the second bike finally together, we set out early for Kanchanaburi.
Kanchanaburi is just over a hundred kilometers northwest of Bangkok. We
chose that destination because we had heard good things about nearby
Erawan National Park. Also, we thought it best to stay reasonably close
to Bangkok the first few days until we saw how the bike was going to
behave, a decision that proved to be a prudent one.
|In Kanchanaburi we found a hotel with simple but tastefully designed and decorated rooms right on the river for under thirty dollars. The hotel's quiet restaurant above looked out over the river. The river, Mae Nam Khwae Yai, shown below with one of its many floating restaurants, is probably better known to western readers as The River Kwai.|
settled in to the relaxing surroundings, we decided to hop on one bike
and do a little reconnaissance. We got less then a mile on bike #2 when
the rear brake caliber seized up. We kind of forced our way back to the
hotel in low gear where we could get some tools and wait for it to cool
enough to work on. While I was working to free it up, a Australian who
was staying there came out to admire the Africa Twins. When I told him
the trouble I was having he said that he road and worked on bikes, and
his date, a local girl recommended a local guy we could take it to. It
was close by, so I took a chance heading over there on a Sunday evening
and found the front door open and that the guy actually lived above the
shop. I had already called Yut and described the problem, and he
thought it was the master cylinder. The shop man, who spoke really
marginal english, told me to leave it and come back in the morning.
When we got back in the morning, he said he would try to rebuild the
master cylinder, but he pointed out a puddle of clear oil under the
bike, and on inspection we could see that we had lost the oil from the
rear shock. He said he could send it out to have it rebuilt, and he
would have everything done by 5:00 that evening.
We decided once again to pile onto bike #1 and head up to the National
Park for the day.
its seven distinct tiers of falls, is a popular place to escape the
heat. While the lower falls can be quite crowded with local families
and kids picnicking and splashing around in the water, the kilometer
and a half walk that zig zags across the river as it climbs to the
upper falls is quite beautiful. The pools, amazingly clear and full of
river fish, are excellent for swimming, as can be seen by the forest
nymph and river troll below. The only thing to be careful for is
monkeys that may come down and try to steal your backpack if you aren't
On the way down from the falls we heard a sound in the
jungle that we thought was more monkeys, but the movement was
uncharacteristically on the ground. On closer investigation we came
upon this guy, who we at first thought was a Komodo dragon. This bad
boy, who was six to seven feet long, is actually a monitor lizard, and
they are known to raid garbage cans in parks and sometimes around
temple complexes. Imagine opening the lid to toss your gum wrapper and
coming upon this dude.
When we got back to town it was already 4:00 so we headed by the
mechanic to check on the progress. the bike that he said would be ready
by 5:00 was all apart and he hadn't even begun to put it back together.
He did have the rebuilt shock back, and he began to install it. He
hadn't done anything at all about the brake we had originally brought
the bike in for. He said he thought the problem was the brake caliper,
and he had one on a bike about fifteen years older than
ours that he was willing to sell me for a hundred dollars. He also
pointed out that the chain had some bad kinks in it and quite a bit of
rust on the inner side that faced toward the wheel. He said that that
size chain was unavailable in Kanchanaburi, but he could order one from
Bangkok to be in in a couple of days. I thought I would be better off
to call Yut. Yut agreed to get me an o-ring chain and a brake caliper
and run them out to us after he closed that night. He called back later
to say he was having problems finding a caliper, but had just located
one and he would pick it up and be out in the morning. He also told us
not to pay this other mechanic, and that he would pay for everything.
Looking back, and despite all of the problems we faced with this bike,
Yut's handling of the situation was totally honorable, and I would not
hesitate to recommend him.
Yut arrived the next morning as planned, but the other mechanic had told him the bike needed a 120 link chain when it actually takes a 122. We were able to take a link off of the old chain, but that left us needing two connecting links and the new chain only came with one. Yut had given us some connecting links in the spares that he provided for us, but it turned out they were for a non o-ring chain and were a little narrow. Grinding the shoulder off on the end links allowed us to get the chain on, but it was a fix I was not happy with. Yut agreed to find us some extra new links, and to mail them to us in Pai along with a spare fuel shut off valve that had a little drip. We figured we would be in Pai in less than a week. It didn't work out that way
|By the time Yut
and the other mechanic had the bike finished it was too late to get on
the road that day. We decided to check out The Bridge on the River
Kwai. Far from the romanticized version from the film, the bridge is
actually built from steel. The original wooden structure was a
temporary one built in February of 43 and was replaced the next month
by the steel one. The arched sections are original, and the center
sections were bombed in 1945. The Japanese used material brought from
Java. Many wrongly think that the bridge was in Burma. The route, known
as "The Death Railway" does go into Burma through the "Three
Pagodas Pass", once used by invading warlords. The Japanese plan was to
use it as a supply route for an attack on India.
Death Train still plies this route daily, and as you will notice in the
photos above and below it is a very popular spot with Asian Tourists.
|On a web site
named sapoyrana we could not leave Kanchanaburi without including this
guy. Each of the ground floor rooms at our hotel had an attached walled
garden with a large atrium like window that looked out onto it. The
bathroom and shower were also outside in this walled in area. This
fellow was lucky that I wake up bright and alert. He could have been