So Seb and I left off drinking cheap beer in a weird empty hotel near the Poipet border to Thailand, having spent 4 hours watching a roadside mechanic pull Seb’s fuel system to pieces and superglue it back together again!
When we got up at 6 am to try to cross the border we had no idea what was going to happen or if we’d even be allowed to cross. A quick 5 minute ride to the border gate and we pulled up alongside some border police, who looked at us, looked at the bikes and burst out laughing.
They then took great pleasure in letting us know that 90% of people trying to take bikes into Thailand are turned away, particularly if the registration is not in your name, but the name of the original owner in Vietnam.
This was still not the end though as we then found out we had to buy insurance, which is a minimum of 6 months and would cost 200 baht for one bike, when we told them there were 2 bikes the cost was 480 baht….of course it is, that makes perfect sense!
The scenery was stunning and the temperature somewhere up near 40 degrees, so we both acquired lovely Keith Lemon’esqe t-shirt sun tans.
Surprisingly as the sun was setting we joined the main motorway for the last 50km into Bangkok. After a couple of minutes, I turned around to see Seb with the exact same expression on his face as mine and was clearly thinking the same thing, ‘Where are all the other bikes? Oh crap!’ As we pulled up the toll booth queue a very surprised and confused attendant waved us down, shouting something we didn’t need to understand. Apparently motorbikes are not permitted on the motorway! Luckily he radioed his boss and told us to get off at the next junction, which left us 40km outside of Bangkok with idea where we were going, but that was nothing new. We headed of towards what we assumed was Bangkok and spent the next 2 hours dodging traffic on all sides and basically trying not to get hit by cars, buses and scooters. We got so lost that we had to wave down a motorbike taxi and pay him 100 baht (about £2) to escort us to Kao San Road, a place I didn’t like the times I’ve been and never wanted to re-visit and because of that I’m going to skim over the two nights there. We got our Vietnam visas from the embassy, my motorbike start lever broke off and went flying across the road so some tuk tuk drivers and I fixed it with some wire coat hanger, then we left the next day.
Nothing really happened in Sukhothai, because there’s not a lot there and all I wanted to do was eat and sleep.
We left at about 10am for Chiang Mai and quickly ended up on beautiful mountain roads with hardly any traffic. The views were amazing and it felt great not to be in a huge rush for a change. By this point though, Seb’s bike was pouring smoke out the exhaust which turned out to be all of his engine oil being burned up in less than 100km. Mine wasn’t in a good way either barely making it up the hills with a horrible rattling noise coming from the engine. As I tried to accelerate up one of the longest and steepest hills there was a crunch from the gearbox and suddenly I had no gears. Great. I managed to start it up again and luckily pulled away without any problems but something was clearly not right and I spent the rest of the journey wondering when everything was going to fall apart. It didn’t though and we made it to the outskirts of Chiang Mai as the sun was going down and massive storm clouds and lightning filled the sky.
We found our way to JJ’s Guesthouse in the old part of town without any problems. The city is so much nicer than Bangkok. It’s quieter, friendlier, the tuk tuk drivers don’t hassle you every second and I haven’t been offered cheap tailored suits. It’s quite refreshing really!
After a quick shower we met up with Mithin, a guy Seb and Sophie had travelled with through Vietnam, for some food and a few drinks. This turned into quite a few drinks and we ended up playing pool in a seedy bar full of prostitutes and dirty old western men, playing ‘She or He/She?!’ All in all was a really good night, especially knowing we don’t have any more massive journeys to do, the pace is going to be a lot more relaxed from here on.
This morning we woke up with a massive hangover and a list of things to get fixed. I managed to stumble across a British run bike shop called Tony’s Bikes, just a 2 minute walk from the hostel.
We rode the bikes into the shop and that’s when we found out just how much damage we’ve done to the engines by racing them through 2 countries over 4 days and over 1000km.
Both engines are rattling, mine has even less power than usual and Seb’s is much the same with burnt engine oil pouring out the back. Both bikes need a top end rebuild, meaning new pistons and rings, new valves and timing chains. The cost of getting all this done in Laos by a roadside mechanic with cheap Chinese parts would be about $20. But we’re not in Laos, and we’re not using cheap Chinese parts. The cost for all this is going to be 3500 baht per bike, about £80. This is alot, we only paid £192 each for the bikes. But this is a good mechanic who wont use silicone sealant and cardboard instead of a head gasket and it should mean the engine lasts all the way to Hanoi without needing any more work. I hope so!
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