Hi guys,If you are travelling to nature blessed North Thailand on motorcycle, you are about to embark on an experience of a lifetime. I am not a great expert on this but having done 14 bike rides to lead groups for Viktorianz, i have done about 25,000 km in those hills and taken over 300 riders to those meandering magical landscapes. I am sure you all can benefit from my experience.
A word of caution – motorcycle rides are adventure experiences and that is quite distinct from drinking and partying format of South Thailand. Group bike rides have their own dynamics in terms of enjoyment, but at the same time they come with a lot of challenges. It is an adventure activity and I am sure we acknowledge the imminent risks associated with a motorcycle riding trip. The route and traffic behaviour is not perfect but much safer than Indian roads. North Thailand is a hill country with lots of good roads going everywhere. Let us see what all we need to be prepared for –
Loss of documents- Losing passport or licence or ticket can be nightmarish. It is also
wise to keep a copy of all your critical documents scanned on the net -so that they can be accessed anywhere.
Taking a wrong turn – This can happen and then finding your way back can take a whole day. On top of that the habitat is sparse and no one speaks English in countryside. It requires a degree of ride – discipline to keep pace. Best is to know the routes and destinations – so that you could find your way even if you are lost sometime.
Stranded without fuel – The fuel pumps are in the vicinity of cities. If one gets left behind, the fuel may be a challenge. It is worth knowing that ‘Type 91’ fuel is suitable for Ninja 650s. You must fill up each day at the end of the ride. Just in case you are stranded without fuel, ask someone to guide you to a shop or house where they do sell fuel at a higher cost. It is interesting the see their arrangements at times. But you do get some help.
Running out of local cash – Your credit card may not work at some places or there may be connectivity issues. It is prudent to have Thai currency in smaller denominations handy for any such circumstances. The ATMs and money exchange is normally available in all towns.
Unable to start with the Ride – The ride would start at scheduled time each day. The rider who is unable to make his start with ride will have to reach the destination hotel himself – this will be a major challenge in addition to missing out the tourist places.
An accident on bike – This is the last thing on the ride we want. If we have a fall on the ride and someone is hurt – that could affect the whole ride. While there are evacuation services catered by Viktorianz, the rider will have to travel on the back up vehicle and the motorcycle will have to be loaded. The rider is responsible for all the repairs and evacuation cost to the bike. Just in case – the Tourist Police umber is 1155 , 6786800 and Thai Police is 123, 191.
Here are some of the things that would help make smooth rides and fun group travel.
- Carry own riding gear – You don’t want to get into unfamiliar clothes or helmet for the rides like these. A helmet and a jacket is a must. The shoe can be multipurpose – any hard toe will do. You need not necessarily carry typical riding shoe. In case the riders are less than 8, the back up vehicle may not accompany. ( riders however jointly decide this)
- Check bike – While one should not expect bikes to be like yours at home, the rental bikes are used by different people, but they are fairly good. In my rides in North Thailand, I have not seen any bike breaking down mechanically. You would do well to check them out yourself before taking them around the country. A small 2-3 hours riding circuit would be great to test them – we do this on Day 1.
- Start early & Reach early – In order to enjoy the destination, tourist places and the ride, you should start the ride early. For this it is important to sleep in time and sleep well. Avoid late nights and hangovers on the ride – you are taking a risk.
- Formation and Speed – Your tour leader knows the way. So don’t cross the tour leader or you may go the wrong way. Follow the formation and the speed limits. It works better if you fix up you buddy pair – who should never go out of sight. So if at all you lose way, you should be two of you.
- Know the destination – Every member must know the itinerary of the day – routes, halts, tourist points, destination etc. So that even if one is lost he can find the way.
- Travel light – Carry just enough baggage for biking. One change per day of ride should be ok. If the riders are less and the back up vehicle is not following, you could leave your heavier baggage at Chiang Mai and pick it up on the way back when you deposit your bikes. While on bikes – carry a small back pack ( camera, diary, water etc) strapped with bungee chords. The rest can be in the back up truck.
- Cash & Credit card – About 1000 Baht per day is enough for normal meals, snacks and drinking needs (add pubs and shopping appetites). You should also carry a credit card and an international debit card – with enough limits for emergencies. In major towns you can exchange dollars –hardly anyone takes Indian currency except in Chiang Mai.
- Refuelling – The fuel pumps are fewer in the country side. The refuelling drill be planned at the end of ride each evening so that in the morning we just ride off to our destination.
- Discipline – With a large group, a certain amount of regulation is essential. The fun quotient will be high if we are punctual and stick to the ride schedule. We must start and finish the ride in time. Your luggage in the back up van should be loaded 15 minutes before the start time.
- Some handy tips –
- Check bikes for dents, breakages and scratches – providers charge you heavy for these. Good to take pictures or show them before hand to provider.
- Provider keeps one amongst two passports as security – carry a photocopy of your passport as a backup.
- Switch off bikes from the key and not from the handle ignition switch – batteries drain out may leave you stranded.
- When halting in hotels or tourist spots – park them backed off in such a way that you could quickly take off.
- Check fuel position on every halt – if the fuel bar is blinking –there is no panic – but fill at very first station.
- Focus on route and ride, not on speedometer.
- Always carry mobile – you will not be able to hear it – so, set it on vibrator and high volume mode so that you could feel it. Do check your phone for missed call or sms, especially, if you are separated.
- The cars on high ways move at high speeds – lane discipline is a must – which means drive in left lane and use indicator when changing lanes while overtaking. Right lanes are only for overtaking.
- Check tyre pressures at the start of the ride – it affects your safety and ride quality.
- If it rains – there are hardly any shades in hills – so we ride on and enjoy the rain – the speed goes down to 60 kmph.
- Rear view mirrors are life savers – adjust and use them often.
- It is always advisable to ride in the centre of your lane closer to road central line. Be specially careful while taking the hair pin bends on roads, do not ever be too close to the edge of the road – it has gravel and the edges are deep.
11. Pre- Departure Checklist – At the last minute, just before moving to airport, make sure you have checked the following things out –
a. Air Ticket. ( You must have credit card copy- if paid by company credit card)
b. Visa done or Documents for Visa on arrival. ( list already sent)
c. Passport – keep it in waist pouch as you need it many times for filling forms etc.
d. Indian Driving license and International driving licence.
e. Credit card and international debit card.
f. 10,000 Thai Baht for every week of stay. ( Viktorianz can arrange or you could exchange at IGIA – do it in groups you could save multiple service charges)
g. Your riding gear ( helmet, boots, jacket, knee & elbow guard, waist pouch)
h. Camera, batteries, lenses, universal adaptors ( the two pins, flat strip pins type works).
i. Laptop and Mobile hand set – if you wish.
j. Light baggage, seasonal clothing (temps are 12-28 deg Celsius). While there is likely to be no rains – but a wind cheater would be a handy thing to carry. It would be pleasant winters – cool in the evenings and mornings.
It would need efforts of every team member to make this into a supreme travelling experience. Keep cool and Ride Safe !
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