THAILAND (playlist of youtube videos I took)
I didn't mention in the Cardomoms post that when in Koh Kong I went to the border with Jim 1, technically the owner of the bike, where we found it would be possible for me to cross the border with the bike with sufficient documentation (detailed here). So off I went like a shot with less than a day's planning. A mate said head to Ko Chang and Pattaya, thus a route was planned. Ko Chang I reached with little fuss, just retracing my steps from Phnom Penh to Koh Kong via National Highway 4 then Highway 48, along that lovely twisting plunge through the hills again. The border crossing was 1.5hrs of paper shuffling, but was relatively painless. Ko Chang I reached in about 1.5hrs although not before severely overshooting the ferry turnoff by 25km due to having too much fun fanging down the roads. I got there in the dark, thankfully the last ferry's at 9 this time of year, and took pretty much the first room I found given that I thought there would be very few available and I just wanted a place to crash. Turns out it was on White Sand Beach, the snootier end of the island but what the hell I was on holiday. I wish I'd had the sense to forego the loony plan to head for Pattaya and just stayed there for three more days but off I went the next morning after a quick jaunt round the island seeing a few sites. The road is a rollercoaster, headspinning negative g on some crests and all! It was also fun feeling like I was the only one on a real moto there, jealous looks are the best compliments!
Pattaya was a dense neon jungle crawling with sexpats, Russians, Scandinavians and water pistols. I forgot to mention that I was on this holiday because of Khmer New Year, although they had the same holiday in Thailand - only calling it the Water Festival. It certainly was. The first town I entered across the border was Klong Yai, only to hike it due to what can only be described as the biggest waterfight I've ever seen in my life occuring on every street. I innocently entered only looking for insurance for my moto since immigration said they didn't have any to sell me. I was promptly drenched from head to foot by herds of revellers in utes sloshing water in buckets and hammering passers by with super soaker water pistols
. It was the craziest thing. The town center was packed with people just chucking water. But it was all happening from utes, wihch crawled along a route around the market with people dancing in the back, music hammering and general gay bedlam. They were also wiping talcum powder or white clay on people's faces as part of the ceremony. I was not spared. I beat it, half with a smile half with an angry grimace at having been so comprehensively drenched. What a time to do a moto trip through Thailand.
Ok, back to Pattaya. Well, because I'd not really planned the trip I rode too far to really enjoy the place in the short time I had before turning back. That short time was basically Sunday, which I slept through half of as I was so exhausted after the ride in from Ko Chang. Must say it was a bit of a bore given it was highway riding, although I found the little Suzuki could keep up with Thai traffic without exploding which was good! I went through my first clover leaf - type freeway intersection just outside Pattaya (connecting Highway 36 with 7) and managed to get lost! The problem was there was a sign saying head left for Pattaya, but then there was one seeming to indicate I should keep going straight ahead. I'd looked at the map and knew it should be left but then thought I better trust the second sign for some reason. No matter, I did a U turn (there was no one on the freeway), headed through a ditch to the correct lane and was on my merry way again . It was quite something hammering along the veritable concrete canyon that is Highway 7 into Pattaya. It's about 4 lanes wide and feels like a world, and century, away from Cambodia.
Ko Chang view
Sunday I did manage to do a couple of things in Pattaya before making a dash for the border. First, I went parasailing in the bay (video). This was an amazing set up where there was a big floating platform being circled by about 6 speedboats. They'd each go around it once, then slow down at just the right point such that the parasailor would drop gently down onto the platform. They'd then have to wait about a minute for the next customer to be harnessed up before slowly edging off, parasailor running along the platform for a bit before lifting up into the air. I went quite high up and wish I'd had a GoPro camera or something strapped to my head. It only lasted about 5 minutes and cost TB1000 but it was worth it. The second thing I did was stand on the side of the Pattaya Sai Nueng, the road going along the beach, and throw water at people (video). This had been a while coming and I spent about 10 minutes at it! It's great to know that not all 'cultural experiences' in the world are filled with gravity and pompousness.
And then I rode back to Phnom Penh. My bike is very unsuited for highway touring. It can sit on a decent speed but without a windshield it's always going to be an exhausting ride. Took me a day and a half to recover.