Friday, December 10, 2010

Visa Run Day 1. Chiang Mai to Uttaradit

When we arrived in Uttaradit this afternoon, Stray said he felt like a Labradoodle, the way everyone would do a double take when they saw us. But first, I’ll go back to this morning, when we left Chiang Mai.

We’d being weighing up our mode of transport for quite some time before going to Laos for my Visa and decided to hire a bike...not a road bike, more like a scooter, a 125 cc Honda Wave.

As we secure our overnight size bag to the front basket, ‘S’, one of the hotel staff (who speaks only Thai) made it quite clear that we are nuts. She alternates between laughing and frowning, and throws in a few ‘mai dee’s’...not good! We assure her we’ll be on the go slow, taking a few days to reach the border. It does occur to us that we may be making a big mistake, but guess that going such distances in Thailand is not the norm, as they are in Australia.
If you’ve ever ridden a scooter for more than 20 km straight, you’ll know that the seats are narrow...and lacking in padding, even though my own is not. I’ll get this part of our story out of the way now. The topic of the pain in our arses and surrounding areas consumes our conversations when we’re not on the bike, for the three days it takes us to reach Nong Khai.

Just near Den Chai we spot a massive reclining Buddha statue at Wat Phrathatsutonmongkonkiree (not even going to try to pronounce that) and stop to take some photos. Wat Phrathatsutonmongkonkiree is a learning centre of religion, art and culture for the Phrae District. This is just the road view, the buildings ramble up into the small surrounding hills.
We’re not happy at this point and throw around different ideas and combinations/solutions: Put me on a bus, garage the scooter and both take a bus, hire a pick up and put the bike on the back. 
We stop for fuel and food down the road. The roads are good by the way and I’m impressed by the warning, flashing amber lights that seem to appear in the middle of whoop whoop, alerting drivers of entering traffic etc.The store manager at the fuel station and Stray plot a different course to Loei, on our map, for tomorrow’s leg of the journey.

Apart from the fore mentioned pain factor, there are many positives about travelling by bike. You see a lot of sights at this level that you’d miss in a car, bus, train or plane. And, you can smell smells. Some perfume like, some bad and a few that are downright dry reach worthy. We pass people bathing in irrigation channels, chillies drying in the sun, gardens with flowers, vegetable patches and people simply going about their daily lives.
A main street leading into Uttaradit
As we near our destination, we ride through ‘The City of Safe Fruits’, which conjures up all sorts of smart alec thoughts in my head. The highway is lined with hundreds of fruit stalls.

Only a few main streets into Uttaradit we pull over for directions to a hotel...any hotel. Some Uttraraditites have a tendency to giggle and run when they see a farang heading their way armed with a Thai phrase book. Within 25 minutes (Stray making a couple of enquiries and only understanding the word ‘red’ from an old dear giving directions in lightening speed Thai) we check into the RM Hotel...yes, that’s an infinity symbol.
At 350 Baht per night, the hotel room is great value. The building is only a few months new, simple, clean, spacious and with minimum street noise. One of the girls at reception and her cousin speak English very well and give us the thumbs up for riding all the way from Chiang Mai and are dumbfounded that we’re continuing on, to Nong Khai. They point us in the direction of the Tree House Restaurant, only 50 metres away, for dinner.

...did I mention my hair? I forgot to tie it up for the day and after a ton of conditioner and 15 minutes of finger combing, it was finally free of tangles and wind knots.

We take a stroll after dinner and are greeted with wide eyes, closely followed by big smiles. Nearby the hotel are a couple of bars and we stop for a beer or two...after all it would be Stray’s ‘Friday Night’ drink with the boys if he were back in Australia. A group of young blokes are sitting at the adjacent table and a lengthy chat ensues. They’re downing shots of some type of tequila tasting beverage and the lip, suck of salt and lemon has been replaced with cubes of vegetable? dipped in spices. We’re not sure about the spirit they’re drinking; it’s pinkish, heavy in sediment and appears on various tables in different recycled liquor bottles. Moonshine of sorts? 
We call it a night and I politely/very firmly refuse the offer of a double sized ‘shot for the road’. Thoughts of lead lined distilleries up in them thar hills creep into my head and the idea of being sick on the back of a bike all day tomorrow, isn’t appealing.

Snap's other blog Chiang Mai Thai


Paul Garrigan said... Best Blogger Tips

Great stuff, I've travelled some really long distances on a Honda Wave in Thailand. Since we got a car though, I've stopped using the bike. I know Uttaradit well. We lived in Chat Trakan for five years and it is about half way between Phitsanulok and Uttaradit. There is a tiny Tesco there where I'd go for my shopping - I then ride back 100 km with the shopping bags on my Honda.

Lani said... Best Blogger Tips

Oh Snap, Snap, Snap. Wish you would have told me your plans to rent a bike before you went. Ah, well. Makes for plenty of writing!

I feel pain. I've done a long trip up to Doi Inthanon on the back of a bike. I could have walked faster up those mountains. And my butt, ooohhh. My poor butt, your poor butt!

Snap said... Best Blogger Tips

Lani, we took off without much forethought...the butt situation does improve though ;)

Doi Inthanon is beautiful chai mai? I can't wait to show it to some of our friends who plan to visit us.

Snap said... Best Blogger Tips

Paul, sorry for the late reply, for some reason my first was not published...a little tragic considering I'm the author :(

My sister used to do a similar monthly shopping trip, but with three small children in tow...I'm not sure which would be worse!

I know we rode through Chat Trakan but can't remember what it looks all becomes a bit of a blur after a while.

Theodora said... Best Blogger Tips

So there with you on the butt thing... We did a five hour round trip on a motorbike, on bad Cambodian roads (with driver), and my butt was aching.

Snap said... Best Blogger Tips

T, we're now the proud owners of a thick, bike seat shaped, piece of condensed foam rubber ;)