Chiang Rai - Koh Chang Back: Part 1 - Getting There

Discussion in 'Central Thailand Road Trip Reports' started by Kiwi Cruiser, Jun 3, 2010.

  1. Chiang Rai to Koh Chang
    Route: 1, 103, 11, 12, 21,225, 201, 205, 304, 33, 317, 3, 3148
    1300kms, 3 Days of riding

    The Team:
    - The Goddess - Honda Phantom 200
    - Kiwi Cruiser - Kawasaki Custom 900

    Day 1: Chiang Rai - Phitsanulok
    On the road before 8am, heading for Phitsanulok. Amazon Coffee was the first stop, south of Phayao near 120 junction. Rolling down 1 is a little tedious, as is most of 103 through to Phrae.
    Lunch and gas a few kms short of Den Chai, and rolling again. Eventually, we reach Phitsanulok mid-afternoon. It was stinking hot and there was a nasty, nasty bit of weather arriving as well...
    We cruised a couple of main streets before spotting the U-Thong Hotel, and stopped to check it out. 380 THB for a night, including breakfast... Its actually far nicer on the inside than external appearances would sugest, and conveniently located to dozens of street food stalls. Anyway, we were far too tired to conduct a grid search of town in the "after-school" traffic. The rooms were ok - bed a little hard perhaps... After a couple of beers to replenish the severe moisture loss endured in the relentless afternoon heat as we rolled down Highway 11, I could have slept anywhere! We were tucked up in bed by 9pm, exhausted.

    Downstairs at 6:30 am, the "breakfast included" was amusing... All they had to offer at that hour was fried rice, which we duly ordered with a fried egg. A minute later the apologetic nong appeared and apologised - no rice, presumably the chef had messed up badly and forgotten to turn on the rice cooker.... Toast and jam ok? Mai pen rai, na kup. While that was being procured, The Goddess slipped across the road and got some fried chicken and sticky rice! :)

    Day 2: Phitsanulok - Nakhon Ratchisima
    Headed out Route 12, and after a lovely run through hills and forests, the Route 12 Pine Tree Coffee Shop appeared like an oasis in the morning sun! Bloody beauty! Good coffee, lovely piece of fruit cake...

    Route 12 was probably the best section of highway on the 1300 km trip. The Chaiyaphum sideways detour to keep well east of Highway 1 & 2 / Lop Buri etc was pretty boring, but at least it kept us off the busiest highways... It raised two questions - WTF are these bags filled with?
    And WTF would anyone want to live there?

    Eventually we arrived in Nakhon Ratchisima after 540 long and sweaty kms... the Dusit Princess appeared like an oasis in the late afternoon... Its the first place in town, and actually, we did not see another hotel on the way out of town next morning. At 1800 THB (breakfast included) it was a stark contrast to the previous night - but worth every penny! Huge soft bed, a lovely big room, and a BATH which had lots of very hot water!!!
    A soak in the tub, and rapid consumption of ALL the beers from the mini-bar eased the travel pains a bit. Then, downtown - restocked the minibar supply at Seven/11 :) and some extras for "just in case." Stoppped at bar on the main street, consumed more beer and some food to help it down. In bed by 9pm again...

    Day 3: Nakhon Ratchisima - Trat
    Next morning's buffet breakfast was superb at 7am! Eggs freshly cooked any way you liked, unlimited fresh coffee, fruit juices, breads, ham, bacon etc etc...
    Bloody brilliant! We set forth replete at 7am.
    After some head-scratching we eventually figured out where 304 was, and headed down it, 1st break at a nice new coffee stop in the middle of nowhere. 304 was quite a nice section of the day's ride, not much traffic through to the intersection with 33.
    33 is a dead-boring straight road - the turn-off to 317 a relief. The first half of 317 was ok, going uphill and over a mountain crest before plunging headlong down into a valley. From that point onwards, it was busy with an endless procession of hill-billy drivers on their way to market... Without a doubt, the last 80kms through to Chantaburi was absolutely the most dangerous part of the entire ride! We paused for a compulsory nervous breakdown at this temple...

    Thence onwards, once past Chantaburi traffic eased, and riding Highway 3 on towards Trat was a great relief... Trat is an oriface, not sure which one buts its singularly unappealing, and apparently devoid of redeeming features. Usually, I'm pretty charitable and not at all hard to please. But Trat hits you in the face with its dreadfully run-down, dead-end facade. We saw most of it whilst doing a grid search looking for somewhere half-decent to stay... I can't help myself on this one - if anything, its worse than Mae Sot... Ended up at Residang Guesthouse, eventually... its mid-range and the "all the options" aircon room was 600 THB, breakfast not included - a reflection of the lack of competition, and the bar is set rather low...
    My urgent need for medicinal beer overcame my reluctance to drink Chang... 2 big bottles went a ways to quenching the severe thirst. On that note, we were taking drinks breaks every hour or so - but the amount of moisture you lose on a big ride on a hot day is amazing!

    We did look at a nearby "resort" which lacked any "resort" amenities, and the quoted low season rate of 1200 THB was arrant stupidity... Our mutual opinion is that it would be best to avoid staying in Trat at all. God knows, there's an over-abundance of accommodation on Koh Chang, and timing your arrival and departure times for the Koh Chang ferry makes sense. Another very early night...

    Day 4: Trat - Koh Chang
    Up at a leisurely hour - no shower because the towels were possessed of a stale aroma that we were just able to overlook the previous evening, only because they smelled better than we did after riding 460 kms in the heat.... In the harsh light of morning, smelly towels are not so good... The 100 baht breakfast was pretty ordinary - and in the down-under vernacular, thats not a compliment... The hostess was pleasant... the coffee was extremely ordinary :)

    Its not too far to the ferry terminal, and for the first time we were in imminent danger of rain... An Amazon coffee shop gave us an excuse to let a shower pass... Arriving at the terminal, the little showers en route had not necessitated the donning of wet weather gear.

    Getting off the ferry at the Koh Chang terminal was another matter - we'd had heavy showers, thunder and lightning on the crossing to the island, and it was not done yet...

    Preliminary independent research had shown that Coconut Beach Resort, and Penny's Resort, might be good options to check out first. Whilst this was an overdue honeymoon, there was a budget... and we needed wifi, a pool, proximity to the beach, and evening restaurant options within walking distance. Coconut Beach Resort seemed nice, although the bungalow we have does not have overly fast wifi - but it works...

    So far, so good, despite the pretty ordinary weather... Thunder is rumbling again as I write this...
  2. Ben nice report !! Hope you enjoy KC !! Not getting bored with a 200ccm cruiser at your back ?? 80-100 km/h only !! :silent:
    Hope u get some less rain but as I talked to a friend in Rayong 5 minutes ago, he's telling me it's all downpour right now.....Keep 'em comin', cheers, Franz
  3. Ben,

    Wow, what a trip - maybe should be heading out there too for some R&R even though it probably will rain quite a bit over there. Beautiful pictures as well.

    With regard to your question on "WTF are these bags filled with" I guess it will be tobacco - normally you can smell the tobacco when you pass these trucks at least that is what I remember from quite some time ago when there was a lot of tobacco grown here around Chiangmai. The other question why anyone would want to live there I don't even want to guess.

  4. Hi Franz

    Actually, The Goddess has done very well on the Phantom 200 - at some point soon, the Phantom will need a new owner, as she is about ready for the next step up...

    Auke: Tobacco is a good guess - I've seen it growing and drying, but never seen it transported before. There was quite a convoy of it... never noticed any aroma.
  5. Appreciate the posting with great pics, and interesting write up. Having visited both Koh Samet and Koh Chang on the same holiday, can confirm that Chang is a much superior destination, more variety of scenery, and fun on the bike. Much better service at the time we went as well. Thanks again. Life on the road with a lovely companion ain't so bad is it?
  6. Hi John

    I agree - things could be a hell of lot worse! :)
    - and frequently have been so!
  7. Hi Colin

    Yes, Trat struck me as the sort of place you'd normally only go to, in order to get somewhere else! :)

    As a honeymoon destination, its got nothing much going for it at all... Hey, here's a thought for you - why not get married and take your new missus there, and ask HER opinion?

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