Sunday, June 24, 2012

And We Worked on the Bikes

Colin and Jacob, replacing the clutch
Way back when, a couple of posts ago, I mentioned that Colin's clutch was preparing to expire, and that he had contacted someone in Taiwan to get a new one. That was on a Monday, and he received a package (yay! It's like Christmas!) on the following Friday. Over the weekend, we removed the old clutch and put in the new one with the help of a local man named, Jacob. 

After draining the oil and removing the leg shield, I removed the oil screen cover and oil screen and then the eight bolts that secure the engine side cover. When I pulled off the cover, a fair bit of oil drained out, and a couple of parts fell into the tub. Once I had the side cover off, I removed the clutch lever and cam plate. After that, I removed the clutch outer cover and discovered that there was a gasket between the outer cover and the clutch assembly itself. Since I didn't have a replacement gasket, Re carefully used a thin knife blade to separate it from both pieces. Fortunately, we were able to keep it intact, because we will need to reuse it. With the outer cover removed, I could see our big problem of the day. The clutch unit itself is secured to the output shaft by a special “anti-loosen locknut.” The anti-loosen locknut requires a special tool which we don't have. Basically, the tool is a socket with four prongs that project from it that engage the notches in the locknut. The locknut sits down in a well in the center of the clutch unit, so getting to it with any other tool is difficult. I unsuccessfully tried to loosen it using a hammer and screwdriver but couldn't get a good enough angle. I knew from viewing a Youtube video on replacing the clutch on a Honda Passport, that the Hondas use a similar nut. So while I worked on removing the gasket from the engine case and case cover, Re walked over to one of the repair shops we'd seen while out walking to see if they had the needed tool. I figured if we couldn't borrow the tool, maybe we could push the bike the five blocks or so to the shop and have them remove the nut. 

While she was gone, Robert from reception asked what the problem was. I explained that we needed a special tool to remove the clutch. Fortuitously, Robert's friend, Jacob, happened to be visiting this morning. He came over to look at the problem and said that he had the tool at his house. About this time, Re returned with news that the shop was closed. Jacob said that since it was Sunday, every shop would be closed. I guess I am used to the schedule of motorcycle shops in the US, which are usually open on Sunday and closed on Monday. Jacob said if we could wait for about an hour, he would ride home and get the tools. While he was gone, we finished cleaning up the gasket surfaces and wiped up the oil from inside the cases. Jacob returned with the special wrench and an assortment of other tools and gasket sealants. With his help, we were able to remove the locknut and get the new clutch unit installed. Since we still needed to get a replacement clutch adjustment bolt, this was as much reassembly as we could do now. We reinstalled the side cover temporarily and cleaned up our workspace. We rolled the bike back across the street and then got cleaned up. Since it was now about 2:00 pm, we decided it was time for lunch. We took our adjuster bolt with us and walked over to our favorite chicken and rice place. After lunch, we headed up another street that had several motorcycle repair shops on it, but they were all closed. Since it didn't look like we'd get a replacement bolt today, we hit the grocery store for a watermelon.
We were able to get a new adjuster bolt the next day. Apparently, it is the same as one for a Honda, so the bike shop we wandered into in the morning was able to get one by early afternoon. Later that afternoon, we installed the new adjuster bolt in the side cover, and it was a perfect fit. I then used some gasket shellac that Jacob thoughtfully brought by, on both surfaces, and then carefully installed the gasket. After I installed the last couple parts, on the inside of the side cover, Re carefully helped me slide it over the kick start shaft and dowel pins. With the cover in place, it was just a matter of installing all the bolts, the oil screen and cover, and the kick start lever. After that, we reinstalled the exhaust and leg shields. We refilled the engine with oil, adjusted the clutch, and then, nervously, thumbed the starter button. It started up fine – the clutch seemed to engage and disengage normally, and best of all, there were no oil leaks. I wanted to take it for a quick test ride, so while Re picked up the tools, I ran inside to grab my helmet. I jumped on the bike and began rolling it backwards and noticed that it wasn't rolling very easily. I looked back to see that I had a flat rear tire. So we got the tools back out and grabbed one of the spare tubes and got to work. Twenty minutes later, we had it all put back together and then I went for my test ride. Since it was getting late, I only went around a few blocks, but the bike was shifting normally, and even hitting it hard in second gear didn't produce any slippage.

Ooh, shiny!
In addition to the above, we also did an oil change on both bikes, finally changed Colin's front tire after over 20,000 miles (who knew it would just keep on going?!?), replaced his chain, and gave them a good scrubbing with the "super sunday sponge" to remove the scuffs and stains the bikes amassed.  Because the culture in this part of the world is much more small bike-oriented, parts are widely available and cheap.  The prices we were given at the bike shop nearby were typically a quarter to a third of what we would pay in the US.  Since we plan to keep riding the Symbas once we get to wherever we're going, we went ahead and bought two spare Dunlop tires (real rubber harvested in Malaysia, not the synthetic crap of our original tires), an extra chain, sparkplugs, tubes, and two batteries (we abused ours riding in the high temps everywhere, they boiled nearly dry more than once, and we refilled them with whatever tap water was available. we promise to take better care of these).  

Saturday, June 23, 2012

How We Occupied Our Time in Georgetown Besides Eating

Even though we spent a fair bit of time in Georgetown on our backpacking in southeast Asia trip, there were a few sights and activities we missed.  Someone once told us never to do everything in a place you visit, because then you have no reason to return.  This time around, we saw and did some of the things we skipped last time.  

Kuan Yin, Goddess of Mercy
Kek Lok Si Temple was one of them. It is supposed to be the largest Chinese temple in Malaysia, with a huge bronze statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. The statue is set in an intricately carved stone pavilion and is beautiful. We wandered around the temple grounds, admiring the temple buildings themselves, with their vivid paint jobs, but it all seemed more commercial than either of us expected. At every turn was another gift shop selling typical Buddhist amulets next to Chinese zodiac charms and “Anger Birds” flipflops (no copyright infringement here). On the way to the temple, we rode past it and up the winding road to the dam at Air Hitam (a beautiful reservoir). We got off the bikes and started across the parking lot to have a look at the water and were met by a local woman who told us about the area and that it is possible to ride around the reservoir and all the way across the island. Which we did another day.  

Malaysian blue coral snake
The ride around the reservoir and to the other side of Penang started with a left turn at a locked gate across the main road.  We started up the hill, following a sign in Chinese with a red arrow pointing toward something that way (unable to read Chinese, we had no idea if it indicated an event, a temple, a firing range, a home for wayward kittens, or perhaps, a frog sanctuary), indicating that it went somewhere.  We followed the road, up and up, and farther up a steep, narrow road covered in wet leaves, until we reached a fork.  With no more signs in Chinese or any other language, we shrugged at each other and chose the path to the right.  It led through jungle-y vegetation and what looked like a plantation of waxy, pink proteas (think Little Shop of Horrors) and then to...a dead end guarded by a pack of Bumpus hounds. 

Green tree viper
So we returned from whence we came, stopping to inspect a dead snake - it was another red-headed krait (or more specifically, a Malaysian blue coral snake, which is a subspecies) which appeared untouched but unmoving.  Continuing on, we stopped again, at the entrance to the road around the reservoir, to see what other people were staring intently at.  Apparently, it was a snaky kind of day, because the object of their attention (and now ours) was a small green tree viper (another venomous variety).  

Another day, we decided to go for a walk up Penang Hill.  Many people do it for fun, exercise, or the challenge of it.  Penang Hill is the island's "hill station," being the highest point and several degrees cooler than the surrounding area.  In the British heyday, it was where people went to escape the heat, being carried in sedan chairs the 2300 feet to the top.  Nowadays, there is a funicular train to carry visitors up and down the hill (less colonial, but easier on the locals' backs).  We took the bus to the Botanical Gardens, where we located the trail at the Moon Gate leading up the hill.  The first part of the trail was all stairs.  The second part, which was much easier to manage, was a trail that wound through the jungle and eventually exited onto a road that continued the rest of the way to the top.  

Unsure where the jungle trail went (it just seemed to end at the road, although we'd heard it was supposed to go all the way to the top), we took the paved road.  Almost immediately, we realized we should have looked harder for the trail.  The road snaked back and forth up the hill, with each straight section no longer than about 100 feet.  That doesn't sound bad at all, right?  Well, if not for the 30% to 40% incline (literally.  that's really what the road signs said.  it wasn't just our imagination) it would have been just lovely.  Instead, we'd trudge from one curve to the next, stop and sit on the guardrail, gasping for breath, and I'd say, okay... I can... make it... to the next... curve.  Fun.  When we finally got to the top, we were drenched to the skin.  We staggered into the cafe at the top, ordered some food, and collapsed on a bench.  Once we'd eaten and our legs stopped wobbling, we took the funicular train back to the bottom.  

We spent a fair bit of time at the beach at Batu Ferringhi, camped out under the trees, reading a book.  The sand is rather coarse, the water is somewhat cloudy, but it's clean, quiet, and makes a good place to spend a couple of hours.  We also went bowling.  On the waterfront in Georgetown is a bowling alley.  It's air-conditioned, cheap, and fun.  Neither of us is going to win any tournaments. We saw movies.  In any given week, there are at least three American movies in the theaters.  Most of them are blockbuster adventure type shows, but they are, again, cheap.  We almost never go to see movies in the States because of the expenditure, but when a ticket costs no more than 3 USD, why not?  We saw: The Avengers (twice), Battleship, The Cabin in the Woods, Dark Shadows, Men in Black III, Safe, Snow White and the Huntsman, and Prometheus.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Eating in Georgetown

Georgetown is, without a doubt, my favorite city in the world. We spent nearly seven weeks there, off and on, between trips to Thailand, the F1 race, and the Malaysian highlands.  I will try to summarize how we spent our time to fill in the last month's gap.  

As you all know by now, love to eat. We ate. A lot. We developed a list of our favorite dining spots and rotated through them, adding new establishments and dishes all the time. Since the main three ethnic groups in Malaysia are Chinese (70% of the population of Penang), Malay, and Indian, we know our way around the Chinese, Malay, and Indian menus in the city. 

Wonton mee
We have our favorite hawker stalls for a variety of mee (noodle) dishes.  It is interesting how many types of noodles there are, and that each kind is perfectly suited to a specific dish.  My favorite would have to be the wide, soft rice noodles, particularly when they are fried in a wok to give them a slightly charred-around-the-edges flavor and texture with beansprouts and just about anything else.  Colin is a fan of the eggy, wheat noodles, particularly when a whole block of them is fried until crunchy and served with a pile of stir-fried vegetables and meat heaped on top.  Our very favorite noodle dish is probably wonton mee.  It's a simple dish of thin, soft wheat noodles served in soy and mushroom based sauce, with char sieu (bbq pork), steamed greens, crisp-fried pork fat, pickled chilies, and soft wontons. The only kind of noodle dish neither of us enjoyed was chee chong fun, which is a sheet of rice noodle that is steamed, rolled tight, and cut into sections, and served with globs of hoisin, chili sauce, and some sesame seeds. It's not that they taste bad, they're just kind of unexciting compared to everything else.  

The best coffee man in Georgetown
We found out that the Chinese kopi (coffee) shops are infinitely better than anywhere else for a good, strong jolt of caffeine. Each morning I walked to the corner to get coffee to takeaway, and as soon as the man who takes orders saw me, he yelled my order back to the coffee guy, without even asking what I wanted. As you stroll the streets of Chinatown, you smell the roasting coffee bean aroma wafting in the air throughout the day.  The beans are delivered to the coffee shops daily, so it is always fresh, and many of the individual shops have their own 'special' roast.  

Nasi kandar at Line Clear
One style of meal particular to Malaysia is nasi kandar, which is rice with other stuff, from beef rendang, to curried squids, to okra.  To order, you walk up to the counter, on which is an array of meats, egg dishes, and vegetables.  The server puts a pile of rice in the middle of your plate and you tell him what else you want.  For the very best flavor, once your plate is loaded, the man will dip into each of the different pots of meat and fish curries and spoon some of the gravy over the top of everything.  There are nasi kandar restaurants on virtually every street in Penang, but the very best is called Line Clear.  It occupies an alley between two buildings and has been there, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for something like 70 years.  I hope it never shuts down!

Sultan, hard at work on rotis
Virtually every morning, I would walk to Yasmeen for roti canai.  Roti just means bread.  It is a flat bread, made from flour, water, salt, and ghee.  The people who make them are masters, flattening balls of dough with the meat of their palms and then flipping the dough in the air until it is paper thin.  The dough is then folded several times and placed on a hot griddle with more ghee and cooked until golden and crispy.  You can get them with bananas, eggs, onion, even sardines folded into the middle before they're cooked, but the best is a fresh plain one, served with a bowl of dhal (spicy lentil stew).  My buddies, Mohammad and Sultan at Yasmeen made the best ones we found.  Colin and I miss them terribly...

Tea cart on Lebuh Cintra
No matter where you go, at any time of the day or night, you will always find something delicious to eat or drink.  Hawker stands set up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, everywhere.  If you happen to be walking down the street in the evening and feel the need for a cup of herbal tea and a pancake, it can be had.  If you want an ear of roasted corn, a preserved egg, and some grilled squid skewers, that's yours, too.  You name it, you can probably find it.  It is virtually impossible to go hungry in Georgetown.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Party's Almost Over...

As usual, I have been extremely negligent in my blogging duties. We arrived in Georgetown on April 29, so...I am over a month behind. Since we have remained here since then (with the exception of a several day ride through the center of Malaysia) I will try to summarize our time. Georgetown is, for the two of us, very, very comfortable. We've come to think of it as our second home (considering that we don't actually have a first one, I suppose it is home sweet home). It is a good combination of old and new architecture, and has a walkable old town, with good public transportation to get farther afield. Healthcare, as well as other essential services, is modern and and much less expensive than in the US. The city has a better multicultural mix and feel than virtually anywhere we've been, and it benefits from its long history as a trading port in the variety of foods, sights, and festivals. The residents are relaxed and friendly, and you don't feel like a tourist here. We don't want to leave.  But in less than 24 hours (at 9:00 am local time on June 11th), we will be flying back to Los Angeles.  It should hopefully only take us a day or so to get the bikes released from Customs, and then we will ride back to Oregon.  We'll be taking the "scenic route" (or, not the interstate) through eastern California and stopping to see friends along the way back to Portland.  Once we get there, we'll load our remaining belongings, including the mighty Symbas, into a moving truck and drive it all to North Carolina.  I will be posting about our adventures in Georgetown, because we have had some excellent times and met some very interesting people along the way (we will be held hostage on a variety of airplanes for approximately 18 hours, so plenty of time to write).  Look for updates soon (along with our smiling faces!).

Friday, June 8, 2012

Our Savior, Gorilla Tape

Gorilla Tape solution
It's a two-day (really one and a half) trip to get from Koh Phangan to Georgetown. Our plan was to get to Hat Yai the first day and then have an easy half day to G-town. Once we rode off the ferry and onto dry land, the weather was hot, but the roads were flat and smooth, making for an easy run with Colin's clutch. I continued checking periodically for signs of an oil leak as we rode, and all seemed fine. But when we stopped at a gas station to refuel, Colin noticed an oil dribble down the outside of the engine case. We pulled behind the station and removed the nut from the clutch adjustment bolt, took off the makeshift Gorilla Tape seal, and discovered the heat of the engine caused the now molten adhesive to liquify and ooze out between the tape layers.  Since we were still 15 miles from Trang and 75 miles from Hat Yai, I decided to try a new piece of tape and hoped that it would work. The replacement tape seemed to be holding, and Re pulled alongside every five miles to check for leaks. 

With about 25 miles to go to Hat Yai, Re gave me the thumbs down signal. Double crap. We pulled off on the side of the road and got out the tools and tape once more. Once again, the adhesive was squishing out from between the layers of tape, clearly the heat of the engine is causing the adhesive to liquify, and this means the nut is no longer held by the “springiness” of the tape layers. As we worked on the bike on the side of the road, a group of old Honda Cubs with interesting paint jobs and loud pipes blew by. A few minutes later, they all returned to see what we were doing. Old Honda Cubs must be hip in Thailand now, since these riders would be “hipsters” in the US. They all wore skinny jeans, had funky haircuts, pudding bowl or three-quarter helmets, and goggles. None of the seemed to speak English, but they did all stand around until my bike was running once more. Since we had no other real alternative, we made a new tape seal and crossed our fingers that it would hold. Colin let the engine run for a couple of minutes to see if it would start leaking again, and when it seemed to be working, we packed up the tools, waved goodbye to the “Cub Club,” and hit the road again. In an effort to minimize the vibration and heat, we rode the last 25 miles at a reduced speed. Re continued to check for oil leaks, but thankfully, we made it into Hat Yai, to the Park Hotel, with no further dribbles. 

After unloading our stuff into the room, we walked out to the night market to find our favorite khao mok kai (KMK) vendor. As we approached the familiar corner, there was no KMK to be seen. What?! While Re went to look for another vendor, I bought fruit shakes and a nearby stand. The woman making the fruit shakes was Muslim and wore a headscarf and veil, so only her eyes showed. The farther south you go in Thailand, the more Muslim it becomes, and English seems to be less widely spoken. So I was pleasantly surprised when the fruit shake vendor turned out to speak English fairly well. She was able to explain to me that our usual KMK vendor was taking a ten-day vacation to go to Phattalung for his sister's wedding. Since she seemed so friendly and knowledgeable, I asked her if there was another KMK stall around. She was able to point us to another stall that was just a few blocks away. We quickly found it, ordered our dinner, and sat down to another delicious meal. On our way back to the room, we stopped again at the 7Eleven for a couple of Changs. Back in the room, I had a moment of ennui when it occurred to me that this would be my last Chang of the trip and maybe for many years.

The next morning, we made the now familiar trip to the Thailand/Malaysia border. The new tape seal held, with not a drop of oil seen, all the way back to Penang. We kept our speed down (not that it's very high to begin with) in an attempt to minimize the strain on Colin's clutch (it was slipping pretty badly) and to keep the tape seal from melting. The border crossing was easy, stress-free, and quick. It did take a few minutes longer this time than on our previous crossing, but that was only due to a border officer's excited interest in our current adventure and our hope to settle in Malaysia in the future. 

We made it back to Georgetown, pulled up in front of the Star Lodge again, and paid for two weeks. Mr Lim, the older Chinese man working the reception counter, said it was his last day and gave us quite a nice discount on the room (20 percent off!) as his parting gift to the owner. I believe Mr Lim had started 'celebrating' his last workday much before our arrival. As Colin and I sat in the lobby, he proclaimed the merits of traditional Chinese medicine and reflexology. After giving me a recipe for a concoction to improve our eyesight (which consisted of one potato, one tomato, one carrot, and half an apple, all peeled, pureed together, and to be eaten each morning with no other foods), he shared another Oriental secret to longevity: exercise. Mr Lim reached out and squeezed my forearm and said, “you are solid. You need to stay solid.” He then took off his shoes and stretched out one leg in front of him, resting his heel on a table, and bent over until his chin rested on his thigh. Realize, this man is 60 years old. Never in my life have I been able to do this. He then sat down on the floor and demonstrated some other stretching exercises before jumping up, lifting his shirt, and pounding on his abdomen to prove his superior strength. Next came his lesson in reflexology to me: never let a tipsy, old, Chinese man rub your foot (that wasn't his intended message, but that's what I got out of it after squealing in pain as he dug his thumb into my instep to 'massage' out the toxins left there by the rubbish we ingest. I had a bruise a week later). All the while, Colin tried to keep a straight face and maintain focus on the computer screen in a search for a new clutch source in the area. Unable to find one in the area (they import SYMs to Malaysia, but not the Symbas, and nothing with the same engine) he emailed a contact in Taiwan, named Cam, to inquire about getting one shipped to us here. 

Having done what I could do for now, Re and I decided to go to dinner. We've both been dreaming of dim sum for a while now, so once again, we found ourselves walking down Lebuh Cintra to De Tai Tong restaurant. As usual, the food was excellent, the service was friendly, and we ate too much. After walking around town a bit, we made our way back to the Star Lodge. Re came down with a vicious headache, so I left her in the room with the lights off and posted some ride reports from the lounge. When I flipped open the laptop, I was surprised to see that Cam had already sent an email that he would check on parts availability for me in the morning, and if the parts were in stock, he would send them out by noon on Monday. Wow!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Thaisland Part III: Koh Phangan

More view from the ferry to Koh Phangan- it's purrrty!
There was a massive storm overnight that killed the power, and it didn't return until about 7:00 am. Consequently, there was no A/C or even a fan. This made for a very hot and sweaty night (not the good kind). Although it was a miserably moist night without much sleep because of my insane itching (I even woke Colin with my scratching several times), I felt, overall, better in the morning. I was able to walk down the road to the 7Eleven to get coffee and yogurt without keeling over. If only I could ditch the rash! It was painful to wear my sandals, which have a textured base, but it hurt even more to go barefoot.  

one of many gorgeous sunsets on Koh Phangan
The morning was beautifully clear after last night's toad strangler, so I set myself on the porch, while Re walked out to the 7Eleven (yes, they even have them in paradise). We spent the rest of the morning reading on the porch and generally being lazy. Around lunchtime, we made the quarter mile walk into town and had a lunch of curries at a small Thai place. Back at the bungalow, we did some more reading before putting on sunscreen to head out on the beach. The water here is fantastic- clear and warm, and the beach is powdery, white sand. After the sun set, we returned to the bungalow to shower and then head out to dinner. One of the reasons our bungalow is such a good price is that it is the end of the season. One downside to this is that all the restaurants on the beach are basically empty. We chose the best sounding place and sat down at a table on the beach. We spent the next ten minutes trying to get the attention of a waiter or waitress, but to no avail. While we sat there, we both decided that the poutine at Crave sounded pretty good. So we gave up and walked to Crave via the main road. Unsurprisingly, the poutine was delicious. Re had hers with ground beef, and I chose pulled pork. While we waited for our food to arrive, we made use of their free wifi to research dengue fever.

After reading an online list of the symptoms, we are both pretty certain that I have dengue fever. It starts with a high-ish fever accompanied by severe aching, then you feel better, then the fever returns, then nausea and vomiting may set in, then a pink, itchy rash may appear, starting with tender palms and soles. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick...yup, that about sums it up. Classic dengue fever. We had no idea, because the symptoms didn't occur simultaneously. Anyway, there's nothing to do for it but rest, take analgesics for the aches, and drink lots of fluids. I added antihistamines for the itching, but there's no miracle fix that a doctor can provide. Just for education purposes, dengue fever is transmitted by mosquitoes (yet another reason to despise them). There are four serotypes of the disease, and having one of them gives you immunity to that serotype only. If you get dengue fever again, you are likely to have a much worse time of it. The ultimate variety is the hemorrhagic version which will put you in the hospital and can be fatal. Yaaayyyyy... Dengue is coming to a tropical paradise near you- there have been outbreaks in the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, and in Key West, Florida (in 2009), so USE BUG SPRAY!!!!!!! In the grand scheme of mosquito-borne diseases, there are certainly worse ones (malaria and Japanese encephalitis to name two) to get, but I would strongly advocate avoiding it.

Our bungalow
We spent six nights on Koh Phangan, relaxing in the hammock on our porch or on the sand, reading, swimming, walking on the beach, and scratching (just me). In and amongst our busy daily schedule, I managed to squeeze in a beachside massage one afternoon as well. The woman knelt on me, pulled my limbs all a-kilter, and rubbed with her elbows until I felt like a puddle of jelly. We also got to enjoy a couple more huge, overnight thunderstorms (minus the power outages, thankfully). One night, the winds blew so hard, that water actually came in around the windows! It was quite a light show on the water that night.

the green light isn't an UFO, it's a squid boat on the water
Our original plan had been to spend a couple of nights on one beach and then move to another one for another few nights. But since our bungalow was so comfortable and cheap, and the food was so good, we decided to stay put on Had Yao for the entire time (also because we didn't know if Colin's clutch would make it over the next hill, let alone back to the ferry dock when we did need to go). We finally found our island paradise! Since we were there during the off-season, there were very few people on the beach, and every place was quiet. My appetite returned over the next several days, and I am sure the restaurant proprietors were quite pleased to have us as guests. We found a great beachfront place where we ate dinner three nights, trying a variety of curries and pastas with fresh squid and prawns, green papaya salads, tempura vegetables (try pumpkin, enoki mushrooms, and green beans sometime, in addition to your onions and broccoli), and we returned to Crave one more time (Okay, now try a burger topped with melted brie, crispy bacon, and homemade mayonnaise. Then have a pulled pork sandwich with bleu cheese, homemade pickled jalapenos, and bbq sauce as a patty melt. Muy delicioso!).

Listening to some tunes on the ferry
This too, had to come to an end (so we wouldn't grow roots), so after six days, we rose early (5:00 am) and rode to catch the 7:00 ferry back to the mainland.  :^(    Colin's bike made the journey to the port without event, and we arrived at the ferry dock with plenty of time.  The morning was sunny and breezy, and because of the winds (I guess), the return boat ride took about an hour longer than the outbound trip. 
On the ride we met a Swiss couple who were riding their bicycles from Switzerland to New Zealand. We spent some time chatting with them before plugging in our earbuds, plopping ourselves on the deck, and watching the islands slowly slide by. It was a beautiful morning, with clear skies and a nice breeze. Around 10:15 am, the ferry docked at Don Sak and we were, once again, riding toward Malaysia.

Alive and Itching: Ride to Koh Phangan

Raja ferry to Koh Phangan
To end the suspense, I did wake the next morning. Without feeling nauseous! The itch on my hands and feet, however, spread everywhere else overnight, and I had a rosy, flat rash from my neck (but not my face) to my feet. My palms were as red as those of an adolescent boy in the midst of “self-discovery.” It was truly awesome. I managed to eat the remaining package of crackers and drink the second "fauxterade" Colin brought me last night for breakfast, showered, and felt pretty okay (except for my need to scratch). Colin loaded the bikes once again under a clear, blue sky, and we hit the road at 8:40 am to catch the 10:00 ferry to Koh Phangan. Aaaagghh we were late

view from the ferry
Typically, if we get a late start, it really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. But this morning, we had a 35 mile ride to get to the ferry, and with our cruising speed reduced by Colin's failing clutch, we were hard-pressed to make it in time. Traffic was relatively light, and the weather cooperated, so we made decent enough time, but about 20 miles into the trip, the crackers and syrupy sweet electrolyte drink I ate for breakfast wanted to make a second appearance. I signaled for Colin to slow down to ask how much farther (because I really wasn't concentrating on my odometer at that moment). Since we were over halfway there and really didn't want to miss the ferry, I said I was alright to keep going t0 the ferry (C0lin did remind me that if I felt the need to hurl, to open my face shield beforehand (good advice)). So we did, arriving at the ticket booth for the car ferry with about ten minutes to spare. I used the time wisely and ran to the restroom to barf. Feeling much improved afterward, I stopped in the convenience store and bought some water and potato chips (they're good queasy food to me for some reason) and then rushed back to get on the bike, since Colin said they'd sounded the horn to GO! while I was inside. As soon as we rode down the ramp onto the boat, they raised the ramp and got underway. Fortunately for Re, the ferry was huge, so the ride was smooth. Re was able to eat some food on board and generally felt better before we arrived at Koh Phangan. 

The ferry docked at around noon, and we rode off into a scorching hot day. We didn't know where we were going to stay but had written down the names of some promising beaches to scout. The beaches we were interested in were on the northwestern coast, so we headed in that direction, through the center of the island. Once we reached the north shore, we turned left onto a smaller road that was extremely hilly. As we made our way south down the west coast, my hill climbing ability continued to diminish. Just before we got to Had Yao (Long Beach) I found myself in first gear, only at about a quarter throttle, and actually duck-walking my bike over the top of a hill. Afraid to go any further, we decided to stay in Had Yao. Re started scouting bungalows, and soon returned with great news- she found us a beachfront bungalow, with A/C, a fridge, and a hot shower for only 600 baht. 

The beach here is beautiful, Re is feeling better, so maybe things are looking up. We spent the afternoon relaxing and walking on the beach before turning our attention to dinner. In one of the little tourist guides in our bungalow, there was a review of a restaurant here in Had Yao called, Crave. The reviewer said they serve excellent burgers, and since the owner/chef is French Canadian, they also make some great poutine. Both of us have been craving a really good burger for a long time, so we decided to try it for dinner. Today actually is our 23rd wedding anniversary, which gave us all the more reason to skip a cheap Thai meal and splurge on something different. Crave lived up to the review, with great food and friendly owners. I had a thick, juicy, most excellent burger with real blue cheese, sauteed mushrooms, and onions, while Re had the “Monster Meatloaf,” which was a one-inch thick slab of meatloaf on a bun, with bbq sauce and homemade dill pickle rings. Their fries were excellent as well, and we really enjoyed our meal. I was definitely on the mend, but I couldn't finish my dinner. Colin didn't mind though, he reaped the benefits and cleaned my plate.