Waking up after only six hours sleep and with a hangover delayed the start of this little adventure. By 10am I was ready to hop onboard my trusty steed and hit the road. It was only 106km to the target destination but it took me over 4 hours to get there.
a) The road was tight, twisty and steep
b) Exactly how many times do I have to mention that despite having a big fat arse it doesn’t mean I want to sit on it for long periods of time!
The road to Mae Hong Son was a thing of beauty to those on two wheels. Each bend in the road led to a curve which in turn led to a tight hairpin. Double apexes followed switchbacks and the road was quiet and well maintained. The landscape that I passed was fabulous, steep ridges of tree covered rock formed tight narrow valleys into which I would not dare to go into alone. Small hamlets came and went the size of which was dependant on the success of the rice harvest and the number of fields they could make from the rugged landscape.
I arrived in Mae Hong Son in the afternoon and after a quick tour of the town found a hostel near the centre. The centre of town was a large tank full of overfed and pampered fish. On the southern side a small complex of Wats, all shiny in gold and mirrors. On the northern edge was a small park with people doing Tai Chi as the sunset.
I wasn’t feeling that hungry so I just had sweet sausage salad. 87 minutes later I saw it again as my stomach ejected its contents into the toilet bowl. I spent the rest of the evening lying sweaty on the bed or feeling weak in the bathroom.
I woke early and spent a while making sure that all was right with the world of me. By 07:15 I was on the road and heading south.
Now, with a full tank and a road that had more straights than curves I opened up the throttle and let the mighty 115cc engine roar!!!!
It was raining when I woke up and continued for 4 more hours. As my tyres are not kind to inspire grip in the wet I lounged the day away.
It was a 175km ride to Sukhothai and the road climbed up into the mountains. Slowly I overtook Lorries belching out black smoke as the heart of the truck struggled to beat fast enough. Screaming down the other side singing the uphill song, fingers twitching over the brake handles ready to respond in an instant when the corner did indeed become tighter than I had guessed. Then I was out in the open and on a plain. Neglected paddy fields interspaced with trees carried on out of sight either side of the flat straight road.
By the early afternoon I was in Sukhothai and at the 4th attempt I found a place to stay. It’s called TR guest house and is just across the river from the night market, behind the bank. As the night market is close by I’ll be snacking later but not on cockroaches or deep fried crunchy baby terrapins. If however there are lizards on a stick then count me in!
The only reason to come to the town of Sukhothai is to visit the city of Sukhothai. Unlike the town the city is interesting. It was the first capital the Thai’s had before being superseded by Ayutthaya further south a few hundred years later.
The old capital is square with three defensive walls and two moats surrounding it. The only remains still standing are the numerous temples. All the other buildings from palaces to houses were built from wood and have left no trace. The central area is undeveloped by modern man and is peaceful and serene, with ruined temples set against a backdrop of lakes and trees.
I was climbing up some temple steps when a sudden malevolent movement made me instinctively react. The snake was about three foot long, thin, mean and green and I have no idea what kind of snake it was! I respected its space and it went on its way, which was luckily away from me.
I came back to “new” Sukhothai by a different route (which I’ll admit wasn’t by design) and so I will never know what the tourist attraction of “Rocky Ground” actually was…damn it!
I left Sukhothai at 8am and got to the town of Nan at around 2pm, my tailbone was aching towards the end.
The ride itself was split into thirds, with the middle third a very boring but fast dual carriageway. The road form Sukhothai to Pheare was cool, flat with gentle curves. I was taking it easy cruising along at 60kph still smiling at the fact that I had remembered last night it had been two years without having to go to work. The last 120kms were really nice after I had taken shelter from a passing shower. In the mountains I was trying to dodge the flocks of mating butterflies that swarmed out of the trees and into the paths of trucks, cars and my head…sorry!
After an early to bed restful night’s sleep I was up at 4am…sod that! Waking up later at around 7am I was on the road by eight.
By the middle of the afternoon I was in Chiang Rai and I got a cheap room just of “bar street“.
It was an easy but boring ride to Chiang Mai and the end of this road trip but only because I took the wrong road….
Friday, 24 April 2009
Tuesday, 21 April 2009
Friday, 17 April 2009
Sunday, 12 April 2009
The train ride to Ayutthaya, the ancient ruined capital of Siam was a long affair. Just kidding it was only 90 minutes, barely enough time to get comfortable. Once off the train it was a short walk to the hostel I had booked online a few days ago.
Could I find the damn place! It was, according to the hostel a one minute walk from the river boat ferry and I even had the map they had emailed me. After a while of just “not getting it” I asked a few shop owners and taxi drivers. Blank looks were all I got. So either I was standing right outside the place and was being blind to the fact or the hostel didn’t exist. Mind you it could be option number three.
After a short sit down I did the unthinkable and got out the guide book and walked the 500m or so to the biggest gringo hostel marked on the map. Surprisingly “Tony’s place” is rather nice. The room has
And a floor to put stuff on
A good restaurant and a well stocked bar is attached. Along the same street are a few bars so walking far isn’t an option worth taking.
It seems that I left Bangkok on the right morning because this afternoon the red shirts came to town and the government has declared a state of emergency throughout the greater Bangkok area.
I also found out how much it costs for a days diving in phuket. It’s 4000 baht or about £78. There is no way I’m ever paying that much, so looks like plans are a changing.
New Years Eve or just the next day (depending on which country you are from):
I woke early, too early as it turns out because the coffee shop across the road doesn’t open till 7am. It does, when it is open, do a damn fine cup of joe. After breakfast I packed the camera into the day bag, slung it on my back and started walking. There was something that I had forgotten but I just couldn’t remember it!
Following a short and lazy walk I was at the 1st ruin of the day. It was a Wat and it had a central temple surrounded by several smaller ones. The remains of a great hall were in front and all of this was surround by a large brick enclosure. Across the road was another Wat which was very similar. When I left the 1st of 5 tourist buses turned up, damn I have good timing!
The next morning I woke up, sat on the side of the bed, looked at my reflection in the mirror and said to myself “F**k, I’m 39 today”
Could be worse…I could be reading this as opposed to writing it
Today (the 15th) is my last full day in this town. It’s hot but there are hammocks and I’m sure I can find an ice cold beer or two
Wednesday, 8 April 2009
The taxi to the hostel was a strange affair. After 252 days I couldn’t see a single snow capped mountain peak. Also travelling on a road with 4 lanes of traffic just felt weird
I’m staying at the Urban Age Hostel just off Silom Street. My room isn’t ensuite and it has no window. It does however have a great bed, aircon that really works, free wifi and as I found out when I walked 50m from the front door a pub called the Duke of Wellington nearby!
Inside the Duke of Wellington
As the heavy wooden door gently closed behind me trapping the icy air from the heat outside I stared. First at the several TV’s showing football, then at the ideally positioned pool table and then lastly at the bar. I walked, softly with slight hesitation towards it. Arriving at the bar I pulled out a stool, sat down and looked at the labels on the pumps. The barman asked a question and I answered. Moments later a superbly poured half litre of Heineken was in front of me. The outside of the glass was covered in condensation; the froth of the head was teasing me to take a sip. I paused the glass millimetres from my aching lips for a moment, enjoying the pleasure of the drink not yet drunk. Then I quaffed.
After 11 months I finally had a beer that was:
a) Ice cold
b) Not polluted with glycerol
You have no idea what that was like!!!!!
I put the glass down looking with wonder at where my fingertips had momentarily warmed the glass and dispelled the condensation, caught up in the rapture that my taste buds were experiencing
You know what; the second beer was just as good!
By now it was nearing 7pm and I went for a walk to find some food.
I was walking along Silom Street and it was full of street vendors selling all manner of hot and tasty local food when I came across a KFC. I walked past it but only just! However, when shortly after that I came across a Burger King, the lure of a bacon double cheese burger was beyond my ability to say no!!!
Damn….it tasted good
My hostel is right next door to patong, the red light district (which shows lack o f judgement on my part when I booked the hostel) and with the exception of me there are a lot of old, fat and bald western men walking around looking for what….a happy ending of course!
Walking down the side streets looking at the girls outside the numerous “massage parlours” with a worn out but fixed smile on their faces made me wonder…
Now personally if a woman wants to earn a living on her back with her legs in the air, then that is fine with me. However I’ve never heard a little girl answer the question “what to you want to be when you grow up” with the answer “a sex worker”.
The next day I went shopping….I HATE SHOPPING!!!!!!!
Being sad, working class and English I ended up at Tesco (my mum thinks she‘s posh because she shops at Waitrose). Why? I had a dream….of a cheese counter going onto into infinity. What I got was 2 foot of chillier space with a choice of cheddar, Edam or Gouda all pre packed age lumps from that well known cheese producing country of New Zealand. I walked away empty handed with my head hanging low.
That night I was bimbling when the heavens opened (yep its monsoon time again) so I took shelter in a nearby bar. It was 30m wide and 4m deep and all the tables faced the pavement. I liked it! After the rain had stopped I went mmm… As the Duke of Wellington was now my local I went down the side streets along outdoor markets and pass the many and varied “dance bars”. Despite the requests and offers I passed on by. I mean you wouldn’t take a staving child to a sweet shop and tell him he can look at the sweets but he can’t taste any of them. That would be cruel!
Freudian slip number one: err….see above
The next day found me awake, slightly hung over and confused. The watch said 08:21 but for some reason I just couldn’t believe it. Not having a window can be a drawback after all. After a shower and my usual breakfast it was on board the sky train (in my head I call it the skylark…remember that TV show?) for the quick trip to the end of the line and the central pier. The lass at the hostel told me not to go on the tourist boat but to get on a local boat instead as it would be 130 baht cheaper. Seeing a boat pointing in the right direction, full of local people I jumped on board. The boat left the pier and headed out into the middle of the river. It continued heading to port till it reached the other side and parked at the pier directly opposite the pier it had just left. Then everyone got of…
Walking is much more fun!!!
A few warm hours later I was at the place where all the temples and the odd palace were. My first thought was N.A.F.T but I forced myself to at least see one. So one large lazy golden Buddha later I felt satisfied and moved on pass the royal palace and into one of the 1000’s of 7 till 11’s (open 24 hours a day) that litter this city for a cold drink. Outside a man was very keen to show me a 50m statue of Buddha that amazingly was not only nearby but by good chance was only open day, for free (scam anyone?). I pointed out that I had seen a bigger one in India so I couldn’t be arsed to see this one. The look of complete disbelief that crossed his face was like a dark storm cloud ruining a sunny day.
Later heading towards the train station, I was sitting down outside a closed shop on a semi deserted street smoking a fag, when a middle aged lady sat next to me. She told me that she worked across the street, pointing out a dilapidated apartment block, as she spoke. If I liked she had a young and good looking girl from Nepal that I could “have” if I wanted to. Several thousand Nepali girls are sex trafficked every year and not all of them end up in an Indian brothel. This one didn’t look set up to cater to an exclusive cliental which made me wonder what would happen to her when she was all “used up” and no longer making her madam money.
In the evening it was time for a long overdue manicure. First I had an hour’s foot massage, which completely chilled and relaxed me out. The young lass doing the manicure asked me how long I wanted my nails to be. I guess that Thai and English people have a different idea of what “short” is. The last time my nails were this short was one minute before I finally decided to stop biting them
Thailand have very kindly decided to throw a big party on my birthday, or as they call it New Year. It’s a 4 day affair that starts in two days (the 12th). This is also the day I leave Bangkok if I can get a train ticket. I could tell you the 1st half of this story but I really can’t face reliving it just yet.
I’m sitting in the pub (no real surprise there) trying to open a packet of fags. Without nails it truly is bloody difficulty.
One more thing: after two days I still think that being able to turn on a light bulb 24 hours a day is a miracle worthy of worshipping a new god