Riding Motorcycles in Thailand (Long Distance Trips)

Yamaha Mio, Thailand
I love riding the motorcycle (motorsai, motorbike) all over Thailand. I have not ever rented a car in the almost 3 years I’ve been here.

I bought a new Mio “ZR” (I think is the model), when they came out last year and it’s basically like a moped. Nothing new to learn. If you can ride a bicycle you can ride a Yamaha Mio.

I’ve not met anyone that goes the places I do on my motorcycle. In the states I’ve had motorcycles on and off, sometimes I told my family about them and sometimes not. Usually not since the older brother of a friend on the street where I grew up smashed headfirst into a telephone pole and killed himself and his best-friend passenger.

I don’t like driving a car in Thailand for a number of reasons:

  • The car to me is MORE dangerous because I don’t know if it’s been maintained properly. In Thailand my automatic guess is that it has NOT. Thais’ DON’T take care of their vehicles – as a rule. As the LAW actually. I think they’re prohibited from doing simple oil changes and spark plug changes, brake checks, etc.
  • The car is more of a liability to me because if I crash it I’ll pay a lot more.
  • It’s easier to hit people on the motorcycles since they’re everywhere and sometimes unpredictable.
  • The trucks, buses, other cars and other trucks are less forgiving with other cars on the road than they are with motorbikes. I think the theory is that – people in vehicles KNOW they can easily kill someone on the motorcycle and they’ve seen it happen hundreds of times in their lifetimes so they’re more careful, and give more leeway.
  • With a car I can’t just park ANYWHERE like I do with the motorcycle. I can’t just stop anywhere I want either which is pretty Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for me because I love to take digital photos and when I see something that is interesting I MUST stop and see – just how interesting is it? During a 2 hour trip on the motorbike I might stop 2-10 times for photos and/or digital video.
  • I’m a bit leery of sitting on the right side of the car and driving on the left side of the road. With the motorcycle I learned the drive on the left side part – no worries. I’ve only had a few near misses as I drove head on into traffic when my mind switched countries for a few seconds.

I’ve driven the motorcycle all over Thailand and I’ve had a blast. I’ve gone from Bangkok to Surat Thani, Surat Thani to Nakhon Si Thammarat, Surat to Krabi, Krabi to Patong, Patong to Phangna, Phangna to Surat, Pattaya to Bangkok, Ubon to Khon Kaen and back, Ubon to Chong Mek (Laos border crossing), Ubon to Sisaket to Surin to Buriram to Chantaburi to Rayong and back to Pattaya, Surat Thani to Ko Samui and back many times.

I’ve gone so many places and I rarely ever see a farang on a motorcycle. During any long trip – 4 hours or more I might see one. Usually it’s a guy and he’s on a rented Harley style motorbike. It’s good to see SOMEONE else on a motorcycle and it makes me wonder WHERE IS EVERYONE ELSE?

Don’t tourists take short day trips to different places around Thailand without going by car, van, bus or train? There’s a lot of freedom in taking the motorcycle as you can stop anywhere you choose, go as far as you want in one day or stop 3 times during the day, stay overnight in a small town and meet cool people… everything is “up to you”, which is what I like.

I’ve taken a large backpack, a small backpack and another medium sized backpack on the motorbike when I go someplace long distance. The big backpack fits on the floor of the Mio – it’s flat and you can jam the backpack down in there. It comes up to about your seat level. Then I put another backpack on top of that one and put one on my back. I only need one waterproof cover for the backpack on the top of the big one because the Mio’s shell protects the big bag from rain and the one on my back is blocked by my body. My body doesn’t get that wet because the small bag is in front of my chest and blocking the rain, and my legs are covered by the Mio shell. My arms get wet, that’s about it… unless it’s really pouring hard – then I stop anyway.

Caveman stoplight (traffic light) in ThailandFor me the best thing about riding the motorcycle instead of a car or other form of transportation is that I get to see places that I wouldn’t otherwise. I have gone up and down streets of towns just to see what’s there. I’ve pulled into dirt roads that had a sign for a Wat (temple) that I’d never have gone down with a rental car and that nobody would take me to if I was in public transportation.

I don’t know how many temples I’ve seen as a result of just spontaneously turning off the road to explore them but I guess maybe I’ve seen 100 temples in nearly 3 years? It seems like a lot, but man, I’ve seen a lot of temples. I try not to miss one. I remember one place I was up on a hill at a temple and I looked down into the city below… I counted 17 separate temples… so I had to go find all of them and take photos.

Some people think that the motorcycles are not safe to ride here. Most people don’t go over 40-50 kilometers on their motorcycle in Thailand. Even grown guys in their 20’s and 30’s. Why IS that? I worked with some teachers in Suratthani that just refused to take the motorcycle anywhere further than about 50km. There were SO many waterfalls and caves that could be found if one just went a bit outside that 50km radius. Some did, but overall it sounded like nobody really had fun riding that far. I don’t know, for me – the journey is half or more of the trip. Sometimes it’s the ENTIRE point of the trip since Thailand is not known for it’s road signs. I’ve ventured off to find a waterfall or hotspring many times and been disappointed to find no signs, and no local Thai people that could tell me WHERE the attraction was. Seriously, sometimes they could be living next to the waterfall and not be able to tell you where it is. My Thai is decent now, it’s not a language thing – It’s a Thai thing. No signs, if there are signs they’ll almost never (90%) tell you HOW FAR you have to drive…

Anyway… so sometimes the point of the trip becomes the trip itself. How fun is it in a car or van or bus? For me not fun at all. I hate the way Thais drive vans and buses in this country – so much so that I refuse to ride in another one. So many brainless moves I’ve seen and I’ve nearly become a statistic. Seriously consider any other option avaialable to you when you travel – even renting a motorcycle and going!

Motorcycle travel in Thailand is exciting, adventurous, and there’s always something you see that is better than you’d see riding in a car or other vehicle since you can go more places more easily… spontaneously… that’s the key for me – being able to see something and GO. Must be the Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)!

The other key for me is being in control of my vehicle. I trust myself so much more than I trust anyone else. I also know that my motorcycle is checked every 2000 km at the Yamaha dealer. I make sure they check things that they wouldn’t normally check. The brakes on the Mio are fairly good with the disc brake in front, but a dual-disc brake motorcycle would be even better if you can find one.

Ok then – take a motorcycle around Thailand, you’ll see so much that you probably wouldn’t see otherwise. You’ll meet people you wouldn’t have otherwise. You’ll take photos you wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.

You’ll enjoy the TRIP as much as the destination in some cases!
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Other articles I’ve written about driving in Thailand:

Motorbike Driving in Thailand >

Driving in Thailand: Motorbikes, Cars, Trucks, GOD!

Thailand’s Roadkill… YOU!

Article written by Jason at Isaan Style about a Girl in Accident with Motorbike

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Author: Vern

I'm an American expat living in Thailand. I like to write informative pieces about life in, living in Thailand, including topics like: Thai People, Thai Culture, Nightlife, Technology, and I have published a lot of photographs, videos, and even books on Thailand that you can find at ThailandeBooks.com. There are many photographs of Thailand here - feel free to share with attribution (a link back to the home page). All written content on this site by Vern Lovic. Contact me at Google+.

10 thoughts on “Riding Motorcycles in Thailand (Long Distance Trips)”

  1. Nice post, thanks. I have put 25,000km on my 250cbr in Thailand in the last 3 years (not only my daily transportation, but my hobby) and have been places I think no other foreigner has ever been (according to the locals). Hope to meet you under an overpass some rainy day…

    1. Hi Craig,

      I’m not on the motorbike near as much as I used to be, but I have put another 100,000 km on ’em in the 7 years since I’ve written this. Wait, more… We’ve had 4 motorbikes since that first one.

      Now we are in the car a lot, and not loving life as much.

      Best to you. Stay safe…

  2. This is funny to read, because I’m European and used to feel the same way vis a vis the United States. In Europe, pedestrians are holy; in the US, they’re roadkill.

    Then again, when I was in Thailand, I certainly did hear mai pen rai a lot. One time, I’d hailed a motorcycle taxi in Bangkok, who got a bit too close to a real taxi (the kind with FOUR wheels). I hit the taxi’s mirror with my elbow; my driver turned around and said “mai pen rai” with an apologetic smile on his face.

    I love Thailand.

  3. Vern, those flat bed scooters are Taiwan style, with CVTs (constant velocity transmission). Kymko in Taiwan (and others) makes a really nice 250cc scooter – big fast and comfortable. but, the versions made for Taiwan have tiny tires because we cannot drive them on the highways. the Thai versions of those scooters have large wheels for long distance and higher speed traveling.

    Hui-chen and i have traveled hundreds of kilometers in Thailand and Laos on those 4 speed Honda waves. as long as you are alert, expect the worse and prepare for it, and keep your cool, you will be OK.

  4. Hi anonymous – I think that was this story about Thailand’s Roadkill, YOU! if I’m not mistaken. I think that was the article. Yeah man, disgusting… but it’s not the whole country… but it IS a rather prevalent problem among drivers making little cash and with few scruples. Stay safe! – Vern

  5. Vern,
    do you remember the story about the big truck and the boyfriend & girlfreind on their motorbike/motorcycle ? I think I saw it on your blog.

  6. Hi Lillian,

    Ah yeah, you know – there is no about – because my girlfriend and i both blog with our one blogger login – so to have an about – which would we use – my crazy profile or her thai cooking blog profile? neither would match everyone so we don’t have one. I will add a link to ABOUT though -and create another page at my main site http://www.thaipulse.com – you’re right – there definitely should be one –

    Thanks for reading – yeah, it’s a long post… Most of my stuff is quite long-winded. Too long usually!

    Ok – enjoy your weekend too, I added you to RSS.

    Vern

  7. Hi.. looong post.. sorry only read the beginning :-) Where is your ‘about’ section? thanx for dropping in on my blog.. hope your weekend turns out to be loads of fun !

  8. You know which ones are nice now? The Yamaha Nouvo is nice – but a bit bigger – it’s more comfy for long trips – but the reason I didn’t get it is because my girlfriend is very tiny and the Mio fits her when she’s on her own. The Nouvo is going to be nicer for the long haul. But, newer Nouvos – not sure they have a flat step area for your feet – check it out. They DO have a big compartment under the seat to stash groceries or whatever. A helmet even fits. The Mio – has a very small compartment under the seat that fits a folded up long sleeved shirt and the paperwork for the bike. The Nouvo is heavier and doesn’t stop as quickly – that was the other factor in getting the Mio. HONDA also came out with some new automatics that are nice – but I think no flat step like the Mio – which I really like… The mio starts around 38000 b I think. The nouvos were a bit more maybe another 4000 baht? The new Hondas are in the same range though maybe for one with extras 50,000 baht. Good luck! Vern

  9. Hey, I am looking into buying something like that to supplement the
    Honda Wave the wife is puttering to and from the market on.

    How much do you pay for that model, and is the compartment under the seat
    usabele for anything? (size).

    Like you I will be using it everywhere, and probably some longer trips too :-)

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