The Raider of Ranong
Everyone has, in one form or another the visa run to make and even at OTRT we are no exception. This time it was not Mae Sai but another place that took us far south to the place where Burma meets Thailand... RANONG
Setting off from the base in Bang Saphan was far from simple, firstly my gloves went missing, then, as I checked the bike over my spanking new rear tire was nearly flat as a pancake!
I sorted the gloves (stuffed in the other helmet) and called up the all-knowing Mr Kitt to give him the good news.
After a palaver we both agreed I’d ride slow-slow to his shop and he’d take it from there.
So off I went like a learner rider at about 15 kph for ten minutes!
Arriving there Mr Kitt was straight on the ball and found the problem was the inflator valve seal was fcked. More than likely done by the heavy handed lads at the tire place.
A new one was sourced and it was inflated, no probs I’m ready to roll.
On The Road to Ranong
I roared out of Bang Sapan via a lovely route towards Bang Saphan Noi )Route 3374, then 3411 and 3253.
There were some brilliant twisty corners and straights, good for both cruising bruisers and ninja sportsbikers. These small highways were in gleaming condition overall, 3411 is brand new almost! Highway 3253 had a few roughish sections but that was about it. After trailblazing through an unkown village I rejoined Highway 4 south.
On board a CBR 400 you’ve got a brilliant combo for both straights and corners. The scenery was beautiful, with the close in jungles and scrub gradually changing to the sweeping vistas and mountains on the road to Ranong.
Highway 4 to Chumpon...
Three times I had near misses. Once when I cranked the bike up to 100 mph+ and a pick-up driver decided to pull-out in front of me. Then an oncoming vehicle thought it would be a good idea to stay on the wrong side of the road and nearly ploughed into me, only at the last minute swerving off to one side. Then a convoy of those gaudy ‘VIP’ super-coaches seemed to like the outside lane a bit too much and tried to block me overtaking! It didn’t work guys ;)
Highway 4 from Bang Saphan, through to Chumpon and then to the border with Ranong is fine, no problems. A few police checkpoints but no hassle.
I stopped off for fuel just before the provincial border with Ranong. The petrol station only had grouchy gasohol but there was nothing for it unless I fancied walking to Ranong. This aside, the lads there were a good bunch and seemed interested in the roving Ryders machine.
During our talk the older one of the group warned that the road from here on in was in poor condition compared to Chumpon Province. Keeping this in mind, after eating and re-fueling I set off for the final leg of the journey.
The Last Leg to Ranong...
It’s wasn’t in brilliant condition for the first 30 miles of so, but it was doable and comfy enough, much better than the holeway section near Prachuap. But the corners and turns were a great thrill. For those folk out there who aren’t in the know, you can overtake so easily compared to a car on a mountain circuit and really kick ass.
I don’t brag a lot but for the entire leg to Ranong, only one car (I was racing)could pass me (albeit briefly). I’m telling you, as a certain GT Rider poster says, I kept the power on for nigh on the whole trip. After 20 miles from the PT garage the views opened up into a wonderful vista of hills and valleys. I was tempted to stop for a picture session but I figured the all-seeing eye mounted to my helmet would do the job with a pan here, a long look there I took a pass. Some scooter dude tried to race me through this small village. He had balls I’ll give him that for he pulled off a few extreme corners, but the contest was over in less than a minute and he was soon disappearing in my mirrors. Typically I’d zoom into the corner at about 60 - 80 kph, having dropped it 1 or 2 gears and get my lean on. This was a fairly good benchmark to ensure you weren’t edge riding over the center line. There was about 1 hairpin bend and a near hairpin bend if memory serves me. I’m no master of cornering but I nailed a really savage set of opposing camber corners (we know how you love opposing cambers WR!).
After about forty miles I noticed a wierd sign with symbols denoting ‘Straight on – Ranong’ ‘Turn left – Ranong Port’ This was pretty quirky as I know that Ranong Port was very close to Ranong town itself and not this far out in the jungle mountains. Thinking nothing of it I boomed on straight and nailed the next corner to the right. Around this corner was a leg of traffic slowed by a truck. I was a bit weary with the constant adrenaline kicking in but noticed that there was a silver Honda Civic really trying to hammer past the truck. It wasn’t just that he was trying to overtake it was the frustration faction he was showing in doing so. The maverick dare-devil knew it would be a laugh to overtake him and the subsequent chase in which he’d try to catch me.
Thai car drivers are notorious in considering themselves as a higher status than ‘mere motorbikes’. This status is quite ridiculous when most bikes above 250 cc can usually out-race a car driver. However the Thais are often a rash and dangerous foe if they lose face and if it came to a ram duel I would be in big trouble
The dare-devil in me won the argument, the car/biker status quo needed to be balanced and now was the time... J
I weaved and glissed up through the traffic until this civic was ahead of me. The corners were pretty tight and a shear drop hundreds of feet down to your death if you fucked it up. I knew I’d have to time this bastard right if I was to nail it without Civic man blocking me for the next corner ahead. Two corners went by, three, four. I’m starting to get edgy now, I’m in forth and the engines howling. The slow-moving truck is keeping civic man at bay from blasting on though. Then I line up against the right-rear bumper and as soon as we exit a corner and I see a ghost of an opening I open her up in forth gear and seize the moment. BBBWOOOOSH! I’m over the center lines and down a dip camber on the ‘wrong side’, so I’m almost underneath him! I’ve ghosted on a good inkling though and there’s no oncoming traffic charging around the next corner ahead, the camber rises up level again with the other side.
Civic man see’s me and knows he’s goosed up and tries to block me but it’s too late, I’m in front of him just in time to give it both brakes and dump the speed down to 80kph for the hard left corner. Overtaking the slow truck is childs play and soon I’m in front and roaring away from them. But Civic mans pride has been buzzed on and sullied. I just know he’ll be flying around those corners like a mad man to try and overtake me. I’m proper stuck behind another convoy of slow movers. I pull to the front, he’s two cars behind me.
I overtake the truck, not giving it enough throttle though as civic man roars past! The Race is on! I drop it back down two gears into forth again and give the beast a blast of throttle. It was time to give the Storm-Child her first taste of mountain racing. He’s now powering up to the corners and I can tell he’s aware of my advantage in straight-out-and-out acceleration. I corner with him, keeping him no more than 50 yards ahead. A bad set of corners that I under-cook means he’s pulled ahead by about a hundred yards now. Not for long though as the straight is too long for him to maintain a good enough lead to the next set of corners. I nail them better than average and keep the gap to 50 yards again. One last corner then its the straight. I boom up to within 25 yards, a bit close for comfort but in a battle of corners the car has the edge and I need to be close. He corners, I corner with him. Apex hit well on course. Coming out of the corner... The exit path for overtaking is clear as crystal. Throttle open, I nail it, as I pass him I glance to my left. Expecting to see a snarl, a glare or perhaps a nod, all I see is bright tinted windows. I wonder if the driver is a farang perhaps, on his way to do a visa run? Whatever the driver is or isn’t he’s lost and the Raider of Ranong is clear for landing!
It wasn’t all good times and fortune once I’d arrived in Ranong. The first place I pull up to is a Hotel just inside city limits. I enquire about the rooms, at first I enquire about monthly prices. At first the butch thai lady who comes out says 4500 baht. Then after I umm and arr they drop it to 4,000 baht. She then says the usual palaver. Aircon, hot water etc. She also states WiFi which picques my interest a little. While I’m not hungry for the lady I’m not ignorant either and I enquire about the girly scene at the hotel, in answer she makes telephone signs and points down the road to where there's the massage places and spa's.
Knowing where I stand on that front I ride around Ranong before I make my choice. I find the Pier place after some helpful Thais at the nearby petrol station give me directions. Although I’m a visa run veteran of Ranong it’s a very different story when you have to ride yourself into the place. The little thai dude confirms my thoughts on the lay of the land though and after thanking him I’m soon riding down the pier road. As I pass the thai immigration building on my right. Seeing it there, unchanged since my last adventures brings back the memories. I keep on going, on my right is the pier itself.
As I pass the security booth (hands out tickets to cars for hand in later) I am suddenly being hailed by this frantic little asian dude to my right. It’s just as well traffic is keeping him from getting to me as I’m sure he’d want to grab me off the bike If he could reach me! He’s jumping and gesturing furiously with his hands. At first I assume he works with the security booth and wants me to go back and get a ticket. Then I next assume he’s the local lunatic who likes to act the fckwit. I roll past the gimp and do a circuit of the pier complexes on the one-way system. My minds wheels start to spin and I come to the assumption he’s a tout. Before I’d never encountered touts so far from the pier boats. But times change I guess and the tourist drought makes then even hungrier. Sure enough as I pass him (he clocks me) he’s making the ‘visa-stamp-passport’ sign rapidly, a tout afterall.
I check into the outskirts hotel and the same thai woman is waiting. The rooms are 400 baht a night. Spartan but clean enough. Three Burmese babes are cleaning rooms nearby and, as if reading my mind the big fat mamasan of the hotel starts chirping up in thai ‘Mai Dai, Mai Dai’ Phom Mae, Phom Mae ‘No can, nocan. I Mother, I Mother.’
I was a bit taken aback by her gobby way as I was certainly not likely to pounce on them there and then. The devil in me was tempted to fire out a price and note what her reaction would be if 4,000 baht was on the table. ;) Not that I’d go through with that course of action you must understand but I felt a wee bit compelled to take her measure and see how much of a ‘mother’ she really was.
With the door closed I reviewed the helm cams footage of the days biking adventures. As I reviewed the first section my heart sank. All that can be seen is tarmac and the front canopy/fairing of the bike! The second – ditto, third, forth, fifth same story! DISASTER! The footage is ALL useless. All the near misses, the wild mountain race versus Civic-man and much more is forever lost!
At first, in a near rage I contemplate hurling the entire camera system out the window! Indeed the makers of the camera often bally-ho the toughness credentials of the system, perhaps time to see if it’s the real deal! Then I remember...
The night previous I’d finely adjusted the camera-mount to point more groundward (as the previous days footage had a high-angle bias). ARRRGGGHHH!!!
It wasn’t time to get despondent or low now though. I’d be on a visa-run tomorrow and I’d need my wits about me if tout-features was going to be faced.
Glad of the fact I’m only staying in the outskirts Hotel one night I set off to explore the town of Ranong for the ‘low-down’ and to find some better digs...
The bar scene in Ranong is fairly interesting. They have a ‘Walking Street’ area which has about twenty or so bars with a number of bar/restaurants intersperced between them. They aren’t ‘in-your-face’ girly bars but a few of them have girls in them that look to be available.
The Kareoke bar next door was a let-down. Very much a straight-laced and boring place for old thai couples. The tunes were cheap and synthesized with a man and woman doing their best to sweet up the vibe but it was lame. I was still going to try and enjoy the vibe but the no-smoking policy inside killed any hope of that. Ordering a Leo beer I discretly ask one of the thai staff about the girl scene. After a minute or so of her calling about she reveals that a girl can be brought to the Hotel. I digress and let it at that. Blind, pot-luck isn’t really my thing, I usually like to see what I’m getting and negotiate before having the girl just show up at my door.
The next day it was visa-run time. Enjoying the pleasant view from the 'unlucky' room for the last time I check out of the Outskirts Hotel and find a place closer into Ranong.
The next place I find is a frugal 250 baht a night and is decent enough. The dude explains that massage places with ‘available women’ are nearby. I don’t feel the pressing need but note the info for later. Besides which I needed to get my visa-run head on.
End of Part 1