Mae Hong Son to Ko Chang via a flooded Bangkok

Discussion in 'Touring Northern Thailand - Trip Reports Forum' started by blackb15, Dec 14, 2011.

  1. This post is aimed at a UK audience and 'tongue in cheek'. Thanks for all the help and advice given by forum members, look forward to seeing you next year.

    Last year I thought I had challenged myself well and truly with my second solo ride all around Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand, which is well off the beaten track to say the least, but the fantastic roads make it a very rewarding trip. This year I decided to travel to a slightly different area, which would probably have been enough of a challenge in itself, however the recent flooding throughout Thailand added another dimension entirely!

    Bangkok to Chiang Mai

    I arrived in Bangkok having decided to hire my bike there (a Kawasaki ER6), in order to ride up to North Thailand, and well, what a day that turned out to be! In the bike hire shop a youngish Thai girl was doing the usual female thing of multi tasking to death, running a busy office whilst nursing a baby sorting out a toddler, ordering staff to photocopy my passport, and even had a good go at programming the brand new CAR Garmin in English whilst writing a route out for me. This was very complex (some would say destined to fail) mainly because it had to circumnavigate Bangkok because of the floods to try and get to Lapburi before dark !!!!

    I asked if she would take me to the first junction as that involved U turns and lots of left and rights, and I could not use the sat-nav unless I really stuck, because it had a low battery and it would keep taking me onto the main routes which were of course flooded. I’m sure I said ‘take it easy please go slow’ but this must have been lost in translation, and her response appeared to be ‘I will show you how fast Thai women can drive you Farang (Thai slang for foreigner) wimp’. Challenging was one word for the journey! Still, years of Police and surveillance driving came in handy and I stayed with her, just a few total losses on route, but got back to the main road.

    When she left me it was rush hour in Bangkok and words cannot describe it (not printable ones anyway).
    Total mayhem rules in their traffic system at the best of times, and about an hour later there was still no sign of the road I wanted. I got a police officer to get a motorcycle taxi to show me the way to the junction I had missed some miles ago. I said to him ‘please go slow, I am new on this bike’ but for some reason he took this as how big are your balls you ENGLISH wimp! With my life and holiday insurance flashing in front of me, filtering close assumed a different meaning here if your not touching your not close. At one junction we were going straight on, a line of cars were waiting to go left, we filtered on right it was a dual carriageway as we go past the junction a car decided to filter as well then just go left in front of me it was as close as you could get without crashing ! The ABS kicked in with the front wheel scraping the front of the car - another of those nine lives down! Taxi bike went on his way honour satisfied. I got very, very lost so plan B.

    I switched the sat-nav on but it had reverted to Thai, and I couldn't get it back to English because the instructions were all in bloody Thai! I then went for my map, specially bought in England, but of course it had blown away…… how I laughed! Anyway, as it got dark and I was still lost I approached a fellow Thai biker who showed me to a very small and interesting Thai Hotel not near anywhere I could make out, with no breakfast and basic would be the best way to describe it. I had a cold shower and walked to a local market where I was the only Farang about and there was no English spoken or written anywhere, so an interesting nights eating and very early to bed.

    The next day much better got some kind Thais to get the sat-nav back to English and found out were I was and rode to Lobburi the home of temples and monkeys. The monkeys are everywhere and steal things and jump on your shoulders but a really interesting place and so cheap to eat and drink, at under a pound for a good meal.

    Next day there was a challenging start to my riding day, as after dodging the monkeys roaming the streets and throwing things at me, I then realized I had failed to attach my motorbike wet weather gear correctly so it had dragged behind the bike for 10 miles and was pretty shredded up! Lucky it didn't get caught in the chain, and I just had to hope there would be no more rain!

    I then started to see the flooding for real as I had gone round it up to now. It was really extremely moving, and as always, so different to seeing it on TV. Thousand of homes have been flooded and all the people moved to tents on the side of the road for miles after mile – for about 3 hours riding it was all I could see, but there is no apparent anger, and a real resignation to their plight, I am sure it would be very different in England.

    Although I had to do several diversions, on some occasions I had no choice but to drive through the floods, the worse one was a river that had overflowed and there was a lot of quick flowing water over the road. I felt the bike being pushed toward the main river which was very deep and flowing fast, it was not a good moment! Eventually I got to the main highway, and I thought 'great I can relax a bit now' but that was also flooded and damaged as well, with some extremely makeshift bridges to negotiate.
    As I rode along with my leather jacket unzipped in the heat I felt something sting my back, just as I was negotiating a flood and some oncoming trucks. I though 'maybe its a bee, and that can only sting me once' but of course, no it stung me at least 7 times, whatever it was. For some unknown reason I just kept thinking scorpion! In desperation, and trying not to crash the bike, I managed to stop, but just what the Thai's thought of the crazy Farang stripping off all his clothes and beating his back with a leather jacket is anybody's guess! Self-flagellation at its best!

    Anyway, when I got on my way again, the next problem was that with the floodwaters everywhere, they kept closing one side of the dual carriageway but not telling anyone, so you thought you were on a 1-way dual carriageway lane, but suddenly being faced with oncoming traffic - seriously scary!

    The rest was fairly normal Thai riding just scary. I then reached the safe haven of Chiang Mai for a beer or 10. I was there for two nights during one of the main Thai festivals, Loy Krathong which celebrates the First moon of the 12 lunar months and is like our New Years Eve. Tens of thousands of lanterns in one night, fireworks as big as you can imagine and no Heath and Safety anywhere in sight! Happy smiling people in close proximity to the fireworks, lots of drink, but no hassle, so not like England at all. I made contact with members of the Golden Triangle motorcycle club in particular Gary who runs the Euro Diner with his charming wife who assisted me in what to do and were to ride. I had a massage in a women’s prison,that was excellent.

    The Mae Hon Son Loop (3 days)

    My route out of Chiang Mai proved difficult as ever (yes I got lost again) to do the Mae Hon Son Loop a round trip of 600 miles, and for a while I took the wrong road again, then it suddenly turned into fantastic roads for mile after mile. In the book they say there are over 1800 bends, which I would say is a conservative estimate. I decided to go to see the 'long necked women' at the Kayan villages, on the way, the route was first off road via several fords, mostly ok but one had washed away the surface leaving me unable to see the bottom half way across. I made it, just, but the bike was slipping and sliding like mad, and as my boots filled with water I saw a heavy bill for the bike coming, but luckily missed it. A few local bikes obviously flooded lay on the other side of this hazard, which showed I was lucky.

    The roads in this part of Thailand are really excellent, but things can change within a bend which looks perfect on the approach, then once you have picked your line can change to having big potholes, a lot of gravel (the whole road covered by it) or water buffalo and elephant crap near to an elephant centre! That's not counting oncoming vehicles, locals who have always gone that way and some have no respect for any basic highway laws and will cheerfully head straight at you whist feeding the baby and texting on a Honda Wave - it stops boredom setting in though! I eventually found the 'long necked' women's village and a really nice temple in Mae Hon Son, so overall a great three days riding, with so many things to see.

    Chiang Mai to Pattaya

    The journey down from Chiang Mai to Pattaya was a bit too long for one day for me at over 600 miles but I did it! I’m sure my backside will recover at some point. I had to go into Bangkok again and ride through yet more flooding and diversions. It was really bad and you could only wonder how people kept going for so long in these conditions. At the domestic airport the huge planes were up to their belly in water, looking like enormous beached whales on the tarmac. When I had no choice but to ride through the water, it had been there so long it was very slippery because at the bottom of the water was green slime and together with the huge traffic jams it was just what I needed after hours in the saddle.

    Pattaya to Koh Chang

    After a couple of very relaxing days in Pattaya I decided to head to Koh Chang a island near the Cambodia border. It was a good ride down to the ferry, which was worryingly rusty – seems there is a company more antiquated than the Isle of Man steam packet company, with nothing tied down and challenging toilets, but great views. The roads on the island were really hilly and very bendy I got to the island in the dark and I was genuinely very nervous as dark and Thailand is not a good mix. I managed to ride halfway up the island and stopped on a perfect beach where I chilled for 2 days, picked a tattoo to have done and found the coldest beer on the island. The Island was fantastic really quiet and relaxed just what I needed.

    Koh Chang to Bangkok

    I got up early to get the 1st ferry, and it was all going well until I got near to near Pattaya on a big three lane motorway (one of the better roads I’d been on) behind a big truck and a vehicle each side of me and hit the biggest hole you can imagine, the size of 2 bathtubs but not as deep! I went straight onto the top of the tank then slipped to the right and had to bash my right foot down to stop the bike going over, hence the damaged toe - thank goodness I was wearing good boots.
    It took me about 30 minutes to get back on the bike during which time I was curled up at the side of the road in so much pain I couldn’t take my gloves and helmet off despite the 90 degrees heat. I had badly bruised my groin area as well, but I’ll spare readers the photo of that one! The good news was that I got the bike to Bangkok but unfortunately lost my deposit, as a result of the damage done to the tank when my wedding tackle made a major impression on it! I am still doing my John Wayne impression!!! The visit to the Bangkok main hospital was a story in itself. Anyway, 2200 miles, an exiting trip, if a bit fraught at times, many lessons learnt. I can’t wait until next year when I plan to ride to Isan, in North East Thailand.
  2. Trying to post the photos that go with my trip but failing !! I will look again at FAQ and try again
    Safe riding


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