Fanette and I loved our first motorcycle trip so much that we always said we would certainly do another one. In February of 2011 we decided we’d be leaving Thailand for good in August (after 7 years) so it was time to do all of the things we said we’d do before we left, including another motorcycle trip. Neither of us had ever been to the Issan region of Thailand up north, so we decided to make the trip there as we’d heard such great things about it. Plus, putting the bikes on the train to get to Issan was cheap – about $25 per bike per leg of the journey. It sounded cheap anyway. Put the bikes on the train, get to Issan, drive around, put the bikes back on the train and come back (we’d already done most of the roads TO the Issan region on our last trip, and didn’t want to do them again). But when we did the calculations, and figured it was also $25 per person per leg, and there were 2 legs up and 2 legs back, we were looking at $400 before any traveling had even begun. One of the joys of Thailand is that you can do it on the cheap, and although $400 doesn’t break the bank, it doesn’t fall in to the category of cheap travel either.

We also realized that we hadn’t really seen any of the areas in our own backyard. Add to that, I had recently bought a book on the natural wonders of Southern Thailand ,and it made much more sense to just head out for a week or two heading south, rather than jumping a train with the bikes to go north.

And that was the extent of our planning. We decided we’d, “go south and leave after lunch tomorrow”. We packed the map and some clothes and took off. After a day’s riding dodging the occasional elephant through the twisty roads (great roads for the CBR!) and karst-scaped lands of Phang-Nga we arrived in Krabi.

We parked the bikes for a few days and took a boat to Railay and Tonsai beaches (only accessible by boat) and got in some nice scuba dives and a day of hiking/climbing/abseiling and stayed in a cool little hotel right next to a large karst. Fanette will be happy that I’ll admit publicly that she is a much better climber than I am.
Leaving Krabi we decided to stick to back roads as much as possible. They’re so much more scenic. The back roads were the highlight of our first motorcycle trip, so we saw no reason to do anything else. Only trouble is that the back roads seldom have any hotels. We thought about bringing a tent, but it would have meant bringing mats and sleeping bags, so we scrapped the idea in favor of travelling light and decided to just find cheap hotels. Normally we stay in places that are $12-15 a night, which are usually pretty decent. But a couple times on our trip we splurged and spent between $20-30. Our logic was that nowhere else in the world will $30 buy you a luxury lake-side bungalow so let’s do it now while we still can.

Our riding was mostly in good weather, with the occasional downpour. Oddly enough, there are a lot of empty/abandoned shelters along the roadside. So many that when it starts to rain, you’re never more than 100 meters from the next one. So it would rain, we’d stop and wait 15 minutes, it would pass and we’d move on. A couple times other people would join us in the shelter, and once we even accidentally stopped in front of someone’s house, who promptly invited us in to sit down and wait out the rain. Only in Thailand. My favorite rain-avoider was a stop at a hot springs. We arrived at this little 4-pool hot spring place just as it started to rain – admission $1.50. We changed in to swimwear and hung out there for the hour or so that it rained, and took off just as it stopped. It was set in a nice lush setting which made the rain all the more perfect.

From Krabi we stopped in some little town with no name, then to Trang and then over to the other coast. From day 2 of our trip I had seen a little road on the map which went along the gulf shore line that looked amazing. The map indicated that there were beach towns along the road and I figured it would be just the perfect chilled out spot to maybe spend a couple of days. Unfortunately, it was anything but. The beach was empty. No shops, no restaurants, no hotels, no people, nothing. In our quest to get away from it all, we’d actually gone too far. It actually made it a bit annoying as we had planned to arrive early in the day, and chill out, but instead we had to keep riding until night until we found somewhere to stay. Eventually we came upon one beachside resort. They rented rooms by the hour; it was one of those types of places, although it was actually a charming little place. Our room was right on the beach and faced the water. Unfortunately, in order to assure the privacy of the guests renting the room, there was a large green fabric screen around the whole hotel, including between the hotel and the beach. So we could hear the waves, and sort of see it through the screen, but really had the most disappointing sea view of any place on the beach I’ve ever been to.

One thing that was great about this trip is that our ability to speak Thai has really improved over the last year. We studied for a month in Bangkok and it’s really helped. I don’t think we’d be able to make this kind of trip without being able to speak some Thai. So many times we needed to ask for something or order something and as we’d walk up to people they’d have a terrified look on their face as if they’re going to have to attempt English. Once you start speaking Thai, that look turns to relief and all is well. It became quite a cool novelty for us after a while. Often we’d be sitting in a restaurant and another customer would come in, see us eating, and ask the restaurant owner how we ordered our food. They’d tell the person we speak Thai, to which we’d confirm, and everyone would have a little laugh.

This is also the first trip I’ve taken my iPhone with. I don’t use it as my phone; it’s just something to carry instead of a laptop. But what an AMAZING travel tool this is. You can check your email anytime anywhere. You’ve got a detailed map in the palm of your hand, along with the weather forecast. I’ve got an old 2G iPhone I bought cheap and used, but even this will tell you where on the map you are based on what telephone tower you’re closest to. How cool is that? Yes, it was a handy thing to have. And you can google the city you’re in to see what’s cool to do. For most of the towns we were in, there was nothing to report. Like I said, we’d gone pretty far off the beaten path. In fact, for most of our travels, with the exception of a few of the larger cities and resort towns, we never saw another foreigner. Based on the letdown of the ocean-side road which I was so sure was going to be awesome, we were skeptical about where to go next. We decided to trust the map’s recommendations again and head inland to the national parks areas around Nakhon Si Tammarat. For me, this was the highlight of the trip. The roads were just spectacular, the people were nice, and park we spent a day in was fantastic. We hiked for the better part of a morning through some really nice trails before setting off again. On the way north, we spotted what we are pretty sure was a wild elephant.

From this point, we were essentially on our way back. We decided to take it easy and get back whenever we got there at a nice slow pace, but in the end we made it in 2 days and that was on 95% back roads. Somehow we just found fewer things to stop at the more we’d been driving. The trip started much the way it began. We woke up one morning and decided it was time to head back home that day. Maybe it was spurred by the fact we had run out of clean clothes, maybe it’s because the horizon looked like nothing but rain (it never really rained that day though) or the fact we were craving some faster internet than the iPhone could provide or just wanted a decent cup of coffee. Whatever the case, we were back home by 6pm driving at a leisurely pace, just in time for a big rain to hit while we changed in to clean clothes and made a nice hot cup of coffee.

By far one of my best spur-of-the-moment trips.