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Published: February 26th 2012
bikes being un-boxed at the airport in Bangkok
Boxes is what you pack bikes in before you put them on a plane. If the box is not big, packing a bike in a box is a b*tch! Our boxes were not big. Mr Suraj, our shifty shipping agent, had made our boxes almost too small to squeeze our bikes in. Handlebars - off, front wheels - off, clutch cables - off, screen - off, instruments - off, brake callipers - off, mudguards - off.
Although, if packing was not much fun, unpacking and putting the bikes back together was decidedly un-fun. A situation made significantly worse by my ‘sensible’ decision that since the front wheel was off already, it would also be a good time to change my front tyre. It was not a good time to change my front tyre. Firstly, I had to carry my tyre backwards and forwards around the rather large cargo area at Bangkok airport. Tyres are heavy. Secondly I had to fill in a customs form declaring my tyre as pre-bought goods, so no one thought I was trying to smuggle my tyre in and out of the duty free zone as I carted it about. Finally, on top of re-assembling
Lim Mae Phim beach
Our first beach since Turkey!
the bloody bikes I had to change the damn thing. When it is 35 degrees and humid changing tyres and reassembling bikes is hot, hard, sweaty work. Hot, hard, sweaty work that took about four hours. Hot, hard sweaty work that didn’t get underway until 3pm because it took us about six hours before to complete the import paperwork!
It is much easier to ride the bikes to a new country than to fly them.
In the end we spent nearly two weeks in Bangkok. Most of it at a hotel near the airport. There’s not a lot to say about it really, except there are no doubt better places to spend two weeks in Bangkok.
Which brings me to the reason we spent so long at the airport hotel: bikes. The Pakistani desert, the terrible Indian roads, the Christmas day ‘sand adventure’ had all taken their toll. It was time for lots of maintenance: new chain and sprockets, new brake pads, new rear brake disc for mine, valve clearances, oil changes, air filter cleans, new rear tyres. It was three days non-stop hard work! Again, all done in 35+ degree heat. The good news though
is that, apart from a few oil changes, the bikes should now be in good shape until at least Australia.
I should also say a thank you to the people at Talon Engineering for helping out with parts we couldn’t get in Bangkok, thanks!
Despite ticking the “avoid toll roads” option, my GPS unhelpfully chose to take us on a route that only involved toll roads. After the first half an hour we were further away from where we were going than when we started. After an hour and a half we were almost back where we started. After two hours we were riding the wrong way back down the motorway access ramp; which we were forced to do by the motorway staff who wouldn’t let us on (bikes are banned from Thai toll roads!!). After three hours we were stuck in an immovable traffic jam somewhere on the edge of central Bangkok. After four hours we were finally out of Bangkok, having ridden pretty much right through the centre. We were sweaty, hot, unhappy and our faces were so covered in road grime that Tanja wouldn’t even let me take a picture of her! Still, if
she had she would never let me put it on the blog, so you wouldn’t have seen it anyway.
Over the River Kwai, that is. Which is where we were headed from Bangkok, and where we eventually arrived; somewhat later than the optimistic three hour prediction of my GPS. For those of you that don’t know, the Bridge over the River Kwai is a railway bridge that achieved notoriety after it was built by allied prisoners of war during the second world war. Although, the first bridge they built was blown up, I think the second bridge they built was also blown up, and the bridge that is there now doesn’t have so much to do with prisoners of war (actually, I’m told the pillars are the original ones). Anyways, it was a nice place to visit. We had a guesthouse by the river, it was quite tranquil, if a little damp.
Bathing… in waterfalls
Not far from the rebuilt bridge was a Thai national park with a seven tiered waterfall you can swim in. For a bit of relaxation after Bangkok we headed there, on the bus. I have to say, I had forgotten how much
hard work backpacking is compared to bike riding. In Bangkok, before the bikes arrived, we had to trudge up and down the street with bags full of stuff – bloody hard work. Catching buses in Kanchanaburi (where the bridge and waterfall are) was also bloody hard work: finding bus terminals, checking times, waiting around, and it wasn’t any cooler on the bus really than riding along in all your gear. Stuff the backpack, bring your bike, is my advice.
But, back to bathing in waterfalls. Hmmm… look at the piccys, not much more I can add. Except, it was bloody hard work (a bit of a theme now we’re out of the cooler weather) trudging up and down the seven tiers in 35+ degree heat. Perhaps that’s the downside of biking vs. backpacking, you don’t do much trudging! So when you do have to trudge it comes as a bit of a surprise.
It wasn’t all bridges and waterfall baths in Kanchanaburi though. There was also a small issue with some bugs. Giardia bugs to be precise, or so I suspected. Since we made Damo sick on the KFC in Sukkar (Pakistan) my stomach had not been quite
right. Strange gurglings, sudden urges, strong winds. So we took some medication.
Our next stop was quite a lovely Thai fishing town call Prachuap Khiri Khan. The nice thing about Prachuap KK was that it was more of a Thai holiday destination than a backpacker one. Hotels were a bit cheaper, and nicer for the price. The food was excellent! The beer was icy cold and generally served in an icy cold glass. Sadly our anti-Giardia medication would go badly with beer, and so it was a three day beer ban for me :-(
Beds & bugs
Even more sadly I broke out in big red itchy bumps after about two days in Prachuap KK. This is a reported side effect of our anti Giardia medication, and a potentially serious one. After two days of itching that was getting worse we decided to ask a doctor, and ended being sent to the hospital to see one. After about three hours I saw a skin specialist. He said the bumps had nothing to do with the medication, and a lot more to do with insects… probably bed bugs.
Apparently it can take a few days before the bites
show up, so it would seem the likely culprit was bed bugs at the Bamboo House by the Bridge over the River Kwai!
I have decided I do not like bed bugs much. Although, it would seem the bed bugs rather liked me. Fortunately for Tanja, the bed bugs seemed to like her less. Her bumps were also not nearly as big.
My run of luck with hairdressers continued. For 100 baht (€2.50) I managed to get a patchy, uneven looking ‘kiddy-do’ that made my head look like a soccer ball. Better than Esfahan, but not good. Tanja was supposed to get her haircut there too, but after watching my disaster develop backed out. Instead she got a nice haircut, in a proper salon, from someone who spoke English, but not until Malaysia.
From Prachuap KK we headed to the other side of Thailand for a dip in the Andaman sea, and also in the hope of some better snorkelling. After turning off the main north-south route, it was a lovely ride through the jungle. Eventually we arrived at the beachside town of Khao Lak. Where we found that lots of other people had
More beaches (Prachuap KK)
This is where Brian put his hand in a sea urchin (zee-egel), oouch!
already arrived; mainly westerners on package holidays, it would seem.
But, we did manage some excellent snorkelling on the Surin Islands, about 60km off the coast. Time for some more underwater camera pictures!
Is where we stayed next. Border towns are strange places, and the one near the Sadao border was no different. We stopped outside a fairly flash looking hotel and Tanja went in to ask how much. A troop of rather short skirted and high heeled young Thai girls giggled their way down the stairs, two of them departing on the back of a small motorbike with an older looking chap. The rooms were cheap enough, so we decided to stay.
By the bed was the phone. Stuck on the phone was the “Call 1104 for massage” sticker. This ‘advice’ was also in several other places in the room. Unusually, the minibar was well stocked with condoms. Flicking through the satellite channels a slightly grainy free porn channel on the TV popped up. Yes, we were clearly staying in a brothel!
Borders (without bribes!)
After a bad breakfast at the brothel we headed for the border, next stop Malaysia. Helpfully it was a very
Hard at work?
As Tanja keeps saying 'this trip is not a holiday'
efficient border, and we were in Malaysia in about half an hour without anyone even trying to obtain a bribe. Somewhat different to the previous border crossings between Turkey-Iran-Pakistan-India.
Boats is what our bikes are now on, by themselves! An ‘onion’ boat to be precise. Sadly, or perhaps happily (it may not be the most seaworthy of vessels) we couldn’t travel along with them. Instead we fly to Indonesia to meet them at the other end.
So tomorrow it is bye-bye Malaysia and hello Indonesia. Only two more countries to cross and we’ll be in Australia!
NOTE: THERE ARE MORE PHOTOS AT THE BOTTOM, IF YOU KEEP SCROLLING DOWN!
Tot: 0.095s; Tpl: 0.019s; cc: 10; qc: 48; dbt: 0.0115s; 1; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb