Jan 12, 2003
« on: Oct 8th, 2002, 12:16am » Quote Modify Remove

Gary Nesbitt at

Saturday, 21 September 2002
We are currently in Koh Sumui, southern Thailand. We have been on the road 137 days and covered 15 506 miles (24 810 kilometres).

It became a bit of a struggle to reach Koh Sumui in time to meet our family due to more fuel pump problems, which plagued us! Read on and find out;

On Sunday the 15th we continued our journey north from Lampang to reach Chaing Saen by 4pm. The winding back roads via Chae Hom to Wang Nua along the Mae Nam Wang River were superb! The surface is new tar and so cornering was at nothing less than 40 mph, though the corners are quite sharp. From Mae Khachan we took route 118 to Ban Dong Ma Da to Chaing Rai and then the national highway 1 for a short time. The final few kilometres to Chaing Saen are 'A' type road leading to the little town and the river alongside it. Laos is across the river and only a few kilometres up the river is the Golden Triangle, where the Mekong divides Burma (Myanmar) from Laos and Thailand.

We took a long boat (powered by no less then a Toyota Corolla 1600 twin cam motor!) that powered us over to Laos for some shopping. Tobacco pipes, handcrafted out of Yak bone seemed to be quite popular on Laos as Opium smoking is somewhat of a favourite hobby there! The boat then went onto the Golden Triangle a few more kilometres up river. China is only 250 kilometres further up the Mekong River, so in effect, there are 4 countries very close together at this point. All 3 countries were very green at this time of year due to
the monsoon rains and the Mekong was in full flow.

We spent one night in Chaing Saen at JS Guesthouse but it's not really a touristy town. We had to go to the River Hill Hotel for dinner. This seems to cater more for the tour groups who visit and the food was quite good though expensive.

Monday the 16th was the beginning of our southerly journey back down through Thailand. We wanted to do the road along the Burma (Myanmar) border all the way from Mae Hong Son but were short on time so only did part of it. The back road we chose was via Mae Salong, Muang Ngam, Mae Ai and Fang to Mae Sun. We then joined route 107 and continued down through Mae Taeng to Chaing Mai. We stopped at an Elephant training centre just outside Ban Mae Na but we were too late for the daily show (9:30 and 10:30 am only). We had planned to reach Chom Thong, 100 km south west of Chaing Mai, but we got caught in a huge storm that drenched us and was so dark at 4pm we considered stopping for safety! The water filled our boots up and the roads became part of the flood plain!

Chaing Mai is a beautiful city, the 2nd largest in Thailand and has a country feel to it rather than a city. There are quite a few tourists around and so they are also well catered for; Internet café's, western food, English is widely spoken and the Thai people are very friendly and hospitable as in most places in Thailand.

On Tuesday 17th, the road out of Chaing Mai toward Chom Thong on route 108 was very industrial, busy and not that pleasant. Once past Hot, we turned west to pass through the Op Luang National park, headed for Mae Sariang and the road was once again back to the
tropical Thailand we had become accustomed to. The road from Mae Sariang, running alongside the Burma (Myanmar) border is certainly a highlight worth mentioning. The road is fantastic, though the surface is not as good as other roads we'd ridden, it offered lovely grand prix type sweeping corners and hill climbs over the green rolling terrain. It is
rainforest so there were patches of rain but also plenty of sunshine in between. Some of the roads had been washed away from the monsoon rains but we only counted about 3 or 4 places affected.

Riding south along the Mae Nam Moei River (Burma border) has a slightly different feel to the rest of Thailand. There are Burmese and Karen hill tribe villages alongside the road and you can feel a different vibe to the area. The men walking along the road (mainly farmers) are all smoking a pipe, wearing traditional colourful throwovers and their rural villages are thatched with leaves rather than grass. We didn't really stop at any of these points but you
could sense something was different about these people.

The best part of the road was from Tha Song Yang to Mae Ramat, where the road is absolutely empty, almost the width of 2 cars for each lane and the tar brand new.

There were many Police checkpoints along this road too and our panniers were searched on more than one occasion by heavily armed guards. They were all friendly and we're still not sure what they were looking for? The border with Burma is not far away so there are no doubt goods being illegally imported.

We arrived in Mae Sot in the dark and with a little difficulty found Mae Sot Guesthouse in the main street. There is little signposting in English so it wasn't that easy to navigate our way around. We did find a Canadian/Thai restaurant in the main town that served lovely food but it looked like the only one of its kind in this little village. If you come across it try and Burmese Duaeng Din coffee they serve - great!

Wednesday the 18th was another day of mechanical trouble with Maggie (Dom's bike) this time. She started her niggles by just cutting out at irregular intervals. We only managed to leave at 12 pm, as she simply wouldn't start! At this stage we did not know what the problem was. If a fuel pump is faulty, like any electrical gadget usually it'll either work or not. Maggie seemed to be ok then not, so it was a process of elimination. We managed to get going and then after cruising at 60 mph for a few hours, she'd just cut out!

We rode from Mae Sot through Tak, Kamphaeng Phet, Nakhon Sawan and Uthani Thani and stayed in the rather large town of Chainat (though the Lonely Planet guide for Thailand fails to mention anything of this area south of Khamphaeng Phet to around west of Bangkok). Again English wasn't the best way of communication but we eventually found a hotel suitable and it had a restaurant on site with good Thai food.

With the fuel troubles we were having with Maggie we tried to find decent in line fuel filters to replace our current ones that have been on the bikes since Turkey. This was another impossible task without actually showing up at a bike shop with your bike! We did find some but they were either too small (for scooters) or too big (for cars).

On Thursday the 19th Maggie continued her cut outs and it was becoming a cause of concern due to the problem troubleshooting. If it was the carburettor, we'd have to seek professional help, as it wasn't really something we wanted to tinker with (very delicate
process). We struggled on, sometimes stopping for 10 minutes to let Maggie sort herself out: This seemed to solve the problem of flooding or starvation?

We managed to ride from Chainat (motorway 340) to Phetburi via Sulphan Buri (route 321) and eventually making it onto National Highway 4, the main route from Bangkok to the south of Thailand. It did take a long time due to the mechanical problems and about 20 km's from Phetburi we stopped right outside a "big" motorbike shop, not something you see very often in Thailand. We decided that this was fate and we had to take Maggie into this workshop for a check. The owner of the shop, Charoen Narake, was an very friendly and experienced mechanic. You could see by the bikes he was working on at the time: there were several big bikes on the shop floor including a Suzuki GSX 750, a Honda VF 750 and a KDX 250. His English was very broken but after 20 minutes his colleague, Kija
Iamsuwan, showed up. He spoke great English and was extremely helpful to our cause.

He showed us Charoen's trophies that he'd won over the years as a motorcross rider and also the broken bones in his body! Kija was more of a touring rider and had a BMW K100, which he later brought to the shop to show us.

Within 2 hours they had stripped Maggies carburetors off, cleaned and reassembled them. Dom took her for a ride and she seemed right as rain so we paid for the work and thanked them profusely before heading for Phetburi, some 20 kilometres away in the dark. Only 2
kilometres from the shop Maggie stalled again! The problem was still not fixed!

We managed to get to Choh Klao hotel alongside the Mae Nam River and parked the bikes inside the courtyard undercover. We decided to swap fuel pumps on our bikes as this could only further eliminate what was on our minds: Fuel pump!

After swapping the fuel pumps the following morning, the suspect item on Shalastic (Gary's bike), we rode out of town heading south and 1km from Phetburi, Shalastic gave up! The 2nd fuel pump had gone at only 24 000 miles (38 000 kilometres)!!

As we had already used the spare we had carried from London, we were now down to 1 good fuel pump for 2 bikes - dilemma! We tried riding the bike but she cut out regularly and, as we had over 800 kilometres to reach Koh Sumui in only a few days, we had to make another plan. We bypassed the pump by joining the inlet and outlet so that the fuel flows directly from the tank to the carburettor, but the maximum speed you can do like this is only 30 mph on a downhill. Uphill is a problem as you try to keep the revs down the bike simply cannot get enough fuel and so cuts out. We limped alongside the road to the next town but decided we needed to do something about this.

Alternative plans started to develop and in the next coastal town, Cha Am, there was a Budget car rental office. We planned to hire a van, put the bike on the back and drive to Koh Sumui with the other rider following behind. We pulled into the train station, asking for directions, and managed to bargain with one of the local taxi drivers to put Shalastic on the back of his van for Thai Baht 4, 000 (about US $100). Within half an hour we were on the road again, Gary inside the cab with 2 Thai locals and Shalastic on the back and Dom following behind on Maggie, who was running perfectly.

The route from Cha Am to Surat Thani was a main highway and not very interesting but then it's a quieter road to Don Sak.

We got to Don Sak, the vehicle ferry port to Koh Sumui, in the dark at around 9 pm. The driver found us a suitable hotel to stay at that happened to be right next to where the ferry leaves at 7am for Koh Sumui.

Early on Saturday, we managed to get onto the half full, 7am ferry to Koh Sumui and in 90 minutes, we were on the island. It had not seemed possible just 24 hours earlier but we had managed to do it! There were still the 20 or so kilometres to get across from Thong Yang to Chaweng but we managed this with only a few cutouts. Sumui is quite hilly and with the fuel problem still apparent, the bike didn't take kindly to the uphill sections!

We found the Lucky Mother bungalows, as recommended by Lonely Planet, and settled in. This resort is very central but affordable and favourably placed for most things: shopping, beach, water sports, restaurants and airport.

Koh Sumui is a favourite tourist destination and so it has become quite commercial over the past few years. The main street in Chaweng, the centre of all the restaurants, travel agencies, markets, etc. is quite crowded at most times of the day though it's out of season now and not so busy. The main road is parallel to the lovely white sandy beach and is a few kilometres long.

Tomorrow we have a day to ourselves before Gary's family arrive from Sydney (brother George and wife Jacqui) and London (sister Kelly). On Tuesday Dominic's family arrive from Perth (brother Damian) and London (Damian's wife Karen).

They are here for 5 days for a holiday and to bring some necessary spares (laptop, fuel pump, etc!).

We are looking forward to a good family holiday, as it's been a few years since some of the family have seen each other!

Itinerary of the past few days:

Sunday, 15 September
Lampang to Chaing Saen (Golden Triangle), distance 185 miles;

Monday, 16 September
Chaing Saen to Chaing Mai, distance 172 miles;

Tuesday, 17 September
Chaing Mai to Mae Sot, distance 280 miles;

Wednesday, 18 September
Mae Sot to Chainat, distance 200 miles;

Thursday, 19 September
Chainat to Phetburi, distance 204 miles;

Friday, 20 September
Phetburi to Don Sak, distance: Shalastic - 26 miles,
Maggie - 374 miles;

Saturday, 21 September
Don Sak to Koh Sumui, distance 26 miles.
« Last Edit: Oct 8th, 2002, 12:52am by Davidfl »