Friday, 14 June 2019

Pit Stop Trat & Exploring Koh Chang Island

Back to Thailand and I stopped at Trat for one night before finding out about Koh Chang the second largest Island in Thailand.  

I knew Island in Thailand was really poison for tourist but a ferry ride across to an island where the reviews says the roads are treacherous with curves and steep slopes makes me even more intrigue. 

The actual part that make me decide that it will be ok instead of the struggle in Chumphon and Cambodia was that the review also said all the roads were sealed tarmac so if this time I fall down riding, it will be pure skill instead of inexperience riding on weird surface road.

Trat was nice and easy with few things to see. Could not really justify staying more than one night especially with the price of accommodation and the quality of it but the turning point to move and visit the island immediately was when I suddenly saw a price drop at giving me a whole bungalow Air-Conditioned Hut for 300 baht per night. Koh Chang it is then. 

Lighthouse at Trat on the wyay to Natural Bay Harbour 

Trat to Natural Bay harbour was about 30 km , slow nice ride and once there I just rode up to the ticket booth and paid 120 bath for the ferry over with Bluey. They keep asking how many cc is my bike which I said 125 cc and I wondered if it made a difference in price but i guess not. 

Ferry from Natural Bay Harbour Trat to Koh Chang

Bluey on the Ferry to Koh Chang
At Koh Chang immediately after disembarking the ferry I headed for the main beach area on the east coast of the island. I could understand now why they asked for the bike cc. If your bike was too small, there was no way in hell one can go uphill in Koh Chang without power. 

It was steep as hell and at any point in time if one were to stop dead middle at the steep hill, it was an accident bound to happen. 

The View after climbing the treacherous Steep Winding Road of Koh Chang Island
The steepest part always comes together with a ridiculous sharp curve ... needless to say, for those that like riding, even slowly this was a very nice road to ride a bike with very stunning scenic views. 

Double rider seams to be more dangerous though. At some uphill point climb with sharp curves, I could see the pillion getting down and pushing the rider uphill till they reach a more gentle slope. Bluey was all the way down to 1st gear but still within good faith.

Koh Chang was just riding around for me. The roads were scenic and beautiful without the tarnish of mass tourism or rather the mass tourism was contained on one small street of the island. 

Riding Around Koh Chang

Riding Around Koh Chang

Riding Around Koh Chang

Riding Around Koh Chang

Riding Around Koh Chang
I could see most of the island was develop for tourism but somehow they did a good job in balance between people and nature reserve. 

Traveled on : Dec 2018
#Kohchang #Trat

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Route Info – Thailand Part 2 Going from Central to Northern Thailand

This post is part of the Route-Info series continuation from :

1. Road Trip Southern Thailand from Hat Yai to Arayanprathet
2. Road Trip Cambodia

From Cambodia I re-entered Thailand though the Cham Yeam – Khlong Yai Border and this is the actual route I took making my way up towards northern Thailand before exiting at Chiang Khong and entering Laos but that's for another Route info Post.

(Entry from Cambodia)Cham Yeam -> Khlong Yai -> Trat -> Koh Chang -> Rayong -> Pattaya -> Ayutthaya -> Nahkon Sawan -> Sukhothai -> Chom Thong -> Doi Inthanon -> Mae Sariang -> Mae Hong Son -> Pai -> Chiang Dao -> Doi Angkang -> Thaton ->Doi Mae Salong ->Chiang Saen -> Golden Triangle -> Chiang Rai -> Chiang Khong -> Huay Xai (Exit into Laos) 

Thailand Road Trip Part 2 - Route Info 
Things of interest .... to my point of view ... 

Trat - Koh Chang – Rayong

There is notthing better then just riding the coastline of the gulf of Thailand.


Ahem Ahem .... I would say this is one unique place within Thailand but definitely does not represent true Thailand.

Nahkon Sawan

This big city seams unavoidable to break the journey going north but the center of city has a beautiful temple on the top of the hill with a nearby observation tower allowing 360 views of the city


The old city of Thailand predating Ayutthaya with beautifully preserved ruins but with much less tourist

The Big Loop of Northern Thailand (Mae Hong Son Loop)
(Chom Thong -> Doi Inthanon -> Mae Sariang -> Mae Hong Son -> Pai)

Usually this famous loop starts from Chaing Mai and ends in Chaing Mai but I guess I did something close to it evading Chaing Mai since I did not need to rent a bike from the main city. 

The loop is a rider heaven going through 1846 corners throughout the whole 700+ km, through mountains, valleys and just sights after sights of beautiful nature.

The loop is so famous that its not surprising to see tourist on rented motorbikes going in either clockwise or anticlockwise of the loop. Lots of hot springs, many unique hill tribe village, caves, hiking trials and endless exploration within the loop.

Doi Angkang – Thaton – Doi Mae Salong

Doi Angkang is the second tallest mountain in Thailand after Doi Inthanon but the roads were much more treacherous compared to the Mae Hong Son Loop. 

Even more deeper into nature with almost no foreign tourist, the ride from Doi Angkang to Thaton then Doi Mae Salong is a adventurous ride passing mountainous ranges, fields of orchards,waterfalls, and tea plantation

Chiang Saen – Golden Triangle

Old town Chiang Saen is a little gem with many old temple ruins dotting the town but not noticeable since it is not popularized as a tourist destination. 

The town is by the banks of the Mekong river bordering Laos and gateway to the Golden Triangle which is the three way border intersection between Thailand – Laos – Myanmar but also where drug-lords of heroin use to plant fields of poppy back in the days to fund their civil war

Chiang Rai

City of temples I would say. Famous for the White Temple, Blue Temple, Black House ... everything seams to be color theme somehow.

Chiang Khong

Quint little border town for crossing over to Laos – Huay Xai

Traveled on : December 2018
#overlandingthailand #motorbikingthailand #routeinfo #thailand #motorpackerasia #blurtravels

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Border Crossing from Cambodia-Cham Yeam Border to Thailand-Khlong Yai Border with a Malaysian Registered Motorbike

This crossing was somehow peaceful for me knowing that the Thailand side was easy with all my documents in order and exiting Cambodia should be a straightforward thing since I had all the proper documentation to get out from the correct border. 

At Cham Yeam Border Post 

 Packed up all my stuff in the early morning and rode from Koh Kong to the Cham Yeam border which was a very small border that looked like a little single street village crossing. 

Parked Bluey and saw the first house/building that said Immigration and I proceeded to stamp out of Cambodia without any issue. Took about a few minutes queuing up but other than that it was all good. 

Immigration Building at Cham Yeam Border Post - Cambodia 

Rode Bluey to the edge of the border where customs was checking each vehicle before opening the gantry to let the vehicle in or out. I notice that there was no outgoing vehicle only incoming. Three custom officers were sitting outside on a open table drinking their morning coffee and tea with one even eating his breakfast.

I approached them and showed them the custom papers I obtained from Phnom Penh and Poi Pet a month ago and they slowly go through it reading and talking to one another. Communication was hard since they barely speak English but they finally conveyed to me that I was in the wrong place. 

The customs building to process the outgoing vehicle was not here at the border but back down the hill around 2 km from the border into the Cambodian side.

One officer tried to explain to me the directions and the location of the custom buildings but I had no idea where it was and since I rode from the same way and somehow missed the custom buildings it was going to be a wild goose chase if I just leaved hunting for the building. 

I kept saying I don't understand and I don't know where this customs building was and they scratch their head while I scratched mine.

One officer ended up flagging one of those motorbike taxi and explained to him to bring me to the customs office and paid him 2000 riel from his own pocket. I followed after him and 2 km later back the same road on the right side where there was a police block which I passed earlier was where the custom office located. 
Customs & Excise Building 2km from the Cham Yeam Border Post

Getting the Export Papers done at Customs & Excise Building in Cham Yeam Border 

Entering the office there was no one. 9 am in the morning seamed to be too early to start work here in this relax border. The motortaxi helped me shout and look for someone and finally an officer hurried into the office while still buttoning up his shirt getting ready for work.

I showed him the papers and after a while he started the paperwork's process to get me out of Cambodia with Bluey. I was told to wait outside at the waiting area where there was seats and after half an hour he came with all the export papers prepared but told me the final signature from the high ranking officer was all that was left but the problem is, that one important guy was not here but somewhere else in a meeting.

I had to wait the officer said. Not much of a choice I said ok.

Another half an hour later he somehow got permission to sign on behalf of the high ranking officer and the papers were now complete and I was asked to pay the full export fee for Bluey. USD 12.5 was the export fee and I now had the papers to exit Cambodia with Bluey.

Ride back to the border and passed all the papers to the officer and the gantry opened for me to ride onward into Thailand.

Thailand side was straightforward getting the TM2 form filled up by Immigration and then Customs for the Temporary Import Permit. 

Communication was hard too for the Thai side as they barely speak English. They knew what I wanted but had trouble reading the Malaysian Vehicle Ownership papers of Bluey. Luckily I had a copy of the previous entry into Thailand and the moment I showed them, they snatch it and happily started processing the TIP. 

Immigration Office at Khlong Yai Border - Thailand

Within minutes at the Thailand border, I was stamped in and received full TIP papers for Bluey and back on the road riding the coastline of Thailand to Trat with a big smile on my face. 

Riding the Coastline to Trat Province Thailand 
Traveled on: Dec 2018
#bordercrossing #Chamyeam #Khlongyai #motorbike

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Riding Log – From Sihanaukville to Koh Kong

This journey was from Sihanoukville to Koh Kong roughly 240km distance and I was doubtful that I would even make that journey. 

Arrival at Koh Kong 
Injured shoulder apart, since with some anti inflammation tablets, I seam to be able to function almost fully without any issues but each ride since Kampong Cham seams to be harder and harder on the Cambodian roads.

It’s always a guess if the roads are good for travel and even then you never know what kind of obstacles might happen in Cambodia such as rain or trucks or cows. Yet the idea of traveling 250km in a day seams like a big hurdle. I gave myself the whole day with even a halfway point emergency overnight stop if I have to.

Started journey at 9.30 am nice and easy getting out of Sihanoukville and out of the main highway going to Phnom Penh. By the halfway mark I was at lunch time 1230pm. Not too bad I thought since I only left with roughly 125km but still have 5 hours of sunlight to do the journey. The roads seamed better and the traffic reduced to a trickle once I diverged off the main route to Phnom Penh.

Problem with all main roads going or coming from Phnom Penh was that it is very much in used by all kinds of vehicles and the driving rules in Cambodia is seriously f*cked. The big trucks are the kings followed by the buses and then the big land rovers to the cars and smaller three wheels and finally the motorbikes. 

High beams ablaze and horns blaring loudly from a squeak beep to a jarring long continuous bully get out of my way horn was the types that makes riding in Cambodia stressful. Tarmac road seamed to be only made for the cars and the side-path are pure red dirt gravel very loose and very easy to skid if going too fast on a motorbike.

I thought I had a good road with no traffic front and back but the opposite oncoming traffic was heavy and all the overtaking vehicles gave a wide berth for the vehicle they are overtaking but no space for me on my motorbike. I played chicken one two many times and all the near collision that goes pass like a whoosh is damn scary. 

Roads with red Gravel Side-path 
Even if I slow down to 20 km/hr, the cars will still miss me by a hair-clip at 80km/hr. Looking at the cars flashing and honking from a mile away is already scary when they don't slow down, and when a truck does it, it was no doubt time to chicken out, off to the dirt path. That's the dangerous part as well, going from tarmac to dirt gravel in anything more than 20km/hr means chances of skidding and falling. 

Vehicles on the same lane is not good as well. All trucks, bus and cars seams to be traveling at hyper-speed and even with me pushing Bluey to 80km/hr cant seem to hold up more than a few seconds before they leave me behind. They are merciless to the small bikes. They overtake on the left and once the head of the vehicle is in line with the bike, they start to steer right forcing me most times to do an emergency slow down and bum myself off the tarmac to the red dirt gravel.

I now always hope to find a turtle , a slow car or a truck and keep up with them from behind. At least opposite oncoming overtaking vehicle does not play chicken with a car or truck and me behind them was safe in a way but then again a turtle still goes at 80km/hr. Seriously stressful to ride in Cambodia with the way the drivers are, inconsiderate for others.

Its weird as well since the lifestyle in Cambodia is so relax where everything seams to be on slow mode. Everything is on slow mode but when they hit the road, somehow they have an urgency like an ambulance but once they reach their destination, they just take forever to move on with the next task.

Route 48 in Cambodia was scenic ride to Koh Kong but I was unlucky. There was major road construction works all the way to Koh Kong and even the tarmac became pure gravel. I now had to learn to understand what kind of gravel I was riding on. Large stones, small stones, compacted stones, un-compacted stones, some I could go at 40km/hr if there was no pressure from other vehicles while most I had to go around 20 to 30 km/hr. 

Riding on Loose Gravel on Route 48 from Sihanaukville to Koh Kong 

My grip on my handle bar was so hard I had to stop every 30 minutes to rest my hands and get circulation going. The gravel seams to be playing tug of war with me always skidding a bit then not skidding at all then skidding a bit. My grip was iron clad trying to control as much as I can going as slow or as fast as I dared.

That balance 125km took me 5 hours. Hence I traveled an average of 25km/hr, f*ck. Every sealed tarmac I got onto, I speed up to 70km/hr and at the first sight of gravel I slowed down to 15km/hr just to test out the gravel looseness before speeding up to whatever speed I thought it will hold. 

Downhill on Gravel - Route 48 Cambodia 

Route 48 Through Mountain Roads in Pure Gravel 
Vibration hurts the joints of my elbow, my butt ache, my heart skips with every minor slide, and each f*cking car/truck that beeps me while overtaking even thou there was a big space and barely any cars make me want to give them the finger but alas my hand must not leave the handlebar.

The trail of gravel dust and pebbles flying after their overtaking also makes me want to f*cking kill them. Four wheels wont slide and these gravel feels like normal road to these 4x4 monsters but on a two wheel, gravel + side inclination + sharp curve + going downhill is a f*cking disaster waiting to happen if I even turn my head to look at the view.

In and out, gravel after gravel and so many turns, if only I had came a few months later, I think this road route 48 would be a wonderful ride though a very senic part of Cambodia.

Traveld on: Dec 2018
#ridingcambodia #roadtripcambodia ##route48cambodia #ridinglog #blurtravels

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Construction of a Gambling Den in Sihanaukville

I heard so much about Sihanaukville from the internet and the people that I met travelling around and one thing was clear is that the advised was either heaven or hell type of description. Some say its the best place in Cambodia while others said its ruin by the China money influx. 

Otres Beach in Sihanaukville - The last resemblance of the past. 

I had to see it, for better or worst, fake or real, it is what it is currently and as bizarre a story can get, I felt that this was new age culture travel that somehow will be the next definition of tourism. The extreme theme tourism. As I rode Bluey near the edge of Sihanouk City, I was greeted with the familiar memory of me going to work everyday in a construction site.

Roads were a mess, damaged everywhere due to overloading by trucks and trailers and even heavy excavators moving from one construction site to another on normal public roads. Everywhere was a skyscraper in the making, a grand building that seam given time will become a futuristic city of sin. Imagine The Daystar Casino in Planet Ahakista in StarWars and Sihanaukville was soon on the path of glory or debauchery depending on ones moral view. 

Ongoing Construction of New Hotels & Casinos 
Construction Everywhere in Sihanaukville 
As I talk to some surviving hostels and small business owners, this massive change of development started four years ago and has driven all the prices up from rent to food and most of them had call it quits selling everything and moving out or about to throw in the towel.

It was quite a sight with the existing and new casino in operation trying to somehow have a resemblance of dignity and style indoors while ignoring the bulk of ugly construction going on smack right outside the doorstep. 

Old & New and Upcoming Casinos in Sihanaukville 

All the sudden development and electric power was insufficient so the new hotels and casino buildings all had a land space set aside just beside with armies of generator constantly buzzing(blaring) combined with fumes and granite dust.

Outdoors were not an option to spend in Sihanaukville so naturally I was indoors gambling. I visited all the casino I could see, just to experience what it was like inside the gilts but it was a whole new layer of segregation. There was the rich, the super rich, somewhere in the middle and the poor all gambling in different casino catered for individual category so they wont mix. 

Vegas Sokha Casino in Sihanaukville (One of the few casino that has Blackjacks)

WM Casino, Foduna Casino - Sihanaukville

Golden Lion Square in Sihanaukville where all the Locals Hang out after work.
Every one of them wore an employee uniform of one casino or another. 
What happen was the completed 5 stars or 7 stars casino and hotel had all the whale gambler tourist and non of the no money like me would dare to even think of entering and just observing the antiques of the riches.

I of course was oblivious to these China social status class regime and went in everywhere with my slippers and shorts so long as they did not say no. Some actually tried to tell me I was not in the right place in Mandarin but when I asked in English with confidence, they backed away almost immediately letting me pass.

Stacks of USD100 bills were laid out on the gambling table like it was spare change, women that seem like a doll would throw away thousand on a hand just to prove a point and more money flowed into the Casinos with one round of whale compared to down-end where mass crowd bets on a small little table taking forever to turn a round 

Ceiling Display Inside a 5 Star Hotel & Casino Sihanaukville
Then there is the smaller casinos, scattered all over small nooks and crannies in Sihanaukville that still caters for the China money. All these new development is being built not only by China money but also China worker and by sun fall the hoard of workers are all inside the casino gambling their daily wages away. Its amazing how crazy it is going overseas to earn better money doing hard construction labor only to gamble it all away every night. 

One of the Many Little Casino in Sihanaukville 
Sihanaukville was something special in Cambodia once, and from the transformation that I am seeing, it will be something special even in the future after all these changes. Just entirely different.

Traveled on: Dec 2018
#Gambling #Sihanaukville #Casino