Experiencing Adventure riding in Thailand

Kawasaki Versys Thailand

Kawasaki Versys ThailandAfter watching the likes of Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman taking their motorcycle trips around the world in The Long Way Down and The Long Way Round, being a motorcycle enthusiast you cannot watch these shows and not be inspired by the allure of these awesome trips, so taking on the proposition of Adventure riding in Asia was a massive draw for me.

Thailand and it’s neighbouring countries offer such an experience. Many tourists flock to Thailand just to rent large capacity touring motorcycles such as a Kawasaki Versys to explore the country on two wheels.

Given my plan to stay in the country as long as humanly possible, I scoured many Facebook pages looking to buy a bike. I wanted something comfortable, and after hiring a Z800 from Big Bike Rentals in Bangkok it was apparant that this style of bike would not cut it for a long haul.

I ended up narrowing my search to either a Honda CB500X or a Kawasaki Versys 650cc. This got narrowed further to only the Versys because of the fact that these bikes are extremely popular with Thai’s customising them with many accessories like panniers, communication gear and crash bars. The Versys can be quite a bit heavier than the CB500X given it’s larger capacity, but this also equates to nicer highway riding with a pillion.

Long Tail Boat Kaeng Krachan National Park Phetchaburi Dam WallManaging to pick up a 2013 model with 20’000km on the clock, hard side panniers, top box, communication gear, crash bars and a service history for 225’000THB had me ready to prepare for my first trip north.

Getting the bike registered in my name with insurance was not different to getting a car done so with that taken care off, it was time to prep the bike.

It had not had a service in over 8000km, so first on the list was to dump the old black engine oil and drop a new oil filter onto it. Next came a coolant change, and new brake pads for the rear. A new air filter and spark plugs finished off the process, finally costing me 4000THB in parts.

Off to the local Global House I went next, checking the self service isles for a basic tool kit to take with me. I ended up with a few multi tools, zip ties, electrical tape, vice grips and pliers. Combine this with the factory tools and I now have tools to fix most problems that may arise along the way. Another major addition to this considering the condition of roads in Thailand was a puncture repair kit.

Samoeng Loop Chiang MaiNow I have a Thai drivers and motorcycle Licence, insurance and registration on the bike, as well as my IDP, so in theory there should not be any problems while traveling with police, but hey this is Thailand after all so always carry some extra cash on your just in-case.

So far I have been putting some local km’s on the bike, to get used to how it feels, and also riding it in different conditions, heat, stop start, rain etc to make sure no gremlins surface before my first jaunt to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai for the Loy Krathong lantern festival. This trip will be 6 days, and cover approximately 1784km. Read about the trip here.

Veerubber tyres Thailand Kawasaki VersysNow one major mistake I made in preparing for riding in Thailand was my safety gear. I opted to buy a new helmet locally, which had to be ordered in considering I have a small head compared with Thai nationals. The major part of the mistake was all my riding gear, jacket, boots, gloves etc. I thought I would save myself money and not buy these items locally and instead get my personal gear sent from Australia via DHL. In itself this was a costly process, the courier along was close to $250AUD, which in my mind was OK as it was still below what I would have spent on gear here.

Once the box of personal goodies arrived at customs in Thailand, I was stung with 6800THB in import duties. This brought the grand total of shipping to closer to $500AUD. I could have happily bought new gear for this price so please be aware of the 50% duty on imported items even if they are personal and second hand.

Kicking off with some basics, Ayutthaya (officially Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya) is actually a province 80km or 1.5hrs north of Bangkok and is covered by World Heritage listing by UNESCO. Ayutthaya, was the seat of the Kingdom of Siam and a prosperous trading port from the 14th century until it was razed by the Burmese in 1767. The old city ruins, with Buddhist temples, monasteries and statues, now form Ayutthaya Historical Park. Somehow after being in Thailand for some time, Ayutthaya alluded me but I have finally made the pilgrimage to the old city after much anticipation. What I was expecting to see, was a combination of Chiang Mai's city ruins, with perhaps the visual impact of Cambodian ruins. Well I got what I was wishing for. The Historical Park sites on an area of 289 ha. Extremely large, many tourists take the opportunity to rent bicycles to allow them to cover the who area with more ease. With the area founded c. 1350, Ayutthaya became the second Siamese capital after Sukhothai. It was unfortunately destroyed by the Burmese in the 18th century. Its remains, characterized by the prang (reliquary towers) and gigantic monasteries, give an idea of its past splendor. Ayutthaya is usually visited as part of a packaged day trip out of Bangkok, which usually includes stops at the Bang Pa In palace as well as the Bang Sai royal arts center. You can easily spend a day exploring the whole park, or simply have a quick stop and still feel fulfilled by what you will have seen. The park is relatively low pressure compared to many other tourist places in Thailand. Being able to photograph the gigantic monasteries as the sun sets gives a whole new perspective to the place, only to be outdone by visiting the outer perimeter and shooting some night photos when all of the temples are light by spotlights bringing out the magnificent shadows and details turning it into quite an eerie place.With the temperatures in Thailand being in mid to high 30’s wearing full riding gear even when moving can be pretty brutal. Always make sure you keep well hydrated to avoid dehydration headaches, and always take a second tee-shirt because even after riding 30 minutes in a leather jacket your shirt will be soaked in sweat.

Storms like they are in the wet season in Thailand, either having wet weather gear or an open time frame to be able to stop during the rain is always good. From experience the skies normally only open up for about 30 minutes then it will stop, but it’s still long enough to get soaked through if not prepared.

Adventure riding in Thailand can always be rewarding, but remember to always ride within your limits and the bikes limits.

Having an off and expecting an ambulance to turn up with any urgency doesn’t happen here, and depending where you are may not even happen at all.

Check with your travel insurance also to ensure you are covered for Adventure Riding, even if it’s riding a rental bike or scooter.