SBS Mag Destination Guide: Thailand

SBS Mag Destination Guide: Thailand

 ALISSA POTTER

Not just a land of beaches and crazy nights out, Thailand is a biking paradise too. Andy Davidson will try to convince you to fly out, rent a bike and enjoy all the country has to offer a motorcyclist…

Why would I go there?

Welcome to the Land of Smiles! Thailand is the tourism capital of south-east Asia and for good reason: beautiful beaches, friendly people, delicious food, incredible culture and jaw-dropping scenery. But it’s also home to some of the best biking routes and roads in the world. Thailand’s got it all, from insane enduro to switchback mountain tarmac that makes Germany’s B500 look like the M25.

The roads are fast and smooth, carved into cliffs, snake over mountains and you can chase them forever through forests and jungles while spotting elephants and dodging wild monkeys.

There is one route that sits high above the rest – literally: The Mae Hong Son Loop. Not only is this mountainous paradise one of the best riding roads in Thailand, the Mae Hong Son Loop is one of the best motorcycle rides in the world. Seriously, it’s that good. The sheer amount of twists, turns, twirls and curls are ridiculous.

You’ll love Thailand. It’s easy to fly in, the weather is gorgeous, it’s cheap to live, cheap to rent motorcycles and go on tours, the riding is out-of-this-world and it’s a beautiful place to be.

Where is it?

Thailand lies in the heart of Southeast Asia. It’s bordered to the west by Myanmar, the east by Cambodia and Laos and the southern tip by Malaysia. It’s easy to fly to, easy to cross borders into neighbouring countries (apart from Myanmar, that takes a little more work) and extremely easy to get around. The best riding is up in the north of the country and Chiang Mai is the place to make a base.

What is there to do?

What isn’t there to do! Thailand has it all: beautiful sunkissed beaches and warm water, delicious food, jaw-dropping mountains, jungles, wildlife and scenery, but most importantly, some of the best riding roads in the world!

How do I ride there?
It’s a long old way if you’re planning on riding to Thailand from the UK. Plus, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get foreign-registered bikes into the country (getting a southeast Asian-plated bike in is fine though). The best option is to fly to Thailand and rent a bike. The country is very well set up for motorcycle tourists and there are impressively good rental and tour shops throughout the country that cater for all your motorcycling desires, from gnarly jungle off-roading to big bike touring.

Know before you go…
Thailand is 100% on the ball with tourism so getting a visa is easy. Foreigners get a free 30-day exemption on arrival at both land borders and airports. You can enter via land border twice in a calendar year using a 30-day visa exemption.

There isn’t a restriction on 30-day visa exemptions when entering at an airport. Visas can be extended at immigration too, but if you want to stay much longer, then it’s worth getting a tourist visa from the Thai embassy before you travel.

You will need to take your passport, driving licence, an International Driving Permit (available from the Post Office for around £5) and it’s definitely worth taking out personal travel insurance that fully covers you to ride a motorcycle abroad.

Top Tips…

  1. Thailand is full of red raw backpackers who have never ridden a bike but decide to rent and ride scooters in flip flops. It’s too hot for full-on gear so take appropriate mesh and ventilated kit with you or rent/buy it there.
  2. Local SIM cards can be purchased in 7 Eleven stores and it’s easy to top up there too.
  3. Carry your International Driving Permit at all times. It’s not worth the fine if you’re caught without it.
  4. Always keep your wits about you on fast roads. Drivers can be erratic and love overtaking with only inches to spare.
  5. Pack waterproofs as the weather can change rapidly. Watch out for dangerous thunderstorms as well.

Andy and Alissa gave up their lives in the UK to travel round-the-world. They left on January 1 2018, have ridden 45,000 miles so far and are somewhere in Southeast Asia. Follow their adventures at www.madornomad.com or on social media as Mad or Nomad.