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.
For 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!
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