Episode 12: Exploring beaches and jungle in Southern Thailand

Following my off-road adventures in the North of Thailand and the unexpected beauty of Central-Thailand, I spent three days in Bangkok. But none of it was spent site-seeing. None of it was spent searching for 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 humidity. The further south I went, the hotter it got and chances of getting rain were higher. Riding in my black, thick Alpinestar jacket became unbearable. I suffered from serious dehydration issues and none of my gear was waterproof. It was time for change.

But finding specialised motorcycle gear on a foreign continent, in a foreign country and in a foreign city, is not easy. Eventually I found almost everything I needed, but it took an extremely time-consuming search around 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 this new gear, Basanti got some nice upgrades too. A few weeks earlier I received a message on instagram from Nakin-New, who runs the motorcycle shop Two Wheels Tourist in Bangkok. He owns a Royal Enfield Himalayan too and was working on the production of several custom-made protection parts. He wanted to support my travels by fitting these parts on my Basanti.

I agreed to step by his shop. I assumed the parts were already in production and he had a big stock. But it turned out 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.

I was ready to set off to the South of Thailand now!

With Nakin-new, his son and brothers.

With Nakin-new, his son and brothers.

Getting out of Bangkok seemed like a never-ending struggle through the ever-lasting 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 any dirt track I wanted and I even ventured 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 with the highest one at 605 meters above the sea level. The main attractions of this national park are its caves.

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

After taking Basanti for a spin on the beach, I traveled back through the National Park. 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 went wrong with booking my accommodation the night before, so I just stopped at the first hotel that I spotted. They offered me a decent priced room and it had 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 Ko Samui.

I left early that 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, because I hit my first torrential downpour on the road. The skies were darkening for quite some time and heavy rains became inevitable. At first I kept going but the rains got so bad I couldn’t see anymore and the streets 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 they started. The rest of the day was as 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. The two Russian bikers on their sports bike, traveling from Moscow to Bali, that I’d met in Myanmar were on the ferry! They spent several days on Koh Samui and quickly told me everything was expensive there. We didn’t have time to further catch up, as I had to board the ferry. We said quick goodbyes and they continued their journey south.

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 so I was a little concerned about Basanti. I placed her on mid-stand with blocks of wood in front of the tyres, but I was worried she would fall over. A nerve-wrecking 1,5 hours later I drove Basanti back onto land again and witnessed another stunning Thai sun-set.

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

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.

Khao Sok National Park

The construction of the Rajjaprabha Dam started in 1982 and by 1987 it was finished. Its purpose is generating electricity, irrigation, flood control, 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 booked accommodation in the Khao Sok National park for that night, which was still more than an hour away from the dam. Riding through that National Park around sunset was incredible and the most beautiful national park I saw in Thailand!

Watch the full video of riding from Koh Samui all the way to the 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 give Basanti a proper washing and do some maintenance. The chain was very loose so I tightened it.

While writing this blog post, a few weeks later, I now know that I tightened the chain far too much! In the Royal Enfield workshop in 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. And that could mean only one thing.

I really, really needed to speak to some other human beings again.

A hostel? Really?

Being on the road all the time and riding solo can be a lonely existence 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 led me to stay in remote places, away from the tourist trail. Moreover, I reached the respectable age of 31 years now. I was 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 (a dorm room was pushing it too far) 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. I realised that the hostel scene really isn’t my thing anymore…

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 wasn’t my favourite country in South East Asia. Moreover, it even ranked lowest of all the countries I went to in this region.

It’s funny how things can turn out so differently on a second visit. I feel that this time round, 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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