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.


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

Sunday 17 March 2013

We are Siamese if you please ...

Sunday, 10th March

I HATE border crossings .. and this time, I had a good reason?

Mid-morning: Nor and her friend, Dan, escorted us the short distance of 30 km [18½ mi] up to the border at Bukit Kayu Hitam.

On the way we stop to buy:

(a) Petrol, as the price doubles-up in Thailand from approximately £0.40 to £0.80 per litre. Both are still cheap by UK standards though. Here I am squeezing the last few drops into the tank.

(b) Compulsory third party motorcycle insurance, for 12 months, at a cost of RM 75 {GB£16]. Why a year's worth? Well, I should be riding back over the border again later in the year - around October or November - this second time will likely be from the direction of Cambodia.

(c) Thai temporary 30-day immigration permits.

(d) A cocktail of pills and potions to add to our medical kit, just in case one of us goes down with another dose of food poisoning. We had just learnt a valuable lesson in this department!


Customs Regulations
Now here's the thing: The Royal Malaysian Customs Department permits the temporary importation of foreign-registered motorcycles vehicles, providing re-exportation occurs within three months. The Transalp had been in Malaysia since last July-7th (2012), which meant that it had overstayed its welcome by more than five months.

I therefore had good reason to feel nervous as we pulled-up to the Malay Immigration/Customs booths. Handing over our passports, I just smiled at the young female border official - didn't even remove my helmet or sunglasses; she gave us both a cursory glance, returned a half smiled back .. and stamped-out our passports.

I looked straight ahead as we rode passed the Customs officers. We weren't stopped and questioned.

We were into no man's land .. and away. Phew!

Summary: Malaysia has been good to us in many ways, and we left with nice positive memories of the country. I see it as Asia in miniature. A mix of varied ethnic cultures - Chinese, Indian, Persian, Arabic, and British - all blended together over the centuries.

Thank you Malaysia.

'Love Yu Long Time'


Entering Thailand

Time to remove the Malaysian courtesy flag and replace it with a Thai one.

Also had to officially arrange temporary importation for the bike into Thailand. This was when the real fun and games started!

The Thai customs official in Booth No. 3 just stared at me as I tried to explain that, as a British Citizen, I wanted to temporarily import my New Zealand registered motorcycle.

I even attempted to speak to her in a little Thai, quoting - I have to say with some misplaced confidence - a few words that I had already pre-learned just for this occasion; yet I never seemed to succeed in making her understand her own language, and I don't know why - I was clearly missing something?

After too much sweat and frustration, arguing that my nationality didn't need to match that of the bike's .. I finally accepted defeat. Whether I liked it or not, as far as Thai Customs were concerned .. I was a New Zealander. My British passport mattered not. I had turned Kiwi.

It could have been worse, I s'pose. She could have put me down as a Welshman .. Heaven Forbid!

Just one sheep at a time .. eh boyo?!


We covered the easy ride of 160 km [100 mi] up to the township of Lampam on the west bank of Lake Songkhla, just down the road from Phatthalung City, by late afternoon.

Our first night in Thailand. We had mixed emotions of relief and excitement, but certainly glad to be in, The Land of Smiles .. at last.


Monday, 11th

6:45 am - Sunrise over Lake Songkhla - the largest natural lake in Thailand.

After breakfast - comprising of fried rice, egg, cucumber, spring onions, toast & jam .. all washed down with orange juice and coffee - we headed west to the Malacca Strait.  3½ hours of riding later, 215 km [134 mi] with a couple of breaks along the way, we reached Ao Nang, south of Krabi.

Same sun, same day .. setting over Ao Nang Beach.


Tuesday, 12th

We booked into the Aonang Goodwill Hotel for two nights specifically to take a speedboat excursion out to the offshore Phi Phi Islands.

It was damned hot that day - I would guess around 35°C - but the welcome sea breezes helped a lot.

As did a swim in the crystal-clear waters around the islands.

I even rustled-up enough courage for a little snorkelling.

Tiger fish. Chuck overboard a slice of bread, or a handful of cooked rice .. and within a couple of seconds the surface turns into a boiling feeding frenzy.

We were looking forward to visiting Maya Bay, expecting it to look just like this:

However, it has now unfortunately become overly popular since the 2000 movie The Beach was filmed there.

THIS (above) is the present day reality. Panorama - click to enlarge

Obviously we were not alone.

AND just how the hell did Ellen manage to get in the picture twice .. ?!

Speedboats, large and small, temporarily moored-up along the shoreline like sardines.

It was about then that Ellen finally felt that we were away and 'on holiday'. Near fully recovered from her recent illnesses, the trip for her at this stage had just started .. properly.

From Ellen's journal: click on this link → North Malaysia and beyond


Wednesday, 13th

The Andaman Sea coastline, Khao Lak in particular. We went there to catch-up on Brit ex-pat, Shaun May, eldest son of a Newquay retired couple - Alvin & Pat May - best friends of my elder sister, Sandra.

Before meeting Shaun we strolled across the beach where, on Boxing Day 2004, a 15-metre wall of water came crashing through. Right here, right where Ellen is standing in the above picture. A bit disturbing really, especially as just a couple of months previously we had watched a movie at the cinema called The Impossible, starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor. Go see the movie .. and you will soon get my drift!

Our supper that night, freshly-caught-that-day barbequed Barracuda. Yummy.

And here's Shaun. A fine chef by all accounts, who just can't keep his establishment, the Jungle Bar & Restaurant, up-and-running as a going concern. Shaun closed his business, perhaps for good, just the night before on Tuesday 12th.

Business is not good in Khao Lak, despite having been completely rebuilt over the last nine years. Locals put it down to the recession.

Quite frankly, I think it's all due to the great tsunami of 2004. Still stuck, for the time being at least, in peoples' memories.

I can tell you, I definitely DID NOT sleep easily that night.


Thursday, 14th

20 km [12½ mi] up the road brought us to the little fishing township of Ban Nam Khem. It used to be a community of 5,000 people and, at the time of the tsunami, also hosted another 1,500 migrants from Burma.

It once had a sand beach stretching 1.5km into the sea. The tsunami simply picked up the beach and destroyed it. Every family in the township lost someone.

The Tsunami Memorial Park was built at Ban Nam Khem with this (above) monument; comprising of two long walls facing each other. The bigger black wall - on the right above - represents the tsunami and

.. the smaller wall represents the victims with names and photographs as part of the memorial.

Up to 280,000 people lost their lives on the 26th December 2004.

Countless others were injured in some way.

An estimated ~1.7 million people were displaced.

Despite a lag of up to several hours between the seabed earthquake and the impact of the tsunami, nearly all of the victims were taken completely by surprise.

The disaster affected several nations in Southeast Asia and beyond. Many other countries, especially Australia and Europe, had large numbers of citizens travelling in the region on holiday.

I was left to ponder just who was this little chap, David, from Austria? Gone. Disappeared forever.

A battered and abandoned fishing boat from the township. Need I say more?

Statue of Buddha on consecrated sacred ground adjacent to the memorial.


Thursday, 14th - an unmemorable ride up to Ranong, where we had contemplated catching a boat across to Myanmar (Burma) .. but then decided against it, because if I'm honest, this would have been just a 'tick box' day excursion .. and I'm not really that desperate to get a couple more border stampings in my passport.


Friday, 15th

First sight of the Gulf of Thailand. Panorama - click to enlarge

The longest day's ride so far - 265 km [165 mi] - cross country, avoiding the Main Route 4 Phetkasem Highway wherever possible, brought us to the Thai peninsula's eastern seaboard. 

We hugged the near deserted coastal tracks to our two-day stopover accommodation, the Baan Grood Arcadia Resort & Spa. Upmarket? you bet!

Fact is, all of our overnight lodgings up until now had been picked from the 'budget' to lower 'mid-range' category. Remember, we're away for two months, so our money has to stretch that bit further. Most of the establishments so far have provided good to excellent value .. with only a couple of 'dodgy' ones.

By this stage of the game Ellen was convinced she had made a full recovery .. but I wasn't so sure? See, the washing and ironing was still piling up! She clearly needed some complete relaxation, to fully recharge her batteries, in slightly more extravagant surroundings.

I questioned the excessive (for us) tariff, of course? But then thought to myself, what the hell .. she can afford it!


Saturday, 16th

A picture from the previous evening:

The local squid-fishing fleet .. just offshore, earning a living.

By the following morning - this day - their catch is drying-out naturally under the midday sun.

Generally we did bugger-all on Saturday-16th .. except stroll across a near deserted beach. Eat and drink .. and update our blogs and journals. Hey, this travelling malarkey can be tough going sometimes!