Thailand 2022

Wuming

Active member
Joined
Dec 12, 2021
Location
London
Bikes
Yamaha T700. Honda CRF250Rally.
Hello again all. This is my ride report of a quick 2 week lap around Thailand (now completed) following on from my month in Cambodia. Again, this is largely lifted from a blog I did for family and friends, so some stuff will be obvious to forum members. It was largely a road trip, nothing really on the dirt. I will save that for next time. Back in the UK now, counting the days until I can return:


Time to get another bike and continue the road trip. Emma Motorbikes, the company of choice in Bangkok, had CRF 250 Rallys available when I first contacted them a couple of weeks back. But, now, all rented out!! Apparently their business is booming, tourists are coming back and the good bikes have all gone. The available bikes are not to my taste. They did have one Honda CB500X; that might be a decent compromise. Went to their location to check out the bike (quite a long way out the centre); to be met by the Welsh owner of the business. Affable bloke; deposit paid and I will pick the CB500X up on Sunday.



Had to have my "Day 5 Covid test", not a good start as they couldn't find my information. Took a photo of my passport and did the test anyway. Not confident; could be in for a long quarantine wait in my room. After 7 hours with no information, hunger compelled me to check with the hotel reception. They went online to see my status; after a few minutes I was handed a hard copy of my negative result; which had been issued an hour earlier!! Unlike the day 1 test, I never received an email confirmation of the test result. Thanks.



The days and nights in Bangkok began to blur in to one. Was I in this bar last night, or was it the night before?? Time to leave this town; time to give my liver a much needed break.

The fear of Covid appears greater in Thailand than in Cambodia. I was compelled to download the Morchana Covid app. when I arrived in Bangkok. It shows your "risk" status as well as warning you if someone high risk is nearby. My status has been solidly "medium risk" even after 3 negative Covid tests inside 7 days and 3 vaccinations!! You probably have to be clinically dead to show as low risk. Nonsense.



Anyway, picked up the bike and headed out of Bangkok. The Honda CB500X is a very good bike. Smooth (twin cylinder), comfortable, plenty of power, a functioning steering lock and a working fuel gauge (oh, the luxury!!) Very different beast to the Baja. The CB is definitely a more road oriented bike, especially with the slick street tyres it has fitted.

I picked my way out of the city, trying to use the smaller roads. But Google maps would show a minor road which would turn out to be a 3 lane highway, and an apparent main route would be a single lane each way. Eventually escaped Bangkok's clutches and headed east towards Buriram. A day of getting re-aquainted with the Thai driving style, road rules and with the CB500X. Mainly main roads, with a nice route over the hills where the "yoof" were out in force, racing their tricked out scooters where volume seemed to be preferred over horse power. Kids, eh!?





I booked 2 nights in a "resort" well away from big towns and bars. Had to stop drinking for a while as it was getting silly. I can resist anything except temptation! Give myself a day to explore the local area and get on the back roads.


 
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Wuming

Active member
Joined
Dec 12, 2021
Location
London
Bikes
Yamaha T700. Honda CRF250Rally.
A day to explore the local area; the rural back roads. This is a very agricultural area; lots of small farms growing corn, vegetables and other stuff I don't even recognize. Ventured down a couple of dirt tracks, the CB not happy getting her slick city shoes dirty.



Went to the "House of Priests" near Lam Chae lake for some great views over the surrounding countryside and of the impending storm hurling its lightning bolts ever closer. Time to get off the dirt and back on to the tarmac; the CB would be stuck in wet mud. Made it to the black top just in time as the rain crashed furiously to the ground. Riding almost blind at times, I made it back to the resort soaked to the skin to be welcomed with a power cut.





The next day was north to Khon Kaen, a stepping stone on the way to the mountains of northern Thailand. Mostly a highway slog through uninspiring flat land. A means to an end; but it is always better on the bike than off.
Khon Kaen is very Covid paranoid. Alcohol is offically banned; which means it is served in coffee mugs rather than openly in bottles. I'm sure the local constabulary are oblivious........




More highway slogging the next day on the road to Phitsanulok; but it became more scenic the further west I rode. Hills!! Actual curves in the road!! This was more like it. The road over the hills before entering the city was a fantastic 2 to 3 lane highway curling and swooping it's way through the landscape......and very little traffic. Race time....take the racing line, knee down, hit the apex and smile. Fun, fun, fun! The CB was in its element; no more dirty shoes!












Phitsanulok seemed an OK town on my very brief visit. Only found one bar; a local Thai place with live music and cheap beer. I was the only farang in the place so was left in peace to contemplate the days ride. "Cart Road Bar", good place.

The next day was the ride to Nan, proper northern Thailand. Decided to avoid the highways today, strictly the back roads. Good choice, slower speeds, lighter traffic and fantastic scenery. Breath in.....and let the peace descend. Epic day; the road wound it's way up into the "mountains". Past emerald green paddy fields (the most vivid greens you will ever see), along ridges (avoiding the cows in the road) and a ferry over a reservoir).









The ferry was there, but that was all. No other vehicles, no boatman. There was a small floating restaurant nearby, so I asked when the next ferry was..."20 minutes". So I waited, 45 minutes later, a man and his happy black dog appeared in a small boat from the other side of the lake and beckoned me to board the ferry. Just me then!? OK, this could be expensive. But, we putted across the lake and I was charged the grand total of 150 Baht (less than £3.50). Bargain!







Then it was back on to the beautiful twisty road (the 1026 - fantastic route!) north to Nan. Nan is a temple town; a sleepy temple town. My hotel was between the local prison and the juvenile court. OK, maybe just the one night here. A 6-pack of Singha beer from the 7-11 and back to the hotel for a quiet night in.



 

Wuming

Active member
Joined
Dec 12, 2021
Location
London
Bikes
Yamaha T700. Honda CRF250Rally.
Leaving Nan, I took route 1091, which was initially a lovely road; looping gleefully through the hills as it wound it's way west and north. I barely stopped to photo the view. My bad; but the CB was enjoying herself too much. As we left the hills, the road became more pedestrian, but still fun to ride. Passed through a small town called "Pong"; holding my breath as I rode thinking I really need to get some laundry done.







Continuing up to Chiang Rai (the northern most point of this trip) and into my gaudy accommodation for the night. Everything and I mean EVERYTHING was painted gold. It was giving me a headache, so I had to find a bar so I could drink enough to blur my vision to take the edge of the decor.

The next morning, my motorbike chain needed tightening. An easy job with the right tools, but I had none. There was a Yamaha dealership with a mechanics attached so I threw myself on their mercy (even though I am on a Honda). 10 minutes later: done. "How much?" Free! That'll do nicely.

There was a choice of routes from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai. I opted for the longer (relatively smaller) road. Beautiful diversion over the hills on the 109 at first, then on to the less fun 107 for the run south. It looked better on the map....but too much slow moving traffic, who did their best to stop you overtaking. Big car, small penis syndrome.



Before heading for the hotel; I stopped off at Riders Corner bar for a late lunch. Been coming to this bar on and off for 10 years. Different proprietor now, but still a great meeting point for motorbike people. I was to spend much of the next couple of days here. Eating, drinking and talking to various motorbike riders. Good, good place.
So a couple of days off the bike meant a couple of days on the beer. I don't really know what to do with myself on these "rest days". Sightseeing? Cultural experiences? Communing with nature? None of that is as rewarding as riding a bike; so the beer it was.
The bike provides a focus and a purpose to these trips; the time not riding becomes aimless and disjointed. So late mornings and late nights.




After 2 long and not very productive days (although I did get my laundry done, so I could return to "Pong" with a clear conscience!). I headed south and west towards Mae Sariang and the Burmese border. Again, the fun started once the road (108) arrived at the hills. Although, even the long, straight, busy road out of town felt good as I was back on the bike and riding......
I'd ridden this road once before, but in the other direction as part of the "Mae Hong Song loop" several years ago. No memories were jogged......although some parts of Mae Sariang look vaguely familiar. I will blame progress and ongoing road building efforts rather than my failing memory.





Mae Sariang would be a sleepy town, if it ever woke up. Not much going on and as hot as hell. The mercury has been pushing 40° for a while now. This is definitely the hot season. It's OK when you are riding and getting the wind flow; but as soon as you stop you become a puddle of sweat on the ground with only a motorbike helmet to mark where you once stood. Stopping every hour at a 7-11 to replace the fluids. I've even started drinking ice tea to stop myself melting. Keep moving, keep moving.....don't let the heat catch up with you!



 

Wuming

Active member
Joined
Dec 12, 2021
Location
London
Bikes
Yamaha T700. Honda CRF250Rally.
The road south from Mae Sariang (the fabulous 105) runs very close to the Burmese border. Spectacular scenery and blissful riding: swooping along the twists and turns, hairpins, rises and falls of probably the best road I've ridden in Thailand. Dodging the water buffaloes wandering along the road, or the snake slithering across in front of me.

The 105 was made for motorcycles; a strip of riding nirvana. I will have to come back and explore this region again. One of the bikers I met at Riders Corner (a Scottish guy living in the area) gave me the GPS tracks of another "must ride" route nearby. Maybe when it is not so damn hot though!








Eventually, route 105 neared the border town of Mae Sot and I turned East, away from Burmese border, over another range of hills on a multi-lane highway and on to Kamphaeng Phet.

At one of my 7-11 fluid replacement stops, I noticed some oil on one of the front forks. Bugger! One of the seals was leaking. Fortunately, it wasn't the brake disc side (which would have been dangerous). I had little choice but to continue riding to town where I found a Honda dealership with a mechanic. They were only really dealing with scooters and didn't have any parts for my "big bike" so they directed to the next big town, 80 odd miles away. They did adjust and lube the chain for free though.





It was too late in the day, so I stopped at a nearby hotel and consulted the interwebs. As the leak seemed minor, the consensus was just carry on riding, but keep an eye on it. I improvised a scraping tool from an old plastic water bottle and tried to clean out any grit around the seal that might be causing the leak. To my amazement, it actually seemed to work. Not 100%, but there is much less oil appearing on the fork. Only about 500 or 600 km to Bangkok and the return of the bike. Should be fine!?!?



The next day started with a bit of highway slogging to get some miles under the wheels on the way to Kanchanaburi (of Bridge Over the River Kwai fame). Out of the hills now, so head down and weave through the traffic...... The scenery improved as I got closer to the town, but the mountains of the north are just a memory now.




A day wandering around town, before the relentless heat drove me to seek the sanctuary of air-conditioning. There must be 6 Australian owned/run bars within 100 metres of each other here. Aussie flags hanging limply in the hot, still air.


Then the final run to Bangkok. Long, straight, flat roads with ever increasing trucks and traffic the closer I got to the capital. Not the best days ride; but once into Bangkok proper, the fun started. Not unlike Phnom Penh, a free for all was the name of the game. Dodging, weaving and swearing at the drivers as you weaved your way around them, trying to gain precious centimetres in a lord of the flies/survival of the fittest race to the destination. Fun.
Then, back in Bangkok, it was time to return the bike. Just over 3000km in 2 weeks. The CB500X proved to a great bike for the conditions. If you are not hitting the dirt roads, it is a very capable machine. Wouldn't swap it for my T7 though. Probably a good time to finish the ride as the next day saw thunderstorms and torrential rain, with more of the same forecast.

Part of the reason of coming back to Bangkok early was to sort out the paperwork to get back into Cambodia from where I fly back to the UK (Singapore airlines being monumentally intransigent about altering flights). However, I just discovered that Cambodia no longer requires a negative PCR test and have abandoned testing on arrival. So I only need a visa and my vaccination record. Easy as ...
 

The Bigfella

Senior Member
Staff member
Joined
Aug 15, 2012
Bikes
KTM 613 EXC, BMW R90S & Dakar, MZ250, Norton 16H, Honda - 500 Fs & Xs, DRZs, XLs XRs CRFs CT110s etc
Thanks Neil - and thanks for your patronage over a few days in Chiang Mai. It was great chatting with you.
 

Kinetic Dream

New member
Joined
Jul 5, 2022
Location
United States
Bikes
BMW F750GS
Thank you! Excellent trip report & photos. What year was the CB500X. Emma Motorbikes website shows 2014. Would never rent a bike that old.
 

Wuming

Active member
Joined
Dec 12, 2021
Location
London
Bikes
Yamaha T700. Honda CRF250Rally.
Thank you! Excellent trip report & photos. What year was the CB500X. Emma Motorbikes website shows 2014. Would never rent a bike that old.
Hi. No idea what year the CB500X was. All I can say is that it had been very well maintained (especially for a rental) and I wouldn't hesitate to use the bike (and Emma) again.
Cheers.
 

The Bigfella

Senior Member
Staff member
Joined
Aug 15, 2012
Bikes
KTM 613 EXC, BMW R90S & Dakar, MZ250, Norton 16H, Honda - 500 Fs & Xs, DRZs, XLs XRs CRFs CT110s etc
Thank you! Excellent trip report & photos. What year was the CB500X. Emma Motorbikes website shows 2014. Would never rent a bike that old.

Those older 500Xs are great. We have just run a couple of the older ones we have through major services - and in general, found nothing wrong with them. Valves in spec. etc.... I would much rather one of the older 500Xs than the newer ones - and a mate who has both agrees - he prefers the 17" front wheel to his 19" model... and despite what some people say, there is no practical difference on the road.

The key advantage with an older bike though - if rented from the right place - is much better tyres and brakes.
 
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