By: Dr. Gregory Frazier
Having made multiple runs across the globe, round-the-world adventurer Dr. Frazier imparts some of his motorcycle traveling wisdom in his monthly Dr. Frazier Rides column.
(Golden Triangle, Thailand) Rider Heiko Plath said the 7th Annual Horizons Unlimited Meeting in Chiang Mai was “simply amazing.” Thailand, long described by the Tourist Authority of Thailand as “Amazing Thailand,” and the hundreds of motorcyclists Plath was reflecting on during his second attendance at one of these unique motorcycle adventure travel meetings showed he had come to appreciate the culture of motorcycle adventure travel in Southeast Asia.
Plath had first attended the annual Horizons Unlimited Thailand confab in 2012 while wandering around in the Golden Triangle with his BMW sidecar rig. He had driven overland from Germany and the timing of the gathering coincided with his travel plans while passing though Chiang Mai. For the 2013 meeting he had purposely changed travel directions while riding around Borneo and specifically targeted the Horizons Unlimited rendezvous as his destination for January, 2013.
The 2013 Thailand Horizons Unlimited Meeting was officially slated to be a one evening event, Saturday, January 12, to include a dinner and then three presentations by volunteer speakers about their motorcycle travels somewhere on the planet. This type of Horizons Unlimited Meeting was described as a Mini-Meeting as differentiated from the Horizons Unlimited full-blown multi-day meetings that offered day rides, seminars and evening multi-media shows.
Over the years the Thailand Horizons Unlimited Mini-Meeting morphed into more than an evening event, recognizing that many attendees had traveled great distances to mingle and trade travel tales and information for more than one night. Local motorcycle enthusiasts and serious adventure seekers stepped up to sponsor a Welcome Reception for attendees that also served as a mixer for locals to connect and join in the camaraderie of motorcycle travel with other adventure seekers, travelers and dreamers.
Saturday evening the Rider’s Corner Restaurant offered what has been hailed as “Chiang Mai’s Best” All-You-Can-Eat BBQ Buffet for 200 Thai Baht ($7.00 USD).
The 2013 event even morphed by name, now sometimes referred to as the annual “Golden Triangle Rider Meeting.” This reflects the importance of the popular region which many of the attendees had travelled through while attending the Horizons Unlimited Traveller’s Meeting.
This year’s event began with a Friday evening “Welcome Horizons Unlimited Travelers” motorcycle reception sponsored by the Golden Triangle Rider Band. While the soothing quiet of the playlist from the Rider Band CD titled IMAGINE spun songs like Gossip From Baron Loose Lips (Valium enhanced harpist); I’ve Got Heaps Of Old Maps To Sell (Piccolo solo); and Bottom Feeding Fly Fisher And I Catch No Fish, Try SEO Lure (Obo solo), the attendees swilled and chilled for an hour of visual motorcycle entertainment on the four screens of the Rider’s Corner Restaurant and Bar where the meeting was held.
After the Welcome Reception there were two multimedia presentations. The first was by a Filippo and Heike titled FROM GERMANY TO THAILAND IN 7 MONTHS – THE HIGHLIGHTS. This presentation shared with the audience their seven-month trip on BMW motorcycles overland from Germany to Thailand and included some interesting sections difficult to pass through due to political unrest and outright warfare, including parts of Pakistan.
A second presentation was done by Joerg Waldman and Heike, titled MYANMAR BY MOTORCYCLE – 5 BIG BIKES ON A ROUND TRIP IN MYANMAR. The group of five motorcyclists had organized a Myanmar (better known by many as Burma) government-approved tour for their group starting from and returning to Thailand. Their tour followed this route and schedule in December, 2012:
7. December: Bangkok – Mae Sot (480 km)
8. December: Mae Sot – Kyaiktiyo – (Golden Rock, 296 km)
9. December: Kyaiktiyo – Naypyidaw (363 km)
10. December: Naypyidaw – Bagan ( 298 km)
11. December: Bagan – Pyay (386 km)
14. December: Pyay – Bago (ca. 320 km)
15. December: Bago – Mae Sot (384 km)
16. December: Mae Sot – Bangkok (480 km)
Included in their Burma presentation was a 7:46 minute video by Dusit Ajake Semangern titled ON THE ROAD OF MYANMAR. To see the KTM rider lifting the front wheel on the sand trails of Bagan, through the fields of sacred pagodas, left many in the audience with the glimmer of hope that eventually unescorted solo motorcycle travel may become a possibility in this most difficult to enter country. In the meantime, the new government approved organized tour packages represent at least a crack in the long closed door.
The official meeting started on January 12, with a group photo taken in front of the meeting location, The Rider’s Corner Restaurant and Bar (www.riderscorner.net). The owners, Phillip Gibbins and wife Som, had gambled two years earlier on whether a motorcycle-themed restaurant and bar could be successful in Chiang Mai, Thailand. They invested heavily in time and money to give Golden Triangle motorcycle locals and international globe trotters a respectable location to meet, share information and serve as a touch point. At no cost to the Horizons Unlimited family they literally turned their restaurant and facilities over to the hundreds of attendees for three nights, offering 15% off all food and drink as well as a 200 Thai Baht (about $7) All-You-Can-Eat BBQ buffet.
Savvy and previous Horizons Unlimited Traveller’s Meeting attendees knew Saturday night could be standing room only, so began filtering in shortly after the group photo session. The parking lot in front of the restaurant overflowed by late afternoon with motorcycles from around the world. Tire kicking, tale telling, information swapping and global motorcycle gossip quickly turned the area around the Rider’s Corner Restaurant and Bar into a traffic stopper, as local drivers passed by and saw the many motorcycles and attendees filling the parking area.
The Rider’s Corner had become the well known retail outlet for the most detailed and up-to-date motorcycling maps for Northern Thailand, Laos and Cambodia and recently assisted in the completion of a new map specifically for the Nan area of Thailand (www.riderscorner.net/gps_maps_and_products/). Additionally, the restaurant had become to sole retail outlet for the Meo Designs Thailand and Laos motorcycle souvenir T-shirts (www.GT-RIDER.net). Brisk sales of both maps and Golden Triangle T-shirts took up more of the afternoon.
At 6 p.m. the Rider’s Corner started the BBQ and motorcycling attendees enjoyed what was known as one of the best BBQ buffets in Chiang Mai. By 7:30 the room was filled to overflowing to listen to the three speakers slated for the evening.
Before the shows started a special presentation was made by members of the Golden Triangle rider community, the Rideasia.net forum and attendees of the Horizons Unlimited Traveller’s Meeting to Som and Phillip Gibbins. Presenting an original art piece of a framed photograph of the Plain of Jars in Laos, Ron Lister congratulated the Rider’s Corner on their second anniversary and thanked them for their many contributions to the motorbiking community and community-at-large in Southeast Asia. Members attending the meeting throughout the rest of the evening signed the back of the framed photograph.
Geoff Thomas (UK) was the first to entertain the audience with his multi-media show titled POOR CIRCULATION: SIZE DOESN’T MATTER, or The ‘Round The World Journey That Never Ended. He had ridden to the meeting from Bangkok on his Tiger Retro 110cc motorcycle (a Thailand manufactured copy of a Honda Cub) and entertained the audience with his thrills and spills, including some undeserved jail time, as he moved around the globe on two wheels.
MUNICH TO CAPE TOWN or The Harder Way Down, was the second multimedia presentation. Canadians Ekke Kok and Audrey Allenspach-Kok shared their BMW adventure from Munich to Cape Town that immediately went array when Ekke dropped his R100GS on himself while unloading it in Munich. He ended up with a severely damaged leg in a Munich hospital before they started their motorcycle journey. The Koks arrived more successfully in Chiang Mai, having crossed Asia through China and were headed to Vietnam after the Horizons Meeting.
Australian “Travelling Strom” (Richard Winter) managed to limp out of Laos with a wounded Suzuki to attend the three evenings at the Horizons Unlimited meeting.
Australian Richard Winter (aka Travelling Strom) was the final speaker for the evening, presenting THE WANDERING MOTORBIKER I or The Pitfalls Of China Planning, What Happens When The Whole Reason For Your Trip Goes Up In Smoke But You Have Already Left And Are On The Road. His tale of disaster and near death included a video clip from his helmet mounted video camera when his Suzuki V-Strom was clipped by and oncoming vehicle. He could be heard on the video clip saying “****! I got hit!” and the audience could also hear the actual impact.
Winter was only getting started when the evening shows had to come to a halt. Rider’s Corner owners had a quick power meeting with Horizons Unlimited organizers and announced that at 6 p.m. the following evening, Sunday, anybody wishing to return for the finish of Winter’s multimedia were welcome, plus there would be free draft beer until the supply ran out.
Sunday evening 60 hardcore locals and travelers returned and not only did Winter continue to entertain them for another hour but Mia Chun Goh and Samantna Pan from Singapore, who had ridden their Africa Twin around the world two-up, put on an unscheduled show about their wild ride around the globe.
As the evening closed late Sunday there were still a number of attendees engaged in global motorcycle travel discussions. Promises were made to meet again, somewhere on the planet, and farewells were made to the Rider’s Corner owners and staff.
If you find yourself lusting for motorcycle adventures through the jungles of Southeast Asia and want to share in the camaraderie of motorcycle travel, schedule yourself, motorcycle or without, through Chiang Mai, Thailand on January 10 & 11, 2014 for the next Horizons Unlimited Traveler’s Mini Meeting, Rendezvous, Gathering, Confab or whatever they will call it. It was great fun in 2013 and promises to be more so in the future. Information about the 2014 Meetings can be found at www.horizonsunlimited.com, the cyber home for adventure seeking global motorcycle travelers or dreamers.
For more from motorcycle-usa CLICK HERE