The Issan Ride, Elephants and all.

Discussion in 'N.E. Thailand Motorcycle Trip Report Forums' started by bigal, Oct 25, 2014.

  1. It is that time again when, with luck, one or more UK chappies come over to Thailand just keen as mustard to go on a bike ride. Thankfully this is scheduled to happen again this November after the merriment of Loy Krathong is over.
    Last year we did a 6 day golden triangle / Mae Hong Son combination that was a lot of fun. It also was on roads that I knew reasonably well.
    This year my friend and I fancy something new and with this in mind I would welcome any hints and tips during this planning stage. I will be riding the Forza (again)
    My friend will hire a bike, if previous trips are to go on, something like a Versys.
    The route I am thinking of is
    Nothing is yet fixed and I have never been on a bike on these roads so hints and tips welcome.
    Day 1 is a fair stint, The road from Uttaradit to Loei is an unknown and also the last 2 days are also fairly long rides. The plan also includes a detour to the Preah Vihear temple area, if that is accessible. We also plan to spend a couple of nights in Surin as it is the Elephant round up before the trip back.
    The report will follow but meanwhile, any hints on the roads, places to stay and eat etc will be gratefully received.
  2. Day 1 today, Chiang Mai to Loei, 478km. The map has been updated for the total ride and the final stop is now Phitsanulok. Trip report when over.
  3. Looks great.

    A small tip if you have a GPS with you. When you get to Sisaket, or anywhere around there, select 'historical places' or whatever, and it will show all the old ancient ruins off the beaten track. And there's a lot of amazing little ones between Sisakhet and Buriram. One special little one is Ban Hin Samo.


    You can also actually go inside Cambodia to Don Tuam, up on the cliffs of Pa Mo E Deang, in Phra Wihan NP.


    Prasat Hin Ban Samo.


    Not forgetting of course, Phi Mai in Khorat.


    And Phanom Rung in Buriram.

    Enjoy it mate. A great place for cruising.
  4. Hi Al, a couple things for you. In Phitsanoluk I have stayed and can recommend the "Royal Place" for good value, covered parking and it's close to the Big C mall which has an interesting looking steak place in the parking lot with lots of "coyote" girls waiting to help you out. The Rain Forest Hotel is very nice for nature lovers but it is more pricey and way out of town but is on your route. Avoid the Casa Holiday, cheap but not a good value. In Loei the Muanmanee Hotel is a good value and walking distance to the bars and town center. I have heard bad things about the road conditions from Chaing Khan to Nong Khai, maybe someone else has an update on that stretch. The 201 out of Loei to the 210 to Udon is a decent road and if you see the signs for Erawan Cave/Temple off the 210 that is worth a stop if you don't mind a lot of stairs. The rest of the roads along your route are in good shape or were when I last rode them. I'm off working on the ice and missing home and riding. Have a good ride!
  5. Sorry I didn't see this before we went but as I intend to be in this area again I will keep it in mind.
  6. Sorry I didn't see this before we went but as I intend to be in this area again I will keep it in mind.
  7. Info much appreciated and logged for a future trip (as I didnt see it before or during the trip.) We stayed at the Toplands hotel in Phitsanulok.
  8. Day 1 and we set off at about 08.45, both Ian and I on Forzas. We took highway 11 and stopped off for fuel at the Hang chat agricultural services. We passed Lampang to the south. During this section Ian said his bike was cornering like a dog so we called into the Shell station just after the T junction where H11 rejoins itself and got some air into the tyres. Handling problem solved and off we went.
    I do like this stretch of road from Lampang to the T junction south of Denchai but not on this occasion as for some 40km I suffered from phases of stomach cramps coming and going. Fortunately we made it to the Shell station (again just after the T junction on H11, isn't it funny that they locate them there?) where we enjoyed a coffee after, that is I had made use of the facilities. They have a decent disabled cubical and thankfully I had observed Asia travel rule 1, always carry a bog roll.

    Refreshed, we headed down H11 calling at the Esso station for fuel just before the junction with the 1214.
    The route from there to Loei was most enjoyable, riding through a most enjoyable mix of town, village and rural landscapes. Perhaps the only drawback being the lack of coffee shops until the latter stages of the trip on H21.

    We stayed at the Loei Pavilion Resort which is a pretty good place once you find it. Finding it should be easy, it is on H21 but the coordinates I had were wrong so we spent 30 mins exploring the back lanes of Loei.
    Here are some shots of the hotel.
    Restaurant / live music / big screen TV

    Day 2 was a pretty easy day from Loei to Nong Khai with a Google map distance of 236 km although we did manage to add a good chunk onto that somehow. The route was north on H211, following it to the right along the Mekong until came to Nong Khai. We met Rob Robdog Sabaidee on the road north out of Loei but he soon left us behind, not particularly because his very nice Triumph is a lot faster than a couple of Forzas but because the old gits riding the Forzas were happy to bumble along stopping to take holiday snaps and the like.
    In fact we had hardly got out of Loei before I pulled over to get the mist on the hillside.


    And once again before we had reached the Mekong there was a convoy of haulage vehicles transporting goods to market.


    It really was a very pleasant ride with nice views. following by the river we found a nice little coffee shop that had some tasty fruit pies and cake too.


    The river was flowing well.


    Ian decided to try a Forza on a track towards the river, the conclusion, they are not for dirt!


    We had booked into the White Inn on Prajak road in Nong Khai and I have nothing but praise for this place. The staff are wonderful, the rooms very good and modern and whilst the place itself does next to no food, there are places within a few metres to eat and drink. They have covered parking as well.


    We ate in the Pennine Bar and restaurant, just down the road


    And if Colin AKA Capt'n Slash is reading this, the finest Massaman I have tasted. If I was Jeremy Clarkson I would have said "in the world" :)
    They also convinced us that this was the place for breakfast and on the menu tomorrow was smoked ham. And so it proved to be, not smoked bacon (as I expected with the American use of the term ham for proper bacon) but smoked ham.
    Post food we relocated to a bar and another and...

    Day 3 Nong Khai to Mukdahan

    We set off following the smoked ham breakfast at about 10 am and effectively followed H212 and the Mekong, about 450 km in all.
    The ride itself was pretty easy although there wee time when the breeze moved the bikes. It was also on this leg of the trip that I discovered (and had confirmed by Ian on a different Forza) that if you take you hands off the handlebar on a Forza the handlebar starts to waggle. We don't know why does anyone out there?
    We have wondered if it is the undershot fork mounting?


    We stopped for a coffee I think around Nakon Phanom (? just before) but the GPS didn't locate the required to give a location on the camera. I must admit to using camera GPS info as an essential part of the trip.


    And the same was true for a fuel stop later on where there were a couple of Thai workers beavering away.


    Despite the fact that the river was not that visible and photo opportunities were limited day 3 was a very enjoyable days ride.

    We found Mukdahan to be pretty quiet. We had booked in the Riverfront hotel which was, as you may expect by the river.


    The hotel had covered parking but offered no food at night (but had KFC menus on reception). There was a fridge for a beer or 2. Breakfast is on the top floor of the hotel and they are missing a real opportunity in my opinion not opening this as an food and drink venue at night overlooking the river and with nothing else around.


    We did hope that being close to the Indochina market there would be venues to eat and drink in the area. Nope, nothing. Instead we were guided down a couple of clocks and up away from the river a couple of blocks to Kuntakarn Steak and Milk.


    Still the steak was OK and they sold Chang at 45 thb a bottle.


    Bellies filled we strolled back to the river for an evening photo opportunity before a nightcap and bed.


    Day 4 Mukdahan to Si Sa Ket

    DAy 4 was originally planned to be to follow the Mekong for a while then turn towards Ubon Ratchathani on H2050 but for reasons I am not quite sure of, other than simply accepting the sat nav route (I think) we headed down H212
    This no doubt simplified the route although we had a little discrepancy between the 2 sat navs at Ubon. It was a simple, pleasant ride, nothing spectacular and just under 300 km.

    We had had the Pongsin Resort and Restaurant recommended to us so we had booked there. Our rooms were 650 thb per night without food. I would really recommend this place if you are going to the area, (OK it is in the middle of nowhere so here are the coo 14.36'18.9N 104.30'46.2E)
    There is a handy landmark on H221, just turn sharp right at the traffic lights before this


    Once there we were greeted by smiling staff with menus. It was mid afternoon so we ate and drank.


    It really is a pleasant place to relax.
    Here are a couple of room pictures


    After a shower and a snooze we met up for dinner, the food was very good indeed.


    Day 5 Si Sa Ket to Buriram

    We hoped that this would be one of the highlights of the trip and it started well with breakfast.


    The objective then was to ride to Wat Preah Vihear. If you are unaware of this place it is an ancient Khmer temple in disputed territory currently (and maybe to remain) in Cambodia. There are infrequent border skirmishes the area and the British foreign office would not advise going there but, we had to try.
    We didn't get very far, The border and national park checkpoint / pay station refused us entrance. The nice smiling chap in the picture would have taken our 100 thb and let us through but others were not so keen. We were allowed a photo and turned around.


    So round we turned and headed to Buriram, about 300 km I think and a very simple ride with a stop for coffee on the way to Surin.
    Our route took us through Surin and we spent a little time off route to ensure we could find the location for the elephant round up which was number 1 on the agenda for tomorrow. There were interesting things on the way.


    As we aproached Buriram we come to the new International racing circuet and the Football ground. This is a great loking facility and I am looking forward to seing races there. We tried to get them to let us on and do a lap or 2 on the Forzas... They werent having it :( this is as far as we got.


    We had a good walk round and got the T shirt then rode up to our hotel which was very close to the stadium / track so it would be a good place to be based I imagine should anyone be travelling there to watch football or racing.
    The Thada Chateau has a little farm from where they claim the mornings eggs come at breakfast, sheep ponies, what more would you want?


    Maybe a swimming pool? OK it has one of those as well.


    Day 6, Buriram to Surin and Back

    On the list of things to do for this ride was to see the famous "elephant round up" at Surin but our late planning had led to using Buriram as a base. So following breakfast we enjoyed a little 50-60 km ride to Surin and found a chap offering covered parking for the bikes at 10 thb each. " how far to the stadium?" I asked, 100 m came the reply. I suspect the chap could neither count to 100 or knew what a metre was, I mean he surely would not have mislead us to ensure we didn't go and park closer... Would he?

    There were lots of market stalls on the way to the stadium and even a cop on a Forza.


    But when we got to the stadium gate we were told " no tickets for today, all sold, tomorrow" bummer, another disappointment on the trip. We cant do tomorrow I explained and so we were let into the area where the elephants and performers prepared to enter and leave the stadium area and relaxed a little.


    This was a bit like being a kid going to the circus again, sneaking around the tent and crawling under the canvas for a free show. There was no canvas to crawl under and in fact you could see the stadium fully. No seat minf you but you could see and hear everything.


    On the way back to the bikes we were accosted by a bunch of school kids doing a project, questions and notepads to hand we were quizzed about getting here, hotels, even insurance and of course we had to have out photos taken, by all of them...

    Back to the hotel and a little rest before the evening food and drink "al fresco".


    Day 7 Buriram to Phitsanulok

    Breakfast taken we set off on what was a very pleasant 550 or so km ride to Phitsanulok. It was really enjoyable and the 225 from Chaiyaphum is very pleasurable. A couple of things to photograph as well


    However the same cannot be said for H11 going north to Phitsanulok, it is nothing short of a disgrace really until you get as far as the dual carriageway. Of course not only do you have to avoid the pot holes but the other drivers who (fair enough) are also swerving to avoid the worst of the road surface.

    By 4pm ish we were checked into the Topland hotel. If you are staying in Phitsanulok I would recommend this place, a good location not far from the river, huge comfortable rooms, a mall attached and bars inside and out to name just a few of the plus points.


    Parked right outside the front door.
    pool from the room.

    Food drink and a comfy bed, great.

    Day 8, Phitsanulok to Chiang Mai

    Day 8 was to all intents and purposes just a bit of a blast home via H11 which is a top quality road hear making more difficult to understand why it degrades so much south of Phitsanulok (anyone know?)

    We called at Wat Phra That Suthon Mongkhon Khiri not restricting ourselves to just a quick photo of the large reclining Buddha


    Bur going up the hill to the main wat area



    and we enjoyed an ice lolly from the shop :)

    We called further along H11 for coffee as well but soon we were in Lampang where we spotted the latest in police bikes...


    Over the hill and home.

    We had a great time in Issan, it could have been better with some of the hoped for items coming off, particularly the Preah Vihear temple but that's life and a good excuse to do something similar again.
  9. Looks like a good start & fun coming up.

    How did you go navigating off R11 onto 1214 & then onto 1243?


    On my early rides through there I used to make a mistake at that Ban Pae intersection of 1246 & 1143 more than once, & going both ways - outbound & inbound. :crazy:
  10. I think we were kept on track by the sat nav David in truth but I recall wondering if it had sent us the right way as I had a confused sense of direction in that area.

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