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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Okay, so I’ll start by saying sorry that this report is so late (5 months to be exact). I’ve been waiting on one of the guys to send the photos over to me but, for some strange reason, I seem to have lost contact with him. Knowing how much you lot love your pictures, I really didn’t want to report with only a couple of pics from my phone.

Well, I ended up going on another trip to Koh Samui which included Ao Nang on the return. This time round I remembered my camera so I now have pics to show you all. I’ve (kind of) merged the two reports to give you as much info as possible. So, here we go:

1st Trip
The original plan was for eight of us to meet at a petrol station in Rawai, on the lower south-eastern side of Phuket, about five minutes away from two beaches. The meeting time was supposed to be 8:30am. However, I didn’t get much sleep the night before. This was partly due to getting Ellie (my dog) to her hotel and last minute kit organised and packed - but mainly because I was too excited. I woke up at 8:25am. Now, my mate, John, who’d invited me on the ride had warned me that the group organiser hates tardiness and left the conversation with a final word of advice: “Don’t be late!”

So, there I was, the new guy of the group, still in bed staring through bleary eyes at the clock. It must have seemed to the gecko on the wall like the opening scene to ‘Four weddings and a funeral’ with all the swearing. I got straight on the phone and told John that I’d meet them at the Central Shopping mall; a landmark I knew they would have to ride past.

Suffice it to say, I’ve never got myself organised as quickly as I did that morning:

Clothes on – Check
Clothes for trip - Check
Tank bag – Check
House keys – Check
Bike key – Check
GPS Phone – Check
Maps – Check
Bike – Yeah baby!

Now, I knew there would be something I’d forgotten, but there just wasn’t time to go through it all. The Central Shopping Mall was around 10 minutes away at this time in the morning (yes, even small islands suffer from heavy rush hour traffic in the morning), and the guys were around 12 minutes away and already sitting on their bikes. I could only hope that they would wait for me. At least the sun was shining and it was already a warm day.

Cutting across the bottom of the island, through Chalong from the east side of the 4021 to the west side of the loop, I was feeling really apprehensive but excited to finally be doing something I had wanted to do for such a long time. In fact, it was at this point I realised the trip would also be a bit of a milestone for me. I was heading towards the very island where I had first ever ridden a motorised bike (a Honda moped 50cc) but was now riding a 2004 Kawasaki zx10r (Ayumi), some 10 years later.

Memories of that first ride were still playing in my mind as I arrived at the secondary meeting point (just outside Phuket town), and my heart sank. There were no big bikes to be seen. I waited for a couple of minutes hoping beyond hope that I might have actually arrived before them, but soon realised they had been and gone.

Well, I thought, you’ve got a fast bike and now’s the time to prove it. I set my GPS for Phang na (not a difficult route but you never know) and set off.

The 4021 (west side) is probably the best main road, in terms of condition, on the whole island and leads up to the 4022 – Soi Thepkasattri - the main road that takes you on to the mainland – via the 4020. Stopping at the traffic lights just before the bypass road, which links the two, I saw a guy on a black Harley Davidson. I don’t know why, but I just had this gut instinct that I should ask him if he’s part of the same group. When he said that he was, I was relived and, of course, apologised for being late. His reply made me laugh, “I really wouldn’t worry about it, so am I.”

This was a major break for me. If Less hadn’t been there, I would have been forced to try and catch up with the group before they got to Phang na and the next meeting point. Now, I’d driven on these roads before in the car, so they weren’t a complete mystery. But that isn’t the same thing, as we all know, as riding a bike and, to add to the difficulty, I had no idea where the next meeting point was. Now I could at least relax a bit knowing that I was following a guy who knew exactly where we were meeting.

The journey out of Phuket went by easy. In the past, the roundabout named the 1Heroines monument was an absolute nightmare in the morning. Now, due to the number of accidents, I guess, the police have blocked the route crossing it so that you can only go left or straight on. That one change in the road saved us up to 10 minutes of hunting for a gap in the traffic. About 15 minutes later, the two of us were passing the checkpoint gate just before the Sarasin bridge. The checkpoint is a fairly new development, set up specifically to deal with the massive influx of illegal immigrants, guns and drugs that have found their way on to the island in recent years. It was strange for me. The last time I’d left Phuket by road, the checkpoint was no more than a couple of road cones and a group of police officers with mopeds. Now, the road is blocked off and you are directed through an official drive-thru building area.

Sign-of-the-times, I guess.

Well, neither of us was asked to pullover, so it was visors down and time to make headway. Not long after the bridge, we came to a fork in the road that marks the beginning of the 402. Now if you’re going to Phang na, it really doesn’t matter which side of the fork you take. I personally would recommend going right, if only because of the lack of road works and it’s a straighter route, but I had to stay with my guide and he missed the turning.

1. The Heroines are revered for saving the island from the invading Burmese circa 1780s. The governor at the time had been killed and the fear was that the enemy would take strength from it. So, his wife and her sister dressed all the women in the battle armour and headgear and went out on two separate front line battles. In one battle, the helmet was knocked off one of the sisters. It is said that when the Burmese realised that Thai women could fight with such ferocity they backed down.

The same thing happens as you get to the Krabi turning. Nevertheless, both sides of the loop provide you will breathtaking scenery, where massive rock structures jut out of the ground seemly from nowhere. The left side is made up mainly of twisties but has great views and the right is just as stunning with fantastic rock structures and hills but is a lot straighter.

The first 30 kilometres of the left side of the loop revealed my first problem as we headed into the twisties. When trying to turn-in, I felt that the front of the bike washing away from me. At first, I thought this was due to entering the corners too fast and the gusting wind (no, not the chilli kind), but it became evident that it was happening at quite slow-ish speeds as well. I soon realised that with strong winds, the extra weight over the tank and me inadvertently sitting up too high and too far forward, I wasn’t helping Ayumi at all. With a little adjustment to my riding position, Ayumi woke up and showed how she could handle these corners without all that dead weight up front. It was like going from a tractor to riding a true super bike in an instant.

Living on a small island like Phuket for a few years, you naturally slow down, trying to anticipate what that child or soi dog standing at the side of the road is going to do next or whether that motorbike that’s overtaking you on the right is actually going to be taking the next left in 50 metres (they do love that little trick). A few friends have even criticised my choice of bike on the basis that’s just too big and powerful for the island. Yet I had bought the zx10r with this type of trip in mind and, with the long roads and wide-open spaces, I knew I’d made the right choice. As much as I loved my old CBR 400, I would have hated it by this point of the trip – even if it had made it without breaking down.

Meeting up with the rest of the group in Phang na gave me a little time to check over the bike and get a much needed cup of coffee down my neck. There were some interesting bikes in our band, three pretty big Harleys, a Honda CB400, two Honda Shadows and a Kawasaki 650 Ninja (the same colour as Ayumi) and a great bunch of guys riding them. It’s amazing how such a group could get on. We were so different in personalities, nationalities, backgrounds and attitudes and yet all bonded well, primarily because we were all doing something we love – riding bikes. From here on in, we would be cutting northeast across the lower leg of Thailand non-stop (except for fuel - and Ayumi was proving thirsty already) until we reached the ferry in Surat Thani. There was a good reason for our hurry, according Jurgen, our group leader, “If you miss the ferry, you have to camp overnight to try and catch the one in the morning.”

I’ve since been told there’s one every hour from 9am to 5pm.

The biggest problem we would face, however, would be whether the attendants would let us on board. Even if we (the bikes) got there first (it is supposed to be first come first served), there was no guarantee we would be getting on that boat.

From Phang na to Surat Thani proved smooth and fast progress. Even when the fine rains did come, it lifted the spirits as the temperature of both bike and rider dropped to pleasant levels. In fact, the closer we got to Surat Thani the more rain we were running into. It seems amazing to me that although the two islands are only separated by 450 kilometres, the seasons are diametrically apposed. We were headed towards Koh Samui in its low season period just as Phuket was hitting its high season and good weather. I was now beginning to worry about the weather conditions on a ferry crossing that doesn’t exactly have the greatest safety record in the world.

Well, I didn’t have too much time to think about that as, as far as I could tell, the bike needed fuel again and I hadn’t seen a fuel stop for sometime. Running around Phuket, I’d be lucky to see around 155 kilometres before the little warning light would start doing its job. I knew there was at least another 15 kilometres after that, and that those figures were based on stop start traffic, so I should be able to go further on long, more constant throttle openings, but how much more I had no idea. The trip meter was showing 190 and the light still remained off, but we had been moving along at around 140 – 160 kmph.

The 44 road to Surat thani is nearly 200 kilometres of wide straights and gentle curves littered with coconut trees, jutting rock formations and rolling hills. It’s a great place to ride easy and drink in the relaxation of it all or give it some stick. That said, I do have a word of caution for anyone taking it. BEWARE OF THE DURIAN. This road is the main Durian transit route between Phuket, Krabi, Surat Thani and Bangkok. When transporting Durian (a very large fruit when still in its husk), the drivers just throw as many into the back of their trucks and pick-ups as they possibly can. One thing you can be sure of is that they never bother covering them or tying them down, so it should come as no surprise to see an object the size of a large watermelon either falling out of a truck and heading towards you or just lying in wait in the middle of the road.

Finally, a few short kilometres outside Surat Thani, I saw a rickety old dump of a petrol station and reluctantly pulled in. It was the sort of place no one would want to use, but I had no idea how much fuel I had left or how much further it was before the next station. Now, while there are all kinds of advantages to being able to speak Thai, there are a few disadvantages as well. The women at these stations don’t really have anyone to talk to besides their fellow attendants, and any stimulating conversation they are likely to have had dried up a long time ago. This wouldn’t be a problem for those that don’t speak the language because, generally, the attentants can understand the basics but that’s about it. I, however, was fresh meat. Before I’d even got my Givi bag off the tank, I was asked where I was going and where I was from. By the time the filler was pumping whatever it was it was pumping, I was asked the inevitable:

Do you have a wife?
No.
Do you have a girlfriend or gik (friend with benefits)?
No. (Not true, but I live in hope the one word answers will kill-off unwanted conversation - it never does though)
Do you want one?
No.
Why not?
I don’t want a headache. If I want to go on a long bike journey with my friends I don’t want to have to ask anyone’s permission (I have found that this last line generally gets them realising they’re not going to get any joy out of you and they clam up).


At this point I realised that I hadn’t looked into the tank to get a gauge of how much was left before the attendant had started pumping. Sh!t! And I now realised I had to catch up with the group, as they hadn’t seen me pull in. Unlike some of you guys and girls, I’d not had much opportunity to really feel what a modern 1000cc motorbike is like approaching 200 kmph quickly, but I knew this was one of those appropriate moments to find out (This has since happened many times and I have past it by... quite a bit). The road ahead was wide, long and clear and I had a fair bit of ground to make up. I knew it would be folly to just grab a fist full of throttle and I had no intention of ending up on my arse. So I got the bike to around 130kmph and checked that I was comfortable and the tank bag was okay. Then I started to ease the throttle around. There is a point with the Kawasaki that lets you know you are about to enter warp speed... No, that’s not quite right as I wasn’t going to be going that fast. It wasn’t warp speed it was more like a warning that I was about to enter warp-like acceleration...

I don’t believe the English language provides us with suitable adjectives to describe the psychotic or schizophrenic change in the bike’s personality. I suppose it would be a little like commanding an old WW11 battle ship to go to full speed ahead and finding that by the time it reached 5 knots it suddenly became the USS Enterprise NCC1701A. The build up of power was spectacular, ferocious and delicious, and it certainly didn’t take very long to catch up with the group again.

Surat Thani
Surat Thani is a pretty big place as far as I can tell, with big, wide roads carving through it. Unfortunately these roads are in heavy use and you can see the ruts caused by so many trucks and the shine on them from use and oil. All I really remember is the smell of diesel and thinking about the impending ferry trip. There is a lot more to the place but, as yet, I haven’t seen it.

The Ferry
As I’ve already said, these ferries don’t exactly have the greatest safety record. In fact it’s pretty bad. When we finally got to the port waiting for the go-ahead to board, the weather had turned decidedly grey and unpleasant. Just trying to get the bikes on to a ferry that was rocking from side to side felt like you had suddenly and instantly become drunk in charge of big bike. Fortunately all eight of us managed to get on without dropping the bikes. Price for one person and their big bike one way is 240 baht (approx £5 or $7.40)

Having just mirrored this same half of the trip in the end of March, I would advise you to not go in October. The waters on that first trip were extremely rough, but table-top smooth this time round. The only down side is that in March the road temperatures are very high and it is advisable to stop more often to replace lost fluids.

Koh Samui
Koh Samui seemed so much smaller and more developed than I remember it, mainly because it has had some money thrown at it. After coming off the ferry on that first trip, I just couldn’t keep the throttle steady for all the bumps in the road. Now, just five months later, a good 50% of the ring road has been tarmac-ed, making for a much more relaxing ride.

Second impressions are that, although road-users in Samui aren’t nearly as crazy as those in Phuket, you still need to keep your eyes wide open. Generally speaking, Koh Samui has far prettier beaches than Phuket and appears more rustic and friendly. One thing is certain it is a lot cheaper!

2nd Trip
As the return of the first trip was just a reverse of what I’ve already told you, I’ll now tell you about the second. Instead of heading back to Phang na we (this time a group of five all on Kawasakis –650 ninjas x3, ER6n x1 and my zx10r) followed that wonderful 44 road back down to the Phang na turn-off (I won’t divulge speeds, just use your imagination) and made for the A2 to Ao Phra Nang.

The A2 is a fantastic road in good condition, and we were able to maintain a pace far faster than that first trip 5 months ago. I have to say that we didn’t spend anywhere near as much time as we would have liked in Ao Nang and the surrounding areas. The scenery was far better than anything I had seen so far in Thailand, and I’ve been reliably informed there are a lot of activities to get involved in. The main town of Ao Nang is really upmarket compared to Phuket and Koh Samui, and yet again, cheaper. This place really felt like the lovely beach resorts of the Med from my past, and every time I turned my head on that stretch of the ride, there seemed to be another turning with fantastic roads and scenery promising waterfalls, great twisties and other adventures. Sadly, we left early the next morning and were back in Phuket just a few short hours later. Rest assured though, I will be headed back that way soon and will report on my findings. All I will add is that touring is now in my blood and I think about it all the time.

Hope you enjoy the pictures to follow:
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Great thread and nice pics.... Glad it went safely...
Thanks, Maholli. Just a shame its taken me so long to get the report up. Glad you liked it. The next trip to Ao nang will be coming up in the next two months, as its only a couple of hours away from me and roads there just look sooooo appealing:D
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
:thumb: Awsome!!
Looks Sick surf!! totally awesome... i'm not jealous at all! good write up too! :freebird:
Thanks guys. It really has been some of the best times in my life, especially on the second trip as my brother came along, too. I suppose it goes without saying that he's hooked on touring as well, and will more than likely be coming on the next trip:thumb:
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Cracking write up and pic's, well done young fella :thumb:
Thanks Bucko. Glad you enjoyed it.:thumb:

Hey Surf. Your story is good enough to submit to one of the Bike Mags. Perhaps we are seeing the budding career of a Moto Jounalist in the makings. :thumb:
Wow, Denzee. Praise indeed. Thanks:thumb:
 

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Yep, that's the place. Good to see you on the new blue machine, Scubba buddha:D
Yeah I already sold that one. lol I think the blue will be white soon though.

I just decided your pic and mine are literally right around the corner from each other. See where that car is coming from the right in your pic? Mine was taken about 200m behind that. A very nice Thai man that was refurbishing his gas station let me put my bike right inside the station while waiting out a squall.

Hey didn't you have a green and black bike when I saw you last?
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Yeah I already sold that one. lol I think the blue will be white soon though.
Yeah, just read your pm. Look forward to seeing it.

I just decided your pic and mine are literally right around the corner from each other. See where that car is coming from the right in your pic? Mine was taken about 200m behind that. A very nice Thai man that was refurbishing his gas station let me put my bike right inside the station while waiting out a squall.
Well, it's one of those places that scream out for a photo shoot.:D

Hey didn't you have a green and black bike when I saw you last?
No, she's always been black during my ownership of her:huh:
 

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Yeah, just read your pm. Look forward to seeing it.



Well, it's one of those places that scream out for a photo shoot.:D



No, she's always been black during my ownership of her:huh:
Well that's odd cause I swear I remember it not being all black. Hmmm.

If I would have known you were doing this trip I would've tagged along!! I think during the first trip I still had the blue Ninja. I would rent anyway. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Well that's odd cause I swear I remember it not being all black. Hmmm.

If I would have known you were doing this trip I would've tagged along!! I think during the first trip I still had the blue Ninja. I would rent anyway. :)
You must be getting senile in your old age. I've even got the original showroom pic of her before I bought it and it was all black then, too.:rotfl: :rotfl:

Well, I'll call you this weekend for a beer and we'll chat. :D
 
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