One of the biggest pains in the ass about living in Thailand as a Farang (Foreigner) is the dreaded border bounce to extend your visa. I touched on the Myanmar (formerly Burma) border bounce in an earlier blog – Travel Tips For Thailand which pointed out some issues with the Victoria Point crossing at Ranong. This time I decided to make it more of an adventure rather than being crammed into a sardine tin of a minibus alongside 12 other miserable ‘not wanting to be there’ Farang.
This time I would be traveling from Khao Lak to Ranong by bike. Surprisingly, this is a cheaper way of doing it than on any scheduled minibus plus it had the added advantage of freedom to stop as and when I wanted to and take in the scenery.
The journey itself would venture through the winding roads traveling North some (Google say 194 km) 235km. As a biker the route itself is pretty much bob on, smooth tarmac with very few sections of pot holes etc, easy overtakes for the most part and bloody fantastic scenery.
My trusty steed for the day came from Khao Lak Bikers Club. They have a range of bikes for hire so whether you want one of those yank chopper style things to emulate the Sons of Anarchy crew, a pocket rocket to show Thailand your efforts in representing Rossi or a roadworthy crosser to pop a wheelie or two and drift the back-end; the options are there. I elected for the latter, purely so I can take in the views along the way and have fun at a quarter of the speed had I plumped for a sports bike (much to the glee of my old dad I’m sure). the rental fee for a 24 hour period was 1200 Baht (circa £25) with a 4,000 Baht deposit and a photocopy of my passport.
The bike of choice, a Honda CR250F, relatively new with only 10,000 km on the clock and looking pretty sweet with the noise to be expected from an after market can.
Monies paid, bike fueled and a Cheshire cat style grin I take the bike back home ready to hit the road in the early morning. Unfortunately for the neighbors I hit the road at 5am so I’m sure a couple of them will have had a rude awakening (as I said, the after market can was a smidge noisy) but hey, I was a kid again chasing down the road but not having to look over my shoulder for the local rozzers!!
The journey started great, not too many vehicles on the road and with the sun still fast asleep I made good time – especially as the playlist in my ears hit AC/DC and Metallica. Alas, it all came to an abrupt halt 65 km in- plodding along at 110 kmh the drive chain decided to part company with the sprockets, luckily enough it elected to leave the best route possible – out the back and not try to keep hold of the bike!!
As I sat there at the side of the road with the local dogs alarming the entire neighborhood as to my presence I smoked numerous cigarettes thankful of my lucky escape from possible disaster. It was only 630am so I tried in vain to contact the bike club but understandably so they were not answering just yet. Finishing the last smoke and the thought of no recovery available I pushed the stricken work horse to a more populated area some 2 km along the road.
Every journey has an adventure and an unexpected high point – this was today’s – I arrived at some almost shanty-like buildings and halted the bike. Pissing with sweat a Thai guy and his wife stopped to see if they could help. Very quickly the word spread that some random Farang was out front with a kick ass bike (bear in mind that most of the population run on scooters that are older than my first pair of shoes) and people poured out of every building. The Thai guy initially offered to chuck her on a salang (photo below) which is basically a sidecar scooter; not gonna fit on there pops, sorry.
With no other option I was invited to sit under a bamboo cover with some of the older residents and take coffee. This was SO much fun, me with my broken Nit Noi Thai and them with their broken English we tried our best to communicate and when that failed we always had the trusty Google Translate. Eventually the story unfolded that the ‘soooo’ (chain) had gone and I was introduced to the local bike guy who was much akin to my old school mate Keith- the bike guy because, you guessed it, he had bikes. Khao Lak Bikers Club rang me around 8am and headed my way with a new chain so time for more coffee with my new-found Thai mates.
At last the chain arrived but unfortunately the local guy didn’t have the tools to complete the job (I doubt he had the skills either as he did an awful lot of head scratching) so away they went again with the information I’d have to wait maybe 2 more hours for a replacement bike. Bugger, that’s a delay I didn’t need, but understandable as it would be a round trip of 130+km. So, more coffee and some YouTube time.
At last, the new work horse arrived on the back of a pick-up. Quickly hoisting her off I was once more heading North and waving goodbye to my new-found friends. It was now 1145am so I decided to twist the grip and chew up some of the miles needed to get to Ranong. Coasting along the road you could feel the grip getting better as the tarmac warmed and the fast approaching hill section that I had been warned about…… Careful for the hairpins going over the hills, they have a tendency to jump out at you!!
AWESOME ROADS, totally unexpected quality given my time in Thailand where the majority of the time the roads just disappear or throw one of the aforementioned pot-holes at you. A few fuel stops and the chance to take a photo “Trout Pout Style” for my mate and fellow rider Davey Doyle (the king of the trout pout and Roctopus owner can be found here DaveRocto)
You can find fuel literally anywhere in Thailand; usually a good pointer is the sight of lots of bottles of booze…..it’s actually the fuel, Hong Tong seems to be a favorite bottle of plonk to re-use as a fuel container, and usually only costs around 30-40 Baht (less than a quid).
The route over the mountains was spectacular, the cooling airflow under the hot sun peeking through the gaps in the tall jungle canopy then you flick around a hairpin and the scenery opens up to fields and the odd river cutting under the road before you round the next hairpin. By this point I can feel my knee naturally starting to kick out as if I was back on my Blade at Brands Hatch, steady tiger, must be time for a smoke break and a calm down of the big kid inside trying to come to the fore!
Arriving in Ranong was a tad mundane as it seemed like a HUGE city after all that foliage so I headed for the Andaman crossing and jumped on the next ferry, after all, I was 5 and a half hours behind schedule. Over the water and passport stamp collected I waited patiently for the next return ferry, lo and behold, who turns up….old trout pout himself doing a border run together with another good friend of mine from Koh Tao, Gemma. Incidentally, this lovely lady does that crazy swingy trapeze malarkey and if you’re lunatic to try it give her a shout on Koh Tao – Flying Trapeze
The conversation quickly compared the 2 journeys we were currently covering, not that competitiveness has anything to do with it but….. THE BET WAS ON!! It turns out Gemma and Dave took the conventional option of minibus and ferry from Koh Tao and one of the customers had been delayed in the ferry crossing to Myanmar. A quick calculation and it appeared my 3.5 hour journey and their 2.5 hour journey would now be vaguely similar in time.
Top Gear-esque challenge – The first back to Chumphon (Team Hammond & May) or Khao Lak (Team Clarkson) to post a Trout Pout with a beer would be the winner. As soon as we arrived back at the Thai border I knew Team Trout had the torture of sitting for an hour waiting for the delayed passenger, “See ya later losers!!” Back on the bike and much akin to Clarkson chasing up the Alps in a Ferrari I was off. Speed limit signs, whoops, I didn’t see them and that was Ranong in the rear view mirror.
By now my forearms and hands had RSI from the days riding and you can only guess at how sore my ass was from the wafer thin Honda seat; but I didn’t care, I had maybe 2 hours before the sun set and darkness would slow my progression. “Oh look” I thought, that beautiful picturesque view I was going to stop and take a photo for my blog. Fuck that, I’m in a race!!
Like a Super Moto pro I smashed through the twisties at break-neck speed knowing that if I reached my early morning break down point I had a chance of the win. “YES” here it is, a wave at my brekkie chums on the way through and then darkness fell. The near perfect vision for speed dwindled as the darkness ebbed closer and closer and those annoying objects (cars) started to bunch up. I could only hope for a delay on Team Trouts part. Complete darkness, lack of street lighting and the annoying fluorescent tubing used to light an average corner in the middle of nowhere just destroyed my night vision & speed.
Finally, Khao Lak and I raced into Wicked Diving where I knew my mates would be having beers to take the winning shot. My phone pings into life……
Oh well, a few swear words and a wry smile and it was time to tell the story of being beaten by two mates over a well deserved beer.
All in all….A Wheelie Good Day Out to Burma & Back
A big thanks goes out to the guys at Khao Lak Bikers Club, albeit it was a long recovery I reckon they raced to get the replacement bike ot me as quickly as possible. Top team and top effort. If you are ever needing to rent a reasonable sized bike here then hit these guys up.
Finally, if you end up traveling to Koh Tao and find yourself at Roctopus or the Flying Trapeze don’t forget to Trout Pout Gemma and Dave.