This trip was planned as a 4 day “Best of the Best”* tour, with Bangkok as the departure and return point. The objective was to deliver 4 full days of riding, hitting as many good twisties as possible, with decent stops along the way. For some folk, 4 days was possible, for others only three days – so that was also a consideration – but something which could be accommodated. All in all, I think it was a successful trip – with it’s fair share of drama, but nothing which compromised the trip or the enjoyment of it too much…read on.** * With regards to the best touring we can do in four days with Bangkok as the initial base and return point. It’s a shame we need to munch around 400k of tarmac before we get any lean on… Day 1. We plan to depart Bangkok early – and meet along Ratchadapisek road – just north of the Lad Phrao intersection at 6.15am. Initially – we are all on time, however when I get to spot where I am to meet Peter, I notice the jacket I had tied onto the top of my bag for Peter to use had disappeared somewhere between Petburi road and the meeting point – and pissed off beyond belief, I back-track to try to find it. (Yellow Corn Jacket, with armour and liner). Without luck. Ironically, Peter almost bought a nice jacket from the bike show the day before – but as fate would have it, he didn’t and my jacket was to be the savior. Which it was – but for some homeless wretch instead. Fortunately, Peter has packed another light spray jacket, and is able to use that. So we head off and eventually meet Trent and Neil at the PTT Don Meung – about an hour or so later. Spewin’ but try to get over it, clear the head and get underway. We press on without further event until the PTT at Chai Badan – coffee stop – and chill for about 20 mins or so. It’s about 8.30 by then, so not too bad. Isn’t Amazon great? The next point is our turn off for Khao Kho – and we agree we are making fairly good time and will have no trouble making Loei before dark. Off we head and don’t think much of the big “whoops” in the road til we get to the small section of road works just before the turn off and pull into a gas station for fuel and a short break. We then realize that Trent’s “rear tail” section has been bouncing off his Diablo Rosso – taking some rather nasty chunks with it – and destroying the rear fender and rego plate! The **** end needs some major surgery and the true mechanics emerge, as does the tradesmans crack…! After some heavy handed, ham-fisted mechanical adjustments, Trent performs the required burn out to “smooth out” the chunks taken from the tire – and we head off. Upon reaching my normal shack nosh shop, it’s closed – so we head off to a nice spot for lunch overlooking the valley below – lovely spot – good food and a welcome break for an hour or so. Around 12.30, we hit the road again – and lo and behold more dramas – as Peter’s mirror falls off on the way out the the 12. We finally top off with fuel again and head along the fun, fast and busy12 to the PHRK turn off – a short cut across to the 203 and the real riding finally begins. It’s great to be on that road again, and I think everyone enjoyed the run into Dan Sai. That’s my favourite bit anyway. We stop for another little coffee and souvenir stop at “Love Loei Coffee” – and then nick off for the final run into town. A few souvenirs… What more do you need? WiFi, Coffee, Snacks, Post Box and an endless supply of touring crumpet? The perfect office! At the hotel, we meet Sarge – who’s just arrived a few minutes before us, and check in. Lovely turned out ER-6...and Sarge confesses to not having much else to do in Surin but bling out the K-bike. Nice one! There are a few orders placed – some for beer, some for other necessities, and after a bit of a scrub up, we meet outside and ponder a few ales, and head off for dinner at Chris’s. Wow – what a feed! Quite a few bevies pass the lips, and we end up in some bar/restaurant on the Loei Sunset Strip, to party with the locals, and queers alike. At one point, Morticia Adams (aka Helena Bonnam Carter) makes a charming appearance, the Elephants get a feed, and it’s a great day and night all round. Loei comes alive on the weekends – and is a sleepy little hollow every other night of the week… I spot this little message on the dust bin in the room…which reminds me of ourselves…on tour. Day 2. I awaken – dry of mouth and heavy of head – but feel better after a glass of water. Only to realize that I am probably still pissed. We depart as planned at 7 ish – and head off back up the 203 – stopping at the big PTT for fuel and a coffee/morning snack. It’s around then that the hangover starts to emerge…and some slightly retarded behavior, coughing, snorting and other generally futile attempts to clear ones head of the fog  A few clicks up the road, we take a right and head north towards the border on the 2294 – which we will then skirt around the 2195, then up and into Nan. Lots of remote country roads and nice views abound. There’s also a stray nail or two lurking, and I manage to pick one up – a rather large one – about the size of an Elephant’s tusk, in my rear tire. I notice the handling start to slacken, and the tire deflates quite rapidly. All of a sudden, the plug kit I had in my hand at the bike show and failed to buy because they had no CO2 canisters appears out of nowhere on my shoulder, gives me the bird, and then disappears again, leaving only a foul smell in the air. Damn. We press on, come to a village, enquire, make calls, ask the cops for help – none of which makes a plug appear. So we finally decide to head down to Dan Sai – a 35 k detour – to get it done. I fill with air every 10 or so kays – and the tire is still OK when we finally reach a car tire place and we get it sorted. 60 baht. Fortunately, there is also a decent restaurant right next door, so we kill 2 birds, and have a break. Mentally drained, a bit stressed and still hung over. We re-evaluate the route, and decide on a faster route – heading first south west towards Nakhon Thai, then back north, then north east to re-connect with our original route the 1268 near Ban Khok. There was a savage dog at one place we stopped at – see how he bites first and licks lips later? Animale! We then hit the lovely wilderness run all the way around the “saddle of Thailand” and into Na Noi – what a great road – but not one to be taken lightly – with the sun in our eyes and gravel all around, the pace is tempered, but still lively enough. We come out on the other side of Na Noi, and then I lead us into Nan and the Nan Guest House – where we are lucky to all get rooms there. After they spruced the place up and took on some marketing advice I gave a few months back, they are regularly approaching full capacity. A nice, central, homely place to stay – even if the dogs around there are a bit vocal in the wee hours. Try to get a room at the back. We trot off up to Da- Dario’s Pizza place – where the Pizza is actually very crappy – but the Beef Salad is the bomb – one of the only things that is really – and we splice a few beers with the food, Trent gets a migrane and purloins the only cab in town, nicking back with Neil for an early night. Sarge, Peter and I decide to go for a stroll and pass the ever-lively night market, with all its bars and nightlife in full cry. It’s all we can do to drag ourselves away and back to the guest house for a similarly early night – and some ponderance of the map and the route to take tomorrow…and we decide that our destination for the day will be Petchabumstien. Day 3. We all meet downstairs at 7.15 as planned – Trent and Neil will be heading back the direct way – while Sarge, Peter and I will be heading a more rural route on the way to Petchabun. So we 3 head off and leave Trent and Neil to their “American” breakfast – the bacon is actually sashimi pork – so call it “revenge of the Japanese on American Breakfast”…and then stop at Na Noi for a fuel top up and some lovely morning noodles. Which was actually supposed to be Khao Tom – but we got baited and switched to the noodles after we got our gear off and started to order. @#$% We continue south on the 1026, then the 1339 – which is a tale of two roads – the first part is very dodgey – a ridge run in ill repair – looks like it’s about to fall off - and is really one lane only. No traffic. We’re heading for a ferry crossing… Then, we see once again a marvel of science and God – where Sportsbike Jesus came and turned all the rough stuff to black gold. The next 7k or so is pristine black top – perfectly grippy, in great condition and no traffic at all – it leads the final leg down to the ferry crossing point. We remark and comment how you could easily come upon the first crappy stretch and turn back in search of better things. I mean, knowing there is a crossing up ahead – how could the road possibly get any better? Buggered if I know, but all I can think of is that Sportsbike Jesus had a hand in it – and perhaps the local officials are less corrupt than their neighbours… Fabulous view from the final descent… We await the tug-ferry for about 20 mins, and thankfully there’s not much demand for the crossing – the price however is relatively steep at 100baht per bike – 250 for a car. Economics at work. These guys were having a go at Sarge and Pete was just about to jump in and do some Jujitsu on them, but I quickly jumped in a calmed things down with a few Singha’s and some kind words just after this shot was taken….! Perfectly safe, I assure you… We chat with a lovely couple on the boat – there may have been some coveting of goods – human and mechanical, but not sure. They’d driven up from Bangkok over the three days – and were on their way back this day – good on you mate – a true tourer! Hijacked by pirates on the way across…! Again – things smoothed over with a few bevvies – this time the smooth, easy drinking, gold medal, multi award winning Leo! Good on you, Mr. Leopard! On the other side, we again experience the type of quiet, gravel-some, and occasionally cow-dung splattered road we experience the previous day, and then it turns to dirt. And quite rough in places. We get through it OK – my bag tried to fall off and was caught in the act. We carry on without event through Nakhon Thai (again) then down to the 12, for our last bit of twisty mayhem before entering Petchabun. And of course we stop briefly for a piss, a chat and some naughty flirting at the good old Café Route 12! Route 12 Café is constantly evolving – I’m sure in the years to come it will be a bustling metropolis, and someone will build a Central or Tesco mini-mart there. Cool. Final leg into Petchabun is quite painful – with lots of road works and dust-a-kimbo. Filthy-dirty-dusty-dry – Sarge leads us to the trusty and rambling digs of the Khosit Hotel/Resort – what a vast place this is with nooks (and more importantly, crannies) everywhere! Seems very quiet – but late in the evening, things hot up. We enjoy a nice steak dinner and I abuse a lady boy for picking it’s nose whilst “serving” us our beers – “Hey – would you stop picking your [email protected]#$%ing nose!!!” and attract the both the mirth and quiet applause of the other guests of the restaurant. A fairly tame night for most, as we have things to do the day ahead… Day 4. Sarge will leave later as he will take more or less a direct route back to Surin. Peter and I meet for breakfast at 7 ish, and he’s hung-over to all buggery. Today’s mission is to find a long-lost friend somewhere in Chayaphum, and try to get him to phone home. A falling out with the parents years ago and not much contact – his elderly old-man back in OZ would like to hear from him… We straight shot it to the turn off – and across into Chayaphum and start to ask some questions. Eventually, we meet a guy at the look out point (lovely spot by the way) – who escorts us to the post office 8 k back down the road, and we end up meeting the long lost Aussie mate. Who fortunately is home, and is very surprised to see Peter. The dusty look-out spot, where BBQ Chicken, sausages and other snacks hang-out… Lover’s leap – apparently this spot is where lovers go when their families disallow their marriage – they get married on the rock – and then jump to their death in the valley below. The valley floor is littered with carcasses – I didn’t have the stomach to photograph it. Werner’s pad in Chiaphum province… Out the back… Dog can dance…! We have lunch there, then head off back the way we came in to reunite with the 21, and head south to BKK. An uneventful run back in – Peter is now running without any mirrors, so I imagine that poses it’s own issues, and as we approach town, it is getting on in the afternoon and the traffic is actually quite bad. A final top up of the rented bike, and we go our separate ways – end up getting home right around 5.30 or so. Epilogue. This was supposed to be the best 4 days riding we could fit in to a tour departing from and returning to Bangkok. I believe it did live up to expectations despite the incidents that occurred along the way – the jacket, Trent’s tire, Peter’s mirrors, my puncture, hangovers, gravel, ferries and the occasional slick road and road works. Being confronted with and dealing with these issues on one occasion meant that we needed to revise a planned route – but in revising the route, we did an exceptional bit of road that we would not have other wise hit. As a group, we were able to discuss, address and deal with the problems that occurred – as well as collectively learn from them, and hopefully be better prepared in the future – or at least able to make swift decisions as a result of the experience. It did indeed feel like more than 4 days riding for me – there was so much packed into it and very little down time – day 3 was perhaps the most relaxed, as it was largely incident free, and we arrived at Patyabum with time up our sleeve and after travelling at a fairly relaxed pace, with plenty of stops. Trent and Neil blasted back to Bangkok that day – leaving Nan around 8am (I guess) and arriving in Bangkok around 2 ish. I hope everyone enjoyed the trip as much as I did and it will be great to do it - or a variation of it, all again soon. ** I reserve the right to tell the truth, the half truth and even a half-of-a-half-of-a-truth.