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Old 05-09-2015, 06:39 AM   #1
Aj Mick OP
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Ten days in Thailand, rented three scoots and an electric bicycle.

I used busses and the train for the long hauls, and rented scoots and an electric bicycle for local exploring. First the rides; pictures of people, places and more bikes to come to come.

Did the overnight 18 hour, 1,300 km trip from Phuket, where I am living, to Khon Kaen in probably the most comfortable bus seat I have experienced….. reclined enough, and supportive enough to sleep ok, massage function on the seat, and entertainment of sorts via LCD screen and headphones. Ladyboy hostess was a bit creepy though.



A Honda Wave 110i with fuel injection, disc front brake, and mag wheels was my ride in Khon Kaen. It was newest bike I have ever ridden with just 15,000 km on the clock. Like many rentals here, it was probably repossessed after the original owner didn't keep up payments, and sold on, hence the lack of a number plate; sorting registration can take a bit of time.

"Not a problem," said the rental guy (who was a police officer I discovered), "all the paperwork is there, under the seat".

A little more grunty from low revs than the 18 year old Honda Dream (carburettor & drum brakes; 235,000 km) I have in Phuket. Easy to ride around town, though the front end seems vague compared to the Dream. Relaxed at 70 - 80 km/h (45-50 mph) out of town, and probably good for 110-120 km/h.

Rental was about $(US) 6.00 per 24 hours.



A Yamaha Mio, a bit older, but well maintained…. rented from a Honda dealer in Pak Chong, near Kao Yai! A few years old, but the current model; 110 cc, fuel injected, water cooled with CVT auto transmission. It was the first time I spent more than a few minutes with an automatic vehicle of any kind.

It got away smartly at the lights; 50 metres down the road doing 30 km/h (20 mph) and accelerating while geared bikes were changing gear, and cars were overcoming inertia to get off the mark. It was a great machine for getting around town, and like current similar sized machines was comfortable at 70 - 80 km/h outside town (probably 100-110 km/h flat-out). However, the 16 inch wheels shod with chubby tyres were unsettled by anything less than smooth roads.

Rental was about $(US) 9.00 per 24 hours.



The 17 inch wheels of the Wave and my Dream, shod with skinnier tyres, handle pot-holes and unpaved roads with aplomb by comparison.

Another Honda Wave in Hua Hin, a bit older than the one I rented in Khon Kaen, with standard spoked wheels. I did about 280 km, going to Prachab Kirikan and exploring places nearby over the course of a day….. It was only bike I had a problem with. After riding about 30 minutes in a tropical storm (wanted to get back to town before dark) it conked out, and I still had 20 km to go. Plenty of fuel, and the EFI pump was working, but no spark.

A local gave me a tow (with another Wave) to a mechanic a couple of km down the road. A new spark plug did no good. He took a look at the wiring harness and found a place where a rat had taken a bite. Not right through, but in the high humidity it was enough to short the wire from the alternator to the CDI unit. He sorted it quickly; I settled the $US 5.50 bill, and set off, receipt in wallet, and got back to the rental place just after dark. They were reluctant to reimburse me, but I pointed out that it was no fault of mine that the bike required repair.

Rental was about $(US) 6.00 per 24 hours.

The border between Burma and Thailand runs along the top of the hills in the picture.



Cyclist that I am in my daily life, I was interested in checking out an electric assist bicycle, and the opportunity presented itself in Hua Hin. The bikes on offer had a retrofitted hub motor and battery, relatively recently developed offering from England. The one I chose to rent was the lowest end, but most practical single speed model, coming with a carrier and basket; good for exploring around town and along the coast. They also had electric assist mountain bikes with gears.

The bike had a range of up to about 30 km using electric power only, but are really designed to be pedalled, with electric assistance. Switch it on and pedal, and the electric motor kicks in to match the speed you pedal at. The effort involved is about the same as cruising on smooth road; hardly noticeable initially, but then you realise that you are putting in less effort than normal for the speed you are traveling at, and slopes are easy.

Stop pedalling and it stops helping, but there is a thumb control to run on electric only, or to give a boost off the mark; useful, as with the battery and motor it is quite weighty. Once you reach a desirable speed, hit a cruise control button, and the bike will maintain it as long as you keep the pedals turning, with minimal effort. Grab the brakes and the electric assistance switches off.

An interesting concept, but I feel a solution in search of a problem. It gives no speed advantage over the bicycle I ride most days. It just takes less effort. For longer trips it would certainly not be an alternative to my motorbike.

Electric assist bicycle rental for the bottom end model was about $(US) 6.00 a day.

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Old 05-09-2015, 09:09 PM   #2
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Motorcycles seen

Most of the 1.7 to 2 million motorcycles sold in Thailand each year are small, utilitarian models. Bikes bigger than 250 cc still account for less than 10% of the market. Ten years it was not even a couple of percent.

Over the past few years several manufacturers (Honda, Kawasaki, Ducati, Triumph) have moved big bike production to Thailand, making their products much more affordable than heavily taxed imported machines, thus the big bike market is expanding.

There is some great riding to be had in parts of Thailand, especially the North. However, many of the country's main roads are long straight highways, heavily used by commercial traffic; boring and not really motorcycle friendly.

I saw a few adventure style motorcycles. Each to their own, but riding Issan (Northeast Thai) highways is not my idea of an adventure.



I rented as I went, but some folks take their bike with them on the train.



There are a few big scooters around, such as this 300 cc Honda Forezza, but imported, they are comparatively expensive.



Honda has more than 80% of the market and the Wave 110i is ubiquitous. Kids over 15 can be licenced to ride a bike up to 110 cc. When they are over 18 folks can ride any size. In reality, kids younger than 15 riding on the road are common, and many people cannot be bothered spending the day and about $US 5.00 it takes to get licenced.



Need shelter from sun and rain…. fit an umbrella!



Venerable Vespas are a common sight around Chinatown in Bangkok.



Recent years have seen Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki develop CVT automatics which now account for about 40% of the market, more in town than rural areas. Retro styling is popular.

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Old 05-10-2015, 05:00 AM   #3
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It surprises me that so few in the USA ride for utility.

Please carry on as I love RR,s from your part of the world.
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Old 05-11-2015, 02:43 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by tastroman View Post
It surprises me that so few in the USA ride for utility.

Please carry on as I love RR,s from your part of the world.
I guess the USA and most other affluent western countries, with their car based economy and culture have long seen motorcycles more as a slightly edgy hobby than as practical transport.

For me, growing up on a farm in NZ in the 1960's, our farm motorcycle also did duty as a second vehicle to the family car. Utility has always been a factor in motorcycling for me.

Here in SE Asia motorcycles have long since served in place of car, and have been adopted and adapted to increase their utility.

Three wheelers carrying the load out front were all around the market in Pak Chong, near Kao Yai in Nakorn Ratchasima.




Pick up and side car style utility, also in Pak Chong.




Two wheels are more practical to get goods around Bangkok's Yaowarat district, with many decades old 2 stroke Vespa scooters and Kawasaki motorcycles still in daily use.




More recently only four stoke machines have been available to add to the fleet.




Honda CG125 based taxis outside Prachab Kirikarn train station.




No adaptation in Hua Hin……. one big bag on board a(nd another in tow), documents in a roll, two adults and a kid on this Honda Wave. (Unfortunately the camera I had with me had quite a slow start up time so I did not get a good picture. In need of repair, I replaced it with a new camera which is much faster to use a couple of days ago.)



Family transport…. just three here, but four or five is possible.



And one I should have put in an earlier post, an electric assist ballon tyres bicycle.

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Old 05-11-2015, 03:55 AM   #5
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Khon Kaen

I started my trip in Khon Kaen because it is served by a direct bus service from Phuket. It is also where I used to attend a meeting every month when I was working on the Northeast Livestock Development Project back in 1981/82. It is about 20 years since I was last there, so initially I got well lost trying to find my way around town. After a while I started to recognise some landmarks, hidden amongst all the changes.

Seeking coffee and advice I stopped at the local Aussie Bar, where I could get neither. I was directed over the road to the Blues cafe and bar, where several of the local foreign community were having brunch. The food was satisfying, staff pleasant and service was good, so I returned for breakfast the next day before heading off to rent a motorcycle.

I used to be based in the next province, Chaiyaphum, but had not explored anywhere out of town in Khon Kaen. I headed west hoping to make it to Pu Wiang National Park….. Pu means "hill' or "mountain" in Thai, which I thought might be more interesting than the surrounding plains and straight roads, which carry a lot of heavy goods vehicles.



The primary land use is rain fed rice growing. Being near the end of the hot season (40ºC/104ºF days) the paddy fields are still a while off being planted.



Nowadays farmers plough using tractors in advance of the monsoon. Just a generation ago, when I lived in the region, buffalo were used to plough the fields after the rains arrived.



Upland crops include sugar cane, seen on the left of this photo. The mango tree is probably grew from seed, but I did see the odd mango orchard.



Cassava is also grown on upland. Most is dried and used to produce livestock feed (much of which is exported), but processing into ethanol to mix with gasoline is encouraged by the government.



Some upland is planted with gum trees, which ration after harvest. I gather the main use of the wood is paper production. In some parts of the NE Thailand large areas of gum have affected the local water table, resulting in land becoming too saline to grow rice.



This cafe and short time hotel provided a quirky variation along the way.





I didn't make it to Pu Wiang…… it was getting lat in the day, when a thunderstorm developed and was heading my way. Out in the middle of nowhere, with no shelter nearby and no rain gear, I beat a retreat back to Khon Kaen city. It took about an hour to cover the distance I had meandered out over the afternoon, with spots of rain following me for about half the distance…. sorry no photos.

Passing Khon Kaen University as evening fell, I popped in to find somewhere to eat. I used to know my way around it years ago, but again, the changes had me flummoxed. In what was a canteen in the day time, uni students were employed at tutorial schools, helping high school kids with their lessons.

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Old 05-11-2015, 04:01 AM   #6
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That 3 wheeled taxi is really cool. You should share these in the battle scooter section of this forum as many there have a soft spot for small displacement bikes.

My parents lived in Korea for a few years, (another culture that finds utility in 2 wheel vehicles) which enlightened me to the notion that a motorcycle can be much more than a toy.

Man I'd love to visit your part of the world some day.
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Old 05-11-2015, 11:11 PM   #7
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Nakorn Ratchasima (Korat)

Quote:
Originally Posted by tastroman View Post
That 3 wheeled taxi is really cool. You should share these in the battle scooter section of this forum as many there have a soft spot for small displacement bikes.

My parents lived in Korea for a few years, (another culture that finds utility in 2 wheel vehicles) which enlightened me to the notion that a motorcycle can be much more than a toy.

Man I'd love to visit your part of the world some day.
Not really my part of the world, despite having lived in Thailand a total of about 15 of the past 34 years. However it was my first stint here that confirmed the utility of smaller motorcycles for me…… It is an interesting place, but far from being home.

New Zealand the land of my birth, I am also a citizen by descent of two European countries. There is some fine motorcycling to be had in both those parts of the world.

After a couple of nights in Khon Kaen I took a three hour bus trip down the Mittaraparp (Friendship) Highway to Nakorn Ratchasima, where I had lived for a year in 1999 / 2000. I had planned on renting a motorcycle there, but met up with old friends, Tuan and Mod, and spent a day catching up with other friends with them in their pick-up.



We met near the gateway to the old part of Nakorn Ratchasima City, where there is a statue honouring Lady Suranaree (Ya Mo). On May Day morning many workers having a day off were showing their respect, and praying for favours.



Ya Mo is a warrior woman who led locals in freeing the city from Lao invaders about 190 years ago. With many taken prisoner, she organised food and liquor, and got local lasses to show the invading troops a good time. When they were sleeping off their stupor the locals attacked the Laotians, and sent them on their way, followed by Siamese soldiers who went on to destroy Vientiane.



If prayers to Ya Mo are answered folks pay for a performance of Korat song at a stage nearby. It is sung in the local dialect, which is not spoken by many these days. I was asked to translate a couple of songs for some function when I lived there…. a bit of a mission, involving someone providing a translation into Thai, for me to translate into English.

The hand over the ear pose by the man is part of the performance.

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Old 05-12-2015, 08:18 PM   #8
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Amphur Khon Buri, Korat.

We visited another old friend, Boom, in Khon Buri District, some 70 km out of Korat city. After about 20 years in the world of commerce, Boom returned to look after the family farm last year.



Fruit trees in Boom's back yard.

Papaya are a staple in the Issan (Northeast Thai) diet, mostly eaten green, shredded to make a salad called Som Dum.



Mangos are in season. This small variety is rarely available commercially, but are as sweet as they come.



Jackfruit, just one is big enough to feed a whole gang.



Mod & daughter, Bai Bua, sharing a moment…… Bai Bua had yet to be born last time I was in the area.



We caught the evening market in Khon Buri town, a few km from the village.



Now, which part of the pig do you want?



Sweet, but rather bland rambutan, along side durian, the king of fruit…. stinks like hell, but tastes like heaven.



Hor Mok, made from fish and coconut milk and steamed, along side mangoes.



After dinner at the market, we dropped Boom off at an evening milk bar she helps her brother with. Set up outside a building Boom had built, but is yet to stock with household goods, it has become a popular meeting spot for local teenagers.



On the way back to Korat city we stopped off to see Toy, one of my longest standing friends in Thailand. Known for her ceramic sculpture, she recently returned from a spell as Artist-in-Residence at a university in Washington. She was a mentor to Mod, who is also skilled in working with clay.

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Old 05-13-2015, 11:14 PM   #9
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East of Kao Yai National Park

The next day we went to a small, remote temple near Kao Yai National Park, where Mod and Tuan were building a waterfall below a ….. not really Mod's thing as art goes, but a job is a job, and it was tied in to some other work.




The temple a merit making project built by a wealthy family on a steep, rough 100 acres above the surrounding rolling land. It is mostly divided int large spreads owned by folks in Bangkok, about 200 km southwest. Jungle just a couple or three decades ago, cassava and sugar cane are the main crops grown, though there are also some orchards growing mangos and other fruit. Kao Yai (which means "big hill") covers 300 square kilometres of land, mostly 400 - 1000 metres above sea level on the hills in the distance. it was Thailand's first national park, declared in 1962.

Reasonably good sealed and unsealed roads in the area would make for some interesting riding; somewhere to explore more on another trip with more time available.




On the way we stopped off for a culture fix at Kao Yai Art Museum. Bai, Tuan and Mod's son has inherited his mother's artistic bent, and his father's inclination to work hard. There is a place waiting for him to study Ceramic Art at the Korat campus of Rajamangala University of Technology.



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Old 05-14-2015, 10:31 PM   #10
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Back on a scoot and return to Muaklek

I rented a Yamaha Mio (from the Pak Chong Honda dealer!) for 300 baht ($US 9.00) a day and headed about 30 km down the Mitaraparp Highway to Muaklek. Three decades ago I worked as a volunteer with the Dairy Farming Promotion Organisation of Thailand, based on the Thai-Denmark Dairy Farm.

When I first worked in agricultural Northeast Thailand (Issan) this road was a single lane each way. Now a multilane highway, transports container loads of goods from an increasingly industrial Issan to Klong Toey port in a few hours.

Not very motorcycle friendly, though the little 110cc Mio was able to keep up with the heavy traffic.




Not far off the highway, this store has changed little in a generation.



The house I lived in 30 years ago now sports a satellite receiver, but has seen little other change (or maintenance) since.



When I was there the Deputy Director of DFPO was interested in developing the concept of grazed grass legume pastures, which are the basis of low dairy production cost in NZ, with little or no use of supplements. Nowadays they follow the Northern Hemisphere practice of zero or minimal grazing. Pasture is cut and carried to the cows, and supplemented with concentrates.

The Guinea grass based pasture below the house I lived in goes back to the border of Khao Yai National Park.




Dairy farmers in nearby Patthana Nikom Muaklek also cut and carry grass, fed along with rice straw and concentrates.



I first ate at Muaklek Steakhouse about 34 years ago….. little has changed there since then. The decor is the same, with sturdy furniture made to last. The menu is still the same…… and prices have increased only a little; about 30% in three decades by my reckoning.




Pepper Steak; taste and presentation unchanged in a generation, and good value at 180 baht / $US 5.50.

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Old 05-23-2015, 10:07 PM   #11
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Longest day's ride - to Prachab Khiri Khan and back

I rented another Honda Wave 110i (200 baht / $US 6.00 per 24 hours) to ride to Prachuab Khiri Khan about 95 km south, and back to Hua Hin on a day trip. I was last in the area on a couple of trips some thirty years ago, when dairy farming was introduced to the province.

With a bit of exploring, all up I did about 240 km / 150 miles…. all on a tank full of gas; about 4 litres / 1 gallon.

The Bangkok to Malaysia section of the Trans-Asia Highway was constructed about 20 years ago…… heavily used, some parts are in need of maintenance. Like most main roads in Thailand, it is mainly long boring straights, with a lot of commercial traffic.



Here in Thailand drivers tend to stick to the outside lane (next to the centre of the road). They pass on the inside lane, the slow lane in most countries. Motorcycles are legally required to stay on the left of the road, and are not supposed to venture into the outside lane (strictly enforced in Bangkok, but not so much elsewhere). It makes for some dangerous passing manoeuvres, with motorcycles being particularly vulnerable.

Coming into Prachuab Khiri Khan Town, Chong Krachok Hill looms large.



There are 396 steps to the top of the hill. The local residents can get a bit aggressive if they think you are carrying food.




The view of the coast from the top is stunning:

East



Panorama to the south






Have you ever wondered what it is like in a Thai jail……? Here's a bird's eye view of Prachuab Prison.



The narrowest part of Thailand - The border with Burma is in the hills only about 20 km / 12 miles inland to the west. The nearest road border crossing, however, is several hundred km to the north.

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Old 05-24-2015, 09:58 PM   #12
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In and around Prachab Khiri Khan

Down on the promenade



CG125 based taxis at the railway station



Unusual in Thailand, a church steeple with four bells.



On the road to Prachaub I noticed a few Friesian cross steers, so knew there were dairy cows around. I was involved a little in the early days of dairy farming in the province, over thirty years ago. I was interested to see how things had developed since then, so I headed east, and started to come across a few dairy farms. Aspiring dairy farmers are still trained on the Thai-Denmark Farm at Muaklek in Saraburi.



As at Nikom Muaklek cows are fed on rice straw, supplemented with concentrates, including waste from pineapple canning and coconut oil production. However in Prachab cows are allowed out to graze a picking of grass rather than having it cut and carried to them.




It was milking time at one of the farms I passed.



The milk is taken to a collection centre a few km away. Some is pasteurised for local use in a school milk program. The rest is transported to the Thai-Denmark factory in Muaklek, to produce UHT milk.



This handsome beast was saved from being turned into a steer and eventually a steak because folks found his short legs cute. Unfortunately for him, he is too low slung to serve the cows….. they have to make do with an AI technician.



Rubber, pineapple, and oil palm plantation, just below the border with Burma. Byproducts of palm oil production are also fed to dairy cows.

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Old 05-25-2015, 07:00 AM   #13
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Interesting report.

I gotta ask, what is the purpose of this sign???




I wish we could rent scooters here for $6 - $9 per day. Most riders here have no clue of the utility and fun factor of a small scooter for running around town or even rural roads. I ride a 150cc kymco for most of my around town riding and it keeps up with the traffic here just fine.
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Old 05-25-2015, 07:00 PM   #14
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Thanks!

Cool trip! I'm intrigued by the area and am really enjoying the pics and commentary. Thanks!
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Old 05-26-2015, 09:12 PM   #15
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Motorcycles; a means, not the reason, to travel

Thanks for the comments…….. just the last day (on an electric motorcycle) left to cover now; coming in a day or two.

The report is probably a bit boring for many as it does not involve "real" motorcycles. After riding to get around for 50 years, a bike is a bike; they are all interesting in different ways. I enjoy travelling by motorcycle, rather than just motorcycling.

Function and utility is more important to me than size and form. I have mainly owned smaller machines, bit am no stranger to bigger bikes having ridden all sorts from Triumph Bonneville and Trident of a couple of generations ago, through the wild Japanese 2 stroke twins and triples of a generation ago, to more recent BMW K series….. though I have never ridden any post millennial machine above 150 cc.

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Interesting report.

I gotta ask, what is the purpose of this sign???



Just one of a number of wacky signs in front of a cafe with a few short time rooms available.


I wish we could rent scooters here for $6 - $9 per day. Most riders here have no clue of the utility and fun factor of a small scooter for running around town or even rural roads. I ride a 150cc kymco for most of my around town riding and it keeps up with the traffic here just fine.
In the West motorcycles are regarded as a lifestyle thing, whereas here they are more utility, with less than 10% of the market being bigger than 150cc. Last year in Thailand (population about 66 million) motorcycle sales were down to about 1.7 million, but they will be back up to nearly 2 million this year. It is a mature market, with most bike replacing older machines that are not worth repairing.

The US market, by way of comparison:

Statistics and Facts about the U.S. Motorcycle Industry
In 2014, consumers in the United States purchased some 484,000 motorcycles; this figure reflects a 3.8 percent increase in total U.S. motorcycle sales over the previous year. According to 2012 data, the majority of motorcycle fans reside in California, where about 790,000 motorcycles are registered.

Wisconsin–based Harley-Davidson is currently the leading motorcycle manufacturer in the U.S. market. In the 601+cc segment, H-D reached a market share of about 55 percent in 2013. That year, some 168,000 601+cc Harley-Davidson motorcycles were registered in the United States.


New scoots here in common 110 - 125cc size range start at about $US 1,100. Depending on options and style they go up to about $1,700. Rental bike shops often pick up repossessed bikes for a lot less; dealers are only allowed to sell them off for the balance owing.

The girlfriend of a colleague has a motorcycle rental business. She also buys and sells bikes. While she will not get rich from it, she is doing ok, with 10 or 20 bikes available, depending on the season.

Like most small bikes here, rentals are uninsured, except for basic compulsory injury cover (which I gather is only valid on a Thai licence).

My own bike is an ex-rental. It was 6 years old, with 90,000 km on the clock when I bought it for $450….. 12 years ago. It has now done 236,000 km.

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Cool trip! I'm intrigued by the area and am really enjoying the pics and commentary. Thanks!
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