Round Trip KL-MHS-GT

Discussion in 'Northern Thailand - Road Trip Reports' started by locoduc, Aug 24, 2008.

  1. locoduc

    locoduc Member

    I left KL on Saturday, 16th for a loop of the MHS and the GT over 16 days. I'm currently in Chiang Rai taking a break as I'm feeling slightly tired. But I've had a fantastic journey so far and some amazing scenery along the way. Here's a trip log to date:

    Day 1:
    Rode up with 2 friends who only had time to do the KL-Krabi round trip. We reach the Malaysian/Thai border around 1.30 Malaysian time:

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    I get to the train station but there are no tickets for the 0630 pm train to Nakhon Pathom. I'm a little surprised and decide to rest in Hat Yai for the evening. I had no choice but to ride the Kra the next day, maybe to Chumphon or Hua Hin.

    Day 2:
    I set off at about 7 am as I'm so excited. The ride along the Kra is pretty dull and I only stop for the odd fag break. I go past Chumphon, then Hua Hin and decide I'd try for Kanchanaburi. Get to Kanchanaburi about 0730 pm and check in my fav place, Hotel Pon Pheng (Baht 800 for "bungalow").

    Day 3:
    I thought I'd be shattered after the previous day's ride but I'm up at 430 am. Must be the adrenaline. Decide that I'd set off north as I really want to do the MHS loop. I head off looking for the 324 towards Tak but end up in Nakhon Pathom. What a nightmare. Once out of Nakhon Pathom, I potter along, passing through small towns with not much to see. Tak just seemed so far away that day:

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    I pass Nakhon Sawan, then see signs for Tak. It's almost 7 when I get to Tak but then see signs to Mae Sot. I decide I really want a "taster" and turn off left to Mae Sot. Mistake. It starts to rain and cross-winds are horrendous. But the ride across was worth it:

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    Get to Mae Sot but can't find the accomodation I picked out of Lonely Planet. Call up a friend and he suggests the Centara Mae Sot Hill Resort (Baht 1000) as you can park right up front. The view from my room:

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    Day 4
    I have a little wander around Mae Sot in the morning:

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    I get the itch and decide that I do not want to stay long. I want to be up on those mountain roads. I return to the hotel, pack up and leave for Mae Sariang:

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    Not too far out of Mae Sot, I see the first of many paddy fields, so green it hurts:

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    Then I see the mountains:

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    [to be continued]
     
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  3. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Locoduc
    Good to know you're having a good time, evidenced by the bit "I thought I'd be shattered after the previous day's ride but I'm up at 430 am. Must be the adrenaline.." That's a rider really enjoying himself!

    Please keep the report coming.

    I should be in Chiang Khong Wed or Thurs next week if you're still around; otherwise maybe to see you in Chiang Mai on the way back down.

    Watch out for the potholes on R1290 Mase Sai - Chiang Saen & R1129 Chiang Saen - Chiang Khong, as there are some huge ones after the floods.

    Have fun, take care & ride safe - it's a long way home.
     
  4. locoduc

    locoduc Member

    The pavement was generally in good condition outside of Mae Sot towards Mae Sariang (initially at least). What brilliant scenery. And the contrast: paddy fields with mountains towering overhead,
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    then suddenly dark, foreboding jungle next:
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    Then the pavement, disappears ...
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    The rains must have been heavy with this being one of the many "obstacles" on my way to Mae Sariang. I was beginning to curse my choice of tyres for the trip as I'd gone for Bridgestone BT16 or Hypersport tyres which were excellent for Sepang but not an inspired choice for these kinds of roads:
    [​IMG]

    At one point, I came across a steep but short slope which pavement had disappeared completely. The bike, luggage and overweight rider easily weigh over 300kg and I wondered if I shouldn't simply turn back. I have no off-road skills to speak of but knew the Duc would take care of me. So with a little prayer and from what I'd seen on telly, I make it over - just. And the reward, after a tiring but exciting journey across was this in Mae Sariang (River House Resort):
    [​IMG]

    Pity that the lovely receptionist couldn't join me for dinner. My favourite Thai dishes - Green Beef Curry and Beef & Basil:
    [​IMG]
     
  5. locoduc

    locoduc Member

    Think we may have missed each other-kind of anyway. Was in Chiang Mai a couple of days back and as I was walking along the street towards the Kafe, I thought I saw you on your Africa Twin. Very distinct blue, red and white machine? Thought you might have been on your way there but apparently not. Then checked on the forum and realised that at 630 pm no one was going to be around.

    In Phitsanulok at the moment making my way down south. Went by the Sirikit dam today - that's a story. I'll post pics up when I can. Net a bit slow so uploading tiresome.

    Catch up when I'm in the area next. I'm sure the lads back home will be raring to go once I'm done with my tales.
     
  6. locoduc

    locoduc Member

    Day 5
    After the ride the day before, I was hoping for a bit of an easier ride to MHS. Then as I got moving, I suddenly remembered that I was about to do the 1864 corners! But what a lovely day for a ride though. And this is supposed to be the wet season:
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    I think I've died and gone to heaven:
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    No one's kidding when they say there are 1864 corners. I was so focussed on not going over the edge that I forgot to take any pics. I did take a break at one of the "pit-stops" and came across this old fella:
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    No wonder he likes it here:
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    Then I thought I'd take a pic of myself:
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    (not so good..)

    Having clowned around enough for the day, I continue to take on some serious stuff. And I'm sure glad I have done some of this mountain-riding back home:
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    I get to MHS but as its only lunch time, thought, what the heck, I need more twisties and decide to head off for Pai:
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    I love Pai. It's so fresh and clean up there. Wonder why those people hang out there for so long.... Can't be the air as I didn't notice many walking about in the day:
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    (from inside a massage joint for much needed pressing)

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    (the view from the verandah of my room)

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    (love this hotel)

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    (love it so much I have to post another pic)

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    (maybe Starbucks will open up next door ...)
     
  7. locoduc

    locoduc Member

    Day 6
    I head out toward Chiang Mai, excited to see the city and to experience a bit of a change with so much countryside the last few days. I'm lucky again with the weather and the sun is out as I ride the winding roads to the city. I come across this coffee stop which has to be prettiest lay-by I've ever come across:

    [​IMG].

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    The ride to Chiang Mai is a short one compared to the previous legs and I'm in town shortly after lunch. But the traffic takes me by surprise and I'm caught up in and carried by it across the river. The GPS is of no help as with both mirrors now broken I'm having trouble navigating. I stop by the roadside after an exhausting hour going round and round trying to look for my hotel. A chap comes up as I'm taking a breather and looks over the Duc. He's a biker himself and happy to see another. He was kind enough to invite me in for a drink and cool down, got me a discounted rate at the Royal Lanna and even led me to the hotel! Their generosity and kindness so typifies for me, the nature of the people of this country (thank you Mr and Mrs Ong):

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    I spend the rest of the day wandering the streets:

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    I head off to the Kafe at about 6 pm but see no sign of bikers. I check on the Net and discover that no one's going to turn up until 830 pm at the earliest. Disappointed, I walk back towards the night market but spot a rainbow and think, well I'm here in one piece and have another week of riding. I'm happy again:

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    Day 7
    I'm up at 8 am the next morning and look out the window. It's already getting busy with traffic. Don't think I want to stay around for long - maybe another hour or so. I pack, leave and head off for Mae Sai via Fang. As soon as I pass the outskirts of the city, I have a huge grin on my face. I love riding and nothing beats being out on the open road on my bike.

    The journey to Mae Sai is an enjoyable one and before I know it, reach the border town just after lunch:

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    I head off to look for my hotel which is by the river but when I get there, see people with pails outside and lots of things out on the front. I assume that there's been flooding and was unlikely to get a room in this part of town. I find a restaurant, sit down, have a meal and re-consider my plans for the day. I didn't fancy going across the border to Tachilek nor staying in town. Chiang Rai is but 40 minutes or so away and I decided that perhaps the night life might be better there and opted for that.

    I'm almost out of town when I see signs to Chiang Saen. It's 3 o'clock, the sun is shining and I've not had my fill of riding for the day. I turn left and and I'm grinning again. Love the freedom and flexibility of riding alone. And what a decision - the countryside here in the north-east is no less spectacular:

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    I hit Sop Ruak, then realise that I'm at the Golden Triangle when I see this:

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    But what really captivates me is the sight of the awesome Mekong and Laos just across:

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    Sop Ruak is quite touristy and there are one or two sights:

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    I consider staying but the hotels look like they're on the wrong end of the budget for me and I continue along the river. And then I see this and I knew I was going to spend the night in this town, which I learnt was Chiang Saen:

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    I was really glad to have made the decision because the sunset here was the most beautiful of the trip:

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    Chiang Saen was also the cheapest in terms of accomodation of the whole trip. For Baht 350 at the hotel below, I got a king-sized bed with attached WC and most importantly, my bike parked right outside the door:

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    I find myself a spot by the river for dinner. I fish out my map and guidebook and plan the route for the next day. I ask the waiter and owner if a particular unpaved road was passable but due to my lack of Thai, do not understand my query. Two young lads later turn up at the restaurant. Turns out that they're a couple of Uni students from Bangkok and conversant in English. They'd come out because the owner had called them to see if they could help out the tourist-on-the-bike. Again, must say it - this really is the LOS.
     
  8. zaini63

    zaini63 Member

    Congrats and I envy you for embarking on this extraordinary adventure. Those pixs you posted make me want to go there again...oh! it brings back great memories of my ride there.

    If all goes according to plan I'm going up through Thailand to Laos and back end of this year with a couple of mates.

    You have the freedom of choice by riding solo therefore having the luxury to stop and take great photos without having being left behind by adrenaline charge mates (strangely they always seems to be in a hurry to hit the next town...to smell the roses perhaps?).
    Looking forward to you next installment of report...

    Enjoy your adventure and have a safe ride.

    Cheers
    Zaini
    Kuala Lumpur
     
  9. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Locoduc
    Day 6 & you're having an unbelievable good run with the weather there.
    Like the report & colourful photos. Keep it coming as it's a good ride trip 'n report.
     
  10. locoduc

    locoduc Member

    Day 8
    I wanted to be as close to to Sukhothai by midweek so as to to make KL by Sunday at the latest. I decide that I would go along the river to Chiang Khong then come back west, then south again towards Nan. The grand plan for the day was to get as close to, if not Nan itself:
    [​IMG]

    As I rode past the cornfields, I recalled some of the stories here about cobras so long, they stretched right across the road. I began to ride a bit more cautiously and hoped that I wouldn't have to run one over or anything like that. As you would have it, something did slither out from the undergrowth but quickly slinked back on feeling the vibes from the Duc. I know it was a snake but whether it was a cobra, well I'm sure glad I didn't have to find out. I was beginning to wonder what the fuss was all about riding in these neck of the woods when I see this:
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    Then this, and I am enlightened:
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    The river eventually disappears out of sight and I find myself up in the hills again. It rained a little bit mid-morning after which it got really hot and humid. I was losing interest in the ride due to the heat and keyed-in "Chiang Rai" onto the GPS. I then remember going down this steep but freshly laid road and up on it again like a roller-coaster only to stop at the very top. Villagers with donkeys were pulling their goods up the slope around the bend. I stop and look into the bend. The road is under all forms of debris caused by the landslide or collapse, I'm not sure. This was one road which I knew the Duc was not going to make down. I lose a bit of heart, so take it out on my lungs by having a fag. Feeling better I turn the bike around and head off further south towards Thoeng for the road back up to Chiang Rai. And I was really glad for that landslide when I near Phu Chi Fa:
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    On the way in to Chiang Rai I see this really interesting house:
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    I get to Chiang Rai and head off for the Red Rose Hotel. I was curious to see the Star Wars room and as it turned out, it was only 1 of 2 available. But its priced at Baht 950 and feeling that as I was being had, head off down the road and turn right along a strip. I come across this new joint called the Ruean Inn which became my home for the next 2 nights for Baht 520, with wi-fi and breakfast. Sweet.
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    I was getting a bit tired of being on the road on consecutive days and Chiang Rai was the perfect antidote. Small, quiet but lively enough for a few days. I quickly get into the business of relaxing by getting an excellent massage in the evening, then lunch the following day at this really good restaurant which i picked out from the guidebook:
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    Not having had a proper meal for days I ordered the lot that was available (northern curried chicken,beef, veg etc):
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    It's the first real break in the journey so far and I check on the mirrors - not healthy:
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    You can never bring enough tape ...

    In the evening I head off to the Old Dutch for dinner. These two boys from France were bike fans and surprised to see a Duc out here. They're 22 and have already tango'd with the beautiful ladies in Argentina, the sun goddesses at Ipanema and many other exotic girls and locations around the world. When I grow up, I want to be like them:
    [​IMG]
     
  11. locoduc

    locoduc Member

    Day 10
    I stayed for two days in Chiang Rai and was beginning to feel really settled. Or perhaps it was just the thought of having to ride all the way back to KL? I knew I had to move along and getting back in the saddle was what I really needed to do. And with that I saddle up and headed off to Nan as the day's destination.

    The day starts off well and I cruise along enjoying the view :
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    But my luck with the weather over the last week or so finally runs out and I'm caught in the rains. I don't think I'd quite overcome the fatigue and I have to rest at yet another layby:
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    But the scenery around Nan refreshes me and I perk up as I climb up the mountains:
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    But the pavement was not always so good:
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    I think I rode by a national park at some point and came across this:
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    Then the road climbs back up the mountains once more through the mist:
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    The sun peeks out a little and I get to take a nice pic of the cornfields:
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    But I'm really tired by this time, both mentally and physically, by having to constantly go up and down the mountains. It would have been alright I think, if I could have cruised a bit, but with the heavy load and decreasing tread on the sports tyres, I was averaging maybe 50-60 km/h or less. I turn to the GPS and key in Nan - the direct route. I then recalled David's haunting comments, not unlike Obi-Wan's, on one of the posts along the lines of "..... you could do both the MHS and GT, but you may run out of time...

    I get to Nan and head straight for the Dhevaraj Hotel (850 Baht approx. with breakfast, as its conveniently located in the heart of town. I didn't want to ride around too much and being able to walk to the markets and around generally was nice:
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    Though I enjoyed my meal at the restaurant below, on the way there and for the first time in the LOS, I actually felt a bit threatened. A group of young lads were hanging about in the shadows outside the rear entrance of a shop/supermarket which had closed for the day. I knew they were scrutinising me as I walked toward them. As I go by one of them says hello in Thai and as soon as I'd replied, turns to his mates and says, "farang". Not sure what that was all about but I carried on regardless, too hungry to care too much:
    [​IMG]

    Dinner was excellent and I finished off the evening with yet another excellent massage at the hotel, which has a centre on-site.
     
  12. locoduc

    locoduc Member

    Thanks, bro. I really wanted to experience the journey along the Kra by Thai train but would have been luckier if it'd been a weekday I guess. But Hat Yai's not too bad a place to have to stop la ..
     
  13. locoduc

    locoduc Member

    Day 11
    This was the worst day of the trip and one which pushed me to the limit mentally and physically.

    The plan was to head off to Sukhothai, spend whatever time that I had, if any, to look around the historic city before pushing off for Hua Hin the following day. Simple. But with so much to see and with signs to the national park/Sirikit dam screaming at me, my curiosity takes over and I turn off for it. I had checked the map the night before and had noticed a road (1026, then the 1339) leading straight down from Nan to the Sirikit dam which then apparently continues across the dam south-west towards Phitsanulok, then Sukhothai.

    The road leading towards the dam is fantastic and the view from up the hills nothing less than what I'd come to expect from this trip:

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    Maybe it was the heavy rain, or perhaps the road needed upgrading, but not far from the dam, I come across this:
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    I was hoping the road would not continue like this as I really did not want to have another go at off-roading but it wasn't to be:
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    Truth be told, it wasn't too bad in the end as this only went on for about 200 metres and I was greeted by this on the other side of the hill:
    [​IMG]

    And then I think I see the dam:
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    and I'm ecstatic to have taken the long way down.

    There's a small fishing village at the edge of the dam
    [​IMG]
    and I was quite tempted to get down for a drink on one of the floating restaurants, but decided to have a reccy first of the road across. But the road near the fishing village simply loops round and I find myself at the same bloody spot. I see a villager and in my best sign-language, ask him where the road across is. He understands in the end and points to the direction from where I had just come come from! My heart sinks initially but then notice a small path or road. He must have meant for me to go along that path and not the main road I think to myself. I retrace my way in to the point where I see a path off the main road and go down it. At the end of it, this is what I see:
    [​IMG]

    At this point, I was quite in despair. Had not eaten the whole morning, almost across the dam and now, I might have to take a boat to get across. But I didn't see anything that would take me across and decided that I realy had no choice but to turn around back through the road works, the hills, all the way back to Na Noi.

    But on the way back, the GPS tells me to turn off to head down another road. I stop to study this road but do not see it on the map. It's a long and winding road (4006, then 1026 ?) but shorter across to the main road south towards Sukhothai (101 ?). Unsure but wanting to get off the back roads desperately, I follow the GPS's instructions. The road goes past the villages, begins to snake up the mountains, narrows then breaks up badly. I'm down to less than 20km/h as I try to carefully manoeuvre around the potholes so as not to hammer the Duc in. I'm thinking to myself that I still have loads of road to cover to get to KL and I really do not want anything on the Duc to break now. I stop again and re-check the GPS. Having seen the road at this point, the 80 km now look like 800 km. Not knowing and not wanting to find out either about the conditions further down seeing as it was almost 3 or 4 o'clock by this time, I made the decision to turn the bike around.

    I finally get to Na Noi and decide against taking the road east of it back south and around the dam (1083 ?). I go back up north instead towards Klang Wiang where I'd made the turn off the 101 towards the dam in the morning. The 101 is a revelation. Brilliant winding roads and the Duc is in its element. I'm having fun again and the events of the morning recede to the back of the mind. I get to Den Chai but miss my turn south and find myself heading towards Lamphang. Stop the bike, turn it around and head back east again. Then the GPS tells me I should turn off down this road which is a short-cut to the 101. But 5 minutes in, the experience of the morning with the GPS tells me to disregard it and I find myself turning the bike back again to the turn-off. I get to the turn-off and find my way to the turn for the 101. I go down the 101 but wonder if the GPS is not messing about with me again. I check the map and the 101 is a "major road". It doesn't look like a major road to me. I turn back for the umpteenth time, this time towards Den Chai for the 11. There are no pics of the above as I wasn't in the mood.

    I bomb it down the 11 like there's no tomorrow, the GPS telling me that I would make Sukhothai just after sunset (I try not to ride at night in Thailand). I'm doing silly speeds on these roads (for me anyway - 160-170km/h) and stop only for the odd fag break. But Sukhothai is not drawing any nearer and the sun is really low. I hadn't planned for a night in Phitsanulok but it was certainly better than going a further 70 km to Sukhothai from there at night.

    And so it came to be that a really hot, exhausted, smelly but relieved Malaysian biker arrived at this nice hotel on the road leading into the city:
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    The room was 800 Baht I think, with wi-fi and breakfast. And I could park right in front.

    Days 11, 12, 13 and 14
    The next day was an early start. After the adventures of the day before I thought that I might head off to Hua Hin, rest up for a day or two then head back further south.

    But the express train that the Duc had become, nears Hua Hin at about 2 pm and decides that it doesn't want to do the 700 km to Hat Yai from there and perhaps Chumphon was the better half-way point. What I hadn't realised and which my body was desperately trying to tell me, was that I'd already done a fair bit to get to Hua Hin (about 700 km?) itself. By the time I get to Chumphon, I am spent. I'm hungry though and go into town to look for food. For the first time on the trip, I run out of fuel. I may have lived 8 of the 9 lives I had perhaps for the trip and remembering that I still had some buns left from the day, headed back to the hotel after finding a petrol station down the road.

    Day 12 is another crazy blast down the road towards Hat Yai. Except the 9 lives are almost up. The Duc starts to cut out at traffic lights and the sensors are going haywire. It keeps telling me I have no fuel. I keep re-filling, only to find the tank going down again in a matter of kilometres. I guess it must have been the gasses which had become trapped in the tank. Could this be the gasohol? I get to Hat Yai drenched, the rains finally catching up with me with a vengeance.

    On Day 13, I'm back on the road again right after breakfast. I thought of spending another day in Hat Yai but the border is only 60 km away. If there's anything I've learnt on this long and solo trip, is that I appreciate family and friends even more. I head off to Ipoh to break the journey and spend the night with family.

    Day 14 is an easy cruise into KL. At home at last - the bike made it and so did I. What a trip.
    [​IMG]

    Other things I learnt:
    -learn to speak a bit of the language of the country you're in;
    -never put 100% faith in a GPS, even if its top-of-the-range and which costs more than the trip itself;
    -learn to read a map, preferably one from Berndtsen & Berndtsen for the LOS;
    -finally, where there's a will, there is a way.

    Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed this little tale.
     
  14. Dougal

    Dougal Ol'Timer

    Locoduc congratulations!

    What a trip. Great report and lovely photos.
    Shame you got lost and lost a lot of time. Done it myself and then you end up rushing the last couple of days.
    Like me I hope you do it again and try to plan out those little hiccups.
     
  15. locoduc

    locoduc Member

    Thanks Captain Slash and Dougal. Yes, despite all the hiccups, I think I will always look back with fondness at the memory and given the chance, would probably do it all over again at the drop of a hat. But I'm moving off to Dubai next week and staying indefinitely so the return may not be too soon. Will be posting on the Dubai Petrolheads website of my trips in that region. Cheers.
     
  16. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Locoduc
    Beautiful trip & report. Many thanks for sharing with us.
     

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