bend due to centrifugal force. So different. So different.

    We reached the fringe of the city of Chiang Mai at approximately 6pm. But we still needed to make our way to the shop. The truck driver was quite literally making a mad dash for the shop as he weaved through (admittedly quite crazily) the evening peak traffic.

    I called up Nat to confirm that we were super near. Just stuck in traffic. He promised to wait till 6:30pm.

    We finally arrived! 6:25pm on my watch. Phew!

    Unloaded the bike, paid the driver 2,700THB (2,500THB for the “taxi” rental and 200THB for gas), and handed the bike to Nat and his workers. He tried cranking the bike, and it still wouldn’t start. Took a quick look and listened to the sound of the engine while cranking. He suspects an engine issue. Not electrical.

    Nat’s the third mechanic to tell me an engine failure. Oh no. Not good.

    Left the bike at the shop and lugged my 85L duffle to a nearby hotel. At least I managed to get to Chiang Mai.

    [​IMG]
    I needed something sweet at the end of the day. The mango with sticky rice (kao niu mae muang) was really good.

    We’ll see what happens tomorrow, Saturday. Oh no. This just have to happen so near a weekend. Bummer.
     
  14. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 13. Bad news.
    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 13. Bad news.
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    So I woke up in the morning and, as usual, went searching for breakfast. The Royal Peninsular was probably the nicest hotel I’ve stayed in Thailand so far. But at 650THB, it didn’t come with breakfast. Without my bike now, it gave me the opportunity to take things a little slower and I walked the morning streets in search for food.

    [​IMG]
    Walking along the old city of Chiang Mai. sgBikerBoy is now sgWalkingBoy.

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    Couldn’t find breakfast. So I settled for food at a cafe that sells Thai food typically consumed for lunch and dinner. That’s fried rice with curry powder and chicken, and a glass of Thai iced-tea.

    So without much to do, I went back to my hotel room and caught up with my blog and some emails. Perfect opportunity for me to slow down the pace a little. The guys at Piston Shop had 5 bikes to work on before it was my turn, and Nat estimated that they’ll get to start tearing down only at around 5pm or so.

    Just as I was about to head out to the streets, it started raining, and so I’m stuck in my room. Ordered a Pat Thai delivered to my room for lunch, and took the opportunity to do some laundry.

    At about 5pm, I called Nat to find out if they managed to start working on the Pulsar.

    “You should come over and have a look. There’s a big problem with your engine.” Nat said over the phone.

    Shit.

    So I swung by Piston Shop and Nat greeted me with a grin.

    “I don’t like that smile of yours” I said. “Something’s telling me it’s not good.”

    [​IMG]
    Nat and his guys ushered me to the rear of the shop where they were working on the bike, and showed me the oil strainer. It was covered in metal shavings. Not good.

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    And then he showed me what came out together with the oil. Ball bearings and metal bits. Oh dear!

    [​IMG]
    Nat took the time to explain to me that they first took the spark plugs out and looked for telltale signs. The plugs looked good which suggested that the top part of the engine should be okay.

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    The oil filter seem to have caught bits of iron shavings too. But the significant bits were on the oil strainer.

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    This. Doesn’t. Look. Good. =(

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    That’s Nat on the right – the owner of Piston Shop, and his guys working on the bike.

    [​IMG]
    Nat and I poured through the 200NS service manual and he suspected the bearings to come from either the conrod or the countershaft within the engine. He’s guessing the countershaft bearings.

    Nat was pretty surprised at the failure, and told me that it was rather rare. A possibility would be insufficient engine oil, but I ruled that out as I told him I’ve always been very careful about engine oil levels. He did note that I was using an ester-based oil (the Motul 300V signature green), and ruled out poor oil quality too. He asked me about the bike’s mileage, and when he learnt that the bike has only done about 33,000km so far, he suggested that I seek for warranty cover on this part.

    “But it’s a 3 year old bike, and the warranty is already over. It’s typically 1 year warranty in Singapore” I said.

    “You can try. I had a customer on a Ducati Multistrada who had a conrod bearing failure. It was also around 3 years old, but Ducati covered his repair under warranty, as it was later determined to be a manufacturing defect.” Nat quipped.

    “Yes Nat. But I believe a budget Indian brand and an Italian superbike brand have totally different concepts of warranty and reputations to maintain.” I replied.

    Nat just smiled and nodded.

    As it was close to 6pm, we didn’t manage to tear the engine down to investigate further. This has to wait till Monday. Meanwhile, we discussed options between sending the parts over or shipping the bike back. Nat told me that he once knew of a Malaysian rider who met with a rather nasty accident and had to send his bike back on a train. I told him that it’s not gonna be so easy for me as I have 2 borders to pass through. Also, Malaysia doesn’t have a dealership for Bajaj either, which means I cannot just send it to Malaysia and have them work on it.

    The Pulsar 200NS engine design is based heavily on the KTM Duke 200 and shares many parts. In fact, the 2 machines are made in the same factory in Pune, India. I hope that whatever parts that we may need, the Duke 200 has an equivalent. While there is no KTM dealership in Chiang Mai, Nat informed me that there still is one in Bangkok.

    “Cheer up! Enjoy Chiang Mai! At least it’s just a broken bike and not a bad accident!”

    True. I guess we can only find out more come Monday.

    Meanwhile, I tried to not let the incident spoil my adventure. Waited for the rain to stop and headed to the Saturday Night Market (or Walking Street as they call it).

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    The Saturday Night Market was smaller than the Sunday one. After some time, all night markets began to look the same.

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    Set up a BBQ pit and some bananas, and you’re in business! That’s simple!

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    Got myself some BBQ’ed octopus.

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    After what has happened so far, I needed some blessings from heaven. So I got a bottle of fruit juice from heaven.
     
  15. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 14 and 15
    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 14 and 15
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    While waiting for the engine teardown, I rented a Honda PCX 150 in the meantime as I needed some form of mobility around town. I found a bike rental shop not too far away from my hotel, and now I’m mobile again!

    [​IMG]
    sgBikerBoy is temporarily sgScooterBoy! My new ride around town.

    [​IMG]
    The hotel came with a small pool and I had so wanted to take a dip in it. But my recent right leg injuries are probably not gonna take the chlorinated water too well. Ouch!

    And so I spent the day wandering aimlessly around town, exploring the nooks and crannies of the old and newer Chiang Mai. After what’s happened so far, I decided to treat myself to a nice dinner. Strangely, the Trip Advisor iPhone app wasn’t working too well, so I fired up Google instead. Google Map -> Search -> Restaurants around me. Dash at Soi Ratvithi 2 came up and had pretty decent reviews (4.7 stars with 119 reviews). So I mounted the iPhone on the PCX and scooted towards Dash.

    [​IMG]
    Ordered a fresh coconut, some Thai fresh spring rolls and a Khao Soi – a traditional Thai coconut curry noodle soup dish, all set on a tatami-style table and plush thai triangle cushion. Ahh! What a way to enjoy the end of the day!

    The next morning, I called up Nat. And so, as luck would have it, it was the camshaft bearing that failed catastrophically. Yup – that’s the top part of the engine, and not the bottom. The Pulsar 200NS uses a SOHC design, while the KTM Duke 200 is a DOHC. So no compatible parts here. Which also means I cannot rely on getting parts from Bangkok’s KTM dealer, and will have to ship parts from Singapore. Aww…

    [​IMG]
    With the valve head cover removed, the timing sprocket was shaking loose. The Pulsar 200NS camshaft bearings have dislodged and made their way to the bottom of the engine. Nat and his guys were figuring out the possible paths the bearings might have taken to fall to the bottom of the engine.

    I waited for news from Nat as he and his guys tore the engine down further to inspect the valves and the piston. We were hoping that they weren’t (too) affected by the failed bearing. After which, we could then make a list of parts to order from Universal Motors – the sole distributor of Bajaj and its parts in Singapore.

    And news came…

    [​IMG]
    The valves were bent and the piston top was hit by the valves. You can see signs of valve contact damage on the piston head. Ouch!

    You know how some people come to Thailand for plastics surgery, and then some come here for a gender adjustment? Well, I seem to have come to Thailand for an engine overhaul. Piston, valves and the whole ging gang. =( All four valves were bent and the piston top was hit by the valves. So it’s a major overhaul.

    I sprung into action immediately. Went over to the Piston Shop, made a list of necessary parts, and called up Universal Motors in Singapore. The people at Universal Motors were really nice. I spoke and liaised with Chris, the manager at the Bajaj Service Centre. He patiently noted and looked up the list of items that I required as I spoke over the internet phone – with occasional disconnections. He got his guys to pack the stuff into a box and got it ready to ship, as I wired the payment over to him. I then called up FedEx to arrange for a pickup. Those guys at FedEx are amazing! As Singapore and Chiang Mai are major cities, they told me that they should be able to deliver it within 1 working day! By 5pm the next day! Really?! Wow-wee! The perks of globalisation. But of course, that doesn’t include any potential delay by the customs here. But we’ll see… we’ll see.

    I’m keeping my fingers crossed for now… If all things go well, I should have the Pulsar 200NS up and running by the weekend!

    [​IMG]
    Meanwhile, I treated myself to some fried bananas and ice cream. Thai-styled banana split?
     
  16. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 16
    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 16
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    6 July 2016. Day 16. I headed to the Lanna Expo at Chiang Mai Convention Centre in the morning. “Lanna” – or Northern Thai, also translates into “Kingdom of a Million Rice Fields”. It is the northern region of Thailand with somewhat different culture compared to the south. Today was also the last day of the Expo, and I thought I shouldn’t give this a miss.

    [​IMG]
    Lanna Expo 2016.

    The exhibition was huge! Much larger than I had thought it to be. The entire expo was divided into 12 zones, ranging from health tourism, to arts and culture, to northern food valley. Being the foodie that I am, no points for guessing which section I spent the most time in!

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    A section of the Lanna Expo teaching farmers various modern techniques of up-keeping their farmland.

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    Oh! And it’s Hari Raya today! Selemat Hari Raya to all my muslim friends! The Halal section of the Lanna Expo was pretty large.

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    I naturally gravitated towards this section. Hee hee.

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    Mobile banking redefined. This is literally a bank on wheels – includes a bank teller counter and even an ATM machine!

    And so I was enjoying the exhibition and was occasionally checking on my phone. Then I saw a Facebook message that popped up. Somebody left a comment on one of my trip postings on Facebook, reminding me that while typical visa-on-arrivals for Singaporeans flying into Thailand are good for 30days, visa’s for overland travel are good for only 15 days.

    My heart skipped a beat.

    I whipped out my passport to check.

    Oh shit.

    My passport visa had expired YESTERDAY. I’m technically an illegally overstaying alien. Oh dear, oh dear.

    I’m typically very careful with such things. How could I let this one slip? So I called up the Singapore Embassy in Bangkok immediately and sought assistance. And so the kind lady over the phone told me to head to Chiang Mai Immigration – which is near the airport – and get a visa extension. She also informed me that there will be a fine of 500THB a day for overstaying. Ah! I was thankful that this was discovered early.

    So I headed down to Chiang Mai Immigration near the airport. And when I stepped in and enquired, I was told that they don’t deal with tourist visa extensions here, and I’d have to go to their branch office at Promenade Shopping Mall.

    Okay. That’s a 10min ride away. Not too bad. And when I got there, I was pretty surprised. The Promenade Shopping Mall looked very new and very modern – a stark contrast from what I’ve seen of Thailand so far. Well, perhaps I’ve been away from modern civilisation for too long. But oh well…

    [​IMG]
    The Chiang Mai Immigration for tourist visa extension is located on the ground floor of Block A.

    And so I joined the queue, was made to fill up a couple of forms, told to go next door to get my passport photocopied (6THB), and required a photo (200THB).

    “200THB for a photograph??!”

    “No sir, you get 6.”

    “But I only need 1.”

    “But we only have 200baht for 6.”

    “Never mind. I’ll print my own photo.”

    And so I whipped out my iPhone, took a selfie, and printed it on my LG Pocket Printer. Saved 200baht. I was happy.

    So I went back to the immigration counter and submitted the filled forms together with the self-taken photograph.

    “1,900bhat for visa extension and 500baht for overstay fine. That will be 2,400baht.”

    “2,400baht??!” My eyes opened wide and my jaw dropped.

    “Yes. Cash only.”

    Well, I didn’t have a choice, do I? So I paid the fee and was told to come back after lunch. I went to the mall’s food court, had lunch, and returned to the immigration office and waited. It wasn’t exactly very crowded, but it seem to me that Thai’s love to take their time. It’s called “processing time.” And so, before long, and before I managed to fall asleep waiting while sitting on the chair, my name was called, they took a photograph of me, more waiting, name called again, and the passport with the extended visa was finally returned to me.

    Phew! I’m no longer illegal.

    And the next thing I had to sort out is my bike’s temporary import permit. It will expire 20 Jul, and the bike’s still in the workshop. It’ll likely be repaired before it expires, but just to be on the safe side, I’d like to check with the Customs Officers that if I were to take my bike to, say, Laos, and then return to Thailand, would I be issued with a new temporary import permit with extended dates? So after a little scrambling here and there, I found the Customs Office at the Cargo Centre which is just beside Chiang Mai International Airport. Spoke to the officer there and he assured me that I should be able to get a new import permit on my return trip.

    Phew!

    What a day! And as I heaved a sigh of relieve, I suddenly recalled that the shipment of my motorcycle parts should have arrived anytime now. I whipped out my iPhone and went to FedEx.com.

    [​IMG]
    The Bajaj parts have arrived from Singapore! Approximately 20 hours only from Singapore to Chiang Mai! And it even travelled to Guangzhou! Wow! I’m impressed!

    [​IMG]
    I swung by the Piston Shop to have a look. All parts neatly packed in a Bajaj box. 800THB customs tax on the parts though. =(

    It was a long day of running around sorting out administrative matters, and I yearned for some comfort food for dinner. I had a sudden craving for pizza, and so I went pizza hunting.

    [​IMG]
    …and I found Mad Dog Pizza!

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    Pizza, some buffalo wings, and a glass of mango smoothie to end the day.
     
  17. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 17. Chiang Rai.
    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 17. Chiang Rai.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    sgBikerBoy is on the move again! Heading further north.

    After several days getting stuck in Chiang Mai sorting out my bike repair, parts delivery, and visa matters, I was itching to go riding again. With the Pulsar 200NS still being worked on, I took my rented Honda PCX 150 and headed to Chiang Rai!

    Enroute, I passed by the Thaweesin Hospring, and turned in to explore. This one was not only hot enough to boil eggs, but was fiercely boiling over! Took a short video clip of the shooting hotspring. I think this one is not mechanically, but geothermally actuated.


    [​IMG]
    The part where they allowed people to bath their feet. I noticed every one who had their feet dipped into the water had their feet turned cooked-lobster red.

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    I tried dipping into the water too, but it was too hot to keep my feet soaked.

    And while making my way to Chiang Rai, it started drizzling. Then it started raining. Then it was POURING! I was the heaviest downpour I’ve ridden in ever! The raingear I had on did little to keep me dry. But that said, there were 2 areas where I was nice and dry; Head – the helmet did a pretty good job at keeping water out. Feet – the Sidi goretex riding boots were put to the test and passed with flying colours!

    Sorry. Rain. No pics.

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    Pulled into a Lanna restaurant in Chiang Rai for lunch. It was still raining and I walked into the restaurant like a drenched duck. Luckily, it was past usual lunch hour, and I was the only diner around.

    Checked into Inn Come Hotel. Walk-in rate – 600THB. Booking.com rate – 540THB. So I asked the counter staff if they could give me the Booking.com rate, saving them from having to give Booking.com any commission. They told me they couldn’t.

    “But I’m helping you save money! I walk in, you give me the lower rate and you don’t have to give Booking.com any commission! We both win here!”

    “Cannot, sir.”

    Okay. So I pressed the “Book now” button on my iPhone Booking.com app, right under the counter staff’s nose, and showed it to them.

    “Okay. I’ve booked on Booking.com. I’d like to check in now.”

    “Ok sir. 540THB please.”

    *Roll eyes!*

    Then it started raining again. So I was stuck in my hotel room for awhile.

    Thankfully, the sky started clearing by evening and I headed to Barrab for dinner. 4.8 stars on Google with very good reviews. The lady boss spoke excellent english too.

    [​IMG]
    The warm bowl of Khao Soi was especially welcoming after all the rain that I’ve braved today.
     
  18. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 18
    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 18
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    08 July 2016, Friday. And since my bike is still being repaired (yes, it’s been a week now), I thought I’d head to the famous Golden Triangle – where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet at the Mekong river. The weather today looked great! At the same time, since I was in the area, and if the weather permits, take a ride to the border town of Mae Sai, where the Thai-Myanmar Friendship bridge was.

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    Day 18’s route. Chiang Rai – Golden Triangle – Mae Sai.

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    It was a nice ride from Chiang Rai to Golden Triangle viewpoint. Proper roads and magnificent views.

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    Welcome to Golden Triangle.

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    Thailand – Myanmar – Laos. How the Golden Triangle got its name. I can understand the “triangle” part, but I’m still puzzled by the “golden” bit.

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    The giant golden Buddha at Golden Triangle. The people living here must be quite rich.

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    Another view of the giant golden Buddha.

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    I spotted a group of Malaysian bikers who made their way up here.

    Speaking of Malaysia, I was at a hilltop taking some photo shots of the Golden Triangle when I heard some people speaking english in a very familiar accent. Turns out that they were a Malaysian family who’ve just arrived a day ago.

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    The Ngo family from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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    The Thailand – Myanmar immigration border. The Thailand – Laos immigration border is just a few kilometers down the road.

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    I made friends with the local Tourist Police. I don’t have a Myanmar visa, but have heard it’s somewhat possible to enter Myanmar, though albeit restricted to somewhere near the border. He is the 4th person I asked if it was possible to do so. He said no.

    The area around the Golden Triangle was once known for it’s opium production and was an area once controlled by drug lords. In fact, the name Golden Triangle is synonymous to opium. There is an Opium Museum here (which I didn’t pay to enter as it didn’t look too great), and a tourist attraction called Hall of Opium. Ooh, and the former sells poppy seed cookies too! I didn’t buy them.

    [​IMG]
    Hall of Opium

    Hall of Opium is featured in Trip Advisor as one of the top tourist attractions in the area. 200THB entry for foreigners. It’s a museum presenting the history of the opium trade, especially in the area. It also showcases the social and political impacts of opium and how it lead to the opium wars. A rather interesting history.

    [​IMG]
    A opium pipe. This must have been used by one of the richer folks.

    After the tour in the Hall of Opium, I rode the PCX to Mai Sai – the northernmost town of Thailand. Here, a Friendship Bridge resides and is one of the Thailand-Myanmar borders.

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    Yes! It’s official! I’ve travelled from the southernmost tip to the northernmost tip of Thailand!

    After a quick lunch in Mae Sai, I walked over to the Thai Immigration counter and enquired the possibility of me going into Tachileik, Myanmar. Now, while Singapore passport holders enjoy visa-free entries to many countries, Myanmar is not one of them. (Although this is set to change in Dec 2016.) I didn’t apply for a Myanmar visa prior, and so I was kinda half expecting the answer to be a straight no.

    “Yes, you can. But you must pay 500THB at Myanmar border.”

    “Really? But will I be able to return to Thailand? I don’t want to get stuck in Myanmar.”

    The friendly Thai immigration officer laughed at me and nodded his head.

    Yipee! I can get in to Myanmar after all! Or at least part of it. Here’s how it works:
    1. Exit Thailand at the Thai Immigration counter. Passport stamped for exit.
    2. Walk across the Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge.
    3. Look for the “Foreigner Passport” office in Myanmar side.
    4. Tell the Myanmar immigration officer that you don’t have a Myanmar travel visa.
    5. He will collect 500THB from you. This appears to be an official fee and not a *ahem* bribe money.
    6. The Myanmar immigration officer will hold on to your passport.
    7. In exchange, you will get a Myanmar “Entry Permit” that’s good for 14 days.
    8. Welcome to Tachileik, Myanmar!
    [​IMG]
    How the temporary Myanmar Entry Permit looks like. Photo taken by a low-res webcam and printed by a crappy inkjet printer.

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    sgBikerBoy is in Myanmar! The Republic of the Union of Myanmar!

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    Singapore – Malaysia – Thailand – Myanmar. 4th country on this trip so far.

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    The first thing you’ll notice when you enter Myanmar is that they drive on the wrong side of the road – I mean, the right side of the road.

    In Thailand, drivers drive on the left side of the road – the right side. Whereas in Myanmar, they drive on the right side of the road – the wrong side. Geddit? So vehicles crossing the border have to make that switch somehow and somewhere in the middle of the border bridge. It’s actually rather comical to watch them switch sides of the road.


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    Immediately after crossing the border, I was harassed by this tuk tuk driver. 200THB for an approximately 1hr tour. Since I didn’t have my bike with me (can’t bring a rental bike across), I decided to ride the tuk tuk.

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    A wat in Tachileik, Myanmar. I’m not sure if they call them wat’s here too.

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    The inside of the temple.

    And just outside the temple, there’re dozens of pigeons. This kinda reminds me of Trafalgar Square in London.


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    Shwedagon Pagoda in Tachileik, Myanmar.

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    Two happy monks in Shwedagon Pagoda.

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    Then the tuktuk driver brought me to the Township Dhammayon. I’ve got no idea of the significance of this place.

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    2 happy dolls carrying a bell on a pole seem to be a common theme here.

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    A signboard in Tachileik, Myanmar. I feel so loved here.

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    I walked around the nearby market.

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    Wandered into the wet market.

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    …and the vegetables market.

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    No, that’s not some juice selling at the roadside stall. It’s petrol (gas).

    Heading back to Thailand was simple. Go to the “Thai and Foreigner Passports” office at the Myanmar border and returned the entry permit to the immigration officer. The immigration office will then return the passport to you.

    Got back to Chiang Rai in the evening. Time to get some rest. I hope my repaired Pulsar will be ready by tomorrow.
     
  19. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 19
    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 19
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    9 Jul 2016, Saturday. I woke up with excitement this morning. If all things go well, the Bajaj Pulsar 200NS should be fixed by today and ready to roll! It’s been 8 days since it went into the workshop for a top engine rebuild. And so I packed my stuff, left Chiang Rai, and headed back to Chiang Mai on the rented Honda PCX 150.

    The route between Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai runs through some amazing greenery and vast crop fields – something I didn’t get to enjoy when I rode up here due to the super heavy rain. With an amazingly nice weather, I took my time and rode at a leisurely pace of between 60-80kmh as I made my way back towards Chiang Mai. Oh, by the way, the PCX maxes out at around 100kmh indicated. Although the silky smooth Honda 150cc engine was pure pleasure when scooting around town, it doesn’t do too well on longer distance touring. I miss my Pulsar. But I thought I had better get used to these low’ish speeds as I’d have to run-in the rebuilt Pulsar engine – keeping speeds below 80-100kmh for the first 2,000km or so.

    [​IMG]
    Some crop fields between Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. Those colourful dots are farmers doing their thing while holding umbrellas shielding them from the merciless sun rays.

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    More fields…

    And somewhere along the way, I saw a sign pointing towards a local village along with the words “Tourist Attraction”. Well, I’m a tourist, and I got attracted. So I turned in.

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    Turn in to Suan Lahu Village in Doi Mot. GPS 19°6′30″ N 99°27′18″ E

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    And yet more fields along the rural road on the way in to Suan Lahu Village.

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    Some amazing views on the way to Suan Lahu Village. I spotted a girl’s head popping out of the crowded field of crop and took this pic. Can you spot her here?

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    Me, the PCX, and some amazing views.

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    I arrived at Suan Lahu Village in Doi Mot. GPS 19.089415 N, 99.457307 E

    The Suan Lahu Village in Doi Mot is a local remote village off the beaten track. A local tribe lives here, and they appear unaffected by modern day decencies. Yes, you can see children running around naked, and I spotted an older lady bathing somewhat in the open. Sorry, no pics.

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    The guy in the background was staring at me with unapproving eyes. I took this shot and quickly left.

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    Just one last shot before I left Suan Lahu.

    Before long, I reached Chiang Mai. Honestly, I find the Chiang Rai – Chiang Mai route rather refreshing. There’s enough scenery and twisties to keep me happy, but a lot less strenuous then the Mae Hong Son loop. Perhaps also partly because I was on a 150cc automatic scooter – twist and go with no need for clutch play. But the 150cc scoot is a tad bit underpowered though.

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    Before I could pick up my Pulsar, I had to return the PCX. Well, at least we had some good times in Chiang Rai together.

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    The nice lady who let me extend my rental by a couple of hours at no charge, while waiting for my Pulsar 200NS to be ready for collection.

    I was so happy to be reunited with the Pulsar 200NS that I forgot to take any pictures. With new valves, new valve springs, a new piston, a new cylinder, a new camshaft, new rocker arms, a new timing chain, and many other new parts, it’s almost like a new engine. And it certainly feels like one! The first couple of minutes on the new engine was pure, pure pleasure – the Pulsar 200NS engine has NEVER felt so smooth! Perhaps I got a dud when I bought the bike (I am the second owner), but the soft, smooth purr of this newly rebuilt engine was pleasantly unfamiliar to me.

    For the next 500km or so, I’ve to let the piston rings sit properly and I’m limiting my rpm’s to below 5,000 or so.

    Ah! Finally! Now I can journey on! sgBikerBoy is happy once again.
     
  20. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 20
    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 20
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    10 July 2016, Sunday. I collected my repaired Pulsar 200NS yesterday, and I’m itching to go riding again. But since the engine was newly rebuilt, I had to run it in like how one would on a brand new engine – keeping RPM’s below 5,000 for the first 500km or so, and speeds below 80kmh.

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    sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip, Day 20. Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong.

    The ride between Chiang Mai and Chiang Khong was one of contradiction. It was a dichotomy between the most agonising ride and the most pleasurable ride on my Bajaj Pulsar 200NS. The 300km ride was estimated to take 4.5hrs, going through some highways and some minor roads. But because I had a newly rebuilt engine, I was trotting along at speeds of 60 to 80kmh – keeping RPM’s below 5,000 for the piston rings to sit properly and valves to seal. The new engine was silky smooth and ready to roar, but I had to hold back on all that potential power. But negotiating every corner now puts a smile on my face as the jerkiness and engine sputter I was so used to is now completely gone.

    Getting from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong would mean passing Chiang Rai. Again. So some of the sights were very familiar to me as this would be the third time I’m passing them in 4 days. I did Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai and back just a couple of days ago. Anyway, every experience is new, yah?

    I remembered a highway rest stop called “Coffee View”. So when I passed it, I made a u-turn (it was on the other side of the highway) and stopped for a coffee break and some amazing views.

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    The repaired Bajaj Pulsar 200NS checks in at Coffee View, Chiang Rai. GPS 19°7′29″ N 99°29′8″ E

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    The view at Coffee View.

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    sgBikerBoy savouring a cup of iced coffee while enjoying the view at Coffee View.

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    Coffee View has a resort accommodation and a farm of fish, rabbits and (I believe) ducks for kids and over-aged kids to pet and play.

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    Enroute, I passed by a very interestingly named resort and restaurant. What do cabbages and condoms have in common? They both C (see). GPS 19°16′5″ N 99°30′42″ E

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    Some amazing scenery in northern Thailand.

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    The Bajaj Pulsar 200NS feeling lonely on this road with very light traffic. I was standing in the middle of the road to take this pic. No scared. No cars.

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    I arrived Chiang Khong in the late afternoon and had lunch at Rider’s Cafe.

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    Enjoying my second cup of iced coffee today. Caffeine power!

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    Lunch. Pizza and iced-coffee at Rider’s Cafe. They were playing english music in the cafe!

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    Saw this at the glass entrance of Rider’s Cafe. FY8626P, whoever you are, you’ve left your mark in northern Thailand! For the non-Singaporean readers, that’s a Singapore-registered bike plate.

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    I checked into a small hotel overseeing the Mekong River. I can actually see Laos just across the river. This hotel has some interesting bed sheet choices.

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    Scenic point at Chiang Khong of the Mekong River. See that land on the far bank of the river? That’s Laos.

    First day of riding since I got my Pulsar 200NS back, and covered some 300-odd kilometers. Good running-in so far. At this rate, I would complete my new engine run-in in just a few days. =)
     
  21. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 21
    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 21
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    11 Jul 2016, Monday. If you’ve been following my adventure tracks so far, you might have guessed that I’m trying to head into Laos. So I woke up early this morning in anticipation of the typical border hassles, especially at these relatively remote borders.

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    Woke up to a beautiful sunrise. View from my hotel room. You can see Laos just across the Mekong river.

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    Good morning Laos! Here I come today!

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    A little bit of bike maintenance. I forgot to ask Nat from the Piston Shop if they inflated the tires for me. So I did a quick check this morning before crossing the border.

    Since I was in Chiang Mai, I used the Chiang Khong – Huay Xai border, aka Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge IV. Here’s what happened:

    Chiang Khong (Thailand)
    1. Went to immigration counter. Was asked for passport AND “bike immigration papers”.
    2. I only had the bike’s (temporary import) customs papers. I was never issued the bike’s “immigration papers” at Sadao (the Thailand side of the Malaysia-Thailand border).
    3. Immigration office shook his head and asked to to head inside the main immigration office for assistance.
    4. Main immigration office’s officer shook his head and said something in Thai – seem to be blaming Sadao for incomplete paperwork.
    5. He said, “I do paperwork for you.” So he proceeded to fill in the incoming AND outgoing “bike immigration” paperwork. Gave me both copies. 200baht WITH official receipt, plus 20baht for photocopying my passport and driving license (first time I was ever asked for my driving license).
    6. Went back to immigration counter to complete passport exist visa and handed the outgoing “bike immigration paperwork”. I kept the “incoming” copy. Was asked to pay 200baht, but I insisted that I already paid the 200baht inside the main office and waved the receipt at him. He waved me off without collecting the money.
    7. Immigration escort required 500baht to escort me to the Laos border. Paid him.
    8. Moved ahead to the customs counter. Surrendered my bike’s “temporary import customs” papers. Demanded 100baht from me. I asked for receipt. He said no receipt. I insisted that I need a receipt if I have to pay the 100baht. He finally said, “OK. No problem. I give you service.” and shoo’ed me away. Scum!
    9. Followed Thai Immigration escort vehicle over to Laos border. It was a truck with the word IMMIGRATION printed in bold and the Thai flag on it – so I guess it must be an official vehicle.
    Huay Xai (Laos)
    1. Went to immigration counter. Was asked to fill in immigration arrival / departure form.
    2. Filled up the form and returned it to the immigration officer together with my passport. Gave me 30days visa without asking. Was asked to pay 200baht. I asked for receipt, and he initially said no receipt. I insisted for a receipt and he grudgingly gave me one. Serial no 00004. I think I was the 4th guy in the history of this immigration counter to successfully obtain a receipt. I’m not even sure how official this fee is.
    3. Moved forward a little more and reached the Laos customs counter.
    4. Was asked for the Thai bike exit paperwork. Gave to counter lady. She informed me that she could only give me 15days of permit for my bike. But I told her I’ve got a 30-day passport visa, and requested for a 30-day bike permit. After some long delay with multiple conversations with her superior, yet still ended up with 15-day import permit.
    5. Customs demanded a 100baht fee. Again, I asked for receipt. He said “no receipt”. I insisted. He then pointed to the bike import permit papers and said, “this is receipt” and sort of signalled that he was about to take that back if I don’t pay. I paid the 100baht.
    6. Welcome to Laos. Total bill – 1,000baht.
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    Welcome to Laos PDR!
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    Laos – the 5th country on sgBikerBoy’s 2016 trip!

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    The scenic view of northern Loas.

    I needed some Laotian Kips, and so I rode to Huay Xai town – which is about 10km from the Friendship Bridge IV – in search for a bank. The notes here are ridiculous – I whipped out 200USD and got back over 1.6mil kips. I’m Laotian a millionaire! Feeling rich now!

    Of course, the first thing I noticed when I entered Laos is that they now drive on the right side of the road. I had better get used to checking traffic from the correct side. Thankfully, traffic from the Friendship Bridge IV at Huay Sai border to Luang Namtha was very, very light. I think I spotted more heavy trucks than passenger vehicles.

    Next, if you thought that the roads in Thailand were bad? Loas’ worse! The roads here are so laden with potholes – some of which were as large as my entire chest, and some as deep as 2 to 3inches – that it’s practically impossible to avoid. I don’t think they’re termed “potholes” – they’re practically “mini sinkholes!” So I had to brace myself every now and then. Potholes aren’t the most fearful stuff on the road – it’s the uneven road surface that runs PARALLEL to the road. Imagine a newly paved road surface. Now imagine that before its cured completely, trucks start moving on it, making depressions on the road. And then cars of varying tire widths also follow these tracks – effectively creating a somewhat rounded ditch along the road. And if the 2-wheeler bike gets into one of these “ditches”, you start to wobble like hell. Made worse is that you’ll find it extremely difficult (if not sometimes practically impossible) to get out of the ditch, as we all know to never attack a raised surface at less than 45deg, much less at an angle close to 0deg! Welcome to Laos roads!

    Apart from the poor road quality, the view here in northern Laos is splendid! If you liked northern Thailand, you’ll absolutely love northern Laos! Scores and scores of greenery, carefully manicured paddy fields, and flanked by mountain ranges. I’m not sure if there’s Spring here in Laos, but if they do, I’m absolutely certain the flower bloom will make turn this place into a mini paradise!

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    The main crop in northern Laos is rice. You see paddy fields everywhere.

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    The villages in northern Laos are sparsely populated, and very, very basic. I’d estimate around 70-80% of the houses are made of wood and bamboo. Bricks and concrete seem are relatively uncommon – probably reserved for the wealthier folks.

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    A typical dwelling in norther Loas. And this is one of the nicer ones. Almost all houses are built on stilts. I wonder why.

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    Tribal villages with houses like this pepper along the highway from Huay Xai to Luang Namtha.

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    After all the border crossing hassle, I stopped by a restaurant along the highway for lunch. This is one of the most decent-looking restaurants along the road from Huay Xai to Luang Namtha.

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    Fried rice with chicken. 20,000kip – I don’t feel so rich anymore.

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    Informational tombstones in Laos telling you how far you are away from some major towns or cities. Nope – no informational signboards that I was so used to seeing in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and practically everywhere else in the world.

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    Refuelling is an easy decision here. Either petrol or diesel. No RON91, RON95, E10, E20, VPower with different pricing bullshit here.

    Northern Loas seem untainted by tourism. The towns (more like villages) you find along the highway are nothing like those in Thailand. No guest houses, no nice restaurants, no advertisement signboards. Just basic wood and bamboo dwellings with very light touches of concrete. In most places, as you approach a major town or city, you’ll start to see buildups along the way. Human settlements tend to start around towns and cities and than expand outwards. But there was none here. So when I was approaching Luang Namtha, I was getting worried. Is this really a “major town”? Will I be able to find accommodation?

    Finally got into Luang Namtha, and yes – I did manage to find a decent hotel room for 100,000kips a night. Luang Namtha is a sleepy town in northern Laos that’s very near the Chinese border. They don’t even have a supermarket here.

    So it’s been 2 days since I collected my repaired Pulsar from Chiang Mai. And because it’s a rebuilt engine, I’m aware that I’ll have to do my engine oil change soon. Checked my odometer, and I’ve done exactly 555km since I collected the bike. In Thai, the number 5 is pronounced as “hah”. So 555 = hah hah hah! Oh! But I just realised I’m now in Laos, not Thailand.

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    Found a local motorcycle repair shop in Luang Namtha. That’s my bottle of Motul 3100 with 600ml of remaining oil from the engine rebuild.

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    The mech working on my Pulsar. He didn’t have an 18mm socket and almost wanted to wring my oil drain nut with an adjustable wrench. I stopped him immediately and whipped out my own 18mm wrench and passed it to him. I cannot afford to risk a rounded nut up here.

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    I committed an engine oil sin by mixing oils of 2 brands AND different weights. Unfortunately, I forgot to purchase an additional bottle in Chiang Mai and have to make do with whatever they have here. The Bajaj manual calls for weight 50 oil. They only have 30 and 40 here. So between the choice of mixing oils or extending the drain interval until the next major city (another est. 1,000km to Vientiane), I opted for the former. 35,000kips for 0.8L of SAE40 Suzuki oil. At least it’s JASO MA compliant.

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    The night market in Luang Namtha is nothing exciting. You can see the ends of the entire area just by standing in the middle.

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    My first Laotian dinner. Fried rice with pork and a beer Laos. 25,000kips for the meal.
     
    pensionist likes this.
  22. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    So that's it! My northern Thailand trip report ends here in Laos. If you'd like to follow the rest of my journey, hop over to my blog at sgBikerBoy.com.
     
    lipmeng likes this.

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