Guest blogger Kimberly Juchnowski says there’s no better way to see a country than getting on a motorcycle and going on a tour.
There is a silence on a motorcycle, even amid the low rumble of the engine. The wind on your face
and the new smells. A leisurely pace through the countryside and the ability to stop when the impulse
strikes and see things on your own terms.
Driving conditions can be dangerous in many South East Asian countries, so there is certainly some
risk involved, but traffic is much slower once you get out of the cities (although you do need to still
watch for people passing carelessly on blind corners in your direction). At any rate, I personally find the
rewards worth the risks; though, you’ll have to make your own decision in this department.
Whether in Indonesia or Thailand or Vietnam…or anywhere else in the world, for that matter, getting
on a bike opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Here are some trips for planning your own biking
1. Make sure you’re legit
Before you plan your trip, find out about the laws in that country. You might need to get a license for the specific country you’re in, or you may be able to get a permit for your stay. In other cases, the occasional fine paid to a policeman who stops you is enough.
2. Know how to ride
If you’ve never ridden a motorcycle before, take a safety course in your home country before you go, as standards are usually higher. Even seasoned riders learn a lot that is counter-intuitive when they take a rider safety training class. You’ll still need some actual riding experience, but if you start off your journey slow and give yourself some time to adjust, you’ll learn as you go and come out the other end a seasoned rider.
3. Plan your trip
Planning a trip is usually not too difficult as you will be hard pressed to find a place where people have not gone before you. Get on the Internet and start your Googling. Think about the destinations you definitely want to see, and feel free to mix and match them a little bit to come up with a route that appeals to you.
You might want to do a loop so you can bring the motorcycle back to the place you rented from and fly
out of the same city, but if not, you might be able to ship it across the country for a fair price. Do your
research on shipping costs ahead of time or speak to the people at the shop to see if they have options
for you (keeping in mind that some may not want to rent to you when they find out how far you’re
4. Rent a bike
The Internet is your friend once again because renting from just any shop you see is a good way to overpay, get a shitty bike, and possibly get ripped off in the process. So, find out which bike shops in your departure city are reputable, and then check out the bike thoroughly before signing anything. Make sure gears shift smoothly, test all the breaks, and experiment with all lights as well. Take note of all the big dents or scratches and include them on the contract so you have both confirmed which ones were already there.
Also, never leave your passport with the bike shop! If they won’t take a cash deposit and a copy of the
passport, go somewhere else.
5. Take your time
Once you’re on your road tour, take your time. The more open your schedule, the more you get out of the experience. You can take detours on small one-land roads and cruise off through endless rice paddies or stay in a charming mountain town for a week or two—this is what motorcycle touring is really all about.
Just make sure you stay current on your visas, and if you have to hop on a visa run or stop by the
embassy in a bigger city you pass through on the way, so be it.
Whoever said traveling was more about the journey than the destination was surely referring to
motorbike tours; there is nothing like the pace of a bike down country roads on the other side of the
world. The vivid jungle colors, the sunsets as you drive along lost tropical coasts, and the simple things
you see along the way that you surely would have missed on a tourist bus.
And indeed, the destination is so much sweeter when you get there for all you’ve put into earning its
About the author: Kimberly Juchnowski is all about Southeast Asia, she’s currently living in Chiang Mai,
Thailand where she spends her days blogging about everything from popular attractions to the benefits
of learning Thai online on her website.