We spent day in Bangkok. It was a birthday celebration for me Amy had planned. Extremely hot and I was dying before we even started the walking tour. Our plan was to spend the day visiting classic tourist sites we had not seen and then spend the night downtown. We decided to spend the night because it is such a pain to get downtown from our house, so this way we could cram all the sightseeing into one trip.
We started with a trip to Grand Palace. Kinda like visiting the monuments in Washington DC.
You may recognize the below model
It is a miniature version of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. When the Thai army defeated the Khmer, they wanted to bring the temple complex back to Thailand, but that proved to be unrealistic, so they decided instead to have a miniature version made as a consolation prize.
The Grand Palace was originally built about 300 years ago, with recent refurbishing. The Royal Family lived on the grounds up until around 100 years ago when they decided to get out of the chaos of downtown Bangkok.
After leaving the Palace we had lunch and got a Tuk Tuk to a performance on various regions of Thai culture with some folklore thrown in.
Next, we went to the Natural History museum. It was very similar to the experience in the Siem Reap Cambodian museum. They played down that a lot of the Thai traditions and religion came either from Khmer to the East or Dvaravati to the West, but really did not seem to make any bold lies. I am no expert.
They did play down the relationship with Japan in WW2 a bit. They are a crafty and smart bunch, how else do you stay independent and avoid colonization all this time After learning in Cambodia that most of the Thai traditions came from there, here I learned that most of Cambodia traditions came from Dvaravati or further West in India. This makes sense as it all originated in India at some point.
Then we got into the major periods of Thailand: Sukhothai, Ayutthaya, Thon Buri, and Bangkok. They had a room for the various gifts presented to Thailand as they traveled and met with European leaders and such. Very interesting.
After this, we went to the river, crossed over on a ferry, then back to the hotel. As mentioned our plan was to spend the night, but I did not like the idea of spending the night in a hostel with other Westerners. Amy thought I might enjoy interacting with some white people, but I had little need for such encounters. So, we showered and checked out, and went to dinner overlooking the Chopra River and Thon Buri capital. The capital of Siam before Bangkok was located just a stone's throw from the current one.
Great food. Everything from Grouper to Esan sausage, and watermelon with snakehead fish sprinkles.
Our next Meetup event was a mix of places East of Bangkok. It started with meeting a van downtown for a trip to a farm restaurant, and then Ban Na Bamboo Tunnel at Chulabhorn Wanaram Temple
Next stop was Khun Dan Prakan Chon Dam. Developed to help people have water for agriculture, consumption, and flood relief. We took a long boat to a short hike to visit Chong Lom Waterfall
After the boat trip, we gathered for a very lazy rafting experience on a river behind the dam. Since it was a weekend tons of families were lounging along the sides of the river playing in the water and having picnics. As we went by, everyone was splashing and having fun. At one point we stopped at a concrete slide, where Amy was forcibly pushing people down it to her own amusement
After drying off we had a group meal at a Lanna-style restaurant then headed back to Bangkok.
A couple of days later I boarded a plane up to Chaing Mai for another motorcycle trip. Unlike the one I took last time, this time I would go with a group. It was much more expensive, but it allowed me the freedom of not planning or having to pay attention to the route or other various logistic details. Also made it safer to go off-road as I knew I had a team to support me if myself or the bike decided to fall apart.
When I landed in CNX and took a taxi to the hotel, I learned I had not booked the correct hotel but rather their sister property about 2 km outside of the city square. The trip was not starting on the best foot. After getting to the correct one, I walked the city and checked out some of the places we had walked by on a previous visit. Like the Cowboy Hat lady from the Anthony Bourdain episode and the jazz bar where Amy’s mom fell asleep.
On the way back to the hotel I stopped for a drink at some neighborhood bar. I could tell that I was the only white person they had seen in a while as they were scared to approach me as no one spoke English. Or it could have just been the usual friendly vibe I always emit. Woke up early the next day and the Siam Enduro people picked me up at transported me to their base camp just north of town.
Here I learned that the tour was only for myself and another young kid from Switzerland, who had no offroad experience. I was excited by the small group size, but the fellow riders' lack of experience made me nervous. After settling in and checking over our bikes, the same Honda CFR250 I rode last month, we did a local loop with a stop at Bua Thong Sticky Waterfall. Basically cascades of limestone rock, resembling cave Stalagmites. Surprisingly very grippy, and easy to ascend.
Next, we stopped at a dam followed by a Muay Thai boxing training facility and a quite ornate temple complex
Back to basecamp for dinner. There were some other Europeans just finishing up a tour, so a decent sized group for dinner. My fellow tour-mate was named Mateo and the guide we will call Lem. Both were quiet, which suited me just fine.
The next day, after breakfast with the local dogs, we headed out on a larger loop of the area
We actually did some of the loops I had done last month on my test route behind the mountain to the West of Chiang Mai. A couple of hours in, after doing a bit of offroad, the rear end of my bike felt like it was sliding on the turns, even on pavement. I chalked it up to a mental glitch making me feel like I was still offroad, but then a couple of miles later I was really struggling to keep the bike upright. I stopped the bike and realized I had a flat tire.
Lem rode the bike back into the local village and I rode his bike ahead to find Mateo. When I found him I did not feel like waiting by the side of the road for an hour+ so I suggested we go find a coffee shop. We rode back through the village but did not see Lem. We went about 2km and found a café and left the bikes near highway in case Lem rode by looking for us.
We also tried to call Lem but he did not answer. About 2 hours later he rode up, saying he had been looking for us all over. I apologized and took the blame for not staying put but he seemed to be ok with the miscommunication. “Stupid American”
With my new tire in place, we rode along the river for a bit and came out near another spot I visited on my solo trip. Stopped for lunch at a café for more coffee and some pork basil.
After lunch, we stopped at a viewpoint of Huai Nam Dang National Park
And then another view. The stops were not too stunning as it is burning season in the north and you can't see anything. During this time Chiang Mai is often rated #1 for the poorest air quality in the world.
It was back to base camp for dinner and a few beers. The next day we departed for 5 days of riding. We packed up our gear as we would not return to the Chiang Mai base camp until the end of the tour.
In the morning we hit a decent stretch of offroad. I went ahead and made it to the top of a difficult section. I stopped as I did not see the guide or Mateo behind me. Mateo, who has no offroad experience except for a training course he participated in before leaving Switzerland, had dumped the bike yesterday once.
Finally I saw this guy emerge from around the bend
There was a lot more dirt on that new gear and the riding style seemed a bit, shall we say, cautious. Turns out he had dumped the bike 2 more times and had lost any confidence. Needless to say, from this point on I did not get any more advice from him on how it would be better if I stood up while riding difficult offroad sections.
We moved a lot slower from here on out. We made a stop at “Jungle Temple”
After that, we stopped for lunch at an Elephant Café. Which basically means they have an elephant chained up outside the restaurant. A bit depressing and hard to eat.
We returned to the offroad after lunch to try and get Mateo’s confidence back up, but it was not happening. A stop for coffee
And a waterfall near Doi Inathon National Park
On the way to the hotel in Mae Rim, Lem and I passed slow-moving traffic and looked back and Mateo was nowhere to be seen. I had this bad feeling. Even though it was typical for him to lag behind now, I could not think of a reason why he might be delayed for a couple of minutes on the road with no street lights. I indicated to Lem that we should circle back. As we turned around I saw a car on the side of the road with its hazards on and another pass by me with the occupants looking at me and shaking their heads. Now I knew we were in for a bad scene, but when we turned the corner I was happy to see that he was at least standing upright.
We parked the bikes and looked over both Mateo and his Honda. His clothes were shredded and his bike did not look that much better. We looked at the road and saw a 60ft mark running from the yellow sign in the picture below down to where I was standing. That would be the mark from the plastic white exhaust fender. The boy had tried to pass a car, then saw oncoming traffic and locked his brakes, dropping the bike and riding 60ft along the road with the bike ending up under the moving car he was trying to pass. He was all cut up, but he was alive. Not sure how he avoided getting run over by one of the 2 cars.
He was supposed to be more comfortable on the pavement, but now that confidence was gone as well. After seeing he was ok, we all marveled at the situation. I asked him if he wanted to get a picture with him and that sign, or even one with him and the skid mark, but my attempt at humor was lost on the frazzled youth.
After that, we left for the hotel, but lost Mateo again and had to circle back. This became a recurring theme as he now acted as if he had never been on a motorcycle in his life.
We checked in and went off to dinner at some DIY hot pot restaurant. While waiting for the 2, I ate some edibles I picked up in Chiang Mai. By the time we got to dinner, I was feeling the effects
The conversation went a little sideways at this point, at least for me. We tried not to talk about motorcycles or the fact that Mateo nearly lost his life earlier, but with THC running through my veins like jet fuel I just couldn’t resist. He was talking about how he thought his right thumb was broken and could not grip the throttle. I asked, “Hey, what hand do you use for the throttle?” He looked at me with confusion and responded, “the right” I said, “Why don’t you try using your left hand?” if you have ridden any kind of bike you would know that makes no sense as you can't ride with your left hand on the right handlebar. He just looked at me for a while and eventually said, That doesn’t make any sense.” I sat and thought about it for a bit and just said, “Yupp”
Then I said something about how it is the thumb that separates us from apes. Mateo responded with, “But Apes have thumbs” I thought about it and said, “maybe, but not opposable thumbs” They just looked at me. I think I sat there for about 10 minutes. “You guys remember that comment I made about opposable thumbs….forget it”
“You sure you don’t want to go back and get that sign?....Last chance!”
The next morning we headed towards the tree-hugger town of Pei. We did a mix of offroad and pavement. I spent most of the day riding by myself and waiting for the others as Mateo was still mentally screwed up. At one point we tried putting him in front on offroad but he was going about as slow as possible and I could not ride that slow without risking dropping the bike or at a minimum a very bumpy ride. You see, riding a bike off-road is kinda like riding in a speedboat. Unless you go fast enough to get up on top of the waves it makes for a more difficult ride. For no good reason he stopped at the bottom of a hill on a curve, and I crashed when trying to avoid and pass him. My helmet took the brunt of it, but I did pop the turn signal off as well. No problems as they had been tapped back on countless times over the life of this bike. But I vowed that was the last time I would be in the back of this trifecta.
After a bit more off-road we stopped at a Karen village for lunch
After lunch, we got close to Pei and stopped for coffee at a hot spring. Just what you need on a 90-degree afternoon. Boiling sulfur wafting across your sweltering body
After a brief hike at Pei canyon, we checked into our lodging
After checking in I went for a swim in the river and then walked around the town. It was packed with people in their early 20s. I am sure this place was cool about 10 years ago, but now it was just a mess for anyone over 30. All these drunk obnoxious kids. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure I would have enjoyed it at their age.
I missed the meetup time but eventually ran into Lem and Mateo for a street food rolling dinner
At this point, Lem went to bed and Mateo wanted to walk around a bit more. He got pretty wasted and continuously reminded me that he could not be seen walking into a bar with a 46-year-old man. I was fine with that and said I would keep walking, but he would just show up by me 20 minutes later. We repeated the process a few more times and then I just disappeared into the ether. I ended up playing pool at a bar for a couple of hours and wandered with some older guys into a bar where everyone was sucking down toy balloons. I was clueless until I was told it was Nitrous Oxide or laughing gas. We ended up doing a few before I stumbled back to the hotel.
The next day there was no Mateo at the meetup time. Shocking! We went to his room and he was still passed out. He took his time coming down as we waited another hour at the bikes. He announced that he was still drunk and probably shouldn’t ride. I agreed, but Lem either felt he would get better, or did not pick up the translation, and encouraged him to join. Mateo decided to join. I thought this an asinine decision, but oh well.
We rode all pavement today at a snail's pace. Headed out to a cave, hired a boy with a lantern, and explored the cave system on foot and by bamboo raft
A nice mountaintop stop for coffee
A bit more riding and a stop for lunch. I had a decent cheeseburger. I think my first burger in 4 months
Amazingly the kid had kept his bike upright all day. Then we stopped and he announced that he had lost one of his bungee cords. He shrugged, oh well. I looked down at his bike and pointed to where the missing cord had ended up. Wrapped around the rear wheel.
Back to Pei for one more night. I played a little pool and had a drink with Lem. We saw Mateo walking the streets but we both ducked down to avoid him as we needed a break. It was an early night and the next day we made our way back East. We actually hit an offroad route I did last month near Chiang Dao.
We were not sure where was the shallowest point to cross. Just then a stray dog waded across the stream and showed us the proper line!
A bit more chillin’, waiting for the group
Got to the hotel in Chiang Dao. Had a quick shower and rode at sunset to a local hot spring for a quick dip.
Had dinner at the lodging and headed out after breakfast the next morning. Had 2 good stretches of offroad today on our way back to the Siam Enduro basecamp.
Always make time for a coffee stop
Mateo lost his second and final bungee today on the road but was able to find it before it ended up in his rear wheel. He also lost the side mirror he broke off in the street crash a few days ago. We were not able to find that. The last evening Mateo admitted that he lied on the signup sheet for the tour. He claimed to have experience off-road. He told me that he probably should not have done that. I had to agree on that point.
Before getting to base we stopped for lunch and a swim along the river.
I caught a ride in a pickup back to Chiang Mai. Spent a quiet night in the hotel before an early flight back to Bangkok. Down to one month left in Siam. The next month will be mostly spent down in the southern islands for sun and SCUBA
Until Next Month
Thailand 2023 Photography Pictures
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