Six Warnbro Sound Wanderers recently did a six-day tour from Chiang Mai in Thailand, travelling through the Golden Triangle and visiting Laos and Myanmar (formerly Burma) on the way.
The bikes ridden were a mix of Kawasaki Versys 650s and Honda CB 650Fs, both were equally at home in the tight mountain hairpins and long sweeping bends.
We were pleasantly surprised by the standard of roads in Thailand, as they were a good width, all bitumen, and the centre lines were well marked. Unfortunately, the locals use this line as a rough guide only, and it was not uncommon to come around a bend and find a car or truck on your side of the road, either overtaking a slower vehicle, or cutting the corner so they can get more speed through the bends.
That said, the Thais are very courteous drivers, and even oncoming vehicles will move over to give you room to pass. I never saw any road rage, even in heavy traffic with merging lanes, everyone is patient and happy to let you in. I’m sure the roads were designed by a bike rider as the mountains were crossed via hairpin bends, and even the roads through towns had long sweeping bends for no apparent reason, except perhaps to make the roads more interesting.
The hotels we stayed in were amazing! Most were in little villages in the middle of nowhere, but as you rounded the corner there was a five-star hotel waiting for you. Equally as good was the food, usually we ate traditional Thai food in smaller local restaurants. At times it was a little spicy for some of the riders, but usually there were spring rolls and omelettes served with the meals which they could fill up on.
Our tour included visits to a number of tourist attractions. We visited an elephant sanctuary and training camp where elephants were trained to drag and stack felled trees. While we were there, the trainers washed the elephants in the river, and then put on a short show afterwards. This included a display of the elephants moving large tree trunks with their feet, picking up the wood and stacking it with their trunks. Later, at Thaton, we took a gentle river cruise on the Mae Kok river, past local stone collectors, who filled dinghies by hand from the river bed with stones to sell to the local stone trader. They worked all day for around 200 Baht ($8).
A highlight of the trip was a visit to the Karen ladies of Myanmar, the ones that fit rings to their necks from the age of eight
A highlight of the trip was a visit to the Karen ladies of Myanmar, the ones that fit rings to their necks from the age of eight. Contrary to popular belief, these rings actually push the collar bone and ribs down, not stretch the necks. They can be removed in later life without injury.
The ladies performed a traditional dance for us, while their children copied their moves from the sidelines. Our group gave some money to the children, who scurried back to their mothers to show what they received. Dianna and I singled out a boy dressed in a Spiderman suit who was too shy to come up with the others, and he seemed very pleased with the money we gave him.
We also visited the “Hill tribe” and saw their traditional dirt floor huts next to new dwellings provided by World Vision, with the basic comforts we all take for granted. A very old couple showed us around their old hut, while one of the younger tribesmen demonstrated their snares and traps made from bamboo and tree branches. These would propel spears at considerable force into the unsuspecting pigs or other wildlife that unwittingly stumbled over the trip lines.
At Chiang Rai we boarded long tail speedboats fitted with two litre Toyota engines for a flying trip across the Mekong River to Laos. These powerful engines propelled the boats at around 80 kilometres an hour along the muddy river, only slowing to avoid the tree branches that drifted down the fast-flowing river.
All these wonderful attractions, along with trips to decorated temples filled with gold- covered images of Buddha, a Buddhist monk training school, restaurants and coffee shops meant we had plenty of breaks from riding, with most days travelling only 200-300kms.
It was the first time Dianna and I have done an organised ride, and we were impressed with the whole trip. We stayed in great hotels, enjoyed delicious food, visited amazing attractions and enjoyed excellent riding
In the group of 15 riders, were some Ulyssians from Canberra, including Gordon and Trish. It was nice to chat over dinner with them discussing the differences between their branch and ours. Unfortunately, Trish’s brother Mike hurt his back on the trip, so had to travel in the tail- end Charlie bus. Dianna willingly volunteered to ride his bike (a Honda CB 650F) instead of being my pillion. She loved riding through the hairpin mountain roads, and was soon up at the front of the group showing the boys how it is done. Everyone was encouraged to ride at their own pace, and it was nice to see the different groups riding to their comfort levels with no pressure to ride faster. Paul and Tamika from Thai Motorcycle tours were designated corner markers, and made their way past the group to mark most of the corners.
It was the first time Dianna and I have done an organised ride, and we were impressed with the whole trip. We stayed in great hotels, enjoyed delicious food, visited amazing attractions and enjoyed excellent riding on challenging roads through stunning scenery. We would like to offer our heartfelt thanks to Miles, Bpuk, Paul and Tamika from Thai Motorcycle tours for a great trip, and would recommend the tour to anyone. http://www.thaimotorcycletouring.com/
Chris & Dianna Glover, #25012 & #31050.