"Thailand & Vietnam, December 2002"


We had been planning for a while to visit South East Asia and when our friends Nathalie and Manu invited us to visit them in Hanoi for New Year’s, we quickly decided to combine it with a 10-day run on rental bikes through Northern Thailand which had been described to us as some of the best motorcycling terrain in the world. We were not disappointed, the roads were insanely twisty, the scenery was as spectacular as it was diverse, the locals were extremely pleasant and the food was great. (I know I have written these exact things about other places already, but I seem to be a bit short on adequately enthusiastic adjectives).

We rode in a small group comprising Christiane from Germany, James from England, ourselves, and our guide, Reed Resnikoff, the owner of Asian Motorcycle Adventures. The bikes were mostly Aprilia Pegaso’s although I had to trade mine for a 250cc Yamaha after a pretty nasty crash on the fourth day which left the bike in need of lenghty repairs and myself with a slight concussion. (I tried to nurse it with a bottle of Mekong rice whisky, an unbelievably bad idea resulting in a « Mekoncussion » the following day).

The tour was well organized although once I realized how good the infrastructures in Thailand are, I couldn’t help thinking that we could have organized a similar run by ourselves, even in the short time we had available. Still, if you only have ten days or a couple of weeks, the easiest and safest way to enjoy a totally foreign county on a motorcycle is probably a guided tour with a support vehicle ( I know some people that won’t agree at all, so what, we’re just lazy, and it was certainly nice to have a replacement bike available right after crashing the first one). Ellen loved it since we didn’t have to worry about anything, the pace wasn’t too hectic and she very much liked the Aprilia.

We rode more or less clockwise around Northern Thailand, starting in Chiang Mai, riding along part of the borders with Burma (which we visited for an afternoon) and Laos. Especially the Burmese border was heavily guarded as there are regular skirmishes between the two nations, although everything seemed quiet during our passage.

After finishing the tour, we enjoyed the markets and nightlife of Chiang Mai for a couple of days, also spending an evening with a group of adventure bikers (Greg Frazier, among others) from different parts of the world that had congregated in Chiang Mai to ride the famous Mae Hong Son Loop and other equally spectacular roads.

We then proceeded to fly to Hanoi to meet up with Nathalie and Manu in order to celebrate New Year’s with a group of friends from Luxembourg that were also visiting Vietnam. After a dhow visit to Halong Bay, the partying continued for a few days, slowly subsiding as more and more people of the group left Hanoi to explore the rest of the country. We had decided to stick around and rent motorcycles once more (Minsk 125 cc two stroke’s) in order to visit Mai Chao, a picturesque village located in the mountains about 120 km out of Hanoi.


We spent the night there and had a great time the following morning driving around in the rice paddies, accompanied by a local biker. The trip back to Hanoi took us five hours, as it had started raining heavily and the « road » was partially collapsed, flooded with mud and totally congested for most of the way. By the time we arrived in Hanoi, we were pretty much deep frozen and drenched, it was pitch dark and still raining which made surviving the insane traffic even more challenging. The traffic conditions in Chiang Mai were already chaotic but riding dog-tired through Hanoi an a busy evening in pouring rain beats any video game.

Two days later, it was time to fly back home. Another great trip was over, but we will certainly return to South East Asia. There is still much to see…


Ellen & Manou