My front tyre is serious cause for concern now, it’s got almost no sign that there was ever any tread on it, and it’s starting to wear down the main body of the tyre, not long ‘til the steel belt starts showing, it’s a good thing I’m less than 700km from Bangkok, it’s a bad thing that the KTM service centre doesn’t have my tyre size in stock, and probably another three weeks until they get one. With stress level rising again I ask them about other tyre dealers in the city. There must be someone who’s got a 90/90-21 tyre, surely? I could hug the helpful service manager at the KTM service centre in Bangkok, he sensed my stress and phoned round all the tyre dealers in Bangkok until he found a great little shop called ShowPow who had a whole selection from full-on knobbly off-roaders to street tyres. I remind myself of the advice I gave a bunch of young KTM riders who I bumped into six months ago in the hills of Tamil Nadu in India … “always make sure you’ve got decent tyres; they’re the only thing holding you to the road”. Time to adhere to my own advice and get some fresh rubber to keep me shiny side up. You cannot imagine the feeling of relief when you take a totally shot tyre off and put a nice new grippy hoop on your front wheel. The bike instantly felt more confident and better balanced, the handlebars stopped wobbling in corners and I no longer felt that I was going to slide into the ditch if I took a bend with a puddle.
The further through Thailand I travel the more secure I feel. The stress of tyre failure has gone, as has the stress of bad / non-existent roads or flooded roads or roads without bridges or petrol stations or meeting death-wishing truck drivers. After Bangkok I took a recommendation from Kasia to go to the Khao Sok national park on the way South through Thailand. Great recommendation; riding up to the Khao Sok national park with lush green vegetation and near-perfect road surfaces is like being back in Western Europe, whether the UK are part of it or not. Don’t get me started on that ridiculous debate, I’ll be here for hours! In Khao Sok I left the bike at a friendly guesthouse and booked an overnight stay on a floating bungalow on the Cheow Lan lake. The Cheow Lan lake is a manmade dammed reservoir stretching 165 square kilometres through the national park, filled with amazingly warm but ridiculously deep fresh water. It looks for all the world like a Scottish loch, especially on the day I arrived which had black storm clouds brewing overhead, but Scottish lochs tend to be quite cold, whilst this lake is at bathwater temperature, even during the sudden Monsoon storm where the rain was so hard and heavy it bounced off the surface of the lake. Over dinner on the floating restaurant, just down the gangplank from my floating bungalow I am struck by the irony that my crazy home nation has just voted to remove itself from Europe whilst I sit here with a selection of Dutch, German, French, Spanish and Belgian travellers whose only common Lingua Franca is English, and who all think that the British have gone mad. I’m inclined to agree, I like being part of this little European community on a lake in Thailand.
Three hours south of Khao Sok the famous part of the Thai Southern peninsular starts; Phuket, Krabi, Phi Phi Islands and the like. It really feels like I’m on holiday now, my only stress is figuring out how to book the bike on an air-freight out of Kuala Lumpur and whether I can get it in and out of Singapore in a few weeks’ time. Whilst in Krabi I take another fantastic recommendation from Kasia, who’s stuck back in London, that is to do a SCUBA diving course. The first and only time I’ve been diving in the past was not a good experience, I ran out of air in the Irish sea and was not fully briefed on the procedure! So with some trepidation I signed up to do the Open Water PADI course having spent not an inconsiderable amount of time researching a decent dive school in Krabi. The Kon-Tiki dive school, run by some British and Swedish guys is, thankfully, a super-professional, super-helpful and totally confidence-inspiring outfit. All my previously found fears and misconceptions have been alleviated and I am now a fully-fledged convert to deep sea diving, and a certified Open Water Diver; how cool! And how come I always manage to pick some of the most expensive and inaccessible of pursuits … skiing, diving, motorbike travelling … crazy fool! Over the last couple of days I’ve seen the underwater world for real: Blue Sea Star and Crown of Thorns Starfish; Black Diamema Sea Urchins; various Sea Cucumbers; a Peacock Mantis Shrimp (which has the fastest, most powerful claw punch in the world), schools of Damsel fish and Yellowback Fusiliers; some Bannerfish; Trumpetfish; Tigertail Seahorses and an aggressively territorial little Tomato Clownfish!
Now I’m sitting in another idyllic beachside hostel bar looking at the Andaman sea on the island of Ko Lanta off the West coast of Thailand, it being low season I have the bar and most of the beach to myself and I’ve just met a crazy Thai guy who is supposed to be running this bar but has nothing to do due to the lack of tourists so he’s offered to take me on a guided bike tour of the island tomorrow. He’s got an off-road scramble bike so this is going to be interesting … looks like I’m going to get at least one more crazy adventure on the bike before heading to the relative civilisation of Malaysia.