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Post 298: The Road to Khon Kaen .....

It was time to move on and begin the next leg of this exceptionally disjointed journey. I had the bike, the luggage was packed and I had a few farewells to say before heading North for Khon Kaen. It never crossed my mind to stop, and thankfully it never crossed the guards minds to shoot me. Probably too much red-tape and paperwork. I was riding my new pride and joy, the Honda Wave and hadn’t even thought about the lack of a distinctive security badge that was necessary for entry onto Fort Suranaree. I’m not even sure if the guards carry live ammunition, but I do know that those carrying the guns all seem to wear fluorescent orange jackets. Maybe it’s a simple Health & Safety regulation so that prospective attackers can avoid shooting unarmed men? … mai pen rai

I’d spent much of the previous day trying to find a luggage rack to fit the Honda, but without success. It seems that despite there being millions of these bikes here in Thailand, nobody has ever requested a luggage rack for one. The shops asked me why I’d want such a thing and my reply was that I wanted to carry luggage, or more specifically, my topbox. They then asked why I would want to do that and I told them that I was heading out of town. They found it difficult to understand why anybody would want to ride a bike to the next city and beyond when there was a perfectly good bus service. In the end, I gave up trying to explain my weird ways and went in search of an engineering shop.

I found a small one-man operator who could attend to my strange request immediately. Together, we set about butchering and reforming a spare pillion hand rail that I’d bought for 50 Baht (£1) from a breakers shop. We had different ideas about how best to make and attach the rack. He wanted to mount the topbox on the front of the bike, but I pointed out that this would totally cover the headlight. He didn’t see the problem with that. Korat has street lighting, why did I need a headlight? It was 9am and as he was already totally pissed and I was surprisingly sober, I insisted that ‘My way’ was the ‘Only way’ and got on with it.

He was as much impressed with my engineering skills as I was with his range of tools, but we soldiered on. For two solid hours, we welded, grinded, hammered and drilled until finally I had a workable luggage rack that was strong enough to support the Krauser topbox. He stood back, opened another bottle of Leo Beer with his teeth and declared my new luggage rack to be the best thing since Taksin Shinawatra’s "BOGOF" deal on cows. Praise indeed from an Isaan engineer, even a pissed one. The total cost including labour was 200 Baht (£4) ….. mai pen rai

The day was as hot as the road was straight, long and boring. But, as I left the city behind me, the little Honda found a new turn of speed. 65 Km/h to be precise, which is around 40 mph. I was flying. It would go faster, but only under protest and if the little engine was suffering from the heat as much as I was, then 65 Km/h would do just fine. I was sticking to the “Shoulder” and in order to lessen the boredom, a few additional hazards had been provided. A recent outbreak of collective pyromania meant that Thai’s were setting fire to anything that would possibly burn. It had started with the Honda C70 at the petrol station back in Surin and now it had spread to the side of the road. They burn off the old rice fields before the start of the rainy season at the end of April, but the ’Burns’ are not what one could possibly described as ’Controlled’. It’s much more a case of start a fire, piss-off to the pub and deny all knowledge when it gets out of control.

At 65 Km/h on a deadly straight road, the mind starts to wander. But, not half as much as the minds of those employed to paint the road lines. For a stretch of around 20 miles, every few hundred yards the white line begins to resemble a measure of Charlie before being straightened with an Amex card. At first I think it’s the heat haze in the distance making the line look wavy, or the effects of the burning sun and boredom, but it’s not. Either the painter was pissed or asleep, possibly both, but nobody ever thought about coming back to correct his work and that’s just another thing that I find likeable about Thailand …. mai pen rai

Finally, after six hours beneath the blazing sun, and just three hours later than planned, I’ve finally reach Khon Kaen. I could blame the road conditions or the slowness of the bike for the length of time that it’s taken me to get here, but the truth of the matter is, I’m not sure that I really wanted to arrive here at all. Khon Kaen is where this Asian journey really began and I’m coming here again, under circumstances that I’d never anticipated. This is the completion of another full circle, the ending of the most surreal chapter in my life so far .... mai pen rai

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