We had planned to move on from Bangkok, into Malaysia and into KL where we had intended to fly the ANIMAL to Darwin, Australia. From there we would ride down to Uluru and then across to Southern Cross and meet our friends from Perth Motorbike and Sidecar Riders to escort us back into our home town of Perth around mid March…..that was the plan!

But a phone call this morning put an end to all of that…..I have worked through being diagnosed with an aggressive squamous cell carcinoma which needed surgery 5 days before we left to begin in London, chemo therapy on the road and adverse burns as a result needing to be under the hospital burns unit in Scotland,  a second lump in Iran that needed surgery, a breast lump that had to be surgically removed in India, and two broken bones that need surgery for titanium implants in Thailand……….it has been a challenging time…..but giving up and going home early was never an option for me……but today I have been flattened beyond belief…I have no fight left in me……I got the call every parent dreads…..last night (24.1.16) my son, Kyle, tragically passed away after hitting a pothole in the road on his motorbike and colliding with a tree…..three friends were with him and witnessed it but no one could do anything….his de facto is due to give birth in 7 weeks to his first child (a little boy) and now my son will never get to see his son…..I can’t accept it……I’m completely and utterly shattered…..Vince and I are going home to lay our son to rest. NO PARENT SHOULD HAVE TO DO THAT.

With help from Ivan at Bikes Abroad, the ANIMAL will get taken care of in Bangkok and sent home by sea now, to Perth. We are booked on the red eye, but direct flight, tomorrow night and we will be home by Wed 27th Jan morning……….the Adventure is abruptly over….family is more important and precious…..hug yours now!

Photos are from 26th Jan leaving Bangkok….

Today we tried to get breakfast at a local cafe which opened at 7.00am….but the owner informed us thats just when staff arrive there is no food until 7.30am…and we were due to be collected by our Tour Guide and Driver from Chang Thai Travel at 7.30am from our hotel….Bugger… quick thinking saw us round the corner for McDonalds!

Back at the hotel our Driver, Mr Ken, was already waiting for us and we were on our way….collecting our Guide, Miss Katie on the road. Our half day tour included air-conditioned private vehicle transport for the duration as well as pick up and drop off at our hotel.

We drove past rice paddies and salt fields along they way and we stopped off at the Maeklong Station Train Markets (Nicknamed: Talad Rom Hub which means the “umbrella pulldown market”). It is one of the largest fresh seafood markets in Thailand, and is centred on the Maeklong Railway’s track. Whenever a train approaches, the awnings and shop fronts are moved back from the rails, to be replaced once the train has passed, this happens around 6 times each day. However, since May 2015 the station is closed for track renovations….they were due to be completed in Dec 2015 but are running behind schedule!

Next we stopped off at a “farmhouse” (quite touristy) where we saw how they make coconut brown sugar and coconut oil….quite and amazing process….the milk and oil come from inside the coconut whilst the sugar comes from the syrup that is made from the Coconut Flower before it fruits.
For a mere 3600THB in total, our trip took us to the 150 year old traditional, Damnoen Saduak Floating Market at klong Damnern Saduak in Ratchaburi province, about two hour drive from Bangkok. We had an exhilarating 30min ride in a narrow long-tailed speed boat through the marshes and stilt houses of the village where the locals still live (love our Ondansetron so we don’t get motion sickness!).

At this unique market we saw Thai style canoes laden with colourful, succulent fruits, vegetables, sweets and meats and we watched as the occupants gently ply their way through the canals. With the help of our Guide, Miss Katie, we even managed to partake of Chicken Noodle Soup, Fresh Coconut Juice and the No 1 must have Thai Dessert…..Sticky Rice with Coconut Milk and Mango….YUM! You could hire a paddle canoe for around 500THB but we decided to see the market by walking.

Whist walking we came across a guy with some snakes…..Vince was brave enough for 100THB to drape it around his neck….I was not convinced so I watched from a safe distance….but was eventually coerced into standing next to him for a photo and they made me hold it’s tale… face says it all….terrified! There was also a lady with a cute little thing that looked like a possum…but she said it was a kind of monkey….that’s much more my style!

We got dropped off at our hotel around 1.30pm…and we gave Miss Katie a tip (as she was so helpful in so many ways). We chilled for the afternoon doing chores such as photos, blogging and chasing up info on crating the ANIMAL home before heading out for some dinner at Terminal 21 Food Court.

This evening we had Gold Seats for the 8.00pm performance of Siam Niramit….an “ xtravaganza” with over 150 dancers and 500 costumes. There were three acts…

1 Journey in History…….The North (Ancient Kingdom of Lanna), The South Seas (Traders from OS), The Northeast – Issan (Heritage of the Khmer Civilisation) and the Central Plains (Ayutthaya the Mighty Capital).

2 Journey beyond Imagination (The three Worlds)…Fiery Hell, Mystical Himapaan, Blissful Heaven.

3 Journey through Joyous Festivals…Loy Krathong and Joyous Festivals such as Songkran and the Phitakhon Ghost Parade.

Whilst we are glad we went it certainly wasn’t in the realm of other shows we’ve seen in London. We also had to content with an Indian family behind us who had brought their children…who continually talked…..cried ……and kicked the back of my seat!

But on the up side I did get to feed an elephant named Tum Lah, she was gorgeous….and appeared later in the show. Vince got picked out of the audience in the last act to come and put a candle cake into the water to float away….quite special….my husband the STAR!

130km approx, and around 2.5 hours riding.

The alarm was set for 6am but we switched it off and woke up again at 7am, packed quickly and left our hotel about 8am, stopping for fuel just down the road and then heading out to Highway 7, bound for Bangkok.

Aad had already alerted us via email to the fact that motorcycles aren’t allowed on the expressways that run into and through Bangkok (on pain of a 2000 THB fine I recalled later in the day) and I thought the route I’d plotted yesterday on the GPS avoided any expressways, but this morning we quickly found ourselves breaking the rules once again, but at least we had a good ride into Bangkok!

I honestly didn’t see any signs saying that motorbikes weren’t allowed, and a highway police car that came up on us from behind with his lights flashing didn’t pull us over – I quickly realised he was escorting three large tour coaches to give them a clear run up the motorway so I dropped in behind the last coach and joined the convoy. They turned off the motorway at the Chon Buri exit, maybe halfway to Bangkok, so we picked up the pace a bit and cruised along at 120kmh for a while, the designated speed limit for cars.

We passed a motorcycle policeman parked on the side of the road and it looked like he wanted to have a chat with us as he started to pull away from his position, but I never saw him again so perhaps he changed his mind.

We came across a toll booth but we’re that accustomed to slipping through on the free motorcycles lane that in the absence of such a lane today I made my own, taking advantage of a truck rolling through the boom gate to sneak through ourselves. Someone yelled out to us from the gate booth – I’m sure it sounded like “Have a nice day” or something similar 🙂

We found another coach convoy with four buses under police escort and dropped in behind them, enjoying the slipstreaming as we clocked up 100km from Pattaya, but then another toll booth appeared and we took the opportunity to come off the motorway at this point rather than continue to press our luck. Two highway police officers with fluro vests were waiting at the boom gate and I thought we’d be well and truly busted but they just waved us through with a smile! “Great” I thought, as Aad and Mike had been forced to turn around and ride back down the motorway into the oncoming traffic when they got stopped a few days ago.

On the urban roads with about 26km to go we quickly got bogged down with stop-start traffic, full of cars and trucks and tuk-tuks and scooters. At times we’d have a little break and could scoot ahead, and at times we squeezed quite neatly through the gaps between the cars, but the closer we got to Bangkok the narrower the gaps and the less confident I was of squeezing through, so often we just sat and sweltered in the morning heat, watching the scooters and motorbikes swarm all around the cars. It took us about 70 minutes to cover the 26km.

Our first stop today was the Olympus camera office. Yesterday we’d booked a hotel within walking distance of the office, and then afterwards I found out that google maps was showing the wrong address for Olympus, so they were 4km east of our hotel (fortunately just off the main arterial road I thought they were on). Anyway, we went to Olympus in the hope of getting the faulty TG-4 either replaced or refunded on the spot but they insisted that it needed to be checked first so we left it there and will return on Monday to collect either it or its replacement. There’s a whole blog waiting to be posted about the camera and our views on world-wide warranties and customer service, but I’ll wait to see how things eventuate on Monday before finishing off that post.

Back on the bike we rejoined the arterial road and crawled towards our hotel, whilst local riders just mounted the footpaths and scooted along them – how I wanted to join them – but bollards placed on the footpaths looked quite narrowly spaced and I didn’t want to get jammed in.

It took around 30 minutes to cover about 4km, but eventually we turned off the road down a little alleyway and quickly arrived at our Travelodge, home for the next three evenings.

Bike unloaded and dingy room moved into, we went for lunch back near the Main Street at a little Italian place – spaghetti and red wine for Karen and chicken with cashew nuts and Chang beer for me. This was our first meal of the day and it was about 2pm at this stage, so we were hungry and ready for a bite to eat.

In the afternoon I had a little nap – I was tired either from not sleeping too well last night and/or exhausted from the ride into Bangkok, and Karen worked on her photos.

In the early evening we went for a stroll around the local area, finding flash hotels nearby like the Sofitel and the Sheraton, and an airport-themed mall called ‘Terminal 21’ where floors are given names like ‘Paris’ or ‘Istanbul’ rather than floor numbers. We had Mexican for dinner here, walking past the Swenson’s icecream place that Mike would have enjoyed had he been here 🙂

Back at our dingy room Karen has been organising a few sightseeing activities for us whilst we’re in Bangkok this weekend and I’ve been blogging and reading the news. Check back tomorrow and Sunday to find out how we spent our weekend in this sprawling mega-city !!!

Today we planned to visit a couple of places, including the Sanctuary of Truth (Prasat Sut Ja Tum) which is a carved teak wood construction spanning some 105 metres high, one of a kind in the world. It is a strange fusion of religion, philosophy, art and culture……not a temple or palace even though it looks like one. The info I have read tells me the elaborate sculptures and cravings are a reflection of the Ancient Vision of Earth, Ancient Knowledge and Eastern Philosophy………..the seven creators man cannot be born and exist without: Heaven, Earth, Father, Mother, Moon, Sun and Stars. Deeply embedded into all of this are ancient Buddhist, Hindu, Brahman and other spiritual and philosophical elements. We can see it from the balcony of our hotel room.

But after we had an interesting breakfast of plain toast, coffee and “Milk Tea” ( a teacup filled with frothy milk, a small jug with hot water and an espresso cup with red tea – obviously not what I was expecting!) at The Little Duck Cafe, we decided to skip it as I was not feeling 100%. The owner/baker of the shop didn’t want us to go …offering for her to “present my cake”….made of Taro….I really didn’t feel like eating it but we didn’t want to offend so we sat back down and tried some….it was too die for! The most delicious cake I think I have ever had in my life…the sponge was perfect…so light and fluffy…and the filling so light and creamy…unbelievable!

After walking back, we chatted with the the hotel owner and her adult son for a while, as he had studied in Australia and Switzerland, before they helped us organise a taxi (150 THB) from our hotel to take us the 6km journey into Pattaya City and visit an unusual Art Gallery

Art in Paradise, is the first interactive art gallery in Thailand, by allowing visitors to be more than just a viewer, but become an art object themselves. You can actually be part of the art works. The place displays over 100 3D paintings in 10 different themed zones. Every painting looks so real that you have to move closer to see if they are actually painted on the flat surface and each piece allows visitors to interact creatively and pose for photos.

It cost us 400THB (A$20) each to get in. At the entrance we had to remove our shoes and this became clear as to why later when we started interacting with the art work. It was an amazing place…..Vince and I had such fun and hammed it up big time…..we easily spent about two hours and it was a very unique opportunity and experience. We found out later they have these also in Chaing Mai and Bangkok. We had a great time!

We left Art in Paradise, passing some of the “girly entertainment” places as we went to find somewhere for lunch….my tummy had really started playing up in the gallery…… resulting in two rushed visits to the ladies, so I wanted to try to play it safe….Vince spotted Burger King….. not proud of it but that’s where we ended up.

We caught a taxi bus (200THB) back to our hotel for a rest from the heat and more toilet visits for me…. before heading back to The Little Duck Cafe for another piece of  THAT cake…but she had sold out of the Taro so Vince tried the Chocolate Fudge and I had the Coconut Sponge…….OMG…..both to die for! This woman is an amazing baker, we have never tasted anything so good before….it was so good it even made me temporarily forget about the fruitcake I have been craving since our non event of a Christmas!

Unfortunately, it was almost a RUN back to our hotel for me…then into what must be the slowest lift on the planet up to our room on the 12th floor….it was excruciating…but luckily I just made it! Travelling in 3rd world countries has its price and my digestive tract has taken a severe beating off and on since Turkey! Cast Iron Vince remains unaffected by this latest bout….. so I don’t know what it was that’s set it off…..not fun!

So unable to be too far from the toilet it will be a quiet night in for me tonight and luckily it’s not a long ride to Bangkok tomorrow! Hope this passes soon, I feel like crap….literally!

300km approx. Five hours including the border crossing.

After last night’s little drama where four guys tried to barge into our hotel room about 9:30pm before they realised they had the wrong room, and then they were waiting just outside at a table for over an hour before someone called off the dogs, sleep didn’t come particularly easy last night and I was grateful to see the sky getting lighter through our flimsy curtains as that meant I could get up and start the day.

We packed the bike quickly and then rode the brief distance down to the ‘beachside’ restaurant overlooking the river where we had dined last night. I walked across to the river edge and snapped a few photos of the guys working on the fishing boats at rest in the water, loading supplies and sorting out fishing nets, whilst a woman and an old man fished from the boat ramp.

Breakfast concluded – crispy bacon, eggs and tea & coffee – we were on the bike and across the long bridge to the toll booth on the far side, 1,400 riel fee to cross. The Cambodian border town of Cham Yeam is 10km west of the bridge and Karen and I chatted on the intercom about our experiences in Cambodia as we rode through the lush countryside. We’ve only been in Cambodia for 10 nights but the experience has been quite profound and we’ll both miss this country, still struggling to get back on its feet and having to face a range of social issues and problems.

We rode past the Koh Kong Safari World entrance and the International Resort which seemed modelled with a French influence dating back to perhaps the 1930’s before arriving at the small Cambodian border crossing station. We quickly had our passports stamped out, departure cards removed and fingerprints scanned, and then across the road an officer from the Customs department waved us over, and started to query us about why we didn’t have any Customs paperwork for the bike – essential apparently if you want to ride inside Cambodia. Karen switched her charm onto ‘full’ and explained in her most endearing voice that despite her erstwhile request at O’Smach – our entry point into Cambodia – they had told us that no paperwork was required.

The risk at this stage was that we might be sent back to O’Smach to get the required paperwork, but Karen’s charm worked wonders on the Customs officer who emphasised that ‘next time’ we must get the paperwork, before shaking our hands and waving us across the border. Phew !!!!!!

The short section of road leading to the Thai border control passed the ocean – this is the first time we’ve seen the sea since Albania and it was great. We filled out our arrival and departure cards for Thailand and then mistakenly stood in the line for ‘Visas On Arrival’ I was told I needed to get our passports stamped and the Simplified Customs Declaration Form for the motorbike sorted out, so I went to another window and had the passports stamped and then trotted across the road to yet another window, got the form completed as required, and then went back to the VOA window where the girl checked our paperwork, completed our vehicle conveyancing form in duplicate, and then gave everything back to us.

Karen walked past the border gate and went to get some cold cokes whilst I moved the bike up – we had some Thai baht from our earlier visit and that came in handy today. Drinks drunk we were back on the road and I could immediately tell that we were back in Thailand as the road was in great condition and the road markings and signage is immaculate.

Yesterday evening I’d plotted a route from Koh Kong to Pattaya – our destination for the day – but when loaded into the GPS it just drew a straight line from A to B, so I could only guess that we had between 300km and 400km to ride today. The first part of the ride was absolutely blissful – twisting, scenic road that stretched between the coast on our left and the mountains on the right, with minimal traffic to distract us. We cruised along around 110kmh – 120kmh here, but after a while I throttled back as I was trying to conserve fuel and avoid a refuelling stop today, as I wasn’t sure we had enough THB on us to pay for a tank load. Dropping our speed to around 100kmh changed our fuel consumption for the better – from initially projecting that we’d run out 40km from Pattaya we finished the day with 65km left in the tank. I can always guarantee a good reaction from Karen when I tell here how close we’ve come to using a full tank but I don’t do that often to maintain the element of surprise.

Gradually the roads started to widen and carry more traffic, and occasional signs showed that bicycles and motorbikes should stay in the far left lane, but we slipped through the traffic as we wished, taking advantage of the far left lane only when faced with a red light ahead, as then we could sneak to the front of the waiting traffic and get a great start on the green, pulling far ahead of the cars and trucks and getting some open road for a while.

About 150km into the ride I spotted “Ben’s Cafe” on the roadside so we pulled over for a brownie each and a cup of tea & coffee, before scooting off again, this time into some light drizzle that made the road surface slippery in some places. We did get the tyres zinging in one spot when a silly car driver started to do a u-turn into our lane, but I caught it before the bike did so I was pleased with that.

Towards the end of the ride and with about 5km to go the GPS wanted us to take a 25km detour but I spotted that before we got sucked into it, so I just ignored the suggested route and instead we picked our way through the back roads before popping out a short distance from our hotel – the Ruenthip Pattaya. I’m guessing that a glitch in the Open Street Map I’m using for Thailand (thanks Aad !!) had a small gap in the roads near our hotel and hence felt obliged to look for a complete route.

Our hotel is a few blocks back from the beach and one of the tallest buildings in the area. Our top-floor room on the 12th floor overlooks the sea and the view is lovely. We unpacked, showered to cool down and then walked to a nearby restaurant for a cheap lunch of fried chicken and cashew nuts, and then chilled out back in our room before walking to the beach just before sunset to take some photos and enjoy the view.

We found ourselves in a large, covered dining area that opened out over the sea, which had receded on the tide to leave a mess of junk on the beach. Patrons were ordering food from attentive waiters, and when we walked out the back of this place we came across the large kitchen where the chefs were busy at work, and tanks full of dinnerplate-sized crabs, lobsters, sea bass, and various types of prawns.

We walked south – in the direction of Pattaya, stopping at a small restaurant that had a walkway stretching past a river mouth around to the sea front, and took some more photos of the setting sun and young boys trying their luck with a fishing net in the shallow river water before we enjoyed a wine & beer.

Now we’re catching up on our regular jobs – Karen is looking for accommodation in Bangkok and I’m blogging away to Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”. We have an off-bike day tomorrow and then will scoot up to Bangkok to go visit Olympus Cameras and explore the city a bit. Bring it on !!!!

I could swear that I could hear it raining outside so I wasn’t in a rush to wake up or get out of bed, but when I did pull back the curtains the sun was shining and the ground dry so it was time to yet again pack the bike and clock up a few more miles – about 290km today that would take us all the way south from Surin to the Chong Chom – O’Smach border crossing between Thailand and Cambodia, and from there down to Siem Reap, home of the fabled Angkor Wat collection of temples.

Karen launched herself into packing our gear so whilst I bumbled around trying to wake up and retrieve the bike from the narrow corridor I’d slipped it down yesterday so it would be parked out of eyesight overnight, she had everything ready to throw on the bike. About 08:30am we got moving, looking for a place to get some breakfast.

Karen spotted a coffee place so we doubled back there, parked the bike, and cocked up our drinks order. We had intended to order a coffee and a tea – but presented with three columns of figures adjacent to each item on the drinks menu which suggested a sliding scale of cost as you up sized through small – medium – large – we ordered a large coffee and a medium tea but they came out as iced drinks served with a straw – only then did we notice that the column headings were hot – ice – something else that I can’t recall offhand. Duh !!!! We ordered hot drinks – and even then Karen wasn’t fussed on her Ceylon tea as it looked like carrot juice topped with frothy milk, so all-in-all it was a bit of a breakfast fail – even the 2 x ‘American Egg Breakfast’ we ordered would have been unrecognisable to any Americans ….

We refuelled just down the road and that was a bit more successful, and then headed for the border, chipping away at a nice pace in the light traffic. Exiting Thailand was very simple – I just handed in our ‘Simplified Customs Form’ that had been issued for the bike and get that stamped, and then our departure cards were checked and our passports stamped out at another hut, and then we were on our way to Cambodia – about 50m away.

We didn’t have any US$ on us and I’d checked the Thai Baht – US$ exchange rate last night – approx 1,100 THB = US$30, but I wasn’t surprised when we were told we needed to pay 1,300 THB each for our Cambodian Visa On Arrival. I argued a bit with the two guys behind the window but wasn’t getting anywhere, so after voicing my disapproval I paid the money and got a stamp in my passport from one of the guys which showed his title – some senior police dude in charge of visa services. Hmmmm – I should have filled out one of their feedback forms that invited comments on their visa services.

From the Immigration Office building we could see a couple of resorts just a stone’s throw away – apparently a lot of Thai’s cross the border to try their luck at the casinos here, before heading home again.

Once we had the paper visa stamps glued in our passports we then went to the next window where another officer meticulously poured over our arrival cards and passports, comparing the various entries, before stamping and counter-stamping and stamping again in our passports and on the forms, before rechecking all of the stampings and all of the forms. Very diligent. This officer told us to ride down the hill a bit to look for the Customs place where we could register the bike, so we thanked him and raced down the hill to get in front of a line of trucks making their way slowly down to the same spot.

The Customs place wasn’t much more than a box with a window cut in it, and here we just filled out a simple register which I signed. No carnet, no importation forms, no fees – yippee!!!!

Only one more checkpoint to get through – the final passport check, which was nothing more than a cursory glance a chuckle or two from the officer – and then we were on our way into Cambodia, back to riding on the right hand side of the road.

As a special treat for Karen I decided to avoid the shorter main route down to Siem Reap and instead opted for the back roads way there, so we turned left (east) at Phong, just south of O’Smach, and headed to Anlong Veng, before turning south for Siem Reap. This road was marked as a minor road on the map but was in good condition (though bumpy in places) and we made good time towards Anlong Veng.

A lot of locals had spread out some vegetable thing on tarpaulins on the side of the road – we passed km after km of this thing drying out in the sun, occasionally seeing people raking it over or spreading it out by hand.

Originally I’d planned to slip past Anlong Veng and scoot straight for Siem Reap without stopping but Karen was feeling thirsty so we left the bypass and headed into the centre of town, which looked a bit like Shitsville to be bluntly honest. The first ATM we tried wasn’t working, but after a bit more riding and then watching Karen do battle with the next ATM we found, we were finally cashed up – but in US$. Just near the cross-roads in the middle of town we stopped to get some cokes and condensed milk (Karen plans to make rice something-or-other sometime), and we were then back on the plan and heading down to Seam Reap.

The road was sealed, wide, and carried few cars but enough scooters and farm trucks. Scooter riders here are manic – they don’t check before veering off the road in any direction. We pushed on at a pleasant pace, enjoying using 6th gear for a change as up until a few days ago we haven’t needed or used it for ages.

About 30km or so north of Seam Reap the road narrowed and started to get bogged down with lots of tuk-tuks carrying tourists out to see the temples scattered around Angkor Wat, so this slowed our progress, and then the road surface became very pot-holed so that was another obstacle, but not nearly as challenging as the shit-for-brains car drivers we encountered when we finally entered Siem Reap proper.

We had to ride from one end of town to the centre and a bit beyond before arriving at our guesthouse, and it was almost like being back in India I thought, with cars and trucks and buses and scooters all over the road – coming at us on our side of the road, doing u-turns into oncoming traffic, stupid stuff like that. I was relieved when we arrived at the Panda Guesthouse, and we saw that Aad and Mike had beaten us here as their bikes were already parked down the side of the building.

We unpacked, caught up with Aad and Mike briefly when they returned from lunch, and then we nipped outside for a late lunch ourselves, before seeing the guys again and collectively arranging three days of temple sight-seeing via tuk-tuk, starting 09:00am tomorrow. I can’t wait to go see the temples (again) – but for now I need to dash and go charge the GoPro.

9th January, 390km (approx).

The plan today was to ride 390km south from Udon Thani to Surin, to put us within easy distance to get to the Thailand-Cambodia border crossing tomorrow. Karen was starting to look like a McDonalds McBacon McMuffin McBreakfast so for a change she went to the breakfast bar at our hotel and enjoyed their bacon, but I gave the Udon Thani McDonalds one last breakfast order and all my loose change.

We packed the bike under the watchful stare of hotel guests standing around the lobby of the Centara, and then got a round of ‘thumbs-ups’ from them as we rode away, initially in the wrong direction as the GPS hadn’t yet acquired enough satellites to figure out where we were.

Traffic was light as we departed Udon Thani, and out on the open road we tapped the bike a bit and cruised along around 110kmh – 120kmh for most of the day, enjoying the quickest pace we’ve had in ages, though frequently being baulked by slow cars and trucks. It was in these situations that the Thai riding practice of riding in the left hand motorcycle lane really paid off, as if the oncoming traffic was too dense to allow a safe pass on the right, we could legitimately pass on the inside using the motorcycle lane.

Aad had warned in a recent email that Highway 2 heading south from Udon Thani towards Bangkok and which formed a large part of the quickest route towards Surin was absolutely manic to ride on – Aad and Mike had seen a dead rider on the road just a couple of days ago and had read that there are about 80 fatalities/day in Thailand – making it the second-most dangerous place in the world to ride – so we avoided Highway 2 from the start and instead used the GPS to plot a motorcycle-friendly ‘curvy road’ route down to Surin, which probably added both time and distance to our ride, but also added fun and enjoyment, and subtracted some of the highway dangers that Aad had alerted us to.

Our country back-roads ride took us down narrow country roads in rural areas, passing through some sleepy villages scattered here and there. We stopped in one to refuel as I was a bit unsure about finding fuel further down the road, and the fuel pump attendants were amazed to see the big BMW, along with the off-duty policeman who came over to photo the bike, explaining as he did that he as only partially in uniform, as he showed off his casual shorts and things, underneath his uniform shirt.

Further down the road we stopped for a drink and a bag of crisps, not realising at this stage that this would end up constituting our lunch for the day. Just south of here we crossed a long bridge spanning a wide lake – stopping on the bridge to photograph the floating huts attached to the large fish-net contraptions they had.

We started to see signposts to a Dinosaur Museum, and whilst we didn’t go inside we did park the bike under a brontosaurus and took a few photos.

South of this place the road doubled in lanes and traffic, until we got bogged down in a town called Roi Et. GPS’s should have an option to ‘take town bypass roads if available’ as our GPS led us right through the centre of this town, still busy cleaning up the streets after an overnight celebration – Karen thought it might have been Chinese New Year perhaps. We did ride for a while with some young guys on their little bikes and we all had fun – we got a laugh out of them when we blipped the throttle whilst waiting for a red light to change green as one of the young guns almost launched himself off, much to the amusement of his mates.

South of Roi Et the road became more rural again so we upped the speed and settled back into our 110kmh cruise mode. The GPS led us straight to PPS Home – cheap at $20, clean, easy parking with the bike right outside our ground floor room, and no food within walking distance – so after getting some cold Chang beers (no time constraints on buying alcohol in Surin I note) we ordered pizza and had that delivered, and watched the last of the Harry Potter movies.

Tomorrow we enter Cambodia and ride to Siem Reap to visit Angkor Wat and catch up with Aad and Mike. It’ll be great to see the guys and hear about their time at YSS in Bangkok. Bring it on !!!

Breakfast was at MacDonalds….bacon and egg mcmuffins……very conveniently located next door. Then off to the hospital to see the specialist….just a short walk from the lovely Centara Hotel where we are staying.

The hospital in Udon Thani seemed a bit more dated than the one in Chaing Mai but none the less quite efficient and we didn’t have to wait too long…..a nurse escorting us to each of the various sections we needed to go and passing paperwork on. Despite Chiang Mai assurances they would forward my records no one had any X-rays or reports so that was a bit of a concern, but it was all good news at the hospital ….the orthopaedic specialist says it’s about 60% healed….X-ray shows implants all in good position and alignment….. so they took the cast off….they now have the horrible smelly thing…. although Vince did suggest I gift it to our friend Mike who had wanted to draw on it for me (haha)! Better off in the bin I think!

I have been given 4 different drugs to take for pain, inflammation, muscle relaxation and calcium for healing…….now I will really rattle! The drugs are because the Dr says the Physio will make the arm very painful….I had an hour session today with the people from the rehabilitation unit and yep……pretty painful! So I have to put hot and cold packs on and some special exercises to do each day for an hour….as many times a day as I can manage. The Dr wanted us to come back in 6 weeks for more X-rays and checks but we told him we expect to be back in Aust by then….so he agreed we can get it checked then, as he’s not worried. He reckons it will be three months before the bone will be fully healed … no heavy lifting or push ups on it (I couldn’t put that kind of pressure on it anyway at the moment it’s very weak….and anyone who knows me will know push ups aren’t even in my vocabulary!)

We have decided to stay another night here, and after considering the hassle of crossing the border another two times to go through Laos to Cambodia we have opted to just start to head south through Thailand and go to Cambodia that way instead.

We had a short ride to do today so a leisurely breakfast and packing of the bike had us on the road from the S Park Design Hotel (US$63 per night) by around 9.00am

The GPS was playing up trying to send us on a route over 300km when we really only needed to travel around 80km. But Vince in his intrepid style “winged” it as we could see the Friendship Bridge with Thailand on the other side of the Mekong River. The Laos side of th borde was a little haphazard with not a lot showing in English to assist us, but we managed with some officials pointing us towards the correct windows to get our passports stamped as well as the paperwork for exporting the ANIMAL out of Laos……I wouldn’t say it was an easy or streamlined process but in the scheme of things not too bad. Unfortunately, the Thai side was nothing short of a dog’s breakfast. There were signs in English but not a lot of it made sense. There were many windows numbered up to 10, with some including A’s and B’s etc……they didn’t run in sequence and there were several saying “Visa on Arrival”……very confusing! After unsuccessfully lining up a couple of times, and having to let some locals know just exactly where the end of the que was (as many thought it ok to just push to the front) we eventually found our way to No 7 were we had to get forms to fill in along with a form for the importation of the ANIMAL…we we’re then told to go to No 6 and then to 5. After lining up at 6 we were told NO…..we had to go to 5 first…so off we went. Vince got through ok but when it was my turn the officer demanded money (which we didn’t have in THB) ….I asked what the fee was for but it was never explained. I told her we had no Thai money, only Kip, which she made clear she didn’t want….. so Vince went to find an ATM. She told me to stand aside and I refused, as she still had my passport! She told me that I couldn’t have it back until I paid the money, and I said that was fine but as there was no signage with fees or rates and I had no money at this point…… I was still not moving aside until I had my passport…..other westerners in the line start had also asking about the reason for the money as well….suddenly I found myself being handed back my passport, fully stamped, and she waved me away! I caught up with Vince and we still went to the ATM so we had some local money anyway. I am not sure if the fee was legitimate or a scam……we certainly got scammed at the last border crossing from Thailand……corruption is very evident at times….no explanation, or if one is given it doesn’t make sense, no formal evidence of a fee scale etc and certainly no receipts or paperwork for the transactions!

We road into Thailand and were stopped at two different police checkpoints …..Vince was teasing me that we were boarder runners and their must be an APB out on me…..which of course was all nonsense and we passed through them without any problems at all.

Vince had organised for us to stay at the Centara Hotel, right next to the Central Plaza shopping centre and walking distance to Bangkok Hospital Udont Thani ….the hotel was lovely and on special only A$53 per night…..the lap of luxury….I could get used to this! We had lunch in the shopping centre at Santa Fae Steakhouse… match for the one we had in Le Vendome in Vientiane! We also booked our tickets to see Star Wars The Force Awakens at the cinema at 8.10pm.

I had a wander around the shops and Vince gave me a belated Christmas gift of a bottle of perfume……feeling very spoilt! We bought 3 external hard drives …. as our laptop is almost full and we need to back things up and post them home….a time consuming job over the next few days!

Dinner was at the Pizza Company and then we went to catch the movie….all very civilised! Star Wars was good to see on the big screen…true to the original Star Wars!