26 September 2013 – After two weeks in the UK we arrived back in Thailand. Leaving Bangkok was a swift affair with only an hour between landing and departing on the late coach down to Hua Hin [where we left the bike whilst in the UK]. We now had new 30 day visas in our passports but the bike’s visa had expired. When we woke the following morning we gave our friend Adi at Bangkok customs a call to see if we could extend at a customs office but he said ‘no need, just pay fine’ but also said we could stay until our passport visa expired, which Paul thought was a bit risky as the customs form clearly outlines a £10’000 fine should you overstay.
We reverted back to our old ways very quickly and enjoyed our last super in Hua Hin before saying goodbye to the Soontree guesthouse family and thanked them with a box of chocolates for looking after the motorbike and all our gear for two weeks for no charge.
We were heading for Chumphon once again as our friends from the UK who are backpacking, arrived into Thailand just a few days ago and were now on Koh Tao so we planned a little diversion to go see them but then rush through Thailand to get down to Malaysia and just hope we don’t have any issues with the out of date bike visa. Plus, it’s a Thursday and if we set off for the border now it would be the weekend, and we want to pass on a weekday so our customs official in Bangkok is around in the office if we need to call for his help.
So that was how we came to spend another two days as pedestrians on Koh Tao. Backpackers, no less, we left the bike in the Lomrapyah ferry car park. As in most places in Asia there was no fee for motorbikes.
When we were home, people obviously asked about travelling on the motorbike and so did our friends on Koh Tao. It’s easy to get stressed out with the increased bureaucracy with having a bike, but the freedom to go anywhere, anytime on a whim is unparallel to travelling as a backpacker, plus some of the most memorable experiences of the journey so far have been because we are on the bike. You wouldn’t get chased in a car by a seemingly mad man in an abandoned Iranian desert just to offer you some food if you were on a bus. That said, I am occasionally jealous of backpackers who can carry enough clean clothes to see them through an entire week and don’t have to deal with anger issues of boyfriends at border crossings.
Koh Tao the second time round however wasn’t as nice. The weather had changed and the calm crystal clear waters had become choppy and brought lots of rubbish onto the beach. We did fit in short kayak trip to Nang Yaun, true to form Paul took it upon himself to be the foreman and insisted on being the rowing commander, chanting 1,2,1,2 all the way there, and back. It was nice to see our friends but I preferred the island the first time round, maybe I secretly fell for the charm of mama choo and it just wasn’t the same without her chubby miserable face.
30 September 2013 – we took the nightboat again from Koh Tao which was a bit of a mistake as the 5am wake up call was too early and we woke up knackered, not great when the day ahead was long. Still half asleep, I somehow lost one of Pauls riding gloves between the ferry and getting to the bike. He was not happy. It immediately provoked the question ‘where are yours?’ which didn’t make things any better. I lost mine way back in India but kept it quiet to avoid a telling off. Sampling some Kopi Luwak coffee later on seemed to cheer him up a little. We watched a short documentary on this famous coffee a few days ago about how the animals that are akin to weasels, eat the coffee beans then excrete them which is what creates the renowned taste but also the reason its 6 times more expensive than normal coffee.
We made the wrong decision to head to Ao Nang near Krabi. Although, turning off the main highway was a blessing as it’s boring and the alternative rewards you with beautiful scenery and huge palm tree adorned karst rocks but it turned out to be quite a diversion and as nice as it is, Ao Nang is an expensive little town. Accommodation is cheap but the food is not and it’s the first time in a while that we’ve been hassled walking down the street. We retreated to the room early and read up for the first time on the deep south of Thailand and Malaysia.
We knew little about the ‘deep south’ of Thailand other than there is a little trouble now and then. We googled ‘south thailand’ and wikipedia brought up ‘South Thailand Insurgency’ an ongoing conflict due to ethnic related violence. Basically the malay population are at grievance with the Thai government and want Islamic law to rule the region rather than Thai. Over the past 10 years the violence has been escalating and people have been killed on both sides.
Having read up very quickly on everything bad that has ever happened and then learning we have to travel through the two main regions for trouble, I did get slightly worried. Plus Paul’s granddad Regi has emailed us on a few occasions warning of the troubles which we had dismissed a little until we read up, none of the violence is ever targeted at tourists though so we’re fairly safe.
We are very sad to be leaving Thailand and all its comforts, plus its annoying we have rushed the last part as we passed numerous signs for hot springs and waterfalls which we would have loved to have a cheeky dip in but the overstay on the bike visa is looming over us. It could all be fine but on the other had we could be facing a £10,000 fine and some time in a Thai prison which doesn’t appeal so we pushed on fast.
I can’t remember if ever wrote this but we made the decision not to go into Cambodia, Laos & Vietnam a while back for a few reasons. Firstly they felt a little off route, we’d have to head to north Thailand which we’ve both been to before, Paul has been to Laos before and we’ve both been to Vietnam before [that was the first ever motorbike trip we went on] plus we’re not sure you can take your own bike into Vietnam. Not only but our budget probably wouldn’t stretch enough to get us to New Zealand. So Cambodia will have to wait until another time, onto Malaysia for now.