“VIETNAM, LAOS AND THAILAND” TOUR
2019 Guided Tour — Book this tour as a Scheduled Guided Tour or as a custom Private Group Tour. —
By Wayne McKinnon
Don’t ask me how I ended up there or why I needed this trip, but I did. I’ve traveled to many places, but Asia was one of the last places on earth that I ever imagined travelling to. I had seen the Hollywood movies that can easily lead one to believe that any place outside of your hometown is fraught with danger. I’ve seen The Hangover Part II… I now find that perception laughable. I came away from my experience among the population in this part of Asia with a new appreciation for people, their ways, and their kindness, and the calm among what appears in the traffic circles to be absolute chaos.
“Ok everybody, here are some fun facts: The population in Thailand is 63 million people, it is twice the size of Wyoming, none of you know Stu like I do…” – Zach Galifianakis (from the movie The Hangover Part II)
Bike Tour Asia offers a combination guided or self guided tours. I chose the guided tour. My bike trips are usually solo adventures often lasting many months without much planning, so this was a new experience for me in many ways. I looked at this option much like when I first skied Canada’s rocky mountains. I was already an accomplished skier but I joined a ski school in order to cut lift lines with the instructor and get the most runs in. As an added benefit I was shown some of the out of the way places and spectacular trails that I would never have found on my own. In Asia rather than just connect the dots between popular tourist destinations, I also wanted that added bonus of local knowledge of obscure places the throngs of tourists just don’t go.
When we landed at the airport in Chiang Mai, a Northern city in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains, we were met with open arms and taken to a spectacular hotel inside the city’s ancient walls. From there we were taken to Bike Tour Asia’s headquarters where we met up with our BWW bikes and crew for a pre-ride briefing and shakedown ride back to the hotel in order to become familiar with the local traffic customs. The rest of the day we were on our own to walk around Chiang Mai and see the sights (something interesting enough that I chose to spend an extra week doing more of at the end of my tour.)
The next morning we headed for the hills and our tour of through the three countries of Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Our particular tour was designed with a mix of challenging roads to exercise our BMW GS motorcycles all terrain capabilities, as well as some of the best pavement and mountain passes in the world.
Bike tour Asia has many packages depending on which part of Asia you want to spend time in, and they types of roads that you want to experience. Our particular tour was a combination of remote villages, local cuisine and spectacular hotels. The juxtaposition of sights and sounds mad the experience something that I will never forget.
THE LOCAL CUISINE
Common questions that I get from my North American friends seem to revolve around food, and I have to admit that was one of my initial concerns as well. I was raised on roast beef and mashed potatoes. About the most adventurous food in our hose hold growing up was a sprinkle of black pepper, or, if we were really daring we’d add a touch of horseradish, so you can understand why I was concerned about the spices.
On our first evening together our guides ordered for us, selecting a combination of tame, somewhat spicy and really adventurous foods for us to sample, and throughout the tour they took care of our needs in this way. As a result I was slowly introduced to more and more dishes and local cuisine from each area. I stretched my comfort zone when I wanted to and they helped me play it safe when I wanted that, particularly the next morning after getting into some bad tequila the night before, at least I think the tequila had gone bad, I couldn’t think of any other reasons for feeling the way that I did after drinking heavily on an empty stomach.
I’m a compulsive do-it-yourselfer but I have to say, for the first time in my life going on a multi day motorcycle tour and only having to worry about where I left my helmet was refreshing. We were pampered at each hotel, we roughed it for lunch in some remote villages for variety, and travelled at our own pace, meeting up at forks in the road to regroup when necessary. Bike Tour Asia also offers self guided packages which include a BMW bike and pre-programmed GPS if you prefer to travel that way.
Since our tour included four border crossing, our guides sent paperwork and handlers ahead so that we could clear quickly. This is something that is impossible for a solo traveler in some regions since it not only involves personal paperwork for each rider, but also the importation of bikes. You can’t just show up at the border with a passport and expect to ride through on your own. As a licenced tour company with guides licensed in each country, border crossings were a non-issue for us. I hadn’t appreciated until learning more about the region, what huge value travelling with Bike Tour Asia provides in this regard.
I have ridden almost every “must-do” highway in North America from Florida to the Arctic Ocean, and from California to Canada’s east coast. Highway 1 in California is nice, the blue ridge parkway and tail of the dragon are interesting, the Bear tooth pass through the Rocky mountains into Montana is a nice experience, but Canada’s Gaspe Peninsula is spectacular enough to make those other roads a yawn.
With that North American perspective in place, believe me when I say that in comparison to the roads that I experienced back home, the ones in Northern Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, makes riding in North America almost seam like a waste of time. Riding in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains and onto the plains of Vietnam is that good!