Friday, June 20, 2014

Northern Thailand

April 1. Houayxay Laos to Chiang Mai Thailand. 299 km.
We had free breakfast at the hotel and got on the road. It was already getting hot and it was early. Our "vacation" into cold weather of northern Laos was officially over. It had been for about a week but we were telling ourselves a lie that it would stay cool. At the border they said "You can't ride motorbike across friendship bridge". Say what? Apparently, there is an agreement between Thailand and Cambodia that motorbikes can't cross the bridge. So for 1000 thai baht, you can cross the bridge with a Police escort. $30 to cross a bridge? I guess its better then a ferry. We stamped our documents and followed the truck across the bridge. The whole way across, I don't remember anyone else on the bridge. On the Thai side there lanes separate and make an X. This is so you switch to the left side of the road. We wanted to make good time to Chiang Mai so we didn't venture off the main highways to far. We still had some good twisty roads once we got passed the lines of cars behind trucks. Once in Chiang Mai we went to Rider's Corner. For about $12 a night you can have a comfortable (nothing fancy) hotel room with AC and Wifi. I used this address to send the new footpeg mount.

Border Guard signed Laos. But he wouldn't allow us to take a picture.

April 2-5 Chiang Mai.
We spent a few days waiting for parts and exploring the city. Chiang Mai has a moat that surrounds the city. There is a one way road going clockwise outside the moat, and a one way road going counter clockwise on the inside. Its not so bad to navigate if you are riding. But in a Tuktuk or taxi it can mean big fares because of extra distance.

We went to a Ladyboy Cabaret one night. It was actually quite entertaining. If you ever thought they were girls on stage, you just had to look down at their huge feet.


KTM Chiang Mai had Motorex 10w 60 for me at the cheap price of $30 per liter. Normally I like Motul but I looked everywhere and I couldn't find any. I sent an email to Motul Asia in Bangkok and they said they doesn't import 10w 60 for this market. One shop had Putoline 10w 60 full synthetic. I had never heard of this and I thought it would work in a pinch if the KTM shop didn't come through. I found another shop with Agip 10w 60 sythetic but they only had 1 liter. I knew the quality of this oil because it is what I use in my Aprilia supermoto. The KTM shop said I could use their shop to do my oil change. So one night I checked my valve clearance outside Rider's Corner and in the morning I changed my oil at the KTM shop. I don't think KTM Chiang Mai even had a mechanic and the owner was joking that I should stay and work for them.

Checking the valve clearance. 
"Its really hot here"

That doesn't look right. 

Yup. its fooked. 

Phil from Rider's Corner gave us a contact to rent a bike. They had CRF250s and some E6Rs for rent. The CRFs were about $20 a day and they had one with SM wheels. She sat on it and she was still nervous about the height. The mechanic at the shop noticed her nervousness and said "I can put a lowering link on it for you". Perfect. We were sold. We would pick it up the next day before leaving town.

April 6. Chiang Mai to Nan. 303 km.
We woke up early and rode over to C&P bikes to pick up the CRF for her. She was a little nervous when she first go on the bike but soon she was feeling good on it. We packed up and headed out of the city. After about 15 km we pulled over because we smelled burning rubber. The CRF still had the stock pipe which is massive and it was rubbing on the tire over just about any bump. We rode back to the shop and they put some spacer to move the exhaust out so the tire would not contact it. It was a start but the side of the tire still rubbed when she hit a hard bump or dip. The tire was only rubbing on the side of the tread so we didn't think it would be a problem. The CRF would cruise nicely at 90 km/h but any more than that and it was really working. In the afternoon we got on a nice twisty road and I could see she wanted to push the bike but she was unsure. I asked her what if it felt like the front tire would slid out in the corner and she said yeah. That night I dropped the front forks in the triple clamps about 1/2 inch. The same as the lowering link. This made a world of difference in the handling of this bike. From that moment I would have trouble keeping up with her in the corners... unless we were going up hill.

Lowered with longer links.

Lowered by dropping the forks in the triple clamps. 

April 7. Nan to Chiang Kham. 284 km.
There was a bakery in Nan that was baking small loafs of bread with many different "fillings" inside. The ham/cheese one was pretty good. As well as the chicken in a Bbq like sauce. We got a few of these for lunch then headed east toward the hills along the Laos border. The riding was really good. Up and down, back and forth. Perfect to stretch the legs of that little 250. The bike needed a few more horses but it was good. Easy to throw into the corners and very manageable. We left the twisty roads in the afternoon and burned some main roads to get up toward the golden triangle. We made it to the town of Chiang Kham just before the sun was about to set. She was annoyed that I wasn't using my blinker when I was turning. We figured out one of my bulbs had burnt out on the rear. A local Honda scooter shop had a replacement bulb for me. It cost a few dollars and the guy who sold it to me made sure he pointed out "Genuine Honda made in Japan" on the package. I tried to tell him anything will work. It was to bed early after some street food.



April 8. Chiang Kham to Golden Triangle. 180 km.
In the morning the bike would not turn over. I leaned the bike to the right and rocked it back and forth some. I was thinking the auto decompress shaft must have backed out again. The bike fired to life once it engaged. The road north was nothing special but we did get muddy in some construction. We stopped at a hotel near the Golden Triangle monument in the early afternoon and I went to work getting into the head of my bike. Just as I suspected, the copper clip had come of the auto decompress shaft. Again the weight had gotten sloppy and pulled on it. I was pissed at myself because 3 days earlier I had looked at it and thought it was sloppy. I had a spare clip but I didn't have another weight. So I did the next best thing. File the weight so it isn't contacting the shaft. If the weight is not pulling on the clip, it should solve the problem. I sent an email to LukasM and he said he would send me some new parts to Rider's Corner. We had a great pizza, salad and wine that night at a shop owned by a writer from US. He is a former Senior Asia Correspondent and did an interesting piece of work on the Mekong river where he traveled the whole 3000 miles of the Mekong from the Tibetan Plateau to the Delta in Vietnam.

Fishing? Must be a good spot :)

Buddha at the Golden Triangle. 

These guys were paddling up stream. It looked like a good workout. 


April 9. Golden Triangle to Mae Salong. 101 km.
We had been told we needed to check out Mae Salong. It is a small town in northern Thailand's Tea growing area. Most of the people that live and work in this area are of Chinese ancestry. In the 1949, a group of 12000 soldiers from the Chinese Nationalist Army fled China into Burma. Many of them settled in the Mae Salong area. They grew opium and made this their base of operations for an attack against China. In the 70s, Thailand struck a deal with the Chinese rebels to fight the Communist rebels within Thailand. In return they were given Thai citizenship. Now this area is known for tea. The roads getting to Mae Salong were great fun. The town was quite beautiful and we were not planning on staying there. It was early afternoon and the coin toss made the decision to stay so we found a decent bungalow for $10 and got into the shade. We had a nice relaxing afternoon and in the evening enjoyed a bottle of local mulberry wine. The bottle of wine cost more then the bungalow.

A happy girl on a moto. 


April 10. Mae Salong to Fang. 202 km.
I woke up early to try to get some shots of the sunrise. The sunrise itself wasn't anything special but found myself in an early morning market full of colorful locals. She wanted to see the "White temple" Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai so we headed there first. This was the 2nd time we had ridden through Chiang Rai and just as hot as the first. The Temple was very interesting but to the sun was to hot to enjoy for more than 30 minutes. Back on the small roads we started to see kids on the side of the road with buckets of water. Songkran is the Thai new year or "water festival". It is the 13th through the 15th of April. The festival started on Sunday, and kids were already throwing water on Thursday. It was hot so I we didn't care. That night we stayed at an appropriately colored hotel.

Honey comb.


Getting a cool down from the local kids.

April 11. Fang to Mae Hong Son. 323Km.
In the mountains it cools down, but in the valleys it is so fricken hot. I was drinking water as fast as I could and it was just pouring out of me in sweat. If I did SEA again, I would just wear moto gear, not the full jacket. Some kids throwing water would have been nice but we couldn't find any. The town of Pai was a bustling party in the middle of the day when we got to town. We rode through town looking for a fuel station and all we could find was an unmanned pump. Its like a vending machine that you put bills into and it pumps fuel. Its mostly for scooters, but we used it in a pinch. You will pay about 20% higher price then at a station. Just like buying from the side of a road in a bottle. Except maybe this is cleaner? Finally in the afternoon the weather cooled down. We got rained on that night in Mae Hong Song when we walked for dinner. On the menu was a "spicy" curry. I decided to see what "spicy" meant. I ate it and it was amazing. But wow was it hot. I was sweating so bad my shirt was soaked. After dinner I needed an icecream to cool my mouth. When we got back to the hotel I feared my stomach was not going to like what I had just done to it. But the uneasy feeling went away quickly. The next day I was scared to use the toilet after my morning coffee. But I am relieved to report it only burned when I ate it.

It rains often. But it doesn't last long most of the time.


Our bungalow. 
April 12. Mae Hong Son to Chiang Mai. 285 km.
Mae Hong Son loop is great fun on a bike. I think if you lived around here, your tires would wear out on the sides instead of the middle. It seems you are always in a turn. You have to watch out for the delivery trucks in Thailand. They take a 2 wheel drive Toyota, Izuzu, Nissan or Ford pickup and put heavy duty springs and shocks in the back. Then they load them up with everyting form people to seafood. If its a seafood truck, they go as fast as possible because its not refrigerated and they don't want the product to spoil. I meant to take a picture of one of the spring sets on these trucks. It looks like they stole them off a Kamaz and installed them. The 14 or 20 layers of springs is so thick it gets close to the pavement. The last 50 or so km into Chiang Mai was interesting. The party had definitely started and we were wet when we got back to riders corner. I took the rental bike back to the shop. It was pretty fun darting around on that 250 motard while people were trying to hit me with water. Would have been even more fun if traffic wasn't standing still.

She is getting old.

April 13-20. Chiang Mai.
For days the whole city was a waterfight. When you walked to breakfast people were starting already. Sometimes they would leave you alone. But if it was pushing noon when you were walking back to your hotel, you would be soaked. We spend these 3 days soaked and being a part of the craziness.

I ordered a new Tractive shock from Rally Raid the week before. But since the 3 day holiday was happening, there was no way I would get my parts. They were just sitting in Bangkok waiting.. waiting for everyone to stop playing with water guns. LukasM sent me a few parts for my cam and a RallyRaid billet suspension linkage. When the shock arrived, it also had new rocker arms. When all the parts got there, I started by pulling the shock and suspension linkage. In order to pull the shock I had to unbolt the top bolts of the tank and let it pivot back. Once the new suspension parts were in, I replaced the rocker arms and auto decompress parts. The old shock I packed up in a box with some tea and a few other bits to send back home. I tried to find a fedex, ups or postal service but I had forgotten it was Sunday and everything was closed. We would mail It Postal service the next morning then head south.

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