Land of Thai: Roadtrip Edition

Greetings! More Thailand. Now that we'd relaxed in Phuket for a bit, it was time to get down to business.

And by business, I mean hiring a motorcycle, getting out there and seeing as much of the country as possible from the ground, and not cooped up in a resort.

Compared to the tour-the-main-tourist-attractions and live-in-luxury-with-own-pool-and-maid way I usually do things, it's certainly a bit different.

Exciting. Allons-y!

Oh, and if you're new, this is how I do things: this is more or less a kind of visual diary, so I basically dump images in and provide you with witty remarks alongside. They also tend to be really stupidly long, a lot like this one! Hurrah!

Okay now seriously let's allons-y.

This is Matt. Wait did I tell you his name is Matt? Well, his name is Matt. But that won't help you at all since every 7th person is a Matt these days. Anyway.

After spending a day hiring a scooter (Thailand/most of South East Asia's main mode of transportation), putt-putting it up and down jungly roads and checking out various bike hiring options, as well as a brief period of thinking Matt was lost/kidnapped/smeared on the road somewhere but that's a fun story for another time, WE FINALLY HIRED A BIKE.

It's a 2015 Kawasaki Ninja, I'm sure it has various numbers, Cs and other assorted identifiers (please refer to Matt for more details) but it was POISON GREEN, had a second seat that was more than a quarter of the area of my butt, and that's all that mattered.

Yaya! It's not falling apart it's fine, there's a toolkit under the seat there I can't remember what we were trying to fix it's fine.

Obviously you gotta bring all your stuff on the bike with you, so we had these things called panniers which are backpack-sized bags that hang off the back of the bike. They attach via velcro to themselves across the seat, then stay in place via my butt sitting on them.


Fun fact: pannier means 'basket' in French! Like it's kind of misspelled 'cos it's 'un panier' but whatever. But the English word 'pannier', as in the bike bag, has another translation entirely (une saroche) in French? So that's bloody stupid. Get your shit together, languages. 

So these saroches were a source of some High Drama for us, starting with the following:

Me, one month before the trip: are you sure these will work?
Matt: yeah nah it'll be fine.

Me, two weeks before the trip: I still don't get how these panniers work and how they won't hit the back wheel.
Matt: yeah nah it'll be fine.

Panniers, one hour into the trip: *don't sit properly, twist my knee, hit the back wheel, get ripped into shreds, melt a toothbrush, almost start a fire*

So we stopped along the road at the first of many, many petrol stops (bikes don't hold much petrol, you have to fill up once or twice a day) and inspected the damage. 

Pro: pretty mountain things!
Con: them bloody panniers. 

I actually can't remember at all what we did once we discovered the near-fire situation...I think we just kind of YOLO'd it, sacrificed the bags a bit more until we cam to our first overnight stop.

Also learned that first day: Thailand is very beautiful, and biking is not as fun as we thought it would be. As in, we were too uncomfortable going too fast (averaged 130km/h, sorry mum) for our plans to work out. We couldn't go all the way north like we wanted to. Our helmets had intercoms with bluetooth, so we thought we could chat, listening to music and audiobooks on the road, but the wind was too loud it was just silly.

Fun fact: for a couple of days while we attempted to do the whole music via the intercom thing, I played a fun game called, "What The Shit Is That Song!" wherein I tried to guess what song was playing based on the tinny drum track and the howling wind.

We found this abandoned cafe look out thing, was good.
First of many stops. My butt gets sore, okay. Yours would too. Kawasaki x butt = pain. 
When it comes to communicating with locals, smiling becomes the main language. 

 While I really do enjoy riding, in this situation it's not fun for the hours on end that would've been necessary to go where we wanted, so. In that way we came to our first town, Surat Thani, where we decided to stay the night. It was like...a fifth of the distance up the Thai peninsula we had planned to go that day.

Fucking panniers.

Walk into a place. Sit down. Exchange smiles and greetings. They look at you. You look at them. Little lady finally goes, heavily accented, "Chicken....rice?" We go, YES. Chicken and rice. Sounds great. We get lovely chicken rice, her son who speaks a little English comes over to try to explain a few of the sauces and what to do. Later she tells us the price, some pitiful amount, and we give her more than double. She outright refuses, we insist. More smiles and gesturing. From then on we go into every place and say, "Chicken....rice?" It works. 

We find find a little motel on the side of the road. The town, Surat Thani, is not touristy at all, though it is the pit stop on the way to Ko Samui island, which along with Phuket is where everyone tends to go. 

It has one big, wide boulevard main road, isn't very green and is quite smoggy - clearly a working class town. We get on the bike and explore and find...a night market!

As explained previously, THIS IS OUR JAM. Love these things. Freaking amazing.

Delicious omelette things made in dutch pancake pans.

Whenever our reaction to a food is, "what the shit", we buy it. 

We then find a stall that has tables and chairs, order somtehing from there, sit down with all our collected good things and tuck in. 

This was like...Coconut 4 ways. It was this spicy dessicated coconut mixture in a dumpling made out of coconut milk, dressed in a sweet coconut sauce. WHAT. 

Delicious dessert things. 
Delicious fruit things. 
Delicious terrifying crustaceans! 
Delicious quail eggs and maggots. Wait what. 
Oooh THIS. Okay this we worked out was a kind of lotto – so they're selling little tickets, and then all around the streets are these ATM-looking things that aren't ATMs, and you stick the ticket in and see if you won monies. So kind of like an automated lottery machine? ALM? Yeeee. 

Like most poorer countries, there are many stray dogs. They're smart though - these guys were hanging out the entrances to the market for scraps. 

Re food, Thailand is very different from China (my other main Asia experience) in that, with the exceptions of some of the interesting things we got at night markets, it's largely the same kind of stuff you get in Australia. Whereas you go to China being like okay I know sweet and sour pork but they're like lol nah here's some bullfrog, Thailand is just like, no really here is Pad Thai, we call it that, also here are green and red curries and rice and you're like oh okay cool.    
Eyebrow game strong.
The royal colours making their impression everywhere. 

The next morning, we set about fixing our panniers problem once and for all. The issue was obviously that they were heavy and falling into the spinning back wheel – if they could just be help out a bit, it'd be fine. There was a kind of bracket under the seat, so we thought if we could get a long piece of metal and threat it through that, it would hold the panniers out far enough.
It was all very technical.

By some utterly bizarre coincidence, Surat Thani was practically lined with hardware stores. The town was like a giant Bunnings. Woohoo!

So after a couple hours tag teaming across several places like this, we armed ourselves with a long piece of metal something, a bike lock and masking tape to patch up the panniers a bit. 

Fun fact: you can mime 'long metal thing', you can even mime 'bike lock', but you try miming making tape. After several minutes of bewilderment, I did what I didn't want to do: I mimed a kidnapping situation with masking tape over my mouth.

It worked. 

The result:

It kind of slightly vaguely worked! Hurrah!
Rather chuffed with ourselves, we set off.

About 20 minutes later, we went over a bit of a rough patch and I heard a clunk. Curious, I leaned back and felt to make sure all was okay.

The bar was gone.

Me to Matt, yelling through the wind: the bar is gone.
Matt: what do you mean the bar is gone
Me: I mean it's not there anymore
Matt: how can it be GONE

We stopped on the side of a busy highway, and with things whizzing by us we discovered that the bar had not only broken, it had completely disappeared, and the same shitty relationship between pannier and back wheel had resumed. 

After one of Matt's amusing-exasperating anger tantrums, we worked out we could hang the panniers in a similar fashion on the front of the bike. Kind of over the handles and ignition, leaning a little on his legs. 

Will it work? Only time will tell!

Further on, we came across one of Thailand's natural wonders. 

I believe I previously talked about Thailand's obsession with its Monarchy and the Bike For Dad initiative? Well HERE'S ONE IN ACTION. They just dress in yellow and go biking. It's not..for anything, they're not raising money, they're just biking for their King! It's kind of cute in a bizarre, sheep-dictatorship kind of way.
Camera-on-bike skillzzz. 

Another pit stop. We witnessed a truck back into a bike and knock it over. Apparently this was Very Bad. Also Very Upsetting because it was some super powered expensive bike. Matt actually went over and patted the driver on the back in sympathy. 

Oh, it was also at this stage that the back brake fell off.


We just filled it up when Matt bent down and was like...oh. And lifted up the back wheel's break which was hanging on by a cord. 

It sounds bad, but about 80% of the bike's braking power is in the front wheel, so it's.....still pretty shit, but it's okay.

Masking tape to the rescue! We tied it to my foot rest.

In better news, the pannier situation was a success! They worked great up front. Phew. 
The people at petrol stations are very lovely, and never let you fill it up yourself. Then you just hand them cash and they wash down the cement constantly. Also they are very camera shy. 
This guy racing us down on this shit bike lol. ....I think he won actually. 

Sexy bike selife. 

That night, half way up the coast, we stayed at a town called Hua Hin. 

Which, to our surprise, was super, super touristy, but for like...solely older Europeans? It was very strange. And quite pretty. But unfortunately, also super expensive :( Surat Thani, we miss youuuu. 

Seafood was a big thing, with lots of older white people sitting down in the kind of restaurants they have back home except a bit more open, while massive slabs of overpriced lobster get cooked in front of them. 

Us? We again went for our usual night market fare. 

This really delicious pork/rice soup/porridge thing? Also allow me to introduce you to the glory that is fresh mango and sticky rice dipped in coconut milk. We also remember Hua Hin as the place where Matt accidentally ate a whole chili and thought he was going to die because he's an idiot.
Also another fave: ROTI. They make it in front of you and slather it with banana and nutella it's SO GOOD. I miss it a lot. 

Breakfast usually consisted of us stumbling into the closest cafe thing populated with locals, and digging into a pork soup or rice.

With various condiments. 

Throughout the day, our break stops consisted of going into the 7/11 (there's one every 100 metres or so) and attempting to find the most revolting snack we can. That was more Matt's objective though, I just got an Ovaltine drink. 

On the hunt. 
Sexy seaweed. 
Why didn't we stop here??
More super sexy selfies. 

Long live the King!
Even when he looks like weird Elvis. 
Government buildings/schools all looked like this. 

Welcome to Kanchanaburi! A bit north west of Bangkok. 

Where we have our own lovely room...on the River Kwai!

Hurrah! Weird towel shapes!
View from our balcony.

And the place had a pool! Always a plus. 

Besides the part around the actual River Kwai, the town itself wasn't that touristy.

Night exploring!

Bit of a party town, tbh. 

We found another night market, but a little different. While it had food, it was mostly well what we would consider a trash and treasure market, but since these places don't have shopping malls or even just normal shops, this is where locals come to buy random non-food necessities. 

Also a barber. 
BBQ squid, then they pour hot sauce on it yumm. 
Matt and a bike. 
Matt interrogating the owner about said bike. 
Gotta get them meany cakes. 
PUPPIES! For companionship, not food, I promise. These people love dogs. 
This town also obviously has historic significance - this is a cemetery for all the allies; British, Australian, American etc. 

Found a bar with cheap cocktails and bad music. Yes good. 
But also with a cool lady dancing. 
Aaaand again. 

Matt talking shit at 2am, situation normal. 
The locals kind of...look after stray animals in a way? It's nice. I won't say none of them look mangy, but a lot of them don't. 

The bridge over the River Kwai!

It's like...a bridge (for train only)...over a river. That's pretty much it. Says what it does on the box. 

Got a bit of history from a tour guide leading some loud American tourists around. They were a bit of a juxtaposition.
Wearing the same shirt. Gosh. 

Today we abandoned our usual drive and stop routine, and went to visit the beautiful Erawan Falls. It also meant we finally saw since nice scenery since the drive up the coast is pretty boring – also why we really wanted to go up north :(  

There was a whole long road of these...sculpture places? Huge sculptured boulders, plus stone tables and chairs which I kind of liked. 

Wait a minute, gotta get rid of all this foam I bought. 
Yes good. 
There was a sign that asked tourists to respectfully cover a up a bit – of course there were dickheads prancing around in boxers, skimpy bikinis and shit. I hate people. 

There are about 20 levels of falls and you can just sit and dip and wallow wherever you want. Some levels had heaps of people, others none, it was great. 

These four blokes were carrying down this massive and incredibly heavy...engine thing, down the steep, slippery stairs. 

They kind of exemplified why I like the Thai people. Instead of grumbling and swearing about it, they did the job and at one point, clearly just went, "fuck it", screamed and heaved the thing on their shoulders and ran down all the stairs. 

Then they practically dropped it and laughed a lot.

This was our own little place we stayed at for a while. I grabbed my kindle and sat in the middle of a little waterfall and it was all very chill. 

Giant thing the thought was a big electrical wire but was actually a root of some sort? 

On the road again.

...hell no. 
Pit stop at a town between towns...I can't remember what it was called. Smaller, very non touristy, but with a random, very lively brothel?? Also we went into a restaurant and we were like, give us anything you want. They were like ???? then we got super delicious fried rice type stuff, success.

Also I discovered most places sell bottled bubbly wine, that was pretty great.

More condiments.

Finally, Ayuttaya. A bit north of Bangkok, it was the original capital of Thailand before the Burmese invaded and burnt it to the ground in the 1700s. These days, the people just live amongst the ruins, it's a strange, beautiful, vaguely sad kind of place. 

But also with the most utterly bizarre and inexplicable shrine to the King thus far, which is saying a lot.




Different shirt at least today. 

Though desecrated by time, temples have the same significance and demand the same respect. So no sitting, standing on them etc. 

We sat amongst the ruins and the sunset and read. And got eaten by mozzies. Cool. 

Ruins x 7/11 = Thailand

No patting the dogs :( But we can say hi as much as we like. 
eggs, eggs, eggs. 

Night markets closed/non existent :( Bad, Ayutthaya. 
We saw a family here give half their dinner to a stray begging at their feet. 

The creepy thing at night! It was playing songs loudly. I think things moved as well. And people were taking photos in front of it. I wonder if there was an official #hashtag. 

Strange dessert places. 
Yes good. 

A few more temples:

The head fell off and the roots picked it up over hundreds of years. 

A huge courtyard rings by dozens of buddha statues. 

Ugh I dont know why it's around the wrong way, but basically the sign says to not climb on the thing, because, you know, it's an ancient and valuable archaeological site, and there are all these twats practically doing acrobatics off the bloody things. I hate people. 

Leaving Ayutthaya, we got rained on for the first and only time. It was a bit rude. 

And then on to the next stage...

But it's a surprise! Until next time...

ps. also if you got all the way to the end here, congrats! That was a long one. And thank you. 

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