Well we've been tooling around Phuket for a couple of weeks now, I think we're ready to hit the road and kick-start the Chiang Mai lifestyle.
The security guard at our condo building takes one last picture of us before we head out
I think we're the only ones in the building with "big bikes". She's seen us go in and out while we've lived here, and we've nodded and smiled at her as we've ridden by. On our last day, she sees that our bikes are all loaded up and she asks where we're going. When we tell her, she exclaims: "Oh, Chiang Mai! Very far!"
Motorcycles are not long-range vehicles in Thailand.
Getting off the island and onto the main highway that spans the length of Thailand is a real slog through an unending, uninteresting urban jungle. No pictures.
It does allow us to get used to touring with the CRFs again. Our two week rest in Phuket got us used to riding on the left... again. Plus we've got our packing routine established from last season, so we're hitting the ground running.
At a gas stop, we make some adjustments to our ghetto-make-shift motorcycle seat cushions
The CRFs are terrible for touring:poor tank range (we have to gas up every 175kms), buzzy at highway speeds, poor pickup when trying to pass at highway speeds. But the biggest pain in the ass (LITERALLY) is the horribly uncomfortable banana seat - a product of Honda's Torture Device Division.
We spent the whole last season ridng all over SE Asia in acute discomfort. So before leaving Phuket, I did some research on all the ways we could alleviate the pain. The problem is that the seat is too narrow and the edges dig into your sitting bones. The Airhawk cushions we bought did nothing to widen the seats, so no joy there. :(
So I read one guy's solution was to build a little fabric seat widener that lay across the stock seat. It had pockets on each side which hung over the edges of the seat which you could insert empty plastic water bottles inside. So the seat cover + 2 water bottles hanging off either side created a wider flat surface for your butt.
We achieved almost the same effect by stuffing empty water bottles into the Airhawk seat cover.
We'll let you know how that works out...
After our seat stuffing experiment at the gas station, we suit up and get ready to continue. And that's when it starts to rain
And not just rain. It comes down in buckets. Like a proper tropical torrential downpour.
And it *has* to happen on our very first day on the road, right? Can't have given us just one dry day for us to get used to moto-traveling again? Thank you, Thailand. So very RideDOT.com...
We wait a bit, glancing up at the sky every few minutes. The rains don't look like they're letting up, so we decide not to wait for it to pass. We reluctantly pull on our rain suits. Onwards, straight into the driving rain!
Ugh, the suits are so hot and stifling in the tropical heat! We might as well be riding without the rain suits because we're sweating so much. Within minutes of leaving the gas station, there's more sweat inside the suit than rain on the outside! Gross.
And then a mere 15 minutes later into our sausage-suited rain ride, the water works from above abruptly end. Aaaaand we're drenched in sweat. If we had only just waited...
Damn you, Thailand!!! :)
A couple of hours outside of Phuket, the scenery begins to get interesting
We are entering the Khao Sok National Park. Although we haven't traveled that far today, we're staying here for the night because we want to check out some of the interesting scenery.
Yes, FOMO strikes again.
We found a place deep inside the dense jungle of the park. Just kidding, we were right off the highway
The place we're staying in had these great bungalows in the jungle. They're called Jungalows. I just made that up.
One of the most distinct features of Khao Sok are these towering limestone mountains shrouded in trees. They rise up all around us.
Neda is loving being surrounded by nature!
The next day, we head out deeper into the park. Amazing riding past these huge karst formations!
We take a little detour to get off the main road. We have dirt bikes after all!
Despite all the aforementioned drawbacks to riding these small motorcycles, sometimes it's nice to just shoot off the well-worn path without a second thought.
Beautiful scenery all around us!
Back on the main road, northbound
Aaaand it rains again... Seriously? Is this the way it's gonna be all the way to Chiang Mai?!?
We leave Khao Sok National Park behind us as we head further north. We've done this road once before, when we rode all the way south to Singapore. Now, doing it in reverse, we already know what's in store for us as we traverse the narrow strip of land joining south Thailand to the north: Nothing but highway and urban sprawl; gas stations and roadside restaurants.
This is going to be our life for the next few days:
Stopping for food in Chumphon
We're still far enough south that there's a prevalent Muslim population, which means: Malaysian food!!! I love roti canai!
Further north, we stay overnight in Prachuap Khiri Khan. Too cloudy to visit the beaches! Going for a little ride to find food
Roadside vendor. Eat, Sleep, Ride!
The urban sprawl becomes more dense as we approach Bangkok, and we take care not to wander onto the highways because motorcycles aren't allowed to use them in the big city. I remember we almost got caught and fined the last time we were here!
North of Bangkok, we turn east and head into Muak Lek District in Saraburi.
From the road, we see dairy farms for the first time. There are cows everywhere here!
We must investigate.
And by investigate, I mean eat.
We check into an awesome resort-style accommodation in the town of Mittraphap
In Thailand, the most popular online booking service is a site called Agoda.com. Lots of affordable, yet luxurious places!
Mittraphap isn't really on the farang radar list. The people working at our resort don't speak English and they had to phone someone to come in to help check us in. We used Neda's translation app on her phone: the Thai text-to-speech translations worked quite well. It's amazing to think all this technology wasn't as readily available when we first started our trip back in 2012...
The resort is beautiful! Very bucolic. We're booked here for a couple of nights. The only other people here are another younger Thai couple. They arrive the day after we do. I think they're up here from Bangkok for a short weekend vacation. The big city is only a couple of hours away.
We exchanged some polite Sawadee-Khhraps and that was it. I wish I knew more Thai.
Walking around the resort, spying on Neda. She is immersed in her cross-stitching
I should really be working on the blog.
Meh... I think when we get to Chiang Mai, I'll try to catch up then. :)
Neda's cross-stitching is really coming along! She actually started this one last year in Thailand, but basically stopped when we were in Europe
In the evening, we ride out to the main village near the highway to grab some food, just 5 minutes away
Muak Lek district has a thriving agro-tourism thing going on with all the dairy farms in the area. The rolling meadows around here make for a perfect place to raise cattle and the farms have been here since the 50s. They supply most of the milk products for the rest of the country. The most popular thing for tourists to do here is to visit a steakhouse, and there are so many in town to choose from.
This is actually quite unusual, because we've been in Thailand for so long and they're not really known for beef or steak, not like Alberta or Argentina.
It's a shame that we're not here in the new year. There's a National Dairy Cows festival held every year. It's a country and western theme and there's a part where they get dressed up like cowboys and put on a show, complete with lassos and cattle rustling demonstrations. It looks quite fun!
Eating steak is quite fun too.
I found this steak place online, it had some pretty good reviews
It was okay. The meat was kind of tough. I ordered it rare and it was over-cooked...
The most interesting thing that happened that evening was this policeman who came in after we did. He seemed to be a pretty important person, everyone in the restaurant greeted him and he seemed to know everyone and walked around like a real big wig. He walked over and sat down with the family sitting behind Neda.
Maybe he was like the town sheriff? Come to check out the only two farangs in Mittraphap? All he needed was a white cowboy hat!
I wish I knew some Thai so I could eavesdrop! :) Still it's fun speculating and making up stories in your head.
The next day we were talking with the one staff person who spoke Engish at our place. When we told her of our so-so steak experience, she recommended another restaurant, Big Joey, just around the corner.
I like the name! I had a good feeling about this place.
So we pay a visit to Big Joey that evening. Looks nice so far! Hopefully they won't call the sheriff on us tonight!
So juicy and tender! And done perfectly as well! Excellent presentation too. Would highly recommend to anyone. Funny thing is that it's not even listed on Tripadvisor or any of the farang sites... So glad we got a local to show us where to go.
As you can see from the picture, Neda didn't feel like having steak two days in a row. But hey, when in Muak Lek, do as the Muak Lekkens do! Let them eat steak! I'm having my steak and eating it too. Steaking my claim? NO! Claiming my steak! Driving a steak through my arteries. One missed steak can ruin everything. Oh steak, can you see? By the dawn's early light...
Okay, back on the road, though more urban landscape
I always make fun of Neda when she carries the groceries hanging off the end of her handlebars like the locals do!
This picture typifies Thailand for us. The 7-11 in the background. The blue-red-and-white PTT gas station logo. Neda doing her best smiling Sawadee-Kah-Lady impression...
That's all going to change for a little bit while we make just a small-teensy-weensy detour...