The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Go To Nan

Discussion in 'Northern Thailand - Road Trip Reports' started by Kiwi Cruiser, Dec 22, 2008.

  1. Kiwi Cruiser

    Kiwi Cruiser Ol'Timer

    The Team:
    David - Honda Africa Twin 750
    Scotty - BMW1200 GS, a screwdriver too small...
    Ben - Honda Shadow 1100, with a BMW-sized screwdriver...

    The Plan: Meet at the big gas station on Highway 1, 1 km north of the Highway 120 Intersection, at 11:30am. Then, over to the start of Highway 1148 at Chiang Kham, and proceed to Nan for the night, followed by a day in the mountains on the 'big' Doi Phu Kha Loop. David sent me an SMS as he and Scotty left Chiang Mai en route for the meeting point. Flawless plan - I arrived from Chiang Rai at 11:25, and took possession of my iced coffee right at the point the boys rolled into the gas station! Excellent timing!

    Phayao to Chiang Kham is a featureless blast, and we took advantage of arriving at lunch time to have lunch... Took time out to visit the large wooden temple which Chiang Kham is renowned for.

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    As we were leaving, a large group of school children blocked David's exit with a wall of shoes! He was a prisoner, and lucky to escape...

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    Scotty and David at the 1st 11448 marker in Chiang Kham, prior to departure.

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    Gassed up on the way out of town and there was a brief issue with the BMW which was pedantic about being turned off in neutral... and got sulky and refused to start if Scotty was rude enough to turn it off in gear.. Hence the screwdriver issue, alluded to earlier... the BMW one was a pathetic excuse for a screwdriver - not solid enough to disconnect and reconnect the battery - the only way the BMW electronics could be persuaded to reset the starter / neutral connections so it would fire up... The bystanders ruthless harassment and derogatory comments elicited a strained smile... Pity was eventually forthcoming, and my big-assed Big C screwdriver donated...

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    The last couple of weeks, the air quality has deteriorated, along with the visibility, as farmers burn off the rice stubble. God knows why a genius has not invented a way of disposing of this worthless biomass in more environmentally sensitive manner. The Land of a Million Rice Fields generates an incredible amount of rice stubble, and it all goes up in smoke!

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    1148 - the stuff of legends... the vistas are stunning, even with the haze...

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    There are obvious signs of the aftermath of last rainy season...
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    The limestone landscapes are vastly different to the Chiang Mai / Chiang Rai provinces I've grown accustomed to...
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    On a note of caution - 1148 is an incredible road, with lot of steep sections with endless hairpins, sweeping corners and massive elevation changes. Run out of brakes in a few places, there might not be a happy ending, as this hapless local found out.

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    Actually, he was bloody lucky to walk away from this one! Had the truck stayed upright, he'd very likely have plunged over the edge of this or the next corner! As it was, he'd deliberately ploughed the truck into the bank on the previous corner, to bleed off some speed...

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    The nicest thing about Thailand is the friendliness of the country people. A brief stop for an iced coffee and a cappucino cake... the school teacher brings his senior students over for a chat with the strangers. Lots of educated people speak some English, and high school students are all required to learn.
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    This is a beautiful little village, and the side road to the east is well worth a brief diversion.
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    After a most excellent adventure, including a high speed blast on the last 75kms into Nan to beat the setting sun, we arrived at the Dhevaraj Hotel...
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    Thirsty work, riding fast into the sun. As we arrived, a beer was softly calling my name... "Ben... Ben darling..." A tall slim sexy Heineken, dressed alluringly in green... Actually, with the wiling assistance of Scotty, a brace of them were quickly dispatched while Fearless Leader was bathing in goats milk, or whatever it is he does in the shower... Never known a man to spend such a long time at ablutions... When it comes to "getting ready to go out" he's like my girlfriend... only not as attractive! Beer consumption brought the next problem to the fore - acute hunger...
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    The solution to that problem was the finest Caesar Salad in the Kingdom, pursued by a delicious pizza - all too much for me - that was a sturdy pizza, and I could not do justice to it "Can't pull it off with this equipment!" coz my belly's not yet big enough! Maybe next year, I'm still growing...

    Day Two: Doi Phu Kha Loop - the Big One

    It gets chilly in Nan. After the typical forgettable "free" hotel breakfast, we rumbled north out of town in search of the mountain... Fortunately it was not difficult to find on account of the fact that its really, really big and sticks up really high... Finding the back way up it might be a little tricky next time, as its neither well marked nor obvious and required a u-turn off the highway, doubling back a kilometre, a left turn onto a main road going towards the mountain, followed by an almost immediate left turn and zig-zags through small sois. Still, FL is a most trustworthy guide, possessed of an unerring sense of direction... and soon we were engaged in combat with steep mountain ridges and a long climb upwards towards the summit of Doi Phu Kha.

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    Discovering an oasis adjacent to the top was an unexpected bonus, and custard cake, cappucino cake and coffee always raises the spirits of boys on an outing...
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    Its a sparkling good view from the lookout by the coffee shop! Even on a hazy day - and a bit of image editing can help to filter the smoke from the images.
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    A chance encounter with a big ol' snake soon after was another unexpected bonus! David saw it, avoided it and stopped as I came tearing around the corner - I saw David braking in the shadows - but not the snake... He said "You ran it over!" in an accusing tone of voice.. WTF? I looked back and there's a bloody big snake wiggling off down the street, apparently none the worse for wear.
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    I ran after it to get in range of the camera, and used the 10x optical zoom to fill the frame - hell, those things BITE!

    The view from the last summit before the long descent towards Bo Klua... looking east towards the Laos border.
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    Ban Bo Klua
    or "salt mine village" is located in the bottom of a valley at the intersection of Highway 1256 and 1081. A hell of a long time ago, the region was at the bottom of the ocean. Aside from limestone hills another legacy is the salt water that is extracted from wells in the village, and evaporated off to produce salt. This was on a major trading route, and visited and recorded by the earliest European visitors a couple of centuries ago...
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    Well, well, well... 3 holes in the ground? :roll:
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    He never did tell me what he saw, down in the depths...
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    Pans of salt water being evaporated off over a wood fire. Note that lunch is cooking... dual-purpose fires save fuel.
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    Bags of salt, packed, being labeled and available for 25 baht a bag.
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    A couple of "shopkeepers" were persuaded to pose for a photo.
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    Lunch was at the salubrious "Ban Bo Klua Bar & Grill"
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    ...where the hostess whipped up a reasonable meal in rustic surroundings. There are GT Rider's whose aristocratric noses would have reared in scorn... but The League of Gentlemen fell to it with relish..

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    Well, actually, the lady had no relish... nor chutney, and no pickles neither, for that matter...
    The scenery is pretty awesome out here in the mountains. There are also some nice streams, and as its Saturday, no school... What do small boys the world over do on a sunny Saturday? Go fishing! No idea what they were after, but the shrieks and laughter drifting down the valley brought a big grin to my face! I've 3 younger brothers, and we spent a hell of a lot of time in creeks, catching freshwater crayfish!
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    They were wearing face-masks and going head and shoulders into the water in search of their quarry!
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    A brilliant Flame Tree provides a nice counterpoint to the AT on a corner...
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    We were forced to endure landscapes of extraordinary beauty all day!
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    A 17km diversion was made to a small village in search of a mystery chedi and museum, erected to commemorate a battle between the Thai army and Communist insurgents in the early 1980's proved fruitless. Its there somewhere though! A well concealed, low-key royal project, tucked away... Some 17 Thai soldiers died in the engagement, plus 40-odd of the Communist rebels. We did turn around right beside a new house construction project, and were an object of some interest to the builders!
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    Coming down out of the mountains in the late afternoon is a real blast. By now we've been on the road for over 6 hours, and its been constant accelerate, brake, gear changes, corners, potholes, and hanging on tight. My clutch hand keeps going numb from the wrist down, and my throttle-hand thumb is hurting like hell... The descent followed the ridge line from the top of the mountain... across the gully, and up the mountain this series of photos is taken from...
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    Eventually, we emerge into relative civilisation.
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    The Nan Immigration Border Post - newly built and poised to open, supposed to be "tomorrow" but the official opening has already been postponed 3 months.
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    The Nan Immigration Officer remembers David from 2 years earlier when he exited at this crossing with a broken arm after a falling off. He assures us it was the bike he fell off...
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    Sun's low, but we took a coffee break in Pua, where the BMW again proved recalcitrant; terse comment from Scotty - "Shoulda kept going!" This time, the BMW requires a push down the hill to start, but Scotty did not have his gear on yet... and to his dismay it turns itself off as soon as he returns and lowers the sidestand! :lol: Helmet and gloves are donned, but it fails to start with FL and I pushing it. Scotty is sure it will fire up on the long hill into town, and tells us he'll see us in Nan... He leaves... and in the distance it bursts into life, and he's gone at full noise!

    We arrive back at the hotel in Nan just on 7pm, with the last hour's run in darkness. All in all, a bloody big day out! As we arrived, a beer was softly calling my name... "Ben... Ben darling..." A tall slim sexy Heineken, dressed alluringly in green... Actually, with the wiling assistance of Scotty, another brace of them were quickly dispatched while Fearless Leader was bathing... etc etc... Its like deja vu, all over again!

    Day 3: The Return

    A deja vu breakfast, and hit the asphalt in different directions. David and Scotty head south to CM via Lampang and a planned diversion to "check out a road" whilst I retrace 1148 on home to Chiang Rai. Damned cold heading out of town before 9am, and I'm pleased I've got the windproof liner in the Alpinestars jacket!
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    Now, its fair to say I'm not disinterested in fishing (a lifetime of it, plus a decade as professional fly fishing guide in NZ). There are some nice looking rivers in Nan Province...
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    This one attracted my attention on the way over, and an early start and the sun on the right angle revealed a little more of it on the way back - and being alone gave an opportunity to digress...
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    This sign caught my attention... a RESERVOIR as well? Sounds very promising!
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    And led me to a bridge...
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    Where mum was doing the laundry while No.1 son propped up a log...
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    The excursion to the reservoir turned into a major hinterland exploration mission! First the road was good, that did not last - the pothole to pavement ratio becoming less than favourable! Then it became a concrete single lane.
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    Which kept going up... giving some stunning views...
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    And went on and on, drawing ever-nearer to the mountain range in the distance.
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    After some 20kms, the first significant signage - unfortunately bereft of English. On the basis of size, and number of arrows pointing right, I went the wrong way!
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    And ended up here, in a 1-horse town in the middle of nowhere, and apparently devoid of benzine - which is now becoming an issue due to the dinky little 12 litre fuel tank on the Shadow.
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    A retreat was in order, back to the main road, and back towards Nan approx 5kms to a handy little gas station. According to the goddess, the hot springs, reservoir and waterfall were on the left road - anyone been there??? My guess is Pong is just over the other side of that last ridge...

    Anyway, undeterred by that interesting but unsuccessful little diversion, my attention is (briefly) refocussed on rivers;
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    - including this little stretch at San Kaew...
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    However, the repetitive "Thai - Laos Border Market" signs eventually broke my concentration, and I was tempted into turning off 1148 in search of the famous border market... Even BIGGER Mistake!
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    The roads starts off well enough, but grows progressively smaller at each consecutive village, and eventually becomes a dirt road after 15 or so kms... great views... Laos in the distance, no doubt...
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    But the conditions are growing less and less suited to the Shadows soft suspension...
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    Retreated before I arsed off it and bent something expensive... Straight home for sure this time! 8)
     
  2. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Indeed it was one of "those trips" - extremely enjoyable / entertaining, sort of eventful & just what the doctor ordered.

    It started with the PTT cappuccino rendezvous.
    The brothers from Songkla in the south were up in the North with a convoy heading for a meeting in Chiang Rai.
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    one of their vehicles had a slight starting problem & unknown to us a sign of things to come. Fortunately they had many hands to help.

    Whereas we only had a couple.

    At the next petrol station "we" had our own starting dilemma & one pair of hands grappled with the problem
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    While two other pairs grappled with their respective cameras
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    I thought this BMW warning sign was quite appropriate, located just cms from the battery terminal connection.
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    The SEO Guy eventually came to the rescue & magnanimously revealed his brand spanking new screwdriver kit from "The Shadow Tool Box."
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    Not quite the Chiang Mai Toy Ride, but it still needed a handing over ceremony
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    Not to be outdone by the SEO Guys generosity I graciously rested the BMW seat on the AT.
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    It was all good fun we thought, but it was hot out there in the sun,
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    especially if you were the one doing all the work.

    Just prior to this it had been a quick visit to Wat Nantaram in Chiang Kham. This all wood temple is a beauty & well worth visiting if you're in Chiang Kham city.
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    Then onto R1148 it was, with the obligatory photo stop overlooking Sakoen. The SEO Guy leads the way for the best photo view.
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    The panoramic view
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    "Close ups"
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    Time to saddle up & hit the road
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    R1148 is a gem of a road for riding & scenery
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    A tree lined avenue?
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    Then a warning on the road
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    branches strategically & carefully placed as a warning.
    If you're new riding here, then these branches placed on the road are normally put there to warn you of a hazard / broken down vehicle ahead. So slow down & look ahead.

    And so it was, one hell of a lucky driver
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    who had the presence of mind when he knew his brakes were gone, to run the vehicle into the uphill the side of the mountain road, not panic & go over the edge. He was cool & survived unmarked!

    In Nan it was Pizza Da Dario's
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    for dinner & undoubtedly the BEST CAESAR SALAD in North Thailand!!
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    Don't miss out if you are in Nan. Indeed I seem to recall years ago just riding Cnx - Nan - Cnx for lunch & a Caesar salad at Da Dario’s. And yes it is worth it for the ride & food!

    The garlic bread's a bit alright too.
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    All of these foods photos were inspired by Happy Feet'S "grub posts" & it was only when we were half way through the cashew nuts that I got motivated to copy the idea (thanks Happy Feet)
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    Ha. Ha. Half a plate of cashew nuts.

    To be continued of course..
     
  3. Marco

    Marco Ol'Timer

    Nice post and pictures lads

    What a montens guys, must have fun to rode them.....
     
  4. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Route 1148, Chiang Kham - Tha Wang Pa. The # 1 motorcycle road in North Thailand.
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  5. Dougal

    Dougal Ol'Timer

    Great stuff guys. Love the photos.

    And they say our group can eat and drink!!!!!!!!!!! Look at you guys. Coffee stops, cake stops etc......
    Totally agree with you.

    We like to stop often for breaks and photo ops. You get to see far more and you get the feel of the place.

    And what happened to good old motorcycling? I remember flat batteries, won't fire off the kick start but computer malfunction???
     
  6. Franz

    Franz Ol'Timer

    Guys, that's a hell of a nice trip report !!!! Well David, shoes in a temple, tztztztz............... :oops: !!!! Love that one about the turned over pick-up, one more less on the road. :lol: Well Scott's Beemer must be a Monday or Friday bike when the assembly staff were in their minds already at the weekend or pissed off that there were 4 more days of work.......
    Burning of grass, garbage and grandmother, well the smoky season is here and even here in the plains, everywhere it's "happy burning", smoke's going up everywhere, hell who cares about pollution, need to get rid of all the garbage that accummulated during the year........ :roll: Just try to hang your laundry out to dry, well 'will get dry but full of that black slimy staff, just looked at the car's bonnet this morning, yak....... :evil:
    Would love to live in CNX just to be able to ride these beautiful roads up there frequently like David, Ben & Scott, cheers, Franz
     
  7. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    DAY 2. THE DOI PHUKHA LONG (NORTHERN) LOOP
    Date: Saturday 20th December.

    Part of the way up R1256 & the start of some good faster flowing stuff.
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    The Landdaw viewpoint
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    The view
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    The coffee 'n (packaged) cake stop
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    two very happy gentlemen riders

    The road & a warning as you start your descent from the ridgeline
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    Bo Klua city, the main street downtown
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    The Bo Klua Bar & Grill
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    note the security guard dog, snoozing on the job.

    Inside the BK Bar & Grill
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    The Grill
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    Bo Klua salt packed for sale to the Hmong
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    Aha, much further on up the road, a strange tourist attraction...
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    one I've raced past several times & not quite found or seen the exact spot.

    And what is it?

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    Yep, it's a spring / bog, right up on the ridgeline where the water starts to flow downhill to form the Nan river. I'd seen the sign several times, but never quite seen anything to get my attention & stop as I rode past. However with such an illustrious couple in tow, today was the day to stop & celebrate the spot. But was it worth it??? :?

    Out for a Saturday afternoon walk
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    A side trip to the Huay Kon / Muang Ngeun border CHECT POINT
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    The road, ok here, but it's chopped up bumpy asphalt & loose dirt / gravel
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    Supposedly Huay Kon was to be full international open on the 19th December, but the Lao were still not ready. We were advised that they (Thai immigration) thought it would be open on the Laos side on the 21st December if we wanted to come back & see. But not this trip, next time.

    In the late afternoon the light was glorious
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  8. Pikey

    Pikey Ol'Timer

    Awesome report. Great that you broke up the ride to stop and take loads of pics too. Excellent stuff! You've all probably had to jack up the preload a notch on the bikes judging by the amounts of grub you scoffed, but I guess that's all part of being a gentleman!

    Cheers,

    Pikey. (currently in miserable, cold, damp, grey England :-( )
     
  9. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    DAY 3. NAN - NA NOI -KHUN SATAN - HUAI KAET - PHRAE - LONG - LAMPANG - CHIANGMAI.
    DATE: Sunday 21st December 2008

    Up "early" & on the road at a brisk 0900 hrs. Unbelievable eh Franz?
    But it's true & it was cold & foggy
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    I would have liked a snap of myself out there in the cold 'n fog, but Scotty007 had his hands full with the naughty Beemer & was too scared to turn it off or let the side stand down, just in case. Ha. Ha.

    Anyway the master plan for the day was to ride the Khun Satan road R1216 from Na Noi - Huai Kaet on R101. This is sort of a side loop you can do off R101 between Phrae & Nan. Not many people do it, or perhaps even know about it, but it is another awesome road & ride in Nan.
    The last time I was up here it was still all dirt & it was quite something with bulldust & plenty of stones in the hot dry season.
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    Once upon a time too in Khun Satan you could see the Mlabri "Spirit of the Yellow leaf" tribe, some of whom worked for the Hmong as labourers / gardeners.
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    But the road's an asphalt beauty now, still with sweeping panoramic views. It's also still steep & trucks get a special warning.
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    A lot of the land is used for corn cultivation & some of the farmers know how to pack it on & carry a perfectly balanced load.
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    Note the black four legged pilot / navigator sitting up front!

    It's a long climb up from either side
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    But the road surface is good
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    The views are absolutely superb panoramic ones.
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    Scotty007 enjoying the view still in the saddle
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    Cabbage country
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    Aha, Scotty's selected neutral & it registers so it's safe to stop.
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    Come round a corner & a Hmong gift shop beside the road.
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    With an absolutely stupendous view
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    After a few minutes & some sweet talk, it was photo session time with the locals at their amazing viewpoint.

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    At ease

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    At attention
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    The reason why R1216 & the Khun Satan road is so amazing....
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    Do yourself a favour, ride to Nan & check it out on the way through from Nan - Phrae.

    We fueled up in Lampang, as close as we could get to Cnx, & the Bee Em started ok, so it was home sweet home Cnx around 4.30PM (I think.)

    Enjoy the ride - I did.

    Thank you to Ben & Scotty for your company & outrageous fun.
    And there's still that commie museum & chedi to notch up, but I know where it is now...
     
  10. rdg_john

    rdg_john Active Member

    Great pictures of some great roads.

    You're certainly spoiled for choice in your neck of the woods!
     
  11. Marco

    Marco Ol'Timer

    Are you sure that it's SALT in those bags..... :wink:

    Look so much similar than other white suff packed in same way and i dont mean flour.
     
  12. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    A final selection of photos from Scotty007, who is now on a plane going back to Saudi & work.

    His bike, & a bit naughty it was with that dodgy sensor
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    R1148 photos
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    The R1148 view over Sakoen
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    Aha, a real riding shot...a turn on R1148.
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    see the two bikes above?

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    The "Shadow" stuffing the AT up the inside at l-o-w speed. Ha. Ha.

    Down hill in a straight line
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    Another R1148 corner
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    Onto R1256 & Doi Phukha
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    A view from the lookout
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    Who said we weren't enjoying ourselves
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    The 1100 Shadow contemplating a corner
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    The Bo Klua turn off to Doi Phukha & R1256
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    R1081 & on the road north
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    (Ok we were on the wrong side of the road, heading south just for the photo, but North it was after a quick U-ee.)

    Road hazard
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    Not much diference in cornering speed or style eh?
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    the scooter was probably going as fast?

    A bit better
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    Sort of
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    No Christmas around here
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    Onto R1216 & Khun Satan
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    Homeward bound
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    Thanks for the photos Scotty. I'm sure you're going to have something to add once you're settled back in Saudi.
    It was a great trip, & despite the daily BMW teething problems we all actually had a good time.
    But I won't be returning the big Shadow screwdriver to Ben, it will remain in the AT toolbox for our next run. :wink: :wink:
     
  13. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

  14. helbob

    helbob Ol'Timer

    :clap::clap: I think imust go Nan in december, a very nice place :lol:
     

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