August 2015
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Month August 2015

Khota Baharu to Bangkok

A quiet ride from the border to Khota Baharu, then up the coast
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An unmanned roadblock. We pass through these every 30 minutes. When we see soldiers we’re surprised at how high-tech the gear is. Like Mexico, Colombia, Peru, the troops are outfitted like SWAT teams back home, the finest equipment and Oakley sunglasses, very cool. But no pictures. We should be running video. More on that soon

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Muslim kids. We’re a big surprise here and don’t know of another rider who’d been this way in a while
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Bad storm rising. It’s rainy season. This is absolutely the worst time to be riding into SE Asia
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The next picture is a two-day track because the Garmin decided that’s how it was going to remember it, drat
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Beside the road, shallow ponds of lotus for miles
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We’re not sure what these shrines are about. Just that there were a row, each progressively older than its neighbour
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Then, after a night in Pattani we took a diversion onto a small country road towards Trang
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We stopped when we saw this. Clearly rubber trees with the little ceramic bowls below stripped bark
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So we stopped and talked to the gatekeeper. Well, not talked, just smiled as I signed that I wanted to look around
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A close up
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In his shelter he had these. I asked “rubber?”. He smiled and pointed high into the trees and indicated something about birds. This we never figured out
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He pointed down the road through the plantation and off we went
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To this, clearly a factory
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Outside, fires burning under the building
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Lots of wood
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The raw rubber is thrown into this big melting vat, where it’s filtered, although I never saw how that was done
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Poured through here into the factory
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Then it’s all quite like a beehive for a moment. The rubber is poured into ‘supers’ and divided by ‘flats’, where the rubber sets
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The sheets harden as they cool and thrown into a sluice
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Then squished flatter through rollers
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Rinsed, hung
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And put in hot rooms
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Where, after a day they end up like this. Not complicated
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Outside the factory we snacked on wollongong (I think)
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Really refreshing, medium sweet
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Then onwards, following our country road through small villages
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Our first temple. We had no idea, just having arrived more or less, whether we could go on the grounds or not, so kept a respectful distance
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If you look carefully you’ll see people playing in the falls. I badly wanted to join them. The heat and humidity are almost overwhelming
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Then into the town of Trang. I’d been feeling a bit shaky and the next morning woke up with a fever and flu/cold symptoms. This was punishment for my hubris. I’d been thinking recently that the riding lifestyle had made me immune from all casual, non-crafty illness. The fact is, until Trang I’d had a couple of short colds, a very mild stomach illness from bad food in Nicaragua and that’s it in three years. Even not bothering with my malaria tablets. Superman. Well that idea came crashing down as I sweated and suffered in a hotel room for a week. It was really grim. I’d caught something weird, I’m sure, in the waiting room at the border two days ago
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A haircut, when I was well enough to ride. Barely well enough. Might as well look tidy though
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On to Hua Hin through a flu-ey haze. It was large, touristy and the main strip was like a Thai version of Vegas. The map below has a chunk missing as, to be as economical as possible with brain-space on the shoddy Garmin, I’m downloading precise tiles and scrapping old one’s as I go
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Beyond Hua Hin, still ill
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In a huge empty field
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This very nice monastery, excellent concrete work
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The only thing I saw in english
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Monks wandering around. Orange is the color, and I’ve recently learned that being born on a Thursday, in Thailand orange is my birth color too
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A classroom on the grounds, with a nice traditional blackboard
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Another temple off the road a bit. I lay in the shade on the grass here, wasted
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Many of these
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An enormous wild bee colony above the temple front door
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A monk building something
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Here you go, my first Thai monk close-up. He’s cementing the post. Awesome dude
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Through a town, can’t remember which
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Into Bangkok. A very brief post
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Which was a bit like I had imagined, riding in
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The river Chao Phraya meanders through central Bangkok. Most of the significant temples are riverside. Despite the wealth, it’s not a built up as you’d think. All kinds of boats, from countless ferries, to long tails, to huge barges
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Ferry terminal. These are dotted regularly along the river
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Typical building on the riverfront
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In contrast, a few of these
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Vegetation grows everywhere it can
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The streets are lined with food stalls
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There were two priorities in Bangkok. Getting fit again and getting our China visa. The Chinese embassy was crazy. After completing all the paperwork carefully in advance I hit a wall here. For three days I queued all morning, only to be told on the final morning that, despite the fact I was entering on a motorcycle, they wanted an air ticket in and out corresponding with the daily itinerary I attached. I explained this was impossible. They explained it had to be that way. So I emailed the group I’m entering with (the first time) and they said apply in Chiang Mai
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Chiang Mai airport, just a short flight
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Cops taking a selfie outside the Chinese embassy. Instead of waiting for hours for a turn at an immigration window we walked in, saw one other person, and had our visa in 6 hours. Incredible. But more than that, we had a better visa than we anticipated. More on this in a couple of months when we test it
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A couple of tourist things in Bangkok, of the many. Tons of tourists everywhere
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This is the head of the reclining Buddha at Wat Pho. It’s an incredible 130 feet long
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A temple at Wat Pho
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Monks at Wat Pho
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And the above is all the tourist stuff I’m going to cover from that point of view. We have a more intimate and I thought more interesting traditional experience in a future post from the town of Phitsanulok, where there were no tourists.

The night flower market. They claim it’s the largest in the world. Certainly it would take hours to walk around everything. The reason for it is to service the huge daily need for fresh flowers, offerings each morning by everyone from businesses to individual homes. Each night the growers bring in the flowers from the country and the entire lot is sold off to distributors before dawn
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Lit corridors of flowers at about 11:00 pm
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Another essential thing to do is to tour the canals that branch off the river by longtail boat. Unable to find a boat to charter solo, despite what I said above I grabbed a tour with 5 Germans. They were really great but drank a ton of beer they bought from little floating vendors and got noisy. Off we went
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Just a few pictures. It was special
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This was a canal intersection, complete with a sign
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Schools of a type of catfish being fed bread from a dock
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Drowned World, JG Ballard we thought
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A fancy residence
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The catfish
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update

We’re here. Bangkok. It’s rainy season. The storms roll in with the same tropical drama they did back in Darwin. This is a good pic of a storm but a poor one of Bangkok, which is closer to what I’d imagined than I’d imagined. Tracks and story to follow.
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Kuala Lumpur to Khota Baharu

Short post, catching up.

The last job in KL was getting our Thai visa. Good for only 14 days if you get it at the border, 30 at an embassy. Relatively painlessP1000078

New tires, a seat swop and we’re off north to Thailand, yay
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We take the highway our turnoff to the Cameron Highlands and the oldest forests in the world, they say
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After the turn-off and a twisty ride for 50 miles, BIG trees, super hot and humid
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To the one town up here, Ringlet
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We went for an explore in the morning. The air’s cooler at 5000′ and every valley is cleared for agriculture, small, medium and large-scale
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A great spot
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Immaculate
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Great strong smell from onions as we rode by
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Up to a big plantation
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It’s this, tea. I was surprised, in that clueless city boy way, to find out tea is a woody shrub
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1000’s of acres, just stunning
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Peaceful
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The next day was the border crossing. We’re going the unusual way, up the east coast. Unusual because it’s not the way to Krabi and because this corner of Thailand is involved in a long term war with its Muslim minority
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Descending off the mountains through dense forest
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Back on the plain we pass limestone crags
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There’s a dirt road to the base of some so we go off to explore
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A Hindu temple unexpectedly at the end of the road
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The base
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Later, lunch time. This doesn’t look right
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But these crazy ladies have a fruit stand
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These mostly, rambutan
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Yummy, but a big pit in the middle
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Even yummier! mangosteen
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The next town had sculptures of mangosteen at an intersection, so obviously a big deal around here
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A little further
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Big logging just like at home, comforting we thought
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The daily rain. The clouds build quickly and all hell breaks loose. You wouldn’t believe it
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Then to the border and what a mess. Somewhere in this room is someone with a brutal infectious bug as I was to find out 2 days later. Despite having a visa I had to fill out an entry form for immigration then stand in this crowd for an hour. It was well over 100F and hard work. Then off to customs which thankfully was a breeze
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Then back out, onto Lucinda and through another lineup. Not the quickest
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And into Thailand. An armed crossing, as expected. Very stupid idea to take pictures of soldiers on the job so this is as good as it gets
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KUL/MNL/YVR/YVR/NRT/KUL

Style matters and no one can ever match the style of the early riding pioneers like Ted Simon or Helge Pedersen. Really great style rides might include never going home, never taking an airplane.

Anyway I happily went home and took airplanes, again. A friend of mine the other day called it moto-tourism.

Anyway, the second plane broke down in a hilarious way, just as the pilot was taxiing for the runway in Manila so we stayed there for 24 hours
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They have interesting buses in Manila, but. The Guatemalans would see these buses as Godless wrecks and the Phillipinos would think camionetas de pollos were modded by effeminates. One of those two would have it completely wrong
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We had an email from a close friend recently, which turned into a discussion, asking for a really big favour if we ever got to Manila. She asked that I spring, heist, bribe, or do whatever has to be done to free a long-suffering elephant called Mali from the zoo here. Can you believe Townsend at times.

I’ve heard various things about Manila and wished it had been on the route after this short glimpse. We had a very strong first impression.

Anyway, despite the airline screwups, the airport had great wifi at MNL, for Blitz
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Then, 42 hours later, home.

My traditional home view, for a reason too long to get into, looking west down Georgia from Granville. I’ve paused and looked down this street from here for more than half a century
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Walked across the Burrard Street bridge a couple of times
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Was a bit surprised at the huge number of new pot shops that have sprung up everywhere. This one had an incredible selection of food in the fridges. The sales guy gave me a warning about the cupcakes, said whoa, be careful of those
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And of course the world’s best cocktails. The bartender dialing it in. Been a very long time since we’ve seen this kind of attention to service. Since we were last in Vancouver actually, nothing similar since. I’ve got a theory about this, but it can wait
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Then, too soon, we headed back. This time it was difficult.

Through Narita with the new bike seat, there
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To KL with the new bike seat
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The longer you’re away from Vancouver the more you appreciate it. I’m extremely grateful for what has turned out to be a much more important walk-about than I anticipated, tough and low times (there have been a few) included. So thanks to however it happened.

143, 28
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