Not having been to Thailand before I thought to join an organised tour with my son and see how things work. I was lured by a very convincing and well put together web site which uses the reputations of others to sell its wares. I did a bit of research and contacted David from the golden triangle rider. I was glad I did. Not only did I now have access to a whole community of bikers through the web site, I found out that David and I had a mutual acquaintance both of us being from Western Australia. My son and I decided to do the adventurous thing and organise our trip when we arrived with the advice of David. We arrived in Chiang Mai on a Sunday night and explored the local area the atmosphere was all I had expected and more. The colour, noise and movement was a sensory overload after being trapped on the plane. I got quite dizzy sitting at a corner bar watching the traffic. And by the way the traffic lights have a L.E.D. display of the count down in seconds to the next light change and the race start. Monday, armed with the trusty lonely planet guide and print outs from the Golden Triangle rider web site we set off to investigate bike hire shops, and accommodation. We called by the “Kafe” and true to his word David was there having a quiet read of the paper unaware his peace was about to be shattered. We got straight down to business getting a map right there in the “Kafe” of the Mae Hong Son loop our preferred ride. We were going to blood ourselves with a day ride first around the Samoeng loop and up the top of the local mountain Doi Suthep. We wanted to move out of the hotel we were in. It was very sterile and the beds were like rock, just behind the Kafe and within 50 metres were some lovely guest houses, the better known ones were booked but the Mini Cost had an apartment available for us, the place is owned by an Aussie who works with the Thai police and the apartment is very secure and a great location, more important the beds were big and comfortable. This was ideal as we were going to store all our gear there while we were off on our rides. Tuesday morning after breakfast we set off out of town once you come to terms in your head how the traffic works around the central square of the old city it makes life easier to navigate but just riding round town is so much fun I was grinning from ear to ear with the antics, I had to completely let go of my western thinking. The biggest change to my way of driving was to come out in the country on the twisty roads there is no adherence to the white line (or yellow in the case of Thailand) signifying lanes. There is no nipping up the inside or going round the outside as the local’s apex every corner regardless of the western concept of lanes. The ride out of the city is a major contrast; the country side soon opens out into a quiet green lush valley. Heading North to the town of Mae Rim, before heading west to the Samoeng National Park. We stopped on the road side to check the map and were immediately surrounded by students wanting to have their picture taken with us. This was to be a common theme throughout our time in Thailand. That is to say the people we met were very friendly and we became the centre of attention outside the city, people came to talk to us curious of where we were from and having an opportunity to use the English they had learned. At first, I’m embarrassed to say that my initial thought was what scam are we being set up for but generally they were just being courteous and weren’t after anything more than conversation, and once you slow to Thai time and are not in a rush to get anywhere it was fantastic to interact with the other inhabitants of this planet. First stop was the Snake farm our timing was impeccable, we arrived just before the show was about to start. Very entertaining if I tell you too much it will spoil it for you. Only a short ride to the Mae Sa Elephant Centre, once again great visit we got there in time for an elephant ride and some lunch before, the show. I would have to say that the food we had was excellent everywhere we went and so cheap. Back on the bikes and on to the twisty roads up to the waterfall, to illustrate about the roads and the insignificance of the yellow middle line the picture shows how you can round a corner and be confronted with all manner of obstacles, A tip is look at the road if there is animal poo on it look for the creature that left it there you don’t want to hit elephant turds and certainly not the elephant. Wednesday we picked up two more bikes from a different shop, we chose the Honda Phantom, a 200cc single cylinder cruiser style bike, I ride a fireblade in Oz but anything bigger than the phantom could get you into a lot of trouble. The phantoms were a great ride comfortable and speed was self limiting due to the foot pegs scrapping at all speeds on the twisties, and there were plenty of them. We had a good look over the bikes before accepting them and the things that I was not happy with the shop was more than willing to change, we had a new chain put on one and new front brake pads on the other, and replaced a missing bar weight, then we were off. An afternoon ride to the top of the local mountain Doi Suthep to the monastery and we met the local lads on their modified bikes. Notice the basket on the front. This is for carrying your crash helmet in! Thursday, rest day. A bit of shopping and a Thai massage, washing and pack for leaving tomorrow. Now were ready for a beer and a game of pool. We set off for Pai next morning a spot that people in Chiang Mai use as a holiday destination, we were unable to get any accommodation due to the long weekend it was bike week and lots of people come and gather, on the road we saw all sorts of bikes from home made choppers with old Honda 750 motors in them to modern sports tourers. The fun thing was the roads are so twisty even on a pure sports bike they could not get away from us on the Phantoms. We carried on to Soppong to the River Inn. What a picturesque spot. Great food and we were lucky that the evening we arrived a fair was being held in the village as the hill tribes came down to gather and conduct festivities. Traditional dancing, and food. Saturday the ride was up through the clouds and spectacular views above them across the valleys riding along the spine of mountains. Mae Hong Son is a reasonably large town and we sort out accommodation on the outskirts at the Sang Tong Huts. Let me say here that if you are a visitor to Europe and rely on going to the tourist office to get accommodation booked for you it does not work like that in Thailand. Certainly it is more fun to experiment than to go with the safe option. After dropping off our bags we headed out to the village of the long neck hill tribe a bit of off road work made it all the more fun. Our host at the Sang Tong Huts is a German gentleman by the name of Jo (pronounced Yo) there is a central area for dinning and relaxing, and it is very conducive to relaxing. The company, conversation and evening meal cooked in the central area was top shelf. After the meal mien host suggested a game of pool and a cocktail of his own invention in town, we of course agreed and on the way back to the huts stopped to watch a local fire work display. During our time in Thailand we were lucky in that a lot of celebrations were happening so everywhere we went something was going on, as it was the Kings 80th Birthday there were coloured lanterns and flags adorning everything, moving or still. With the elections in progress adding to the sights and sounds. Cars travelling through even the smallest village transmitting their election pitch through giant loud speakers and posters along all the roadsides, sometimes making it hard to distinguish the road signs which are not that clear to begin with. Sundays ride took us through forested areas and long sweeping bends, not as spectacular as before but by now the extraordinary had become the norm. Mae Cheam was to be our next stop and a two night stay to give us a full day to ride the highest mountain in Thailand. The Navasoung Resort on the edge of the village is heaven, situated on the hill side overlooking a valley, it has pool, air conditioning and good food and beer. This was a perfect base for the ride up to the summit of Doi Inthanon, stopping at the Mae Pan waterfall, and the pagodas dedicated to the King and Queen. Tuesday saw a lazy start heading back to Chiang Mai, the road followed the river with nice flowing bends an excellent wide road and we stopped at the rapids and a temple for a break. With the apartment as our base we did some local sight seeing around Chiang Mai. The night safari was on our list as well as the wood carving village and the ancient ruins of a village to the south. Just recently it has been suggested that my son and I should be repeat offenders with regard to riding a bike in Thailand the statement was made by a very perceptive gentleman. Our thanks go to that gentleman David Unkovich.