Edward Unruh » Motorcycle travel story

Motorcycle travel story by Edward Unruh
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Thailand-Learning to Ride on the other side

 PUBLISH TRAVEL STORY PUBLISH TRAVEL STORY

Arriving at the Bangkok airport around 11:30 pm on Thursday the 3rd of February 2000, we stepped off the jet into the warm tropical night air. The temperature was 29 degrees Celsius/85 degrees Fahrenheit, roughly 35 degrees Celsius warmer than what we had left behind. That would make it 10:30 am back in Cannon Falls, Mn., which meant that we had spent 22 hours in transit. We were kind of tired. Sleeping on a 747-200 is something I have just never been able to do, and Peggy was only able to dose for very short periods of time, maybe totaling an hour and a half. We made our way through the throngs of tour guides waiting for the foreigner's (the term for foreigners in Thai is "farangs") that were arriving. Our tour guide; "Lek," was standing at the end of the long line of guides. She spotted our "Pacific Delight" buttons we had pinned to our lapels and came over to greet us, knowing we were her responsibility from this point. Lek spoke English very well, and was instantaneously the type of person we felt we could trust.

Lek assertively told us to be ready for our sightseeing tour by 9:30 a.m. the next morning. We were scheduled to go to the Grand Palace. This did not sit well with us as we had just gone roughly 24 hours without any sleep, and here it was aLReady 12:45 a.m. as we pulled up to the entrance of the Dusit Thani hotel. The correct pronunciation is: "Doosit tani." The hotel was said to be a 5 star hotel, and from the looks of the lobby it appeared to be in that category. The room was nice, but I didn't feel it to be in the 5 star range...showing wear and tear from the many guests who had been there before us.

I was hungry by this time, and I knew that I would not sleep well if I didn't find some food to settle my growling stomach. I convinced Peggy into going with me to the Pavilion Coffee Shop. We had no idea what to expect, and with our worn out condition, we were hardly able to keep our eyes open. The menu did have some familiar choices, listing items both in Thai and English. After looking through the menu, we both decided on the hamburger and fries, reassuring each other that this was not the time to sample anything risky. Halfway through the hamburger I gave updisappointed with the quality of the meat. It was at least 60% chunks of gristle, which I couldn't even swallow! Disappointedly we went back to the room, feeling a bit of frustration about what kind of food we could expect the following day.

Completely exhaustedwe finally dosed off about 2:30 a.m., Friday. In the morning we made our way to the Coffee Shop for our inclusive buffet breakfast. Thanks to the hamburger incident from the night before, I immensely troubled about the food quality. But our fears were short lived once we filled up our plates with an irresistible selection of fruits, pastries, meats, cereal, and eggs. By 9:00 am we were in the lobby waiting for Lek. Minutes later she arrived and was a personality you would have to see to believe. She was so cheerful and displayed her enthusiasm openly while greeting us. We were treated like royalty as Lek ushered us out to the mini van and the chauffeur opened our door. I have been to a few large cities that have been known to have congestion, concerning traffic, such as Chicago, New York, Los Angeles or Munich, Germany...but this was by far the most accurate example of absolute gridlock we had ever seen. In Thailand traffic drives on the left side of the road instead of the right. This did not feel dangerous or unusual if we were continuing in a straight line, but if the driver made a left or right turn it felt as if we were going to end up in a head on collision at any moment. No one would stay in his or her own lane. They were regularly straddled over the lines, unconcerned with anyone behind them. This had me feeling tense, and was not following what we consider to be the simplest of rules in the United States: "Stay in your own Lane."

Pollution from automotive emissions was absolutely terrible. Considering the probability of absolutely no regulations on emissions, then realizing how many Diesel driven buses, trucks and pickups were moving about the city, throw in a tuk tuk for good measure (3 wheel motorcycles), then top it off with literally millions of 2 stroke motorcycles!! You get the picture? That's right...heavy, nauseous smog! Inside the limousine van we had normal breathing, thanks to the air conditioning. But out on the streets the smog was always noticeable. The smog seemed extremely visible in the early morning hours as the sun was just beginning to bring daylight. The haze would not even allow us to see the buildings off in the distance clearly until mid morning. The Grand Palace was only special to me in one way; the diversity of color that was present...dressing up the buildings with a unique cultural setting that was obviously traditional Thai style. But other than that...being a spiritually reborn Christian who believes in God the father of creation, I felt concerned for this nation that is 95% Buddhist. I really don't understand they're religion (philosophy) nearly enough, so I won't say anymore, because the last thing I really want to do is offend someone without being well versed in they're particular beliefs.

Around 11:00 am that morning I found a pay phone on the Temple grounds, and delved into my pocket for a one Baht coin (it takes 37.55 Baht to equal 1 U.S. dollar) to call the Jammer motorcycle shop, which according to my last e-mail, was waiting for my call. The coin was just about equal to 3.7 cents in American money, and I was surprised that such a meager amount would be enough. I really had no idea where the shop was or how any of this would work out, but I had optimistic intentions of following through with my part of the promise. I got a-hold of "Tui," the owner of the shop. He seemed to be happy to hear from me even though we had never spoken together before. Actually the contacts I had used through the Internet were acquaintances of Tui's, since he had no experience at using a computer. He does however, have a computer in his shop and his daughter, who is proficient in computers, is usually able to take care of whatever may need to be done. My admiration for the economical phone system evaporated instantly, when the phone went dead. I asked Lek what happened, and she informed me that the coin was only good for 3 minutes. So I called right back, and when Tui answered again, he was not irritated in the least, apparently knowing exactly what had happened. We formulated a plan to get together the following day around 11:00 a.m. at the Jammer store.

Lek was somewhat unhappy to hear that we would not be able to make the tour on Saturday, which was to include touring the river market along with some other interesting sights. I explained to her that tomorrow was my only chance to pick up the scooter, because Tui informed me he was going to be leaving town and riding to the beach area in Pattaya for the weekend. The next day we received some help from the concierge in getting a taxi, and had the hotel people write down the Jammer Store address in the Thai language, so the non English speaking taxi driver could find the place. The driver seemed confused but shook his head to the doorman that he understood where the place was. He drove out onto Rama lV road and immediately pulled over by a couple of other taxi drivers, and mumbling something we could not understand...jumped out of the car and hurried over to one of them, apparently getting directions. A minute later he came back and signaled for us to get out of his car and to climb in another taxi, because he didn't know where the address was. So we gladly obliged him. Once again, we were on our way to the other side of Bangkok!

I spotted the Jammer sign on one of the buildings, and hurriedly pointed to it, signaling for the driver to turn in the alley. I was impressed with how quiet the location of the Jammer shop was merely a block off of the busy street. We walked into the shop and met Tui's wife and asked her for change to cover the taxi fare. Tui was sleeping on a couch. Turns out that one of Tui's buddies had just gotten in from the South China, where he worked on an oil platform. Apparently they had been doing a little celebrating the night before. Kind of looked like Tui was feeling a bit of a hangover. Just then a Harley and its rider pulled up outside. A middle-aged gentleman hopped off and came into the shop. He introduced himself as Ross. Ross is an Australian citizen, who has lived in Thailand for 4 Ѕ years. He talked with a down under accent...continually referring to me as "mate," while we exchanged comments.

Originally the plan was to have a motorcycle taxi (motorcycle riders that pick up passengers, and taxi them by motorcycle for a fee), come by and lead us back to our hotel. But after visiting with Ross...he said he would be happy to guide us back, eventually leading us to the intersection where he would go one way, and we would turn the other way...leaving us on our own to deal with the atrocious traffic. Tui was really a nice guy, and offered help of all sorts. I sensed that he knew what we were about to do was an enormously challenging venture. The bike Tui decided to loan to us was a 93 FLSTN. In other words...it was a "Heritage Soft-tail Nostalgia." This was one of Tui's personal motorcycles. We had already discussed the rental price and had decided on 8000 baht. That comes out to roughly $216.00 U.S. dollars. For 3 days of riding...about $68.00 per day. Now that is a real bargain for a bike of this magnitude! I began to understand that he wasn't your typical authorized rental agency. He had me fill out a small form that he felt comfortable with for his protection and mine, and I signed it. Other than that, we simply, verbally agreed on the liability issue (me being responsible for any damage to the bike or us). This certainly wasn't like home. There really aren't many regulations to worry about in Thailand (other than drugs, theft or murder).

I did feel at ease during those moments shortly before we would take off. Tui told me to fire up the Heritage and ride around the parking lot a few times to get a feel for the bike. The handlebars were a different profile than normal and spread out kind of far, but it only took me a few minutes to adjust. Having all the essentials ironed out, Ross jumped onto his bike, suggesting we get going and fired it up. I mounted the Heritage, and hit the starter button...feeling the strong current of adrenaline flowing within, as the engine responded to my command. This was unquestionably going to be an undertaking of extremely treacherous conditions. I already had witnessed the traffic in Bangkok, and felt a lot of pressure, being a visitor to this weird and wonderful place. Both Peggy and I prayed hard for safety, trusting in God to protect us from harm. From that time on we felt a calming sensation of tranquility surrounding us. I was glad Ross was leading us out into the congestion, instead of a motorcycle taxi. The taxi's behaved more like kamikazes than chauffeurs. And besides...Ross was on a big Harley, just like us. He didn't have the same advantages as the little motorcycles riding everywhere around us. They could fit through the narrowest of lanes in between cars, trucks or buses.

He did have an ability to feel his way into and through tighter spots than I cared to, occasionally leaving us feeling stranded and alone. We oftentimes would be stuck in traffic, waiting for the flow to continue, hoping to motor through tiny spaces amid the jam to catch up. This had me gunning it, much to Peggy's chagrin. I was thankful that Ross was laying back just a tad for our sake, because we could have been left way behind. Stopping at one of the traffic lights, Ross told us that motorcycles are only suppose to ride in the far left hand lane. I assumed the reason to be because the average motorbikes are so slow. But a Harley Davidson is very rare in Thailand...where do they fit in? I knew that the "rules of the road" were lax to say the least, knowing sensible riding practices would be the safest way to stay out of trouble, and I certainly didn't want any confrontations. So instead of getting competitive, like a racer, I attempted to relinquished my typically aggressive personality and introduce in its place...patience. But we still had to put up with the constant sound of literally hundreds of little ear-piercing motorcycles screaming past us. Didn't they know how to fix their mufflers around these parts? On a few occasions we did manage to get to the front of the procession, and when that happened...once the light turned green, we were out of there in a flash, leaving all the bumblebees behind instantly, blowing past all the cars as well. But by the next traffic light, all the buzzing, two-stroke, antagonists were back along side us. Only this time they showed interest; inquisitively examining our scooters with admiration. I guess it was notably an extraordinary machine for this country and you know...I was irrefutably enjoying their interest!

We made it to the intersection at Rama lV road, and Ross motioned for us to get in the right lane to continue our course to the hotel, so we overtly saluted him, thanking him genuinely, for helping us get this far. Instantly I felt overwhelmed with the up-and-coming challenge of negotiating the rest of the way on our own. I really had to concentrate. And I felt confident that we would make it back to the hotel without incident. I was thinking to myself how it couldn't be more than a few miles to get there, when suddenly Peggy jabbed me saying; "Isn't that building right next to our hotel?" I tried to turn around and look, but with so much of my effort needed to keep from crashing into someone, I had to wait until the next traffic light. Once stopped and firmly planting both feet on the pavement...I twisted around looking to the left, but could not recognize anything. "I know that building" Peggy said, "it's right next to our hotel, because I remember standing out on our balcony and seeing it!" I figured if she was wrong, all we would end up doing was going around the block. I whipped into the left lane, and we proceeded to try and find our 23-story hotel, which was starting to feel more like a needle in a haystack, than a big building in this enormous city. As we headed back, looking for the "elusive hotel", my confidence grew, somehow believing this to be our neighborhood. We had one of those skinny little streets; the Thai's call Soi's, straight in front of us. It didn't look to be a throughway, but I really felt like it was our best chance to get to Silom Rd. And we both knew that if we could find Silom Rd. we would positively be able to find our way to the hotel. I did see motorcycles parked here and there on the Soi, so I didn't feel like it was an illegal area, as I skillfully maneuvered over speed bumps and around vendors. "Ah! Silom Road," I erupted. "There it is, and what a happy sight indeed." It had to be Silom, because the sky-train monorail was right above us. So I turned left, and within a couple of city blocks I knew we were going to make it.

There was our hotel up ahead on the right. I steered into the right lane, preparing to turn right, directly into the Dusit Thani parking lot, when for a split second my concentration faltered...leaving us vulnerable, I headed for the wrong lane, and nearly ran right into a car, whose operator was by this time, honking the horn furiously at us! I abruptly braked and angled left, barely leaning out of his way. Finally, we found ourselves entering a haven of neutrality. Though at that moment I was immeasurably shaken up. Just seconds ago; I had nearly ended our maiden voyage with an incident that could have been nasty. I found a parking place and was pulling into it, when the security guard came running over and signaled to us that we could not park there. I could not understand why, and not being able to communicate with him with anything other than sign language, I continued pulling into the spot. He became frantic and began shouting and waving his hands in the air. By this time we noticed other people watching our little altercation. Personally; I don't like disagreements anyway, so I backed out of the space and rode up the ramp to the main entrance.

The doorman knew we were coming back with the Harley, and we noticed his smile, larger than usual. He told us to take the Heritage down underneath the ramp we were on and park it there. Whew!! What a relief to finally climb off that machine still alive! The rest of that day, I voiced my concerns to Peggy, about riding the Heritage out of the city in morning. I was still extremely shaken from the parking lot ordeal, truly worried about the traffic. Peggy was equally worried. Eventually, by later that evening, I calmed down and began to look at the earlier misfortunes as valuable lessons that were useful tools to help me keep my perspective. That night I studied the map, making sure I knew the precise route we would need to take, to get out of Bangkok and onto the bridge linking us with Thon Buri (pronounced Ton Buri). Thon Buri is really just an extension of Bangkok. From Thon Buri we would need to make the transition onto highway 4.

Lots of prayer the evening before, had me waking up with lofty expectations...willing to climb back on the motorcycle and get out of town before the Sunday morning traffic got worse. Peggy also seemed eager to seize the moment. After we gorged ourselves on the buffet breakfast, we grabbed all the gear we felt we would need for the overnight adventure, loaded up the bike, and headed on our way. We were pleased with the volume of traffic for a Sunday morning, feeling a lot less pressure than yesterday afternoon. I kept asking Peggy to remind me about the need to stay on the left side of the road, and she confirmed that she would. I do feel that the challenge of the opposite driving rules would not have been nearly as harrowing if we had been seated in a car. On a motorcyclethe seating position was actually in the same familiar spot (smack dab in the middle for balancing). But cars had the steering wheel on the right side...allowing a neophyte to perceive a difference immediately.

Shortly after turning onto Charoen Krung Road I noticed the bridge I initially planned on crossing to get into Thon Buri, but I could not find the entry to get onto it. Not to worry...I also knew that in about 5 or 6 more blocks there was another bridge we could cross. So when I got close and noticed the bridge I watched carefully to see where the entrance was to get on the bridge. "Alright!" I hollered ecstatically, as we found our way on and across the bridge. My confidence growing, I felt like if we could only find Phet Kasem road, then we would really be in luck! There we were riding in the proper direction on Phet Kasem road (the problem was we didn't know it, cause it was really hard to spot and read any of the street signs). So I pulled into a shell station for gas. The attendants were standing at the pumps, just waiting to fill our tanks with gas (This was the custom at every gas station we pulled into)! I cautiously grabbed the nozzle from the young man, not wanting to offend him and shoved it into the left hand tank, filling it up all the way. Then I gave the nozzle back to him, and removing the right hand cap, I gestured at him to shove it in and finish filling up. By the time he completed our fill up, I had our map out and began grilling his companion for information as to where highway 4 was. Like all previous attempts we had trying to communicate during our brief stint in Thailand, we could not seem to break through the difference of our languages. Then finally I mentioned "Phet Kasem" road. One of the young Thai men responded with affirmation that the road we were on was indeed the road we were looking for! It was a big relief, knowing that we already had accomplished the most difficult part of the journey, by finding the road that was actually the very highway that would eventually take us directly into Pranburi.

We were off and running and I was still very concerned about the aggressive driving techniques of the Thai people. The left lane was always crowded with buses and trucks, and they frequently belched out clouds of black from their diesel exhausts. After a while, I was having sinus difficulties and found myself randomly sneezing. Getting somewhat irritated with the excessive emissions, I decided that going around them as quickly and often as I could, would be better than sitting behind them and breathing in their polluting un-burnt gases. Once I figuring out that the highway, which still appeared to be more like a wide city street, was actually giving us 3 lanes going in our direction, I became more willing to use the 2nd and 3rd lanes. The cars on the inside lane continued to go dangerously fast. Traffic signals were not as frequent by this time, and bigger motorcycles would occasionally come blasting past us, doing probably about 80 or 90 km/h. The appearance of the road continued to feel more like city than country for another 50 kilometers or so. It seemed like we had been riding in the saddle for at least a couple of hours by this time, so we pulled into another gas station, to grab something to drink, since our throats were so dried out from all the nasty exhaust fumes.

Eventually, as we continued south on highway 4, we finally saw the rural landscape. Plants were different and unusual to anything we have ever seen before, appearing to have a dense growth within each plant or tree, but not densely growing on the land. This gave us the opportunity to see out into the distance. There were palm, coconut, and several others species of trees, within view. There were no restaurants along the route, other than a couple of small vending stands. We didn't trust the quality of food at those places yet, so we decided to buy bags of Lays Potato Chipsa safe alternative. The bags were cheaply priced compared to in the U.S., and they were big enough so that one bag would satisfy our hunger for a good long time. And all of the stations had either cold pop, or bottled water.

It was nearing the noon hour by the time we reached the area around Pranburi. Unfortunately, we didn't have a good map that showed enough detail, to figure out where the road was, to head southeast towards the South China Sea. Then I realized we were already almost to the southern outskirts of Pranburi. I pulled over into a parking area on the left (Ha! Ha! Got to keep thinking left), and told Peggy that we would have to turn around and go back a little ways to find the right road. There were Thai people going up the road in the direction we wanted to go, so I bellowed at three people, all riding on the same moped and they stopped for me. I walked over to them, wondering how I was going to overcome the language barrier this time? Predictably, they didn't understand a word I was saying. So I started to act out a diving motion to them, embarrassingly feeling like a mime. Suddenly their eyes lit up with acknowledgement. And the three of them (it appeared to be a women with her two children) signaled for us to follow them.

Off we went riding down the shoulder of the road, in the wrong direction (typical as so many of them would do that instead of crossing the busy highway). They ended up taking us through some plantations and down these dusty half sand and gravel roads. But I knew they were leading us in the appropriate direction. We continued to follow them...at times finding the road rather treacherous, with huge washouts from the heavy irrigation. Eventually we came across an intersection where the other road was paved and looked to me like it would lead to the beach and possibly, get us close to our evening accommodations.

I did know that the resort we were looking for was just barely north of Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park. And I also knew that we had not gone south far enough to be near the park. Also, I still couldn't tell if our Thai guides had understood us well enough to know exactly what we meant. Maybe, good Lord willing, they would take us right where we hoped to go. So we kept on following them on their little 2-stroke moped, keeping a reasonable distance behind, because the fumes were making my nose itchy. It wasn't long till we could see the aqua blue waters of the ocean. Now, where was our resort? Just then the boy who was operating the moped signaled that they had run out of gas. I was bummed out, because I felt responsible for taking them this far out, just to help us. So I found an empty juice can on the edge of the path, thinking that I could take loose the fuel line on the Harley and give them enough to get back. A guy and his girlfriend came by in a Toyota pickup truck and our presence on the sandy trail caught their attention. The man pulled up and rolled down his window, and I asked him if he knew anything about the Dolphin Bay Resort? He didn't, but he did know a little bit of English, and that in itself was a relief. I told him how the Thai family had run out of gas, and he volunteered to throw the scooter into his pickup and take them to a gas station, apparently nearby. Then I pulled some Thai money out of my pocket and offered some to the family, only they refused it. I tried being even more persistent, but they gracefully continued to decline my offer. The Thai man in the pickup truck defended there honor...explaining that indeed they would not accept my gratuity. Another lesson learned, I asked him to make sure and thank them for me.

Once again we were back to searching for the "needle in the haystack." The beach looked and felt fantastic and I found a place that seemed great for snapping a couple pictures. I told Peggy that we would find the place we were looking for now, since we were right on the ocean beach. Luckily we stopped to take pictures where we did, because the guys who had been helping us came back up the road in their pickup, and I guess the road became a dead end a little ways farther down. So they turned inland right where we were. We jumped back on the hog, and followed them again. A little while later, we finally found the resort we had reservations at. The sign was in English as well as Thai! The resort was simplistic but clean, and for a modern air-conditioned bungalow...850 Baht ($23.00) a night was incredibly reasonable. We sat down at the patio restaurant and ordered some prawns, freshly caught from the ocean! They were delicious! Then we went for a walk on the beach. We couldn't believe all the shells along the beach, as Peggy began picking up one particular kind, we had never seen before. I started picking up some other types, and every one had tiny crabs living in them. Truthfully; we were amazed at how many living creatures there were on that beach. The fellow who owns and runs the resort is a British guy, who has lived in Thailand for the last 14 years. His name is Gary, and he has a Thai wife who knows English very well. I got directions from her for getting to Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park.

Turned out the park was really close. We rode to the entrance, and were amused at how excited the rangers were about the Harley Davidson...squawking to each other loudly in that unrecognizable language again. The entrance fee was 20 Baht, roughly equivalent to about 55 cents "American." I asked one of them where the monkeys were? He showed me the map of the park, which had some of the key destinations in English, pointing to the visitor center. The park was really scenic, and we were glad we rode over. We continued to ride down a few different roads, taking us to places of various special interests. At each place I would try to find someone to ask where the monkeys were, because I wasn't sure if the rangers had understood me. And every time we were told they were indeed at the visitor center.

At this one place which was an entrance to one of the park caves we pulled in and parked the bike by the path that went up over the mountain to where the cave was at, and grabbed a bottle of water at the outdoor store (a woman standing behind a big ice chest). Four guys standing there could not contain their curiosity and walked over to the Harley to check it out. They were really jabbering about the Heritage to one another! I have no idea exactly what they were saying, but I did sense that they were noticing a disparity from the average Thai two-wheeler and discussing the differences with one another. Another time...one of the young park rangers could not contain his excitement at seeing our Harley Davidson. He seemed to know a little about the Motor Company. He asked if he could twist on the throttle, and I said yes. As he twisted the handlebar grip...immediately feeling the response of the motor and the vibrations penetrating through the palm of his hand, he shrieked with delight. Unusual as it was; he did know how to speak our language quite well and asked me how much it cost to own a Harley Davidson? I pulled my calculator from my pocket, and did some calculations, knowing the price in Thailand was double what it would be in the United States. In American dollars being about $29,000.00, I calculated a price tag of roughly 1.3 million Baht. He couldn't believe it could cost so much and shrugged his head in disbelief. We were beginning to understand that the average Thailand citizen could never ever possibly afford a Harley Davidson.

At times during our ride through the park...parts of the paved road were so deteriorated that the roadway was nothing more than gravel, making it difficult to go very fast. But we had to see the monkeys that were living wild in the jungle. So we continued south, until we finally reached the visitor center. I looked around, and told Peggy I didn't think we would spot any monkeys here, but as I pulled into the visitor center to park the bike and take a break, another ranger came up to us and asked us what we wanted? I told him we wanted to see the monkeys that I'd heard about. He knew instantly what I meant, and told us to follow him and he would show us. We followed him into the thickness of the tropical growth and right away he pointed up into the trees and sure enough, there were the monkeys. I snapped a few pictures frantically as the monkeys retreated deeper into the forest. We were ready to go back to the visitor center, but the ranger insisted on taking us farther down the pathway. Mosquitoes were biting us and we felt concerned about getting malaria, but he told us there was no malaria in their area. He kept showing us everything that would move in the brush, and he really had a well-trained eye...spotting every single creature for all we knew. Every time he pointed at something moving, he would say"Naaaaaaammmme"and then pronounce it correctly in Thai. I tried to repeat it exactly as he said, and he would keep correcting me until I got it right. My responsive efforts seemed to encourage him even more.

Happy that we had finally seen the monkeys, we rode back to Dolphin Bay and settled in with some good food (other than the Thai soup I tried, which turned out to have way to much raw ginger in it for my palate), and soda pop. Being exhausted from the long day, we retired early that evening. Awakening at 4:00 am the following morning, and unable to fall back asleep, I flipped on the television and began watching some interesting programs on some world news network with an Asian viewpoint. We had been doing this all week...waking up so early and not ever getting a good nights rest. The small resort was completely quiet, so we just had to bide our time until we would get a chance to get some coffee and breakfast.

After breakfast we had some acquaintances we met at the resort take our picture out by the resort, and we took theirs. Their names were Dan and Theresa, and they were originally from southern Ohio. Dan's job is related to ATM machines, and his current position has him involved in upgrading the system in many countries around the world. He mentioned that he would be stationed in Bangkok for the next 14 months. Previously he was in Singapore, and before that he was in South Africa. Wouldn't that be a great way to see the world? Having your job pay your way! Riding back to Bangkok turned out to be relatively easy. I was already familiar with the highway, and I had no trouble getting from the resort out to the big road. I was much more at ease with the traffic conditions. Since the cars and small pick up trucks were cruising at anywhere from 120 to 160 km/h or for our standard system that is 75 to 100 mph, I picked up the pace a little bit...cruising at about 110 to 120 km/h. Someone had told me that the maximum speed for motorcycles was suppose to be 80 km/h, and I was much more careful on the way down to the beach. But now after being exposed to the attitude of the country, concerning driving behavior, I figured since I had never seen a cop yet, why should I ride at a speed that was so slow, while others were going so fast?

The cars were still blasting past us, and every so often I would need to get around a slow moving truck, so I would just roll on the throttle, and thanks to the 93 FLSTN'S hopped up motor, I never felt concern about blasting around our obstruction and back out of another cars way. The people in the 4 wheelers were naturally surprised at a motorcycle in Thailand having so much top end. From Nakhon Pathom, which has a population of about 750,000, we had solid heavy traffic the rest of the way to Bangkok, about another 60/40 kilometers/miles. Peggy was starting to get nervous. She had a strong grip on my belt loops by this time, and I could really feel her tension. "Peggy could you relax a little bit," I said. No comment, but I felt the loosening effects of her hands to my waist. "Your gonna have to relax," I repeated assertively to her. We both knew we were in for the most challenging part of the entire motorcycle adventure, for the next how ever many kilometers until we could reach the safety of the Dusit Thani parking lot. It was like a free for all the rest of the way. All the motorists seemed to be positioning themselves, every time the traffic came to a halt. It was if they were all in a contest, waiting for the signal...purposely seeking the best possible position to get a good jump on the rest of the heap. Once again, the motorcycles were unrelenting as they added to the chaos, by forcing their way through the most minuscule paths I have ever seen. The Heritage was not even close to fitting through!

Our plan was to continue riding conservatively, by taking our time and waiting patiently behind the other traffic. I just wanted to stay out of trouble, that was the most important thing. I honestly wish we could have gotten a good picture of us ensnarled in the gridlock, but how would we even try to pull that off? So you'll just have to believe me, or take a trip over to Bangkok yourself, rent a Harley Davidson. Subsequently; I had made serious efforts to memorize the map and knew exactly how to get back to the Dusit Thani (if I could spot the road signs in English soon enough).

We made it to the circle, where we had to get around to the 3rd turnout, and I have to declare...during those moments, I maneuvered the Heritage just like as if I were the leader of a professional drill team. Now we had to get to the 1st major left turn, which should lead us up onto the bridge. But there wasn't any bridge! An old man riding on his motorcycle next to us could see my dismay and motioned for us to follow him, somehow knowing where we wanted to go! I didn't have any better plan, so we did exactly that. About 2 kilometers later we could see the bridge connecting Thon Buri to Bangkok. Whew! Was that ever a relief! Knowing that once we traversed the bridge, we would be back in Bangkok city proper with merely 4 or 5 kilometers to go. The only other incident we had was when another impatient motorcyclist tried squeezing past us just as the traffic started moving again. We brushed against each other ever so slightly, barely enough to even notice, but I had to put my feet down to keep the bike upright...stopping momentarily and causing all of the traffic behind us to stop as well. The people of Bangkok seem to be so use to the congestion, that we didn't even hear a single car horn.

Finally; safely back at the hotel, Peggy didn't want to have any part of riding on the Heritage, the last leg, back to the Jammer shop. Actually, I wasn't very enthused about the idea either. "You can just wait here and I'll take it back," I said. Her facial expression showed jubilation at the notion. "I don't want to see you have to go back out there in that mess either," she sympathetically replied. For the next half hour or so, I listened to Peggy's persistent worries about how terrible the traffic was in Bangkok, until the phone rang, and it was Kamthron Supatt (better known as Tui to us) on the line. "How was your trip?" he asked. "Absolutely fantastic" I commented. "Did the bike run well?" "Yes it ran excellent!" Then he asked? "Say; I could send my mechanic over to pick up the Heritage from you if you want?" "Oh you could?" I said. "Yeah, it would only cost you 1000 Baht." "That much ha?" "Yes, I have to pay labor costs to keep my mechanic you know," Tui insisted. Peggy was shaking her head frantically in favor of Tui's proposal. Figuring the danger of the city streets to a farang such as myself, and realizing that it would cost about $6.00 U.S. to get back by taxi meant an actual cost of about $21.00. That was barely the price of a decent meal. "Okay, we can do that," I acknowledged. "Good; He should be over there by 5:00 or 5:30, okay?" said Tui. "Sounds good," I said, "thanks."

Even though we took the easy way out of our obligation at the end, I still have no regrets from the adventure. If Ross had been available to come over and meet up with us and lead us back to the Jammer store, then I would have finished like I had planned to. But since he was not around that afternoon, we did the next best thing...thus avoiding any more perilous circumstances, which may well had been dangerous. Riding in Thailand was a great experience. The weather was better than any conditions of summer riding that I have ever had. I realize that we were there during the cool season (Winter), which is typically dry, but that's the way it was, and if I were to do it again that is precisely the time of year that I would plan for. The temperatures were bearable, due in big part to the low humidity (never higher than 50%) and the nighttime temperatures never dipping below the high 20's Celsius or the mid 80's Fahrenheit. Daytime highs were about 33 degrees Celsius/or 92 degrees Fahrenheit. Considering the temperatures being about 70 degrees F. / 33 degrees C. warmer than back home, it was quite a difference.

I wore long sleeves all the time just to keep from dealing with the misery of sunburn. But I did forget my riding gloves in the room, and carelessly forgot to add sunscreen to the back of my hands. So I did end up getting minor sunburn on the top of each hand. Starting mileage was 19,922 Kilometers registered on the odometer. Odometer reading was 20,200 kilometers at Dolphin Bay Resort. So we rode 278 kilometers/ 173 miles on Sunday. The odometer showed 20,520 once we returned to the Dusit Thani. That adds up to 320 kilometers (which included our run through Koh Sam Roi Yot N.P., or 198 miles. Overall we ended up riding approximately 598 kilometers / 371 miles in two easy days. Granted that really isn't a lot of distance, but I guarantee you it felt like more, because of the unique surroundings and conditions of the journey. Truth is...I really wish that we had been able to go for several more days. Oh well...maybe there will be a next time, right?

So my final comments are: Don't be afraid to challenge yourself. Take a chance on seeing new places and riding in diverse circumstances. Life is short, and each day is unpredictable. We always have many interesting twists and turns waiting for us, whether we step outside from our homes, walk across the street, or travel to a far away land. People ask me why I would go there? The answer is easy; because I've never been there! It's the same reason I try to find new roads to ride on, even in my own region. The understanding and respect we gained in our own willingness to see first-hand another culture, that is so different from our own, gave us a special appreciation for the place we call home. In the United States we have so much to be thankful for. We both commented how we will not complain about trivial matters in our daily life's...as quickly as we did before our trip to Thailand. Eventually...the memories will fade away and then we will probably be right back to our predictable routines of whimpering about all the rules and regulations we have, keeping us secure in our comfortable, complacent society. But before that happens, I have to say"God Bless America;" What a country!

   Story by Edward Unruh

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