Tuesday, November 5, 2013

7. Phuket-Kao Lak-Takua Pa-Ranong

354 km

I had to leave my little paradise this morning. 

I am heading north, first along the coast of the Andaman Sea on Highway 4, then tomorrow turning first east-bound towards the Gulf of Siam, then north on Highway 42, familiar from my way down south, and not such a nice ride. 

The black cat helped herself to a nice breakfast by indulging on the morning offerings of the house ghost shrine. A pragmatic animal, the cat.

The little blur in the center of the picture is condensation forming on the lens of the camera in the morning when relative humidity is about 95%.

When I came out to load the motorcycle I realized two things, one rather pleasant, one not so. 

The first was the fact that another kitty had found the perfect place to spend the night: My sheepskin seat on the motorcycle. Under the motorcycle cover! She was bitterly complaining that I took her cover away, finally she realized that she had to find another place to sleep for the remaining 18 hours of the day, minus meal times.

The less enjoyable surprise came in the form of a warning display after I started the bike: "Lamp Failure"! In itself this is not more than an inconvenience since these BMW's "eat" headlight bulbs. However, when I unscrewed the headlight assembly cover and tried to unplug the cables from the lamp, I noticed that the plug was almost completely melted and unusable. The H755W bulb also had strangely loose connecting blades. A mystery. Replacing the lamp would not be the solution, unfortunately. 

Now, this happens in a town which has one of the three BMW motorcycle dealerships in all of the countries I will be visiting: Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand. (All three are in Thailand, by the way, and all three are managed by one company, Barcelona Motors of Bangkok.) 

OK, the GPS coordinates are quickly plugged into the Navigator, the place is on my route, a 30 minute ride. The coordinates led me precisely into a very small and remote residential bamboo-hut neighborhood where I am the attraction of the early morning for the families starting their day, washing laundry and cooking. Of course, no BMW dealership in sight. A fellow on a scooter sees my bike and asks me to follow him, and soon we arrive at the BMW place.

After I was offered a bottle of drinking water, a coffee, and a non-alcoholic fruit-cocktail (What about that kind of customer care, my dear US-BMW dealerships!!), the service manager calls the head mechanic who disassembles the entire lighting and instrument cluster, and takes it to the back.

Barcelona Motors BMW, Phuket: Excellent dealership, it can't get any better.
Service manager and head mechanic arrive to look at the damage.

After some 1.5 hours he brings the instrument cluster back and shows me that he completely rewired the connectors to the headlamps, also high-beam, and replaced the spade connectors. He also repaired the holding spring which came off when the bulb was replaced. Now, the hinged spring makes future bulb replacements much easier again, as it is supposed to be. The service manager explained that the last time the lamp was replaced the connectors were not attached correctly. This bad connection caused sparks to develop which melted the plug. Some sloppy workmanship at Sportland Motors in Urbana, my dealership, maybe?

The charge for all of this was less than the cost of the OEM BMW H7 bulb in the U.S., the work hours were courtesy Barcelona BMW. How nice!

After this is all taken care of, the route leads along the beautiful coast to Kao Lak, the area which was hit hardest by the tsunami, none of the damage can be seen today, but a spooky feeling remains while riding through the little towns.

Crossing the Sarasin Bridge from the island of Phuket to the mainland.

Jungle rush hour.

Some 65 kilometers north, I couldn't resist to ride a small detour to the unassuming rural center of Takua Pa. I just wanted to see the hotel which features prominently in a movie I saw not too long ago on Netflix, "Wonderful Town", by Thai director Addithya Assarat. 

"The Arts"-blogger Mike writes quiet correctly: "(The movie) is not unlike Thai food. Soft and silky, textured so delicately, and yet able to deliver a shock. Only this shock isn't to your palate instead it is to your sensibilities."
If you haven't seen it, check it out. It catches the sense of the landscape, its people and gives a taste of the devastation of the natural disaster of 2004. 

I thought I change to black-and-white when photographing the "Hotel Extra" in Takua Pa, it catches the atmosphere better than color; however, the movie mentioned above is not in b&w.

One has to love the design with water cooler, and wall-mounted TV.

The lobby/
The "Hotel Extra" wasn't my choice for tonight. I moved on to Ranong.

Kids go to school, not without taken their shoes off before entering the class room. Just as at my house.

The Police.
I don't have my doubts that punishment for crimes in this country can be harsh, maybe brutal, and I am not sure about the legal system either. I certainly don't want to see the prisons from inside as well.
On the other hand, it is also a country without police harassment known from parts in the US and other countries, where,-due to financial strains and/or other reasons-, almost each community sends the cops out to track down drivers and riders, and to shake them down for the most minor -and ridiculous- misbehavior.

This is where I will spend the night.
After eating the Thai food in their little restaurant, I decided to stay a day longer.

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