Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Motorcycle Diaries...Pt 2

As I said in previous post this was not the end of my motorbike problems.

I was staying on the small Island of Ko Lanta in Thailand. I wanted to see more of the island than just the area I was staying in. All there was in the area I was staying in was a couple of beach hut guest houses and a shop. Not even a 7/11 (I loved those as you could always guarantee tuna sandwiches and airconditioning. I was to find out there is only so long you can browse without looking a little odd).

The island had an old town I wanted to check out and a fishing village. These were about as far away from me as you could possibly get. Opposite ends of the island. I looked in to getting a tuk tuk driver to take me there and back but he wanted £20 for the days work. OK, not a lot of money but when you're only on a spending money budget of about £10 not really do able. The place I was staying was hiring about motorbikes for £5, to fill it up with fuel only cost about £4. So this was by far the cheapest option. It would give me more freedom and I could stop and check out places as and when I wanted. I knew I needed to get over my fear of bikes as I knew in Vietnam when on my own it would be the only way of getting around in any sort of speed. So I hired one.

After taking a couple of wrong turns...I didn't take a map, just looked at one and thought I knew the way. And I didn't really need a map as there was only one road going around the outside of the island and one through the middle. I did manage to get to Lanta Old Town. It was like something out of a Wild Western. The buildings were all Western style, wooden fronts with shutters. It was quite a cute place really.

 I stopped for some lunch at the only restaurant there. It was so expensive. It cost me about £5 for Spring Rolls. They weren't even nice. I mooched around for as long as I could in this place which was really not that long at all. I decided to get back on the bike and head down to the peninsula.

So I was riding along in the middle of nowhere. No one was around and the bike starts to judder. I don't think much of it. But I do worry a little as it seems to get worse. By this point I had taken the helmet off as it was far too big for my small head and kept covering my eyes. Speeds of 40mph on a bike and not being able to see are not a good combination. Nor are speeds of 40mph and your head hitting the concrete. But in my weird reasoning way I thought I am less likely to come off if I can actually see where I am going. Not maybe I should ask for another helmet. The laws over there are quite odd when it comes to helmets. Here you have to have full on proper helmets, there you can get away with ones that you would use for cycling. Or non at all as they don't really seem to pull you up on it. Oh and one of the wing mirrors wouldn't adjust so I only had one mirror. Anyhoo, the juddering becomes worse. I decide to stop and check it out. A bloody flat tyre. I am in the middle of no where. I have not passed civilisation in ages.

"Crap, crap crap".

I had no idea how long it would be before I reached the next hamlet and I knew I was only a few km's back to Lanta Old Town. I didn't want to ride the bike anymore as I was super scared I was going to fall off. So I have to push it. I never realised just how heavy those things were. Especially trying to push one uphill!!!!

About 1km later I see a load of people sitting around cooking and generally being people who don't have an awful lot to do. Please remember that it was pushing 40c and very very humid. So you can probably imagine the sweaty betty I was. Gross! Another reason I liked the motorbikes was because they give you a breeze as you ride along.

So I walk up to these people and say to them, knowing the answer already but ask anyway

"Do you speak English"?

No reply. Crap. I have about 8 people just staring at me. Wondering where this very red, sweaty girl has appeared from.

"Can you help me"?

I point to the tyre. A woman comes over takes the bike off me. She jumps on it and off she rides. They are all sitting there laughing at me.

"Ummmm, what's going on here. I think a woman has just calmly walked over to me got on the bike and stolen it and I have just given it to her. Crap. I could be in a bit of trouble here".

They are all just sitting staring at me, talking about me, pointing and laughing and I can't understand a word they are saying. After the longest 5 minutes of my life another woman comes from no where on a motorbike. Not mine. She gestures for me to get on.

"Well, what harm can it do. I may have just had a bike stolen off me. This woman is telling me to get on her bike. I think I will take the chance and go with her"?

So I get on the bike. We go about 500metres over the brow of the hill and she stops at a motorbike repair shop. I see my bike! Yay! And the woman who took it. That's what she was doing. The repair guy pulls my bike off the road and again more conversation and laughter at me. Although it was in a different language you can tell when people are talking about you and having a good laugh at your expense!

Anyway, he said he will fix the puncture for me. He can speak a little English. He said it needed a new inner tyre. It was just like a bike tyre that you pump up. He puts a new inner tube in and pumps it up. All the while his whole family have come out to watch. So I am sitting in a greasy garage surrounded by about 10people who happen to want to see him change this tyre. I don't know, maybe it was some right of passage for him being a (I wont say qualified as I don't think anyone has actual qualifications out there they just do the job they are good at) mechanic and his family needed to see this.

I am sat here thinking I bet this is going to cost the earth. There is no way I can get off twice with things like this. So when he asked me for 200BHT about £4 I happily paid. I decided I was not going to push my luck any further with the motorbike that day and to give the peninsula a miss. So I decided to go back to the guesthouse.

When I got back I told the owner what had happened. He went ape at me. I was got a little angry too as I was tired from pushing the bike. He said I had been massively overcharged and should have been about 50BHT (£1). I said I thought it was quite cheap as new tyres at home cost about £25 minimum. And I got breakdown included. Here I pay £17 a month for my bank account. With that I get AA Homestart which should cost about £70 a year (I also get other benefits such as lower interest rates on my over draft, free mobile phone insurance and free worldwide travel insurance. It actually works out cheaper for me to pay for my account than to have it all seperate....just in case you were wondering it's the Lloyds TSB Platinum account) and ok, so I had to push it uphill, I didn't think I had done too badly. I don't know why he was so angry I don't think he ever had any intention of refunding me for it. I didn't expect to be but I thought I best let him know some work had been done on the bike..

To top it all off I was sun burnt. I had been wearing a t-shirt so I had a white body and t-shirt tan. I tend to go quite brown so the tan was quite funny. It still actually remains where I have whiter shoulders than my arms. Stupid t-shirt tan. LOL!

I'll never wear a vest again!

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