After a good night’s rest in Chumphon, it was time to hit the road again. Today is day 5, and I’m heading to Surat Thani.
This should have been a pretty easy, uneventful day. The scheduled ride was only about 200 km. I pulled out at about 9 AM and jumped on the 327, which goes back out to the 4/41 interchange. I was looking for the 41 south. Looking at the map, you can see there are much more interesting ways to go. For example, you could take the 2018 straight down to the 41, or you could take the 4001 over to the 4019, at which point you would get to cruise some small, interesting country roads.
Traveling alone, not speaking Thai, and not being much of a motorcycle mechanic, though, made me stick to the main roads where I felt I could get help should I need it. Of course, being on the main roads has its own hazards, namely the completely crazy minivan drivers who cause countless number of accidents and deaths each year.
So, I’m cruising down a 2-lane road and there is a truck in front of me. It looks like an ice truck, a regular pickup truck with a big silver, insulated camper on the back.
We’re only doing about 60 KPh, but there is a fair bit of traffic coming the other way, so I’m waiting patiently for a chance to pass.
Then, out of nowhere, this minivan comes barreling up behind me. When I looked in my mirror, I saw the nose of the van flying towards me; then it dipped down hard.
The driver had gotten so close to my back wheel that I couldn’t even see the whole front of the van in my mirror–it was too close!
I was so pissed off! Not only do these idiots kill people, they never change the way they drive, which makes you think that they don’t care at all when they cause accidents, killing and crippling innocent people!
So, fuming, I turned around and flipped the fuckers off. That was a bad idea. I knew it was a bad idea as I was doing it, but I was just so steaming that I reacted without thinking. When someone almost kills you, on purpose, and doesn’t give 2 shits about it, you react.
And they reacted as these people do in such situations. The driver pulled into the oncoming traffic lane and positioned himself right next to me. The passenger was hanging out the window, shirtless and full of body-covering tattoos, belly flopping over the side of the door. Seriously, this guy was hanging out of the window to the waste–it seemed that he might fall out right onto the road!
He had both arms flailing about in my direction, and he was yelling “Fuck you, mother fucker!” “Fuck you.” I was both amused and startled! …but the show wasn’t going to last long–because these crazy fools were on the wrong side of the road, and a car was coming.
So, they sped up and then ducked in front of the ice truck. Half way on the shoulder and half way still in the lane–they slammed on their brakes. The ice truck went around them on the right, and I went around them both on the right shoulder.
I don’t think they saw me go around because I was on the opposite side of the ice truck when I passed them. In any case, I wasn’t about to hang around to find out just how many of them there were stuffed into that van! I took off and, thankfully, never saw them again.
I can argue all day long, with proof, about how dangerous and foolish these idiots are–and it would all be true! Still, though, acting like an idiot to counter people acting like idiots never does anybody any good! What I should have done was just pull over and let them go by. I’m lucky that flipping out and flipping them off didn’t get me run off the road or clubbed in the back of the head!
When in Thailand, it important to remember that this place is not, for example, like New York. In New York, if someone cuts you off you can flip them the bird without incident. In fact, it would be strange if you didn’t! In Thailand, people are much more sensitive, and flipping them off is like challenging them to duel to the death! In the end, it’s just not worth the little bit of steam you get to let off!
With that incident out of the way, it was time to deal with one more. Bye the way, after this, there were no more “incidents” of any kind on this trip! …but for now, there was a concerning noise coming from….somewhere, either the front of the gearbox or, perhaps, I thought, the front wheel. I stopped on the side of the road, which, by the way, was absolutely gorgeous at this point. Quiet, tropical, peaceful, and just an overall pleasant place to be.
On the shoulder of the road, I put the kickstand down, leveraged up the front wheel and tried shaking it back and forth, wondering if I was going to find any play in the bearings. The front wheel seemed solid, which I was very happy about. I pushed on to Surat Thani, worried about the grinding noise coming from down below, while, at the same time, soaking in the unbelievable scenery that surrounds the place. In particular, I really loved the huge, tropically lined Tapee river that you cross just before pulling, or in my case, limping, into “Surat.”
I had looked online for hotels in Surat, but none really excited me, so I just rolled into town and had a look around. The first thing I did was park down along the Tapee and buy something to drink!
I was hot as hell, and exhausted! I took a quick look around and just a couple blocks up from the river I stumbled across “My Place,” a hotel that I had seen online and that was right downtown. I’m not too picky about hotels! This one was cheap, clean, and centrally located–good enough for me!
I have three things to do in Surat. One, go to “Cooling Out,” a bar that a friend of mine told me was really good. Two, find out what the hell is wrong with the mighty Lifan, and, three, to have a look around the area, as this is a place I’m considering relocating to. First, though, a scrub down and a bit of rest–it’s been an eventful 200 kilometers.
It’s about…dark outside o’clock. I’m up. I’ve eaten, and I’m out the door to find the “Coolin Out” bar.
I’ve found it. It didn’t take long. I’m enjoying a cold beer with the owner, a very cool guy named Art.
Art has a very cool little bar and a huge selection of great jazz music. Not only was Art a cool guy to hang out and drink with, but he was a very helpful and kind person, too.
I told him of the strange noise coming from the Lifan and asked him if he knew a local mechanic. He said he did, AND he offered to take me there in the morning! …pretty cool thing to do for a complete stranger!
We went to the mechanic together the next day, a tiny little place that I would never have stopped at without a recommendation. We told the guy what was wrong. He took off the metal plate that covers the chain and front sprocket. Looking inside, we could see a thick layer of chain grease–with a very clean, clear groove in the grease where the chain had been rubbing up through it.
The problem was simple. The chain was worn out, and no matter how much I tightened it, it would losen up and start rubbing against the sprocket cover–making the horrible grinding sound I was hearing. The mechanic replaced both sprockets and the chain for 950 Baht–about $30. The Lifan ran like a dream from this point forward!
I stayed around Surat for another day. I thought it was an okay place, but not really a place I wanted to relocate to.
Tomorrow, off to Trang!