Jan 12, 2003
« on: Oct 8th, 2002, 12:13am » Quote Modify Remove

Gary Nesbitt at

Saturday, 14 September 2002

We are currently in Lampang, northern Thailand. We have been on the road 130 days and covered 14 065 miles (22 504 kilometres).

After just over a week in Bangkok to sort out a few things on the bikes (tyres, service, etc.) it was time to head out into the wonderful countryside that Thailand has to offer. We had around 2 weeks until some family arrived to visit for a holiday and we were meeting them in Koh Sumui, a lovely island in southern Thailand.

Thailand has been having the worst floods for many years with the north and northeast the most affected areas. This is exactly where we had planned to visit for the next two weeks so we were a bit apprehensive but decided to go anyway.

Early on Tuesday, 10 September, we left Bangkok and rode up to Ayuthaya. It's only a short distance from Bangkok but trying to find an alternative route out of the capital is not easy. Motorbikes (there are thousands of scooters) are not allowed on their main expressways. Signposting is mostly done in Thai for the alternative routes and there are not many of them. It took us the best part of an hour to reach the outskirts of Bangkok and then only another hour or 2 to reach Ayuthaya. Ayuthaya is a historic Siam landmark and used to be the capital of Thailand with many ancient temples, wats and buddas all set within a natural moat (made by the Lopburi river). We hired bicycles and rode around town to visit some of these. The river was very high due to the rains in the north and a week later, we read in the Bangkok post, burst it's banks submerging the town in waist high water. Our timing had been perfect!

The following day, Wednesday, September 11 ­ there was little sign of the significance to this day where we were. We continued our journey to the northeast through Lopburi but the road we chose had been closed. The Lopburi River had broken its banks and parts of
the road were covered in excess of 2 metres of water. We had already crossed some of the flooded roads but eventually the road up ahead had been closed. We had to go back to the main highway (which had a large bridge over the river) and bypass the river before joining our intended route some distance further up. We continued up to Chaiyaphum to stay for the night. On the way, however, Gary's bike was struck with mechanical problems.

Honda Africa Twins have a known fuel pump defect (as most travellers on Africa Twins we have spoken to have agreed) but Honda refuse to admit to this. The Mitsibushi units fitted as standard are not of a high quality and so at only 25, 000 miles (40, 000 km) the one on Gary's bike had given up. As we knew this before leaving London, we have carried a spare along the way. A simple swap out took only an hour or so and we were back on the road. Dominic did approach Honda before we left London and asked them if there was anything we could do about the fuel pumps, as our bikes were still under warranty. Honda failed to
impress us and simply said there was nothing wrong with the fuel pumps they supply on their bikes.

Just before reaching Chaiyaphum, we were witness to a dog who should have been a cat of 9 lives! After being struck by a car approaching us, he was bounced and rolled several times on the tar, then pulled underneath. The woman driving, distraught, had driven off the road and stopped but the dog simply got out from under the car and ran off appearing not to have been affected at all!

The following day (Thursday, 12th) we continued our northeasterly bearing and began to realise why Thailand is so popular among touring motorcyclists! We rode from Chaiyaphum along route 229 to Kaeng Kuip, and then we took a back road to Khow Kaen. The countryside reminded us of Southern Africa: Green-rolling hills, wide, well-tarred, empty scenic
roads and good sunny weather.

We had to use a highway, number 2, to cross the Nam Phong River, but even the main route to Laos was covered in a foot of water. We managed to cross by riding in the wake of a passing vehicle, this makes the level drop and so easier to ride through.

We spent this night in Udon Thani, a town that developed overnight from the deployment of thousands of US troops to join the Vietnam War. The air force base is massive and on entering town our attention was drawn to 2 fighter jets taking off.

The northeast of Thailand is not frequented by many western travellers so reminded us of our Iran days. People are extremely friendly, hospitable and inquisitive but English is rarely spoken. There is much memorabilia from the Vietnam War on sale in shops (Tom Cruise type glasses, fighter jet helmets, dog tags, etc.) A highlight this day was visiting the local Internet café, something of a find in the northeast! It was full and after spending about 20 minutes, the power suddenly disappeared and so all of the 20 computers on the network died! This is an ideal scenario to paint a picture of how northeastern Thailand is "real" Asia
(reminds us of Africa!).

On Friday, 13th, we continued up towards the Laos border on the road to Nong Khai and Vientiane (Laos capital) but, before reaching the border, we turned west at Ban Nong and headed toward the Mekong River. We reached it at Si Chaing Mai and continued along to
Chaing Khan. The Mekong River is the border to Laos and can only be crossed by road at Nong Khai. The 120 km section along the river to Chaing Khan was fantastic on a bike! The rolling hills, winding corners and roads with very little traffic reminded us again of Natal!
On route to Chaing Khan we began to realise the extent of the floods. The most troubled was the province of Loei. We found villagers stranded, their houses under up to 6 foot of water! The communities get together in these times of trouble and help is never far away.
Boats are busy carrying supplies, people and their rescued belongings to safety while pumps are employed to relieve the situation. We arrived one week after the worst so things had been in a far worse state. The Bangkok post reported hundreds dead and thousands homeless.

Passing through Loei on route 201, we then used route 203 west and stayed at Dan Sai just off this route. Floods had subsided here though aid was still being given out at a community meeting when we arrived. This small village, where English is simply
non-existent, it took us almost 2 hours in the dark to find somewhere to stay. Eventually we found T-Guesthouse, which had been under 4 feet of water only a few days prior to our arrival. It took another miracle to find something to eat as everything closes very early in these rural towns. The local market, usually the last resort to find food even refused us!
We resorted to the local "hot dog" type stand on the side of the road. As communication was reduced to hand signals and animal noises, we decided to order what the last customer had. The food wasn't too bad but the chicken looking things turned out to be mashed fish balls!

Today found us headed in a westerly direction towards Thailand's 2nd largest city, Chaing Mai. We didn't quite make it Chaing Mai as we stayed off the main highways to thoroughly enjoy the lovely, well-tarred, wide, quiet back roads. We could finally test our new tyres out in the 60 mph corners ­ fantastic!

We stayed in Lampang, just south east of Chaing Mai, at the lovely teak Riverside Guest-house. They have bikes for hire and so plenty of parking for motorbike tourers as well as a wonderful friendly attitude towards bikers. It was here that we saw our first western tourists again as the north is a more accessible and well travelled area. The river Mae Nam Wang runs through Lampang and had burst its banks a few days earlier in the large town. It had subsided but was still pretty high on our arrival.

Tomorrow we plan to head further up north to the Golden Triangle before we head back down south along the Burmese border to our destination of Koh Sumui by the 20th.

Itinerary of the past few days:

Tuesday, 10 September
Bangkok to Auythaya, distance 45 miles;

Wednesday, 11 September
Auythaya to Chaiyaphum, distance 257 miles;

Thursday, 12 September
Chaiyaphum to Udon Thani, distance 151 miles;

Friday, 13 September
Udon Thani to Dan Sai, distance 234 miles;

Saturday, 14 September
Dan Sai to Lampang, distance 191 miles.

  • Like
Reactions: wafaa