Aussies touring Thailand

Discussion in 'Touring Northern Thailand - Trip Reports Forum' started by carmima, May 4, 2009.

  1. Hi All...this ride report was written for predominately an Aussie audience and originally posted in advrider.com so it might seem a bit basic for those living in Thailand or Asia. I hope you enjoy it regardless.

    The original plan was a European holiday but given the dismal exchange rate between the AUD and EURO that little idea was knocked on the head. So we decided to go to Thailand.
    Now I’d heard from a few reliable sources that riding in Thailand was pretty good, so I get a little excited…BUT as this was supposed to be a 25th wedding anniversary type holiday how could I get some riding in…after all, it’s supposed to be about the ‘little woman’, isn’t it?

    For those who’ve been married a while, you’ll understand how the mature (in age only) mind starts to scheme, with all sorts of things running through my head, but just as I was starting to think it was a waste of time because she’d never go for it, blow me down if the Top Gear Vietnam episode doesn’t come to the rescue and she says “hey, wouldn’t that be fun!!”
    Well being the sort of guy that’s always willing to sacrifice personal wants and needs, I agree that I’ll check what we might be able to do – oh happy days.

    So the eventual plan is to fly into Bangkok for 4 days and do the usual Bangkok thing, then rent a car and head south 500k to Chumphon province to take up an offer from Craypot (ADV inmate) to stay at his house in Saphli about 15k north of Chumphon city.
    Our biking would start there as Mike has a Yamaha scooter as part of the very generous offer of using his place (good on ya Mike). 5 days in Saphli then we’d drive the 500k back to Bangkok, board a plane and fly north to Chiang Mai where we’d rent a big bike and ride for 6 days west and north into the Golden Triangle area and back to Chiang Mai to fly back to Oz.

    So we fly into Bangkok and get to our hotel at 0:45am!! We also found that taxi drivers in Thailand have no idea where anything is…you’re lucky if they know the general area let alone the actual street or hotel or whatever – most of the time we were asked if we knew where the place was. Thankfully taxis are cheap.

    Getting up the morning of the first day and the obligatory shot out the window of the hotel:

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    Over the next few days we go wandering around Bangkok.
    Damn...forgot I’m not supposed to take pics of the ‘fun nazi’ without permission:

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    Good to see Thailand is no different than most Asian cities / countries and bikes rival cars:

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    I hope you don’t mind but for those who haven’t been to Bangkok, some general photos of things I thought might be interesting.

    You see some great things from the river:

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    Imagine having to sort this mess out. Electrician’s nightmare:

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    Gotta love Boys toys:

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    This reminded me of something from the movie ‘Day of the Triffids’:

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    The Palace in the foreground with a Wat in the background:

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    I woke up one morning, looked out the window and saw this boat going down – when I first saw it, there was water streaming over the bow and it looked like it was heading straight to the bottom, bow first. He shut down the engine and it just sat there as in the photo, so the guy flags down a passing boat and they talk for quite a while – in the meantime another boat also joined the discussion. Seems they agreed he should give it full steam because the 2 boats took off and next thing there’s a ton of smoke pumping from the exhaust and he’s off. By giving it everything, it just managed to bring the bow up enough to stop it nose diving and away he went – still looking a bit shakey though:

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    Then ‘Songkram’ arrived a day early (12th) and it was open water warfare plus the traffic becomes even more chaotic than usual, so time to hide the camera, get out of Bangkok and head south (Thai New Year Festival from 13 – 15 April) – ironically it did turn into a bit of warfare with Thaksin’s Red Shirts causing a bit of a stir – 2 dead. We’d been in the exact area 2 hours before it started:

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    For once I’d thought ahead and bought the Garmin map for Thailand – what a life saver – especially for getting around and out of the city!! So 500k and a bit less than 6 hours later we arrive at Mikes’ place - kick back on the verandah to enjoy a beer and the sunset:

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    A little cool off under the outdoor shower and oh bugger, I’m in trouble again…not supposed to take photos of the bride unless she’s dressed for the occasion!!

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    Next day it’s time to grab the scooter and start exploring:

    Over the 4 days we checked out a bit of the area:

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    Songkram was still in full swing when we got there – very hard to get a photo without getting drowned and the camera being trashed, so I didn’t take the camera along very often. Here’s the locals enjoying themselves:

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    The blue drum is full of water and note the high-powered pink backpack water pistol:

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    Next day and Weezy making out she can ride:

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    ‘Her Dragonness’ spots a sign indicating a viewpoint up a local mountain – so we take a look. Here ya go Mike, no beach shots but we did have a little adventure tackling this hill:

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    Had to kick ‘Big Girl’ off and kept going up on my own. With temperatures of 39+C and about 90% humidity the urge to see what was at the top was soon tempered – but not until she went a bit higher:

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    Bloody hill was so steep and slippery I had to leave the scooter and walk:

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    I couldn’t even do that and ended up with a little gravel rash for the effort - of course regaling ourselves in full Thai ATGATT helped!!:

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    Anyway here’s some of the sights around Mikes’ little piece of paradise in southern Thailand:

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    Pic’s from the beach across the road from the Mikes’ house:

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    Then it was time to head back to Bangkok and fly north to Chiang Mai – now driving into the new Bangkok airport is not for the faint of soul. It seems typical of Thailand that they just expect you to know where to go and what to do. I had no idea where to drop off the hire car and there are no signs, so we go around and through the airport 5 times and it’s a bloody big place. In the end a security guard sees I’m ready to kill something and gets in the car with us, we go around one more time and he finally shows us where to drop off the car.

    We arrive in Chiang Mai and the obligatory pics from the hotel window:

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    First day we did a 1 day ride to see how ‘Witchy’ would handle things – called the Samoeng Loop and approx 110k. The roads close to Samoeng were steep and quite high – actually on a number of the mountains we rode through we were down to 1st gear on the old Honda:

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    We did some touristy stuff while on the Samoeng Loop and checked out an elephant training camp – Witchy loves posing for shots like this:

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    I didn’t realise Asian elephants grew so big – these guys were massive:

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    ahh sweet relief – this guy coulda filled half a swimming pool with the amount he let go:

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    Weezy being fitted for a hat:

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    Getting up close and personal:

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    Next day we head off on the Golden Triangle loop:

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    First stop was a National park and what, in Thai terms, is classed as a waterfall – the limestone rocks were interesting though:

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    I’d bought a new camera and some basic accessories for this trip including a tripod. I’ve started taking an interest in photography and I wanted to try and capture something different to what I’d been doing with point & shoot cameras – and I left the bloody lot back in Aus!! No tripod, no battery charger, no spare CF card – arggghhhh. So my feeble attempts at something different without the aid of tripod or remote capture were a dismal failure:

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    Golden Triangle loop - Day 1 scenic shots:

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    We’re up in the top left area of the country at this point:

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    Hill Tribe village:

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    We have to go over those mountains:

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    A quick top up in a Hill Tribe village – these pumps are great and they’re often in the middle of no-where…thankfully:

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    Some of the local kids – they are seriously scared of the camera. Didn’t matter what I tried they wouldn’t let me take a photo of them with the bike, although they were fascinated with the bike – they don’t see many big bikes in this area. I got a shot anyway but you can see what they thought of it:

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    Then it’s into the mountains – unfortunately at this time of year (hot dry season) they burn off all the undergrowth ready for the wet season to plant new crops. Really does kill the opportunity to take panoramic photos as smoke and haze clouds everything, so the following is the best I could manage – plus, in my defense, the camera was new and I was trying to learn to use it as we went:

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    Another Hill tribe village and the end of the road for us as we hit the Thai – Myanmar border:

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    From the border, we had to back track a bit to get us to our first nights destination – even though the k’s done each day aren’t massive we were still on the road for up to 6 hours a day. Riding through those mountains is slow work and at best we averaged maybe 20 to 30kph at times.
    Arriving at Apple Resort in Tha Ton – great place to stay and the owner is fantastic. She came out and sat with us for and hour or two and explained about the local area, etc:

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    Views from around our bungalow:

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    Pics from our balcony and outside eating area:

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    Next morning we head up the local mountain to check out a local Wat and Buddhist Monastery:

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    Looking back down at the town of Tha Ton – we stayed on the left side of the river just past the bridge over the Kok river:

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    Then we head off for Mae Sai – a few pics along the way:

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    Another Hill Tribe village:

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    Of course, if the government makes a nice paved flat area through your community, why not use it as the local daily market. Freaked me out as I was riding fairly hard and came around a corner to a road absolutely full of people, utes and animals:

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    This is Mai Sai – the northern most point of Thailand. We park and leave the bike while we go through the drama of leaving Thailand and gaining entry to Myanmar (Burma):

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    While Weezy was filling her time doing whatever women do when they go shopping or go to the markets…I make friends with the local street sellers. I didn’t want anything until they uncovered a little black market item I need a prescription for here in Aus...then I had every street seller hanging around while I negotiated a bargain price and waited while my man went to see the ‘main man’ to get my purchase. Let’s just say it spiced up our 25th anniversary trip from that point. With enough left over for the next 10 years!

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    From Mae Sai we headed toward Chiang Sean (Golden Triangle). Opium museums are mostly what’s left of the thriving opium / heroin trade of a couple of generations ago:

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    We spoil ourselves by booking into a brand new hotel right on the bank of the Mekong River - unreal:

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    When we arrived, they moved a car out of this area so I could park the bike off the street. When we looked out from the rear balcony they’d put boxes on the bike to help keep the sun off it – it was 42C that day. Now that’s what I call undercover parking:

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    Views from the balcony down the mighty Mekong River:

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    Same shot as the previous but a little later at night and looking up river:

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    We also went for a boat ride:

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    This is the actual place where you’re effectively in 3 countries at the same time. The bank on the left is Thailand, the bank on the right is Myanmar and out of shot further to the right is Laos:

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    The Laos side of the river:

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    It’s a big river:

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    A Laos village:

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    A local fishing community – yes they are living in these huts:

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    Then ‘she who must be obeyed’ suggested we should go over to Laos for a bit of shopping – Oh joy!! Note: I don’t condone what’s in some of these pics and I didn’t take pics of all the skins or pelts of tigers, monkeys, skulls, etc, etc:

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    It’s fairly basic living:

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    This jar was full of Laos Whiskey – ‘would Sir like cobra with his whiskey today’ – there were also a ton of other varieties of animals in whiskey…they offered me a sample but I humbly declined:

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    The locals hard at work – including the local Laos army guys:

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    If travelling with the ‘trouble & strife’ I strongly recommend urging her to pamper herself everyday with a massage…firstly, she’ll love you and secondly, this takes her off your hands for at least 2 hrs and lets you do some ‘boy’ stuff…like drinking freezing cold long necks of good beer or walking around talking to local bikers, mechanic shop owners, etc:
    Here we see my best mate being pampered:

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    And here I am doing ‘boy’ stuff – in the workshops talking to locals about bikes:

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    Next day we travelled only a relatively short distance to Chiang Khong – again on the banks of the Mekong.

    Pics from our balcony – I went for a swim in the Mekong here – still 40C+ everyday:

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    We chucked the gear in the room then went for a ride down river approximately 100k round trip – great little ride:

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    The following day we were supposed to stay in Phayao but when we got there it was a really ordinary place – except for the area around the lake frontage but there wasn’t anywhere to stay close to the lake so we decided to keep going and head back to Chiang Mai a day early. Another big day in the heat. A couple of shots on the way back:

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    A local Thai working house – common area in the middle, bedrooms on the right and eating on the left:

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    Actually coming back early worked well as Weezy went shopping (again) and I went riding solo up into the local mountains and took in some sights and a brilliant mountain road:

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    Giant bamboo – this guy is a full grown Thai adult – each stick of bamboo was as big (round) as him:

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    Another dismal attempt to produce a slowing effect and what it actually looked like:

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    Good thing about Thailand is they always have bike parking areas and usually close to the action:

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    Back In Chiang Mai, I was apprehended by the local constabulary for following Thai ATGATT principles! The local police yard and impounded bikes:

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    The processing room and my fine:

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    A lot of Thais love their bikes and shops abound for anything you could imagine. Because engine sizes are restricted, they do all they can to get speed and handling out of their machines – all the go fast bling you could possibly dream of here:

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    Weezy checking out which colour she wanted – she actually got serious about wanting one of these and went in to ask how much. They’re all the rage right through Thailand – Yamaha Fino Mio. A great classic looking scoot (approx $1,400 aud):

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    General pics from around Chiang Mai:

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    Thais are an ingenious lot and find tons of ways to utilize home made transport:

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    In summary, Weezy and me personally found Thailand a great place. The roads are fantastic. The people are generally friendly – especially away from major tourist areas. The food is great. We ate nearly all our meals from street vendors or local eating houses – average price for a good basic meal was 60bt and up to 150bt for something really special like deep fried whole fish and steamed vegetables with rice. A long neck of local beer is around 60bt.
    We were exchanging $1aud for 25bt…so the average slap up evening meal with drinks was around $15aud for the 2 of us. And you always have your own personal waiters just waiting on your every need:

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    Well folks, that’s about it, I hope you enjoyed coming along for the ride.
     
  2. Carmina

    Nice report, nice that you enjoy it.

    Next time you might consider to skip places like BKK and explore those days with bike northen part indepth.

    welcome to GT pages.
     
  3. Mark & Louise :)
    It was great meeting you guys for a few drinks outside the Kafe. Thanks for the gin & tonics (I think it was.) :roll:

    It certainly looks like you guys had a thoroughly enjoyable time. It's a smart one letting the missus have as many massages as she wants, so you can potter off to have a few coldies & snap photos of bikes.

    I'm pleased to see that you stayed at Apple's Guesthouse by the river in Tha Ton for the first night. That must have been a magical spot by the river that night after your Doi Ang Khang run along the Burma border.
    But I think you missed out on staying in the Chinese KMT village Doi Mae Salong + seeing Khun Sa's Opium Warlord Museum / HQs in Hin Taek. So you've missed something there in the top end & now have an excuse to come back for another run around the GT - bring some mates next time. :wink: :wink:
    Thanks for the contribution. :D
     
  4. Hi David...yeah we had a great time and you're right we did miss staying in the Chinese KMT village Doi Mae Salong + seeing Khun Sa's Opium Warlord Museum / HQs in Hin Taek.

    We thought we'd run out of time so missed it! All the more reason to get back there and check things out more.

    All your advice on what to see was great and made the trip that much more enjoyable as we wouldn't have know about it otherwise and would have missed things.

    thanks
     
  5. Oh no... oh no...

    please tell me you just didn't have room to post the photo of your visit to Papa2000 Disco in Chumpon... the greatest disco in the world :) ...

    Chumpon is a great town, I am sure you enjoyed that area as well... and then a great trip up north...

    great report, thanks for sharing...

    Cheers,
    Daewoo
     

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