May, 2010

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The Big Biker-Scene in Thailand

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

© 2010 Frank P. Schneidewind


Most motorcycles in Thailand are one-cylinder minibikes with a cubic centimeter displacement of 100 to 125 ccm. A few larger bikes with 175 ccm engines are imported too, but they rather belong to the small bike class, as mentioned before. The few big bikes (multi-cylinder and 350 to 1500 ccm) are few, but their riders often organize in groups and gangs. Just by looking at them, there is hardly a difference between them and their counterparts in Europe or North America. Having traveled in excess of 40.000 Kilometers on Southeast Asian roads with a large bike myself, I have participated in a number of joyrides and outings with a variety of rocker- and biker-gangs.

Right here around my present residence in Pathum Thani is much playground for street bikers as roads are still in a nice condition, but a lot less congested than in Bangkok. My bike is a 4 cylinder YAMAHA Special with gear drive and 650 ccm, the perfect touring bike for 2 adults and powerful enough to task extensive tours into the countryside.

Melona and me enjoyed riding along with friends from various gangs over many years. We never joined any of them, but they accepted us in their crowd for any rides, we liked to participate in.

Outings were usually in bulks of around 10 machines. Larger groups slow down the driven speed quite a lot and our personal daily driven distance of around 300 KM allowed us to head out to Korat, Kanchanaburi or Kaeng Krachan with them. Longer trips were done in the past, but I’m a cruiser, not a racer and so we reduced our covered distances to about that much. Formerly we participated in biker events in Phuket or Chiang Mai, but the long drives were tiring and the discipline of Thai truckers and pickup pilots doesn’t allow for any driving errors – one is constantly watching out, not to be killed by those uncivilized and untrained dudes. DUI’s are plentiful (if not standard in the ‘Land of Drunk Drivers’) and we have been victimized by intoxicated hit-and-run Thai pickup drivers in the past.

Biker meetings somewhere in the boonies, were always hardcore fun. The mega meetings in Phuket, Pattaya or Chiang Mai did not tickle our fancy so much. Prices locally were escalating (especially in Phuket) to a point, where we just quit going to those. The less publicized meetings were really cool and we treasure our memories from those.

Some biker ladies traveled from as far as Ubon Rachathani to the big bike meet in Kaeng Krachan, where our party was held at the Army Special Forces Training Camp. Many bikers wore their gang-vests (colors) and were showing off their insignias and emblems. Parties are usually held on weekends and always overnight. Resorts nearby, guest-houses or tents were at hand.

Big bikes are a rare commodity in the Kingdom and every large bike has been imported individually, there are no dealerships for any bikes bigger than 175 ccm in Thailand, due to some outdated import-laws.


Some customized bikes looked cool on the road, but they sure are a bummer to handle on any less than perfect terrain. Chopper-culture in Thailand is not a thing of the past, but realized by a chosen few, which undergo the work and finances to modify their rides.

With our Ayutthaya Cowboy friends, we partied several times on occasion. Their Cowboy and Indian Biker Festival in Ayutthaya may be featured in an upcoming report on SIAMPEDIA.

Bangkok’s gangs were always present in force. Almost every larger district in the capital is home to at least one big bike gang. Foreign bikers are rare at these events, you can meet plenty of them in Phuket or Pattaya, but we were not the least bit into gang-wars and bar-fights and felt at all times very comfy with our Thai biker friends. Cruises with a social background were common, our friends collected for school-toilets to be constructed in some remote locations, or orphanages and such. A concert at night was almost always arranged and over the past years, we have had the chance to witness some of Thailand’s top-musicians and singers during those events.

Ladies are almost as much a part of a biker-party, as the bikers themselves! Some even ride their own big bikes to these events. The larger events do sport some hired sexy dancers, which rock around either on the stage or in the dance corral. Some of those late night pictures are sure not suitable for minors, but I can assure you, that the biker events are a fun-filled type of entertainment, and the competition between dancers on different stages or prepared pick-up trucks is quite something!

My personal bike, that is in my care since the Millennium, will be sold in the foreseeable future. If anyone is interested in an older, but very dependable 4 cyl. Yamaha Special 650 – just contact me. Our family grew just recently and sidecars for larger bikes are no option for traffic in Thailand!

Genting Highlands, Pahang – Malaysia

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

© 2010 Frank P. Schneidewind

 

 

The Titiwangsa mountain range in peninsular Malaysia is home to a number of tourist attractions and their beauty and scenery has a lot of appeal to locals and visitors alike. From the city of Ipoh to the boundaries of Kuala Lumpur, there are quite a few places on the touristic map. The Cameron Highlands 120 Kilometers south of Ipoh draw a lot of nature lovers, hikers and are the furthest from Kuala Lumpur (210 KM). Fraser’s Hill is located in the same mountain range, it is a famous trail head for hikers and a former colonial mining outpost in 1.500 m elevation above sea level. Fraser’s Hill is located some 105 KM north of Kuala Lumpur. Subject of our little report here is the southernmost of these 3 mountain tourist attractions, the famed Genting Highlands. Just one hour by car from downtown KL, the Genting Highlands are easily accessible via multi-lane highways. They peak out at somewhere around 1.800 m above sea level, so the climate is considerably cooler than in the capital KL down at the foothills.

City of Entertainment is what they call this, and 20 Million visitors in 2009 prove that. One person, a Chinese born Malay by the name of Lim Goh Tong started the developments here in the 60′s. His development grew over the years into a gambler’s retreat for non-muslim Malays with 6 hotels and casinos on the mountaintop. It is presently run by his son, who is also controlling Star Cruises (cruise ship line in Asia) and resorts in Sentosa (Singapore) as well as Manila (Philippines).

Quite interesting are the variety of temples with Indian and Chinese themes once you reach the upper part and the developed area on this mountain-range. Hikers and nature lovers are really not catered for here. They rather retreat to the formerly mentioned mountain resorts, which SIAMPEDIA will cover in future photo reports.

The temperature up here is significantly cooler and also much more humid, quite often the entire peak is in clouds and it rains excessively. On all my trips up here, I had very few chances to stay dry once I ventured outside the Hotel and Casino complexes. So we resorted to some photos taken from a helicopter or so from the resort’s own website (press-releases) to show the layout here from a bird’s eye-view. Our own picture material produced too often the reality as shown below: (note the gigantic fern up here!)

 

There is an overpriced golf course on the premises, but we had a problem locating any nature-trailhead or hiking trail on the mountainslopes. Everything appears a bit artificial here and visitors that want to venture off the beaten path, encounter quickly angry looking guards with guns and signage relating to the use of firearms in case of trespassing.

A city in the clouds. That is the view for the few wealthy gamblers, wich are being ferried here by helicopter:

The hotels are all quite large, but their most recent hotel addition trumps it all:

All hotels are connected by walkways and tunnels and a western style amusement park has been added for kids and teens:

A cable-car system connects the bus terminal with the resort area. Buses from KL stop short of the peak, but for 5 Ringgit (1,20 €/ 1.50 $) passengers can enjoy the Genting Skyway, Asia’s longest and fastest cable-car system. Buses to here depart from Pudu Raya or KL Sentral Station in 30 minute intervals. The bus transfer time to the bottom station of the Skyway is about one hour.

Rollercoasters for all ages and waterslides add up to a playground that no one would expect to exist on a mountaintop, surrounded by rainforest.

Shops, boutiques and snackerias fill the halls between the hotels.

Rides indoors guarantee some entertainment, if the weather outside is less than perfect. High winds and storms are not uncommon here.

Mountainclimbing can’t be done outdoors, but the set-ups in the hallways provide some form of activity opportunities for cliffhangers as well.

 

Really spectacular are some sunsets here, such as this one shown. Our friend Sausa has taped one of those great sunsets, where the sun actually vanishes below your position.