Sunday, 29 April 2012

Pai to Pattaya the end of the 7500km bike trip.


Journey's end

The above map shows my progress through Thailand over the last two months. I left Phuket on the 15th of February and arrived in Pattaya on the 26th of April 2012. I travelled some 7500km (the equivalent of driving from Newcastle to Katmandu in the Nepalese Himalayas) on my trusty Honda Phantom 200cc.


The bike had 34000km on the clock when I left Phuket. It now has 41500km. That is more than once around the Earth's equator. I bought the bike almost 3 years ago when it only had 3000km on the clock. It will be 7 years old in June when I have to tax it. It has been an almost indestructible bike and I would recommend the Honda brand to anyone thinking of purchasing a motorbike.

The trip has included:

a hike up Penang Hill in Malaysia,
boozing with old friends in Trang,
visiting Russel's house in Don Sak,
a 10 day silent meditation retreat in Surat Thani,
POW graves and waterfalls in Kanchanaburi,
ancient ruins in Ayuddaya,
driving through Bangkok bedlam,
job interviews in Pattaya and Rayong,
a scary break down at night in rural Chantanaburi province,
visiting Matt in Aranyapratet and shopping at the Cambodian border market,
a journey through Isaan visiting the 3 Mekong bridges to Laos and admiring the endless rice fields,
ancient ruins in Sukhothai,
refugee camps along the remote Thai/Burmese border,
riding the spectacular roads and scenery of the mountainous north.
hill tribe Easter clebrations in Mae Sariang,
Songkran madness in Chiang Mai and remote northern regions.

Pai

My last post was from Pai and following a rest there I went out to take a few shots. This is one of the many rickety bamboo bridges over the river Pai. Pai is such a chilled place despite the presence of filthy, dread locked, barefoot hippy wannabes trying to 'find themselves'. I am thinking of selling 'fisherman' trousers in Pai because I reckon I was the only 'dude' not wearing any!

You can stay in these cheap riverside bamboo huts.

I stayed in the room with the open door because of its WIFI provision. I stayed here while my Quebec buddies rode elephants around the jungle.

I had a chance to practice my Mandarin with these two HR workers from Shanghai. I met them in a vegetarian restaurant Armin had recommended. They made me want to go back to China again. Chinese and Thais are as different as Norwegians and Botswanians!

Chiang Mai

CM was the first place I visited in Thailand in October 2006. I hadn't been again since June 2007. Back then 1gbp would buy you 74bt. Today our superb currency will get you a whopping 48bt. This time I had the misfortune to arrive during the chaos of Songkran. CM is the capital of Songkran. Songkran is the Thai new year and Thais celebrate by throwing buckets of icy water over unsuspecting motorists - especially whiter skinned motorists with big noses and cartoonish round eyes. In Trang, Songkran lasts ONE DAY. In CM it lasts ONE WEEK! One day is enough - believe me. Here you can see the line of police cars alongside the city's moat preparing for the havoc.

Being briefed on how to have a safe Songkran. Motorbiking around Thailand is dangerous - FACT. The danger is exacerbated when drunk retards throw buckets of water over you as you're doing 70-80mph down a dual carriage way!! FFS. One of the people on stage was dressed as a Panda?? It must've been a special safety-advising Panda.

This is the stairway up to Doi Suthep temple in the mountains west of the city. As you can see it was mobbed because of the Songkran holiday. There are good views of the city from this road. I also visited a ridiculously touristy hill-tribe village beyond Doi Suthep called Doi Pui. They're supposed to be Hmong tribal people (originally immigrants from China), however, I would seriously doubt the authenticity of this given the amount of Muslims I saw selling Hmong hill-tribe attire?????

Some kids singing songs on a stage at one end of Tha Pae night market.

This bloke's name is Tommy. He's a Geordie who owns a bar in CM. What makes him special is that he's 90. He looks and behaves much younger. I first met him in 2007 when he gave me a special price on a rented motorbike. Top lad.

The river Ping in CM. CM is an interesting city and well worth a visit - just not in April.

This is CM zoo. It has a much vaunted Panda bear in there. I remember being in Chengdu province in China with the chance to see wild Pandas in their natural habitat. I regret getting drunk instead of going to see them. The thing about this Panda in CM is that there is a 24hr TV channel devoted to it. You can watch it 24/7, in its cage, on one of the TV channels. As exciting as watching paint dry - only in Thailand.

Payao, Nan

I was relieved to be leaving CM and hitting more rural locations. CM was a shock after the time I'd spent in the sticks. Here are some foraging dinosaurs near Payao to the east of CM. A lot of fossils in these parts!

The views in the north of Thailand are incredible. I wish I had a decent camera to do them justice. Photos just don't seem to convey the same beauty one experiences by being there.

Here's the bike passing the landmark 40,000km just outside sleepy Nan Town.

Prae, Uttaradit

If anyone can find where I am on a map I will give them 250bt (5gbp). This is really in the middle of nowhere.

This was a common occurrence. Even drunk locals told me not to take this road. There were numerous trees and other things blocking the way. I didn't see any other people or cars on some of these remote roads. BTW that was a very heavy tree!

This was another spot somewhere between Nan and Prae. Every bloke I met out here stunk of Lao Cao - the local cheap rice wine. I also had this conversation in Thai a thousand times:

Where are you from?
England.
You speak Thai well, how long have you been here?
Thank you, three years.
Do you have a Thai wife?
No.
I don't believe you, how have you learnt without a wife?

People here find it impossible to believe that you can learn a language without the help of a spouse - peculiar?

Don't even get me started about Thais and maps. My map only had Thai writing on it but I might as well have being holding the blueprints of a rocket engine. Most encounters I had went to prove that these people have no idea what exists beyond their village. One girl who worked in a petrol station didn't know where the road actually went??????

After getting totally drunk with Chloe we went to a massive spare parts store to finally purchase a new chain and sprockets. I can't believe how worn the old ones were. No wonder the chain was getting stretched. The mechanics thought I was 'touched' as I took these pics!

The front sprocket looks even more worn. The teeth should have rounded ends - not sharp pointed ends.

I finally managed to change these in Uttaradit when the shops finally re-opened after the Songkran holiday. It was nice to be able to drive around without having buckets of water thrown over you. This can get annoying after a week! This lad was an ace mechanic.

Petchabun

I headed from Uttaradit to Petchabun where I spotted this massive Buddha just outside town. I drove through Khao Kho which some visitors call Little Switzerland just to the west of town. It was nice to finally not be worrying about that bloody chain coming off!

Petchabun clock tower - simply awesome!

Chaiyaphum

A view across a Chaiyaphum plain.

I saw this hideous sign as I was looking for a room in Chaiyaphum town.

After further investigation I'd realised that I'd entered into some kind of nightmarish vortex. I tried to explain to the lady behind the desk how she is alienating 90% of football supporters with this business approach - (not to mention copyright infringements). She just shrugged at the stupid Farang and persisted "You wan room or no?"

As a self-respecting Geordie I declined.

Nakon Ratchasima 

And headed onto Nakon Ratchasima where I stayed in this salubrious city-centre dwelling. 

I particularly liked the way that safety nets were in place - presumably to prevent suicides. This place had a real prison feel to it.

Another hotel selling point is this sign which was in the parking area. It roughly means: I love people who don't give me cheap and strong rice wine.

Here's a shot of NR's Chiang Mai style moat.

This is Chumpon Gate in the city wall.

Aranyapratet

I then went back to Aran to visit Matt on the Cambo border. I extended my tourist visa for another 30 days (1900bt) so I'm good until 25th May by which time I should be on my work visa. We drove down to Pattaya together last Thursday. This was a very slow drive since Matt was on his scooter and he lacks the confidence to drive quickly. I also experienced my first encounter with a member of the opposite sex here in Aran!!

Pattaya + gf?

And thus I had arrived in Pattaya - the world's prostitution capital. Here's the beach at night. I have found a room for 4200bt/month. It has AC, WIFI and is near the school where I start on Tuesday.

This young lass is Pat. She is 18, from Mukdahan but currently working as a hotel maid in Bangkok. She came out to Aran to see me for two nights and she came again to Pattaya. Here she is standing in sea water for the first time in her life.

Despite having a 5 month old bairn, she is only 38kg. She doesn't speak one word of English. She has the same birthday as me so I am exactly 20yrs older. We are taking things slowly given the age difference but she does seem to like me and I like her too.

Seven snakes coming out of a dragons mouth - could this be symbolic?

When I was last here there wasn't a big TV there. This place is packed at the moment because of a big music festival. The roads are jammed.

Thais can sleep anywhere in any situation. This fat bitch has her head down in the middle of a music festival. The noise of the music compounded by the human traffic makes this an admirable effort. Reminds me of a lad who fell asleep whilst hoovering on HMS Coventry in 1994.

Down the infamous Soi 6. Fill in the blanks. Mind? Sleep?

A Pattaya sunset. Right, I'm off to watch naked gogo girls down walking street for my last night out before work starts.

Lingo

Naaja - probably
chat loei - obvious
prayat ngern - save money
ben sook - comfortable

2 comments:

  1. So let me get this straight: you left phuket for 60 grand just to get to the ugly sister of phuket and work for half of salary? Hmmmm....

    ReplyDelete
  2. Looks like you had a good time. Shame you didn't get to see some of that sweet Pattaya nightlife - and by sweet, I mean not so sweet. But it's definitely an interesting sight to see.

    ReplyDelete

Please be nice.