After 36 trips across the Atlantic for rides in Europe and Africa, it was time for something different. Having never been across the Pacific, I settled on Thailand for a new adventure. I would be taking part in Edelweiss Bike Tours’ “Thailand Extreme” tour, an eight-day trip covering 1,465 miles in northern Thailand’s stunning mountain ranges. Somewhere in my mind I was conjuring the tour as being a careful navigation of deep ruts and washed-out, broken pavement of narrow third world backroads. What I wasn’t expecting was that, for a motorcyclist, northern Thailand possesses a seemingly endless string of beautifully paved, winding roads that snake over and through dense jungles and tranquil countryside, across stunning vistas, and past small villages. Chalk one up for derailing preconceived notions.
Arriving in the Land of Smiles
Landing in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand’s largest city, I settled in a few days ahead of the start of the tour to acclimate to the time difference and begin to immerse myself in the culture. The rumored chaos of the city, with its three-wheeled tuk-tuks, taxis, buses, and whizzing scooters (often with three people aboard), proved less overwhelming for someone from Los Angeles, where traffic has surpassed insanity—good training for riding in foreign lands. And yes, there is the somewhat surreal, salacious nightlife that Thailand’s larger cities are famous for—if one is interested—although it doesn’t carry the stigma or danger of similar areas in America.
On the eve of departure from Chiang Mai, we had our official welcome meeting; it was an opportunity to meet fellow riders and our tour guide and to get briefed on the first day’s ride/route. We’d taken possession of our motorcycles earlier in the day. I would be aboard a Suzuki V-Strom 650, which would prove to be a near perfect mount for all that was to follow.