Three days to travel 20 meters


Firstly, I should say that as I am writing this I have actually already reached Sweden. Not to worry though, the whole trip will be covered here on the blog (I am aware that the fact that I am back home safe and sound may be a little bit of a spoiler but hopefully the remaining blog posts will still be sufficiently exciting). At the end of my last post I was just about to leave Pakistan for Iran, so that is where we will pick the story back up today.

Day 104 – Becoming a “minor diplomatic incident”: After waking up early in Nokkundi and having some delicious Pakistani breakfast (naan and fried egg) we set off for the border town of Taftan. A couple of hours later we were there and slowly but surely worked our way through the necessary customs paperwork until I was finally ready to head to the actual border crossing a little bit before 11am. After the mandatory selfies with various people at the border checkpoint it was time to roll through the Pakistani border gate, a couple of meters of no man’s land and into Iran.

Taking a photo with my crew in Pakistan at the Pakistan-Iran border

You will remember from previous blog posts that I finally decided to get my visa on arrival at the border rather than waiting forever at an Iranian embassy, so I was mentally prepared for a little bit of hassle on the Iranian side. And indeed there was. A teeny tiny bit of hassle. First I sailed through a military checkpoint and document check for the bike without any problem. Then I got to the immigration check point, confidently handed over my passport and invitation letter from my Iranian friend in Tehran (thanks Arash for all the help!).

Now here is where the teeny tiny bit of hassle arose.

  • Border officer: You don’t have valid visa.
  • Me: I can get visa on arrival with a Swedish passport and invitation letter.
  • Border officer: No.
  • Me: Yes, last time I visited Iran I did exactly that.
  • Border officer: No.
  • Me: Yes, if you look on this page in my passport you can see the visa from that time.
  • Border officer: No.

Half way through this very stimulating dialogue a different official who spoke much better English came up to try and sort out the problem. Turned out they do not have “visa issuing facilities” (basically, they don’t have a printer) at the Pakistani border. A little bit of conversation in Persian ensued and then they very firmly asked me to leave and more or less tried to push me back into Pakistan. At this point Hamid, a very nice Iranian tourist guide had joined the fray to try and help me out. Granted, he had limited success in that endeavour, but I at least managed to grab his phone number.

  • Border officer: You need to go back! Then get visa at the Iran consulate in Quetta.
  • Me: But they have stamped me out already, and my Pakistani visa was only single entry.
  • Border officer: Not our problem.

And so I came rolling back into Pakistan, half an hour after I had left in the first place. Awkwardly waving and going “hello, remember me? I changed my mind, I want to stay with you guys”. Now luckily Pakistanis are the friendliest, so I was immediately shown to the office of the boss of the border station and given some tea. Said boss then asked me to just wait for a while whilst he made some phone calls to try and figure out what to do with this Swedish person who was stuck in the middle of the desert between Iran and Pakistan with a valid visa to neither country.

About 45 minutes later, Mohsin (my guide) and his crew came back, some more phone calls were made and eventually it was decided that I could indeed come back in to Pakistan by them just cancelling the exit stamp out of my passport. Since the Iranians had told me I could get a visa at the consulate in Quetta, we decided to leave the motorbike with Pakistani customs at the border and go the 10 or so hours back to Quetta by car. Now going back took a long time since none of the police and military checkpoints along the way had been notified in advance (which they had been of me coming the other way the day before), so each checkpoint took more like 20-40 minutes compared to 3-5 minutes when we came the other way.

Everything can be solved if you just have the right stamp for it

But eventually we made it back to Quetta around midnight, and I checked back in to the same hotel I had stayed in a couple of days earlier. Only this time I was sharing the room with the body guard I had kindly been lent by the local Assistant Commissioner (basically one of the highest ranking government officials in the province) to enable us to travel back to Quetta despite not having an escort vehicle.

Sharing a room with my police escort bodyguard (I’m in the right bunk)

Day 105 – coming up with a work-around: Obviously, our very first order of business was to head to the Iranian consulate and try and get me a visa. I explain the situation and hand my passport to one of the embassy staff and then Mohsin and I take a seat and wait while they figure things out.

  • Mohsin: Hopefully this works, but if it doesn’t, the other option would be for you to fly into Iran
  • Me: Yeah, I thought about that as well, but do you think we could arrange to get the bike across?
  • Mohsin: Shouldn’t be a problem, I know the people at the border customs office very well, they can help bring it across
  • Me: That’s great, if it comes to that I can check with this Iranian guy at the border who gave me his number

A few minutes later the embassy guy who took my passport came back: “Yes sir, it is no problem for you to get a visa here. You just need to fill out these forms and then wait 20 days”… So flying it was.

A couple of hours of googling and flight booking later everything was set. I was to leave Quetta that same evening around 6pm and make my way to the Iranian side of that very same border over the course of the next 36 hours or so.

  1. Domestic flight Quetta-Karachi
  2. International flight Karachi-Dubai
  3. International flight Dubai-Tehran
  4. Domestic flight Tehran-Zahedan
  5. Car/Taxi Zahedan-Border post

Very smooth, not the least bit complicated or expensive…
border crossing

Day 106 – arriving in Iran and mostly just sleeping: After spending the night completing points 1 to 3 on the list I landed in Tehran around 8am in the morning and got a visa in about five minutes, no issues whatsoever.

At least I managed to get a glass of wine at the airport in DubaiIMG_1953

But seeing as I had spent the preceding 9 hours suffering through a one hour flight, two hour stop-over, another two hour flight, another two hour stop-over followed by yet another two hour flight I hadn’t exactly slept much. And since my flight from Tehran to Zahedan wasn’t until late afternoon I checked in to the airport hotel in Tehran to grab a few hours of sleep (thanks again Arash for organising, life saving!). I finally arrived late in the evening to Zahedan where Hamid (the guy I met at the border the first time around) met me and we arranged to go out to the border the following morning.

Day 107 – reunited with my bike: I met up with my new found friend Hamid early morning and after a mere two hour drive through the desert we made it to the very same border crossing I had been about 72 hours before. Only this time I was already on the Iranian side but my bike was still on the Pakistani side.

Hence, our first order of business was explaining to various border officials that we intended to get my bike across from Pakistan without me actually crossing any borders myself. This triggered several iterations of “I have to speak to my boss” and judging by how long that took it probably continued until there were no more bosses left to speak to. To my great relief it was decided that they would indeed allow this to happen.

A couple of phone calls with the guy helping me on the Pakistani side later, I gave the key to an Iranian border guard who ran over to the border wall itself and handed it over to his Pakistani counterpart on the other side. Then followed some nervous waiting for about 10 minutes until the very same border guard came rolling across the border, at which point I was allowed to finally reunite with my bike. The relief!

Paperwork for the bike was really smooth (in fairness, they did have a practice run just three days before) and I was very soon through the formalities and good to go. Or so I thought. Because this region suffers from some criminality also on the Iranian side, a police escort had to be arranged before I could leave the border facility. I am pretty sure that was not necessary at the time of my research into Iran, but I didn’t have any choice so I kindly waited an hour or two for my police escort to arrive so I could start my journey through Iran.

The ride through the Baluchistan province (it’s called Baluchistan on both the Iranian and Pakistani side) ended up being very similar what it was in Pakistan, with mainly desert and police escorts swapping with each other every half hour or so as we passed into a different police district. The police officers in Iran were just as polite and friendly as in Pakistan, but also just as slow…

The plan was to get to a town called Bam before dark, which would take me all the way through the Baluchistan province and mean that I would no longer need a police escort. But because we were making such slow progress the sun started setting when we were still some 200km away from Bam. Consequently, all of a sudden the front escort car pulled over and stopped next to a walled compound. Then the one police officer in my escort who spoke a little bit of English explained that it is too dangerous to drive in the dark and that it would be best if I slept with them in this army base.

Hanging out with some of the police officers and army recruits at the base

Said and done. As we were all (me and maybe 5-6 police officers) gathered in an office doing some paperwork I decided to check what the food situation was like. Unfortunately they English speaking guy had left at this point.

  • Me: I’m really hungry, do you have any food here?
  • Officer #1: Huh?
  • Me (combined with gestures): Hungry. Food. Eating.
  • Officer #2: … no?
  • Me (still with the gestures): Nom nom nom nom
  • Officer #1: … heh?
  • Me: Ehm… kebab?
  • Everyone (laughing): KEEEEEBAAAAB!! YES MISTER!

Half an hour later a nice chicken kebab was delivered to me as I was sitting in the courtyard half reading and half watching a very exciting volleyball game between the police and army team stationed on the base. After completely annihilating that kebab I was given the prayer room to myself for the night and went to bed.

My very luxurious room for the night

Seeing as this was a really long post I will stop here and do the rest of Iran in a separate post. Until next time!

Pakistan is amazing!

Now this will be something new for those of you who have followed me for a while. Two blog posts within the course of just a few days! Anyhow, we are slowly catching up to my current whereabouts and this time I will tell you (almost) all about my week or so in Pakistan. The plan for Pakistan was to cross from the India border at Wagah in the northeast to the Iran border at Taftan in the far west. The first half of the journey up until a town called Sukkur I would do on my own and for the second half I would be joined by my awesome guide Mohsin and a security escort to take me through the province of Baluchistan (if you are ever planning a trip to Baluchistan in Pakistan – which is something you should be doing – reach out to Mohsin at City Express and he will help you out!).

My route through Pakistan

Day 96 – entering Pakistan: After a fantastic week in India it was finally time to enter Pakistan through the famous Wagah border crossing. I had my visa and everything in good order so the border proceedings were quite straight forward and I was through the whole process in less than two hours (which is quite normal when attempting to bring a foreign vehicle across borders). My first stop in Pakistan was Lahore (less than 30km from the border) where my dear friend and colleague Andrea had put me in touch with her dad Håkan who works in Lahore, so I was heading to his house where he had kindly offered me to stay.

About 30 minutes after entering Pakistan I had my first encounter with the wonderful Pakistani hospitality when I got a little bit lost in Lahore. When I stopped to call Håkan for some directions a couple of very nice gentlemen immediately pulled up and offered to help me find my way, and once I explained where I had agreed to meet Håkan (in an area of Lahore called Gulberg) they guided me onto the right road to get there. I know I have probably said this 10 times by now about 10 different countries, but Pakistanis are truly among the most hospitable people I have met in all my travels!

After another half an hour or so I eventually arrived in Gulberg and was immediately treated to a fantastic little oasis of Sweden in the middle of Pakistan. A comfortable bed, hot shower, cold beer, filter coffee, some good chocolate and even a gin and tonic! And as I arrived on a Sunday I got to join in on the weekly tradition of having a steak at a local steak house, which was most pleasant and much better than I would ever have expected in this part of the world. After that welcome protein injection we went back to the house and sat up talking about my trip, life in Pakistan and Australia until late in the evening (here is where that G&T came about).

Day 97 – accidentally buying a painting: As it was Monday, I had the whole day to myself to explore the local area as well as catch up on some of the detailed planning for the Europe stage of the trip. Also, sleeping in was on the agenda (and was successfully accomplished). My first mission outside of the house was walking over to the local shopping center to withdraw some cash and try to get a Pakistani SIM card for my phone. After succeeding with the former but not the latter, I gave up and went for a leisurely stroll through the lush streets of Gulberg back towards the house.

Met these kids as I was walking through Gulberg, Lahore

As I didn’t really have any plans I was very excited when I saw a sign for an art gallery (the unicorn gallery, no less) up a side street, “why not check out some Pakistani art now that I am here?” I thought and headed that way. That turned out to be a fantastic idea! Not only were the owner Seemah and her daughter Soraya absolutely delightful and friendly people, but Soraya was also a super talented artist herself and I completely fell in love with one of her paintings and spontaneously bought it. After spending the next few hours in the gallery talking about everything from the local art scene to world politics I headed back to the house but only after making plans to come back for lunch the day after (did I mention the amazing Pakistani hospitality?).

Buying a painting 

Back at the house Håkan soon returned from work and we largely repeated the activities from the night before, staying up much later than I am used to at this stage. Håkan also managed to get me that SIM card I was looking for earlier in the day, which would prove essential for the rest of my travels in Pakistan. Håkan, if you are reading this, huge thanks again for being such a fantastic host in Lahore!

Day 98 – mostly having lunch, but also going to Multan: I basically woke up, packed up the bike and then went back to the unicorn gallery for lunch. And what a lunch. I probably stayed for four hours, enjoying great local food (including, but not limited to a tasty brain masala) and more stimulating conversations. If you ever find yourself in Lahore, be sure to stop by the unicorn gallery! After finally leaving Lahore, it was an easy drive on smooth highways down to Multan where I arrived just after dark and more or less went to sleep straight away.

Day 99 & 100 – getting a police escort and hot weather: It took two days to pass the eastern parts of Pakistan from Multan to Sukkur. Upon leaving Multan I had to check in with the local police who decided I needed a security escort (initially in the form of a police car going in front of me on the road) from there onwards, a couple of days earlier than I had expected but no issue as it is free of charge and the Pakistani police usually are a jolly bunch to hang out with. So although the only thing I could see myself needing protection from was the risk of excessive hospitality, I was not too fussed about having them around. Particularly entertaining was observing the vast variation in type and quality of escort vehicles, ranging from perfectly modern pickup trucks to tiny 70cc mopeds to finally just having a police officer sitting on the back of my bike!

The most fun form of police escort!

Another thing. I don’t know how many times I will say that I am experiencing the hottest temperatures of the trip but hopefully this will be the last. As I was making my way southwest in Pakistan the thermometer crept up to settle around 44 degrees, which makes for very challenging riding. Especially as the police escorts usually swap (one district handing over to the next) in the middle of nowhere with no shade in sight and every minute of standing still feels like being steamed alive inside my riding gear. So upon reaching my hotel in the evenings my first order of business would be setting the AC on 16 degrees and curl up in shivers on the bed for about an hour until my body was back to normal.

Day 101 – meeting up with my guide and heading into Baluchistan: In the morning I finally met up with Mohsin and his crew (Mohsin, Khawar and Ashfaq), who would be going with me in their car for the remainder of my stay in Pakistan. The plan for the day was to make our way from Sukkur (located in the desert in central Paksitan) to Quetta (located in the mountains in the western part of the country). Imagine my excitement when Mohsin explained that on the way we would have the pleasure of passing through the hottest city in all of Pakistan… Anyway, after some hours of excruciating heat and the occasional break for me to sit in the air conditioned car for a few minutes to cool down we made it to the mountains and started getting to more moderate temperatures.

Mohsin and I waiting at police checkpoint somewhere along the way

No desert is complete without camels!

In Quetta I stayed at a super charming little hotel with a nice garden and (as far as I could tell) no other guests but myself. After unpacking and having a shower Mohsin and Khawar came back in the evening with some dinner and after that I went to bed, exhausted after another day mostly spent in 40+ degree heat.

Day 102 – a bonus day in Quetta: The plan for this day was to start our journey towards the Iran border, going from Quetta do Dalbandin which is roughly half way to the border. Only that did not happen at all. Instead, about an hour after dinner the night before my stomach started feeling a bit odd… I then proceeded to spend the whole night in the bathroom and by 6am or so in the morning I decided I was so dehydrated it would probably be a good idea to go to the hospital. So I woke the hotel receptionist up, hopped on the back of his motorbike and he took me through the empty streets of Quetta to the nearby hospital.

At the hospital, I was quickly showed to a bed in the medical ward and my arm hooked up to an IV drip. There were about 12-15 other people in the ward in various levels of distress (the guy on my right seemed to be completely fine, the guy on my left had been bitten by a cobra), but being a bit of an exotic guest at a regional hospital in Pakistan I got plenty of attention and was soon diagnosed with some good old food poisoning and my drip was spiked with various things to speed up my recovery. Eventually, after some moderately successful communication between the hotel, the police and my guide Mohsin my whole crew also showed up at the hospital, followed by lots of discussions (including a little bit of flirting) between my guys and the doctors whilst I was dozing off…

My view for most of the day

When I woke up again early in the afternoon I already felt much better and after a while I was asked to go see the head doctor in charge of the whole medical wing of the hospital, who had a quick look at my tongue and concluded that I was recovering just fine. He then insisted I have some tea with him and then I would be moved to a VIP room for another batch of drip before being signed out a couple of hours later. Again this amazing hospitality! Unfortunately I have no photos but the VIP room was like a luxury time capsule from the 70s, complete with dark wood paneling and plush beddings in various shades of brown and yellow. It was amazing! After another couple of hours of napping I was signed out, driven back to the hotel where I had the prescribed diet of white rice and yoghurt and then went to bed.

Day 103 – heading towards Iran: In the morning I was feeling like a somewhat capable human again and hence we took off towards the Iran border, only 24 hours delayed. This is a very remote area of Pakistan, with few towns and stunning desert landscapes complete with camels and sand dunes trying their best to consume the road. But the road was good and our police escorts were mostly fast so we made some very good progress and decided to continue past Dalbandin and head closer to the border.

Riding through the desert landscapes of Baluchistan

Where the boundaries between road and desert are sometimes a bit fuzzy

We eventually made it as far as Nokkundi where there are not really any hotels but because Mohsin and the guys know everyone who’s someone in Baluchistan we were offered to stay at the resting house for government officials located in the local Customs compound. So we had a very pleasant evening, sharing photos from all the various cameras and enjoying some very nice homemade food.

We then set our alarms for an early departure to get us to the Iran border by 10am. But I will tell you all about that in my next update!

India – a moment in the limelight

Hello everyone! Again, I am lagging a bit behind on the blogging. But don’t worry; everything will be covered here eventually. Now as for this update I will take you through my second week in India, which was very different from the first week. A few weeks earlier I had started working with Triumph, doing some promotional activities along the way and New Delhi was the first big stop for that. In addition, I would be able to leave the bike at the Triumph workshop where they would fix her up for me.

The route for my second leg in India

Day 90 – entering India for the second time: I left Bardia national park in the morning and continued heading west towards the Nepal-India border near a town called Bhimdatta. Now as I was down on the lowlands it was getting really hot, and the temperature quickly settled around 37-38 degrees before I had gotten very far. Otherwise, this day was mostly about a desperate hunt for fuel. I started the day with less than half tank and went on without any worries as I assumed there would be plenty of petrol stations along the road (being the main highway and all).

But apparently fuel supply in Nepal is a bit intermittent at the moment, so when I stopped at a station to fill up they kindly explained that they were out of petrol. No worries, I still had some 70km worth of fuel left in the tank and they said the next station is only 40km away. Half an hour later I pull up at the next petrol station. They are also out of petrol, but they say the next station is just 20km away and they might have some. They did not. And at this stage I had about 10km worth of fuel left (half a litre), with the next petrol station being 25km away…

Luckily, the shop across the road had a couple of plastic bottles with petrol so I could fill up two litres to keep me going (two litres gives me about 40km). And the day continued like this, for the roughly 150km from Bardia national park where I started to the border there was no petrol except for the odd plastic bottle some shopkeepers kept for the locals to top up their motorbikes. So the relief when I finally got across to India and could stop at a real petrol station and fill up a full tank of fuel was absolutely divine. After that I just went on the highway and made it half way from the border to Delhi before nightfall.

Day 91 – getting to Delhi and meeting up with the Triumph team: After a couple of short hours in the morning I reached Delhi in the middle of the morning rush hour… Which obviously I should have figured out beforehand, but I obviously wasn’t paying attention. So after wrestling my way through Delhi for two hours, averaging something like 20km/h in the 44 degree heat I made it to the Triumph shop. Only it was the wrong shop. There are two in Delhi and I had set my GPS to the wrong one. Well, they let me in (even though they were closed) and since I was dying from the heat I just sat there in this air conditioned heaven for an hour or so before I dared brave the heat and chaos of Delhi traffic again.

After another stint of excruciating heat and slow traffic I made it to the right Triumph workshop, and it was worth it! The workshop itself was brand new and state of the art and the team were super helpful. So they installed me in the waiting room overlooking the shop floor whilst they cleaned the bike and got everything organised so we could go through what needed to be done. It felt great getting some first class care for the bike after the beatings she had taken over the last few weeks.

Bike left in the safe hands of OneTriumph in Delhi

Once we were all done in the workshop, I took a taxi to my hotel for a quick shower before heading to the Triumph India head office to meet the team there. At the Triumph office I met with Siddhartha who heads up Triumph’s marketing in India, and together with their PR team we put together a plan for an event three days later on the Friday flagging me off from Delhi. It was really exciting getting to meet some of the Triumph team and I am really impressed with the India operation in general and the people in particular!

Day 92 & 93 – running errands in Delhi: The following two days were primarily spent running various errands in Delhi. I had a loan bike from Triumph whilst they were taking care of my bike, and I used it to go around town to check up on my bike, have some more meetings with the Triumph team and last but not least, visit the Iran embassy to sort out my visa.

Checking in on my bike at the OneTriumph workshop

Over these two days, I spent what felt like the majority of my time at the Iran embassy. To begin with the embassy was in a different part of time from where I was staying, so each trip there took a solid 45-60 minutes one way. First I went there to pick up my visa which was applied for online by my friend in Tehran, only to wait around for an hour and then be handed a new set of application forms to fill out in addition to the online application. Then the next day I went back with all these forms filled out, waited for an hour or two only to find out that actually my online application had not yet been processed so I would have to wait a few more days for that. At this point I decided that getting a visa in advance was hugely overrated and I would just get one on arrival at the border.

Day 94 – becoming famous (well, trying anyway) in India: Finally, the big day when I would get my bike back and we would have the big event at the Triumph dealership (OneTriumph) in Delhi. I thought that maybe a couple of local motorcycle magazines and enthusiasts would show up, but it was much bigger than that! I spent the whole morning bouncing around the shop talking to bloggers, magazines, TV stations and motorcycling celebrities who all wanted to know everything about me and my trip. It was a fantastic experience and I had the privilege of getting to know some fantastic people in the process. But after a few hours it was time to be flagged off on my bike which was now almost as good as new.

Doing a TV interview at the OneTriumph showroom

I didn’t go very far though, as it was midday in Delhi and way too hot to be riding a motorcycle. Instead I stayed at a nearby hotel and arranged with Siddharth at OneTriumph to head out early the next morning (before it got too hot) with him and a few other fellow Triumph riders.

Day 95 – leaving Delhi for Amritsar: I had not realised what getting up early means for local bikers in Delhi, but now I got to appreciate the concept in all its glory. The alarm was set for 3.15am and we set off a little bit after 4am, rolling through an almost traffic free Delhi just before dawn. It was a really nice and social experience to ride with some fellow bikers for the first time since Thailand, and we rode together about half way to Amritsar where we stopped for breakfast. Over breakfast we talked about the kind of things bikers talk about; bike rides, bike gear, tire choices etc – very stimulating!

Early morning ride with some fellow Triumph riders

Stopping for breakfast half way to Amritsar

After breakfast I went on to Amritsar, where the weather blessed me and everyone else with some well deserved rain after a week of intense heat. So for the first time since I could remember I arrived at my destination without being soaked in sweat, an utterly delightful experience! In Amritsar, my dear friends Johan, Jonas and Emma had arranged for me to stay (and have a massage!) at the Hyatt as thanks for me hosting them in Melbourne earlier in the year, so I made my way there and treated myself to some excessive comfort for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

Doing some express sightseeing in Amritsar

Before going to sleep I also made sure everything was in good order for my entering into Pakistan the next day, an endeavour which will I will cover in my next blog post!


Trying to get to the top of the world


Hello blog readers! Again, I have been too lazy to update the blog in time and now too many things have happened (I have left Nepal, spent a week in India and now entered Pakistan) to summarise in one blog post. So we will have to make due with this one just being about my last week or so in Nepal and then another post will follow as soon as possible about my week in India. But as always, to keep up to speed with the latest happenings – follow me on instagram @on_the_scenic_route!

My last week in Nepal was a rollercoaster of mountains and valleys, hurdles and wins. The idea when I left Pokhara (last blog post) was to try and get as far up into the Annapurna mountain range as physically possible on the bike. And that’s exactly what I did. I made it to a town called Muktinath on 3,800m above sea level (which is high for a motorable road, although nothing compared to the 8,000m+ peaks surrounding you when you are up there).

Day 83 – getting a first taste of the “road” up the mountains: My first day stint was from Pokhara to a town called Tatopani, just on the edge of the Annapurna national park. I had heard horror stories of “the road to Jomsom”, which is a 90km stretch of road from a town called Beni to Jomsom (which is near Muktinath) and also the only road up the mountain from this side, so I was expecting a rough ride. This first day included a couple of hours on a perfectly normal road from Pokhara to Beni followed by an attempt at conquering the first 20km of this infamous road to Jomsom.

The day started out with some very normal Nepali roads

Now we had some pretty technical riding before when Lennart and Pontus were here, so I was mentally prepared for some pretty rough sections. But I really wasn’t prepared for the rough section being the entire 90km stretch from Beni to Jomsom… After turning onto this road in Beni I spent the next two hours conquering thigh deep water crossings, sandy hills and slippery mud patches I made it to Tatopani. Two hours, 20km and I was absolutely exhausted.

And then got a bit more muddy and very slippery… just pick it up and try again 🙂

At the lodge I stayed I met a group of four American guys doing the same ride up to Muktinath on rented Royal Enfield bikes. Delighted to have some fellow bike enthusiasts to speak to we sat up for quite a while and talked about bikes, adventures and a bit of everything over a few beers.

Day 84 – a workout as good as any: After crawling up those 20km the day before I asked around a bit at the lodge what the next 70km up to Jomsom (where I had planned to spend the night) would be like compared to the stretch I had done. Everyone basically just said “Same same all the way”, which is not what I wanted to hear so I decided the language barrier was too big and they actually meant the opposite. After that little exercise in logical reasoning, concluding that the roads would be much better for the next 70km I decided to take a relaxed morning and get going around lunch time (there may also have been a slight hangover influencing that decision).

Imagine my surprise when the roads were really bad the entire way! Although the scenery became increasingly spectacular as I made it up the mountain towards Jomsom (2,600m above sea level). But practice makes perfect and after a while I felt that I had mastered most of the surfaces present (sand, mud, loose rocks, sand with hidden rocks, river crossings) and I made it to Jomsom in something like four hours – average of almost 20km/h! Although at that point my body was completely destroyed wrestling 300kg+ of bike (with luggage) across this terrain all afternoon.

Stopping to enjoy the sceneryP1010789

And stopping again to enjoy the scenery even more…P1010860

Day 85 – high point of the trip (literally): The day started with a quest to get fuel which up here is only sold litre-by-litre in old PET bottles which have been filled down in the valley and driven up the mountain on a jeep. Sometimes there is fuel available in every little shop, sometimes there is no fuel in the whole town. Today was one of the former and the lady in the shop next to my lodge easily dug up five bottles of petrol which would be enough to carry me to Muktinath and back.

The first step was taking the “main bridge” over the river in Jomsom

After sorting fuel out the plan was to head up to Muktinath (3,800m above sea level), stay there for just an hour or so and then head back down to Jomsom (to manage my altitude exposure). Turns out going from 2,600m to 3,800m makes a big difference. Not only does the air get colder (around 5 degrees compared to 15+) and thinner, the vegetation also disappears and you get into a spectacular moonscape like scenery. The other nice surprise was that this stretch of 17km or so was actually the best road of the entire thing.

The ride up to Muktinath was really spectacular

And in the end I made it, to 3,800m above sea level

Another nice surprise was that when I got back down to Jomsom in the afternoon I again found my new friends, the motorbiking Americans parked outside one of the lodges. So I parked right next to them and found them in a nearby restaurant where we again shared stories of our various motorbike achievements and occasional crashes over a few beers.

Day 86 – going down is just as hard as going up: Time to get down again, which supposedly is easier because Newton is there with his gravity helping you out. Therefore, the plan was to get all the way down to the bottom of the valley (the full 90km) in one day. Although perfectly doable (I did make it all the way down) it turned out that going down is just as painful as going up and not really much faster when the road is trying to kill you with challenging surfaces at every turn.

There is always somewhere to stop to enjoy the scenery…

After finally making it down to the “real road” again, I stopped for the night in a town called Beni, waited for the American guys to arrive a bit later, had some dinner and passed out around 8 or 9 pm after another exhausting day.

Day 87 – some unexpected challenges: At this point I was done with the sights I wanted to see in Nepal and the plan was to begin making my way towards India. The first step was to get out of the mountains down into the lowlands of south Nepal, and for me that meant the goal for the day was getting to the city of Butwal in south central Nepal. The ride took me back through Pokhara and then south through some spectacular valleys with very good roads by Nepal standards. Everything was great and the riding was super smooth.

Then as I was stopped at a rest area for a break just 10km from Butwal, a reversing truck ran over my bike. Crash! Boom! Bang! The truck only stopped as its rear wheels tried to roll up over the front wheel of my bike. Damage assessment revealed a bent front wheel and bent front brake discs, which meant a wobbly ride and no front brakes. The rack for the rear panniers was also bent to one side so the pannier boxes were all lopsided. Luckily two really nice Nepali guys stopped to help me and after assessing that I could make it down to the hotel by myself we agreed to meet up the next morning to sort the bik e out (it was the Nepali new year’s eve so everyone was on their way to a party). Eventually I ride the remaining 10km or so at walking speed with only rear brake and get to the hotel.

Day 88 – fixing the bike: After initially being a bit upset about having my bike crushed by a truck I wake up in positive spirit and wait for the guys from the night before to call me so we can meet up and fix the bike. A bit after 9am one of the guys comes to pick me up at the hotel and we ride slowly over to his friend’s bike shop a couple of hundred metres down the street. Then it’s a quick operation of removing the front wheel and both brake discs for damage assessment (at this point I have been given an old bike saddle to sit on and a glass of coca cola). A quick look from the boss of the shop and he agrees that they are all bent but it is all fixable.

Fixing the front wheel and brakes at the local motorbike workshop

Then one guy takes the front wheel under one arm, hops on a motorbike and heads off down the street. Another guy takes the brake discs in one hand, hops on another motorbike and heads down the street the other way – “They are going to different workshop, to do engineering”. Well, if there is one thing I am a fan of it is engineering so I relax and sit back down. At this point my friends from the night before take me along for lunch and we sit around there for an hour or so until they call from the bike shop to say the bike is done. We get back and not only is the bike all put back together, it is washed as well. I pay the bill of about $20, exchange social media profiles with a few people and roll off with my bike which now has perfectly working front brakes and an only slightly wobbly front wheel (the rim is aluminium so it cannot be straightened as much as the steel brake discs).

Because it was only lunch time when the bike was back in action, I decide to make the 300km ride west to Bardia national park to make some progress towards India. I was now on the main East-West highway where you can sometimes go as fast as 80km/h between the many villages, so it only took around 5 hours to get there. And it was a lovely place to be, so I decide to stay for a day to relax.

I stayed at this amazing little place (called Forest hideaway) in Bardia national park

Day 89 – relaxing and just a little bit more bike fixing: After a few intense days it was nice with a day with very little moving around. Although I did decide that I wanted to fix the bent racks for my pannier boxes so the morning activity was asking at the lodge if they had some old iron rod lying around, or anything really I could use as a lever to bend some steel racks into shape. They did! So I lodged the bike up against a tree and applied some gentle but decisive violence in the right places and voila! Everything was back to (almost) straight. So now I was confident I would make it to New Delhi where there is a Triumph dealership, which means I can get actual spare parts to replace the odd broken thing on the bike.

Because the pannier boxes where hanging sideways like this

I decided that some carefully applied violence was in good order

Love letter to Nepal

As I am writing this I have spent some 10 days in Nepal and I am already in love. I am now in Pokhara, roughly in the centre of the country where I have spent the day getting the permits required to enter the Annapurna national park where I will spend the next 4-5 days getting as far into the park and up the mountains as roads and trails allow. Unfortunately I will not have enough time to continue on foot this time but I am confident I will be back in Nepal for some hiking in the not too distant future.

So what is it I love so much about Nepal? Well, the scenery is amazing. The people are super friendly and intensely relaxed. And the scenery, did I mention the scenery? Green valleys, rolling hills and always snow covered peaks for backdrop. And I am sure their first priority when planning the road network was practicality, but they all turned out ridiculously scenic as well.

This is what the scenery looks like pretty much wherever you go

Anyway, another highlight of getting to Nepal was to meet up with my dad and brother (Lennart and Pontus) who flew down and rented motorbikes to join me for the first week here. After having had to rebook their trip once we actually managed to meet up almost as planned (only a day late) and had five days together exploring the eastern parts of Nepal.

Day 75 – meeting up with my dad and brother: After failing to meet up the day before (I got stuck changing tyres as per my previous blog post and Lennart and Pontus got lost for a bit exiting Kathmandu) I got up early to ride the two hours from Dharan (where I spent the night) to Lahan (where Lennart and Pontus spent the night) so we could start the journey into the mountains from there. Besides the pleasure of meeting my dad and brother for the first time in I don’t know how long, they also brought a nice bottle of whisky which was much appreciated!

Finally joined up!

So without much research other than a quick Google maps session we headed north from the lowlands into the mountains with a rough plan to get to a town called Charikot in two days. And that first day riding together was just as sad as it was spectacular. This was the day where the effects of the 2015 earthquake were most visible, with long stretches of road washed away and bridges collapsed. For that very reason it was also the most challenging day of riding, with long stretches of sand and dust where there used to be roads and rocky river crossings where there used to be bridges. And in between stretches of perfectly paved windy mountain roads with virtually no traffic (only bikes and serious 4×4 vehicles could get past the river crossings).

Nepal is offering the most technical riding so far, by quite a margin…


And the scenery is still amazing

As an extra bonus, I managed to make a very solid first impression on Lennart and Pontus by falling over no less than twice during that first day. Both times when trying to get going again from carefully selected parking spots (the things you do to get the perfect photo…). But every dent adds a bit of unique character to the bike so I am not at all unhappy about it.

Day 76 – getting to Charikot: After a really long and challenging day the day before, we had an easy ~4 hour ride from where we spent the night in a town called Bhimeshwor to Charikot. The roads were more or less all undamaged but it was another scenic ride showcasing the amazing difference in climate that can be found in Nepal. From 32 degrees and humid when going all the way down into a valley to cross a river to around 20 degrees when traversing a mountain half an hour later.

Then we got to the hotel I had checked out in Charikot, and it was amazing! So amazing I will give my first (I think) hotel recommendation of the blog. Charikot panorama resort (, lodged on a mountain top with unobstructed views in all directions. And as if that wasn’t enough, they are also building a sauna! There is no easier way to get me really excited than a good sauna building project. So if you are ever passing through the area east of Kathmandu that’s an amazing place to stay.

Morning coffee in the garden of Charikot panorama resort

Day 77 – just doing a light day trip: We decided to stay two nights in Charikot and just do a day trip to a town called Jiri. This meant a day riding without luggage which is always a nice treat after riding around with the equivalent of a dead body strapped around the back of the bike for weeks. Jiri was the most common starting point for climbing mount Everest before you could fly into Lukla, but these days is mostly just a normal Nepali mountain village. The ride there was very nice though with nice roads for the most part and a high mountain pass (2,600m) before the final descent into the Jiri valley.

Stopping to (again) admire the scenery

Day 78 – going to Kathmandu: After a couple of relaxing days in the mountains it was time to head to Kathmandu for Lennart and Pontus to fly out the next day and for me to have a couple of working days to organise the rest of the trip. We had a pretty big thunderstorm overnight and the rain had done quite the number on the roads leading out of Charikot towards Kathmandu, so for the first couple of hours we were averaging less than 20km/h. Eventually the roads got better but as we got closer to Kathmandu traffic picked up and all-in-all it was quite an uneventful day.

More riding on narrow mountain roads with spectacular views

Day 78, 79 & 80 – hanging out in Kathmandu: The day after arriving in Kathmandu, Lennart and Pontus flew out and I was once again on my own (pretty used to that at this point). I spent those days exploring a little bit of Kathmandu but mainly organising a few things for the remainder of the trip. Unfortunately I can’t tell you much about it now, but there will be some exciting things coming up so stay tuned.

Found some cool street art in Kathmandu

Day 81 & 82 – going to Pokhara: The ride from Kathmandu to Pokhara was about 5 hours and not very exciting (compared to the rest of Nepal anyway) but Pokhara itself is really nice! I had to go here to get the permits to enter the Annapurna national park (where I am heading tomorrow) but I am glad I did as the town is very laid back and pretty, situated along a lake in a valley with (again) snow covered mountains as backdrop.

The street I was staying in Pokhara, always with a good mountain backdrop



First impressions from India

It has been a while since my last update when I had just entered India. Since then I have crossed India’s north-eastern states and entered Nepal where I am currently spending a few days in Kathmandu. But for the sake of keeping my posts digestible, I will keep this post to my experiences from India and then put up a separate post about Nepal in a few days.

My route through the northeast part of IndiaNEIndia

In short, my first impression of India was very positive and nothing like what I had expected. Understanding the fact that India is a huge and exceptionally diverse country, my expectations were still that I would be faced with crowded streets, suffocating heat (even more so than before), strong smells and chaotic traffic. That wasn’t the case at all – instead I got cool mountain air, almost empty highways and laid back village life.

Traffic can be pretty slow on the Indian countryside

Day 71 & 72 – riding through the mountains of Manipur and Nagaland: The first thing that strikes you as you enter India at the (only) border crossing from Myanmar is that it’s not exactly as organised as you would expect. The first thing you do is pass through a military checkpoint (more about these in a minute) which is actually fairly organised, they note down your passport number and time of entry and then you are free to go. Now you are in the village of Moreh, which is in India.

Nobody has checked my Visa, stamped my passport or looked at the paperwork for the bike, but I am now in India. And I’m confused. But it turns out all you need to do is ask someone for directions to the immigration office, which is not at or even near the border checkpoint. No, the immigration office is “about two kilometres down the main street, then take a left, go up the hill past the football field and it’s just there to the left”. Once I find the immigration office, the process repeats itself to find the customs office and about an hour later I am still in the geographical spot but this time quite comfortable I am not in the country illegally.

Anyhow, after the honour system immigration process the second thing you notice is the military presence. There are checkpoints every few kilometres and every other vehicle on the road is military. Turns out the Manipur state has only recently opened up for foreigners after years of instability, and they’re being serious about keeping it stable. But the soldiers are all super friendly and frequently compete in giving me tips for the smartest shortcuts to my destination, so it’s no issue for me (although I can imagine it is quite a burden on the locals).

The view from my room in Kohima

The final thing that strikes you is the scenery. Beautiful mountains and valleys with pretty little hillside towns scattered throughout. Being up in the mountains means it’s also nice and cool for the first time in what felt like forever, around 20 degrees for the most part. Unfortunately I did dare taking many photos for the first couple of days as the was big “photography forbidden” signs around all military installations and there were military installations virtually everywhere.

Day 73 & 74 – crossing the lowlands and entering Nepal: After making it out of the mountains, I had two long days to cross the narrow corridor of India that sits between Bhutan and Bangladesh along the river Brahmaputra. And here I encountered something I hadn’t seen in over a month… rain! So much so that I had to cut one day short and retreat to a random guesthouse on the highway for the night.

Pulling up to a roadside guesthouse in India is very much a gamble. It was dark and pouring down rain when I arrived so I couldn’t make much of a judgement from the outside, but I went to check out the room before I decided to stay there (knowing of course that I had no other options given the weather). Anyway, positive surprise: the room they show me is simple but clean and very recently painted. As a result of some creative styling choices during the recent paint job it is also ridiculously pink, but I can live with that.

So I take the room, unpack all my things and get ready to go to bed. Toothbrush in mouth I open the bathroom door and notice what seems like yet another creative styling move. They seem to have chosen a polka dot design for the floor tiles, with brown cockroach-shaped polka dots – how very creative and ironic. Giggling in appreciation of their progressive sense of styling I search for the bathroom light switch, find it around the corner, flick it and after a brief rattle all the polka dots are gone. Wow, that’s probably the most high tech bathroom tiles I have ever seen or possibly possibly the most cockroach infested bathroom I have ever seen. I assume the former, do my thing and then carefully seal the bathroom door with a towel just in case. I then leave at first light and conveniently don’t feel like I have to go to the bathroom in the morning.

Otherwise, the journey is quite uneventful with perfect highways mixed in with some beautiful country roads. One fun feature of Indian highway traffic that I found though is that even though there are two lanes in each direction, usually separated with a big ditch, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t expect oncoming traffic. Because if you are stopped on one side of the road and your destination is behind you, rather than going all the way up to the next U-turn opening to turn back and then have to drive all the way to a U-turn opening that is past your destination so you can finally drive the last bit and get where you want to go, you could just get out on the road and go against traffic for a while… much faster. I’m astonished nobody has figured this out back home, it is really significantly faster.

A truck going the wrong direction on the highway, standard operating procedure in India

My final errand in India before crossing the border into Nepal was to find somewhere to change to the new tyres I had been carrying on the back of the bike for a few weeks. So with a combination of words and creative hand gestures I start asking for a tyre shop that can help me out. After a few failed attempts (tyre shops who said they didn’t have the right tools) I found a couple of guys in a dusty shed just an hour from the border. They also didn’t have any tools, but they had a solid attitude which gets you a long way! Also, it turned out that with some creative engineering I had all the tools we needed. We spent an hour getting the wheels off the bike one by one, changing the tyres completely by hand (and feet) and putting them back on, whilst at the same time becoming the main happening in the village and building up a solid audience.

This was my tyre shop – it doesn’t have to be fancy to get the job done

And we built up quite the audience

Making progress again!

Wow, the last week or so has been intense. From sitting in Thailand a week ago waiting to be allowed to enter Myanmar to waking up this morning in India. I entered India yesterday afternoon and I now have a few days here before heading into Nepal on Friday. I’ll tell you everything about India after I’m through, but first impressions are very positive.

Coming to India, I was expecting this
India traffic

But instead I found this

Anyway, since my last update I spent another few days in Thailand but then most of the time in Myanmar (which is also the reason why this blog post is so late, internet in Myanmar is not at all reliable enough to upload a blog post).

This is what I have been up to over the last week and a bit

Day 60 to 64 – riding the Mae Hong Son loop in Thailand: I’ll keep this one short because I have already told you plenty about the riding in Thailand, but the loop from Chiang Mai through the Mae Hong Son province has some of the best roads and scenery I have seen anywhere in the world! So I spent a few days up there, including stopping for two nights in Pai to socialise with some other travelers over a beer or two.

This is what the roads are like on the Mae Hong Son loop

Day 65 – finally crossing over into Myanmar: On Wednesday the 22nd of March, it was finally time to cross the border to Myanmar. All the permits and paperwork were in place as of that same Monday so after changing some money I head over to the border at Mae Sot on the Thai side. I was expecting smooth sailing through the Thai border check point and then hours of slow paperwork on the Myanmar side. Well. The opposite is what happened…

When I first entered Thailand many weeks earlier the laws on bringing foreign registered vehicles into Thailand had just been changed (meaning you need a completely different set of paperwork from what I had) but because I had organised all of my trip before the law changed and the law itself was brand new they were nice enough to let me through with the papers I had. They were not nearly as nice and understanding when I tried to exit the country. In the end it took me a solid couple of hours being bounced between different immigration and customs booths and eventually I had to fill out a complete set of the new paperwork, including retroactively filling out the import papers. All whilst standing outside in the 40 degree heat with all my riding gear on. Then I got to the Myanmar side, met my guide (more about that shortly) and everything was done in 10 minutes.

So. Yeah. About obtaining permission to bring a foreign motorbike through Myanmar. Well, as you might have figured already you don’t just rock up at the border and roll through. No, you need to get a tour organised by a licensed tour agency, with a detailed day-by-day itinerary and a tour guide to follow you around for your whole visit. That maybe doesn’t sound too hard. But that’s not all. In addition to the tour guide, an officer from the Ministry of Tourism also has to come along for the whole trip (to do all the paperwork at the borders and various checkpoints). And once that’s all organised those guys need a car and a driver, and in my case the guide also had a guide trainee with him. So all in all I had an entourage of four people for the full six days in Myanmar.

Say hello to me and my entourage in Myanmar

And this is their van, which I followed through the whole country

Days 66 & 67 – making our way up towards Bagan: The main attraction on the agenda in Myanmar was Bagan, where we had planned it such that we would get there in time to catch the sunset and have the whole morning the following day to explore. So the first few days were primarily spent on the road, doing 7-8 hours per day and only briefly stopping to see various things along the way. And here in Myanmar, I finally got some of the dirt roads I had pictured in my head when I planned the trip!

This is what I was looking for the entire time

One of the highlights was going up to the Golden Rock, a Buddhist temple on the top of a mountain which is said to contain a lock of hair from Buddha himself. And regardless what you believe about that, the view from up there was spectacular.

Checking out the Golden Rock

Another highlight was passing through Naypyidaw, the newly built capital of Myanmar a few hours north of the old capital (and economic centre) Yangon. Naypyidaw is everything you could ever imagine a brand new capital city built by a military dictator would be, and more. The city basically contains all ministries and other government administration and lots of military bases but only has a population of around 100,000 people. My favourite detail was the main road through the city.

Main road through Naypyidaw, 14 lanes altogether – 7 each direction, no traffic

Day 68 – exploring Bagan: Now I appreciate that at this point the blog might seem like a 50% motorbike – 50% temple blog, but I just have to write a few paragraphs and show a couple of photos from Bagan. From here on, there should be much fewer temples. I promise.

Anyway, Bagan is a vast complex of Buddhist temples built around the 10th to 13th century and it is absolutely spectacular. It’s situated in the dry lands in central Myanmar so you get this amazing landscape dotted with low green trees where it feels like brick temples almost organically have grown up from the rust coloured sand.

Bagan looks like this, but much more

Good thing is you can take the bike to explore most of the templesP1010403

Big white temple, the name of which I could never pronounce and have now forgotten

Days 69 & 70 – going off the beaten track towards the Indian border: The roads got much smaller as we made it from Bagan towards the Indian border in the northwest of the country, so after Bagan we had some really long days on the road. And the temperature still hit 40 degrees every afternoon, as it has since I left Bangkok…

Roads got much narrower after Bagan

As did the bridges, not to mention woodier

Vacation from the vacation from the vacation

After spending a week in Bangkok on a bit of a vacation from the vacation, I still had a 10 days or so before I could enter Myanmar. The border crossing (near the town of Mae Sot) is just 6 hours northwest of Bangkok so getting there would only take one of those days. Hence, the only reasonable thing was to head up to northern Thailand to get a bit of a vacation from the bustling city of Bangkok.

Updating the blog from Mae Kampong

So here I am, in the mountains just outside Chiang Mai, enjoying the slow pace of the Thai countryside as well as some of the most spectacular roads in Southeast Asia. To the extent that I am now actually heading out on a completely pointless (from a making progress perspective) but supposedly gorgeous 4 day loop around the Mea Hong Son province before coming back here to Chiang Mai on Monday.

The loop I am taking the next 3-4 days: Chiang Mai to Chiang Mai

But anyway, since leaving Bangkok I have managed to do a thing or two worth writing down.

Day 54 – exploring temples and ruins in Ayutthaya: After making the incredibly questionable decision the day before to leave Bangkok around 5pm on a Friday (mainly because I lost track of weekdays long ago) and consequently being stuck in the very rushest of rush hours for an eternity I decided to stay the whole day in Ayutthaya just to recover.

Ayutthaya was the capital of Thailand (or Siam, as it was called back then) from the 14th to the 18th century and still has many buildings and ruins remaining of various palaces and temples from that time. So I got up in the morning, put on my walking shoes and went out to explore as much as I could squeeze into a day.

Walking through Ayutthaya

And checking out some old temples

Day 55 & 56 – making my way to Chiang Mai: Now this will sound much stupider than it is… Or actually. That’s not right. It is probably exactly as stupid as it sounds: I had no idea Thailand would be so hot!? Going through the lowlands in central Thailand the temperature hit 40 degrees every day (which is just not nice, at all). So instead of torturing myself with blasting the 6-7 hours up from Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai in one day I took it easy over two days to avoid the hottest hours of the day as best as I could.

Day 57 – leaving Chiang Mai for the mountains: After spending one night in Chiang Mai itself to get organised, it was time to head out into the mountains to just relax in the cool and fresh mountain climate for a couple of days. And because I have amazing friends in Thailand to help me organise things (thanks Siriphan and Nong!) I was going to stay at a homestay with a Thai family in Mae Kampong, some 50km east of the city.

As I was packing the bike outside the hotel in Chiang Mai, I met this really nice couple who were staying at the same hotel and were also exploring Chiang Mai and the surroundings on a motorbike. After talking for a while about my trip we exchange phone numbers and agree to try and go for a ride together later in the week (which was really exciting because riding together with other people is surprisingly social even though you cannot really talk to each other whilst riding).

Anyway, I eventually got out of Chiang Mai and made it to Mae Kampong and for the first time in weeks I got to enjoy some spectacular mountain roads. And as a bonus, climbing from around 300m above sea level to almost 1,300m took the temperature down from close to 40 degrees to a delightful 23-24 degrees.

Riding up the mountain roads towards Mae Kampong

Day 58 – relaxing in the mountains: Mae Kampong turned out to be gorgeous, and the climate was so pleasant after more than a week in 35+ degrees. I haven’t slept so well in weeks! After finally making it out of bed I went out for a stroll in the village and a little hike up to a nearby waterfall, although with very frequent stops for coffee and fresh fruit.

Walking around in downtown Mae Kampong

And checking out the local waterfall

I ended the day just relaxing on the balcony, starting to write this blog post and organising my remaining days in Thailand.

Day 59 – going for a ride and making friends: As I was cruising around Mae Kampong, I also managed to keep in touch with Ed (fellow biker I met in Chiang Mai). He had another friend who lives in Chiang Mai and they had planned to get together for a ride on the day I was leaving Mae Kampong and asked if I wanted to join. Naturally, I did!

We met up in the morning just west of Chiang Mai and then had an amazing day riding around Chiang Mai, stopping here and there to check out waterfalls, have lunch, check out the Chiang Mai dam and finally have a few well deserved beers in the evening. It was really nice to meet some fellow bikers (which might sound a bit odd given the roads have been full of motorbikes all through Asia, but there is a huge difference when you meet people who are passionate and ride for fun on big bikes) and ride some fantastic roads together.


Enjoying the ride!


Stopping for lunch somewhere on the road

Checking out the Chiang Mai dam


A week in Bangkok

As I am writing this blog post, I just left Bangkok for a quick stop in Ayutthaya before I go further north in Thailand to Chiang Mai and beyond. I ended up spending a full week in Bangkok, but it was well worth it and very productive overall.

My main trip objectives in Bangkok were:

  • Getting the bike serviced
  • Stocking up on spare parts and tires for the next stage of the trip
  • Sorting out my permit for Myanmar (which was revoked a few weeks before, very frustrating)

In addition, I had a number of civilisation therapy objectives:

  • Eat a steak
  • Have a decent cocktail (more specifically a Negroni)
  • Catch a movie at the cinema
  • Meet up with some old friends from when I lived in Bangkok in 2012
  • Enjoy Bangkok’s amazing food scene in general

Day 48 – Settling in to Bangkok life: I actually arrived early evening on Saturday (day 47) and after checking in to my hotel I went straight for that steak. And I had said steak  with an old friend  so knocked two items off the list within hours of arriving to Bangkok. Great progress, so I rewarded myself with a bit of a sleep in on Sunday morning and then went about walking around my old neighbourhoods. A very nice and relaxed day, not much to report other than managing to tick that cocktail  off the list in the evening.

My old neighbourhood in Sukhumvit from above

And walking around on street level

Day 49 to 53 – Running errands and having amazing food: I ended up spending the whole week, Monday to Friday in Bangkok. But rather than running through the week day by day I thought I might try a different approach and organise this blog post according to my to do list.

First off, taking care of the bike turned out to be really easy. I had already organised to drop it off at Britbike (the local Triumph dealer in Bangkok) on Monday morning and the manager Asawin and his guys did an amazing job with it! Not only did they service and patch up the bike  in no time, they also gave it the most thorough clean it has ever received and managed to get me exactly the tires I wanted  for the next stage of the trip.

Dropping off a dirty, tired bike at Britbike on Monday morning

Two days later, picked it up again looking brand new!

Now all I needed to do was to figure out how to pack everything onto the bike in a somewhat secure and effective manner. Easier said than done. After a few tries with complicated approaches (almost to the point of wearing the spare tires like hula hoops) I decided that I’ll probably just stack it high and see what happens.

Stacking it high it is. And obviously I’ll be wearing the helmet so it’s not even that high 🙂


I was lucky the bike points on my list went so smoothly, because the Myanmar permit part really didn’t. Basically to enter Myanmar with a foreign registered vehicle you need a detailed day-by-day itinerary put together by a government licensed tour agency sent to the Ministry of Tourism in advance for approval. Obviously I knew this from researching the trip to begin with and I was already working with a really helpful travel agent to arrange that. Unfortunately, my permit was revoked at some point when I was in Indonesia and nobody could tell me why.

Not much I could do about that until I got to Bangkok, where Myanmar has an embassy. So I head there on Tuesday morning. After waiting in line, then being pointed to a different line and finally getting to talk to someone who wanted to help me I leave the embassy with… almost nothing! They explain that the embassy has no control over the permits issued by the Ministry of Tourism, and have no way of helping me with that. But in the end I manage to get a phone number to someone in the Ministry.

Straight back to the hotel to grab a phone and see if I can sort this out (at this point I am also researching ways to ship the bike past Myanmar straight to India…). I call. Someone picks up. And after being bounced around for a while I get to a gentleman who speaks good English and has seen my original application.

So what happened? Well. Since I applied for the permit, the specific border crossing I was going to take from Thailand to Myanmar has been closed for foreigners. And rather than pointing that out and ask me to change my itinerary to enter at a different border crossing they just revoked the whole thing. Anyhow, that is what it is and he explains that if I just submit a new application entering at the Myawaddy border crossing there should be no problem getting that approved. Although the processing time is 10 working days… so that’s another one week delay in the schedule. Anyway, I get in touch with my agent in Myanmar again and we put together a new itinerary and submit a new application  by Thursday morning. So now the plan is to enter Myanmar on Wednesday March 22nd.


Luckily, neither the bike or Myanmar errands took up very much time during the days (most of the time I was just waiting) so I had plenty of time to enjoy the much anticipated civilisation therapy. I went to the movies , but then focused most of my attention on enjoying Bangkok’s spectacular food scene. And it is spectacular. And it spans the entire spectrum, from street food to some of the best fine dining restaurants in the world. Naturally I wanted to sample the whole spectrum so when I arrived I called Gaggan (ranked #1 restaurant in Asia for three years straight and featured in an episode of Chef’s table on Netflix – check it out!) and managed to get a table on Wednesday night.

Amazing street food

And fancy restaurant food

And finally enough hip cafés that I could get a decent brunch

Gaggan was absolutely amazing, very interesting experimental take on Indian cuisine, and very well worth the visit. Among the highlights were a tiny waffle sandwich with goat brain filling and a tomato matcha soup.

And because I stayed the whole week I also took the time to do some general caring for all my gear and equipment, essentially making my hotel room into a workshop for a few days. I even managed to rationalise away some things, roughly equaling the weight of my new tires so I could leave Bangkok more or less weight neutral.

Unpacking EVERYTHING in my room

Cleaning all my tools and equipment

It’s all land from here on

For those of you who were holding your breath since the last blog post: the bike did arrive in Penang, Malaysia the day after. And since then I have made it to Bangkok where I am working my way through a long to do list of various things that need solving for the second half or so of the trip. Will tell you all about that in my next blog post once I am done here in Bangkok.

I’m about 10,000km in now, out of ~24,000km total. But because I am done with Indonesia (which takes ages to cross due to a combinations of poor roads, crazy traffic and all the ferries between the islands) I am actually more than half way in terms of estimated driving time. But I’m not going to celebrate until I am half way in distance terms, which will be somewhere in eastern India.

But enough about that, let’s start when I picked up my bike in Penang in Malaysia (where I did in fact celebrate a little bit that it’s all land from there on).

Day 44 – arriving in Malaysia: Technically I already arrived in Penang, Malaysia the night before but today is when the bike is scheduled to arrive in Penang. I stay in George Town on Penang island close to the office of the shipping company I am using (Mr. Lim at Cakra shipping), so in the morning I walk over to the office around 10am to check on how and when I will get the bike back.

I make my way to the office, find Mr. Lim and then everything just happens. I jump on the back of Mr. Lim’s motorbike and then he takes me around all morning. To customs to do the first round of import paperwork for the bike. To a local canteen for tea break. To the harbour to find the boat. And there it is, the bike, safe and sound just like I left it. We wait for the crew to unload a few tonnes of sweet potato before they can get the crane to my bike and lift it off the boat. Then Mr. Lim takes me back to the harbour entrance, does the last check with customs for me and then I am all good to go.

Bike arrived together with tonnes of sweet potato

So I head back to George Town and spend the afternoon exploring the old (and UNESCO listed) colonial town centre. It’s really nice! Penang was one of the main trading outposts of the British empire in the region next to Singapore, and it still has lots of very well maintained buildings from that time. And being one of the main cultural destinations in Malaysia it also has great food and cafes, which I made sure to take advantage of in celebrating the last water crossing of the trip.

Checking out some old colonial buildings in Penang

Celebrating that it’s all land from here onwards

Day 45 – leaving Malaysia for Thailand: After a slow morning in Penang packing up my things and preparing my Pakistan visa application (which the plan is to do during my stay in Thailand) I hit the road around lunch time and make it up to the border in a couple of hours.

After having spent more than a month crossing Indonesia on roads of very varying quality it is an absolute pleasure to find myself on wide, well maintained highways with at least two lanes in each direction and very limited traffic through all of Malaysia. So I set the cruise control to 110km/h and just sit back and relax for the 200km or so between Penang and the Thai border.

Day 46 & 47 – making my way up to Bangkok: For the first time in weeks, I have a somewhat modest 6 hours per day schedule to cover the almost 1,000km up to Bangkok. It is such a pleasure to ride on big, good roads with very little traffic after more than a month in Indonesia. Along the way I stay in Songkhla and Chumphon, both towns along the Gulf of Thailand coast. And because I had such a relaxing schedule I took the time to stroll around in the mornings, have a slow breakfast and then make numerous coffee stops along the way.

The roads in Thailand

On Saturday afternoon I made it to Bangkok, which was always supposed to be the major pit stop of the trip. Like I said I have a long to do list here, including things like getting the bike serviced, organising my permits for Myanmar and catching up with some old friends. I will update you on how all of that went when I am done here in a couple of days.

Finally made it to Bangkok!