The fun of exploring a city increases manifold when you have the winds grazing your face while you soak in the scenery, listening to the whirr of the vehicles jostling for a space on the roads. That is when you understand the city or rather get under the skin of the city and see a facet that it uncovers only for the tourist who truly connects with it. This experience can only be attained when you traverse the roads or muddy roads in some cases if Asia is what you have chosen for your motorbiking escapade. Riding a motorbike in Asia will take you to places that are the privileges of only the adventurous traveler. Asia is as diverse a continent as it can be in terms of ethnicity, culture, cuisines, and of course the people. Anything that forms a part of a traveler’s wish-list can be found in Asia; from sandy beaches, ancient temples, breathtaking landscapes, and sumptuous food to motorbike destinations. If you haven’t yet experienced this thrill, then it’s just the time for you to go through this beginners guide to riding a motorbike in Asia.
First thing first
The most critical part of a motorbike trip is your biking skills, for your life depends on it, literally! You need not be as skilled as Indiana Jones or Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, but yes you need to have a fair amount of biking knowledge. You wouldn’t want to break your bones and spend the rest of your trip limping, would you? Once that is out of the way, what you would need to possess is an International Driver’s Licence. Most motorbike locations in Asia wouldn’t even ask you for one, but it is advisable to go ahead on your trip, having one in your wallet. Singapore for one takes the offense of driving a motorbike without a license pretty seriously
Choosing your partner in crime
Oh, it’s not the human partner we are talking about, but the mechanical partner that is going to be your companion in your motorbike adventure, your motorbike. The easiest to manage is an automatic scooter, that you can learn to ride quite soon even if you are a complete novice. A heavy duty bike would call out you to you from the back of the motorbike renting shop, but that is where you should venture only when you are super confident about your riding skills. Rent the bike along with the safety gear like helmets and step out wearing proper footwear and attire that doesn’t run the risk of getting caught in the wheels. So, if you are at a beach destination in your sarong, then it spells disaster in a loud voice.
Where lies the thrill in Asia
The Mae Hong Son Loop, Northern Thailand
If you are an amateur who has just started getting the hang of exploring places on a motorbike, Thailand is where you should start your wanderlust from. The Mae Hong Son Loop has a stretch from Chiang Mai to Pai that can make you feel jittery but once you reach Pai, you can relax and even polish on your riding skills. Misty trails leading up to the peaks cover everything from farmlands to dusty towns and add to the thrill of riding. The trail can be completed easily in 4-5 days and there are enough stopovers on way, including a scenic spot at the river. Mae Chaem is the town where you can halt to refuel and prepare for the long climb to the summit of Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s tallest mountain. The route is easier on one side and challenging on the other and you can pick the starting point depending on your skill set.
- Trail route: Chiang Mai – Chiang Dao – Pai (205km)/ Pai – Soppong – Mae Aw / Ban Rak Thai (125km)/ Ban Rak Thai – Khun Yuam – Mae Sariang – Mae Chaem (200km)/ Mae Chaem – Doi Inthanon – Chiang Mai (175km)
- Loop time: 4-5 days
The Thakhek Loop, Central Laos
A little shorter and lower on the difficulty meter, this motorbike route takes you through awe-inspiring landscapes and caves. This loop interests only the travelers looking to find some offbeat motorbike trails in Laos. Thakek is an industrial town in southern Laos, located between Vientiane and Pakse. Take time to stop over at the famous cave that falls on the Konglor route and is one of the most fascinating caves in Southeast Asia. The rice paddies are interspersed with limestone peaks that come out of the earth, breaking the terrain. The challenging parts of this trail have made it a popular among the bike riding tourists.
- Trail route:Thakhek –Thalang-Khong Lor- Thakhek
- Loop Time: 3 days
Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam
Gracing the bucket list of many a motorbike travelers, the 1,168 miles (1,880 km) trail from Saigon to Hanoi is not for the faint-hearted. You can also take a boat ride across Thu Bon River from the Hoi An market and then bike for the next 30 km. The beauty of the terrain takes your breath away, especially at twilight when the last rays of the sun bounce off the top of stilted wooden houses, to land on the rice fields. In fact, the village of village of Ban Hieu can only be reached by a motorbike. If you are a fan of dirt- biking then this trail would be your paradise as the mud clogged trail takes you through the mountains to several villages. History holds that this trail was used by the Vietcong to supply to the south during the war. This trail requires a heavy-duty motorbike like a Kawasaki or a Yamaha. Attractions on this route include Nam Kham River, villages of Hmong and Khmu, and Bou Sra waterfalls.
- Trail route: Phnom Penh- Luang Prabang
- Loop Time: 17 days (15 riding days + 2 non-riding days)
All said and done, enjoy the ride but don’t drink and drive. Also, spend the first day trying out the bike and yourself on a safe road and an easy route