Tyre troubles in Thailand

As Ahmad Razlan Alias (Lan) topped up his tanks with our remaining reserves, I continued with the visual inspection of my Kawasaki Versys-X 250, as part of my ‘pre-flight’ ritual, because sometimes, I identify as a fighter pilot. Other times, I’m the Queen of England.

As my left gloved hand caressed the rear tyre, it snagged on something. I took a closer look and saw that a piece of industrial-gauge wire had embedded itself near the sidewall.

“Ah, sheep…” I muttered under my breath.

Apahal?” (What’s up?) Lan asked.

“Got a puncture.” I looked at the tyre to see if it had lost any pressure overnight. It seemed okay. Next, I applied some weight on it to see if it could be ridden to the nearest tyre shop in Koh Lanta to be fixed.

“Sheep … I think I saw one near the hotel,” said Lan. Within five minutes, we were in a bike shop, being attended to by Kim, a wheel wizard in his early 20s.

Aku kena tukar tiub ko. Harganya mungkin mahal sedikit,” (I have to change your tube. It could be pricey) Kim said, via Google Translate. I nodded and gave him a thumbs up. In the end, a fresh inner tube and labour, cost me around 600 baht (RM77). I threw in an extra 100 baht just because he was efficient and thorough.

Suitably patched up, we returned to the hotel to pack, and load up for our trip to Aonang. The last two days had been relaxing, I was sufficiently rested, and the relatively short run to Aonang 85km away went without a hitch.

That night, we finally linked up with our ride buddy Pravin Menon and his sister Sunitha at a cafe in downtown Aonang. Lan’s wife Karlin Kayzee Khairudin, opted to stay at the hotel. Over coffee and tea, we swapped stories of our rides. As Pravin, Sunitha, and Lan made plans for the next day’s activities, I quietly sipped on my coffee. Traipsing through the jungle and heaving myself up a sheer rock face isn’t my idea of a relaxing vacation.

“Y’all send pictures,” I said finally.

After two nights in Aonang, we were ready to push for home. The plan was to meet up at the hotel where Lan and Karlin were staying in at 9.30am and make our way to a museum which had a Ling-Temco Vought A-7 Corsair II that had been in service with the Royal Thai Navy. The ‘SLUF’ as it was affectionately known, was a medium attack aircraft that saw widespread service with the United States Air Force and Navy, and enjoyed some limited export success, with some being sold to Thailand and Greece, among others.

We waited for Pravin and Sunitha to check in but our messages went unanswered. Finally, at 9.47am, Pravin sent a short message: “I got a flat coming to your hotel”.

What he didn’t tell us was that his rear tyre had been shredded to ribbons. When things quieted down a bit after he located the nearest Vespa dealer in Aonang, he sent us a picture. On one side, the tyre looked as though it had been hosed down by a GAU-8, 30mm Avenger cannon off of a Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II. It had been completely ripped to shreds. The fact that Pravin managed to stay upright on the bike, with his sister on the back, was testament to his riding ability. I know I would have eaten mouthfuls of dirt if it had been me.

With repairs underway (he also had some issues with his fuel line, which was leaking), Lan, Karlin and I made the decision to push off for Hatyai. We had 289.8km to cover, an arduous four-hour ride. Despite the debilitating heat, I was sufficiently rested and was alert throughout. The ride through country roads was uneventful. Our rhythm was relaxed, our cadence, unhurried. Traffic was minimal, but we were constantly looking out for threats, obstacles and hazards. Around 2pm, we stopped at Fatimah Halal Restaurant near the Trang railway station for lunch. The nasi goreng udang petai and sambal belacan were divine.

As we got closer to Hatyai, traffic got heavier. Downtown Hatyai was sheer bedlam with cars, bikes, trucks, people, and tuk-tuks zipping in and out of traffic, and squeezing in through impossible gaps and openings. My head was constantly on a swivel. It was here, in Hatyai, at the Monkham Hotel, that I came face to face with God.

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