11 NOVEMBER 2014
WHITE TEMPLE (WAT RONG KHUN) AT CHIANG RAI
20. After an early morning swim at the Hotel Pool, we went out to visit the Local OpiumMuseum. The Museum displayed the history of opium, the techniques of smoking it, and even the best position to smoke it in, as also hundreds of samples of different opium pipes. Quite aneducation it was.
21. We loaded up, started our bikes and topped up fuel at the first Fuel Pump. We were off once again at break neck speed, “burnin’ rubber”. We raced along till we reached Chiang Rai, and visited the statue of King Mangrai. Mangrai was born on October 2, 1238. In 1259, Mangrai succeeded his father to become the first independent king of the unified Tai city states in northern Lanna and what is now northern Laos. He founded the city of Chiang Rai. Next we visited the White Temple, which is breathtakingly beautiful. Its white brightness is enhanced by mirror pieces having been artistically pasted on the edges. A Golden Temple is constructed within the complex, and a Museum, worth visiting is alongside.
WHITE TEMPLE AND BELOW GOLDEN TEMPLE
TOPPED UP AND BELOW ONE MORE FOR THE RECORD
KING MENGRAI STATUE AT CHIANG RAI
22. hearty lunch, tried the popular, ‘Sticky rice with mango ‘, and found it very tasty. My choice for future menus. We bumped into another group of motorcyclists, all on superbikes, Hondas and Kawasakis. They were travelling with their wives/girlfriends, we spared a momentto ogle at them and were then off. Prithvi had made up his mind to touch 200 kmph today, Parag and Bhanu were also in the same league. Within the first five minutes I was on my ownas the rest except Manoj who was considerate enough to follow me, had zoomed on ahead. I did my best to keep up, but it was beyond me, I drove in bursts of speed touching 140, butgenerally kept to around to 115 to 120 kmph. I caught up with them a couple of times. Saw Parag motioning Bhanu to drive alongside him, both travelling at 120 kmph. Parag with themobile in his hand took a movie while they sped along. Though I was a fair distance behind them I could see the activity but could not fathom what was being done except that they wereriding parallel and Parag was leaning to one side with the mobile in his hand, at wheel level.
That a movie was being taken, I learnt later. We reached Phayao by around 4 p.m. and headedfor the hotel. The smile on Prithvi’s face confirmed that he had achieved the days goal, yes he had crossed 200 kmph. Both Bhanu and Parag had also crossed 195 kmph. I had done 140kmph, and would like to believe that I may have touched maybe 145 kmph. This was way faster than what I could ever have dreamt of.
23. We visited the Temple on an island in the Phayao Lake. Paddled across in a row boat, itwas hard work as the boatmen had to push through a stretch of thick hyacinth. On return to our rooms we washed and changed and got ready to go out for dinner, our last together. It wasa memorable evening, trying out new Thai food and exchanging notes on the day’s drive. Prithvi and Bhanu kept us engrossed with anecdotes. Parag, generally quiet, also heartily participatedin the general, “Shor-Gul”. Manoj and Bob ensured that we had a good time, Bob occasionally interjecting with his subtle irish humour. We wound up the evening with Prithvi and Bhanu,sharing a drink with two grannies who were enjoying some“daaroo” outside their cafeteria. At the boat stand, I blasted a few notes on the trumpet. Indeed a very enjoyable and memorableevening.
AT THE PHAYAO LAKE
12 NOVEMBER 2014
My troubles, self-inflicted, started on 12 November. Thanks to Manoj and Bobby theywere resolved. We packed up ready to leave, while having a cup of tea, I thought I would check my air ticket, for the evening flight to Bankok. I was in for a rude surprise. The flight I hadbooked was for around 7 p.m. 12 November, my ticket showed flight departure 10.30 a.m 12 November.Icouldn’t believemyeyes,howcould thisbe,Ichecked again, yesit said 10.30a.m.from Chiang Mai, a feat that was impossible to achieve. We should have at this moment beenat the airport about 160 kms away. Now what!! I requested Manoj for help. He called up Air Asia customer service and explained the situation. A lengthy discussion ensued, to cut a longstory short the change was approved in principle, but we were told to call up again after 10.30 a.m. for confirmation of seats. This ‘snafu’ took place, because my Travel Agent had initiallygiven me the required ticket but with zero baggage allowance. This flaw Namit, our elder son had noticed when I sent him the tickets for a check. I was unaware that In Economy Airlines weare required to pay separately for “Check-in “, baggage.I had called up our Travel Agent and asked him to have 15 kgs “Check-in”, baggage endorsed on the ticket. A fresh ticket was prepared and while preparing the fresh ticket my flight was inadvertently changed from an evening flight to a morning flight. I did not check the flight timings on the fresh ticket, justwhether the 15 kgs baggage allowance had been endorsed. They had changed my flight timing too. I cursed myself for not checking, but it was too late and cursing didn’t help.
Our last days journey commenced, and once again the Team, now seasoned riders, thundered on at high speeds. For me 110 kmph was routine and not too fast, for the others 140 kmph was normal. We crossed a stretch of hilly terrain, I was now much better at taking theturns, and also capable of braking safely. After a couple of hours drive, I saw Bob, Prithvi, Bhanu and Parag waiting for us, i.e. Manoj, Neelima and self, at a T-Junction. Left turn to Chiang Maiour destination and right towards Chiang Rai. It was now past 1030 a.m. I was keen that we call up the Air Lines and confirm our tickets. Asked the others to carry on, they were to stop at a restaurant about 20 kms ahead. As soon as Neelima, in the car, and Manoj on the Honda fetched up I requested him to call up the Air Lines, he did so and our flight reservations wereduly confirmed. Thanks to Manoj, it was a big relief. There was more confusion in store.
We pressed on to meet the others about 20 kms away. I drove at a fast pace and lostcontact with Manoj who was following. After about 20 kms I slowed down to locate the bikes of theothersbut couldn’t find them.I continued to drive slowly searching for the Team but still noluck. Instead of stopping and getting in touch with them on the mobile I continued to drive on thinking maybe they were still a little further ahead. I ought to have stopped after about 30 kmsbut decided to continue, and wait short of Chiang Mai our destination. Wrong decision. By about mid-day I reached a large city, and came to a T-Junction. Now was it left or right forChiang Mai? I got down and asked one of the restaurant owners the way to Chiang Mai.
She looked at me and said this is Chiang Mai. What ! Not again! My jaw dropped and my mouthopened and closed a couple of times and my eye balls popped out, no this couldn’t be. I then asked her for directions to Sheik Istan Hotel, she looked blank and said she had never heard ofit. I tried calling Manoj and Bob. No response. I asked the lady to call up the numbers on her mobile and that I would pay her. She tried, still no response. I had to rescue myself. I decided Iwould drive to the airport as everyone would be able to guide me to the airport. I asked for directions and set out, now a new development occurred, the fuel gauge began blinking, I wasrunning out of petrol. I stopped and asked for directions to a fuel pump. It took ages for thegentleman, I spoke to, to comprehend what I was saying. Finally he understood “Gas,Gas!” Yes I nodded and it took me more time to understand the directions he tried to explain. I followedthe directions given and got myself bogged down on a one way street, by now I was sweating. I stopped again and entered a shop where the owners, that is, mom, dad and daughter, werejust sitting down to a working lunch. Their daughter understood English, she noticed the anguish on my face as I explained my problem. I asked her to call the numbers on my mobile, we were finally able to get in touch with Bob. I tried my best to explain where I was, it was allGreek to Bob and to me too. The young lady too tried explaining, perhaps that made a little more sense. Bob told me to wait where I was, and not to fill up petrol as there was adequatefuel for another 70 kms. I stood on the corner of the road looking for Bob. I saw him approach, what a relief, I shouted and waved, but he was looking the other way and continued withoutstopping. This was just like in the movies. Got on the mobile again, no response. Another agonizing ten minutes then Bob came around once more, he saw my bike and then me. Thankgoodness. Bob met me, he was not smiling, he told me how harassed he had felt during the last couple of hours, and that he had grayed considerably in that short time. My humble apologies,Bob and Manoj and the Team for taking away a little of the sheen to an exultant finish. When Neelima saw me she didn’t smile either, and gave mea piece of her mind, of how I had puteveryone in tension. I, a senior citizen, felt like an errant school boy, who has just broken a window pane of the class room, and has been asked to stand in the corner, facing the wall, withhis finger on his lips. Fortunately Prithvi and Bhanu, came to my rescue, they took me to a bar next door and explained in some detail how the bar girls did the pole dance on table tops.
We handed over our bikes at the Bike Agency and returned to the Hotel. There werepacked our luggage for the flight, had lunch and got ready to leave. We bade good bye to our friends and headed for the airport, now confident that we would get the flight to Bangkok, andthen on to Singapore, where we were looking forward to spend some time with Akshat, our younger son, and his family. Deshvats, owner of the backup car, another gem, who was with usfor the entire Trip, dropped us in his Toyota to the Airport.
This has been one of my best rides, we made new friends each one a superb individual. Ienjoyed driving at high speeds learnt to bank the bike around bends, at a reasonable speed, and brake to a near stop using both rear and front brakes. Absorbed the beauty of the countryside, appreciated the cleanliness and very well maintained roads of Thailand. In the over 1100 kms we drove there was not a single pot hole, where the road was rough it was beingrepaired and repaved. We got a glimpse of the rich culture of Thailand. The places where we stayed the nights, were all exotic and very comfortable locations. What else could one ask for.
Thank you Manoj, thank you Bob, and thank you my excellent young friends, Prithvi,Parag and Bhanu.