Sunday, July 24, 2016

Full suspense

I always put my new bikes in my blog, this bike I've just purchased will probably be my last MTB I'll ever buy, it's sad to say that in 10 years time I'll be too over the hill to ride.

This time I bit the bullet and caught up with technology, well nearly.

This bike is:
Full suspension 
Thru axle front hub
27.5" wheels

Things that will be normal in a few years will be

Frame enclosed cables
Electronic gears
Thrilled axles as standard
Probably a small motor

This isn't the first full suspension bike I've ever had, in the late 90's I had a GT lts, I must admit it put me off full sus rigs, it was very bouncy, not very balanced and weighed a ton.

My new Norco fluid 7.1 seems to be everything the GT wasn't, even for fat lad like me the fox front and rear shocks seem well in tune and you can lock them both out if the going gets Tarmac. Weight is under 14kg, about the same as my cross country bike from 20 years ago.

It as Shimano XT gearing, 20 speed which I now really like. It is taking some time to get used to Shimano again being a different change from sram which I'm used too.

Riding the bike, biggest difference is how much you stay seated, when you come to a washboard, single track instead of standing on my pedals I can stay seated and keep on pedalling. It just seems so much more comfortable and controlled.

The 27.5" wheels will take time to get used too, I'm old Skool and always have 26" in the past, they are more precise steering however you seem to lose the last second twitch out of trouble the smaller wheel gives you.

Early days yet, but after the first hard ride on the Norc, I'm confident I'm going to like it.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Thailand, the difference from last trip

This year we went back to Thailand for a 3 week holiday and trip to see the out laws.

I was wondering what had changed in the 3 years. One thing that hasn't changed is the over whelming heat that it's you when you leave the terminal at Suvanbhumi Airport. I might even say that immigration was quicker but the lack of smiles in immigration hasn't changed.

I organised a mini van via the hotel to take us from the airport, I was very surprised for it to be there on time and of excellent luxury order.

We stayed at the Chatrium Riverside hotel, I have to say this was a seriously good hotel, one I can't recommend enough. From the service to the rooms and quality of the food it was near perfect. It provided me with the best meal that I had on this trip.

From Bamgkok, we hired a car and went down to Hua Hin, even the car hire throug Thai rentacar went without an itch. Sadly the standard of driving in Thailand hasn't got any better, on our first night just by the hotel we saw the aftermath of a moped/Lorry crash, luckily I saw the victim and was able to warn the rest of my family not to look at the corpse. A total lack of forethought, poor driving skills and a disregard for their or any one else's safety makes driving somewhat high blood pressure inducing. One thing that does stand out is the selfish way drivers act, if they need to manoeuvre to a certain point then they just do it, irrespective of any other road users.

We made it to Hua Hin and stayed at The Hilton resort and what an excellent resort it was. It is foreign run and the standards are up there with any European hotel.

Hua Hin is a great place, despite having some negative media earlier this year, I found nothing to fault it. Attractions like the beach, it's many coffee houses and cafes, the cicada night market, the night market in Hua Hin centre and my favourite , the mangrove swamp walk near Pratchburi. We'll definitely go to Hua Hin again.

After a week in Hua Hin we made our way back to the Chatrium for one night before moving on to Chiang Mai. We flew with Air Asia, like it the times I've flown with them before it's a pleasure compared to the western budget airlines. Again we were met at the airport by the hotel, on time and excellent service.
We stayed at The Empress Hotel, 

it is situated near night market and while it's seen better days, the price we paid and the service we received made this a superb hotel. Here is were my biggest gripe about my Thai trip begins kick in, without trying to sound elitist, Chinese tourists and their selfie sticks are almost a modern hazard in Thailand, the weekend before at the Grand Palcace they were roaming in pacts, the concept of courtesy seems to skipped the general Chinese psychy. The way I saw them treat waitress's in the hotel was disgraceful and they have no concept of queuing. I did meet a Chinese couple who were travelling on their own and not part of an organised tour and they were pretty cool and spoke English perfectly. Even they admitted that Chinese travelling in a tour are an embarrassment to the country. We visited the ChiangMai night safari and was probably the only westerner there. I don't know, maybe the Chinese have the correct idea, sod waiting in a que, just barge your way to the front of the que.

We did all the touristy bits, Wat Doi Sathep, Elephant Camp, Bai Orchid farm. We also went on an organised bike tour which was brilliant, bizarrely the organiser and owner was also moaning about Chinese tourists, saying that in the long run they will devalue Thailand.
I'd never been to Chiang Mai in my many years spent there, a huge oversight, a place I will visit again.

Our last week was spent in Bangkok, again at the Chatrium.

The lists below are the good and bad of this Thailand trip:
Good - 
Western Food, the quality, availability and price have all improved.
General service in hotels and restaurants.
Value for money.
4G phone service

Bad or worse -
Thai and local food, more expensive and lacking quality.
Driving Skills
Chinese tourists
Dirty streets
Lack of basic English (even in western chains)

I won't touch on the political side, basically not one Thai I spoke to was interested in the current state of affairs.

We will be returning next year, we'll be doing a tour to KL and a stint on Langkawi.