Returning to Bangkok was not too hard, until getting about 10 kms from the city. Traffic increased intensely. It took me about an hour to cross the last seven kilometers. I reached a lovely guesthouse, where I would be patiently waiting for my godfather and his partner to arrive. They had booked several nights there for their holidays. They would be there in a few days, and I would stay in this place, which would become my new home for the next 10 days.
I took the opportunity of spending that long in Bangkok to do many things that I did not have time to do before. Sleeping was the first. The few last weeks had been intense, and I was lacking sleep. Being able to have a lie in was amazing. I also planned on cleaning the bike, and do a well-deserved service.
Therefore, I drove to a petrol station on the corner of a street. Every petrol station in Thailand offers hand-cleaning services. I put the bike on its center stand, and watched as a family started working around it. The wife was sprinkling water, the husband was putting soap, and their child was scrubbing it.
The bike was shining afterwards, and I decided to do a little service on site. I could not find any shade, and the sun beat down. I changed the air filter, changed the final drive oil, and the gearbox oil (“hey that’s funny, the manual says 0.8 L of oil but I’ve already put 2 L inside and it is still not full … What do you mean I must not fill it up to the top ?! Oh, well. Emptying it again then, I suppose…”), all under the amazed gaze of tuktuk drivers. People brought me an umbrella to cover from the sun, and jerry cans to put the drained oil in. The heat was intense, and I was dripping with sweat. I filled up the coolant and engine oil, and went to take a well-deserved shower. I was quite proud of myself, despite the oil incident.
Pretending to know how to do stuff
My godfather and his partner arrived after a few days, and I temporarily became a local guide. Another couple I am friends with was flying the same day and leaving the next morning, which naturally called for a nice beer all together in the evening. The next day, we rediscovered the city together, and had a great time.
Days passed, and it was almost time for them to take their train to Cambodia. They left the guest house very early in the morning so as not to miss their train. I made that morning the best decision of my whole trip : I decided to leave at the same time they did to avoid traffic jams in the capital. I was quickly aware of how good my choice was when I went through a bit of traffic and countless red lights, already at 5 am. I can’t even think of how much of a nightmare it would have been if I had left a few hours later.
With my godfather at 5 a.m.
And so I left Bangkok, smiling. Staying in the same place 10 days in a row feels as good as leaving it. I decided to go South as quickly as possible towards Malaysia to meet another member of my family: my uncle, on vacation there in the city of Penang. More than 1100 kms separated us, so I decided to split the journey in 3 days, without really planning anything though. The first day was going well and I moved a lot faster than expected. I went along the south and reached the city of Chumphon. 2 options were available to me now: to continue along the East Coast, or cross and go along the West Coast. The East would be faster to reach my destination, but the monsoon would still be heavy on this side. The West would make me take a detour, but a probably drier one. I went for the latter, and continued my journey.
A sign drew my attention on the left side of the road: “Waterfall, 3.5 kms.” I had been riding for a few hours, so I decided to go and check out the waterfall and take a break there. I was alone on this dead-end road which led to a tiny and unimpressive waterfall.
As I was on a desert road, I thought that it would be a good place to shoot some videos with different angles. I put the camera on the ground, at the end of the dead-end road, and rode away. I turned around and drove back towards the camera for a close-up shot. Quite happy with that, I decided to turn the bike around and pick up the camera. But you see, waterfalls mean moisture. Moisture means vegetation and specifically slippery moss on the ground. Slippery moss means “Flo, you moron, watch the ground before turning your bike around.” The action took place in a fraction of a second : the front wheel hit the moss and made it slip. There was nothing I could have done to avoid it. The bike fell heavily on its side, breaking again the pannier that I had repaired a few weeks earlier. However, this was not my main concern, as I could always fix it up again. No. The real issue was how a 24 year old bloke could lift up a motorcycle with an engine as big as a car’s on a deserted road. I tried to lift it up from different positions, and kept my composure. It was useless to try 20 times in a row, as the sun was beating down hard, and I would just get more exhausted and lose what was left of my strength. I decided to analyze the situation instead. I did have the necessary amount of strength left to lift up the bike, but the front wheel was still in the moss. Lifting it up would just make the wheel slide further away and the bike fall again. The only option was to lift it up in one go before it had time to slip, but I had to lighten it before. I took off everything I could from the bike, easily removing 40-50 kilos. It was a success: I managed to lift it up on the first attempt. I put up all the bags back on, laughed at my own silly negligence, and joyfully set out again on the roads.
Trying to lift up the bike
I reached the coast and the town of Ranong, where I decided to stop in a very nice guesthouse after over 580 kms. I met a young German with whom I spent the evening. He reminded me a lot me during my first travels. We visited the hot springs where we were almost the only foreigners, welcomed by the smiles of local families. We parted early in the evening, happy to have shared a meal and a good time together.
The next day was a little harder, and I decided to leave at around 7 am to make my way towards Malaysia. Continuing along the west coast would make me reach the city of Phuket, which meant doing a big detour and having to deal with heavy traffic. I decided to cut through the land instead and get to the other coast. The road to cross from one coast to the other was superb: a jungle crossing, with beautiful curves and nice sceneries. The fog was there as well, adding a touch of mysticism to this exotic landscape.
Riding through the jungle
I reached the East Coast, and kept going South. I quickly understood what the word monsoon meant : I barely had time to set up my rain gear before rain started pouring heavily. I was happy to be dry in my gear. The cars seemed to have a lot of fun targeting the largest pools of water and have it splashed all over my helmet as regularly as possible. I suspected that it was their friendly manner to help me take off the residues of dead flies from my visor. What lovely people.
The rain gave way to bright sunshine, until the next showers. I decided that it was better to keep wearing the rain gear until my destination rather than taking it off and putting it again every 10 minutes. I reached a place called Pak Bara beach after 520 kms, and decided to make it my stop for the night. I was just about 75 kms of Malaysia, and 280 kms from Penang, which would be perfect for the next day. I tried 3 hotels, all full, and managed to find a small room just off the beach. The owner asked me to wait a moment while they prepared it, so I kicked the ball with his young child in the meantime. I settled in my room and went to the sea. I was joined on the small beach by a cat, then by my young footballer friend. We were a strange trio. The little one would talk to me in Thai, and I would reply in English. The cat would then meow back as a sign of approval.