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Bike diaries, Khao Sok to Penang

khaosok1One of my earliest child memories is getting on the back of my Dad’s motorbike, while he drove along the narrow roads of the of Antwerp where grew up in. Another memory is about an American television series, Street Hawk, which was aired in Belgium during those days. The show was about a police officer named Jessie Mach and a super bike (a government project). The tag line used to be, The Man, The Machine…Street Hawk. I would watch the show and be mesmerized as the amazing bike performed incredible feats under the helm of Jessie. May be it was those formative years, but I love motorbikes. I have always found long rides helpful in clearing my mind and uplifting my mood. Faster and faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of crashing and evem death. It has become a lifestyle, a recreation and a way of life. It was a perfect day for a motorbike ride thought the country. After my successful ride in Cambodia, I felt pretty confident taking my bike for a trip down to Malaysia. I was staying in a nice tree house at the Khao Sok Paradise Resort in the Khao Sok national park for almost a week. As Usual, I was a little nervous driving such a long way. But I got out onto the highway 401 toward Surat Thani and just cruised. I was a distracted driver, gazing at those wonderful limestone cliffs and reading signs in Thai. I stopped frequently along the side of the road to take pictures. I took a random dirt path that looked like it ran right into a cliff. It led to another road, which took me past a very small village and to a cave with a swimming hole. Some local kids were swimming. “You. You. Farang (Thai word for someone of European ancestry), what’s your name?” The kids led me into the narrow cave and pointed out the stalagmites Suay, suay. (Thai word for: Beautiful) I got back on the motorcycle and continued riding. Every bend revealed more awe-inspiring scenery. I finally turned back at Ao Luk, about 35 kilometers from Krabi. I took a random turn toward Ao Pranang and continued straight. I truly enjoyed that road. After winding around and following random signs, I was back on the track towards Pranang. It led to Nopporatthara Beach near Ao Nang. It was low tide at the beach. I could wade out to the karsts. It was raining out over the sea. I could see it coming towards shore. I got back on the bike and headed back towards Trang. The drizzle gradually increased, but it was never a pouring rain. I would not have liked driving in that weather. It still happens to me to drive on the right. But no one takes much notice in Thailand where motorbike drivers regularly drive the wrong way down streets and flaunt every rule of the road. One arrived in Trang I did a couple small loops in the city before finding vegetarian restaurant. I went for some kind of Indian vegetarian food–totally worth getting wet for the weather cleared an hour later, the Sun was shining again and I decided to hit the road for Hatyai where Aleu, my Spanish buddy was waiting for me. khaosok3   It took me other 3 hours through majestic southern roads to reach Hatyai. Aleu, came to pick me up at my guest house at 6 Am, we both had some roti nam geang, Malay pancakes, served with curry and hot tea with condensed milk for breakfast, after what we checked our Motorcycles and decided to head for the Thai-Malay border who was only an hour drive from Hatyai. The army stopped us quite a few times on the way to the border; apparently they were looking for Muslim insurgents and since we both didn’t shave for a while, it didn’t help, but after meticulously checking our passports we were both freed. Once through the Thai end and after clearing the customs and presenting our Passports to the immigration officer, we were finally in Malaysia. We took the North-southern hi way towards Penang and stopped at the Changlung Petronas fuel station to take a break and for another fuel top up. We were only 30 Kilometers far from border but being in Malaysia was like being in a different world, first all signs were in both Bahassa (the local language) and English, then it seemed like the country was much more organized, good Hi ways, drivers following the traffic code, different ethnic groups, mainly Malays, Chinese, and Indians and almost everybody could speak proper English. We later discovered, that Malaysia was also more expensive then Thailand except for the Fuel which is dirty cheap, almost twice cheaper compares Thailand. No surprise coming from an oil producing country. Any way after another 3 hours ride true Palm plantations we could finally see the Strait of Malacca and the Bridge connecting the mainland to the island of Penang. Penang is a mix between a very modern city and an old colonial town and if you are a fan of Chino-Portuguese architecture I really recommend you to visit George Town. In the Fifteenth-century Portuguese sailors coming from Goa (India) on their way to the Spice Islands often made stopovers on in Penang which at that time was called Pulo Pinaom. khaosok4

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