With the mention of The Motorcycle Diaries, Che Guevara's epic 9 month motorcycling journey across 28 South American towns comes to mind - popularized by a 2004 movie with the same name. Not nearly as epic, yet thrilling nonetheless, was The Exploring Engineers' 5 day motorcycling trip traversing through northern Thailand mountains.
As noobs in the motorcycling scene, we opted for the Mae Hong Son loop which boasts to be a suitable training ground for those with little to no experience of motorcycling roadtrips. Starting and ending in Chiang Mai, the loop offers a comprehensive way of seeing the more authentic regions of Thailand. Definitely a must for those who want to get away from the tourist scene!
Armed with a 125cc scooter rented at 200 baht a day (MYR 25 / USD 5), we started our 635km journey traveling south-west of Chiang Mai, clockwise through the loop.
We picked a clockwise journey due to the straight roads with minimal inclination for the first part of the journey to Doi Inthanon National Park - giving Arran more time to get used to the driving. Yes, Arran did all the driving while I was a terrified passenger at the back, worried sick for our lives everytime a sharp bend comes along. My contribution included carrying all our luggage for 5 days in a single backpack and keeping an eye on potential scenic pitstops along the way.
Day 1: Chiang Mai --> Mae Sariang (194 kms)
Our journey began by following the 108 highway all the way to Mae Hong Son. Not much navigation was required as the roads are well signposted in English. Once you have arrived in Mae Hong Son, take the 1095 and 107 highway all the way back to Chiang Mai. Simple enough, right?
Upon arriving in Mae Sariang, we went on a foot tour around town. As we walked along the riverside, we stumbled across a bar chock-a-block with biker gangs. Their massive motorcycles were parked outside whilst they were having a merry good time drinking away. My eyes lit up when I saw the bikers; "They look fun", I thought to myself.
Me and Arran entered the bar and ordered two chilled drinks. It wasn't long before Arran mentioned how hungry he was and pointed to the barbecue happening outside.
Excuse me miss, how much is that barbecue over there?
Oh, that belongs to the bikers! Do you want me to ask them how much it is?
The waitress returned with a plate filled with meat and a biker man trailed behind her. He grinned and said,
For you, its free. Cheers!
We thanked his kindness and woofed down the meal as quickly as it arrived. As soon as the bikers realized our plate was empty, they insisted we have some more - and would not take no for an answer! Soon enough we chatted away with the little English that they knew.
Ying, a Thai girl who spoke the best English there, inevitably assumed the role of a translator. Apparently on that particular weekend, bikers from all around Northern Thailand gathered in Mae Sariang for an annual biker's festival. The location would vary each year, but one thing remains the same - it was a night where they let loose.
She suggested that we join the party (or a bush doof as Australians would call it). Before we knew it, we ended up in 'Daddy's Farm' situated in a secluded part of the countryside. The farm was teeming with bikers parading their big tattooes and even bigger motorcycles whilst dancing their hearts away to Thai rock music. Let's just say our minds about Thai bikers have forever been changed after that night.
What happens next in our motorcycle adventure? Read about the next few legs of our journey here.