Ranong Visa Run


Jan 4, 2004
Friday 23rd April.
While loading up the Transalp for a solo trip, I got a call from an old flame who was on sick leave and wanted to go with me to Ranong. I didn’t know what the Tranny was like riding two-up and I didn’t like the idea of finding out on a long trip. Also, part of my itinerary was to include some dirt riding to check out Hill 491, so I told her that I would call her when I got back. Ten minutes later I’d changed my mind. I phoned her back and arranged to pick her up at 7am the next day, and started loading up the Harley.

Saturday 24th April.
Set off from Don Muang and headed out towards Kamphaeng Saen along the R346. Then down through Don Thum and into Nakhon Pathom to join the R4. This routing adds on about an extra hour to the ride, but traffic is much lighter than if I use the more direct and heavily congested A9 and R35 routes.
After a late breakfast in Hua Hin at 11am, it was back onto the R4 and joined very light traffic.
The girlfriend had received a stomach injury in a m/c accident at Songkran so I figured a stay in Prachuap Khiri Khan was in order. She wasn’t in any pain from the injury at all, but with not having ridden with me since about 4 months ago, her legs were getting sore. Besides, Ranong from here was only about 4 hours away and we should arrive about the same time as John who was riding up from Phuket.

The pleasant Had Thong Hotel was fully booked up, but had windowless rooms available in the basement for 400 baht. We checked one out. No thanks. The very low ceiling made it too claustrophobic.
We were given a town map by the bell boy and was told there was another hotel on the other side of the airfield. Riding over the runway only brought us to a beach with lots of food stalls and loads of tourists. No sign of any other hotel only arrowed signs pointing the way to a resort.
Back in town we, or rather she, settled on a fanned room facing Aow Manao Bay for 350 baht at the Suk-San Hotel.
The view was pleasant. A temple perched on top of Khao Chong Krajok (mirror mountain) looked inviting to visit, but the heat and the thought of climbing hundreds of steps, played a great part in deterring me from such craziness. Fishing boats could be seen arriving and leaving the pier, while other boats in the bay were waiting for sunset to depart.
In the blackness of evening, groups of green fluorescent lights could be seen dotting the invisible horizon as fishermen lured shrimps to the surface.

Sunday 24th April.
After breakfast at Khao Po service station, which is about 100kms south of Prachuap KK, it was back on to the R4 with a right turn at the Chumphon crossroads. From here, this to me, is probably the nicest stretch of the Route 4. Long, sweeping and undulating curves passing through Kraburi and onwards to Ban Fa Chi. This is a nice little riverside village that’s worth stopping at. Just before arriving here there’s a turn off to the right that leads up to a viewpoint atop Khao Fa Chi. A very narrow and steep paved road, that ends at a transmitting station. The view of the Andaman Sea and the village below is beautiful, marred only by some vegetation preventing a nice complete panoramic vista.
On the far riverbank of Ban Fa Chi, I observed fish of several sizes swimming near to the shoreline, while my girlfriend tried to catch Pla Mii Tao (Fish With Feet) or mudskippers, that were basking in the sun on small rocks. Across on the other side of the river, behind some waterfront houses, a newly paved road curved and rose around behind Khao Fa Chi. I hadn’t noticed it the last time I was here and I wondered if it went to a nearby village or was a new and wider road leading up to the viewpoint.

Not far from Ban Fa Chi, along the R4, a sign caught my eye saying ‘Multi-Port’.
I took the turning, which was narrow but paved, and ran close to the coastline. The scenery along this minor road was much better than had we stayed on the main road. While we missed the chance of seeing a roadside waterfall further along the R4, we were instead rewarded with nice glimpses of the blue-green waters of the Andaman and the lush forests of Burma.
The roadside markers didn’t give the number of this route but the following day, after my visa run and while heading for Hua Hin, I caught a sign stating 4010.
After passing through some roadside villages, the road came to an end at a T-junction. Left for Ranong and right for Ban Pak Nam. Time was on my side so I headed for Ban Pak Nam.
A quiet little village just across the river from Ranong town. A small stretch of beach offered a vantage point from which to observe the river’s traffic. Long-tail boats were waiting to be filled with passengers, tourists were being taxied to or from Burma and larger vessels were carrying their catches from the sea heading for the markets.
A sea eagle hovered nearby scrutinizing the water’s surface for food. It made a few dives and smacked the surface, but always flew back up empty-clawed.

Arrived in Ranong about 12:30pm and tried looking for the Sin Thavee Hotel situated on a one-way street but failed 3 times. So checked in at the Asia Hotel instead at 600 baht for air-con. Not really worth it as 700 baht elsewhere would get me AFB for 2, cable tv, mini-bar, carpeted room, peace and quiet etc.

Monday 25th April.
The Visa Run.

Just after 8am, John led the way to the Thai Immigration (opens at 8:30am) near a riverside market. A tout was already there offering his services to take my girlfriend and me to Burma by long-tail boat. I chartered him for 300 baht.
I received my stamp out of Thailand while my g/f had photos taken of her just outside the immigration office. 90 baht for the photos and 30 baht to have her one-day pass filled out.
From here, the tout took us on his step-through to the pier that was only a couple of minutes away by bike but would take about 5-10 minutes on foot. John headed back to the hotel.
Once under way on the river, there was a quick stop at a departure immigration post for Thais at Ban Pak Nam. The tout’s young assistant took the paperwork into the basic wooden office for the exit stamp and then we continued across the estuary, passing a Burmese military checkpoint on a small island, to Kawthoung (Victoria Point).
Just before arriving at the Burmese mainland there was another island that we had to stop at. This is where the Burmese arrival immigration office is situated. A small wooden hut placed precariously on wooden stilts with a scenic backdrop of the small wooded island. I handed the tout’s assistant my passport and the g/f’s travel document, along with the fees of 5 US dollars for me, and 30 baht for her.
From here we headed to a jetty that had a Burmese navy frigate moored to it. At the top of the jetty was the small departure immigration office. I didn’t have the time or the inclination to wander around the town, so I received my stamp and walked back down the jetty. All the while ignoring touts trying to sell me viagra. It was then back into the long-tail for the return voyage to Ranong.

Along the way, fishermen were scooping out jellyfish using nets attached to long bamboo poles. There were a couple of long-tail boats with tourists aboard that were drifting, awaiting someone’s assistance. Presumably because of engine trouble or they had run out of fuel, perhaps even lost a propeller.
Back at the Thai immigration I got stamped back into Thailand. The whole visa run process took only 90 minutes. The nicest and most scenic visa run that I’ve ever done in 14 years.
Back at the hotel we retrieved our luggage and checked out. Met up with John who was waiting for us at the Sin Thavee Hotel about 100 meters further along the one-way street and started out for Hua Hin.

Rode back along the 4010 coastal road and passed the multiport, here apparently, is where you can board an air-conditioned boat for a Burmese casino on an island near Kawthoung.
Back on the R4 and just before a bridge spanning the river at Fa Chi, the R4091 was hopefully going to join up with the R4139 and bring us out onto the east coast’s main drag, the R41. I said hopefully, as some maps show a stretch between the two roads as being either dirt, paved but narrow or, as one complete paved road. I wanted to find out.

The road was hilly, nothing too steep though, and had some nice long curves. At the bottom of a couple of hilly bends there was a bit of grit or gravel. We passed through some nice little villages and the occasional plantation and the paved road was flowing nicely when it suddenly, right at the top of a rise, came to an abrupt end and turned to gravel. I overshot the paved section and came to a stop on the gravel. I continued on alone down the track to a small hamlet in order to turn the bike around. I couldn’t see whether the track continued through the small village or not, so while riding back to where John was waiting, I asked the only person I saw, an old lady, if the track went towards Chumphon. Nothing. I asked again. Still nothing.

We rode back the way we had come and got back onto the R4. A few stops here and there including a brief stop at Thailand’s narrowest point. There’s a sign stating this in a small park on the northbound side of the road. It can easily be missed as there doesn’t seem to be any signs even for the park.

Hua Hin. Stayed at the Tananchai Hotel. 500B air-con. Nice clean rooms and plenty of tv channels. It was 300B for a fanned room.
In the evening, met up with Jorgen and Lek for meals and drinks.

Monday 26th April.
Headed back to Bangkok via some back roads of Ratchaburi.