Up until yesterday I hadn’t been on my motorbike in over a year. My wife still uses it to go to the local shops, but I prefer to drive. There was a time when I went everywhere on two wheels; during my first seven years in Thailand it was my only means of transport. Once I had a new car though, I only used it for short journeys. Then when we moved to the outskirts of Bangkok last year I stopped using the bike altogether.
My Love of Motorbikes
I’d never had my own motorized transport until I learnt to ride a motorbike in Thailand. Before that time anyone with their own wheels seemed to possess some magical skill that I secretly envied. I was in my thirties and felt a bit embarrassed by my pedestrian status. I always claimed that it didn’t bother me, but it did. My usual quip was that some people are made to drive and some are made to be driven – my weak attempt at reverse snobbery.
So when I finally mastered the art of riding a motorbike it was like a new world opened up to me. I would ride everywhere in Thailand and had no problems sitting on the bike for hours. My wife grew to dislike it when I would suggest that we set off on another one of our epic journeys. Sitting on the back of the bike for half a day or more couldn’t have been much fun. At least once a week I’d make the 110 km journey through the mountains from our village to the nearest city. I’d then make the return journey with the bike weighed down with bags of shopping. Even some of the local Thais would raise their eyebrows at the number of shopping bags I’d take on that bike. For the first few years I got around on a second-hand Honda Wave, but then I bought a brand new one – for a long time this was my pride and joy.
I completed some crazy journeys on my Honda Wave. We had some amazing adventures together. I’m ashamed of it now, but I would often ride when drunk. This means that there are many bike journeys that I just don’t even remember. I once came out of a blackout in Chiang Mai after riding all the way from Phitsanulok. It was on the back of this bike that I rode the 350km journey to Thamkrabok temple and checked myself in for a detox (a whole chapter is devoted to this journey in my book Dead Drunk).
A Reluctant Car Driver
In the beginning I was a bit negative about the idea of getting a car. I’d never learnt to drive, and thought that getting a driving licence in Thailand would be too difficult for me. The truth was that I loved the freedom of the motorbike and cars just seemed a bit too clunky. My wife would pester me about it, but I always ignored her reasoning. When our son was born though, the arguments for a car were too much to ignore. Many of our Thai friends and neighbours would happily take their babies on the motorbike, but I didn’t like it at all. It turned out that getting a Thai driving licence was relatively easy, and soon we had our own car.
Once I got behind the wheel of a car my obsession with motorbikes disappeared. I could now travel much further in comfort with air-conditioning and my favourite tunes on the car stereo. I would reluctantly use the motorbike to go to work, but only because there was nowhere to park the car. Riding to work every morning became a chore that I started to resent. When we eventually moved here to Minburi, there was no longer any reason to use the motorbike at all.
The Forgotten Joys of Riding a Motorbike in Thailand
I’ve started running on a track in a stadium near where we live. It is only a couple of kilometres away, but my initial plan was to drive there by car. There was no way I wanted to run to the stadium because of the local dog population; they are the reason why I don’t run at home. My wife thought the idea of driving such a short distance every day to be a bit crazy. I could see her point, but initially the idea of using the bike again didn’t feel too appealing. It felt that there was no other choice though.
Getting on the motorbike yesterday morning was like coming home. I enjoyed the ride to the local stadium; the feeling of wind hitting my face as I accelerated. I remembered how riding a bike means feeling more a part of the surroundings. I’ve been driving on the local roads for over a year now, but everything looked different on the bike. It was kind of exhilarating, and I felt the same way on the journey this morning. It appears that my love of riding motorbikes has returned.