Our plan is to not have a plan; to let things happen by chance. Herbert and I have spent a good part of our lives riding to the last corner of this big round rock: 40 years and 595,000 miles collectively - enough experience to rely upon. This time, we want to venture where we've never gone before. Our destination is Southeast Asia and our top priority is to have a good time.
Various maps, travel guides and picture books find their way into our hand luggage, but as far as our location, we will consult the people who know best - the local riders. Many things will not go according to plan - but this is precisely what makes traveling so exciting.
When we land in Bangkok, I recall a small, but very important detail concerning Thai traffic: people drive on the left. As soon as our bikes clear customs, they'll be unleashed into the tropical heat and hectic big city traffic. The mountains in the northwest of the country are beckoning with their endlessly winding roads. My brand new BMW F 800 GS, Desierto F has 0 miles on the clock, but not for long.
There's No Accounting for Taste
Peera, our contact who very quickly becomes a friend, is the Touratech importer for Thailand, with a shop in Bangkok. He picks us up from the airport, offers us coffee, and then helps to get our BMWs through customs. Peera is immensely proud to have us as his guests, and we're incredibly grateful for all he does, from assisting with route planning, to organizing a meeting with the BMW club, from acting as our chauffeur, and even riding with us. He advises us to eat at the night markets, as the locals do. As vegetarians, we're especially appreciative that Peera gives us a note written in Thai - something we hope will avoid our eating dogs or frog's limbs, ripped off for immediate consumption.
The night market in Ayutthaya is full of aromas, laughter and life. The many cook shops compete with one another for the guests' custom. The locals arrive with their whole family on a little moped, to be served dinner at one of the many tables set out in the open air. Steam rises out of giant rice bowls. Big flames emerge from the woks. Fresh juices are pressed, tasty, and healthy.
Monks and Temples
Buddhist temples with their high, golden chedis, or pagodas, stand like landmarks all over the country. About 94% of the Thai people practice Buddhism, based on the Theravada school that teaches a system of 26 stages. Simply put, each form of life aims to achieve the highest level, Nirvana - the never-ending ocean, peace of mind. This is the only way out of the eternal cycles of rebirth. Anyone who does good things will experience good things in return, and will be reborn at a higher level. Bad karma boomerangs and results in being reborn at a lower level.
Once in their lifetime, every Thai male spends one rainy season as a monk in a monastery concentrating on their inner values, away from the temptations of the world. Meditation sharpens the mind and opens the heart. After the period of abstinence, most men return to their old life to start a family.