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Published 3:07 am, 1 Mar 2015
SARABURI AND 'HOME' AGAIN
Time to get this little chapter finished, though there isn't much left to tell. From Nakhon Sawan we continued further south to Noi's hometown of Saraburi and spent a couple of days there visiting her family.
There is a great night market in Saraburi on Friday, Saturday and Sunday with some great and really cheap shopping, but not a whole lot else to do in the town itself. We have visited previously and checked out the waterfalls and surrounding areas, but this trip was all about seeing her family and then getting home.
By this time we were getting really slack, no photos and I can't even find the place we stayed at, though Noi tells me it was called Pai Tawan Hotel/Apartments, a really large room actually with a small kitchen and would be great for longer stays. 500 baht a night.
After 2 nights here we made our final run for home and took some obscure route through rural farmland, but it gave us a more direct and shorter path. A shortish day on the bike in comparison to the rest of the journey, but we were more than happy to be home.
It had been an amazing journey, we had traveled far and wide, had great adventures, seen so many incredible places, endured the Myanmar bus journey's and horrendous roads and were fortunate enough to visit some of the most spectacular ancient sites in SE Asia.
We had spent countless hours on the scooter going from town to town, never bored with the surrounding beautiful and varied landscapes, sometimes feeling like a holiday, other times feeling like hard work - but it was all worth it for the incredible places we had been.
The scooter journey alone took us along nearly 5000 km of Thailand roads and sometimes dirt tracks, and I have no idea how far we had been through Myanmar, but we sure covered some ground there also.
I previously stated that I didn't see Myanmar as a 'definite go back to' country, after re-reading my own stories and reliving the memories, I would have to dismiss that comment. I loved it and could easily go back any time.
Thailand as always, was incredible to travel, you couldn't possibly have a bad time anywhere traveling here. Nearly everything is cheap and easy and there is always something interesting to see or do, for the backpacker or the 5 star holiday maker.
Published 4:45 am, 16 Feb 2015
A NEAR DISASTER ON THE ROAD TO NAKHON SAWAN
So today the plan was to head for Ayutthaya but bloody hell did we have an interesting trip… About an hour and a half from Sukhothai and fairly well in the middle of nowhere, the rim I mentioned earlier that was cracked, actually shattered while we were hurling along at 100km/hour. I heard it go and my worst fear of the trip and something that had been playing on my mind a lot, was suddenly VERY real. Instantly the ass end of the bike was almost parallel with me as it slipped, grinded and chewed it’s way back and forth across the bitumen, meanwhile we are still at near full speed.
No way was I going to touch the brakes in this situation, that’s when you really get in the shit, you just have to try and hold it, keep your cool and pray to whoever it is that you believe in.
We were literally sideways and almost fully leant right over, from one side to another, the bike violently lurching around as the rim caught the bitumen, us being dragged along with it careening down the road still going way too fast, the threat of being thrown off increasing with each new wild skid.
I was just hanging on for dear life and using everything I had to keep us upright, bearing in mind that we were doing 100km/hour at the time and I just had to play it until we had lost enough speed.
Although I somehow managed to stay calm, probably too many times sideways and upside down on my bikes and in cars previously, I seriously thought we were gonna die or at the very least, both be suffering some serious broken bones and some nasty injuries. If we had of gone over at any point I have no doubt we would be dealing with one of these outcomes. When I finally pulled the bike to a halt, I just couldn’t believe that we were alive or in one piece, honestly I’m still scratching my head as to how I’m even sitting here typing now. Buddha must be looking out for one of us for sure. 2 Thai guys in one of those cab-less trucks were right behind us and saw the whole thing happen and they pulled up looking like farangs – white as a ghost and eyes as big as dinner plates! They couldn’t believe it either and were telling Noi that as soon it started, they both said to each other ‘these 2 are going to die together’.
They couldn’t help as they had a full load of rice in the back, but actually came back about 30 minutes later and we were still there. They were still shaking their heads in disbelief, but smiling and giving me the thumbs up saying in Thai that I 'number 1 for ride motorbike '!!
By this time Noi had got in touch with the Kampheng Phet police, who sent the local guy out to pick us up in his ute and he arrived at the same time as the rice farmers that had come back to help us out. The ute was easier to put the bike on to so we cruised into town (still no idea what name it was, near Sai Ngam) on the back of the police ute and went to get repairs. 3400 baht later (around $140 au) I had 2 brand new rims and tyres on the bike and we were good to go. In the meantime I had become something of a local legend already and word had spread about the crazy farang who had looked death in the face and said ‘not today’! Everybody wanted to see us, the bike, the rim and hear the story from the guys who had seen it, who had also followed us into town through sheer curiosity! Yep, there will be campfire stories for a couple of weeks I’m sure about that bloody lucky farang who Buddha must be looking out for!
The culprit. Let that be a warning, don't put it off if you see any damage to your rims
Just to kick me in the balls further, about 2 hours up the shitty, rough road, I dented the new rim already and blew a tube, having to get more repairs done and another 150 baht! Just one of those days and we both agreed that we should stop in Nakhon Sawan for the night. Oh and we bought lotto tickets at the gas station! Yep, crazy day if I’ve ever had one, I still can’t believe how close we were to a really serious incident, but glad I have the experience on a bike to have avoided a terrible outcome. That was seriously one of the closest calls I think I've had....
Even this guy got pictures of me on his phone!
Very little to report from Nakhon Sawan, a fairly busy little city and actually great timing for us as it is apparently one of the best places to be in Thailand for Chinese New Year celebrations. The streets were certainly alive with shopping, food, lanterns, entertainment and festivities, a great but busy vibe about the place and the market shopping was super cheap.
Published 2:03 am, 16 Feb 2015
After checking out we were on the road again, this time heading south to Sukhothai where we ended up staying 2 nights after rather randomly getting in touch with another mate via Line who also just happened to be in town, so we all got together for a night out of over-eating and a couple of beers! A great night and a nice surprise, after so many weeks on the road it was good to be among friends again. We did do the Sukhothai temples the next day but… I don’t know, maybe we are a little ‘templed out’ or just the eagerness to get home, but it was nothing spectacular we didn’t think, though we (and myself especially) have been pretty spoilt when it comes to amazing temples. I did like the style of them here though and it is definitely worth checking out, though possibly not after just having returned from Myanmar – temple overload! The one that really looked worthwhile visiting was charging 100 bt for farangs and I refused on principal, they already charge you a fee elsewhere (that we avoided!) and this was one solitary structure that would have taken all of 5 minutes to see. That’s nearly $50 per hour of sightseeing in my books so I simply took a couple of snaps next to the ticket office and away we went. Man I can be stingy at times!! We stayed at Banthai Guesthousewhich was really nice, once again being able to speak some Thai saved me dollars by asking for a discount on the room if we didn’t use the AC, I used this method many times along the way and regularly knocked 100 bt off the room price! The food was average but the service was great and really friendly. As you can probably tell, we are getting really slack by this stage, the long days on the bike, all the travel so far and the thought of being almost home again, are taking their toll! I’m definitely getting soft!
Published 1:29 am, 16 Feb 2015
We arrived into Chiang Mai late in the afternoon and stopped for a beer to do some free wifi recon that produced little result other than me wanting another beer! So I put our accommodation fate in the hands of Osmand, my GPS system, and we set off around the crowded city looking for a guesthouse.
It became increasingly frustrating and validated my normal approach of having something booked when hitting a bigger town like this, everything was full or overpriced. I finally gave in and we paid 500 bt to stay at Manee House, a little overpriced compared to the rest of our places, but nice enough with working hot water and wifi that hasn’t crapped out yet. First impressions are that Chiang Mai could very well be the Kuta of Thailand (minus the beach), with it’s maze of tiny paved side streets intersecting the city, lined with little bars and café’s full of holidaying farangs. Although much more well behaved than the usual idiots that can be found loud, shirtless and well pissed in Bali’s Kuta, the crowd seems similar and the place just has the same feel to it to me, more in terms of what’s here, who’s here and how it’s laid out. Plus it almost seems the farang tourist’s outnumber the locals here, something you rarely see. We have only had 1 night here and these are simply my first impressions, but I found it interesting that I saw it that way and that Chiang Mai so far feels unlike anywhere else I have been in Thailand. Possibly because I have barely spent any time in the backpacker/holiday zones of Thailand like Phuket and the southern islands.
It really felt like the biggest concentration of Westerner's I had seen, aside from Pattaya, but that is a different crowd altogether, much older and often expats. You rarely see any backpackers there.
The next day we simply explored the city, checked out some of the temples and then ended the day by riding up to Doi Suthep, the mountain that looks over the city of Chiang Mai and hosts Wat Pra That, apparently a major tourist attraction judging by the number of people there. Chiang Mai definitely needs more time than we were willing to give it this trip so we figured we would keep moving the next day and make our run for home, we are starting to feel the effects of so long on the road and are both ready to get home. I will most certainly be returning here with more time to spend, the whole area has been fantastic, though a little rushed.
View from Doi Suthep
Some sort of bee or wasp nest...?!
Sunset view from some rooftop reggae bar
Saw this place as we were heading out of town, looked like the kind of place I'd go. The Bus Bar.... a bar that's a bus...!! Looks like a nice spot next to the river, will check it out next trip
Published 10:29 pm, 15 Feb 2015
CHIANG RAI TO CHIANG MAI - MAE SUAI DAM AND WANGMAJSHAR
Once again it was time to keep moving though and we headed down the 1208 before taking the 118 west and then south, past Mae Suai and all the way to Chiang Mai. Mae Suai Dam was a nice little detour and worth a look, they apparently do some good lure fishing here also, but the trips I looked at were way too pricey for me.
Mae Suai Dam
We also stopped at a really nice place called Khien Doi – Ngoo and Wangmajshar, some sort of local tourist destination that looks like it is still being finished, with a lake and assorted buildings and thousands of huge fish just waiting to be fed. You can buy assorted food on site to throw at these huge fish, we spent 35 bt and although I would have LOVED to get a line in, it was nice just to see them all. There is also a massive python in a small cage that you can look at, with other cages around housing different birds and a few pigs, possibly some sort of small ‘zoo’ to keep the kids entertained? This also looks unfinished. Who knows, I never try to understand Thai logic, especially when it comes to their tourist attractions! Definitely worth the very slight detour and the 10 bt entry fee!