Sunday 3 February 2013

Bangkok motorbike tours and selling the Honda Phantom.


Jan 2006 I was battling through an MSc at Newcastle University and tentatively planning the trip of a life time. I was organizing Mongolian visas and fretting about Japanese Encephalitis injections and whether or not I should take malaria tablets. I currently don’t subscribe to any preventative medicine and have neglected the concept of insurance. I haven’t had any since 2007 although my work has just given me some accident cover. Stay fit is my advice. I doubt Marco Polo had much in the way of BUPA cover!

Jan 2007 I was trekking through the jungles of Borneo. I met Iban and Dayak tribal people in Malaysia’s Sarawak province. The men used to pierce their actual bell ends for some reason! I remember feeling too nauseous to investigate further. Watching the Proboscis Monkeys feed in the mangroves was an excellent experience although finding a snake in the dorm wasn’t.

Jan 2008 I had just moved from Taipei to rural Tainan in the south of Taiwan. I was living with ZiTing’s family whilst teaching English in this remote outpost. I saw one other European person during my time here, a fat old Frenchman who was fluent in Mandarin – I wonder if Newcastle have signed him?

Jan 2009 I had just spent my second month in Cambodia. Austrian Armin and I visited chicken farms in Ko Kong and beaches in Sihanoukville. It was here that Armin fell in love with a bona fide Princess from Sulawesi Island of the Indonesian archipelago.

Jan 2010 the adventure wheels had come off and I had succumbed to work again. I was teaching in Trang, Thailand. I had just bought a cruiser motorbike and was enjoying touring the mountains and beaches around the south of this tropical paradise.

Jan 2011 the wheels were still off. I had embarked on a PGCE teaching qualification as I was teaching maths at Headstart International School in Phuket. I was becoming concerned about some very worrying drinking behavior I was exhibiting here.

Jan 2012 I had finally quit Phuket’s beaches, booze and prostitutes after almost two years. I was about to embark on a mammoth motorbike trip around the whole country. I spent 10 days in a Buddhist meditation retreat where the intricacies of breathing were learnt along with a bit of Pali. I love extinct languages like Pali and Latin! Later, I ended up accepting a job in Pattaya before moving to Bangkok where I am now.


My quest to establish a rudimentary level of fitness has been challenging to say the least, however, some steady progress has been achieved. I can now run 2.4km in 11m48s which is 46s within the Royal Navy’s required time for an old lad like me! The following table shows the times:

RN 2.4km run

In fact, I am pleased to see I am only 10s outside the time for someone 10yrs younger. That is the next target…….and then sub-11 minutes!

Since I quit smoking and drinking (13th December – almost 2 months) my energy levels have increased. I can’t believe I can run on a treadmill at 12km/h for 12 minutes. I could never have done this before. The first time I tried it took 18mins – ridiculous!!

Wheeling and dealing

I finally sold the Phantom to an Aussie lad I worked with in July. I had a tear in my eye as I handed over the ownership document. I had that bike 3yr 4mth in total and I had some fantastic adventures on it. It was like losing a faithful old wife. However, to compensate I have a new CBR 250. To extend the old wife analogy; I may have lost an old wife but she’s been replaced by a beautiful 18yo bi-sexual nymphomaniac who was trained at Dr BJs.

Being a geek I decided to create a table comparing my two largest purchases since buying a house in 2005.

Honda Phantom TA200
Honda CBR 250R
First Registered
June 2005
July 2011
Nakhon Si Tammarat
Date bought
Oct 2009
Jan 2013
Age when bought
4yr 4mth
1yr 6mth
Price paid
Seller’s nationality
Km when bought
Km when sold
1505 mm/2256 mm
1,370 mm/2,035 mm
196.9 cc
 4-stroke Single-cylinder, air-cooled, 2-valve SOHC
4-stroke single-cylinder, liquid-cooled, 4 valves
Fuel Tank
Seat Height
699 mm
780 mm 
153 kg
Max Power Out
16.48 hp @ 8000 rpm
23.7 hp @ 9,900 rpm
16.2 nm @6500 rpm
19.86 N·m @ 6,750 rpm

I rode 44,100km on the Phantom in 40 months averaging 1102km/month. It has driven the equivalent of 1.1 times around the Earth’s equator (40,075km). I paid 58K for it and sold it for 30K meaning it cost 700bt/month excluding fuel and wear.

The differences between new and old are many. The most noticeable is the seat height. The CBR induces feelings of vertigo compared to the Phantom. The Phantom had a much lower center of gravity. The CBR offers way more power and torque making accelerating up through the gears a pleasure. Despite being slightly heavier the CBR ‘feels’ lighter and tackles windy roads in a nimble fashion.

The Phantom was definitely more comfortable but the CBR isn’t too bad. I just rode 617km over two days and I feel no worse than I would’ve done on the cruiser. My wrists are taking the longest to adjust as they support more body weight because of the seating angle.

Getting a bath before showing it to potential buyers.

Looking quite nice if I do say so. I would still buy it. I wanted 40K but ended up settling for 30K as I had had both bikes for 4 weeks and I was becoming tired of time wasters. I just wanted shot of it in the end.
Here's Gerard just returning from a test ride. This was the last time I ever saw it.
Here we are exchanging 30,000bt and the famous green book or ownership document.


Since I've had the bike I’ve put about 1500km on it. I rode it back from Cha Am and then to Thailand’s smallest province Samut Songkram to visit a floating market. Then through Khao Yai National Park and Bang Saen beach. Finally last weekend I rode it through Kanchanaburi province.

This map shows the 4 routes. Green is Cha Am and the floating market. Red is Kanachanaburi, blue is Khao Yai and black is Bang Saen.

Floating Market

Boats hustling for a spot at the floating market in Samut Songkram.
I decided to wear my Newcastle shirt in a display of solidarity and to show that our precarious league position doesn't faze me.
Yui, my little tilac (sweetheart) rode pillion for the journey down Praram 2 and back. My 71kg plus her 42kg makes 113kg - well under the bike's cargo capacity. I know some blokes who weigh more than her and I together! I should say mass, not weight.
A view down the canal. Things were starting to quieting down a little by the afternoon. This place was mobbed with tourists and 99% of them were local.
More pandemonium.
An old lady rowing her flowers across to the other side. She must have spotted a potential buyer. She will then apply her customer facing skills that she learnt on her MBA.
Almost Venetian! All that's missing is a cornetto and a gondola. I was in Venice in 1994 while serving on HMS Coventry. I can't remember a thing. I went back again in 2004.
Wor lass gave me crabs......for lunch at the floating market. Possibly one of the most awkward things to eat. The salad on the right produces enough thermal energy to power Blyth for a week.

Phuket Boys

The Chalong lads were in town for a weekend. From the left you have Mark, Leeds Mark, me and Simon. We used to have a laugh in Mackem Guy's bar in Chalong. Here we are in Nana Plaza at dusk watching the girls turn up for work while we discuss the hardships of being an expat in Bangkok. They were astonished at my sobriety given my performances in Phuket.
They were here to see this Thai band 'Kang Geng' playing in Huai Kwang. Yui and I went up to see them but we couldn't bear the noise. It was great to see these fellows again.

Lumpini Park

Lumpini Park (or Suan Loom) had a free classical music concert one weekend. Many people were there listening. 
There're spoiled kids the world over and Asia is no exception. This little fellow was driving around the park in a battery powered sports car. He was probably (although I never saw) ordering champagne with his ipad too.


These signs are all over the place. They basically mean 'Man with van for hire'. Pickup trucks are ubiquitous here and many try to make a few extra bob by helping people move things around the country. I guess many folk have over extended themselves financially. A 3L Toyota Hilux costs around £15,000 and there are thousands of them here. They are not cheap so it's anyone's guess as to where all the money is coming from?? Doing a few removals on the side may help with the costs a little?
I took this at 2230 on a Saturday night. What are all these people doing? It was gridlocked. I am still coming to terms with the immensity of Bangkok traffic.

Khao Yai

Khao Yai is a national park to the north east of Bangkok. I took Yui on a 370km loop taking us through the heart of this jungle wilderness. It is said that wild tigers still live in the park. We stopped at a waterfall where all these Thai blokes with far superior bikes intimidated us. Little did I know I was infringing on some kind of motorbike social hierarchy?? 
At the entrance I was pleased to see that white people pay 400bt and Asians pay 40bt. "Pleased?" you ask. Yes, I was pleased because I remembered to bring my work permit with me (preempting this lunacy). For the first time in 4 years I paid local price!! 

Bang Saen

Bang Saen is a beach in Chonburi province. It is used almost exclusively by locals. I like this beach as it's relaxed with no hassle from hawkers. I sat and ate some somtam after a nice stroll along the promenade watching a jet-ski race and all the kids playing with rubber tubes.

While the kids were playing, Mam and Dad sat drinking whiskey and eating somtam under the thousands of umbrellas. Remember the first commandment: Thou shall not let the sunlight touch ANY part of your body.......EVER. This massive canopy formed a kind of surreal underworld.
Near the jet-ski race mayhem were these James Bond boats.  
These four-man bikes were good. I bet the laziest person sits at the back. 
A purveyor of papaya salad was kind enough to take this shot of me to prove my actual attendance. The green Tshirt is my school house shirt. I recently discovered I am in the green house which is the same colour I was in at Bothal Middle School from 1983-1987.
The mint new bike took this 200km round trip in its stride. Bizarrely, an old man took this photo who later went on to reveal himself as a fortune teller. I wonder if he knew a farang would ask him to take a picture that day?
It rained this day and I like this shot of the contrasting cloud colours. 

There's a massive Chinese temple nearby. The memories of my year in Taiwan came flooding back.

 Si Sawat 

I have just returned from Si Sawat in Kanchanaburi Province. I left Bangkok at 1100 Saturday and returned 617km later at 1600 Sunday. First stop was a dam near Erawan waterfall.
The dam wall. Impressive but nothing against the Three Gorges dam on the Yangtze. Behind is Srinakarin Reservoir. The wall holds back 7.5billion cubic meters of water. Perhaps this will be in my maths lesson tomorrow!
Many things for tourists to see here. However, I was here for the windy roads.
I stopped here for a pee. I haven't had many more scenic toilet experiences than this. Tiger Leaping Gorge in the Himalayas was up there. 
You don't see empty roads like this in Bangkok. It's always such a relief to be outside the city. A couple of wayward cows. 
Nightmare. I stopped to take some pics when it fell over. The higher center of gravity threw me. When it is parked standing, it is far more vertical than my old bike.
Haven't had it 5 minutes and I scratched it. Bollicks! Oh well, it was bound to happen sooner or later.
Another nice shot of Srinakarin Resevoir. 
I arrived in Si Sawat expecting a plethora of hotels and shops. There was absolutely nothing there. It was getting late and I was afraid I was going to have to drive 100km to the next town in the dark. Perhaps this bizarre ancient army could've protected me?
I arrived at the end of the road where I got talking to two likely lads from Bangkok who helped me secure some lodgings. I am so pleased I can speak Thai at times like this. The reservoir is like an inland sea.
I feel like I have reached the end of the line here in Si Sawat. It feels very remote despite being only 280km from Soi Cowboy. 
I followed the Bangkok lads' advice and found myself walking precariously along a plank of wood to a raft-house.
The view was great and I wasted no time in jumping in for a swim.
I then enjoyed the sunset on the shores of this man-made lake. I wondered if this lake was larger than Kielder Water in Northumberland (England's largest reservoir)? This one is far larger containing 7.5 cubic km to Kielder's paltry 0.2 cubic km.
I then decided I would have a shower and was surprised to see that my room (which had no door) had two toilets. It had this Asian style squat toilet.
And it also had this luxurious western style toilet. The blue bin full of water was the power shower. There was no phone signal here either. The young girl in a small eatery burst out laughing when I asked if 3G or WIFI was available.
It was with much contentedness that I retired to the presidential suite after some great food, some star gazing and a few games of Angry Birds on my phone! This room was 200bt but I was happy to have a bed anywhere after my initial scare.
These people were having a party. A boat came and towed their raft-bar away leaving us in peace. I have no idea where they went but they hadn't returned by morning.
I left early on Sunday morning on a wild stretch of road between Si Sawat and Nong Prue. Sights like this were common. I hardly saw any other traffic - poles apart from Bangkok traffic trauma. I like to stop switch the engine off and simply enjoy the tranquil silence in places like this. 
Morning mist being burned away in the high jungle-clad hills. 
Around Supanburi one finds these wonderful expanses of emerald green rice fields. Almost snooker-esque in appearance. The range of green hues is sublime. Not long after this I was crossing the KrungTon bridge in Bangkok and heading home with a heavy heart after a sensational weekend.
The trip meter reading 617.6km at 4pm with an empty petrol tank. Loving the digital display, it makes the Phantom look antiquated.
Staff Photo

I like this photo of the staff at SPIP. I wish I'd worn a proper shirt and tie! One of the best bunch of colleagues I've had the pleasure of working with. Great bunch of lads from 11 different countries.


We had the pleasure of meeting the students' parents a few weeks back. This is my year 10 IGCSE group. They sat their mocks (one year early) and achieved spectacular results. 2 A*, 4 A, the rest Bs and Cs and only one D. This is after only one term through a 2 year course!

When I was at school not every house had a phone. Now every kid has an iphone, ipad, ithis and ithat. They even charge them during some classes. I think Bob Dylan said: "The times are a changing." Still rings true today.


I have started a 7 week online professional development course with called intermediate maths. It involved three 500 word essays and it is truly one of the most thrilling things I've ever done in my life. My first essay was 500 words about leaning objectives, learning outcomes and success criteria. How sexy?

Matt Saudi Arabia

I was very sad on Friday to see one of my best friends leave Thailand. Matt has gone to work in Saudi Arabia to unashamedly chase the $$$$$$. We shared a full English breakfast in the Queen Vic before he left and I wish him the best of luck. I have a feeling he'll be back. We both arrived in Trang in March 2009 to start teaching in Thailand. We have remained friends during the subsequent four years and shared many adventures together - particularly Trang, Aranyapratet and Pattaya. 


Our Frenchmen beat Villa's teenagers and then Chelsea's superstars. Oh la la.


Pare pack - raft house.
Nang sabai - comfortable.


  1. I miss those year 10 kids.
    i did the whole year 9 extension with them last year. Compare with the kids at Headstart and frankly... there is none!

    1. I agree. These Bangkok kids are Geng Mac!!! To get those results after only one term of IGCSE is better than excellent. We hope to have them sit their exams in May and move on to A levels one year early. A pleasure to teach too!! I much prefer SPIP to HSIS. Less work, great colleagues, more fun and $$$$. The only downside is living in BKK!!