Return to GlobeRiders Home Page

Home Page Banner


IndoChina Adventure 2008 Live!Journal Chapters Menu

IndoChina Adventure 2008 - Week 07 Chapter : 05 Nov ~ 11 Nov


Flag of Vietnam


Flag of Vietnam


Flag of Vietnam





As we left Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, it was all downhill from there; we were heading south towards Kuala Lumpur.


Literally, it felt like things were going down hill when we once again have problems with two bikes.   Jack’s clutch on his BMW1150GS would not engage, and Mike’s Triumph is running out of juice on the battery.

Other highlights this week are our visit to Tiger temple, River Kwai and Bangkok’s famous Floating Market.


We also say farewell to Marlene and Karen - that ends their trip and they fly out from Bangkok.


Enjoy this week’s stories and pictures.




Helge Pedersen, Founder



Day 44 - River Kwai, Thailand - Mike Mathews


Motorcycle trouble and The River Kwai



The day will include fast riding, but also motorcycle troubles for both me and Jack.


I was watching the battery voltage on my Garmin GPS and noticing that at as I rode, it was continuing to drop to as low as 11.0 volts. The voltage regulator on my Tiger failed causing the battery to discharge as I am riding. Much of the morning was spent looking for a new battery and charger. I was assuming that I would not be able to find a new voltage regulator in Thailand, so the plan was to have a spare battery to charge and replace it as needed to make it to the finish line in Kula Lumpur.


Not soon after my battery had been replaced, the hydraulic clutch on Jack’s bike stopped working. Helge and Jack replaced as much of the fluid as possible but a visit to Bangkok BMW would be necessary to complete the work for proper fluid change. The next day, Helge and Jack would ride to Bangkok for the necessary repair work.


While in Bangkok, unbelievably, across the street from their hotel was a Triumph dealer. As the story goes, it was 10:00 in the evening and the Globeriders had their faces looking through the windows of the Triumph dealership. Inside were a couple of employees who opened the door - the party began going well into the wee hours of the morning. Helge explained my Tiger problem to the “blokes” and a new voltage regulator appeared! It was presented to me as a gift at dinner a couple of days later and solved my problem.


The River Kwai actually had two bridges across it during the war. The first was a wooden trestle bridge completed in February of 1943, followed by the steel and concrete bridge completed in July of the same year. The Allies continued to bomb both bridges during the war. The wooden bridge would be the first to be repaired after attacks.


The wooden bridge is gone, dismantled after neglect, but the concrete and steel bridge is a favorite tourist attraction, and a reminder of the horrible events of the war. There is a large cemetery close to the bridge which is a memorial to all the soldiers that died building the bridges under the Japanese occupation.



Mike Mathews




Day 51 - Cameron Highlands, Malaysia - Linda Sikorowski


Border Crossings and THE Princess Bus (aka, Chase Vehicle)



Border crossings can be particularly interesting and challenging. That’s one of the advantages of signing onto an organized tour such as GlobeRiders. With or without a tour, crossing borders need money, patience, more money and more patience.


Our guides and chase vehicles change at each border crossing (we have 4 this trip). Last year on the Silk Road trip, we crossed 7 different borders and some were bureaucratic headaches with a lot of waiting. Usually we had to manually transfer everything that was in one chase vehicle to the new country’s chase vehicle. On this trip, the border crossings have been very easy and much more relaxed; you can even take pictures and use cell phones. Twice we were able to just have the new vehicle from the next country drive to where we were in the previous country; it made the transfer a whole lot easier.


At the border crossing between Cambodia and Thailand we couldn’t do that, so we hired two cart drivers to deliver our goods to the other side. While we waited to get the bikes through customs, we entertained ourselves by watching the incredibly heavy loads transported by barefoot people and their carts.

In Vietnam and Cambodia, we had vans (fondly nicknamed, “the princess van”) that carried luggage, motorcycle tools, extra tires, the driver, 2 guides and 2 passengers (Karen and Marlene). Once we were in Thailand, we were introduced to our next chase vehicle – a super-duper, big-ole, pink-curtained, playboy-stickered bus with one expert driver (Mr. Bua), one very helpful assistant (Mr. Kai), and a kind and knowledgeable guide (Narech Suwannason or Joe).


The princess van is now “THE princess bus”. This has to be the biggest, baddest, most colorful chase vehicle GlobeRiders ever had and ever will. Obviously it was too big, but that’s a big story.


Karen and Marlene were the primary passengers; they kept everyone fed with goodies. I got a few rides in the bus, and we all got to ride in this bus for group tours or events. But as embarrassing as it was to pull up to a place and have only 10 of us get off, we got spoiled by the ability to easily see things and its space, comfort and air-conditioning.


FYI, we are now driving on the right side of the road in Thailand and Malaysia. Our sincere thanks to our drivers and guide for getting us through Thailand safely.



Hope all’s well in the U.S. of A.,





Week 07 - Malaysia - Linda Sikorowski


The Two Most Dangerous Combinations on a GlobeRiders Trip



Besides (1) drinking and driving (other drivers, not our riders!) . . ., it’s (2) the night market and space in the chase vehicle. Forget about how we’re going to get all these goodies stuffed in our luggage, it’s time to shop.


Last year on the Silk Road trip there wasn’t any room in the chase vehicle, so one could only buy things if there was room on the motorcycle. This year, we’ve had chase vehicles ranging from a van to THE Princess Bus all with extra room.


The night in Chiang Mai, Thailand found Karen and me “just looking” in their lively night market. Hours later we were carrying armloads of stuff. I was “just looking” for gifts, particularly things that were made by the people selling them. Like any good shopper, I was also looking for the best bargains. The people are willing to negotiate, but I find it difficult to haggle. Most of the goods are already for sale at very reasonable prices, offered by honest people just trying to make a living.


Everyone seems to be selling something - some people ask for money to take their pictures (their marketable good) or children surround you at tourist spots and won’t leave your side until you buy something. Some are better at sales than others, like the kid who asked Karen for money and Karen told her she “gave to the Buddhists, disabled and gave to the children,” at which point, the kid said, “I’m a children.” Talk about tugging at heart strings!

I’ve seen very creative ways to package goods, for example, they sell gas in Pepsi bottles (that’s about all their motorbikes will take), or they put ice into a small plastic bag, pour soda from a bottle into the bag, put in a straw and serve it that way.


Somewhere in Thailand, Karen, Marlene and I found a Big C Supercenter. That was a bonanza for small personal items we needed, silly birthday gifts for Joe, and donuts. And we all shopped from a boat in the fantastic Dumnoen Saduak floating market. It’s one of those must see (and shop) for yourself experiences.



Keeping the local economy alive,






Week 07 - Malaysia - Linda Sikorowski


Long Live the King (in Thailand)



We were greeted in Thailand with great roads, rain every day (varying in intensity and duration), and 7-11’s, Starbucks, McDonalds, etc. Initially, it felt anti-climatic after experiencing all the wonders of the previous 3 countries, but it doesn’t take long to understand why Thailand is an international tourist destination.


Highlights for me in Thailand were the Tiger Temple and the Maesa Elephant Camp (see stories below).

Thailand also has many:

- fascinating historical parks and ruins (Sukothai, Pimai and Kamphaeng Phet),

- beautiful temples (Wat Doi Suthep is a famous Buddhist pilgrim site),

- wild national parks (Khao Yai and Nam Nao); that’s elephant poop in the foreground of the riding picture, and

- nice hotels with swimming pools (which we made use of).


Unfortunately, we were only able to visit a few of each. Other stops included the famous Bridge Over the River Kwai; a World War II cemetery and museum (Veterans Day was coincidentally 5 days later); the King #6’s 1924 palace, now restored to its former glory with teakwood floors, and Monkey Mountain (Khao Takiab Monastery) famous for its – yes, you guessed it – monkeys. We also went to showrooms to see how people skillfully weave silk, make silver, carve teakwood, and make umbrellas.


After 14 days in Thailand, there’s no mistaking that there’s a monarchy here. From birth to present, pictures of the king and queen are everywhere (even in this story). Important family members are also given space on huge bulletin boards, banners, bridges, etc. When I asked about their lineage, our Thailand guide, Joe, could tell us the exact names, birthdates, who married who, who died when, how many children, how many wives (one king had 100 wives; only 2 were official).


King #5 and #6 both studied in England (in the 19th and 20th centuries) and are credited for bringing infrastructure improvements, economic development and education to Thailand. They’re on King #9 now who’s in his 80’s, King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit. Assuming continued peace and stability here, the throne should pass to King #10, his only son (vs. his 3 daughters - darn!). There will be as much mourning and formality when the King dies here as there will be in England when the Queen dies there.


The Thai people are very proud of: 1) never being a European colony (like surrounding countries), 2) their monarchy, and 3) no major wars. Their history of relative stability and economic success are two very important things that have brought, and continue to attract, many tourists.


During our 2-month trip, our guides inform us of unsafe places or regions to avoid (another benefit of an organized tour). We were aware of the recent clashes between pro and anti-government demonstrators in Bangkok, and a dispute over the ownership of a temple on the Thailand/Cambodian border. But those situations, and the rain, didn’t stop our amazement and interest in this spectacular country – 14 sunsets here are just not enough!



Until my next visit to Thailand,






Week 07 - Malaysia - Linda Sikorowski


The View From the Back



As far as I’m concerned, I have the best seat in the house. I’m on the back of Mike’s motorcycle with nothing to do except look at the spectacular scenery and dense tropical jungles, absorb the chaotic urban jungles, think about anything I want to since I’m not driving, take pictures, and wave at people (a lot). Sometimes I help with directions when the guys get confused with what their GPS is telling them. I am also as capable as they are in reading road signs in foreign languages (that’s why we have the GPS).


Sometimes I feel like I’m sitting at an arcade game, where you’re sitting at a steering wheel pretending to drive a vehicle, and in order to score points, you’re supposed to avoid as many hazards as possible. Like, look out for that dog sleeping in the middle of the road, or those kids playing on the shoulder, or that chicken running across the road, or motorbike darting out into traffic, or that truck with no brake lights that just slammed on its brakes, or that car that’s trying to put you against the guardrail “just because”, or that huge tree falling over right in front of us (due to heavy winds and rain) and Mike, Vincent, and Jack quickly maneuvering around it on what road was left – all those things and more have happened to us.


I told my dad once that, “Mike is the safest motorcycle driver I know,” and he replied, “there’s no such thing.” I understand and appreciate his worrying about me, but I do feel safe with Mike driving. He’s got eyes in the back of his head, quick reactions, focus, experience, and let’s not forget about luck and me at his side. He’s also got mechanical know-how which always comes in handy on a motorcycle trip. With the expert help of all the drivers and even the locals, everyone’s problems have been solved.


As a passenger, I also get to stop along the way with the drivers to share our experiences and interact with locals (the chase vehicle doesn’t always catch up to us at each stop). Lunch stops are the highlight of the day with everyone talking, and usually laughing, about what happened to them that morning. Gas and bathroom stops are great for stretching and eating healthy snacks (not). Stopping to wash their motorcycles are obsessions of Mike and Vincent (no surprise there), but everyone has on one or more occasion washed their bike – or themselves!


Wherever we stop, there are people interested in looking at, taking pictures of, and/or talking to us about the motorcycles. Sometimes it’s just one or two people around us; sometimes it’s a swarm of people. That’s when we put Mike out there to answer their questions, like “where are you from?”, “where are you going?”, and “how much does the motorcycle cost?” Children are equally curious about us and eager to try out their English with “hello” or “what is your name?” We give them things on occasion. The best gift has been David’s blowup world globes; you should see their faces (I mean the kids AND David). It’s heartwarming to exchange smiles with children and adults, alike.

So as a passenger, even though I know it’s “not the same as being the driver,” I am still thrilled by curvy roads, bored by major highways, and ecstatic about missing that downed tree!



Here’s to the final week of safe driving,






Week 07 - Malaysia - Linda Sikorowski


And You Think Your Kitchen Needs Remodeling??



Think of the most beautiful kitchen you’ve ever seen . . . modern equipment, sanitized, everything at your fingertips, incredible cookware, stunning serving ware, more stuff than you know what to do with.


Now here’s some pictures of your typical kitchen in rural IndoChina.


The kitchens may look different, but they’re efficient and get the job done. Most of the ones we ate at had cooks (usually the matron of the family) who produced excellent and fresh food for their large families and us. The most interesting kitchen was in the floating market; the cook prepared a delicious bowl of noodle soup while in her boat.


Most of the kitchens we stopped at were roadside stands by day and homes at night. Cooking for customers is a family affair, even for little kids and the elderly. Doing the dishes is no small task after we leave. And did I mention that the meals are seriously cheap?


Just watch out for those tiny little green or red peppers!


So, the next time you think your kitchen needs remodeling, spend the money on something fun to do with the family, or better yet take a trip to IndoChina and your kitchen will look absolutely splendid when you get home.








Week 07 - Thailand - Karen Ofsthus


"Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty . . . ." (Take I)



In retrospect, I don’t exactly know what I was thinking, as I sidled up within millimeters to the 400 lb Indochinese tiger, nervously squatted down and smiled goofily for the camera.  It was both exciting and pit-of-my-stomach uncomfortable.  But at the Tiger Temple near River Kwai, Thailand, everybody does it.  Squat and click here.  Thumbs up and a big grin there.


And all the while, a gorgeous tiger with claws and fangs is just within paw’s reach.


I do remember having thoughts like, “My, what big teeth you have”, and “This cat could take me down and crush my skull before anyone could even blink an eye”, and “What a sweeeeeet boy” (this last thought was obviously formed as my barriers for self survival and common sense began to disintegrate).  I also wondered if any of the 34 rescued and/or hand-raised tigers had ever attacked a tourist?  So I thought to ask one of the volunteers: a gal on break from her studies at the University of Washington . . . the one with the maze of pink and purple scars etched into the fair skin of her legs and arms.


“No” she said.  “Never??” I asked, as I gazed out at the 150 or so tourists who milled, relatively ungoverned, around the handful of cats lying in the shade.  “Not that I know of anyway”, she offered.  “Hmmm . . . I thought, as I considered the scars on her arms and legs - a few which were still fresh.  “I suppose this isn’t a bad gig then”, I offered.  “Nah” she sighed, looking out at the masses and scratching her arm. So I stayed cautiously optimistic that I would survive my tiger encounters, and go on to live another day.


In fact, the only wound I received was a little “love nip” from a 5-month old cub. And now, like the volunteer, I have my own little pink scar, etched into the less-than-fair skin of my left hand, making me a card carrying member of the I’ve-Been-Bit-By-a-Tiger Club.


Even though the unsupervised milling crowds bothered me, and the apparent lack of staff training concerned me, and the idiotic, Competing-for-the-Next-Darwin-Awards behavior of visitors alarmed me, it was a cool experience and the monks at the Tiger Temple are doing good works.


They rescue endangered tigers.  They breed them with the hopes of one day releasing them into the wild.  They have a long-range plan and have nearly completed construction of their tiger habitat, thanks in part to the $15 ticket price paid by each visiting tourist.  And they are doing what they can to teach about, and combat poaching.  They’ve taken on a huge responsibility and are fighting an uphill and endless battle on behalf of these exquisitely beautiful felines . . . the very same ones that I got to see and touch and admire, Up Close and Personal.


So when in River Kwai, Thailand, head to the Tiger Temple and check it out for yourself.  And like our insanely brave Vince, you can pay $30 and have the massive head of a sleeping Indochinese tiger plopped in your soft and vulnerable lap, and with a click, freeze the image of your stupidly trusting and grinning face as you have the experience of a lifetime.


Vince is brave.


Not me.


My survival mechanisms had fully re-engaged by that time, and remembering the scars on that gal’s legs, I kindly declined the opportunity.



Some other time perhaps.






Week 07 - Thailand - Linda Sikorowski


Here Kitty, Kitty (Take II)



This is the ultimate wildlife viewing experience! How often do you get to see a tiger (not in a cage) up close and personal, and even gently pet a tiger?


Well, not too gentle because it’ll think you’re a fly and try to get rid of you. That’s what we were told by the staff and volunteers of the Tiger Temple. We were also told to approach from the back, don’t make any sudden moves, stay quiet and “smile” as they take your picture with the tiger. You can even walk by its side on its way to the canyon and quickly get another picture in. And all this for just the price of admission.


Vincent made an additional donation and got to sit down, put a tiger’s head in his lap, and get another snapshot. It was only afterwards that I heard him emphasize what a “high risk” experience he thought this was. That’s an understatement. Don’t worry, Vince, all those people standing near you in green T-shirts (see picture) are there to help you – yes, they’ll help pick up your belongings and what’s left of you.


This once-in-a-lifetime experience is possible due to the gentle monks of the Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno Forest Monastery in Kanchanaburi, Thailand. That’s a mouthful, so just remember Tiger Temple and check out their website:


It started as a wildlife sanctuary first, taking care of injured jungle fowl, peacocks, and wild boar. Then villagers brought unwanted pets, four species of deer moved in, then buffalo, cows, horses, and wild goats. The first tiger cub needing care arrived in the monastery in 1999. Since then other cubs have arrived, primarily from police who intercept them from poachers. I think they currently have about 25 tigers, with the oldest one being 5 years old.


So I know your question: “Why are the tigers so calm, are they drugged?” Like any feline, they sleep a lot, particularly in the heat of the day, so you’re actually petting a tiger who is trying to go to sleep. But the handlers are trying to keep them awake for the picture with you. It’ll just take one crabby tiger who doesn’t want to stay awake!


Plus, “All of our tigers have been hand-raised and imprinted to humans and therefore have no fear of people. Our tigers are regularly handled from a very early age and thus have become desensitized to being touched by people.” Well, maybe that’s true . . . but I wouldn’t run in front of them.


If you ever think about going there, contact them in advance, because they have a morning program not advertised that you can interact a lot more with the tigers (feed, bathe, play with, and walk the cubs). Some of us, including me, would have done that in a heartbeat, but we didn’t know about it - next time . . . .


Sadly, only about 6,000 tigers remain in the wild, most in isolated pockets and fragmented forests in Southeast Asia. These beautiful cats are threatened by growing human populations, loss of habitat, illegal hunting (of both tigers and their prey species), and expanded trade in tiger parts used as traditional medicines.

Please help keep the “wild” in wildlife. Because of this trip, I’ve rejoined the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the largest multinational conservation organization in the world. They work to protect natural areas and wild populations of plants and animals with solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature.


I hope you join WWF, make a donation or adopt a tiger:





“Tiger” Lily



Week 07 - Thailand - Mike Mathews


Take III



The afternoon will be a visit to the local monastery where Tigers are the main attraction.   The monks feed and care for the tigers allowing tourists to participate in the morning with feeding and swimming with the tigers for a cool bath.   We only found out about the morning activities later or I am sure some of the Globeriders would have participated in the unique experience.


All the handlers wore fluorescent green shirts.   I can only assume the tigers like green and would not go for the ones who feed them.   The cubs were very active and rules of engagement are very important:


- Do not turn your back on a Tiger.

- Do not place your hand close to the head.

- Do not run.

- When petting, be firm or the Tiger may think you are a fly and go for a bite.


These were were some of the rules!   It was a very unique experience, one which would never happen in the USA due to liabilities.


Not soon after the feeding of the cubs came the big boys! These tigers were huge and were sometimes walked by two handlers because the tiger would just pull the handlers along.   A walk to Tiger Canyon was in order for an opportunity to walk with the big cats and for some very special photos.   The tigers were very wet and had an odor that was indescribable.   It was a very hot afternoon so all the tigers wanted to do was sleep, which was just fine with me.


Don’t wake them up or you might be a meal!!


Mike Mathews



Week 07 - Malaysia - Linda Sikorowski


Welcome to Maesa Elephant Camp



What can I say? Wow! I loved the Elephant Camp! There’s more than one elephant camp in Thailand, but we went, and recommend you go, to the Maesa Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai. Call it corny, we called it educational, inspirational and hilarious.


These have to be the world’s best-trained and well-taken care of elephants. When you arrive you get to feed them whole banana bunches and sugar cane, then watch their Mahouts (elephant keeper or elephant driver) take them for a bath. You can also ride them in the jungle. But you gotta’ see the show!


After the welcoming parade, the Mahouts demonstrate how they skillfully (I must say) get on and off the elephants (there’s more than one way). Then the elephants displayed their intelligence by playing harmonicas and dancing (we’ll never forget the little elephant who could twirl his trunk around and around). They also showed us how they sleep (on their side), played against each other in a soccer game, and competed with an audience member in darts (the elephant won). One elephant put one foot on a Mahout and could have easily crushed him, but instead just showed off his gentle side.


Villagers still use elephants in logging operations. Their strength was illustrated by 3 elephants moving logs individually and together to build a fence. The feature performance was 7 elephants painting abstract and realistic paintings; the artwork is then sold to benefit the camp. Check out the paintings at and the website for the elephant camp -


If you’re interested, you can spend an entire day learning how to be an elephant driver, or Mahout. You learn how to ride, give baths to, and communicate with elephants using verbal and body language. Who wants to come back with me?


As with the tigers, habitat loss, human encroachment and poaching negatively impact wild elephants. The World Wildlife Fund is one excellent conservation organization trying to make a difference:


When the Thai people give thanks to you, they put their hands together and bow graciously. The picture of the Mahout and elephant bowing means so much to me. Thank you to Thailand for helping to protect and preserve wild animals.









Helge Pedersen Images from the IndoChina Adventure 2008 - Malaysia




IndoChina Adventure 2008 Live!Journal Chapters Menu


Sign up for Email Updates
For Email Marketing you can trust

The best way to stay informed of "all things GlobeRiders" is to subscribe to our email newsletters. We absolutely do not share your information with anyone.  A Safe Unsubscribe link is included at the bottom of every one so that you may terminate your subscription at any time. Just enter your email address in the box to the left and click "GO".


Should you have any problems, send us email by clicking here.


Copyright © 2009 GlobeRiders, LLC ®.  All rights reserved.