Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mekong ride account (13th to 21st July)

Mekong riders!

The riders:
Bro Alvin Lee (Lead, Navigator, Tour guide on a BF Expedition)
Celia Tan (Joined us at Pukhet leg , BF Tikit)
Rod Withers ( Ex- Postman - KHS Capuccino) 
Ken (Showing age doesn’t matter, rides a Ventura)
Kenneth Cheok (Super newbie on a Ventura)
 Micheal Kwah (Finance minister, PR and Medical, rides a Dahon) P21
Joshua Hii (Medical Support, Dahon Mu)
Chrisopthe (German BMW on a 3 speed Dahon Curve)
Taiwoon (Photography on a Brompton)
Ground support  on a MPV  - the super duper Angkana,  Aunty and little millie
Angkana and Mum preparing coconuts for the tired riders!!! So nice of them!

Millie, our ride Angel!
The Route (see map) Singapore>>Bangkok>>Udon Thani>>Nong Khai (Start Point)
Nong Khai>> Sang Kom>> Pahchom>> Chiang Khan (following the Mekong river) 
Udon Thani>>Phuket(R&R)>>Singapore
Follow the river... 
L-R Bro AL, Mike, Rod, Joshua, Ken and Kenneth 

This is papa mike carry on luggage 
Planning for the trip
It is not easy to plan this trip with many connecting flights. Kudos to Bro Al, Angkana and Chris Wee for efforts to make this trip possible.  The planning began around early Jan and by Feb. The riders list was firmed up so that flight tickets could be bought. It was kept deliberately small as no one knew if the arrangement could pan out and there was always a risk of changes from Day 1. It was a very much hit or miss(ride a long long way) thingy…. The group was made up of people of diverse background. From a Pastor, Doctors, Maths tutor with a PHD, Designer, 2 retired “young man” and a Marketing folk. All coming together because we all love to ride. It didn’t matter which brand of bikes, be it Dahon, Brompton, Bike Friday and Ventura… .we all rolled as a team. Actually we even swapped room mates every day... haha.. that was cool!

We were all so excited... reach hotel and started to assemble bike. The dim romantic lighting did not help... hence shaky picture... 
Awesome view from Sofagallery @ nong khai

Colors musical from the Mekong river.... beautiful and free!
Packing for the flight... 
Flying by Budget airlines means that luggage have to be kept at a min. Top scorer for this was Rod’s ride(prepared by none other then Chris Wee) – KHS Cappacucino. Only 17.5 kilos! Chris used a Ikea Dimpa bag, lined with carboard.  He even included instructions to pack the bike and plenty of foam and zip ties. It was really impressive and I could see his wealth of knowledge in how he packed the bag.  For those who want an easier way to travel with a folding bike. U can chose the Bike Friday Expedition or Brompton.  Bro Al used the Bike Friday expedition which “folds” neatly into a 29” samsonite case. It takes an experienced hand to fit up the bike but once it is setup… the ride was super! For the Dahons, Mike and Joshua had to take out the wheels, racks and they all fitted into a 29’ luggage. Most impressive, the soft luggage cost under 50 bucks… and they can be found…where else…Mustafa! For my Brompton, I used a lime Green Lojel.  This is where the brompton really shines. To fit it all in, I have to remove the seat, seat post and right side roller wheels – 5 min job. A note  for those who plan on taking foldies on their holidays. Please remember to bring spare tubes, patch kit, multi tool and hand pump. Tyres should be deflated for the flight. To prevent ur be-loved bikes from being scratched. Try to wrap foam/rags on the frames and places where u think would have some movement. The best packing is to zip tie most parts so u can't feel any rattling.
Me and Brompton manning the rear... 

The ride
From Nong Khai, the ride was lovely. Passing small towns and villages. Food and water stop were plenty so no worries on getting hungry or thirsty.  The thing on touring is that u got to be prepared for the bad weather. Day 2, it rained non stop… for the folks with mudguards, it was ok. But for Kenneth who did not have fenders. His tee shirt got a permanet mud decorative strip. Also with the constant splashing of mud, sand and water on the Rear D… made the equipement lock up and fail. Even with my Finishline Telfon lube(yes, I brought it along..) failed to revive it… it was just too stuck. Also please leave ur racing tyres and opt for big fat tyres. I assure you that your bums will thank you. If u have those touring tyres which are supposedly puncture proof even better. Many people think Brompton cannot do touring.. but actually any bike also can, reallyt. Just need to be gentle when u have rough terrain and it should be fine. Dun just ram across the terrain… look for the smoothest path and it will be ok. I am glad to report my Brompton M worked beautifully on the ride. Even after a full day in the rain… it had some strange creaking sound on the front crank but still can ride.  For more details of the actual ride account, pls see Bro Al version.
Advance Field medical treatment

Some where along the way, down an ordinary slope… we had our first major accident. I was riding just about 3 lengths in front of Joshua where I suddenly heard a terrifying noise. I quickly stopped and turned around, Joshua was just slowed down dragging his face on the road… the bike was lying sideways. It was damm scary… quickly rushed to his help. Luckily traffic was light and he could still stand, shaky from the impact. Moved him to a safe spot where Papa mike could look at him closely and treat him. His helmet was cracked and he suffered quite a bit of road rash all over his body. I gave him a wash down with my Camebak to get rid of all the dirt. By the way Joshua trembled and shivered… I think it was extremely painful.  Mike dressed his wounds and we figured that it was a no go to ride for Joshua. A tuk tuk came along and tried to take advantage of the situation. And again luck would have it, a kind hearted village drove along and saw our poor friend plight. Without any spoken words, he just gestured us to bring him up the lorry and drove Mike and Joshua to the nearest hospital. Such kindness in a time of need! Thanks you sir!

This helmet saved Joshua.... I think that's all there is to say. fullstop.
Team mekong lugging the bike up the lorry
As we rolled along and sweated in the heat, I took plenty of photos to document the ride. There are no shopping nor fancy cafes. Just small ordinary villages, huts padi fields and lots of greenry. We got to experience Thailand people legendary hospitality. They have a ready smiles and were very genuine. Food was great… simple food but sooooo good! I think riding is really the best way to see a country. The speed is not fast and u can really see and feel the terrain changing.  I think I will be doing this yet again…. Thailand? Laos? Malaysia? Cambodia? Oh shucks.. I want to see them all!
Oh ....Lastly I also learned that age doesnt matter. Heart does! Thanks Sir Ken and Rod for inspiring me! I love to ride with u folks someday!  Photos of the lovely adventure here 


  1. outstanding documentation. I guess will be great if u guys have more pit stop to appreciate the surrounding.

  2. @Matt, thanks! I hope we can ride on a long trip together too! Chiangmai??

  3. Will update my blog once I hv some time. Apologies, so many things to do la. Really enjoyed yr lovely and detailed pics TW. It takes lots of time to do and a special passion to shoot such great shots. Only finished Part 1. Got to sleep now. Riding tmrw early w CW.

  4. wow, that was a big compliment... thank you wholeheartedly for your appreciation. I love the map part, it gives idea where the trip is and which route...

  5. Awesome planning and well executed. Well done Taiwoon and team!

  6. luvly lovely, agree cycling is the best way to see, feel, smell and listen to a country! Hope Joshua speedy recovery.