~ The beauty of nature lies in its imperfections ~

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Chiangmai - Rest and Recover

We rolled into Chiangmai thru the 41 degree heat.  THAT is an experience unlike any other!  High temperature, combined with a low 60% humidity results in the feeling like you are charging head first into a hair dryer. Outdoor. In the full heat of noon day sun. Wearing full riding suit of helmet, jacket, pants and boots  :(
Upon reaching Chiangmai, we found cool rest in Dusit D2.  Initial thoughts about going to bunk over at a friend's house was quickly extinguished by the lovely inviting cool air in the hotel lobby and welcome drink  :)  Here's a little pic of us finally chilling out in the hotel lobby

Then the next days, we spent sending the bikes to have the awful sticky tar to be removed, while Phil & Mike had to attend an official function in Chaingmai hospital to open a new ward.  The rest was much needed as we had just ploughed across Thailand in four tiring days, trying to make the deadline for the official function.
One of the dinners was capped by finding a local Thai restaurant specialising in Northern Thai cuisine :)  The specialty is salad using pork crackling dipped in minced meat sauce!

Friday, April 04, 2014

Journey from Penang to Chiangmai

23 March : Penang – Hatyai
The Sunday morning session is a talk on breast cancer statistics and the mission of the ride by both doctors, which is to raise awareness for Asian breast cancer and its research.

At 3pm, we set off for Hatyai & targeted to stay at New Season Hotel
Dinner was at a Teochew Porridge stall which has the longest depth of any shophouse that I have stepped into!  After dinner, it was route planning time for the next day.

24 March : Hatyai – Chumphon
Dreaded Highway #4 and the ripples....

Progress was slow on this leg. Road surface was covered with ripples caused by too many heavy trucks travelling daily.  (read about Philip’s ripple classifications here.) Reached Chumphon Cabana Resort as the sun was setting.  Beautiful dive resort with a fantastic restaurant serving us a super tasty dinner.  Sadly, the road leading to the resort had some road works going on...  so an awfully liquid form of tar had sprayed up onto the four bikes, getting into really hard to reach places  L

25 March : Chumphon – Cha’am
As we moved out from Chumphon, back on the highway, the initial suspicions about Philip’s bike came true when Seung noticed the rear wheel beginning to step sideways in the turns. Something was loose on the rear, and it was later confirmed by a mechanic that the rear wheel bearing was damaged.  Bike was towed to a nearby small town called Bang Saphan to be repaired...  This contact was gotten after a call to Wan Azuar and Sumon, bikers from Malaysia & Thailand, always ready to help.

Due to this set back, we had a 3 hour delay causing us to reduce the day’s distance to Cha’am.
Stayed at Chez Nous Boutique Resort, a nice comfortable beach side resort with immaculate gardening, pristine housekeeping & friendly staff.

Philip opted to give himself a break and so Bumblebee swung into action.  We activated bike carry mode and Phil’s V-Strom 1000 was safely hitched onto the rear of the truck.

26 March : Cha’am – Nakhon Sawan
It was full touring rhythm today, we had good cruising speed of 100-120kmh on the highway to Nakhon Sawan.  Arrived at 4pm, a good 1.5 hours ahead of Bumblebee as it trudged along with the full load of five adults, luggage and a motorcycle sitting on the back of the tow hitch.  Our place chosen for the night is an excellent stop over for road trippers called Bonito Chinos Hotel.  It is just 100m from the turn off along the Superhighway and with eateries within walking distance for tired bikers / drivers.  Bonus is the full breakfast spread which includes the sweet Thai pineapples and watermelons.

27 March : Nakhon Sawan – Chiangmai
Again, another full day of biking, on highway 1. Experienced epic heat of 41 degrees air temperature on the highway. The hot air blowing had an insane effect that no amount of cold drinks could take away. We stayed hydrated, breaking for iced coffee and water every hour at the much appreciated Cafe Amazon within the petrol stations.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Background story for the trip
To join Philip Iau and Mikael Hartman on a long distance ride to raise awareness for Asian Breast Cancer research.  The journey would take them from Singapore to Sweden.  We would join them from Singapore till Chiangmai.....

21 March : Sgp – Penang

We leave Singapore, using the North South Highway to run in the V-Strom 650, while Ros is on the SMT.  Arrived at Millennium Tower, Gurney Drive at 4:30pm and met the guys for dinner.  We were introduced to our travelling companions – Pierce, Soo Lin, Neo Chian and Sunny.  Together with the pair of doctors, our group would be a total of 8 persons.  Among us, a former head of military, a video grapher, a trip scribe cum blogger, two surgeons.  It would be an interesting week ahead

Here is a pic of the support 4x4 that will drive all the way to Sweden.  Affectionately known as Bumblebee, it has been specially kitted out for this expedition with some useful modifications - more of that later!

22 March : Pink Biker Convoy ride
The first of the programme for the doctors, would be a visit to Mount Miriam Cancer Hospital.  On reaching there, we were met by Penang Superbikers who came out for the ride procession to the E&O Hotel.  Penang has been criticised for its jams recently and part of the way, we also got held up by these jams...

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Seeing the Swiss Alps - Aug 2013

This was a rare trip. Getting to the destination by plane instead of motorbike (Hindu menu on SQ is awesome!); 2 weeks out of Singapore (yay! no work!); going to another continent!

Switzerland never stopped wowing us with its breathtaking scenery, historical buildings and friendly people. In 2 weeks, we visited Zurich city, Berne, Mt Pilatus in Lucerne, Zermatt...

Getting Around
We had Zurich as our base, moving around mostly by train and Google maps. They say the trains and buses were so accurate you could set your watch according to the time they arrived.  The number of facilities for bike commuting also made us drool and wished we could live there.  There were designated bike lanes, bike racks on the back of public buses, special carriage on trains for bikes.

Seung the engineer checking out the super space saving bicycle rack.

Borrow a fixie to ride (outside Freitag shop)


Took many trains to get around.  This is the Glacier Express.

Natural beauty

Switzerland is a continuous line of ice caps, mountains, valleys, lakes.  Almost no such thing as a plateau, but a constant canvas of scenery weaving thru the sky.  It unwinds as far as the eye can see, with a dreamy calm that is punctuated by the occasional strolling cow! 

Mt Pilatus, Lucerne
Traditional family restaurant on outskirts of Zurich

On Jungfraujoch, view of the magnificent glacier. We touched snow for the first time.
The 20 min walk from Jon's hut was filled with amazing scenery.

Things we did
The weather was perfect for outdoor activities, the mountainous terrain ideal for skiing and downhill biking, the air fresh and crisp.

Seung rented a mountain bike for some downhill fun in Valbella 

Klettersteig at Zermatt (Via Ferrata climbing) 
Set up by Mammut, free access to the public if you have brought your own gear

Paragliding off Gornergratt in Zermatt

In Zermatt, cycling on the private roads with the Matterhorn in sight

Our Hosts
We're extremely thankful for our lovely hosts who welcomed us into their homes, prepared delicious Swiss food and gave us useful traveling tips insights to their wonderful country. Most of all, spending time with us.  Luckily we remembered some Chinese recipes and duly returned the favour the next night too :) 
Our hosts in Zurich - Urs and Marlene and their daughter Vivien, with family friends
Sonja hosted us in Bern, welcoming us with a pair of Bern bear cakes
Home cooked Polenta and veal stew with Jon and Hanni,
 in their private mountain house that is refurbished from a 300 year old barn!
Even more authentic?  He cooked it over a wood stove.  Luckily we brought a pack of bak-kwa, and slabs of that very quickly became the starters for a memorable combination of Asian and Western.
Breakfast at Urs' mountain house in Valbella

Overall, a wonderful holiday for us.  We love Switzerland!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Soaking in the Soul of the Forest - Khao Sok

 Our annual motorbike trip began with a bang. Or should we say : began with a splash.  Despite the warnings of monsoon rain and rumours of flooding along the east coast of Malaysia, we decided to make the long haul to Thailand.  Our journey to Taiping saw us cruising through 4 sets of HEAVY torrential downpours.  You know what they say about GoreTex boots keeping the water out?  Well mine also kept the water in after it had rolled down my leg…   so it’s not the boots at fault here!

The next day, we took a shorter ride towards Songkhla province, wanting to stay in somewhere else besides bustling Hatyai.  A bit of mucking around the countryside, and then VoiLa we reached Chanonda Lake View Resort. 
A little slice of manicured paradise, just 8km away from Hatyai City.  Despite the remote location, the chalet was everything a wet & tired biker could want.  Space to hang up the wet gear, dry sheets for a comfy night, peace and quiet in a countryside setting.    
The compound links to a newly opened seafood restaurant, anyone who can decipher the dates, let me know…

Our next day is a half day ride to Khao Sok in total happiness.  Dry skies, dry roads and flowing curves are all a biker could ever want. 
 To stay at Our Jungle House, it is most refreshing because the owner insists of retaining the primary forest around the tree houses. 
This creates the perfect ambience, with outdoor temperatures of 23 degrees C in the morning, birds & crickets happily chirping away in harmony!  
As someone said "Relaxed By Nature"   :)
 Our jungle house clearly believe in using as much of the natural stuff as possible, so the garden furniture was an attempt to re-use a fallen log, while an uprooted tree stump presented itself as a most unique visual sculpture! 
 We spent time lazing in the river, nothing beats the feel of a cool stream flowing across your lap, just before dinner. 
 Christmas Day dinner comprised of a meal that looked western and tasted Thai!  Roast Chicken with the just right succulent texture, with warm glutinous rice and stir-fry vegetables.
All in the middle of primary rainforest! 
Our wish for 2013 is that may all your wishes come true, and may YOU start living your lives in the way that you hope for as well!  Cheers!

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Camerons Highlands Revisited

Earlier in Feb this year, we made a trip to Camerons Highlands!  Our mode of transport were the trusty GSX1200 and TDM900  :)  We had work to do, so wound up going only on Day 2 of our friend's planned trip.

Camerons is a sentimental place for us, because our earliest rides were to this very same town.  It now reeks of development with a Starbucks Cafe and KFC along the main streets as well.  And so, this kinda takes away the quiet laid back charm of a hill resort.  Add in the prevalent deforestation by the farmers, the daily temperatures have risen ever so slightly.  Nevertheless, if you look had enough, quaint accomodations off the beaten track are always available!

It was just one night in Camerons and then off to P.J. to see our friend Lydia's business of running a halfway house for dogs.  If there is ever an Asian & feminine version of The Dog Whisperer, she is it!

We get to her home, and almost a dozen dogs rush out to greet her!  She proceeded to greet each one of them, a happy pat and a little word of love... The whole process must have taken her 20 mins to greet each dog but it was clear she enjoyed every minute of it and the dogs even more :)  Lucky them.

In between, it was food good laughter among the crew....  Cameron Highlands... 
When will I see you again?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Of Sunshine, Rocks and Good Friends

Thailand never ceases to amaze.. Just look at the photo (above), it is a road side coffee shop at a petrol kiosk! In there is a full fledged expresso machine and serving cappucino, latte, and mochas as well!
Yep - this ride is all about Thailand. So we skipped Malaysia in 10 hours, next day zipped right into playful Phuket. In more ways than you can count, Phuket is a 'play'ground. Yeah, here are the guys at lunch, immediately when we arrived in Phuket.
The Catch Beach Bar is a trendy place to hang out, with a non-stop flow of trendy music, generous portions of food and also all manners of toursits as you can expect in Phuket. Rounds and rounds of Thai food, followed by rounds and rounds of massage was to prep us for the ONE day we planed to go for Rock Climbing at Krabi... We chose a business affiliate of Climb Asia, these are the good guys at Base Camp Tonsai. Mr Ip (not of Ip Man fame) took fantastic care of us, taking a short hike to Diamond Wall and then kitting us up nicely. Diamond Wall is an excellent choice for outdoor climbing, with a shaded overhanging natural rock roof, and routes ranging from 5A to 6C.... we spent the morning with Ip and found that we could really PUSH our limits :)
The return leg from Phuket to Krabi was a fantastic day. Despite the sore arms from the climb, we rode in fantastic cool weather that invigorated us. An unexpected surprise came in a random photo we took roadside... A RAINBOW!
So it is also our 10th wedding anniversary... an impromptu purchase by the beach, possibly overpriced lantern, but for that moment, it was worth EVERY penny!
Totally shattered and tired by the time we reached Hatyai, but the guys were ahead of us and had gotta a menu prepared! Fresh seafood and aromatic lemon grass!
So what do we reckon is the formula for perfect motorbiking holidays?
- 3 to 6 bikes;
- fabulous adventurous friends;
- a flat & clean bed to sleep on;
- sunny, dry days!
- healthy, good food,
- mind blowing scenery,
If only we could go on travelling forever....