Each evening the parking lot overflowed with a wide range of colorful travelers’ motorcycles ranging from Harley-Davidson to a 110cc Tiger Retro. In between were BMWs, Kawasakis, Yamahas, Hondas, KTMs, Ducatis, Suzukis, Triumphs and one former 105cc postal delivery motorcycle ridden to the meeting from Australia. The adventurers included women and men, young and old, there seemingly being no barrier of age or gender to the travelers adventure riding in Southeast Asia.
(Above) Heineken PR ladies were busy during the free Heineken draft beer “Welcome Reception” sponsored by the Rider’s Corner and Dee Early Shaky Hands Triad. (Below) Some of the 100 attendees at the entrance of the Rider’s Corner Inn and Restaurant January 11, 2014 waiting for the AYCE BBQ, known as the “best barbeque inside the moat” in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
The venue for the event was the bastion of adventure for serious riders and travelers in Southeast Asia, the Rider’s Corner Restaurant and Bar. Owners Somthawin and Phillip Gibbins again turned over their motorcycle-themed business establishment to adventure travelers for two evenings of motorcycle travel camaraderie and information sharing. One night the couple sponsored, in conjunction with Dee Early Shaky Hands Triad, a Welcome Reception that included free flowing draft Heineken beer while jokes swirled about the tribulations of old shaking hands. The second evening travelers and key people from the motorcycling community, represented by Ron Davidson, thanked the motorcycling Gibbins riding duo with an award recognizing their many contributions to motorcycling in Southeast Asia and around the world.
During the two days of the gathering the parking lot outside the restaurant was an adventure traveler’s candy store for tire kicking and motorhead information sharing. Many well-known adventure touring motorcycles were present, some pushing the $50,000 envelope. Other budget models were also parked and the targets of questions, like a step through 125cc Honda that had piloted over 1000 miles to attend the meeting.
The Horizons Unlimited honorary Master of Ceremonies, Oz Hamerman from California, described as “the man with the HU plan,” enlivened the evening audience with bits of Golden Triangle motorcycle travel wit. His well-oiled and executed steerage through the Saturday night agenda included an opportunity for each traveler and their pillion to introduce themselves, tell where they were from and what their interests were in attending the meeting.
Evening presentations included three informational and entertaining multi-media shows. One took the audience on four rides around the globe using a dozen different motorcycles to cross continents. A second, by Ian Gatenby from Australia, shared a seemingly endless ride through Asia that started as an 8000 kilometer plan. But 40,000 kilometers later Gatenby was caught in a self-described continuous Asian loop that included having been attacked by an elephant, chased by a snake and broken down and alone on his KTM in the green, steaming jungles of Cambodia.
Round the world adventurer motorcyclist Geoff G.Thomas from Great Britain entertained the audience and announced the release of his new motorcycle travel adventure book, ASHES TO BOONVILLE.
Ironbutt adventure riding was Geoff G. Thomas’ platform for the evening. Englishman Thomas used a portion of his multi-media presentation to explain how a night of beering with two German BMW riders found him attempting to meet their challenge to complete a 1000-kilometer Ironbutt ride after attending a previous HU meeting in Chiang Mai. “No big deal,” would opine an Ironbutt rider setting out to do 1000 kilometers over Interstate 70 in the US aboard his six-cylinder 1800cc Honda Gold Wing.
It was a big deal when Thomas attempted the dangerous roads between Chiang Mai and Bangkok in Thailand, a country that in 2010 ranked number three of countries with the highest road traffic deaths in the world, according to Deputy permanent secretary of the Interior Ministry M.L Panada. Add in the facts that Thomas used a Thai-made 110cc knocked-off copy of a C90 Honda Super Cub, had a headlight that did not illuminate the road after dark and experienced a four-hour delay due to two flat tires. The second flat was the result of the first tire changer leaving a pinch bolt inside instead of pinching the rear axle, which reflected one of the typical obstacles Thomas overcame in his successful Ironbutt 1000 Thai Style.
During the Thomas presentation he also announced the release of his highly entertaining book, ASHES TO BOONVILLE, his recounting of a one-year ride around the world on less than $30 per day. For the HU Meeting attendees the announcement was a unique look into the workings of The Ted Simon Foundation and how it encouraged motorcycle travel guru Geoff G. Thomas to become a published motorcycle adventure travel writer.
Throughout the meeting HU attendees made numerous purchases of motorcycle souvenir T-shirts from The Golden Triangle and the freshest paper and GPS maps through the Rider’s Corner, a regional outlet for the products.
(Above) An older, but according to the owner “bullet proof,” Yamaha XT had travelled overland from Great Britain the hard way, through China, to attend the HU meeting. (Below) Overland from Denmark to Thailand, this Moto Guzzi owner was not yet finished with his adventures. He freely traded information on roads ahead with other adventurists who had been where he planned to travel.
A new seven to eight day (depending on riding skills) off-road, self-guided GPS tour package was announced for adventure riders wishing to go it alone, not taking one of the local guided off-road tours. Included in the package was a GPS map of North Thailand on SD card, which is compatible with Garmin GPS devices, as well as daily off-road routes which can also be downloaded to a Garmin device. Detailed printed daily maps show the zoomed area of the route for the day and the surrounding trails, with a narrative package describing each day’s riding, possible accommodations, where to eat, points of interest. In total, the GPS tour package info covers 1200 kilometers, with loops in and out of Chiang Mai. Package details can be found here.
For HU meeting attendees, the biggest news of the event was the affiliation between the Rider’s Corner in Chiang Mai and Tony’s Place in Nan. Both geographic destinations were known for the high quality of motorcycle riding in and around their locations, considered by many enthusiasts as some of the best in the Asia, especially while cold white snow swirled in places like the Alps of Europe and the Rocky Mountains of the US.
High Chef Tony Chichester, a 22-year expat from Wales known for his excellent fare of Western and Thai cooking, and his wife Areewan, had tailored their restaurant in Nan as a comfortable and high quality eatery for motorcycle, bicycle and 4×4 travelers. The affiliation of Tony’s Place, five hours away from Rider’s Corner in Chiang Mai, provide adventure travelers with two strong informational bases in The Golden Triangle area of northern Thailand, Laos and Myanmar from which to base their expeditions and travels.
Foreign travelers attending the Horizons Unlimited Travellers’ Meeting in Thailand used it as a point for rest, relaxation and information sharing as they explored Southeast Asia. Local motorcyclists, cyclists and 4×4 enthusiasts volunteered to make the event unique to Southeast Asia. Information on the 2015 Horizons Unlimited Mini-Meeting in Thailand, or other Horizons Unlimited meetings around the world, can be found at the cyber center for motorcycle adventure travel at www.horizonsunlimited.com/events.
BMW traveler Thor Anderson from California, attending his fourth HU Meeting in Thailand, after flying halfway around the world, said, “We motorcyclists attending this meeting hear the voices of the sirens throughout the year and they are singing the song of the road, adventure travel around the globe.”