Koh Lanta via Wang Kelian – a ride through Shangri-la

I dropped to first gear and fed the throttle a tad as the hairpin bend opened up into a steep climb.

My Kawasaki Versys-X 250, weighing 173kg and loaded up with 7kg of spare change of clothes and toiletries, 76kg of human tissue and bones, and 11.8kg (16 litres) of RON 95 in my spare jerrycans, didn’t even flinch or hesitate.

The ride from Setia Alam in Selangor, to Arau, Perlis – a distance of some 490km – had been near-perfect. The Versys performed flawlessly, the engine operating at near-redline speeds for close to three hours non-stop without even a hint of a hiccup.

It was shaping up to be another beautiful day. The freshly-laid asphalt was grippy and smooth, and the Versys stuck to it like white on rice. The climb finally relented and what greeted me was a picture-perfect vista of rolling green hills and lush viridescent jungles, blanketed by a thin layer of mist that hung in the air like the lingering kiss of a long-lost lover. This was Shangri-la in our back yard.

Monday, June 3, dawned on us with overcast skies. It had rained the night before but the cool morning breeze did not stick around for long. By the time we hit the Thai border around noon, I, Ahmad Razlan Alias, and his wife Karlin Kayzee Khairudin, were hot, sweaty, sticky, and bothered. Thankfully, the border crossing was smooth, allowing us to get cool air flowing again.

Our next stop was Trang, for lunch. From there, it was another two-and-a-half hours to catch the ferry from Krabi to Koh Lanta Noi.

We were making good time but the heat was oppressive, the humidity, energy-sapping. I had to constantly fight to keep my eyes open and ensure that my mind did not drift off into the ether. I tried every trick in the book, but nothing worked. Singing along to the tunes blasting from my speakers also did little to stop micro-sleep from creeping in.

After a particularly close shave with a white Toyota Vios, we decided to pull over at a gas station. A quick shot of the coffee, lime and honey concoction at Amazon Cafe, and I felt sufficiently re-energised to press on to the jetty.

The wait for the ferry was relatively short, the frequency was roughly once every 15-20 minutes. Ticket prices were 50 baht (roughly RM6.40) per person, with bikes.

The 20-minute ferry ride allowed us to take stock of our situation. We still had oodles of gas in our main tanks, and everything had gone like clockwork, so far. If we continued to be conservative with our throttle inputs, we would use our reserves for the return leg from Koh Lanta to Aonang. From there, we would fill up again in Trang, where we knew we could find benzene, en route to Hatyai. From Hatyai, it was only 66.4km to the Shell station in Changlun, Kedah.

The other element in our ride, Pravin Menon and his sister Sunitha, were taking the longer, more scenic route through Bukit Kayu Hitam, Hatyai, Patthalung, Trang, Krabi, and then on to our rendezvous point, in Aonang. In the end, by the time they reached home in Kuala Lumpur 13 days later, the pair would log a staggering 2,449.5km!

From the jetty, it was another two-hour ride to Koh Lanta Yai. We crossed the Siri Lanta bridge, which spans the Lat Bo Nae river, connecting Koh Lanta Noi, and Koh Lanta Yai – the two largest islands in the Koh Lanta archipelago. From there, we blasted through small villages, hamlets, and pockets of civilization, via the back roads.

We finally reached the hotel just slightly after 4pm and quickly unloaded the bikes. All I wanted to do at that point was get to a mattress, lie down, and not even twitch. My accommodations at Lanta Sand Resort and Spa – half a bungalow – was quite ostentatious. You get a room that could easily sleep four people, a large living room, an outdoor shower, and an indoor pool. And all for RM161 per night.

It was around dinner time that I finally dragged my tired, wet behind out of the indoor pool. We checked in with Pravin and Sunitha to see if they were okay and they assured us that they were. They were making steady progress and would be crossing the Thai border on the same day, June 3, around 9.30pm.

We spent the next two days stuffing ourselves with Pad Thai, oyster omelettes, and Thai pancakes with an assortment of toppings. What else is there to do in Thailand but eat?

As far as our fuel situation was concerned, we were in good shape. I still had about three bars left, while Lan was down half a tank. And we still hadn’t touched our reserves. The next day, we fired up both motors and went for a quick blitz around the island.

Little did we know that we would not have that much luck with tyres in the coming days.

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