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10,000 Mile Motorcycle Ride Around Thailand

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What do you do when it’s 20 degrees Fahrenheit for so long?

Well, in my case, I started browsing travel websites. I bought a plane ticket, got my visa a leasurly 15 hours before departure, packed my moto gear, and after 25 (!) hours of travel time, I am now sweating my ass off in 90 degree weather.

Not that everything went without a hitch. My first flight was an emergency landing. I was awoken by the pilot announcement that we are losing hydrolic pressure to the wing flaps but “it’s not that bad yet”. Sweet.

Landing was a little rought but we made it and I finally arrived in Bangkok on the 2nd. To begin the trip, I have been enjoying Bangkok via taxi, tuk-tuk, motorcycle taxi, and my own 150cc rental. If you find track days getting expensive, come here and take some motorcycle taxi rides. It’s a thrill like no other. Actually, even regular car taxis sometimes haul ass. It’s the only place where I considered putting on a seatbelt in a taxi.

Anyway… this is my little trip report…

Bangkok hotels, Dream first, Baiyoke Sky second. Baiyoke Sky is the tallest building in Bangkok, I believe.

Bangkok is pretty cool. Imagine a cross between 5th Avenue and MLK Blvd – extreme weath intertwined with extreme poverty. You have a mix of everything to fit your budget and expectations. There is no shortage of nighclubs with $30 covers and there is no shortage of ‘street discos’ serving $1 beers. After the official club closings at 2am, you see regular street vendors blasting music and serving alcohol till ?am… There is no open container law in Bangkok as far as I can tell.

Street food is generally pretty good. Thai street dishes are waaay too spicy for my taste. Variety is awesome. Fresh squeezed juices, sliced fruit, and all sorts of grilled meats are sold everywhere for cheap.

I am trying to get my fill of shark fin soup and bird’s nest soup. Decent pricing. Even some street vendors in Chinatown sell shark fin soup and it is actually pretty good.

Big cities in Thailand are full of massage places. Convenient way to relax after a long day of doing nothing.

Going back to street vendors and food… here is how back alleys look behind all those night markets… Food for thought when you see some yummy dish at some random stall. Bangkok sanitation standards are questionable to say the least.

Bangkok police bike…

Bangkok has an elaborate canal system – hence it’s Venice of the East nickname – but it is slowly being filled in to make more room for real estate.

Thailand may be 99% Buddhist, but that doesn’t seem to stop them from celebrating Christmas. Actually, as I write this, it is Jan 8th and there are still Christmas greetings and decorations around. This one is from Emporium, a really swanky mall full of designer shops. I have yet to see such a high end mall in the USA… Every floor here is filled with Fendi, Farragamo, Hermes, Versace, Chanel, etc…

People drinking dancing and hanging out is the standard here on the streets. Also standard; a gazzilion stray dogs that don’t even blink when you step over them on the way out of 7 Eleven.

Thailand is full of big budda statues. They are all very important for one reason or another. And they are all surrounded by a million husslers trying to sell you overpriced junk.

If I look excited in this photo it’s by accident. While interesting, all these temples and ruins are about the same.

Photo below is from Chiang Mai – a smaller and slower version of Bangkok. Things are a little more relaxed and rules are even less stringent. You can drink a beer, feed elephants fruit, and get chatted up by women of questionable repute all without ever leaving your seat.

Chiang Mai seems quite alright, but there is way too many budget/hostel hippie types here.

Finally, take a look at my new ride in this region. It is Kawasaki ER6n, a 650cc twin with ABS brakes. *Very* nice bike. I wasn’t expecting much but I really like it. Good power delivery and good feedback.

The rental place had no qualms about letting me take it for a spin in center city without signing anything, leaving anything at their shop, and with no gear whatsoever. In Thailand, money talks and everything else is secondary. I generally like this laisse faire attitude.

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Part 2
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When I said this trip was last minute, I really meant it. It really came down to the wire. I started packing literally hours before my flight. Not surprisingly, I forgot the most expensive piece of my gear – boots.

Today I hit up the biggest moto shop in CM. This Kawi dealer was pretty nice and had a decent selection of Kawi stuff. Their ‘sportbike’ room consisted of Ninja 250s and 650s but they had some pretty random stuff like Ohlins rear for Ninja 250. In the photos you can see their gear selection on the left. I ended up getting some knockoff Sidis.

Roads in the Golden Triangle are a tropical and twistier version of WVA and KY. Scenery is very country. A fair amount of little stands with people selling random foods and wares. It’s nice because you can stop anywhere to grab a bite to eat. Little villages every so often.

The bike runs me THB1000/day. (~$33) It feels a little bit like my 690SMC.

Riding in traffic is not too bad at all. There is a method to the madness. It is weird being surrounded by bikes. While people drive on the wrong side of the road here, they also ride on the right side of the road. On your shoulder you have traffic going both ways. It it’s not too far, people do drive down the wrong way of street and treat street signs as suggestions only but it seems to work. Everyone has a scooter and they all ride them up to 5 up. You see ancient old ladies lanesplitting like there’s no tomorrow and also kids that look <10 years old doing the same. Kids grow up fast here...

Official age to fight is 15 and most fights are 15+ but they also start their kids young with exhibition matches. Both these little kids could kick my ass.

I will have to post more later about my MT fight impressions and experiences and how I came out $400+ ahead against some Japanese tourists. haha.

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Part 3
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Muay Thai in Chiang Mai is very touristy. You don’t see any Thai faces at the ringside seats. They are off to the side/back betting on the fights.

To make things interesting I made some bets against some Japanese tourists. After 1st round, if fight is not over, we would take turns on picking fighters and the other party either accepts or declines at even money. For main fight – USA vs Thailand – we bet pre for double or nothing. In my experience, these fights are usually BS fights where they match up some post-prime Thai against a good US fighter. (someone correct me if this is not the case.) I was obviously going USA and it was obvious I won when we saw both fighters. (Old, overweight Thai vs young, ripped US fighter)

Stadium entrance

Pic of smoke filled ring…

Thai vs USA match… tourist favorite…

The card was good as a whole. Nice, even matchups. USA vs Thai Superfight was low quality fight as expected. I found the kids exhibition match the most interesting. Video below…

The next day, I hit more roads explored a bit.

A good number of gas station have motorbike specific pumps.

Roads are generally excellent. Cars do cut corners and sometimes pass in blind corners but it’s easy to anticipate. Lots of stray dogs everywhere, but they are used to bikes. They move off the road when they hear a bike coming. Thai dogs are really smart and look both ways before crossing the road. I’m serious. It’s hard to get this on video, but it’s really funny to see.

I did a lot of this…

I also hit some dirt roads. They are hard packed and don’t have many ruts. Very easy to ride at a fun pace.

Pleasant Thai country scenery…

Even the smallest road side stands offer some food, water, and cold Coke in a bottle.

Food is delicious. Some stands are just amazing. Lots of fried everything. All sorts of fish. I like hot food, but Thai hot is way too hot to be enjoyable IMO. I had to throw out some stuff one time. But in general, variety is excellent.

I was taking some pics when these guys were hauling ass passing by and almost ran off the road looking back to see if I am OK. At the next pull off I saw them again and one of them spoke English. They were smoking pot at this overlook and offered to share and invited me for drinks. We rode together a little and these little bikes (150cc or 250cc) are pretty fast down hill.

Those that have been on my rides will not be surprised that sunset caught up with me and I ended up getting lost and trying to find my way in the dark. Too many road signs are in Thai only. I can’t believe I randomly found my way to the hotel.

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Part 4
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Another day, another great ride. Riding weather here during winter/dry season is excellent. This time I went to Mae Hong Son region – the most mountainous area in the country. Imagine VA250, VA33, WV39, VA211 for hundreds of miles and you will have imagined Mae Hong Son region.

Every little town and village has street vendors either serving cut up fruits, noodle/soups, or BBQ/grilled meats/fish. It’s very cheap and the food is tasty. Add sticky rice and chili sauce and you have a pretty respectable meal.

This wouldn’t be my ride if I didn’t run into some issues, though.

That morning when I glanced at the map I thought I could cut my loop short if I start running out of daylight. Well, I was wrong. There was no way to cut my loop short.

Consequently, I found myself less than 10 miles from Burma border, in the dark, nearly out of gas, and very far from my hotel – or any hotel for that matter. Most villages close at dark and there are very few gas stations here. Military checkpoints start getting manned and the twisty roads can be very tricky in the dark because of variable conditions.

I had maybe 10-20 miles of gas left when I found this gas station.

As you can see, it is a full service shop.

Unfortunately, she only had 2 liters, which is still not enough to get me anywhere. She tells me that there is a gas station up ahead that is about to close, if it hasn’t already. Lucky for me, the station still served me as they were closing.

So at this point, I have a full tank of gas and you’re thinking I should be alright, huh?

Nope, not even close. The big city where I’m staying is still ~170+ miles away. I am not sure that I have that sort of range on the ER6.

I take my chances and haul ass to the next town 60 miles away. The gas station there was also still open and I was the *last* person to fill up before they closed.

I made it home safe and sound, but more than on any other ride, I thought I would be doing some open air camping.

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Part 5
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Today I did a nice ride to Doi Mae Salong and Mae Sai. Mae Sai is the Northern most point in Thailand. It is also a big border crossing with Myanmar. First, a couple of scenery pics…

Mae Sai border crossing and the bridge leading to Myanmar.

After wondering around Mae Sai streets for a little bit I started heading home. Obviously, I ran out of daylight. I got some dinner at one of these stands… Everyone is so nice and helpful here, particularly outside of the big cities.

I did not try this. I was surprised that the bugs cost about the same as good noodle soup, pad thai, and other regular street food.

I made it back in time to check out Horizons Unlimited annual meeting. I was – by far – the youngest person at their meeting. I found this to be depressing.

One more photo of mobile bank… this place exchanges currencies during the day, etc.

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Part 6
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My plan is to go town to town and if I see something interesting, I stay for a few days and do non-motorcycle stuff.

Scenery is pretty good everywhere and the weather is perfect in the mountains.

I took a loop back to Mae Sai because I rushed it the first time around. This time I explored the town a little.

This is Mae Sai, as seen from the temple overlooking the town.

You can see the river in the center of the pic. This river divides Thailand from Maynmar.

Grilled chicken and papaya salad. Less than $3 total.

Notice the little shack in the back of this road stand. Do these folks live here? Not sure…

There was a fair going on and I decided to check it out. Almost all activities involved some sort of semi-gambling and prizes.

There was one vendor who was doing something different. He had all these handwritten notebooks on display. Calligraphy? Not sure…

My hotel room TV had mostly Thai and Chinese stations, plus Euro Soccer station. Then I see CSPAN? Reminds me of home.

Roadside dinner of soup with dumplings, pork, and noodles. About $1.

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Part 7
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The next day I was exploring the Golden Triangle area and came across this Opium Museum.

It is mostly a lot of multimedia and picture displays and definitely not worth the admission price of $6 (for foreigners.)

It carried a strong anti-drug message. This is one thing that Thailand is tough on. Whatever you do, don’t get caught with drugs here.

Looking across the river into Laos…

It might be dry season, but I managed to find some rain – after sunset, obviously.

Mekong river sunset…

After hiding out until the rain passed I decided to roll to the next bigger town to look for a hotel. Unfortunately, a lot of smaller cities don’t have decent hotels. Instead, they have ‘guesthouses’ that cater to cheap hippy backpackers. In this town, there were two guesthouses I could find, and this was the better one. Notice something missing from this “VIP” room?

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Part 8
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The next day, I actually got a nice early start for a change. I will be hitting some small roads and expect to do a lot of back tracking.

What I did not expect is doing a lot of dirt. I did about 40km of this because it was the only way to avoid an alternate route that would’ve been about 200km. It was steep and rough and I can’t believe I didn’t drop the bike once.

Thai people burn their trash, they burn their farm fields, and they set brush fires to clear the land. During dry season, this creates a fairly smoggy atmosphere.

Sunset caught up with me again today. I didn’t see a soul for a good 45 minutes before eventually coming to this little town.

I inquire about a hotel knowing what the answer is. There is no hotel anywhere remotely close. The clerk at this store who is also the town school teacher hooks me up, though. Tonight, I’ll be sleeping at the town Buddhist temple that they are building.

Dinner. Fish stuffed with herbs and vegetables.

The school teacher…

The monk…

My provisions for the night. The candles are in case I need to find my way to the outhouse.

The next day I took a picture of the temple…

And this is where the monks live. It is basically open air and very primitive.

The following morning I hit the gas station and roll out.

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Part 9
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A couple other random pics…

Bigger towns are over run with ‘Fish Spas’. They fill water tanks with little fish that suck dead skin off of your feet and hands and it sounds disgusting to me so I’m not trying it.

Check out the VIDEO…

Thai idea of a mannequin is different from ours.

I hope no one bumps into this guy… People do everything on the street here. They weld their carts, they have deep fryers set up in the open, etc.

Link to VIDEO…

Do not want:

Tuk-tuks don’t have meters. You will likely overpay a lot or a little. You will never underpay.

These hill tribe people get in your face left and right and want you to buy their crappy overpriced trinkets.

There is a million 7/11s here, and they all carry hard liquor.

Thai child fashion.

Another bug snack stand.

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Part 10
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The other day I was pulled over by the cops in Bangkok.

I wanted to get out of the city. I hired a taxi to take me to a certain highway. I was following the taxi and I see 2 cops waving me down in the middle of the 4 lane high speed highway.

No motorbikes in the ‘fast lane’ allowed.

As I was handing over my license to the cop, the taxi guy run over and says a few things to the cop. 100 (~3usd) to the cop and problem solved. They didn’t even look at my license.

On related note, there is very little if any police traffic enforecement. In Bangkok, there are certain roads where motorcycles are not allowed, but I generally take them anyway because they are faster and safer without slow speed scooters weaving about.

Written by Sportbiker

March 17th, 2010 at 1:11 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses to '10,000 Mile Motorcycle Ride Around Thailand'

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  1. Very long and fantastic story which some placeI havn’t known before even I was born in Thailand! Really appreciated and impressed.

    The clause which hit my heart is Chiang Mai the slower version of Bangkok, first time I have been here I couldn’t accepted all slow motion scene anymore and seems like the hyper material like me never be accepted from ppl here as well. hahaha. (waiting the time to be voted out sooner or later)

    but wait!what amazing, there are plenty of nice people, kindness, friendly and helpful with smile until I wonder how much they fill a lot of happiness in thier life.

    Let try to find out the other sides in Thailand. You will discover the country which be fulfilled with all supplied and unseen place given by nature plus many civilized materials be adopted from Western. Lucky we can balance them all.
    The last one, it doesn’t help to say I’m so lucky that I was born here.

    K

    17 Mar 10 at 3:14 am

  2. Wow! It’s cool! This is what I live for.. the X! 😀 hehehehe!

    Archie Mandelberg

    14 Apr 11 at 4:51 pm

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