Bangkok or Bust
Chiang Mai to Bangkok
Setting off from Tak
The Monsoon Cometh!
Another early start, but my good fortune at avoiding the rains had ran out. A relentless rain was pouring down when I awoke, by the time I'd had breakfast and finalised my gear the rain was nowhere near stopping. In fact just by glancing at the sky alone I could see it was a lasting rainfall. So it was a choice between waiting it out, or just riding hell for leather and getting to the next city. I considered for a moment staying on another day but the city, for its size, was hardly worth exploring as it was no bigger than a large English village in reality.
The primary shoulder strap decided to part company! Out came the gaffer tape and a prayer or two to the traveling gods. With the secondary strap I gambled on it holding for the next leg of the trip. This wasn't going to be a long distance road marathon leg though, just a short blast to the next city of Kamphaeng Pet.
Into the Jaws of Rain
Now I'd liked to of got some shots off of to show what the next 2 and a half hours was like. Alas my wonder camera, marvel of technology that it is, isn't rain-proof and even for you guys reading my tales I can't risk a screwed up camera at 18k a pop. The whole experience was, to say the least, 'somewhat uniquely exquisite' in a 'one-of-a-kind' way. It was not unlike some some roving explorer journeying into the unknown with nearly everything getting thrown at you!
My leathers got soaked, as did all the pockets, as did the trusty thai army boots, I'd lined the main compartment with a cheap poncho that basically tore apare when I tried stretching it over the leathers. It made a good seal and kept the water out there though. My laptop, was damp but not soaked thoroughly. My foot ended up with a near-popped vein cause of the vibration from the clutch lever and the cheap thai boots I'd used.
Road Lore: A neat little trick is to shoulder the laptop (arm and head through) first. Then put your backpack on and ensure it 'sits' on top of the laptop. As long as it isn't more than a 75 litre capacity it shouldn't sit too high above your head. This will allow the laptop to rest on the seat behind you supporting the weight of the backpack. As well as taking a good 50-70% of the load weight off your shoulders it means that the rain will not directly be landing on your laptop (as you'll be moving forward, through the rain), and will hit the backpack instead.
Where the Highway becomes the Holeway...
The journey was arduous but not suicidal, if the rain got too heavy and dangerous finding road shelters along the way wasn't that much of a quest. The road had plenty of damage and wear and tear though. It seems like the highways agency has either run out of money for this area or the ground is unstable. There were the usual potholes AND subsistence affected road patches. We're talking great big patches of up to 2 - 3 square meters here not the wee small ones common to Thailand. These sort of patches and potholes that will throw a rider clean off if you hit them wrong. The ground shift had caused vast areas of the Highway to be pockmarked and cracked with them. The best way of describing them would be 'cracked and sunken-in' sections.
After about 5 miles of them I grimly mused that the way to Kamphaeng Pet wasn't so much a Highway, but a Holeway and I've marked the route map accordingly! The added kicker was that the rainy conditions I was riding in the holes were almost perfectly camouflaged until you were nearly on top of them.
Compared with Tak this place is a real city, plenty of roads and density for things. I got lucky and sighted some lodgings within a minute of arriving. It was a fairly small and cheap kamphaeng pet hotel for 190 baht per night. It was rough and ready but clean enough. . Once settled in there I got all my things out to dry and sourced another backpack pronto.
The Ping River runs all the way past Kamphaeng Pet and makes for a decent walk early morning and in the late evening/night-time.
Cruising about the streets I could see a more than a few nightspots, several run by farangs. Putting it several rungs above Tak in that respect. There are a lot of one-way systems though and they take a while to get used to.
Inside the Secret Bordello
I allowed for 2 days to get my gear dry and replace broken and knackered bits of kit. I got a brand new gear back, a mighty 75 liter thing with twin reinforced steel strips in. The seller was helpful in modifying so it could be shouldered and not give a biker grief. The twin reinforcing strips are a good modification BUT they can puncture the stitching so take a hacksaw blade and trim them accordingly if they poke too far through the sleeves.
The second night I got talking to a farang called Nigel who runs the TT bar. He's a gregarious enough chap, who was upset that his sign wasn't done right. He then explained that he was certain the cheap and cheerful lodgings I was residing in was a full blown knocking shop! After a good 5 minutes of bantering it seemed that the ajoining bar/restaurant annex certainly was suspect! On my way back I peeked in the door. Yep, girls, guys doing the prelude thing. I ducked back before I was grabbed and yanked in to join the party. Could of had a dance, but it was a pretty bottom of the barrel kinda deal.
I checked my gear, the boots were dry (ish) but the leathers just would not dry! I went to the bathroom and contemplated another night at the secret bordello when the biggest cockroach I'd ever seen scuttled about inside! That was the last straw for me, I don't mind if they are doing their thing outside in the streets and scavanging about at the vendors stalls, but in the room its something else. Damp leathers be damned, I was leaving the next morning and that was that!
Next stop on the Odyssey is Nakhon Sawan.
The Farang Factor: Quite a few, and they are a fairly quirky bunch!
To continue to Part 4, click here