Tag - motorcycle

Types of Transport in Malaysia

Types of Transport in Malaysia
Types of Transport in Malaysia
Types of Transport in Malaysia

Transport in Malaysia tends to be safe and reliable and there aren’t really any no-go areas of the country. This usually means that getting around Malaysia is pleasant and hassle free.

However, most people return to their home town or village a day or two before public holidays, and public transport is usually very crowded during this time. Try to avoid travelling during public holidays and especially major festivals such as Deepavali, Chinese New Year and Christmas.

Plane
Travelling across Malaysia by aeroplane is generally quite cheap and certainly the easiest way to get around. The main airline is Malaysia Airlines and booking in advance online can save quite a bit of cash. Cheap flights are also provided by AirAsia.

Boat
There are regular ferries running between the mainland and the numerous islands located just off the east and west coasts of Malaysia. Tickets are usually bought in advance from booths on the mainland. In a few states, such as Sarawak, express boats are the most common form of public transport, carrying passengers down the rivers and streams that run through the areas.

Train
Malaysia’s railway network is fast and efficient, consisting of three types of service: express, limited express and local trains. Express trains are reserved for 1st and 2nd class passengers, limited express trains usually just 2nd and 3rd coaches, while local trains are usually limited to 3rd class. There are overnight sleeper births available on Express and limited express trains. Tourist rail passes are a good way to save money if you planning on travelling by train a lot and last for five days, ten days and fifteen days.

The Jungle Railway runs across Malaysia, stopping at every station between Tumpat and Gemas. This service is 3rd class only and there is no air-conditioning or reservations, meaning that the trains tend to be rather hot and crowded. However, the stunning jungle views more than make up for the discomfort.

Bus
Buses are the cheapest way to get around Malaysia and the best place to catch the bus and guarantee a seat is at the town’s bus terminal. There are luxury buses available for long-distance travel and these can be booked a couple of days in advance. The air-conditioned buses can be rather chilly, so take a blanket with you. Although they tend to be rather slow, local buses are regular and reliable.

Car and motorcycle
Driving in Malaysia is safe and convenient as the roads are good and there are plenty of new cars available to hire. Road rules are basically the same as in Britain and Australia, with right-hand drive cars that stick to the left side of the road. Petrol is generally cheap and motorbikes can also be hired from guesthouses in tourist towns and cities. Although Malaysian drivers are generally good, drivers still need to be careful, especially in large towns and cities as animals often roam freely across the roads.

Taxis
Taxis can be found in all cities and larger towns and usually drive around looking for customers. You will usually need to negotiate the fare in advance and it is a good idea to ask the staff at you guesthouse for an estimate of the going rate.

Trishaws
These bicycle rickshaws seat two people and can be a romantic way to see the sights.

Crosstown Traffic

Cross Town Traffic in Bangkok, Thailand
Cross Town Traffic in Bangkok, Thailand
Cross Town Traffic in Bangkok, Thailand
Cross Town Traffic in Bangkok, Thailand
Cross Town Traffic, BTS in Bangkok, Thailands
Cross Town Traffic, BTS in Bangkok, Thailand
Cross Town Traffic, MRT in Bangkok, Thailand
Cross Town Traffic, MRT in Bangkok, Thailand

“Don’t s**t yourself that’s the secret,” I’d never been on a motorbike taxi before and they were the words of advice my mate Chris had given me about riding on one. He said, “Most accidents happen when farangs get on the back and don’t know what’s going on. They panic and try to jump off when it gets a bit scary.”

At the time I was trying my best not to s**t myself. We were going the wrong way down a one way lane and a bus was coming towards us. The sheer terror was incalculable, I’m struggling for metaphors, it was like being on a motorbike heading straight for an oncoming bus. I covered my face with my hands, a few seconds later I uncovered my eyes and saw that we were ten feet (that’s about 3 meters for those of you from mainland Europe) away from colliding head on with the bus.
 
I made the sign of the cross and wondered weather to jump or not but the driver glided deftly to his left and slid through a gap about two feet wide (that’s about an inch and a half wider than your humble narrator for those of you from mainland Europe). The slipstream of the bus to my right and of the taxi to my left made the hairs on my arms face the wrong way.
 
When we got to my destination I paid the driver the prearranged sum of sixty baht although I genuinely felt like “tolchocking the brazny vesch in the litso real horrorshow for making me kaki my breshies which at the time were the heigth of fashion” (if you don’t understand that last little phrase try reading A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess although the diction gets the general sentiment across).
 
I’d always sworn never to get on a motorbike taxi, but that day matters were quite urgent, I had 20 minutes to get from Sukumvit to Thai Air’s offices on Silom to get my flight changed or loose it altogether. Once the panic was over and everything was sorted out I heaved a sigh of relief, reflected on the journey and thought how convenient that particular option had actually been.
 
The return journey to my hotel wasn’t that urgent, but I weighed up the other modes of transport available and actually opted for a motorbike again. This time, as I was relieved and happy to be staying in the kingdom for another week and not so petrified of the consequences having managed a successful maiden voyage, I actually enjoyed it. I sat back on the seat, lit a cigarette at some traffic lights, waved flirtatiously at a young lady in a taxi and regretted not having brought anything to read with me.
 
When I got back to base camp I pondered for a while over another facet of Bangkok that makes it so enchanting, there are just so many ways to get around in this great city. Here’s an outline of some of the different options available.
 
Walking

Pros

If you smell some nice food being cooked you can stop and try some.

Cons

Within a hundred yards you’ll have sweat accumulating in every nook and cranny of your body and within two or three you’ll need a change of clothes.

Dos

Wear something light and loose fitting.

Don’ts

Bother unless it’s journeys of less than a couple hundred yards or so.

Motorbike Taxi

Pros

They’re a very quick efficient way of getting from A to B, especially in heavy traffic. Can be exhilarating. Cons You may need a change of underwear. If you have back problems repeated motorbike journeys can aggravate them.

Do’s

Agree on a price before setting off, and get the driver to come down 10 to 20% on his opening price. Insist on wearing a helmet. Keep your knees tucked in.

Don’ts

Panic or wobble about.

Tuk Tuk

Pros

They’re a quaint entertaining way of travelling. They can cut through traffic, but not as well as motorbikes. They carry more than one passenger.

Cons

The drivers tend to have commission deals set up with tailors shops, bars, massage parlours, jewellery stores etc. and will constantly bother you to take a visit at no extra charge.

Do’s

Knock them down on their asking price.

Don’ts

Believe they can take everywhere in Bangkok for only 20 Baht!

Taxi

Pros

Taxi’s can be a nice comfortable way of getting around town. They’ve got aircon, are amply protected from the rain and have plenty of storage space for luggage and shopping. If three or four of you share the fare it can actually work out cheaper than the other modes of transport.

Cons

They sometimes have the aircon on too high and aren’t too good at cutting through traffic. The drivers have a habit of talking complete nonsense about how bad the traffic is, how little money they earn. If they hear you mention an English Premiership Football team they will furnish you with their intimate knowledge of the side ad nauseum. If they hear you speak even a single word of Thai they assume that you’re fluent and will speak freely and openly to you in their dialect despite your protestations that you only speak a little bit.

Do’s

Wear a seatbelt. Insist on them using the meter instead of letting them quote you a price.

Don’ts

Mention a Premiership Football team, especially one that’s doing well, or they will bore your socks off.

Bus

Pros

I’ll put my hand on my heart and admit to it I know next to nothing about the buses in Bangkok, so if you don’t like me personally their main “pro” is that you can be 100 % certain never to run into me on one of them, although apparently they’re very cheap. From what I can work out they are either air conditioned or non air conditioned and those who use them tell me they’re a good way of getting about and cover virtually the entire city. Cons They go head on at you when you’re on to the Thai airways office on Silom on a motorbike in an emergency and make you soil your breeches.

Do’s

Expect to be one of too many people jammed onto them and have to listen to very disconcerting engine noises. Find out from somebody how to go about using them.

Don’ts

Expect any help from me!

River Boats

Pros

Bangkok’s River Boats or River Taxis a very very cool way of getting about. They’re fast, cheap, exciting and offer some outstanding views of the city. Bangkok was known as the “Venice of Asia” because as recently as the 1980’s the best way to commute was by canal although recently most of them have been closed off because they became polluted although a couple of the main routes (Chao Prahaya and Klong Saem (sic)) are still used. A lot of people visiting Thailand form the west want to see the old Thai culture and travelling my river boat will give you that on old charming creaky timbered boats. The Chao Prahaya boat is pretty easy to use and is quite tourist friendly and there’s a pier at Banglampu near Khao Sarn Road and near Wat Po, Wat Arun and the Grand Palace.

Cons

The routes they travel are a bit limited and there is little tourist information on them, so unless you’re on the Cha Prahaya one ask somebody who knows, if you use them it may take a while before you know your way around. You might get a bit of water splashed on your face and have a bit of a nerve jangle getting on and off them but it’s part of the fun. If you don’t like me you’ve got the chance of running into me on one of them.

Do’s

Give them a whirl. Don’ts Fall into the river, or expect it to go without hitch, but you’re on holiday so what does it matter ?

SkyTrain

Pro’s

The Skytrain or BTS was opened on the Kings Birthday on December 1999 and was a real milestone in the development of Bangkok as a modern city. There are two lines which cross the majority of the city and intersect near Siam Square. It’s a fast, safe efficient way of crossing the city and can offer some pretty good cityscapes from above ground level. If you’re in a hurry through the business districts of town it can be the best way to travel.

Cons

It can be a bit overcrowded at time so expect the odd game of sardines and it can be a bit disorientating at times, a lot of people when they first start to use it have to ponder about which exit they take so expect a few wrong turns during your visit but it’s still a good way of getting about, oh and I got my pocket picked on there once but don’t let that put you off, everybody who knows me will tell you how unlucky I am.

Do’s

Give it a try, enjoy the views and zip through the congestion.

Don’ts

Get aggravated like I sometimes do at the dumb visitors who can’t work the ticket machines or the barriers.

Subway (MRT)

Pros

The Subway/MRT or “Mass Rapid Transport” system is the latest weapon in Bangkok’s artillery as it prepares to do battle for the title of number one 21st Century city. It opened in around 2003 and after a couple of false starts and hiccups it now runs quickly and efficiently across the city from Hua Lamphong (the Central Railway Station) to Chatuchak Market in the North and intersects at two or three places with the Skytrain.

Cons

The aircon is sometimes set a little bit too high so when it isn’t rush hour you can feel the cold and a lot of its stops are non tourist destinations. The map and ticketing systems at the stations are a little bit on the vague side if you don’t know your way round Bangkok.

Do’s

Give it a try.

Don’ts

Worry about it if you don’t give it a whirl, the views aren’t that spectacular with it being underground and anyway it’ll still be there when you come back.

Don’t fotget there’s no a Railway Link (Airport Link or SRT) that’s a good way to get around Bangkok.

CHEERS !

Isaan Life – New Year

New Year in Issan
issaan_new_year_2
New Year in Issan
New Year in Issan
issaan_new_year_6

There are places along Isaan’s Korat Plateau, framed by the wandering Mae Khong, dotted with centuries-old rice paddies, lumbering, long-horned water buffalo and forgotten villages influenced by the Lao culture to the north that are so stunning, so awe-inspiring that words are inadequate to describe them. Phachnadai Cliff, 45 kilometers from Khon Chiem and a six-klick hike straight up from Ban San Som, a sleepy 200-member farm community of wooden huts built on long poles, is an unusual place to greet the New Year. But then Isaan is an unusual place, a special place and teetering and shivering through the night toward dawn in a brisk, cold wind on the edge of a 15 meter black cliff with a dozen friends and 200 strangers was the perfect way to greet the New Year, a year sure to be filled with beauty, adventure and opportunity.

Our journey began 175 kilometers away at my home in Ubon Rachathani in southeast Isaan on the north bank of the Mun River, a tributary of the Mae Khong. We traveled north by motorcycle toward Ban San Som, a village that does not appear on any western map buts sits less than an hour from Laos. Neither Ban San Som nor Phachanadai Cliff produce even one hit on a Google search. It is not a destination resort. It is however a very special place to welcome the New Year.
 
Ban San Som in January is surrounded by freshly harvested rice fields and wandering water buffalo, eyeing the newly harvested rice strewn through the fields. In theory, there are two ways up the mountain. It’s a six kilometer hike straight up or a 13 kilometer overland trek by motorcycle. In reality, the hike is probably the way to go. A combination of laziness and rapidly disappearing sunlight produced a quick decision; the motorcycle seemed a quicker, less strenuous option. Unfortunately we were not ready for the unbeaten, unmarked track that lay in before us.
 
There is no visible road up the mountain. There are ruts and rocks and roots that slowed our progress to a crawl. Deep sands as shifty and slick as sheer ice blocked our path in places reminding me it’s the heart of winter back home in Vermont, USA. And at times murky brown water covered the track making it impossible to know how deep and passable it was at any given point. Nittaya Saebut, a fourth year student at Ubon Ratchathani University, described the journey charitably as “unpredictable.” Surasak Witton, a third year at Ubon Rachathani University, carried Sukie, a second year student from Rachabhat University who knew the area quite well. He said his rider made it hard to focus on the path. Surasak explained, “It was hard for me having Sukie on the bike because she would tell me about different areas of the mountain and if I took my eyes off the road for one second conditions would change and a different type of terrain would jump up in front of me.”
 
We made it to the top in darkness; the view would have to wait until morning: the New Year. A sheer black rock covered the peak, a lava-like geological formation though there is no volcano near Phachanadai Cliff. The difficult path to the summit didn’t keep some 200 others from making the journey to greet the New Year. Camp fires fueled with wood scavenged from nearby forest sprinkled across the black rock lit the landscape like lights on a Christmas tree. There was even New Year’s entertainment on the top of that mountain. A stage set up in the midst of the waving fires offered an assortment of colorful dancers and songs through the evening. There was even a “Cow Gee” eating contest which I entered immediately as the journey produced a severe hunger deep in the pit of my stomach. Cow Gee is sticky rice grilled with egg. I stuffed my face full of the deliciousness
and finished second among 16 other contestants. My stomach full I realized I’d won 200 baht! Being paid to overeat; Isaan is a wonderful place!
 
Sleeping was impossible! The wind howled constantly sending a chill deep into my spine. At 5:30 a.m. everyone that wasn’t knocked out from the New Year celebration, clustered on the 15 meter cliff to watch the sunrise. The cliff drops straight down to the ancient Mae Khong. The rising sun slowly revealed the misty mountains of Laos covered in early morning fog and produced an immense cheer from the crowd. It brought a tear to my eye, and I wished everyone “Sa Wa Dee Bee Mai.” Happy New Year 2008/2551.
 
About the author:
Eli Sherman is a graduate of Montpelier High School in Montpelier, the capital of the state of Vermont, USA, and a “young blood writer” living in Ubon Ratchathani, Isaan – Northeastern Thailand. He’s been to Isaan four times in his short life. Once on a cross cultural exchange with Montpelier to Thailand Project; once coming for five months as an exchange student at Benchama Maharat school in Ubon; and again coming as a guide for Montpelier to Thailand Project. He now works as a volunteer at the Institute of Nutrition Research Field Station, Mahidol University in Ubon Ratchathani and is writing to present Isaan Life to the world, and especially KhaoSanRoad.com visitors.

Isaan by Motorbike – Day 6

Isaan Tour - Northeast ThailandDAY 6
I woke up early for the last day of my travels. The day was spent in and around Nong Khai.

I cleared out of my room early and loaded up my bike. I had to do some shopping for the folks back in Bangkok then find something to do for the rest of the day. My train left at 6.30, I needed to be at the train station at 5.30 to book the bike onto the train and make sure everything was ok.

I had some breakfast then went out to look for the market, it didn’t take too long to find, well. It was less than a five minute walk from my guesthouse, but I went the long way around, the very long way around. On the bike it took me 15 minutes to find. 😉

I wandered around looking at all of the stalls all selling the same things, trying to get the prices down seemed very easy, I am more used to the tourist hardened trades people who will drive the hardest bargain of all, well, no bargain at all a lot of the time. I bought a few gifts for the folks back in Bangkok. I was sure that they would not all want a bit of dried dog as a gift.

Isaan Tour - Northeast ThailandThis market was huge; it seemed to go on in different directions for miles. It ran along the side of the river for probably 7-800 metres and spread out adjacent to the river for a couple of hundred metres. I was glad to be in the market in the morning, I think it would be unbearable to be there in the heat of midday. After looking at as many different types of tourist wares as I could handle I stopped to get some lunch.

I once again accidentally found a restaurant on the riverbank. A last, a chance to sit and take in the freshness and the sheer magnificence of it all. I ate barbeque pork, somtum and sticky rice.

As the heat of the day rose I wanted to get moving. I finished up, paid the bill and got out of there. I had a walk down the riverside road to help the digestion a little. I saw a couple of huge temples. I know there are a lot of temples in Thailand, but this riverside seems to be inundated with them. The heat became too much so it was time to get back on the bike.

Isaan Tour - Northeast ThailandI drove up to the road which runs parallel with the river and headed out of town. After a while I took a left turn towards the river, I wanted to have a look for a temple that is submerged in the middle of the river. I am not sure what was there first. If they managed to somehow build the temple (only visible in the dry season) before the river began to flow (highly unlikely) or if they somehow managed to stop the flow of the water to build the temple (also highly unlikely). Whatever the course of events, it was the place where I met my travelling partners for the rest of the day.

A couple who were just taking photos of the same spot when they asked me if I wanted to have my photo taken with Laos and the Mae Khong making up the backdrop. I accepted.

They were an odd couple to me, one Dutch lady Tessa, and one Japanese lady Akiko. I accepted their offer and started to talk. It was nice to have people to travel with for the last day. Travelling alone has many advantages but a small group was a refreshing change. Having someone to talk to about the things I was seeing was great.

They told me about a garden full of ornaments and statues that was just outside of Nong Khai. I joined them on their way there. I felt for them, I was riding my motorbike and they were riding their hired bicycles. I am sure I got the better end of the deal. We made our way to the Sala Kaew Ku garden.

We spent maybe 3 hours here, taking in the wonderful feeling of serenity and awe that this place presented to us. It is surely the strangest of statue gardens I have ever visited.

Isaan Tour - Northeast ThailandMany praises to the creator of the garden, Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat. One of my favourite pieces is the elephant that is surrounded by many dogs in different poses. One particular statue is of a dog riding a motorcycle. Just an example of the variety of ideas of the creator.

During the heat of the midday sun we rested in a garden which displays the “Wheel of Life”. The wheel represents the different stages of life which culminate in death, as it generally does, but then the wheel starts again representing the reincarnation of the soul in to the next wheel.

We left the gardens and sought to take refuge in the town, maybe in a restaurant or something. I had to start thinking about the time we taking to do everything as I had to get back to the train station in time to take by homeward leg, to Bangkok.

We went to a restaurant at the other side of Nong Khai. Very close to the friendship bridge. The restaurant was on a pontoon, a floating platform usually for the docking of boats. The tables here were very posh looking. All single pieces of wood formed into tables. The chairs made in the same way. I was starting to worry about the cost of the food here; well if they had spent this much on the furniture then they must pay for it somehow.

I was very pleasantly surprised when I looked at the menu and saw that it was all quite reasonable. I ate my regular meal of Green Curry with Chicken. As a special treat for my travelling partners I took out some of the dried dog meat that I had purchased earlier from Sakhon Nakhon. To my delight they both tried it, not quite sure how much they liked it but they at least tried it.

We shared a few beers whilst the time passed; talked and shared a few stories then I had to get off. It would have been great to be able to stay another night there but my journey was drawing to a close and I had to keep to my timing.

I headed out towards the train station with maybe 40 minutes to spare. Nong Khai is so small that going from one end to the other is only a matter of minutes.

motorbike_travels_day_six_14I talked to the station master and booked my bike onto the train. HOW MUCH. It cost nearly double for my motorbike to sit in the freight car than it cost me to lie in an air conditioned carriage. Oh well. Whilst I was booking my self and the bike onto the train I was called. If I used my birth name then it could have been for anyone, but I heard the name SPIDER. I looked around and by the travelling fluke that happens so often, I saw my friend Leeda. She was just on her way back from Laos on the same train as me. Awesome, some to spend the drinking time with on the train.

We got onto the train and then I found her carriage. It was nice for us to be able to talk about our travels, both having very different stories to tell. They had been surrounded by people for their travels, and I had been alone for the majority of mine. Before we settled in for the trip we had a search of the train to find the beer car.

We returned to our seats and got on with some serious drinking. By the end of the session I was quite drunk and tired so time to head off for bed, but not without exchanging glasses with Leeda.

motorbike_travels_day_six_16 motorbike_travels_day_six_17

I slept like a log and woke up to the rocking of the train. Sunlight was streaming in through every possible chink in the curtains that surrounded me. Time to wake up. I felt kinda sad to be back in Bangkok.

I feel I am really a creature of the countryside. Bangkok provides for me the things I need to survive, but the open road is the place for me. Travelling along without a care in the world, mile after mile passing by as I explore new places and meet new people. Fresh air, fresh views and how could I ever forget, the very very backside!!!

Note: Story author is Steven Noake.

Isaan by Motorbike – Day 5

motorbike_travels_1DAY 5
This was to be the last day of riding. I got out of town by 9.30 am so that I would have enough time to relax in Nong Khai. I thought there would only be 1 temple stop today, nice and easy. The stop was at Wat Ar Hong Silawas. A small temple, that was simple in design, on the Thailand bank of the Mae Khong.

The temple is in grounds that are scattered with huge boulders. The house of the Buddha images was constructed with a boulder as one of the walls. A wall is really a poor description; the boulder occupies the space where the wall should be.

Back on the road for the final stretch of the journey. Onto Nong Khai. Only about 130 km, completed in less than 3 hours all good. My first stop was the massage. A very good massage too, away from any tourist places; wish I could remember the name of the street.

Next on the to do list for the day was to book the tickets for the train, booking early to make sure I have a ticket and there is space for the bike. I found the train station a few kilometres out of town. It is in a direct line with the friendship bridge between Laos and Thailand.

Isaan Tour - Northeast ThailandNext on the ‘to do’ list for the day was to book the tickets for the train, booking early to make sure I have a ticket and there is space for the bike. I found the train station a few kilometres out of town. It is in a direct line with the friendship bridge between Laos and Thailand.

I booked the ticket for me but had to wait until an hour before the train left to be able to book the bike on board. Cool as, but the bike cost around 400 baht more than me to ride in the freight car, glad I didn’t ride in the freight car.

Then back in to town for a spot of lunch. Whilst having a lazy look for a guest house I spotted a small vegetarian restaurant on the road. I stopped for some chick pea madras, awesome flavour. I sat for a while and looked at the travel book to find some possible locations to stay then finished up the coke and got on my way.

Isaan Tour - Northeast ThailandI was looking for a guesthouse when I happened upon a guy driving the same model bike as me. He showed me a nice place to stay. On the waterfront with a restaurant that overlooked the river. Into the room I watched a bit of “Snakes on the Plane” before I went out for a drink and to take some photos of the area and to wait for the sunset on the penultimate day of my travels.

This was probably the first time I had actually taken time out to sit and do nothing in the evening sun. Not the first time I had to reflect, riding the bike is good for that, but the first time to reflect without having to think about what is coming next.

Travelling with the loosest of plans is definitely for me. Not having to be fixed by the times of public transport has been amazing. Just thinking moments before then doing it has been the tops.

I have been waiting to see a sunset since the day I left, a different sunset from the ones in Bangkok. In Bangkok the sunset is clouded by the pollution that engulfs the metropolis. Here the sun is free to shine through the atmosphere right onto my already tanned skin and into my wide open eyes.

Here the position of the river, the sun, the hills and the trees seems to be perfect. As if it had all been waiting for me to be in the right place at the right time. I don’t know what the reason for waiting was, don’t understand why I didn’t do it before. Waiting for it to come along my way instead of always chasing it. The dreams will come to those who invest. Invest your time, invest yourself and the dreams will land at your feet. I don’t see a point in chasing and chasing and getting to the same point as the investor of time that puts into the system then waits. No need to be rushed to be first through the gate. The best things come to those who wait.

Isaan Tour - Northeast ThailandThe river walkway at Nong Khai seems to be an exercise haven. In the early evening a lot of people appear to start their exercise regimes. Big/small, all are here. Some seem quite serious; some have a more relaxed approach.

OK, time for dinner and some writing time. I find a bar called Brendan and Noi. I had some food and settled down to write up my journal. It was nice to just sit and think about the things I had done this week. So much roasting hot sun, a lot of friendly people, solitude and maybe the best thing of all – fresh air!!!!

I had a few welcome beers whilst I was writing. I opted to eat ferringue food again, chicken breast chips and gravy. VERY filling. The bar filled up a little bit, I finished my writing around 9pm then went back to my room to get rid of my writing book and pens.

Being early and the last night of my vacation I went out for a drink. Well I wanted to go out for a drink. By 9.30pm most of the bars had closed. I ended up back in the same bar as earlier in the evening. I had not noticed before that the bar owner was a not as inviting as he could be. I walked back in and said hello to him, he blanked me completely. Ok no worries, I stood aside and slowly drank my beer.

Shortly after a couple of German guys came into the bar. One guy asked for a beer and was heckled by the owner, who then asked the visitors name. “Hans” “And what’s your friend’s name?” “He’s called Hans too” “Two hands are better than one, eh lads, gfaw gfaw. Funny that eh? I good aint I?”

I took this as my opportunity to leave, go back to my room and get an early night.

Final day of exploration coming up.

Note: Story author is Steven Noake.

Isaan by Motorbike – Day 4 (Part 2)

Isaan Tour - Northeast ThailandAfter the temple I wanted to make up for some lost time. Also my ass was still hurting from the punishment I had been giving it. The bike seat, nothing else.

I was on a huge open road. So I slowly took the speed up to 140km/h +. Breaking the speed limit for sure but heh, no police, no cameras and most of all there was no traffic on the road. In the distance someone came into view.

I caught up with them very quickly, then with no signals or checking in their non-existent mirrors they pulled over to the right hand side of the road, right in front of me. Like a slow motion sequence. I was trying to work out where on the road the space for me would be when I caught up with them. Not easy with only about 2 seconds thinking and reaction time. I slammed on the breaks – enough to slow but not enough to skid. I daren’t sound the horn for fear of them changing their course. Heavy braking and a bank to the left pulled me out of their way with maybe 6 inches to spare. NOTE TO SELF, SLOW THE F*** DOWN.

motorbike_travels_day_four_14A SIGNPOST FOR A WATERFALL

On to the next waterfall!!! It would be so nice , once again a chance to swim in the refreshing water and bask in the baking sun. I drove away from the main highway. Through open fields on dirt tracks, searching for the waterfall. After leaving the main highway the road signs were all in Thai. I had to somehow work out by radar where the water was.

These open fields all had some large golden leaved plants, I was not sure what they were, maybe some sort of cabbage. Then I saw the open barns drying the leaves. When I got close to one of the barns I smelled a wonderful aroma. The smell of fresh tobacco. This was obviously a tobacco farming area. The smell was amazing.

I tried to buy some tobacco from one of the farmers, just a little bit to go with the meat I had bought in Tae Rae. This was where the language barrier got the better of me. I could not understand a bloody word they were saying. Everything I said received blank looks. I tried for a few minutes including hand-signals and the like but to no avail.

I carried on to the waterfall. It was a great drive through increasingly dusty tracks. I found my goal. I parked up the motorbike and went for a walk.

motorbike_travels_day_four_16Guess what. Yes, another water not fall. This place was still beautiful, even with no water.

Phulangka national park is the location of this water not fall. I rested in the shade of the trees for a while and took a few photos before making my way back to the main highway.

I drove onto Bueang Kan. I easily found and checked into the Samar Guest house. A really smart place. It looked brand new and at 300 baht per night it is amazing. It was ultra clean, amazingly clean; it was so clean that I might have been the first person to stay in this room.

I went for my daily massage. OK I have had some strange massages in my time but this one pretty much took the biscuit. I got the usual banter – you speak Thai? – velly gooood, have girlfriend, how long in Thailand – blah blah blah. OK.

Then the second masseur started to touch my tattoos. “Ooh very sexy” I smiled. Then they started to talk about me not having a girlfriend, suggesting that when I travel I do not have a girlfriend. DANGER WILL ROBINSON DANGER.

motorbike_travels_day_four_17After she finished playing with my nipple and me telling them that I do have a girlfriend I arranged to meet them at eight o’clock (whilst planning my escape route. Over the razor wire, through the muddy tunnel and out across the tobacco fields till I reach the Mae Khong to swim to Loas for freedom form the evil twins. Oh yes accompanied by a bottle of wine.

After the massage I drove around the town to have a look around. I found a wine shop there, it was amazing. A really nice owner who I spoke with for a while. He was talking mainly that it was nice to have someone come in and choose a bottle of wine by the label and not the price; saying that there were not many wine drinkers in the area. The locals mainly being made up of whisky drinkers. He had a full range of wines, all stored well and from good vintners. I took my time choosing my bottle then found a restaurant.

The restaurant I chose was on the river front. The head waiter spoke very good English. I took a low seat and asked them for a glass for my ready opened bottle of nine year old cabernet sauvignon. Tasty food and a bottle of wine. The placement of the restaurant was great , with low tables for the more traditional manner of sitting down to eat.

Then it was back to the guesthouse, avoiding the massage house that was less than 200 metres from the guest house. Ninja style!!!

A perfect end to a crazy day.

Note: Story author is Steven Noake.

Isaan By Motorbike – Day 2

DAY 2 Tuesday

Isaan Tour - Northeast Thailand
I woke up at 6.30 am, ready for the next day. Well almost ready for the next day. After even the smallest amount of Sang Som the next day can be a dreadful affair. Sang som is not my friend. Feeling rough as a dogs arse I slowly got ready for the ride. My former sickness had been enhanced by the Sangsom and the disturbed sleep.

spider_tour_2I sat with my friend and her mother outside of the house in some kind of shed, a posh shed, but still only a shed. A few people started coming and going, money was changing hands – a lot of money. It turns out that this shed is some sort of primitive style bank. The local people seem happier to hand over the money to the old ladies than to the farmer’s bank next door.

Before I left I got a massage from a nice old lady. Well I thought she was friendly until she started inflicting great amounts of pain on me. The thought of a nice loosening massage before the next leg of my travel was a good idea. This woman was giving me a full deep tissue massage. Not a Thai style massage, but nevertheless it was ranking up there with the most painful massages I have ever had. After my pounding I said my thank yous and farewells and got on my bike.

spider_tour_3This was to be a much shorter ride than the day before. A lot easier of my ass than the day before.

The scenery was parched; clearly they haven’t had rain here for a long time. Endless straight roads cut through the barren brown and yellow. The sky was the cleanest of blues – no clouds to form any difference.

The fields for km after km were arid. This patchwork of tessellating blocks stretched on and on. It must have taken many generations to create this myriad of tiny fields. All adjoined by irrigation channels simply awaiting the rainy season to bring them back to life.

Cow herders were tending to their withered beasts, searching for shade from the searing heat of the mid-day sun. I was doing the same, rolling along the deserted asphalt. I found a disused petrol station, perfect. I took this opportunity to take a lie down in the shade and let the midday heat pass me by.

Isaan Tour - Northeast ThailandOn on. I was not sure how long this leg was going to take. On the map it is a much shorter distance but in reality – this is

Thailand and things can be very deceiving. I opened up the throttle and got a boost along the way. Before not too long the road took a welcome change. The road changed from the long straights into a twisting turning snake.

As the road ascended through the hills I noticed a couple of dinosaurs on the side of the road. I had to stop and have a look. Full size, a diplodocus and tri-ceratops. These marked the entrance to a small picnic area close to Kalasin. The name of this small place is Pha Cliff. It is a place where the King Phumiphol of Thailand stopped to take a rest and some food in 1954. The Pha Cliff is a now a small picnic area. There were 3 or 4 small shelters there to take a rest or a refreshment break. These formed the edges to an expansive car park. The far edge of the car park is the cliff itself. It overlooks a now very brown valley. The view was wonderful; it was easy to see why the king chose this blissful place to take a rest from his travels, sitting within the shelter of the trees, looking out over a beautiful valley.

Isaan Tour - Northeast ThailandBack on the road again I saw signs for a waterfall. Yes, this was good news. This was better than good news. A chance to completely cool off in the refreshing waters. There could be nothing better at this time. After another 25 minutes of driving I eventually got to the waterfall. The whole place was deserted. Not a soul to be seen anywhere, even the guard station is vacant. Awesome, the whole place to myself, maybe a bit of skinny dipping or something.

Well not really, as you can see from the photo it is now simply a beautiful rock formation, no water to be seen, not even a drop. What did I do to deserve this, well it is the height of the dry season.

Isaan Tour - Northeast ThailandOn to Sakhon Nakhon to find myself a room and a pharmacy. I looked around at a couple of places; the ones in the guide were far too expensive for what I was looking for. I wanted a place to sleep, maybe with aircon but definitely with a hot shower and a flushing sit down toilet.

After a while I asked a local guy where I could find the Araya 1 guesthouse. I was directed up the street, then helped in to find the place. It all looked ok from the outside, 180 baht for an air-conditioned room, no view to speak of but it is just a pit stop I’m not looking for a luxury room.

spider_tour_9The room – time locked in a movie. The whole guesthouse must have been featured in the lonely planet that time forgot. A meagre write up. A less than meagre room. I was too tired to look for another place by now, feeling ill and tired I just wanted to relax. I checked into the place, I didn’t survey the room before I paid up, big mistake. The cockroaches had already packed up and left for better accommodation. The newest thing in the room was the toilet; the next was the towel rack. The silver lining to this cloud was the bed. Possibly the most comfortable bed I have ever slept on. I sank into its loving arms.

For food I wanted something ferringue. I opted for pizza. Nice on the stomach, easy to ask for. Not very traditional I know but it was to serve a purpose. A visit to the pizza parlour gave me a nice head twist. It was 2 for 1. What the hell do I do with the next pizza; I knew I would only be able to manage around half of the first one, OMG. I managed to eat three slices of the first pizza then donated the rest to the ladies in the opticians in the adjacent shop. I took the three remaining pieces of pizza back to the guesthouse and gave them to the som tam party that was happening in the lobby.

Back in the room the bed awaited my return, so nice to sink into softness after the day’s ride.

Note: Story author is Steven Noake.

Isaan By Motorbike – Day 1

Isaan By Motorbike Day 1DAY 1 Monday

OK this is it, almost ready to go. My bag was packed and my very loose plans were made. I had a place to stay for the night; a friend of my girlfriend put me up for the first night. This was a long ride, maybe 400 kilometres on the first day. I wanted to go this far so I could make good headway into the journey and have more time later on to look around and rest.

I got the confirmation for my accident insurance, just in time!.

Right, had a shower and breakfast, one last check of the bag then time to go. My days ride was from Bangkok to Borabue, close to Roi Et in Isaan.

Bangkok > Nonthanburi > Pathum Thani > Saraburi > Nakhon Ratchasima > Ban Phai > Borabue

Isaan By Motorbike Day 1After a confusing time trying to get out of Pathum Thani I headed out towards Saraburi, to the North East of Bangkok. The roads were awesome, nice and smooth with a steady traffic flow making it all easier to get along. I stopped after around an hour and a half, close to the Julasid Reservoir for some lunch.

A typical roadside restaurant. No frills, far too many seats, the thought of all of these seats being filled more than a couple of times a year is a constant puzzle to me. Is it just optimism that makes people build such large restaurants? The price tag went with the size of the building. 77 baht for a plate of mediocre fried rice. Serves me right I suppose for judging the price of the book by its cover.

One thing I had not really thought about was the hardness of the seat on my bike. It’s not a touring bike and was not fitted with any extra creature comforts, such as a well padded seat. Getting back on the bike after the first break was almost enough to putt me off carrying on. After all, this was only the first leg of the first day and my ass was already feeling like the morning after far too much spicy food.

Isaan By Motorbike Day 1After passing Nakhon Ratchasima (local title Ko Rat) I saw a beautiful temple a little way off the main road. It was still under construction. It is a huge project that is nearing its completion. Inside the main temple there is a huge black image of an old Thai Buddhist teacher and philosopher, Luang Pooh Toh.

After leaving the temple I notice a change in the landscape. The number of buildings and roadside business is dropping. The road really opened up into what I had been looking forward too. Not stopping for kilometre after kilometre. Nothing like riding around Bangkok and the surrounding semi developed areas. Bangkok gives me more traffic lights than I had ever thought possible in a simple journey to work.

These roads started to wind their way through the opening countryside. Bright blue skies with hardly a cloud to be seen. Burning sun was scorching me along with the tarmac and the livestock that was being tended to along the roadsides. The first time I had to stop after a terrific run was for a family of cows that had decided to cross the road. I turned on some speed after this as the light was starting to fail and I had to find my bed for the night in Borabue. These new roads long and straight, perfect.

Isaan By Motorbike Day 1I got my sore ass into Borabue. I realised at this point that I had no idea where the house was that I was staying in. I called my friend to guide me to her place, she was kind enough to pick me up and show me the way other place. I was only about half a kilometre away so just a few minutes from rest.

The place I stayed was a wedding outfitter. A huge place. I was welcomed in and given food. Thai people have such a warm way of welcoming guests into their homes. The friend I was to stay with had to spend the night in the hospital to take care for of her father, leaving me in the capable hands of her brothers and their friends.

spider_tour_5I declined the offers of going out with them as I was still on antibiotics and not feeling so energised after the long haul of the day. I ate and took my leave to sleep. I was awoken around 1 am by the younger brother. He was excited and keen for me to drink with his friends. I was not in the mood for drinking but felt rude to decline. I went downstairs to join the friends for a drink.

spider_tour_6Dem, Aem, Nong A, Pi A then the older brother and his friends came to join. I was confused by so many non English speakers all trying to talk to me at the same time. I can usually hold my own and understand some of the conversation that’s going on but this for me was a little too much. I sat, smiled and sipped at the never empty glass in front of me. Sang Som, one of the oldest drinking traditions in Thailand. You pay for it in the morning though!

After a while one of the kateouys there started to massage my shoulders. Not too bad, a free massage is a free massage. A little too much power maybe, lol. There seemed to be some mirth developing, I felt it was at my expense. Yes it was.

Finally I got my sleep.

Spider

Note: Story author is Steven Noake.