T.O.G. Motorcycle Tour 6th to 20th February 2010 Thailand On Friday the 5th February 2010 a group of 8 motorcycling friends, made up of a range (from 30+ years to 1 year) of experience, set out from East Kent in the UK. The destination was the spectacular region of North East Thailand, incorporating the regions of Chiang Mai and Chang Rai provinces and the Golden Triangle. The group was split between some motorcyclist now on their 6th or 7th trip to Asia and India and some with no previous touring in exotic locations. The original intent had been to enter Lao and spend some days touring in Lao and Thailand. (However this plan had to be revised- please see section Laos road report.) Following an uneventful flight on EVA Airlines from Heathrow to Bangkok and then Bangkok to Chiang Mai the group finally came together at the Amori Hotel in Chiang Mai. ( The Old Gang T.O.G. where formally welcomed at the hotel which we recommend wholeheartedly ) The bikes were picked up on the morning of Sunday 7th February at POP motorcycle hire. All were Kawasaki KLX 250cc machines ranging from a brand new one to some showing signs of fairly extensive use and previous battle scars. POP’s took some time to fill in a pre hire report to enable a comparison on return, so any damage during hire could be identified and paid for, all pre hire reports are signed by the rider to ensure agreement. The only disappointment was that no attempt was made to adjust the bikes for either rider height or weight, this in retrospect is a must, as the bikes are high and shorter riders who cannot get both feet down are due more than their share of offs as the conditions deteriorate. The ride height can be adjusted both by the forks being raised through the pinch bolts and by a longer link used on the monoshock bottom pivot, a worthwhile investment for the shorter folk. We met up with our support vehicle, a 4x4 pickup that would take our luggage and most importantly a huge cold box loaded with water and drinks that was replenished every day. We also had an official Thai guide and a riding mechanic on a spare bike. The tour was a 9 day ride between the listed overnight stops but taking in many loops and long ways round, hence the distance traveled totaled some 1500kms over the period. The route we eventually followed, all within Thailand was- Day 1 – 7th Feb – Chiang Mai – Chai Prakarn Day 2 – 8th Feb - Chai Prakarn – Tha Ton Day 3 – 9th Feb - Tha Ton - Chang Rai Day 4 – 10th Feb – Chang Rai – Mae Chan Day 5 – 11th Feb – Mae Chan – Mae Sai Day 6 – 12th Feb - Mae Sai – Chiang Khong Day 7 – 13th Feb - Chiang Kong – Chiang Kham Day 8 – 14th Feb - Chiang Kham – Phayao Day 9 – 15th Feb – Phayao – Chang Mai Days 1 & 2 The first 2 days comprised of tarmac roads with just occasional sections where renewal or widening caused several kilometers of riding on the sand or gravel of the construction process, the only exception being a short 4- km section on day 2 around Fang that started with a very memorable rutted earth climb before settling down to reasonable dirt paths. At various points the group crossed checkpoints without trouble or delay, tried to cross for a track at Nor Lae but were not allowed through due to the area which 2 years ago was apparently not a problem. Apparently the track can be used during a 5-6pm window. Unfortunately our time of arrival meant that we found ourselves toiling back down the Doi Ang Khang Day 3 Tha Ton to Chiang Rai A new bridge/river crossing was encountered at Tha Ton which does not seem to be marked. Riding through 60 metres of tarmac surrounded by fire on both sides was an interesting phenomenon although minor smoke inhalation proved to be the only irritation on an otherwise lovely stretch of road. The first true challenge was day 3, the route comprised of picking up the road from Mae Saluk in the direction of Wawi, turning off this road after 8 kilometers on the road shown as a dotted line in the direction of the Mae Nam Kok river and the village of Hat Yao, this is a supremely challenging route including severe climbs and descents on heavily rutted earth tracks before picking up the better road alongside the Mae Nam Kok river, where the rattling and swaying motorcycle bridge is best taken at reasonable speed, rather than super slow and with nearly the bridge length between each bike to prevent a frequency build up to increase the swaying and bucking. The time taken for this off road route with frequent stops for water and counting heads was 4 hours. Day4 Chiang Rai to Mae Chan The day was spent to the east of the main highway Route 1. In the morning we left Chiang Rai and took the 1232 East. After a few kilometers we took the 3rd left and turned North East signposted to Waterford. We then followed this road alongside the river to the end and at Dong Pasak turned left onto the 1173. At Ban Lao we turned left and at the next right onto the 3134 before getting to San Sai Ngam. There is then right turn on to a dirt track that takes you over the mountain for great views and great dirt. At Mae Bong we continued North on the 4049 / 4037 for lunch near to Sob Kok. Afternoon South on the 1271 to Doi Luang then take the 1098 West Go past Muen Buddha "The Happy Buddah" Chinese temple, then take a left which leads to dirt track roads. Find a way over and around the mountains coming out at Mai Chan Day 5 Mae Chan to Mae Sai via Doi Tung Day 6 Mae Sai to Chiang Kong via Chiang Saen, Opium Museam, Much of the day is spent near or alongside the Meekong river with Laos over on the opposite bank. An exciting trip over to Laos Island in a small long tailed boat and a wander round the market for some bargains (its far cheaper than Tailand for the same goods and the further away from the landing stage you are the cheaper it gets) Those of us who had not been before visited the opium museum, an amazing building that winds on through full sized dioramas including one of the East End of London explaining how the trade began (the British) how it developed, and how it was ended (this seems a cleaned up version of events if the stories the Thai’s tell is anything to go by). Day 7 Chiang Khong to Chiang Kham along Laos border. Comprising varied tarmac roads with some significant climbs and decents – and a few dead ends. In the afternoon we encountered an extrodinary Chinese new year market. This is a big event with so many Thai’s having Chinese blood in the family, over 2km of stall lined both sides of the road with the usual pick up trucks and cars that they had arrived in taking up a further km, this was the slowest 3km of the trip as in the usual easy Thai way they had not closed the road, you just had to wind your way through at walking pace! Day 8 Chiang Kham to Phayao A trip round the lake at Phayao proved to be a pleasant and restful experience for those who had not seen it before although disappointing for our rider who remembered it 12 months ago as a moderately challenging dirt track but now completely under tarmac. Towards the end of the ride a Water Buffalo felt it appropriate to park itself in the middle of the road between the lead group and our tail end charlie and a 20 second stand off ensued before our courageous member plucked up the nerve to ride past the snorting beast. Day 9 A fantastic ride through the Jaeson National Park in Lampang Province on good reducing to broken tarmac road led us to a point where you can continue on the tarmac to Sop Li and Pa Miang eventually coming to Pang Thong or take the turn off at Thung Pong, by the small “summer house”. This route means the truck cannot follow, caused by some of this track being single or bike width only. This route is , it seems, being improved as the second half of the track has been widened to truck width. The first half remains however, a severely rutted track up steep climbs and descents, some of which have had concrete poured into the worst of the ruts, giving you a 6 to 12 inch track to aim at, and woe betide anyone who misses the concrete and falls into the ruts. The final (improved?) climb had only recently been widened, the dry sandy soil had been spread over the track giving a 1 in4 to 1 in 3 climb up a 300m slope covered in over a foot of this un compacted soil, just to add to the entertainment having after much fishtailing achieved enough speed and drive to climb the slope, over the brow of the hill a deep drainage channel had been dug for a new large diameter flood drain across the entire road, the first rider up was quick thinking enough, having suffered the consequences of this trench to flag down the next riders and stop them before they suffered his fate, so small was the area from the brow to the trench that half the riders had to be held back at the bottom of the climb until the trench was partially filled as no room remained at the top. The group would like to thank Steve Brooks for the huge part he played in making this adventure such an incredible success. Johan for his extraordinary navigation skills. ( Dutchmen seem to have a GPS hard wired into their brain) Finally to our support team, particularly Chuan our guide and Toom the mechanic and the people of Thailand who could not have been more friendly and accommodating. Four of our party including our mechanic Toom were stung about the face, probably by bees but with no significant effects (we felt it appropriate to carry a couple of Epi pens and anti-histamines in the first aid). Make sure yours is adequate and do include a set if tweezers for removing the sting! It only remains to say that 4 days R & R in Bangkok helped to heal any mental and physical scars and the group is already looking forward to next year. To tell of all the delights of this trip would fill a small paperback but if you feel like it, give it a go – you could do a lot worse. Track of Tiger riders this trip were: Chris Watkins Steve Brooks Johan Siebols Fred Batchelor Nick Greenwood Dave Ross Dennis White Steven Cleaver Thailand Road Report: February 8th Previously posted. Doi Ang Khan Border Area From the top of the Doi Ang Khan a group of nine motorcyclists together with a Thai mechanic, official tourist guide, driver and 4 x 4 pickup headed North with the intension of following the Myanmar border as far as the road would allow. We were stopped at the Nor Lae checkpoint and not allowed through. Two years ago this was not a problem, but we were told that the new army officer in control has stopped this access. Apparently the track can be used during a 5-6pm window only. Laos Road Report: Jan 2010 The original intension of the tour was to cross into Laos at Chiang Kong and spend three days and two night there as part of the trip. Steve Brooks who lives part of the year in the Golden Triangle checked out our proposed route in mid January 2010. He crossed at Chiang Kong and hired a local Laos driver and truck. The first night was spent in Luang Namtha at the Boat Landing before setting off to Xieng Kok the last major port on the Mekong before China. It is our understanding that the only way back to Chiang Kong was via boat to Xieng Dao or to double back on ourselves to Long, then over the mountains to Vieng Phoukha. From there we would retrace our outward journey back to Chiang Kong. After Steve passed Muang Sing he found out from the locals that our exit road over the mountains was blocked for many Kilometers by landslides caused by poor construction. He was also told that the repairs are expected to last for nine months. (We can provide more details if required).