Northwestern Thai-Burmese border and the heart of Golden Triangle-Thoed Thai.

Discussion in 'Touring Northern Thailand - Trip Reports Forum' started by GSForLife, Dec 20, 2010.

  1. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

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    Rhodie, thank you for your advice and encouragement. You are right that the best way to visit DAK is thru Arunothai and its inhabitants are mostly KMT chinese descendants from the retreating armies during WWII. They speak very similar mandarin like me (I am a 3rd generation Malaysian chinese descent). It was fun learning about their history and I can see fantastic mountainous valley at the back of the guesthouse that I was staying. If only I could afford more time, I could really document my trip well but due to earlier delay, mishap and subsequent derailment of ride plan, I short cut a lot on equipment usage and being extra cautious did put unnecessary pressure on my ride.

    During DAK, I did see a few guest houses at the market area. I enquired from one (other than DAK Nature Resort) and was told no room availabe and that very likely all guest houses nearby were full. It was drizzling then, I was getting tired and the sweaty bodily odour trapped by goretex aint helping much. I got edgy and so I moved on to Arunothai. I guess if I can speak thai, it would have been helpful but that wasnt the case.

    Route 1095 was very heavy trafficked that particular day when I was on it. I was feeling tired then as I had been riding everyday for the past 6 days and compounded by my load of close to 50kgs, GSA felt like an elephant at certain points. IMO, GSA handled well as how all GSs' handling was amongst the best there were in that class if not the best but weight is weight, height is height other things being equal. Going up & down the bike, tracking for a while taking pics etc were slowly becoming a liability and I regretted my bike choice. The engine guards worked well too as not a scratch was done to the valve cover despite the topple.

    If I could have had any indications of what to come, I would have brought my KTM which was easily 50kgs lighter. That will certainly make a difference. In fact 1/3 of my loads was meant for parts & special tools for the 3 GSs. It was a lesson learnt for me. For me coming from GS1100 background for years and having clocked 140k kms on it, when I purchased the GSA, I wasnt too concerned of its weight (which was almost similar to 1100GS). I was basically more motivated by the parts value on a GSA then. For rather docile malaysian paved roads usage, GSA is without equal in its class. A full tank will give easily 450kms before refuel on the basis of cruising at 6500rpm (160-170km/hr) and it can handle a significant offroad ride (provided no loose dirt and deep soft sand trails). But when long distance enduro ride is the game, GSA becomes a liability. It just too heavy, tall & bulky and definitely a wrong choice when the trip gets longer and the roads get tougher.

    Without any intentional offense to any GSA owners, I'd say that most owners bought it simply becos of its rugged look and top of the range of the GSs' bike hype. It's good in whatever limited advantages it can offer its rider like the elements protection is class above standard GS, larger tank (good for solo rider who is rushing for time), reinforced subframe, broader footpegs, more versatile panneirs frame, etc., but other than that it is really limited in its practicality when enduro ride is concerned becos of its weight, bulkiness and 890-910mm seat height. It simply wont do when longer and harder trails are expected. More so when a smaller asian stature happens to be the rider and all hell may break loose! LOL..But I guess not all GSA owners plan to use their bikes for the purposes it was intended. In kuala lumpur, many GSA owners will parade their bikes fully geared up with riders in full goretex suits mostly at starbuck cafes parking lots every weekend...well to each his own I guess.

    The Penangcopbikers club was well known in Malaysia at one time. The late Suhaimi Joleman was the reason I ended up with my 1st GS1100 years ago. He was a very prolific long distance rider...using 1100GS mostly and KTM LC4 Adv for tougher terrains....in fact we use the same mechanic for our bikes till this very day. I thank you for sharing this, it is refreshing to see information on this club again after some time. For future rides, I would post it in GT rider.. I agree with your suggestion that I may just find a lot of like minded bikers to join in the trip. In fact, Sam from Sam River House in Kanchanaburi had told me to do a rafting trip starting from the river source of river kwai in Umphang somewhere near Theelorsu. He claimed that at certain points, the river source will flow underground and reappear in another section of the mountainous valley where the tracking on foot through the jungle & camping will begin. Rafting will start in Umphang, end in river kwai at Kanchanaburi for about 14-16 days...it may not sound like a full biking trip, but I got really excited hearing this from Sam. I will do some research on this and will post any information in due course. In the meantime, any updates from forummers here would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks again.
     
  2. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

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    The following morning I woke up at 5.00am thai time, cleaned up, packed my loads, got my bike ready and had a good bitter cup of hot coffee, some local yogurt drinks (which was really good and on par with most imported yogurt drinks in Malaysia) some honey coated sunflower seeds, a liter of plain water and I am good to go. It was then about 6.00am, still dark and quite windy....temp was 16'C as shown on my bike odometer... hmm too windy & dark and the air smelled wet.

    The guesthouse worker was helpful and gave me a bottle of local drinking water as provision while on the road. We cant really communicate as he was a local burmese and doesnt speak mandarin..a hand language of thank you did the trick.

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    The first pic...ready to roll.

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    In less than 5 mins I was out of the town centre and heading in the eastern direction of route 1340....it was dark and started drizzling. Wind was quite strong yet not to a worrying point but the cold was unpleasant.

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    After 15 mins of riding, the drizzle was getting heavier and showed no sign of abating despite the breaking of dawn at the horizon...this was the last section of the nice tarmac before hell broke loose.

    About 14kms after I passed a checkpoint marked as Sinchai, the road took a very ugly turn. It was muddy and filled with pot holes due to the rain falls which could have started since late last night/early morning and very heavy fogs. I have to switch on both the headlights plus the dual spot lights. Overgrown weeds were blocking certain sections and the road was very slippery. I skidded my rear numerous time and started to regret using this short cut. But I cant turn back now and therefore I reminded myself, this was not going to defeat me. I have to press on and get my bike on route 107...which was another 20kms...and that 20 kms was the hardest of all trails for my entire trip! Whenever I reached a blind spot and there were plenty of them, I kept honing to attract attention of any possible approaching road users hoping to alert them as visibility was bad. Most of the time I was on 1st or 2nd gear and moving at 30-50kms/hr and I felt like an idiot.

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    A nicer section of the bad road on route 1340. This was one of the very few possible photo shots when day light started to show and fogs disappeared.

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    The last section of the route. They were all very steep and foggy. If a veg truck or a tourist van squeezed me off the beaten track....I couldnt imagine the damage.

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    After 1 hour and 15 mins, I arrived on a lower levelled ground and saw some plantations...it was a huge relief.

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    The last village before route 107 intersection. Suddenly a common suburb village never looked so beautiful to me!

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    I pulled over at 1st fuel station on route 107 at Chai Prakarn for a refill. Everything was easy as chinese language was easily understandable. I asked the fuel station attendant if it was possible that I get some cooked chinese breakfast like a hot bowl of soup noodle and he confirmed that there was only one such chinese stall 500m down the road. I moved on but didnt see any such stall and decided to head on to Fang. The road to Fang and in fact all the way until Mae Ai was rather uninteresting and dangerous suburban roads filled with heavy vehicles and frequent sudden crossing of bikes across the main roads by the locals. I had seen some bad accidents in the past riding with other groups, so I kept my cool and rode leisurely while constantly on the look out. After Mae Ai, route 1089 started to get interesting and it could have been a really good ride if not becos of the gloomy weather.

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    Route 1089 Mae Ai onwards. Nice country road with very little traffic and a very enjoyable ride.

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    Approaching Lorcha checkpoint before left turning to Mae Salong.

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    My first view just after the checkpoint up the mountainous road to MS. This was getting really nice I thought, if the weather could be a bit better.

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    The mountain road just got curvier as I went up....if only I got a lighter bike, parking would be less dangerous and better pics could have been taken.

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    A clearer view.

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    I came to my 1st stop for drinks & maybe some food I thought, as it was only a chinese tea house at the outskirt of MS town. It was then about 11am thai time.

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    It was filled with a variety of chinese green tea and fermented cooked tea. I opted for green tea as I was hungry becos fermented cooked tea was known for rather high acidity which can cause gastric pain.

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    I asked for food but was informed that they only sell tea not food. But the owner's cousin Mr. Lee (seated blue shirt) who was a yunnan chinese was happy to meet a chinese traveller from Malaysia and instantly instructed his thai worker (in red shirt) to make me a cup of instant noodle. While waiting for the noodle to get cooked he treated me to some home made cookies which they brought for themselves.

    Simple green bean cookies & instant noodle never tasted that good before and downed with some nice hot local green tea, I was glad that finally I arrived at a part of Thailand where I felt like a local. We discussed a lot of things about his tea business, places of attraction in MS, the local people but he was mainly interested in my bike and the reason why I travelled alone. To him travelling alone was a pretty reckless thing to do up remote places in northern thailand more so for a foriegner without any friends or family up here. I cant offer any good explanation except to say that a friend had an accident and cut short his trip and I have got no choice but to continue the trip. When I was about to ask him about Thoed Thai Khun Sa camp (which was the main reason I came to MS), his elder cousin (the owner) Mr. Woo shown up...

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    Mr. Woo and cousin Mr. Lee. Both were Yunnan "mi nan" chinese descents speaking mi nan dialect (not comprehensible to me) but we all spoke mandarin and conversations were lively and interesting about local cultures and festivities. I was happy and really enjoyed my brief moment with them but when I mentioned Thoed Thai and the name Khun Sa...(General Zhang Zhi Fu) I noticed the sudden change of face in Mr. Woo. Both the men appeared reluctant to talk more of that camp except to tell me the rough distance and duration it may take me to reach there. After spending close to 40 mins there, I asked for my bills and they only charged me 20 bahts for all the good tea, countless cookies and a bowl of hot instant noodle....Northern Thailand hospitality was getting better & better I thought. This was great.
     
  3. burn jr

    burn jr Member

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    nice pic thk for sharing lets ride indonesia
     
  4. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

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    Burn, good to see you here and thank you for your compliment. I saw the pictures on the recent Sumatera ride by our mutual friend Labib. My initial impression wasnt too good as landscape sceneries like that are easily available in Malaysia....most were quite similar including the people and local cultures. Let me get a closer look to see if it's worth a ride this year. You should seriously consider tagging along with me to Central Asia in mid 2012 if I cant get anybody for China ride soon...but you should know by now I run a strict time table and in Central Asia....that is a wild place unlike SEA. We will see....
     
  5. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

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    I bid farewell to both the cousins Woo & Lee, their thai helper and thanked them for their commendable hospitality. I moved towards the town of MS and these were the pics along the way:-

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    The 1st pic....chinese martyrs? But it sure looks chinese to me.

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    The town market area...it feels like home to me.

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    Chinese tea, dried food and cookies are everywhere.

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    My first tribal store runs by 2 tribal customed ladies selling handicrafts and bananas?

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    I approached them and they were glad to pose for a pic but I failed to strike up a conversation as they dont speak mandarin... the lady in blue was telling me something and it sounded like I should buy something from them in exchange for the pic. I thanked them using signal language and moved on. I think those beautiful head customes could have weighed a few kilos.

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    The middle of the mountainous valley town....it was a chinese town alright. The signature was unmistakable.

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    I stopped at the scenic point of MS town.

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    And found my most "scenic" view of Mae Salong. She captured the essence of Mae Salong's tribal culture perfectly.

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    A full potrait shot...she cant speak mandarin. Her dialect sounded similar to the earlier two tribal ladies manning the store I passed by. She kept pressing me (presumably) to buy her handicraft products held in her right hand...I offered her a packet of biscuits and she snatched it from my hand on sight and was giggling all the way while placing the packet of biscuits in her pouch. She then continued to pester me to buy her stuffs. When I signalled to her for a pic, she instantly posed for me with a peace sign which got me thinking that she must've been the local pic shot for passing tourists. Absolutely lovely child...if only I can strike a conversation with her, it would have been perfect for me.

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    Scenery along the road gets better.

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    This was one of the nicest resorts I have come across since the trip...but I wasnt planning to check in.

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    Common tea plantation along the roadside reminiscent of that in Yunnan China though it was on a much smaller scale in comparison.

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    Along the mountainous road leading out of MS town towards Thoed Thai...the road was fabulous, scarce traffic and simply breathtaking scenery....it couldnt get any better.

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    Didnt I tell you the scenery was beautiful?

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    After an hour or so on the road, I turned back and saw this small trail on the ridges of the mountainous valley. That must've been the trail I rode on to reach here.

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    I arrived at this gateway and instantly recognised it much thanks to the earlier RR posted by Davidfl. I strolled leisurely into the town area hoping to see a signboard pointing to Khun Sa museum...but I failed to see anything. Not wanting to waste any time, I stopped by a small motorcycle repair shop on the left hand side of the road with a huge castrol signboard from where I was coming from and asked for direction. Mandarin language worked wonderfully and it was easy. A young man who was maning the shop (appeared to be selling computer & electronic stuffs) next to the workshop offered to lead the way. It was a short 5 mins ride from the shop but a bit of turning and going into a short section of a nearby secondary jungle were required before I reached the campsite of Khun Sa museum. Along the way there were 2-3 small hand painted sign boards in english but they werent that visible if one didnt pay enough attention. But then again it was a small chinese village and really easy for anyone who can speak mandarin. Here are the pics:-

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    The front face of the main building...with my helpful northern chinese friend named "Xin Loong" who was unfortunately camera shy. He was my tour guide for the day.

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    Photos of early history of Shan state.

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    The saddle once used by General Zhang...sad to see historical items like this one being left to rot.

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    General Zhang Zhi Fu aka Khun Sa.

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    The earlier map of Shan state.

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    One of the earlier photos of the golden triangle army recruits.

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    Another pic of the General.

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    Awesome golden triangle military graduation parade.

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    This picture reminds me of Sierra Leone child soldiers...so long the hands can operate a weapon and aim properly it will do.

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    Modern pictures of important figures shaping the history of former Shan State.

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    That is quite a force.

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    Pic of the poppy field.

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    The former meeting room and a life sized mannequin of the General.

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    General's chamber...modest outfit.

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    Pantry section of the chamber.

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    The dressing table.

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    Attached bathroom.

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    The General's clothing.

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    The buildings that once housed the General's private chamber, meeting rooms, guest rooms, etc. In its original condition and well kept without any financial aids from the govt.

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    The memorial statue in front of the museum.

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    The execution pit used by the General. The man in yellow shirt told me through a translation by Xin Loong that he was serving under Gen Zhang for the last 3 years of his life in Thoed Thai before the General left and eventually died in Yangon. During that 3 years, he had personally witnessed 5-6 executions carried out on the General's order of men convicted of various felonies at the pit. Offenders were tied up and pushed in head down into the pit and left to die. The pit was said to be very deep and none of the bodies were ever retrieved till this very day. Exactly how many bodies were down there, no one can confirm.

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    The rabbit hole.

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    The General's afternoon napping place. It was a strictly restricted area. Any tresspassers will be punished at the will of the master...which I asked the former servant if that includes being thrown down the pit...and his reply was it was possible depending on the General's mood...but he cant confirmed if that had ever happened before.

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    Outside in the yard was a metal fraction of this bomb being cemented onto a concrete block. The servant told me it was sent by the Burmese air force in their attempts to assassinate Gen Zhang in the past. Some deals went wrong between the Burmese armies and the General over the poppy fields business. It was said that the poppy farms were located within the Burmese territory with the Burmese army's blessing whilst openly the Burmese denied condoning any such acts by the General. Meanwhile the General remained in Thailand's territory using his base to market his poppy produce to potential buyers all over the world. Loots were naturally meant to be shared but greed somehow got into way? or there was a bigger conspiracy behind all the stories?

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    Imaging looking at a fraction of the bomb that nearly had you killed being placed in front of your yard...how cool!

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    Hand painted portrait of the early leaders that reached the PangLong Agreement which gave birth to the former Shan State which is no longer in existence...yet the truth remains and its people ever friendly and amazing.

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    Printed copy of the Panglong Agreement...that's history in prints.

    These were the last of the pics which I took of the museum. I was impressed by the originality of the place, its rich histories and seeing it with my own eyes made the whole experience worthwhile rather just read about them in printed forms. The people I'd met were friendly, helpful, humble and ever ready to share information on the place but at the same time it was quite evident to me looking at the eyes of the General's servant, his weather beaten face and his modest living quarter conditions, that lives were once hard & fearful in Thoed Thai. There was no sense of confidence or pride in the way he carried himself and he was overly obliging, a trait that suggested that he had no true experience of what freedom to a man is about...which is freedom from fear.

    Xin Loong led me out of the museum and as we reached his place, I stopped and asked him if there were anything worthwhile to experience and take pics of should I decided to stay over for the nite. He told me that there were some festivals that may worth experiencing but they wont take place anytime soon. I thanked him and left. On my way out, I decided to detour a bit to take a look at the black buddha statue high up on a hill at Thoed Thai village. These are the pics:-

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    It was a newly constructed temple in Thoed Thai, very visible on the left hand side as one enters the village. Very chinese architectural feel.

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    A closer look.

    After these pics, I realised my ride itinerary at the Northern part has come to an end. The original ride plan was after Thoed Thai, all riders will go to Chiang Mai for 3 days before heading down all the way to Kuala Lumpur. But now, only left the planner-me. I checked the time and it showed 1.15pm thai time. So I decided to head to Chiang Mai hoping to meet David at the Cafe. Joko had earlier made an appointment for me to pay a courtesy call to David when I am in CNX which David had confirmed his availabilty to meet. Though I had been to CNX 2 times in the past, I have not been to the cafe neither have I met David before. In fact, the morning when I left Arunothai, I had sent a sms to David's cellphone informing him that I may arrive late in the afternoon and asked him for a gps coordinates to the Cafe..at this point in time there was no reply yet from David so I decided to head on to CNX first.

    I took route 1130 to route 1 passed Chiang Rai (it was raining quite heavily) and at Ban Mai I turned into route 118 to CNX...it was raining again on route 118 and the ride was unpleasant with fast cars and trucks but at least the roads werent steep and all were good.

    I arrived in CNX at approximately 5.30 thai time and pulled over the 1st shell station I saw. For the 1st time I had a ron 95 gasoline refill. Prior to this, all shell stations that I passed by do not sell ron 95 not even benzene ron 91. As usual after the refill I asked the attendant for direction to the Cafe at Muang Moon Rd which coincidentally was also nearby Takdham Village which was Joko's recommendation as our place of abode while in CNX...again chicken & duck conversation, a lot of pointing and a hand drawn direction (which was unhelpful as I discovered later) and off I went.

    Before that I felt my front wheel was a bit low on air so I asked for the air pump. One thing funny about gas stations in thailand including those in a big City like CNX, there is no air meter gauge for air pressure refill...how will one ever know when the air pressure was correctly filled? I asked but no one seemed to understand my concern until one caucasian man stopped by to pump air that I managed to know that you just pumped them up and roughly guessed that it was at the right PSI !....Man...this was new to me. Having no choice, I did what I was advised and soon discovered that the front air pressure was too way high based on the odometer reading. (problem is the bike must move at a speed of 30kms & above before the odometer can detect tyres PSI). But it was a slow ride so that can wait.

    After 30 mins strolling the city of CNX, I found the Cafe. It wasnt too complicated and perhaps I was lucky too. I saw Mr Mechanic big bike rental shop and instantly recognised it so I went over to borrow an air gauge to check the front tyre pressure. The shop attendant was a thai young man and was very helpful. He lent me the gauge and it showed 48psi!! Oh so much for "use your discretion to pump"! I reduced the air to my normal 34psi and thanked him. I then asked him if the cafe next door was the one David Unkovich used to frequent..and I got this response...

    "Ah,.. Lavit Ankor Vich? He is now in Laos...you come next week or go to Laos tomolo..can see him in Laos."

    Oh, what an unlucky day I thought and since there was no way I am going to Laos, I asked him the direction to the street where Takdham Village was located...he took a look at the address and said it was easy pointing the way...near chiang mai gate he claimed...off I went and I ended up turning in circles passing Chiang Mai gate 3 X, attracted huge stupid grins from a fuel station's attendants nearby before I finally found it...it was pretty secluded but a nice place.

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    At 900 baht a nite inclusive of breakfast...really nice and spacious room. The nicest I had for the whole trip.

    After checking in, I got a sms and it was from David~! Hah! he's in town and free to meet at 8.30pm contrary to what that young man from Mr. Mechanic said. I replied David's sms and off to my usual chores...and at 8.30pm I met David at the cafe.

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    Meeting the guru of Northern Thailand & Laos.
    David was amused by my accounts of the events leading up to me being solo on the roads ahead, had no ideas what happened to Ang & Lee thus far and he was shaking his head in disbelief.

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    The guru blessed my maps....at least for I know how to use it I guess.

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    My endorsement & a few GT rider stickers to add up my ranks. Needless to say, I was pleased.

    I had a wonderful time at the cafe thanks much to the warm hospitality of David and left at about 11pm thai time...back to Takdham Village for my much needed sleep. I had no plan yet of what to do next...alone and no plan as this part of the ride back home was supposed to be planned by Joko...I have no ideas of what should be my next move..but tonight I shall get some real rest.
     
  6. Joko Hurricanemax

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    Whao! What a great solo adventure! What a great read! Thanks for sharing.

    Oh, CNX back to KL was my plan? I never actually planned anything but was more likely to do the usual ~ride down to Lampang, spend some time at the Ellie Sanctuary catching up with the good ellie rescuer lady, then maybe push of to phisanulok for a nite ...and then depending on the weather or mood to delay going home too fast, detour a bit to Sukhothai to soak in a bit of ancient architecture, culture and singha beer... and so on and so forth kinda slow-mo, detours, with unnecessary stops in maybe HuaHin or Chaam or Chumphon or even Surat Thani or heck! maybe even a massive westward detour to Ranong and Khao lark and Phuket to catch up with a few more biker-friends for more singha beer...hahahha. GS, I cant plan for nuts!
     
  7. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

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    It was 6.45 am thai time when I woke up the next day at Takdham Village. The 1st time I slept that late. It must have been the fatigue of riding all these days but I got a good rest. In the middle of brushing my teeth, it was instantly decided that I should move south and head on in the direction of Sukothai.

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    The 1st view outside my room in Takdham...quiet and nice.

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    Ready to serve.

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    Continental breakfast...but at least it wont go wrong.

    As usual I was swift and fast...no time was wasted and in less than 1 hour I was heading towards Lamphun and decided to stop at a road side fruits stall which caught my attention.

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    One of my fav fruits...but surprisingly sourish.

    The night before David's advice to me if I am to go to Sukothai was to take route 101 which he claimed was a very enjoyable ride for big trailie like GSA...I headed in the direction of route 11 heading towards the town of Lampang hoping to start riding on route 101 but Lampang town proved to be a bit complicated for me with no signage in english (and I wasnt using GPS then) and I ended up back on route 1 heading towards Nakhon Sawan & Tak until a junction at Chiang Khong when I saw a junction turning left bearing Route 1048, which I knew earlier can lead me to Sukothai was well.

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    Commencing route 1048. It was quite deserted and a very nice paved road. Weather was great too.

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    In the mid way on route 1048.

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    Lush paddy fields and fantastic weather...less than 20kms from route 1113 to Sukothai.

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    The final intersection 12 o'clock to route 1113 to Sukothai, left turning to Phitsanulok. I went straight.

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    The entrance to world heritage site at Sukothai. I saw plenty of water lilies on the riverbed but unfortunately this specie only start blooming when darkness falls (which I know becos I had some at home in my garden imported from thailand, and they dont come cheap. But here they are abundant and for free?). Early morning would be an excellent time for some plants photography....if only time wasnt an issue.

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    Nice old temple ruins but the statue was still structurally intact.

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    Close up shot.

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    Anor ruin. Thus far these 2 were for free. No entry charges.

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    A closer shot.

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    The town centre of Sukothai. It was bustling with tourists. Not a very huge area but cool place.

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    This was a crematorium centre...not for show but fully operational and in business. Nice crematorium centre I thought. Thai people have quite a taste.

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    The main temple area. This one costs 100 bahts entry fee and 20 baht for each motocycle. Here are the pics:-

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    That in the foreground wasnt an ancient artifact.

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    The main lake in the centre of the temple ruins. Morning & late afternoon would be excellent times for photos.

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    Those water lilies' flower buds were approximately 8 inches long. It would be a fantastic view when they bloom.

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    Front view of the temple.

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    If you notice the sun shade which at this point in time was 2pm thai time, the temple like all SEA buddhist temples were built to back the eastern skies...so morning photos if weather permits would be excellent.

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    Main statue in the main temple area.

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    The western temple...and the last before I retired for a quick lunch....

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    For more than a week, this time lunch was different from the customary fried rice or plain rice cooked with veg. I wouldnt say it was brilliant but certainly different and the huge portion didnt mean it was fabulous either. It was served to me just like that by the lady seller...I cant make her understand that it was too much and being afraid that she may misunderstand my sign language as rejection of her food, I sat quietly and enjoyed my meal. The dried pork was a bit chewy but not that bad either. But the glutinous rice was heavy. Overall acceptable but it wouldnt be my choice if I have other options.

    pc130503.jpg
    While I was having my lunch, this chap came to my table asking politely if he may join me. Naturally, I was happy to have any company and a brief conversation took place. This is Mr. Lee a singaporean now residing in Thailand. He was surprised to see a Malaysian on a giant trailie touring Thailand alone which he politely told me as unusual...smaller bikes he had seen but not on a huge bike like mine. Before I left Sukothai for the day to Nakhon Sawan, he showed me a short cut out of Sukothai that saved me easily 20kms and advised me to be careful on thai's rural roads especially when it's getting dark as he said if you had an accident, unlikely you will get any help. I thanked him and left to Nakhon Sawan as my next stop for the nite.

    I took route 1 passing through Tak, Kampheang Phet and finally Nakhon Sawan. The ride was usual boring highway but safety was the overriding factor. Reached NS about 6pm thai time and I went searching for a place to stay. The only place I then knew was hotel primarn. It used to be late Suhaimi Joleman's choice of stop over but I cant find it on the GPS...(another shortcoming of GPS). There were other hotels shown on the GPS which I randomly picked one but upon reaching the place, it was unsuitable. I then headed to the town caltex station for a refill and again another torturous chicken & duck conversation seeking assistance on primarn hotel direction, attracting huge grins from local bystanders until finally one nice thai gentleman took pity on me and decided to lead me the way on his small bike to primarn which was only 2 kms away from the fuel station. Great thai hospitality but would have been much easier if I know the language. Upon reaching the hotel, he abruptly pointed me to the building and left instantly without giving me an opportunity to thank him. Good man.

    Hotel primarn was a huge hotel with 3 different buildings in the same compound. 450bahts/nite with breakfast. I checked in, did my usual cleaning up and down I went down searching for dinner....asked the reception girls and they cant seem to understand or speak any english...but the parking attendant spoke some english. I asked where to eat...and he replied "follow the music"...(there were some pub music playing nearby in rear of the main hotel building). I went there got my self some beer...a plate of plain rice with chicken cooked in ginger and these were the pictures for the nite:-

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    Not bad a place to chill out for a change. A live band playing...but I cant understand a word. The bar captain which I later knew as Shanti who spoke some decent english asked me to make a request to the band which he added can do any english numbers even rock heavy metal stuffs! I was suddenly in a mood for "Kashmir" by Led Zepplin...but I think that may not end well so I politely declined saying that these thai songs were simply too good to be disturbed.

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    I was the only customer that nite and seeing my camera gears, Santi and the girls were curious when I told them I can take pics even w/o any flash light. This is Ji...a local cutie working as the bar tender.

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    Santi and his crew.

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    One of the waitresses but I didnt get her name.

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    Santi...one of the few thais that spoke decent english.

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    Lovely girls.

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    Santi asked for permission to pose with my bike. He initially disbelieved me when I said I was travelling alone on a bike (which he thought was the smalll bike commonly seen on thai's roads.)

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    The view outside my window before I retired for the nite...as the next day, I am heading to Chumpon as my next stop before Hatyai & home...
     
  8. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

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    Thank you 2 wheels for your kind words. Mae Salong is a chinese place. Anyone able to speak mandarin will find it a very pleasant place to visit and with mandarin you can easily get to experience its local culture thoroughly. I believe that General's servant is able to share more infos and long tales of the past...if only I have more time to warm up to these folks over a few bottles of cold beer and some nice meals, I'd believe more interesting details of the past can come to light. Perhaps I should make a return trip soon?

    Ancient ruins buddha statues are different from the modern ones especially the facial expression. The old ones in my opinion are much better and serene looking unlike the modern ones which are quite commercialised with varying qualities. I guess in the past, people did it for passion whereas these days, they were more profit motivated. Sukothai was an amazing place but unfortunately I havent got the time to do real justice to its beauty using my camera. Perhaps one day.

    Coming to photography, due to various hiccups & lack of support along the roads, most of these pics were taken using auto mode with bare hands and more often on wrong lighting timing. Time and efforts are needed to produce really good photos. In a rush trip like this, I just point & shot basically. Thank you again for kind words...(though my photography guru back home had lashed at me for producing below average pics on wonderful subjects despite the high quality gears I was using but what can I say...)
     
  9. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

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    Back to Hotel Primarn, like I said, it was a huge building and surprisingly on that day, there were only 3 guests staying in the building which I was housed. On my floor with easily more than 30 rooms, I was the only guest. It was an errie place. But I was too tired then to be bothered with anything else and nothing uneventful happened over the night. The next morning after complimentary breakfast (usual asian hotel food but very generous portion) I headed down and ready to leave NS at approximately 8am thai time.

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    Hotel primarn...a very strategic place for passing by traveller. Nice and good value for money except it got a bit errie to me at one point.

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    Early morning rush hour at NS...immediately after leaving Primarn Hotel I found myself on this road, and just go straight all the way.....to the direction of Chai Nat-Suphan Buri -Nakon Pathom - Petchaburi....& down south.

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    I always remember this section...to left Singburi...and then it will lead one stranded in Bangkok! An incident in late 2006 that had me feared Bangkok to this very day. I turned right, it was a u turn sort of and to the direction of Nakhon Pathom.

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    Shortly after Suphan Buri and upon reaching the section between Kanchanaburi on right and left to Nakhon Pathom....I suddenly decided I should turn to Kanchanaburi to finish off what I came to visit - Sangklaburi. My 1st view...

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    I am at the intersection again - Tong Pha Phum & Sangklaburi...the weather was still great 11 days later!

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    Off to a halt at the same cafe on the 3rd day when all 4 riders stopped for drinks break...only difference this time I was alone and I ordered my 1st proper "on the road lunch" chicken stirred fried with cashew nuts...it was a fabulous meal...much thanks to the cafe lady owner who spoke english. She was surprised that I returned alone. I told her of our ordeal and asked her if the military situation in Sangklaburi was fine for tourists at the moment. She nodded saying Sangkla no problem now but night time very cold at 12'c. I was glad to hear that. It was then 12 noon thai time.

    And off I headed in the direction of Sangklaburi... and the pictures I'd been missing during the intial part of the trip:-

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    Khao Leam lake, but this was in the direction of route 323 to Sangklaburi. It was noon time.

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    Nice photography scene except wrong timing.

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    Floating village. But I saw no villagers but perhaps all were resting in their respective hut waiting for cooler hours to go out fishing...that would have been an awesome view.

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    Old urns hard to find in modern cities.

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    Cant get enough of the lake view.

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    The eastern side of the scenic view at the 2nd last check point to Sangklaburi custom & immigration point. This is good sunrise area.

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    While this was the western side...excellent place for sunset photography but I need to track down the bridge and wait...alas I cant. This place was quite breathtaking.

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    Arriving at the 3 pagodas immigration check point. These 2 lads were amongst the dozens of heavily armed patrol units strolling the area. Some were seen carrying a bazooka...tried to get a pic of the bazooka but I wasnt entertained...better not push my luck I thought.

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    Look at the vivid blue skies in the background where the mountains lay, that is the Burmese side. If only time is permissible...a visit is a must.

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    As I was busying with my camera, I heard someone calling out at me...in malay language..."hello, encik apa khabar" (hello mr. how do you do). I was surprised to hear a familiar language in a remote place like this and saw this ever smiley chap...selling malaysians' favorite breakfast meal "roti canai". I later learned that the malaysian vehicle number plate on my bike led him to believe instantly that I was a malaysian and he was right.

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    His name is Mohamed Nasir, a Burmese muslim. Worked in Kuala Lumpur as a sous chef at Zam-Zam restaurant near Central Market (where I used to frequent when I was a student 2 decades ago) for 8 years. Divorced his malaysian wife and now backed in Burma with his new family staying in Sangklaburi. He spoke bahasa malaysia (malay language) perfectly and I was overjoyed. Conversation was lively. I asked him if it was still possible to cross over to the burmese side which he confirmed yes with some small payment but this was a very bad time. Fighting between the burmese army and the karen rebels were still ongoing and will intensify during the night. I was advised not to stay overnight in Sangklaburi if possible and if I decided to stay on, I shouldnt stroll around the mountainous roads too late in the afternoon or too early in the morning for fear of looting by opportunists.

    Being alone and at the tail end of the trip, I was reminded by advices of seasoned travellers I'd met all these years that mishaps are prone to happen at this point in time. I decided then that it would be best that I head on to Sam's place in Kanchanaburi for the nite in view of the rather tense situation in Sangklaburi but I continued with my photo sessions as it was still early.

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    The 1st Pagoda

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    The center one.

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    The final one nearest to the Burmese entry point. See the new Burmese flag in the background? Mohd Nasir told me that was the new flag the yangon govt came to install since they won the controversial landslide election victory. Burmese skies looked really good to me....and Mohd Nasir confirmed that sceneries there could produce selling photography. It was such a pity.......

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    I suppose this commemorative plate spoke of the historical background to the 3 pagodas pass? It was supposed to commemorate some peace treaty as this was the traditional war path between Thais & Burmese over the centuries. Would have been interesting if I could understand it...anyone?

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    And the last pic before I said goodbye to Mohd Nasir of this burmese boy with his fashionable local facial talcum powder...he kept following me since I stopped my bike and kept parroting the same phrase in english pestering me to buy his face powder as a gift for my wife which he claimed was very good...I politely declined but cant help thinking that I'd get into unnecessary trouble if I did take up his suggestion.
     
  10. LivinLOS

    LivinLOS Ol'Timer

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    This is / has been an A1 ride report.. I like the balance between photoblog and information and the quality of your photography is really nice and high.
     
  11. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

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    Certainly should I return in the near future.
     
  12. Joko Hurricanemax

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  13. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

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    Sir, thank you for the compliment.
     
  14. LivinLOS

    LivinLOS Ol'Timer

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  15. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

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    [/QUOTE] GS, I can narrate a tale or 2 about deserted hotels. I have had bikers who literally cursed at me when i checked us all 3 guys, into a 200+rooms hotel and we were the only 3 guests occupying the whole floor! Needless to say, it was too quiet for any Asian superstitiuous mind! Then there was a time at a beach resort where 2 bikers deserted their rooms. I found the next morn, a room jammed with 3 macho-bikers. I told my buddies, i was too tired and nary a care, to note the toilet door kinda opening & shutting, with flickering light... Yup, it was alleged to happen in both the room left & right of mine too! I put it to sea breeze and inconsistency in electric supply, outage of sorts? Hahahah!

    I am truly enjoying this report...and Yes, I too am keen to do the Kanacanaburi rafting thingy as per Sam's suggestion.

    Thanks.

    I think it wouldnt be fair to say conclusively that Primarn was haunted...but at the point when I checked in that day at 7.30pm local time, the smell and atmosphere were unmistakable to me. But then having been riding continously for 11 days prior to that point in time had my riding gears reeking with really bad odour if not worst so I reckon they thought it only fit to leave me alone?

    There is something about Kanchanaburi province and its nearby places like Sangklaburi, Umphang, I Tong, etc. I feel instantly right at home at these places when travelling far distances on the roads which I cant attest for other places in Thailand. It is something which I believe all bikers would experience from time to time whenever out on the roads. The river kwai rafting project is in progress for this year. Need to do some researches on emergency medics aid & supplies plus getting the necessary recruits but the main challenge is with the local rafting guide in Umphang as I need to know which sections of the river are white water, if any and how difficult it may be. And with Sam's assistance & advice on that areas, I think this project if taken off would be a huge success. But it is different from biking as mainly all activities are rafting, camping, tracking and fantastic photography I believe, with maybe this time some serious video clips too. I will inform you when its time.
     
  16. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

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    By the time I left the 3 pagodas pass, it was 3pm +, there was a bit of time left but definitely not enough for me to visit the town area. I took a short ride in the direction of the town about 5 kms from the custom & immigration check point and took these pics:-

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    The reclining buddha. Huge but not too artistic in my view.

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    I think that was the best coloured skies throughout my trip.

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    A close-up look.

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    Looked like some pictorial languages to me...anyone?

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    The feet

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    The head...pale in comparison to older craftmanship like those in Sukothai.

    It was then getting about right time (4pm local time) for me to leave Sangklaburi....to Kanchanaburi. On the way out, I cant help but made a dangerous stop to take these pics:-

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    My kind of place.

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    Same place different angle.

    This was the last pic I took of Sangklaburi. The lighting at that time was almost perfect for photography but I cant afford any further delay so off I headed straight until I reached Sam's riverhouse in Kanchanaburi at 7.30pm local time...and I met this Jewish rabbi again sitting at the same spot I first saw him 11 days ago. Sam wasnt in at that time, he was in Umphang but I got back the same room I stayed thru his assistant...checked in, cleaned up and came up to the reception area for some beer.

    img1267mr.jpg
    The jewish rabbi...had quite a lot of fans in kanchanaburi esp at Sam's river house which he claimed was his winter retreat for the past 10 years. He was surprised to see me again and alone. Through our brief conversation, I was told for Malaysians despite our country banning all diplomatic ties with Israel, we can still visit Israel thru a transit visa via Jordan to be obtained at Israel's high commission office in Jordan. He also shared with me some secret recipes for health which sounded rather "interesting" that if one had sore throat, chicken soup was the best remedy...as he claimed chicken crowed best amongst all birds? And if one suffered knees/joints problem, cow knuckles soup should be consumed instead. He also told me that in ancient times, dates tree in the middle east took about 70 yrs to grow before bearing fruit which was unpractical so the Jewish came up with some bright ideas using tree branch stems to short cut the growing process so that it can bear dates in less than 5 yrs time. Hmmm interesting I thought.

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    Customary singha beer to quench the thrist before dinner.

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    Off to Jollyfrog cafe again for a "Nom Kook Kat Pit" (fried rice with local srimp paste) & a seafood tomyam all for 100bahts. The best fried rice and tomyam ever throughout the trip. Language wasnt a problem as food menu was available.

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    After dinner I headed back to the river house straight and there was Sam at the reception surprised to see me again but alone? he asked. Sam's advice...to visit I Tong again for some photograhy at the burmese's side on andaman sea and to do the river rafting trip from umphang to river kwai at kanchanaburi. Nothing beats the local knowledge of a pilot like Sam. I thanked him, paid the bills in advance and bid him goodbye in case I dont see him in the morning on my way down south to Hatyai. On hearing this, Sam said that will take close to 1000kms++ to ride in a day and suggested that I use a shortcut via Dan Makham Tia on route 3209 & Suan Phueng on route 3208 to Ratchaburi rather than the usual route to Nakton Pathom and then Ratchaburi which he claimed can save me about 30kms.

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    The next morning, a shot of the WWII train at River Kwai which I missed earlier...and off in the direction which Sam advised me the nite before and .....Dan Makham Tia (3209) was easy...then I saw a sign to left stating Ratchburi...this was easy I thought and then.....oh dear I am lost...plenty of new paved roads with a few T & + junctions but no signages at all and the GPS couldnt detect any roads number. Oh well, I still have maps and a compass direction on the GPS would have to do.

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    Loss somewhere on an unknown route but the view was superb nonetheless.

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    Stop and ask for direction in progress....turn here turn there, right on , u turn etc. It was hilarious at times. These ladies were helpful but it didnt help much.

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    Half an hour later, using compass and directional common sense, I saw this quite secluded old signage and hah! Ratchaburi turn left.

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    Coffee break at Pretchaburi.

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    Continued on route 4 and 30kms before Prachuap Khiri Khan...I knew it was time to slow down as this was the only spot with camera speed trap...but where exactly that was not known. Legal speed limit was 80km/hour but trucks and cars were continuing to push me to go fast....so I got carried away and oops...I was caught at 130km/hr.. Stopped and asked to pay 200 bahts on the spot and given a receipt...almost all trucks & cars were stopped as well and paid their fine too.

    Thereafter it was 140-160km/hr of cruising speed all the way until Hatyai...reached Plaza Hotel (arranged by Hazlie) at 8pm local time and off to some great food, guiness, 2 hours of massage at 200 bahts and a good nite sleep.

    pc160523.jpg
    The next morning 7.30am at Danok Immigration...it was annoying to pay RM2 for leaving...it wasnt the case last time but these days, to enter one has to pay RM2 for immigration cards (request for extra cards for future usage was never entertained for obvious reason) & a further RM2 on entry...on leaving another RM2! Total payment RM6. This is daylight robbery. A decade ago it was a practice only in Sg Golok entry point where RM2 will be charged but not on leaving. These days things are different.

    pc160524.jpg
    Home again and no payment needed.

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    My 1st major maintenance - a leaking outer seal of the final drive...total cost RM65. Labour-DIY...so how would I rate GS1200 reliability? I'd say good and trouble free despite a 30 months of abuse and clocked 46k kms. With this last pic, that brings to an end another chapter of my rides and thank you all for reading.
     
  17. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

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    Thank you 2 wheels. I will be back with a smaller bike maybe this year end with a more sensible plan....your reports on Laos & phonsavan plain of jars interest me greatly.
     
  18. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

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    Thank you Captain for your advice which after this incident I couldnt agree more.
     
  19. Joko Hurricanemax

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    i have had some of the greatest ride adventures with like minded biker-friends. A group any bigger than 6 bikes can cause delay during fuel-up, meals time as well as departure time...Riding togethre for anything more 3days, and with the right riding buddies, such irritating pettiness usu will not surfaced.

    I have also done my solo, 2-ups and not exceeding 6bikers. And have enjoyed most of the rides. Yes, some I will ride with again, and others I wont.

    It all boils down to having the right ride attitude...and a sense of responsibility, respect and lotsa laughters will lend much joy to a group.

    Anyway, Thanks GS for a great read...and maybe I can get the privilege to ride with you again, sans nasty incidents! Hahaha!
     
  20. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    Ding
    Great to meet you in Chiang Mai & fantastic trip report. :clap::clap:
    I'm especially glad you enjoyed Thoed Thai & Khun Sa's old camp / HQs, as that place / history is really unique & what gave the GT it's name. Not enough people go there & so "feel the history."
     
  21. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

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    2 Wheels (Ron),

    thanks much for taking the trouble to clarify. I owe you a beer which I hope to repay come Nov/Dec period.

    Ding.
     
  22. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

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    David, thank you for the compliment and it was really good to meet you in person. Honestly, if not because of the great works laid down by you and all the great contributors of this brilliant website, I for one (though I cant attest the same for other bikers in Malaysia) would be in the dark and not know much of Northern Thailand except through some superficial tourists' catalogues and hearsay testimonies. There are No better maps than yours on GT and anxiously I await your next installment on Laos' loops before this year end. Sir, thank you for leading the way.
     
  23. burn jr

    burn jr Member

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    Yes DIng HAve nice journey n trip...David is good and helping guys meet him when ride to golden Triangler on 2007.
    helping us to get the hotel..
    will c u again david.
     
  24. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

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    Hi GS ... A nice ride report with a dark twist I must say ... but still an interesting read from start to finish. My buddies and I did our GT ride not unlike yours but just a few days later than yours (viz 11/2 till 23/2). Unlike your ride, ours was blessed with excellent riding weather throughout our trip except for those legs in the southern region. Perhaps an ominous dark sign of all that was to happen as you so candidly explained in your rr. You must have been utterly disappointed I guess. Good for you to soldier on and completing all that you set out to do. Congrats to you and well done. Cheers!
     
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