Chris' 1994  R100GS/PD ULTIMATE JOURNEY Erin's 1997  F650

Living a Dream . . . 2 Live-N-Ride

May 1st, 2000

DIVING in southern Thailand

-- Story by Erin --

After successfully exiting Laos on Saturday, April 8th, the same way we entered (on the back of a pickup truck across the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge), we headed for the southern part of Thailand and an island called Phuket.  We had heard about a "big bike" rally there that is held every year and wanted to check it out. 

On the way, we stopped in Bangkok for a couple of days to do some work on Chris' bike at a shop called Dynamic Motors.  It was approaching the Thai New Year, the biggest holiday of the year, the Songkran Festival, and the people of Bangkok were already starting their celebrations.  Many of the streets were blocked so that food vendors could set up their stalls, street performers could perform, and musicians of all kinds could entertain the revelers.  The owner of the repair shop, Yut, and his girlfriend, Jeed, decided to drive down to Phuket with us since it was a long weekend.  It took a day and a half of driving in the rain and getting sprayed/soaked by New Year's revelers before we arrived at our destination.

We arrived in Phuket on Friday and discovered it was the last day of the "big bike" rally, however we did get to see some of the customed-out Harley's, Japanese bikes, old Norton's and BSA's, and yes, even some old and new BMW's.   There was even a wet t-shirt and best tattoo contest.  It was like a mini-Sturgis rally back in the states!

Yut and his girlfriend Jeed

Saturday morning the four of us went for a ride around the (large) island, stopping at some beautiful beaches and scenic overlooks.  Unfortunately our tour was interrupted early by a strange sound and vibration coming from my engine.  Luckily Yut came to our rescue and discovered the problem -- The nut at the end of a big bolt that attaches my engine-guards to the frame was sheared off, leaving the bolt rattling around against the engine case.  He guided us to his friend's shop in Phuket city and we got it fixed straight away.  Too bad life isn't always that simple! 

After a few days in Phuket, Yut and Jeed unfortunately had to return to Bangkok (something about work?) and we drove further south on the mainland to explore some more beaches and sites (We would see them again in May).  Our next stop was Phang Nga, a small village wedged between limestone cliffs.  It makes for a good base from which to take a boat trip to neighboring islands, sea caves and fishing villages.  We decided to take a half-day trip on one of these boats to see if we really liked it.  Our little tour took us across small, shallow canals, through lush mangrove forests, past many little fishing villages built on stilts over the water, then out to the open sea and the famous James Bond Island -- name after the movie that was shot on location here. 

From the movie -- The man with the Golden Gun

Looking down from one of the piers One of the most interesting things we saw was the island of Ko Panyi.  Its a small Muslim fishing village built on stilts and up against tall limestone cliffs.   The 2000 or so people that live there are supposed to be descendents of two seafaring Muslim families from Java who landed here 200 years ago.  The way the piers are constructed without any guard rails its amazing how the children don't fall down, some 10 feet or more, into the muck or water below!

Muslim Village


As there was not much else to do in Phang Nga, we left the next day (Wednesday, April 19th) to a beach further south called Ao Nang (near Krabi).  We had heard that the beaches here were less touristy and the limestone formations were great.   Ao Nang is actually a small village, just a little touristy but not too much so, and has really lovely sunsets.  We found a nice bungalow across the street from the beach and contemplated what to do next.  We checked out the dive shops and decided to go for our PADI Open Water Diver certification.  It would take 5 days and about $200 each.  Our first diving experience back in December in Dahab had whetted our appetites and now we were ready to get fully certified.  It turned out to beErin, Oli, and Chris one of the absolute highlights of our trip so far.  Besides the beautiful underwater scenery and sea life, our instructor Oli became a real friend in those 5 days.  All of the staff in the dive center, including also Oli's girlfriend Alex (also an instructor) made us feel perfectly at home with them hanging out after our dives and sharing there experiences.   We hope to see them again sometime, diving in other wonderful spots around the world!

Leopard Shark
(For more pictures, see Related Photos link at the bottom)

Well it was nearing the time for us to renew our Thai visas again.  This meant heading for the Malaysian border.  We had met a nice guy on the internet named Peter who lived near the border in the city of Hat Yai.   We decided to go there on Thursday, April 27th to meet Peter and also take care of our visas.   Peter is Swiss and married to a Thai woman, and has a baby Rottweiller dog named BoBo.  He rides a BMW K1100RS, in perfect condition, and is very active in his local m/c club.  Besides spending several hours helping us with a computer virus problem on our computer, he also treated us to some local cuisine such as frogs legs in a hot curry sauce, pig entrails in a spicy, sour, vinaigrette salad, and barbecued ribs.  Yummy but made my mouth feel on fire and my eyes watered the rest of the night!

We took care of our visa renewal at the Malay border (easy process!) and headed back to Bangkok on April 30th.  Anticipation was setting in as we were about to meet a horde of RTW riders---- quite a coincidence for all of us!   We were excited to meet all of those riders who we heard about or had contact with via email for so many months.

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