I am the original 'Uneasy Rider' .. not especially blessed with much natural motorcycling talent, nor am I a particularly courageous motorcycle rider.
Nevertheless I went 'Right Way Round' New Zealand (at least twice) followed by a wonderful ride around Australia.

Then it was up to southeast Asia, around Indo-China, across southern Central Asia to the Middle East, Asia Minor .. and finally into Europe.

Right Way Round - all the way home .. from New Zealand to England, 2-up on a Honda Transalp.

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PROGRESS SO FAR - Distance covered across Western Europe: 6,411 km [3,984 miles] - as at Thursday, October-22nd, 2015

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Yi Peng - Yee Haw

Monday, 4th November 2013

Koh Chang, Thailand

We're Back in Thailand. Our first six days and nights spent on the island of Koh Chang, which claims to be one of Thailand's most beautiful islands with long white sandy beaches, etc. You get the picture.


Background

The 'discovery' of the island as a tourist destination about 10-15 years ago brought-on a large amount of rapid and ill thought-through development; and while Koh Chang is still far quieter than places like Phuket or Pattaya, we thought it probably better to go there now, before it all gets out of hand, which won't take too much longer the way things are going!

Regarding services and activities specifically aimed at tourists - e.g diving, snorkelling, jungle trekking, elephant treks, yoga and cookery classes etc - advertised prices appear to have reached such a level that the islanders could be pricing themselves out of the market when compared to the other Thai resorts. In other words, Koh Chang ain't cheap! Think US$25-30 per night for backpacker-type digs, or at least US$75+ for any half decent 'mid-range' accommodation.

[Panorama - click to enlarge]

Lonely Beach -  the sea view outlook at Gu's Bay's Resort, southwest Koh Chang 

.. and I felt like screaming .. "TSUNAMI !!!"

We stayed four nights all told in-and-around Lonely Beach, Koh Chang, on the west coast of the island - but I never really settled there, at the social 'flashbackers' hang-out of Gu's Bay Resort, Bailan Beach, just south of Lonely Beach. Dunno why? Boredom I guess.

I really tried to fit-in with the crowd, most of which were young enough to be my children [.. possibly even my grandchildren!] Besides, the weather was decidedly dodgy at least half the time; indeed, it p!ssed down with rain for most of the day on Thursday-7th, which meant we were 'confined to barracks' if we wanted to avoid a drenching. AND the Internet connection at Gu's Bay was at best 'intermittent' - so viewing any on-line porn tasteful erotica to pass the time of day was largely out of the question too [only joking about that bit, of course! eh-hem!!]

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On Friday-8th, we decided to move across to the eastern, more rural and quieter side of the island .. and stopped for a couple of nights in a homestay called 'Blessed' owned and managed by ..

.. the fair Orly; who was raised in Israel before moving to Europe where she lived and worked as a talented artist and sculptor, firstly in Germany, then Holland.

More than ably assisted by her aussie partner, Greg, whose body and mind interacts in complete synergy with Orly's artistic perspective and philosophy on life.

Look quickly and it can take a moment to work out where Greg's body art finishes and his garments begin!

I'm not into personal embellishment and adornments of any kind, myself.  I have not a single tattoo (let alone a piercing), nor will I ever. You see, in my opinion, the world is divided into two kinds of people: those who have tattoos and piercings .. and those who are simply plain shit-scared of needles. I fall into the latter group.

Hey Greg [if you ever read this]: I reckon for someone like you who adores tattoos and'all, one of the most precious things in life must be pure bare skin, eh? Hell Yeah!

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Everywhere you looked around 'Blessed' there is art on display ..


.. which all blends seamlessly with the natural surroundings.


'Blessed' Residence. Highly recommended, IF you want to spend time in a place that's more than a little 'different'.

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The undeveloped - for the moment - east coast of Koh Chang ..

.. where I bet that hanging your 'Gone Fishing' sign on the front door is commonplace.

Village life on the east coast of Koh Chang.

Perfectly Asia.

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Sunday-10th

We wanted to be up in the city of Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, by late afternoon, Friday-l6th. A three day run - two days at a push - by sticking to the the major highways all the way, but I wanted something different, a little more 'off the beaten track'. Besides, Ellen was keen to go back and take one last final look at the Mekong River. With this in mind, I posted a request for routing advice on the RideAsia.net motorcycle forum. I got all the information I needed in response for a far more interesting - but more demanding - ride to my destination.

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By Tuesday mid-afternoon (12th) we had made it to the banks of the mighty Mekong, the 'Mother of Water', where we enjoyed a late lunch. Fish 'n' fries, what else?!

We swept along upstream following the natural contours of the river for 180 km [120 mi], a 3½-hour ride, until we eventually reached the township of Chiang Khan; still almost exclusively patronised by Thai tourists for its charmingly traditional walking street called SriChiangKhan Street ..


.. which has managed to escape the widespread invasion of foreign visitors (their loss). We loved Chiang Khan. I mean, just how cute is this video?:



Worth 20 Baht [ c. £0.40, or 0.60 US cents] of anyone's money. But I think the girl on the left is a little tired, don't you?

"C'MON U-NI-TED"
[AON - Manchester United F.C. shirt sponsors 2010–2014]

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The next three days' that followed involved some of the most exhaustive, but thrill-filled riding that we've experienced anywhere throughout southeast Asia. Hugging the border around twisting broken mountain roads and tracks that separates Thailand from Laos ..

[Panorama - click to enlarge]

.. sometimes reaching heights of 3,000 ft [900 m], where the air is clear and cool - and comes with vistas.

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Along the way westwards, after leaving the Mekong, we stayed in some superb lodgings representing comparably excellent value-for-money.

.. with comfy rooms

.. and BIG 42-inch flat-screen TVs, hooked to full international satellite channels

.. and excellent views, sometimes with a veranda

Maybe with an adjacent restaurant, just over the road. This is Tony, a Welshman that moved to Thailand 30 years ago to study Buddhism; became a monk - well let's face it, he does have a lot of monk potential! - then some years later fell in love and married a Thai girl, with whom he now has a grown-up daughter; and runs a successful restaurant under the well thought-out original name of [.. erm] 'Tony's Place', serving-up both Western and Thai tasty dishes.

I just had to include a picture of Tony, whose restaurant is located in the riverside city of Nan, northeastern Thailand.

Now here's the thing, my point is that the tariffs for these mainland overnight stops typically ranged from 500-1,000 Baht [GB£10-20 - or US$16-32]. How the hell hotel establishments on the island of Koh Chang can have the nerve to charge three and sometimes four times as much for the same type - even inferior standard - of accommodation, simply beats me. Like I said before, Koh Chang is in serious danger of pricing itself out of the market.

Okay, rant over!

And we always dined in the most chic places in town!

R 1150. To a motorcyclist, seeing a road laid-out like this in front of him [or her] is as good as the prospect of imminent sex. Any motorcyclists reading this will know exactly what I'm talking about here, including you Peter.

[Panorama - click to enlarge]

A picture just before twisting down from the high ground on R1150 to Phrao, northern Thailand. And we did get caught by that rain shower on the left. We found shelter though .. 30 minutes later and soon we were on our way again.

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From Ellen's journal: click on this link → Koh Chang to Chiang Mai, Thailand

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Friday-15th


Entering Chiang Mai after six straight days on the road, having covered a distance of 2,065 km [1,283 mi] since leaving Koh Chang on the warm and sunny Sunday morning of November-10th.

We had taken the 'scenic route', avoiding Bangkok, and used a main highway/ motorway only once - the R3 Mittraphap Road - for the long'ish stretch from just south of Nakhon Ratchasima to the Mekong River at the Thai/Laos border.

Chiang Mai ("New City"), the largest and most culturally significant city in northern Thailand.


It was no accident or coincidence that we arrived in Chiang Mai, for the second time (the first visit occurred back in March), at the weekend of the full moon of the twelfth month in the Thai Lunar Calendar - this was planned in advance some time ago (of which I say more below.)

We raced the last few kilometres to our pre-booked lodgings in the city with a collie dog on a scooter.

The collie won by a whisker!

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Saturday-16th

Around mid-afternoon we ride the short distance of around 13 km [8 mi] northwards out of Chiang Mai to Tudongkhasathan Lanna ..

.. near the Mae Jo University, where the Sansai Floating Latterns Festival is traditionally held.

Making our way, by foot, for the last half kilometre. vendors were selling merchandise from their stalls; mostly traditional Thai cooked food. Here's some sushi (above), which looks delicious and nearly tempts us, but we thought better of it. Long-standing unrefrigerated raw fish in the outdoor heat of 30°C+ is probably not a good idea!

Yi Peng is essentially a religious ceremony in order to pay homage to the Lord Buddha and his dhamma teaching which is supposed to help cultivate good deeds and the avoidance of all iniquity and the purification of minds.


A brilliant, electric atmosphere started to build as dusk approached.

The idea is to make a wish - better in writing of course

Like I say, we're here at the time of the full moon of the twelfth month in the Thai Lunar Calendar

Then, at the appointed time, light the fuel cell ..


.. and extend the lanterns to full size - approximately 90 cm in length, with a diameter of 30 cm.








Release together when the signal is given.

What followed over the course of the next thirty minutes or so was a man-made galaxy; a surreal celestial firmament. Totally magical.

Watch my short video [below] yourself, which gives me goosebumps every time I see it.


There are only a few - I mean, less than a handful - of places and events that I've attended which truly merit the frequently overly-used adjective of 'awesome' .. but believe me, the Yi Peng Floating Lanterns Festival unquestionably and definitely .. does!

I've never witnessed anything like it before - and probably never will again.

An event like this could never happen in the West of course - think of the health & safety factor (plus the inevitable follow-up litigious claims.)

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UPDATE

Tuesday, 19th November 2013

The last day and a half has been spent racing down motorway-type highways for 700 km [435 mi] from Chiang Mai, gobbling-up kilometres at a rate of 10 every six minutes ..

.. until we reached the traffic madness of the country's capital city, Bangkok.

There's a lot to do over the next 10-12 days, not least of which are the necessary preparations and arrangements to airfreight my trusty steed over the Himalayan Mountains to Kathmandu. This southeast Asian, near 20,000-kilometre long chapter of the ride back home from New Zealand is finally drawing to its conclusion.

We are also meeting special friends in Bangkok, who we are very excited about seeing again. The remaining part of November, therefore, will be mix of excitement, hectic activity and good ol' fashion fun. I will tell you all about it from Nepal, when we get there - probably around the start of December.

Can you imagine? We're now actually facing the prospect of going over the Himalayas - Mount Everest and all that stuff - to Nepal, Southern Asia. Unbelievable!

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