2 Wheel Vagabond

2 Wheel Vagabond

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Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Thailand to Myanmar


Well, here I was back in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and ready to start my trip to Europe, I had some time to catch up with my friend Larry, who had kindly looked after my bike while I was in Aus but what was supposed to be an early night turned into a late night of drinking. I had hoped to start my ride to the Thai border early but ended up leaving just before lunch with a bit of a hangover. I wasn’t planning on sightseeing this time, I was keen to get to Thailand as soon as possible, I jumped on the freeway, gave the throttle a decent twist and made the border that afternoon.  I had done this border crossing several times without incident, it was usually very fast and simple but this time Thailand had changed their rules for international vehicles, apparently I had to apply to some department or another 10 days in advance for a special permit. This was a massive pain, I had to get checked back into Malaysia and luckily Malaysian customs and immigration were fine about it all. I sent some friends in KL a message explaining the situation and then decided to ride to Penang to hang out for a few days and sort this out. I arrived to a reply from my message telling me that it was sorted and to arrive at the border early, there would be a guy there to meet me to organise the Thai side. I only got a few hours sleep in Penang before I was back on the bike and heading to the border again, My guy managed to get me across the border on just a carnet and no other paperwork, I was a little worried that this would come back to bite me but I’d sort that out in a month when I left for Myanmar.

I made it through the border and I had a month to kill in Thailand while waited for the Myanmar tour date, other than finalising some paperwork  I was hoping to spend my time doing something a little more different than the usual tourist attractions. I found 3 things that were all amazing experiences.... and no, none of them involved ladyboys.
The first was a 10 day silent Vipassana meditation retreat at Suan Mokkh monastery in Surat Thani. I turned up with very little meditation experience, expecting a relaxing 10 days, what I learnt was that spending a whole day trying to clear your mind and focusing on nothing was surprisingly hard work and mentally exhausting. I left all my electronics at the front desk, no phone, no computer, it was a great feeling, all I had were the bare essentials, a few pairs of clothes and bathing equipment. We would wake up at 4 am every morning and begin mediation at 4:30am, other than a few hours of yoga and Tai Chi in the morning the day was spent doing sitting and walking mediation with lectures in between. We were able to have 2 meals a day, both vegetarian of course and hot chocolate in the evening, before every meal we would read that the meal was only for sustenance and not for enjoyment, I gotta admit that it tasted pretty good to me and the hot chocolate was divine. There were also hot springs in the monastery so we were able to soak in the hot waters at designated times during the day. Learning to completely focus on your breathing and empty your mind takes time and it was slow progress but there was definitely a feeling of achievement as I passed every new milestone. The practice of mindfulness through breathing is a mind freeing experience that is unique to every individual, my experience was completely positive and although I am not in the slightest bit religious I came away feeling that I learned some valuable life lessons.
 After 10 days of meditation in the Thai forest I headed straight to Phuket for an extended range and trimix diving course with the team at Blue Label Dive in Rawai Beach. Technical diving adds another level of complexity to recreational diving and although I'd done over 1000 commercial and recreational dives in the past year it was eye opening to see how much there was still to learn. We did our pool work in Rawai Beach and a day of diving off the smaller islands that surround Phuket, the weather was quite bad however and we were struggling to get to dive sites deep enough for the course. This was actually a stroke of luck, it meant we would finish the course in a remote lake surround by forest near to the town of Krabi, this was perfect as far as I was concerned. We had the place to ourselves and it felt like adventure diving at its best, the dives went down to 60 meters and we weren't even close to getting to the bottom, not to mention that quite often we had to complete the dives blindfolded. 
 was that spending a whole day trying to clear your mind and focusing on nothing was suprisingly hard work and mentally exhausting. The practice of mindfulness through breathing is a mind freeing experience that is unique to every individual , I highly recomend it but you really need to experience it for yourself as everybody's experience differs
After 10 days of meditaion in the Thai forrest I headed straight to Phuket for an extended range and trimix diving course with the team at Blue Label Dive in Rawai Beach. Technical diving adds another level of complexity to recreational diving and although I'd done over 1000 commercial and recreational dives in the past year it was eye opening to see how much there was still to learn when compared to a world class tech instructor like Ben Reymants.We headed to the forest near Krabi where we dived a lake surrounded by jungle, we had the place to ourselves and it felt like adventure diving at its best. We dived down to 60 meters and weren't even close to getting to the bottom, not to mention that quite often we had to complete the dives blindfolded, the lake is also home to quite a large cave system so I'm pretty sure what my next dive course will be.
The 3rd experience

The 3rd experience was perhaps the craziest..... after a few beers at the hostel in Bangkok my friend Pete casually mentioned that his friend was looking for someone to help with a Kids English camp. He told me that I would basically be a guide, which in my mind meant leading kids for trekking, this sounded like fun so I said I was interested, from there our friend Ebony said she was keen and then Pete said he'd join in too. The next day when we were sober we found out that what we thought was going to be a chilled out kids camp was actually going to be 200 kids between 13 and 17 years old with only 8 English speaking teachers. I was quite nervous as I'd only spent 2 days previously helping to teach an English class in a small village. We weren’t so much teaching as we were supervising with activities, this often also meant standing in front of 200 hundred kids and singing childrens songs while doing the accompanying dances. This was definitely a new experience and upon our return every drinking session would include us getting up in front of everybody and singing the songs, dances and all. We had a great time for the 3 days we were there, the kids were awesome and very smart, even though they couldn’t pronounce Ray, so they just called me "teacher Lay.... like the potato crisp ".

After returning from the English camp I decided to spend some time hanging out with friends in Bangkok while I waited for my Myanmar tour dates, my Myanmar visa had come through quite quickly and I was pretty happy with myself, it seemed all my paperwork was done and I just had to chill out for the next 5 days. I had emailed the tour organiser quite regularly to confirm there was nothing else I needed to do and they were very good at getting back to me but at 9 pm after I’d had quite a few beers I received a reply about my Indian Visa, I couldn’t get the visa in Myanmar and had to organise it prior to the tour start date. It wasn’t possible to apply for an Indian Visa in Thailand so at 10pm when I was quite intoxicated I booked a flight to Phnom Penh for 6am the next morning. I went straight from the airport to the Indian embassy and put in my application, I was quite lucky because you are supposed to make a booking online and the next date was in 10 days, I rolled the dice and the gamble paid off, now I had to wait in Phnom Penh for the next 5 days for the visa to come through. I’d been to PP before, my last visit was for 3 days, which I spent sightseeing and I quite enjoyed it, this time my stay really dragged on, there really wasn’t too much to keep my occupied in the city and it seemed a lot dirtier and noisier than last time. Luckily I met some other travellers at the Indian embassy who had the same issue as me, we stayed in the same hotel and hung out for 5 days drinking 50 cent beers and eating the odd happy pizza.  I booked a flight back to Bangkok, went straight from the airport to the BMW dealer where the big girl was being serviced, rode to the Oasis hostel to pick up some luggage I had left  there and packed the bike. By the time I had a goodbye beer it was getting close to 4 pm and I had 500 km to cover to arrive at the Mae Sot border crossing so I could meet the tour group the next day and start the trip through Myanmar, I arrived at 11:30 pm, managed to find a hotel and had a few hours sleep before the border opened the next morning at 6am. As I'd expected my incomplete paperwork caused me some holdups at the border but after an hour of waiting I mentioned that the bike wouldn't be returning to Thailand and the customs officer saw that as an opportunity to be rid of the headache, they stamped my Carnet and let me through, I think I got very lucky that day, Myanmar here I come. 

 
 






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1 comment:

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