Episode 12: Exploring beaches and jungle in Southern Thailand

After my off-road adventures in the North of Thailand and experiencing the unexpected beauty of Central-Thailand, I spent three full days in Bangkok before heading south to Thailand’s beaches and jungle. But none of these days in Bangkok  were spent on siteseeing or findingr the best food in Thailand’s cosmopolitan capital city. The only thing I did in Bangkok, was looking for gear to improve my bike set-up. And that, as it turned out, was not easy.

Finding motorbike gear in Bangkok

My travels in Thailand so far had one theme: heat and rain. The further south I went, the hotter it got and the more it rained. Riding in my black, thick Alpinestar motorcycle jacket became unbearable. I suffered from serious dehydration and none of my motorcycle gear was waterproof. It was time for a change.

Finding specialised motorcycle gear in a foreign country and in a foreign city is not easy. I had to go on a time-consuming search throughout Bangkok. The final result of my shopping spree was a top-box, 2 riding shirts, a light and airy riding jacket, a 2-liter Hydration pack, a Garmin GPS system (Garmin Zumo 396) and a waterproof luggage bag.

Besides buying  new bike gear, Basanti received some upgrades too. A few weeks earlier I received a message from Nakin-New. He is the owner of motorcycle shop Two Wheels Tourist in Bangkok. He owns a Royal Enfield Himalayan and was working on several custom-made protection parts for the bike. He wanted to support my travels by fitting these parts on my Basanti.

I agreed to visit him at his shop. I assumed the parts were already in production and that he had a large stock. But that wasn’t the case. In fact, he removed the parts from his own motorbike to fit them on mine. His kind gesture and the friendly welcome by his family and friends truly amazed me. They fed me some of the best food I had in Thailand and helped me find the Royal Enfield workshop in Bangkok to have Basanti serviced.

After that, I was ready to set off to the South of Thailand!

With Nakin-new, his son and brothers.

With Nakin-new, his son and brothers.

Leaving Bangkok

Getting out of Bangkok seemed like a never-ending struggle to find my way through the city’s heavy  traffic. I felt relieved when I finally saw greenery and dirt-tracks again. The majority of the 300 kilometers ride to Prachuap Khiri Khan that day was on smooth, well paved roads so progress was quick. It gave me time to explore several dirt tracks and I even had time to venture into the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park.

Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

Khao Sam Roi Yot means "The mountain with three hundred peaks".  It has a series of limestone hills along the Gulf of Thailand, the highest being 605 meters above  sea level. The main attraction of this national park are its caves though.

I planned to visit the Phraya Nakhon Cave, but in order to reach it, I had to hike for almost an hour. That meant leaving my motorcycle with all my luggage unattended. Something I am not comfortable with! So I decided to skip the cave and found a completely deserted beach, which I had all to myself.

After taking Basanti for a spin on the beach, I traveled back. Driving past steep limestone outcrops on my right and wetlands full of birds on my left was a landscape that I’d never experienced before. I reached the small fisherman’s town of Prachuap Khiri Khan just before dark.

Something had gone  wrong when I tried to book an accommodation the night before, so I just stopped at the first hotel I spotted. They offered me a decent priced room with a nice view over the water and the mountains. That night I enjoyed some incredible local street food at the market just outside the hotel and made a big decision for the next day.

Watch the full video of riding from Bangkok to Prachuap Khiri Khan with my new gear!

My first ferry ride with Basanti

That evening in Prachuap Khiri Khan I realised I couldn’t leave Thailand without exploring one of its islands. When I first visited Thailand, around 8 years ago, I went to the islands Ko Tao and Ko Pha-ngan. I decided it was now time to see the larger, next-door island of Ko Samui.

I left early the next morning, because I knew I had a very long day ahead of me. Getting up so early was rewarded with a beautiful sunrise over Prachuap Khiri Khan. Another reward that day was having my new waterproof gear with me, because I hit my first torrential downpour while on the road. The skies were darkening for quite some time and heavy rains became inevitable. At first I kept going but the rain got so bad that I couldn’t see anymore and the streets also quickly flooded.

The good thing is that tropical rain showers are usually intense but brief. I found shelter at a bus stop and waited it out. Ten minutes later, the rains ended as quickly as it started. The rest of the day was sunny and hot as ever.

When I reached the terminal to catch a boat to Koh Samui, I was glad I could easily hop on a ferry. I didn’t have much time to research the procedure on how to get to the island with a vehicle. I figured it should be possible without prior booking, but I wasn’t entirely sure.

I was in for another pleasant surprise when the ferry arrived and the cars and people coming from Ko Samui got off. Two Russian bikers on their sports bike, traveling from Moscow to Bali, whom met in Myanmar were on the ferry! They spent several days on Koh Samui and quickly told me that everything was expensive on the island. We didn’t have time to catch up further, as I had to board the ferry. We said our quick goodbyes and continued our separate ways.

Watch the full video of traveling to the island of Koh Samui!

During the crossing to Ko Samui, it was windy and the waters were choppy. I was a little bit concerned about Basanti. Although I had placed her on mid-stand with blocks of wood in front of her tyres, I still could fall over. Nothing happened and after a nerve-wrecking 1,5 hours, I drove Basanti back onto land and witnessed another stunning Thai sun-set.

My stay at Koh Samui

On Koh Samui  I stayed in the Hammock Samui Beach Resort, which was, as you’d expect, right at the beach. Never before I had such an amazing breakfast view with waves gently rolling onto the beach. It had a very relaxing atmosphere. The price was above my normal budget, but I decided to treat myself for a couple of days while working on some YouTube videos.

When I caught up with my video making, I packed Basanti and left after a quick circle around the island. I had enough time to try out some small trails below the palm trees and a couple of sandy roads before continuing to my first big destination of that day. Again, I didn’t have much time to properly research the place I was going to, so I had no idea what to expect. But when I reached the Rajjaprabha Dam and saw the lake behind it, I was blown away.

Watching the sunset upon arrival on Ko Samui.

Watching the sunset upon arrival on Ko Samui.

The Rajjaprabha Dam

The construction of the Rajjaprabha Dam started in 1982 and by 1987 it was finished. Its purpose is generating electricity, providing irrigation, prevent flooding and create opportunities for fishing. The result of building the dam was the creation of a huge lake. This lake, Cheow Lan Lake, now attracts over 70,000 visitors per year. The people who lived here before 1982, some 385 families of the Ban Chiew Lan village, had to move away and were compensated by the Thai government to resettle elsewhere.

Upon arrival at the ticket centre, I met a young Thai couple. They told me they booked a boat for an 1,5 hour trip around the lake. They invited me along and insisted I didn’t pay. It was very generous of them and I fully enjoyed the time on the lake. I couldn’t get enough of the fairy tale scenery. It was like a movie set!

I had booked an accommodation in the Khao Sok National park for that night, which was still more than an hour away from the dam. Riding through the National Park around sunset was incredible. It was definitely the most beautiful national park I had seen in Thailand!

Watch the full video of riding from Koh Samui all the way to the Khao Sok National park!

Khao Sok National Park

The cottage where I spend the night (the Khao Sok Palmview Resort) was so nice that I decided to stay another night. It gave me time to wash Basanti properly and do some maintenance, like tightening the chain.

While writing this blog post, a few weeks later, I now know that I had tightened the chain far too much that day! In the Royal Enfield workshop of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the mechanics taught me the proper way to do it and how to measure whether it’s done correctly. Oops, fortunately, no harm was done and now I know better!

It was only a half-day ride to my next destination called Krabi. The route to Krabi followed a narrow, curvy road snaking its way through the hills and past the lush green vegetation. My accommodation in Krabi was a hostel called Pak-Up Hostel. I booked a hostel because I started to speak to Basanti as if she was a real person.

A hostel? Really? In Krabi?

Being on the road all the time and riding solo can be lonely sometimes. On my previous solo round-the-world-trip, when I was 23 years old, I backpacked and hopped from hostel to hostel. I never got lonely and met people all the time. At times I even struggled to get some alone time!

But traveling by motorbike allowed me to stay in remote places, away from the tourist trail. Also, I have reached the respectable age of 31 years now. I am done with the sleeping-in-a-dorm-room-with-10-snoring-strangers-thing. As a result, I wasn’t meeting as many fellow travellers to chat and hang out with, as on my previous travels.

Long story short, I decided to stay in a hostel in Krabi. I booked a private room and went to the common bar area in the evening. I met some cool travellers, handed out my Itchy Boots business cards, gained a couple of subscribers for my YouTube channel, had a few beers and well, that was it. I got my portion of social interaction to last me a couple of weeks on the road again without having to stay in a hostel.

Watch the full video of traveling from Khao Sok National park to Krabi - and staying in a hostel..

And there it was. The last day of riding in Thailand before crossing the border into Malaysia. I used the full 30 days I had on my visa for Thailand and had an absolute blast. The first time I came to Thailand, over 8 years ago, it didn’t become my favourite country in South East Asia. Even worse, it even ranked lowest of all the countries I went to in this region.

It’s funny how things can turn out so differently during a second visit. I feel that this time, I really got to see and experience Thailand for the country it truly is. A country with people that made me feel right at home, incredible food, stunning scenery and packed with adventures for those who seek it.

I can’t wait for Thailand Round 3!

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