Status Update:

Current location: Bochum / Germany

50 countries, 1226 days, trip mileage: 124200 km

23 Feb 2009

Thailand (+ Photo Gallery)

01_Traffic in Bangkok (Dec 2008)

I’ve been on the road for about 8 months now. Time for a break, stay in one place for a while, spend some time with my parents and swap my motorcycle for the diving-gear.
Thailand is just the right place for all that: With its well-developed tourist infrastructure, Thailand is easy to travel for my parents; there’s some really fantastic dive-sites; and I didn’t need to break the bank in order to find myself some reasonably-priced long-term accommodation.

The day after I got to Bangkok, I went back to the airport to get my bike out of cargo and through customs – an endeavour that lasted 7 hours followed by a 2-hour ride back to the guesthouse. Central Bangkok during rush-hour (and in hot weather) is not much fun, but at least the cars, tuk-tuks and busses were laning, had a working headlight and were using their indicators… something I hadn’t witnessed ever since I left Turkey.

07_Going diving (Dec 2008)

Over Christmas and New Year’s Eve, I spent a good 4 weeks with my parents in & around Phuket and Phi Phi Island. And this family get-together over Christmas was really nice – after all, I still don’t know how much more time I’d spend on this journey and when I would see them again.

29_In a local bike-shop near Ao Chalong (Jan 2009)

The 4 weeks passed by very quickly. On the relaxing side of things there were quite a few days at the beach, good food, cheap massages, some fun-dives followed by an advanced diving course & another few dives on a liveaboard in the Similan Islands. Plus a few good evenings & beers with Guido & Esther – an overlanding/motorcycling couple who’re on their way back to Switzerland. The less relaxing part & things that kept me entertained: recovery of a broken hard-drive (yes, the one with ALL my photos on it!), re-organizing & backing up photographs (for my parents to take back home), finishing my online tax-return (I’d like to meet the brainiac who programmed that part of the HMRC’s website), servicing the bike (my parents had brought some spare parts from Germany with them) and a Thai Visa-run to Malaysia.

I better explain the reason for this Thai Visa run: The initial plan was to continue into Malaysia, but a brief look at the weather charts for Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia made me change my travel route: in order to avoid the rainy season south of Thailand, I decided it’d be better to take a 5-7 week loop through Laos and Cambodia before getting ‘back on track’ into Malaysia and Indonesia around April. To cut a long story short: my ‘Allowance To Stay’ for Thailand was about to expire, and I had to leave the country (bike included) and get a new visa.

10_BMW overlanders meeting in Penang- Clement, Helen, Sheen and I (Jan 2009)

A 10-12h ride took me from Phuket to Malaysia, where I bumped into Sheen, Clement and Helen, a few fellow motorcyclist who’re also doing a world-trip. On the way back to Phuket, Sheen and I teamed up for a few days through the South-East of Thailand, before we went our own ways: Sheen into Northern Thailand, me back to my parents on Phuket. Once my parents had left Phuket, I headed up towards Northern Thailand (Chiang Mai), with short stop-overs in Khao Lak, Ranong and Kanchananburi. In Chiang Mai, I met Holger & Anja – another motorcycling couple on their world-trip, again on BMW F650s: from hear-say and personal acquaintances, in January 2009 there were at least 17 bikers passing through Thailand on their world trip, 9 of them on a F650 Dakar).

Checking valve clearances

With a local BMW dealer nearby, Chiang Mai was the ideal place to do some more bike maintenance – although I got to say I’m not impressed with BMW Thailand: once I’d checked the valve clearances, I found out they don’t even have valve shims in stock. Big BMW Dealership, marble floor, large window shop-front, big bikes inside… but a standard(!) service-part the size of a coin – not available anywhere in Thailand. “45 working days from Germany”. I’m speechless. To cut a long story short: thanks to updated clearance specifications, the valves turned out to be just OK. So the last thing to do on the bike was: once again, new subframe-bolts. This time I had them enlarged & re-threaded, plus the right-hand pannier mount needed some welding done. All for a bargain-price of €10 at Joe’s Bike Team in Chiang Mai – highly recommended.

Holger, Anja and I spent quite some time together in Chiang Mai and ended up leaving for Laos on the same day (albeit on a different route). A scenic route past the Golden Triangle took me to Chiang Khong, where the three of us met up again to take the ferry over the Mekong into Laos.

For more details & images (including comments), have a look at my Thailand Album on FlickR.

The full-screen slideshow version can be found here. (To read the report during the slideshow, click 'Show Info' in the top right).

Here are more samples from the album:

03_Buddha figure at the Grand Palace (Dec 2008) 13_Back in Thailand- Food in Songkhla (Jan 2009) 16_Sheen and I (Jan 2009) 30_Local biker (Jan 2009) 32_"Lucky Balloons" (Jan 2009) 39_Me in front of the "Bridge Over The River Kwai" (Feb 2009) 48_Wat Doi Suthep (Feb 2009) 54_Typical for Thailand -  a little get-together on the back of a pick-u p(Feb 2009)