CraSh Williams' Blog

Posts Tagged ‘terratag’

A slice of Pai and Pineapples for Elephants

Posted by Cool Your Jets IV on July 11, 2011

Just dropped the bike back and checked into our room here in Chiang Mai.

We’ve just completed a little over a 1000km on the bike, it’s been momentous, a little wet at times and we’ve seen some great sights – we’re shattered. Having decided upon hiring a 250cc enduro, the woman at Pop Motorcycle Hire soon talked us out of it – apparently the roads ‘oop north are all tarmaced and fairly decent; just prior she’d been laughing away at my suggestion of riding cross-country with no maps nor GPS (which is a fair one if truth be told) In the end we opted for a 650cc Kawasaki, a couple of dodgy helmets and little else – in fact we had a daypack between us with 2 pairs of skids each, a couple of t-shirts and a bar of a soap and toothbrush (we overdid the personal hygiene I know!)

Our first day was meant to be our longest, with a 360km ride Chiang Rai, on the edge of the Golden Triangle – North West of here are two borders, Burma to the North West and North East is Laos. Chiang Rai was a little unremarkable if truth be told though apparently it’s a little sleazy at the weekend – a kind of Brighton in the mountains as it’s where the Thais head to for a ‘dirty-weekend’ away with the missus or indeed her sister! Finding a place to stay we ventured into town and had a couple of beers, vowing to leave early the next day having seen none of the shenanigans we were expecting!

Rather than continue East, we decided to head West and the mountain top ‘town’ of Mae Salong – a Chinese Nationalist Outpost and one of the spots (several years back now) for the production of opium (though since the 80’s the government has clamped down and almost all villages in the area now produce other cash-crops.) We were planning to stay over though having seen all of its joys during the short ride through the town we made plans to make for Pai – some 300km South West of where we were currently – initially made up of mountain roads followed by a some nice straights mid-ride then back on to mountain roads into Pai.

We set off at breakneck speeds – the roads in the main were good, occasionally you would come around a bend to find a massive pot-hole in your way or even worse, a local driver (in a 4×4) overtaking on the bend you were coming around on (almost knee down) to find said truck bang in the middle of your line – a nightmare! Eventually making our turn-off, we had about 90 minutes to make it to Pai as it was getting dark and what with the local standard of driving and mountainous roads we wasn’t relishing – we’d also been told that from the turn-off to Pai was roughly 2.5 to 3 hours to drive, a distance of just over 100km…

We made it, just!

It was just getting dark as we arrived and beginning to rain – how we got there in one piece I don’t know, we over-took everything in front of us, cutting the corners of the road and powering out of bends, a rally exhilarating ride though we did pass a lorry trailer half way along which had jack-knifed in the road, the trailer well an truly in the ditch and no sight off the cab – not sure if this went over the edge as we managed to squeeze through and carry on with our journey!

For some reason Pai lacks a good write-up in the guide books which is odd – true, it is a little touristy and they have several western hippies all of whom have taken up residence in the town however we really liked the place. It was tranquil and having been riding for two solid days we were looking forward to putting our feet up and garaging the bike for a few days. We ended up staying for four nights – sightseeing the whole area, visiting local hot-springs, Pai’s version of the Grand Canyon and feeding elephants whole pineapples(!) we had a great few days there and left feeling totally relaxed – we even bumped into someone we’d met several weeks back whilst on Phranang beach in Krabi Province!

Our next stop was Mae Hong Son – apparently one of the most popular  tourist centres in the North West, someone somewhere is having a massive laugh at anyone visiting here – it was more dead than Nunhead Cemetary and I couldn’t wait to get out of there, the only thing missing was tumbleweed tumbling down the high-street! It’s one redeeming feature is the Highway 108 heading south – what a fantastic motorbiking road this was, long sweeping bends and super fast straights – a massive grin spread across my face as we powered on to Khun Yuam which is where we turned east, opting to ride through Doi Inthanon National Park – we should’ve stayed on the 108, the road through the park was too narrow, too windy and was quite difficult to ride – plus the Chief Navigator missed our turning which added an additional 60km to the trip!

Having completed 1027km we arrived back into Chiang Mai, we’re back in the same room we were in when we left and we’re glad to be back. Not sure of our plans tonight – probably a beer and a game of pool at Pinkys, followed by bed – probably a little after 10pm!

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Chiang Mai – Wat Tigers?

Posted by Cool Your Jets IV on June 27, 2011

Hiring a motorbike we spent the afternoon doing a quick sight-seeing tour of the City, visiting several Wats located within the Old City Walls – as ever, whilst visually stunning, once you’ve seen one, you’ve pretty much seen them all – a philistine, moi?! As mentioned in a previous post, there’s lots to see and do here, certainly enough to keep us busy for a good couple of weeks.

One thing we were both keen on, was to visit the Tiger Kingdom, about 15km north of the city.

It’s pretty impressive, being the only place that I’m aware of where you can actually get into the cage and get alongside the Tigers, you’re literally able to rub their bellies and grab their paws – we opted to see/get up close to a large two-year old and a twenty day old baby tiger. It was an awesome experience – these cats are mahoosive, the two years olds paw is larger than my head and the only thing there to protect you is a ‘guard’ carrying a small cane – I was pleased to arrive after the Tiger’s lunch as it may have been a different prospect if they were hungry!

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Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam

Posted by Cool Your Jets IV on May 11, 2011

Waking up at 5am this morning, Shelley and I left the hotel aboard our Minsk – hoping for quiet roads out of the City. No chance! There were thousands and thousands of scooters on the road, at times there were bikes coming at you from all directions (I kid you not!) Locals pointing and laughing at the white guy trying to look ‘cool’ on his Soviet made relic, billowing grey smoke behind him! Cars/buses/trucks hooting their horns – fully observing that well-known rule of the road – we’re bigger than you, you move!

It was bedlam though thankfully we made it to the tunnels in one piece though a little shaken!

The tunnels of Cu Chi are located 70km north-west of Ho Chi Minh City and was the Viet Cong’s base for operations during the Tet Offensive in 1968, plus numerous other battles and resistance. A vast, sprawling network of tunnels, some 200kms in total, all at differing levels; including fighting areas, hospitals, accommodation, kitchens and factories – it’s pretty impressive. As ever, the tour started with the obligatory ‘heads-up’ or propaganda piece – I enjoy this part the most as invariably there’s an American or four who get quite wound up hearing about the poorly equipped ‘peasant’ army taking the fight to US, and winning. Surely, they must know that any victor in battle will tell their side of the story?

Over the course of an hour or so you’re shown various stances with the most interesting being the ‘booby-traps’ piece – mostly primitive in their construction (before the War they were primarily used to kill tigers) though lethal and psychologically terrifying if operating in such areas, it was sobering and impressive at the same time. Also of interest was the ingenuity of the VC in making use of all the unexploded ordnance that was dropped on country, not only did they utilise the unexploded material, they also used the scrap metal, which they heated up and forged into barbed spikes which they then used in the above mentioned booby-traps. Other little things appealed; they recycled car/truck tyres to make sandals – interestingly the tread was always the opposite direction to give the impression to anyone tracking that they were walking in the opposite direction.

We also got to fire some weapons; we opted for the AK47 – weapon of choice for the Viet Cong – there was also several other weapons, mainly American M16 and M60s. Of course, I hit the target 5 times out of 5 – which is more than I hit whilst in the Corps (and more than my good mate Sooty!)

The tunnels themselves if truth be told, were a bit of an anti-climax – for starters they’d been made larger to accommodate the fuller figure of westerners (I assume they meant everyone else, not me!) and were only 100 or so metres long. Disappointingly, no booby traps! Though having ‘stuggled’ through little more than 100m of very wide tunnel, I was suprised at the amount of whinging from some of the group – ‘it’s claustrophobic,’ ‘it’s too hot,’ ‘crikey, it’s tighter than a gnats chuff…’ The VC sepnt months down there, suffering all of it – no wonder they kicked ass.

At the end of the tour you have the opportunity to purchase various souvenirs, the majority of which are GI Zippo Lighters – where ever you go in Vietnam, theres thousands of them, probably more lighters than there were Americans/VC combined. My mate, Tony T sums it up nicely:

Re tunnels, I bet it’s like the Berlin Wall, which would stretch twice around the world if you gathered up all the bits that have been sold to tourists – tunnels are probably the same – you’ll have had every post-war farmer out digging one while his missus is engraving original ‘air cav’  zippos, as used to torch our villages…

It’s been a great day out and pleased to have made our own way there on the bike.

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Posted in South East Asia, Vietnam | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »