The Raider of Ranong!

Discussion in 'South Thailand Road Trip Reports' started by Blue Max, Jan 23, 2009.

  1. Blue Max

    Blue Max Ol'Timer

    Prelude to the Adventure:

    It's no good blazing to Ranong when your machine isn't in gleaming condition. So the near bald back tyre was changed for a new one (5000 baht) and for the hell of it, I changed out the front one as well.

    [​IMG]

    Fluids and pressures sorted I retired to the digs for my last night in civilisation...

    The Ranong Raider sets out!

    Setting off from the digs in Bang Saphan was far from simple, firstly my gloves went missing, then, as I checked the bike over my spanking new rear tire was nearly flat as a pancake!

    [​IMG]

    I sorted the gloves (stuffed in the other helmet) and called up the all-knowing Mr Kitt to give him the good news.
    After a palaver we both agreed I’d ride slow-slow to his shop and he’d take it from there.
    So off I went like a learner rider at about 15 kph for ten minutes!
    Arriving there Mr Kitt was straight on the ball and found the problem was the inflator valve seal was fcked. More than likely done by the heavy handed lads at the tire place.

    [​IMG]

    A new one was sourced and it was inflated, no probs I’m ready to roll.
    On The Road – Ranong Raider!
    This time there would be no fck ups or dropped bikes. I roared out of Bang Sapan via a lovely route towards Bang Saphan Noi )Route 3374, then 3411 and 3253 which got me back on the Petchkasem Highway South (Highway 4).
    There were some brilliant twisty corners and straights, good for both cruising bruisers and ninja sportsbikers. These small highways were in gleaming condition overall, 3411 is brand new almost! Highway 3253 had a few roughish sections but that was about it.
    On board a CBR 400 you’ve got a brilliant combo for both straights and corners. The scenery was beautiful, with the close in jungles and scrub gradually changing to the sweeping vistas and mountains on the road to Ranong.
    Highway 4 to Chumpon...
    Three times I had near misses. Once when I cranked the bike up to 100 mph+ and a pick-up driver decided to pull-out in front of me. Then an oncoming vehicle thought it would be a good idea to stay on the wrong side of the road and nearly ploughed into me, only at the last minute swerving off to one side. Then a convoy of those gaudy ‘VIP’ super-coaches seemed to like the outside lane a bit too much and tried to block me overtaking! It didn’t work guys ;)
    Highway 4 from Bang Saphan, through to Chumpon and then to the border with Ranong is fine, no problems. A few police checkpoints but no hassle.
    I stopped off for fuel just before the provincial border with Ranong. The petrol station only had grouchy gasohol but there was nothing for it unless I fancied walking to Ranong. This aside, the lads there were a good bunch and seemed interested in the roving Ryders machine. During our talk the older one of the group warned that the road from here on in was in poor condition compared to Chumpon Province. Keeping this in mind, after eating and re-fueling I set off for the final leg of the journey.
    The Last Leg to Ranong...
    It’s wasn’t in brilliant condition for the first 30 miles of so, but it was doable and comfy enough, much better than the holeway section near Prachuap. But the corners and turns were a great thrill. For those folk out there who aren’t in the know, you can overtake so easily compared to a car on a mountain circuit and really kick ass.
    I don’t brag a lot but for the entire leg to Ranong, only one car (I was racing)could pass me (albeit briefly). I’m telling you, as a certain GT Rider poster says, I kept the power on for nigh on the whole trip. After 20 miles from the PT garage the views opened up into a wonderful vista of hills and valleys. I was tempted to stop for a picture session but I figured the all-seeing eye mounted to my helmet would do the job with a pan here, a long look there I took a pass. Some scooter dude tried to race me through this small village. He had balls I’ll give him that for he pulled off a few extreme corners, but the contest was over in less than a minute and he was soon disappearing in my mirrors. Typically I’d zoom into the corner at about 60 - 80 kph, having dropped it 1 or 2 gears and get my lean on. This was a fairly good benchmark to ensure you weren’t edge riding over the center line. There was about 1 hairpin bend and a near hairpin bend if memory serves me. I’m no master of cornering but I nailed a really savage set of opposing camber corners (we know how you love opposing cambers WR!).
    After about forty miles I noticed a wierd sign with symbols denoting ‘Straight on – Ranong’ ‘Turn left – Ranong Port’ This was pretty quirky as I know that Ranong Port was very close to Ranong town itself and not this far out in the jungle mountains. Thinking nothing of it I boomed on straight and nailed the next corner to the right. Around this corner was a leg of traffic slowed by a truck. I was a bit weary with the constant adrenaline kicking in but noticed that there was a silver Honda Civic really trying to hammer past the truck. It wasn’t just that he was trying to overtake it was the frustration faction he was showing in doing so. The maverick dare-devil knew it would be a laugh to overtake him and the subsequent chase in which he’d try to catch me.
    Thai car drivers are notorious in considering themselves as a higher status than ‘mere motorbikes’. This status is quite ridiculous when most bikes above 250 cc can usually out-race a car driver. However the Thais are often a rash and dangerous foe if they lose face and if it came to a ram duel I would be in big trouble
    The dare-devil in me won the argument, the car/biker status quo needed to be balanced and now was the time... 
    I weaved and glissed up through the traffic until this civic was ahead of me. The corners were pretty tight and a shear drop hundreds of feet down to your death if you fucked it up. I knew I’d have to time this bastard right if I was to nail it without Civic man blocking me for the next corner ahead. Two corners went by, three, four. I’m starting to get edgy now, I’m in forth and the engines howling. The slow-moving truck is keeping civic man at bay from blasting on though. Then I line up against the right-rear bumper and as soon as we exit a corner and I see a ghost of an opening I open her up in forth gear and seize the moment. BBBWOOOOSH! I’m over the center lines and down a dip camber on the ‘wrong side’, so I’m almost underneath him! I’ve ghosted on a good inkling though and there’s no oncoming traffic charging around the next corner ahead, the camber rises up level again with the other side. Civic man see’s me and knows he’s goosed up and tries to block me but it’s too late, I’m in front of him just in time to give it both brakes and dump the speed down to 80kph for the hard left corner. Overtaking the slow truck is childs play and soon I’m in front and roaring away from them. But Civic mans pride has been buzzed on and sullied. I just know he’ll be flying around those corners like a mad man to try and overtake me. I’m proper stuck behind another convoy of slow movers. I pull to the front, he’s two cars behind me.
    I overtake the truck, not giving it enough throttle though as civic man roars past! The Race is on! I drop it back down two gears into forth again and give the beast a blast of throttle. It was time to give the Storm-Child her first taste of mountain racing. He’s now powering up to the corners and I can tell he’s aware of my advantage in straight-out-and-out acceleration. I corner with him, keeping him no more than 50 yards ahead. A bad set of corners that I under-cook means he’s pulled ahead by about a hundred yards now. Not for long though as the straight is too long for him to maintain a good enough lead to the next set of corners. I nail them better than average and keep the gap to 50 yards again. One last corner then its the straight. I boom up to within 25 yards, a bit close for comfort but in a battle of corners the car has the edge and I need to be close. He corners, I corner with him. Apex hit well on course. Coming out of the corner... The exit path for overtaking is clear as crystal. Throttle open, I nail it, as I pass him I glance to my left. Expecting to see a snarl, a glare or perhaps a nod, all I see is bright tinted windows. I wonder if the driver is a farang perhaps, on his way to do a visa run? Whatever the driver is or isn’t he’s lost and the Raider of Ranong is clear for landing! :)
    It wasn’t all good times and fortune once I’d arrived in Ranong. The first place I pull up to is a Hotel just inside city limits.

    [​IMG]

    I enquire about the rooms, at first I enquire about monthly prices. At first the butch thai lady who comes out says 4500 baht. Then after I umm and arr they drop it to 4,000 baht. She then says the usual palaver. Aircon, hot water etc. She also states WiFi which picques my interest a little. While I’m not hungry for the lady I’m not ignorant either and I enquire about the girly scene at the hotel, in answer she makes telephone signs and points down the road to the nearby spa building. Knowing where I stand on that front I ride around Ranong before I make my choice of digs. I find the Pier place after some helpful Thais at the nearby petrol station give me directions. Although I’m a visa run veteran of Ranong it’s a very different story when you have to ride yourself into the place. The little thai dude confirms my thoughts on the lay of the land though and after thanking him I’m soon riding down the pier road. As I pass the thai immigration building on my right. Seeing it there, unchanged since my last adventures brings back the memories. I keep on going, on my right is the pier itself. As I pass the security booth (hands out tickets to cars for hand in later) I am suddenly being hailed by this frantic little asian dude to my right. It’s just as well traffic is keeping him from getting to me as I’m sure he’d want to grab me off the bike If he could reach me! He’s jumping and gesturing furiously with his hands. At first I assume he works with the security booth and wants me to go back and get a ticket. Then I next assume he’s the local lunatic who likes to act the fckwit. I roll past the gimp and do a circuit of the pier complexes on the one-way system. My minds wheels start to spin and I come to the assumption he’s a tout. Before I’d never encountered touts so far from the pier boats. But times change I guess and the tourist drought makes then even hungrier. Sure enough as I pass him (he clocks me) he’s making the ‘visa-stamp-passport’ sign rapidly, a tout afterall.

    [​IMG]

    I check into the outskirts hotel and the same thai woman is waiting. The rooms are 400 baht a night. Spartan but clean enough. The room I'm given I later learn is 313, but rearranged 331! It seems even the thais consider 13 to be an unlucky number! Hoping my luck won't be too bashed I agree to the room. Three Burmese babes are cleaning rooms nearby and, as if reading my mind the big fat mamasan of the hotel starts chirping up in thai ‘Mai Dai, Mai Dai’ Phom Mae, Phom Mae ‘No can, no can. I Mother, I Mother.’
    I was a bit taken aback by her gobby way as I was certainly not likely to pounce on them there and then. The devil in me was tempted to fire out a price and note what her reaction would be if 4,000 baht was on the table. ;) Not that I’d go through with that course of action you must understand but I felt a wee bit compelled to take her measure and see how much of a ‘mother’ she really was.
    With the door closed I reviewed the helm cams footage of the days biking adventures. As I reviewed the first section my heart sank. All that can be seen is tarmac and the front canopy/fairing of the bike! The second – ditto, third, forth, fifth same story! DISASTER! The footage is ALL useless. All the near misses, the wild mountain race versus Civic-man and much more is forever lost 4 hours of footage for naught!
    At first, in a near rage I contemplate hurling the entire camera system out the window! Indeed the makers of the camera often bally-ho the toughness credentials of the system, perhaps time to see if it’s the real deal! Then I remember...
    The night previous I’d finely adjusted the camera-mount to point more groundward (as the previous days footage had a high-angle bias). ARRRGGGHHH!!!
    It wasn’t time to get despondent or low now though. I’d be on a visa-run tomorrow and I’d need my wits about me if tout-features was going to be faced.
    Glad of the fact I’m only staying in the outskirts Hotel one night I set off to explore the town of Ranong for the ‘low-down’ and to find some better digs...
    The bar scene in Ranong is fairly interesting. They have a ‘Walking Street’ area which has about twenty or so bars with a number of bar/restaurants intersperced between them.

    [​IMG]

    They aren’t ‘in-your-face’ girly bars but a few of them have girls in them that look to be available.
    The Kareoke bar next door was a let-down. Very much a straight-laced and boring place for old thai couples. The tunes were cheap and synthesized with a man and woman doing their best to sweet up the vibe but it was lame. I was still going to try and enjoy the vibe but the no-smoking policy inside killed any hope of that. Ordering a Leo beer I discretly ask one of the thai staff about the girl scene. After a minute or so of her calling about she reveals that a girl can be brought to the Hotel. I digress and let it at that. Blind, pot-luck isn’t really my thing, I usually like to see what I’m getting and negotiate before having the girl just show up at my door.
    The next day it was visa-run time, enjoying the view from the hotel for the last time I leave the 'unlucky' room behind.

    [​IMG]

    First thing is I check out of the Outskirts Hotel and find a place closer into Ranong. It’s 250 baht a night and decent enough. The dude explains that massage places with ‘available women’ are nearby. I don’t feel the pressing need but note the info for later. Besides which I needed to get my visa-run head on.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Some sloppy food at a rough restaurant on the pier road later. It wasn’t worth the 35 baht for noodles but I guess the hustlin’ starts from here on in...

    [​IMG]

    The last time I’d done a Ranong visa-run was nearly four years ago. Thinking it can’t of changed that much I follow the port signs and head into the immigration complex on the right hand side. It’s deserted apart from three thais, two immigration officers and a minicab driver. I park up and head past them inside and stop. The usual door I’d gone through so many times past was now marked ‘DEPORTATION’ in the big lettering. Not wanting to encourage the immigration dudes I start looking for a door that has the right signage. An immigration officer comes up to me and he explains that they’ve moved the immigration section for visas to the Sangpla pier 5 months ago. We have a brief palaver about my bike and the usual small-talk before I set out for the Sangpla pier, wondering what new changes have been woven this time around...

    [​IMG]

    I get there, usual orderly chaos of thai/Burmese toing and froing and the even stronger stench of salt and fish in the air. I parked up and stepped on inside, the mad tout of yesterday was nowhere to be seen and I move over to the immigration queues. With my departure card already filled out it was a breeze through the departure window, stamp out and negotiation time with the longtail men for passage to Burma.

    [​IMG]

    Now the actual methods, ways and means for the passage is a dividing point for a fair few farangs I know.
    You basically have two ways of completing your visa run. The most adventurefull way is to do it your own way and be independent. This, is how we roll at OTRT and I was no exception.
    We'd be longtailing it out and back...
    [​IMG]

    The other way is to pay a company (there are plenty up and down the pier road) to do all the travel by couriering your passport for you. This will cost you about 900 baht. I think you even don’t have to wait in the queue either, but this can’t be confirmed. The big name that gets smoozed around is the Andaman Club.

    [​IMG]

    It’s said they are the best for doing this kind of thing, despite sounding like a dodgy ladyboy cabaret act! It’s also said they have an island casino they take visa-running farang too. I later learned that the speedboat on the previous picture belongs to the Andaman giving it additional, high speed clout.

    Not wanting to spoil the fun I choose the former, mentally noting to investigate the casino avenue later ;)
    Ranong Pier has changed radically since the days of 2004-5. The filthy mud bank leading to mudsand has been transformed by a set of concrete steps going to the boats. Most notable though is the large concrete pier that runs out to a jetty, here the dozen or so longtails await.

    [​IMG]

    I walk down the pier and negotiate with the boatman. I try 150 baht return but he’s sticking to 200 baht. I’m not a cheap Charlie so I agree to the price. You don’t pay straight away and I jump on board.

    [​IMG]

    As we set off I take note of the other farang on board. A middle-aged farang (German I later learn) and two rough-looking Swiss girls. Both seemed the trashy backpacker types, you know the kind, fresh silly tattoos and clothes. Possible dykes too but I wasn’t going ask. The weather was sunny with clouds and it was gonna be a roaster of a day. After stopping at Thai immigration island for the thais to stamp out (why they have to go here and not have one on the mainland is a mystery) we set off for Victoria Point immigration island.

    [​IMG]

    The Estuary we cross is peaceful this day, in the past this crossing has been fraught with rough currents and choppy waters, a grim passage if you are on-board a longtail, especially if they catch you a-port and starboard. This time though the waters are calm.

    The next islet we pass has a building/shelter with the ominous sign of ‘Immigration Check-point’ or words to that effect. Not that I’m worried but it’s yet another new ‘thing’ the powers-that-be have added and somehow seems to be eroding at my free-spirited mood on Thailand. As if to reinforce this the boat crewman passes me a passenger manifest sheet and a pen! I feel like I’m back in the forces running cargo now! Adding some totally radical details onto it with the minimal personal ones I pass him it back. As I’m not a criminal out here I really don’t do the red-tape bs when it comes to personal details. I have my passport and that is enough IMO.
    On the way there I get my first inkling that things have changed on the Burmese side, the little longtail crewman starts chirping in my ear for 5 baht to get a photocopy of my passport, considering the 200 baht fee they’ve charged I ignore him. You didn’t need that before, now you do, more red tape. As we approach the island I can see that the old building is now fronted by a sheltered pier to make mooring up easier.

    [​IMG]

    Where before you could enter the ‘hallowed’ immigration house (well a three roomed bungalow) now the little longtail guys gather up your passport and monkey off the longtail to the pier and disappear inside instead. They’d have our passports stamped into Burma while we cooked on the longtail, no sweat I wait and take in the surrounding islands.
    The younger of the two Swiss girls tries to take a picture of the pier but is bellowed at by a Burmese official until she lowers her camera. It always amazes me how overly sensitive they are about silly crap like this. I think they must have an ego trip they go on seeing us all come along to Burma and leave again. ‘Pay your $10 but don’t you dare photo our magnificent bungalow and pier!’
    Heh, thankfully I did my photo thing 4 years ago before they had sets of eyeballs watching boats coming in ;). Just imagine a sheltered pier in front of it and you get the scene...
    We set off again, once the longtail man’s returned with our bundle of passports. I’m always wary about handing over passports but handing them over on a moving boat really pisses me off. One false move and they could be dropped by the thais and lost to the estuary and then we’d be in a blackhole of beauracratic shit.
    Passports back in our grasp we make the final leg on the water passage to Burma.

    [​IMG]

    An olde temple on the hill I remember from years ago is still sitting in its usual place. How I pity the folk who have to ascend and descend the hundreds of steps!

    The Honey Bear hotel still stands, albeit with a new paint job. No sign of the fine sail-boat moored there years ago, a Burmese Navy Gunboat is there in its stead!
    Here at Victoria Point you can get a lot of contra-band like whiskey, cigarettes and generic Viagra. The trouble is there are now strong rumours of crack-downs on people smuggling them in. The main ‘angle’ on this being the Burmese and the longtail crews tipping off immigration. A fine gets levied against the farang caught and both the Burmese and longtail crews get their ‘cut’. Indeed Viagra being one of the prime things being looked for (as it’s illegal to bring in). I notice one of the crew talking into his mobile phone, letting the touts know we’ve arrived.

    [​IMG]

    Sure enough before we’ve even set foot off the boat they are upon us. OTRTs stores have plenty of ‘contraband’ already so I know I don’t have to risk a contraband run this time but I do feel compelled to ‘take their measure’ on this.
    First things first I walk down the bridge across the jetty towards the Burmese immigration offices on the right. I step into the middle one which I know does immigration. Three startled Burmese officers then point to the small building opposite, it has hordes of farang, Laos and Thai queueing up. Great, another change from the last time.
    Inside the two desks for immigration with PCs running are a world away from the immigration procedures of a few years ago. I remember fondly just having to have your $10 tucked in the passport and you’d be stamped out just like that, no questions asked and even a crowd could be done in less than a minute. They’d smile and be friendly and you’d be on your way. Now though you can’t waltz in and out anymore, globalisation and big brother makes it take even longer!

    First off all they take your $10 and clumsily count it and tally the money with the passports handed over. Cool, then instead of handing them back, they pass the stack of passports to another desk. This has the big brother computer system with the camera on it. They have the computer system running, but I think they are useless at it as for some reason the guy behind the desk just keeps you waiting and waiting and waiting. We’ve paid our money, gotten our stamp out but this lazy moron just has us hanging around as the pile of passports from the rest of the queue builds up to about fifty. He could process each one at once and save himself the aggro but instead we are kept waiting ten minutes. I’m finally called forward to peer into big brothers camera and pray the system doesn’t mis-accosiate me with some farang arms dealer or the like. I’m good, Mr Lazy nods and I’m free to leave.

    As I peruse my passport with the new stamps I cheer up again when I see that the Burmese have granted me 14 days stay. It used to be a lot harder to get that. I guess the big brother bs has it’s trade-offs. The touts now descend and start stringing for contraband off us. I’m carrying my bike helm and one of them tries it on. His head is too big though and it nearly gets stuck! We all chuckle and the big brother bs is forgotten about. I get the usual big bike questions, one of the hard-core touts points out that the same helm I’m carrying is worth about 2,500 baht in Victoria Point. I’m pretty chuffed at that. I only paid 850 baht brand new in a thai market. :O

    The talk switches to contraband and I get quoted 100 baht for 4 Viagra. That’s a good price. The same as four years ago, at least some things haven’t changed. I’m wary though, as to being busted. I put him to the question on being shook down and fined. He evenly replies that the shake-downs have stopped and it’s safe to smuggle Viagra again, he looks away to the left and I keep to my promise of not smuggling. I keep pressing him on it anyway, eventually replying it’s dangerous for farang to carry Viagra across now, mentioning the Check-point Islet. Interestingly he shifts tack and agree’s to have some sent to me in Ranong by courier, he wants money first though. No deal I reply, money after. I buy some orange to cool down a bit. And before long be leave Victoria Point behind.
    Once again, for some unknown reason we stop at the Burmese island immigration pier. Two cute Laos girls are on the neighbouring longtail and I briefly start chatting them up.
    Then we’re off again, coming back was interesting, somehow the longtail engine kept cutting out and we’d be stranded for a minute or so until the pilot could re-start her. A bigger and sheltered longtail started to close in behind and it was soon neck and neck. I could tell the crew wanted to win the ‘race’. With the mid-day heat blazing down. I’d donned my helm and the relief was instant, with the visor open a crack letting the air in I was in clover.

    I caught a really sweet picture of a sea eagle or condor swooping about overhead four years ago.

    [​IMG]

    It might not look brilliant to the professional but it was taken on max opt + digi zoom and getting a steady shot was a ninja test...

    This time only a white seagull thing was gliding around though.
    We pulled in to yet another Islet.

    This was swarming with twenty or so thai soldiers all under a vast pier canopy. One carried a loaded M-16 the other nineteen I guess were there for encouragement and would shout harsh language at any invading foe. The longtail pull up to the soldiers pier and I now reckoned we’d be searched, as the rumour-mongers state happens occasionally. Instead one of the soldiers starts pointing at me, I ignore the arrogant prick until he starts gesturing for me to take off the helmet. I do so with casual slowness, satisfying him that I’m not a headless farang out to destroy and decimate Ranong pier he smiles and we are allowed to go on our way. Yet another strange moment, yet another change from 4 years ago!
    Back at the Sangpla Pier the longtail crew succeed in beating the big longtail and we scuttle off the thing and up the pier to immigration arrivals. Thinking we’ve breezed it I step up to the window and to my dismay I’ve not filled out my arrival card! Usually I do it in the queue but I’d no pen and forgotten completely. Telling me to go away and fill it out I do so, I pop my head around the window and ask to borrow a pen. I get a brusque no and scoot about for five minutes to get one. Now if the arrogant twat had lent me his I could of got the card done in thirty seconds flat but no dice. I go to the back of the queue which takes me 30 minutes to get to the front again. Paying off the longtail dudes I make the most of it and chat with one of the farangs there. He’s a traveller and we comment on the changing face of Thailand and globalisation bs that’s changed Ranong and Victoria Point. Then the two cute Laos girls arrive behind me, making the time pass a little sweeter :)
    The Ranong Raid was complete :)
    Visa run done here’ the low-down on the prices:

    Lone Wolf Style -

    200 baht longtail boat fee (return)
    450 baht = $10 border fee (in Ranong black market, 500 baht if you use the longtail men. Even Cheaper if you get $ outside Ranong.)

    On the Andaman speedboat

    400-450 baht speedboat fee (return)
    500 baht border fee (if you exchange using the boat people)
     
  2. Loading...


Share This Page