Monday, 19 October 2009

Thai Motorbike Licence. Ao Nang and Satun.

Chinese festival

After buying the motorbike I've racked up an impressive 3000km in two weeks. I absolutely love it. I have reached parts of this country that no tourist would ever be likely to see. It's wonderful cruising along in the sunshine wearing flip-flops, shorts, T-shirt and shades. I went to the small town of Tung Yao to see a Chinese festival with floats and fireworks. The strong Chinese influence in Trang Province reminds me of my time in Taiwan. Even the famous Trang sweet pork is widely eaten in Taiwan.



Being held up in Trang town for another procession of monk carrying floats.

License

After buying the motorbike and riding it back to Trang I had to deal with the paperwork. The first job was to transfer the ownership document into my name. I headed to the Trang provincial transport department office only to be told that I have to go back to Nakkon Si Tammarat to change the document since this is where I bought the bike. Presumably Thailand operates its DVLC on a provincial basis????? So, the next day I arranged to meet the seller (Peter the Yank) in Nakkon. We went to the Nakkon provincial transport department office and emerged 2 hrs later with a small green book with my name written in it - cool. The bike is now legally mine.

On the torrential 2hr ride to Nakkon I manged to get this shot while stopped at red lights. This is quite common here. It's a Police Station sign combined with an ad for Coke. This strikes me as odd, it always raises a smile:

WELCOME TO YOUR LOCAL POLICE STATION.......
..............PROUDLY SPONSORED BY COCA COLA!!!!!!

Presumably Coke employees get discounts on fines and prison terms. Also preferential treatment at roadblocks as the cops guzzle down their free Cokes. Thailand - you have to love it.

I then proceeded to take my Thai motorcycle driving test. This involved mixing in with a load of locals to sit a theory test and a ride-your-bike-around-a-course-test. Nobody spoke English so I was wondering how I would tackle the above hand/eye co-ordination test. You were required to line up two white flags attached to the string.

Next I was given this book to revise Thai road signs. Luckily I can read basic Thai so this was no problem. The two on the left mean 'Stop' and 'Drive Slowly'.

Pretty straight forward so far.

I then had to sit at one of these computers and do 30 multiple choice questions about road safety in Thailand.

On first impressions I was a little worried that the questions would be in Thai. However, I was relieved to find there was an English version of the test available for foreigners. This relief was short-lived as I soon discovered the person who translated the test from Thai to English had no knowledge of the English language. The first question:

Q1. Sing this what?

A. Pass not
B. SOTP
C. Go can not
D. Sped max 50km/hr

OK? So you can just about make out what the question is talking about but the problem was there was no attached sign accompanying the question. I took a stab at 'Pass not' based on nothing but it sounding stupid.

One question had 4 pictures of dodgily parked cars and asked:

Car which park wrong?

Answer? I have no idea. All of them looked wrongly parked to me. I also got this one wrong although I'll never know why.

My favourite though was this:

Q. Drive can not Bangkok what?

A. Tuk-tuk miss wheel.
B. Car no have windscreen.
C. Tank.
D. A unicycle balanced on a pogo stick.

I went for 'tank'. Surely you can't drive a tank around the Thai capital? Alas you can, the answer was B.

I only got 21/30 which is a fail. However, I looked on this positively given the ridiculousness of the questions. I was allowed an immediate re-test and sailed through with 28/30.

I will never drive a car through Bangkok unless I'm sure it has a windscreen. I might even grin ironically as I'm stuck at red lights behind a tank!

Anyhow, here's my license. This 150THB piece of plastic will save me fines of 200THB when the police invariably stop me.

Holiday

Armed with my ownership document and new driving license I cruised up to Ao Nang near Krabi for another little holiday on my cheap-man's Harley. I met my mate Richard and wasted no time heading for this small strip of girly bars known as Soi Sunset. I had a cracking time here for 6 nights.

I also met Pree, Russel's half-Thai daughter who has been living in Switzerland but is coming to run the Falang bar here in Trang. She's a canny lass and it's great news that the bar will be back in action. Even better that gorgeous little Pree will be serving the beer and not her old crusty Fatha!

I went for a couple of walks when the hangovers weren't too severe. I discovered remote beaches like this one above.

Krabi province is sensational. Riding around this beautiful area is a total pleasure.

I liked the look of this Thai bloke sleeping in his hammock despite facing a busy tourist street. That is VERY Thai.

This is a new strip of bars that'll be open for the high season. I met some of the owners and they seemed quite excited about their new business ventures. I pointed out that now could be a risky time given we are currently experiencing a global downturn but my scepticism was brushed aside. Perhaps that's why I'll never be an entrepreneur - no balls for risk.

By the way, what's the French for entrepreneur?

Look at this hotel that looks like a Thai temple. This is as close as I'll ever get to spending a night in a place like this.

Arty? A silhouetted lonesome beach-front palm tree.

Ao Nang beach. Canny nice.

This is a building-in-progress stupa at Tiger temple near Krabi. I came out here after eating a superb Full English Breakfast with Joe, my American Krabi mate.

Motorbike adventures

Doing 3000km in two weeks has been amazing. This is a shot of some longtail boats in Hat Yao. I want to buy one of these so that I can sail around the Andaman Islands of my own free will. I have asked Ole to keep an eye out for me.

Here's Ole smiling after we have eating some Boo Nim - a kind of fried crab concoction. Very tasty.

However, care should be taken on the restaurant walkway.

A seaward view from the 5 star restaurant. Nice boats.

A landward view from the 5 star restaurant. Nice slums.

This is the sign indicating you are entering Trang Province. (Ketjangwat Trang)

This is the sign indicating you are entering Satun Province. (Ketjangwat Satun).

This sign says: 'Tam Kao Ting' or Kao Ting Cave. This is a cave on the Trang/Satun border. I couldn't enter the cave as there was no bridge across the river.

I was actually in the Banthat mountains trying to find a Sakai village named Ban Kaonamdao. The Sakai are an ancient nomadic jungle tribe who exist on hunting and gathering. They are distinct from their Thai cousins in both language and appearance. I asked these two lads if they knew where the village was. They helped me find the junction I was looking for.

At the junction I met this family who explained that the village was 8km down a small road. However, after 1km this road becomes an impossible mud slide given the recent rain. I went regardless and quickly returned concurring with their view that my bike had no chance of scrambling along 7km of mud.

Thailand and its micro-climates. Localised rain over the mountains. People in England complain about the rain. After a little research I discovered Newcastle receives 700mm of rain annually. Trang, meanwhile, receives a whopping 2500mm of rain annually. It bloody well feels like it too.

It was a good laugh driving to places where you are a real novelty. I swear some of these people have never seen a white bloke before.

Hat Samran

Little Pat at Hat Samran beach about 60km from Trang. After visiting a small Muslim family running a restaurant I promised them I would come back to see them again with my girlfriend. Here she is enjoying the sea breeze under a small bamboo shelter.

Quotes

A fat cockney sexpat rueing the fully clothed go go dancers in Samui:

"When I first came here it was all nipples"

A real tattoo on a bargirl's left upper arm (my phone/cam battery was dead - shame):

"Fuck me"

A Songkla prostitute:

"I don't do teachers"

Right now in Trang we have the vegetarian festival. I'll endeavour to get some shots of the action and report in due course.

Check Bin Cap

Payayam - Try
Gurt arai - What happened

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