Now, before your mind races off to connect ‘guys’, ‘Thailand’ and ‘fun’ to make you roll your eyes knowingly, let me hasten to add that our idea of fun involved leather and rubber. Before your eyebrows disappear further into your hairline, let me rapidly add — the rubber of tyres and the leather of protective motorcycle riding suits.
We’d arrived in Bangkok for the start of a high octane, triple-digit road trip on machines that often turns grown men into putty. I was almost moved to tears of joy when we arrived at Real Motorsports in Bangkok and saw the bikes that had been selected for us. These were sleek yet rugged 650cc and 1000cc Kawasakis that seemed to be chomping at the bit, even while parked.
Personally, I was quite nervous at the start of this whole affair because for the last decade and a half all my biking has been restricted to a Royal Enfield.
In effect, swinging a leg over the Kawasaki Ninja 650 was like jumping onto a frisky racehorse after 14 years of riding a docile cart horse. But a few kilometres on the Ninja and I realised that though this bike was faster in terms of speed and acceleration, it was also very confidence-inspiring thanks to its wide rear tyre, ABS brakes and the ergonomics of the whole bike.
Within an hour and 100 km of leaving Bangkok, as we crossed into the Nakhon Nayok province of Thailand, we ran into a tempestuous tropical thunderstorm complete with brilliant multi-veined lightening flashes and high decibel thunder rolls. This is when our pathfinder Sami just crouched a little lower and kept riding into the rain at 120kph, making it immensely clear that this wasn’t going to be a namby-pamby road trip where at the first sign of rain we’d be handed dry towels and served hot Tom-Yum soup.
I am glad it was like that because one of the thrills of motorcycling is not being shielded from the elements and taking the weather as it comes in your stride. We finally hung up leathers at the Wangtaparb Resort, spread across the two banks of the Sai Yai River.
The next morning, we put on jackets and helmets of another kind and went rushing down the rip-roaring Sai Yai River, propelled by some lethargic paddle-power but mostly pushed along by hydropower over grade 3 rapids. At places where the water was calm, most of us jumped off the boat into the cool green waters and floated with the flow. Refreshed and buzzing from the morning’s activity, it was back to horsepower in the afternoon.
The previous day’s ride had been mostly across straight and flat motorways. Today’s ride crossed over into the province of Nakhon Ratchasima and went through the wonderfully twisty and undulating tarmac of the Khao Yai National Park — absolutely fantastic on a big and eager bike. Our halt in the park was at the Haew Narok Waterfall, the largest in the park and tumbling down 150 meters over three tiers into the lake below. Khao Yai is one of Thailand’s most famous parks because of its bounty of fauna — gaur, Indian civets, giant squirrels’ gibbons, golden jackals, herds of elephant and the rare clouded leopard.
Our overnight that day was at the lovely Busai Country View Resort about 80km from the park. This resort with luxurious cabins looking out at a lake is managed by the even lovelier Aum, whose mother is a fantastic cook. A testimony to this is the fact that every one of us over-ate that evening. The next morning I awoke to birdsong and a lake washed molten orange by the rising sun.
The region we rode through on the third day was a part of Nakhon Ratchisma, which is popular for its golf resorts and its soil and weather that are very favourable to grape cultivation. The views alternated between symmetrical vineyards and manicured golf courses. The road was a ribbon of tar that twisted and turned through the scenic countryside and since by now all of us were quite comfortable with the bikes, we thoroughly enjoyed leaning them low into corners and accelerating hard out of them.
I wish we had scheduled more time at Ayutthaya on our last day, as this UNESCO world heritage site demands exploration at leisure or at least being there at sunset or sunrise.
Ayutthaya’s name is derived from Ayodhya and even if you arrived here without an inkling of its history, you’d know at once that this city must have once known magnificent greatness. The ruins are so regal that you can easily imagine what the city might have been. On our trip, Ayutthaya was but a short stop on the slog back to Bangkok. But I’ll soon be back for more.
It’s quite straightforward to hire motorcycles in Thailand. Just do your research well about the number of kilometres a day and insurance. For more on motorcycling holidays in Thailand, go to tourismthailand.org
For a 650cc motorcycle, hire and third party insurance for a week would cost between 11000 and 12000 Thai Bahts. A five-day trip would cost about INR 50,000 with lavish food, fuel, boutique Bed & Breakfast places, and motorcycle hire.
The giant pork chops or spare ribs at the Krua Khao Yai Restaurant on Thanarat Road in Nakhon Ratchisma.
The candy store for bikers is Paddock (http://www.paddock.co.th) in Bangkok. In fact, go here before your ride starts.