Getting back to Plearn felt like a homecoming; such a friendly, welcoming environment. The next day, after the ubiquitous Plearn breakfast of scrambled eggs on toast, Brett and I set about taking the various bits off the bike to look for clues as to what had caused its demise. Brett has a remarkable, innate understanding of how things go together and come apart, so before I’ve even found the relevant page in the pdf workshop manual about removing the fuel pump and filters, Brett’s got them out, off and dismantled on the worktop! I’m sceptical that it’s just the fuel filters that are causing the engine to not fire but they do look black and filthy, and I did drop the bike in a river, and Brett has far more diagnostic knowledge than I do about fuel pumps, injectors, filters and all that. Smiling Nu makes some more phone calls, this time to a bike dealer in Bangkok and organises replacement parts to be sent up to Plearn. All good, if Brett is right, we’ll be up and running again in a couple of days. Except everybody forgot about Songkran. For those not au fait with Thai customs and traditions, Songkran is Thai New Year, otherwise known as the biggest water fight in the world. The whole of Thailand goes out and buys super-soakers and engages in a three-day-long water fight! During this time everything shuts down, for at least a week, so my spare parts are languishing somewhere in a delivery sorting office in Bangkok while the whole country goes nuts throwing water at everyone else. So there’s nothing for it, if I can’t fix the bike I may as well get a big water-gun! Armed with the most ostentatious super-soakers we could find Brett, OCD and I spent 6 hilarious hours getting repeatedly drenched at the Roo Bar on Loi Kroy Road, along with hundreds of other tourists and locals. We ambushed taxis, pitched battles against trucks loaded with barrels of ice, hurled buckets and terrorised cyclists, and may have partaken in a beer or two. One full day of crazy water fights was enough for us but the Thais are hard core, they continued to have street parades and processions while everyone throws water from every house, hose-pipe, bar and shop-front for three days non-stop. You couldn’t walk to the end of the street without getting drenched!
Smiling Nu reckons it’ll be at least another 5 days before the post network is up and running again so I’ve got time to kill in Chiang Mai. OCD and Brett decide to get out of town for a couple of days (can’t blame them, they’ve been there since before I went to Laos), so they took a three-day ride around the Mae Hong Son loop. A stunning stretch of tarmac up in the hills which runs over 600km with something ridiculous like 1,864 corners – like anyone is going to drive round and count them all! Left to my own devices in Chiang Mai for a few days with no bike I engaged in some “normal” tourist / traveller activities: I took a ride out to a canyon with a few nice Brits, most of them on gap-year trips, to jump 15m off a large rock into a lake; I took a Thai massage course which lasted all afternoon as we had to practice the various techniques on the other people on the course, I got quite familiar with Jose from Brazil and Daniella from Chile as we were instructed how to rub, poke, prod, bend and flex each other; and I took a 4-hour Thai cooking course where I met some lovely people and made some amazing authentic Thai curries, and spring rolls and noodles etc… It’s amazing the people you meet in the strangest places, so on this cooking course in the old town in Chiang Mai I met a couple of Californian med students who were just about to graduate and start doctoring. (Have you ever noticed how American travellers and tourists never say that they’re just American, we should already know that, they always tell you what state or town they’re from, as if we’re all supposed to know the geography of the US! So on this cooking course Lilly and Allison are from San Fran, and Kelly and Kaysha are from Idaho, wherever that is!) Anyway, Lilly and Allison, being medics are part of that ever-diminishing demographic of educated, erudite Americans! (Adopt heavy West Coast accent please … I’m like sorry, but like, ya know, I’m like only kiddin’!). Sorry, digressing again. The afternoon and evening passed quickly through a bit of beer and a lot of politics, education, music and culture, and much amusement and bemusement at the Republican presidential nominations. It turns out that Lilly and Allison are singing medics so we make a plan to find a music bar and take over! The North Gate Jazz Café in Chiang Mai is a great venue, super-busy every night with live bands playing everything from Salsa and Santana to Swing, but it’s too busy to hijack the stage. The guitarist runs another bar on the other side of town and tomorrow night is acoustic night so we’re invited to come and play.
Tomorrow turns into a long day, my spare bike bits finally arrive from Bangkok so Brett and I set about trying to get things sorted. Six hours later after Smiling Nu has driven me around Chiang Mai on her scooter looking for jump leads and jubilee clips we arrive at a final list of ailments on the bike. To keep it brief, the river dunking almost certainly got water in the fuel which blocked the already overloaded filters which meant the fuel pump wasn’t pushing enough pressure through the injectors which meant there was nothing to burn in the cylinders, meanwhile the battery, which has been flipped, crashed, dropped in water and spent too long cranking the engine without getting any charge in it, had lost power, so even when we’d put the fuel system back together the bike wouldn’t start because the lack of battery charge and constant cranking without firing had put the ECU in immobiliser mode. The bike’s computer decided that it no longer liked the magnetically coded ignition key so the bike immobilised itself, so much for bloody modern technology! With jump leads we took power from Smiling Nu’s car, used the spare key which has a different magnetic coding and the bike spluttered into life, after many hours of stress and the occasional expletive. Now I would have given up and paid a fortune to take it down to the only KTM centre we know of in Bangkok hours ago, but bush-mechanic Fix-it Brett wouldn’t give up on it and finally breathed life back into my big lump of metal.
To celebrate Fix-it’s triumph with the KTM (subtle reference to the fact that maybe I should have bought a Triumph after all?) we met Lilly, Allison, and Theo in the Roadhouse Bar. Theo is another one of those “it’s a small world” situations. She lives just round the corner from my house in Enfield, North London – small world! The Roadhouse is running its usual acoustic live music night but probably wasn’t expecting us to supply most of the music for the night. I was helped by some beer, a decent ear, some distant memories of chords and keys, and Lilly and Allison, who sang their way through Eva Cassidy, Carol King, The Beatles, Billie Holliday, Aretha Franklin and the like. My brain hasn’t worked so hard in months trying to guestimate the piano parts, although OCD even recorded some of it and it doesn't sound too shabby so maybe the adage is true - piano practice is over-rated! The long day turned into a long night, after a fun night singing and playing the Roadhouse, Fix-it Brett and I put the world to rights; discussing life, the universe and everything until about 4am. The only trouble is, is that we lubricated the conversation with another beer or two and have no recollection of the conclusions, other than a fixed bike and an impromptu gig with some delightful randomly met new friends makes for a pretty successful day, who needs normal life?!