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The inaugural Girl Moto Tour of Thailand

Roads that make you go “woo hoo” inside your helmet!

Thailand! The land of beaches, tuk tuk’s, pad thai and scooters… Lots of scooters. 

With scooters being the preferred mode of transport for locals, you could assume that Thailand doesn’t offer riding options for “real” motorcyclists. You assume wrong my friend. Let me introduce you to Northern Thailand. 

More specifically, let me introduce you to the Mae Hong Son Loop. 

Forget the sun-filled, cocktail-fueled, bar-pumping coastal regions of the South. If you are looking for a holiday that combines your sense of adventure with your number one love (motorcycle riding), you need to head North!

Because yes, “big bikes” exist in Thailand and there is a magical road called Route 108 waiting for you and your borrowed steel companion to come over and play.

The playground begins and ends in Chiang Mai

A one-hour flight north from Bangkok you will find the city of Chiang Mai. The city itself offers history, amazing food, café culture, relaxing spas, and beautiful temples… if that’s your thing.

For me, it’s the striking mountainous regions surrounding the city that put Chiang Mai squarely on my radar. Heading out from Chiang Mai is where the Mae Hong Son loop begins. And my, oh my, what a treasure trove of fun it holds!

Chiang Mai City

The landscape changes with almost every corner. The roads twirl and dance through stunning mountain vistas and valleys, constantly teasing you to stop for just one more photo. 

But it’s so much more than picture perfect. If smooth roads, sweeping corners, technical switchbacks and long rides on a trusty steel steed are your jam, then the Mae Hong Son loop is a literal paradise that will not disappoint. These are the roads that will make you go “woo hoo” inside your helmet.

Navigating the roads of Thailand… it’s not what I’m used to. It’s better!

You might assume the roads of Thailand are pretty rough. I bet right now you’re picturing any one of the crazy roads you’ve ever experienced in various parts of Asia. Please get those images out of your head, because your assumption about these Thailand roads is wrong! Big time wrong! 

Over five glorious days, we ride tarmac that’s likely in better condition than your favourite local roads. Significant investment is made into the upkeep of the roads in this northern region. There’s a good reason for that. These roads are maintained in very good condition on the off-chance the Thai military needs to offer transport-related assistance to their neighbouring country, Myanmar.

Setting up the Girl Moto Tour of Thailand: November 2022

I had the pleasure of riding the Mae Hong Son loop in March 2022. After returning to Australia, I couldn’t stop thinking about my experience. It wasn’t just the stunning landscape of mountain pines, rice paddy fields, Thai jungle, and the scattering of authentic villages that had me buzzing. 

No. It was the sense of achievement I experienced after conquering five days of riding through the magnificent, and at times challenging, twisties on offer. It had me high fiving myself for weeks after returning home to Australia.

This feeling of achievement was euphoric, and I wanted to replicate that for the female riders in my life. I wasn’t wasting any time either. I rode the Loop in March 2022, but I knew that I wanted our ladies’ group to do this tour in November 2022. 

Why November? Glad you asked. Two reasons:

Reason 1: Weather. 

March was HOT! Not unbearable. But November is much cooler. Having now had the benefit of comparing the two seasons, I don’t regret putting a rush on getting this tour organised for November 2022.

Reason 2: Flowers. 

Yes, flowers. Each year in November there is a region along the Loop where over 200 acres of Mexican Sunflowers come into bloom for a very short time. It’s worth seeing.

Despite the short notice, I was excited that there would be four lovely ladies from Australia to experience the Mae Hong Son Loop for themselves. With myself as the Aussie Host and Tail End Charlie (TEC or Sweep) and Angkana (affectionally known as Tik) as our local female Ride Leader and Guide, the six of us were primed and ready for an adventure.

How do you pull together a Motorcycle Tour of Thailand at short notice?

The answer is: you don’t. That’s crazy! 

Despite my first-hand experience only a few months earlier, this time, I went to the experts. This tour never could have happened if not for Bike Tour Asia. When I did the Loop in March, I self-guided, hired my own bike, booked my own accommodation, and set out with no support or backup. 

Yes, I had a great time. Yes, I saved some money. And yes, I even got through the tour without any major incidents. 

But I won’t ever do it again on my own, and here’s why:

1. Big Bike hire in Thailand can be hit & miss.

Whilst the hire company I used in March was friendly, had a decent size bike fleet, and really tried to take care of me, it was only after using Bike Tour Asia’s bike that I realised the difference a premium quality bike makes to the experience. 

My self-hire bike was a basic model, the brakes were a little bit undercooked (apparently, it’s an inside joke among the residents of Chiang Mai about riding the Loop with bad brakes on your hire bike. Yikes!) and luggage options were limited. Apparently, my experience of undercooked brakes, based on reading online reviews, is consistent across all the bike hire companies. 

Comparatively, Bike Tour Asia’s fleet of bikes is brand new, meticulously maintained to Western standards, and with the option to select from BMW GS or Triumph Tiger models. Plus they offer top boxes and panniers as part of the tour price.

Oh, and there is no requirement to leave your passport with Bike Tour Asia. 

Yes – that’s a thing. Independent bike hire companies make you leave your actual passport with them for the duration of your bike hire. Um, no thanks.

2. Premium accommodation is worth the extra dollars.

Bike Tour Asia offer a premium tour experience. Sparkly new top-quality European bikes is just the beginning. A Bike Tour Asia tour also means staying in top quality hotels for the entire trip. 

At first, I questioned whether the additional cost this added to the tour – compared to my self-made tour in March – was worth the dollars. 

I cannot express more strongly yes. 

Yes! 

A thousand times: YES. 

It is worth the extra dollars for premium accommodation. 

The other ladies on tour completely agree, noting the accommodation as one of the inclusions that really elevated their experience. There’s nothing better than rolling up to a stopover, happily exhausted after a full day of riding, to be met by enthusiastic hotel staff, ushering us to designated parking, ready to help unload the bike and carry in our luggage.  

Oh – and a welcome drink on arrival. That was great. 

Oh yes – and premium bedding. That was very nice too. 

Oh and – the infinity pool… with a bar!  

And, and, and…. the included breakfasts. Heaven!

Need I go on. Enjoying this style of accommodation completely elevated my experience from the previous tour, and I realise now, it is a must-have inclusion for future Girl Moto tours.

Premium Accommodation

3. Self-touring is all rainbows and butterflies … when nothing goes wrong.

Thankfully nothing went wrong during my March self-guided tour. But if it had, I literally had no backup. The mountains are remote, with quite a distance between villages. In the event of an incident, even if I had made it to a village, I doubt there would have been much help on offer. 

Thankfully nothing went wrong on our November tour either. However, booking via Bike Tour Asia was insurance (and peace of mind) that if anything serious did happen, their team was a phone call, and only a 2–3-hour drive away. We could have opted to have a support van on tour too. Even though we didn’t take that option, it’s certainly one of the added bonuses of booking through an experienced tour operator.

4. Sawadee-ka, khop khun-ka, chai-ka and mai-ka

That’s the extent of my Thai language skills: Hello, thank you, yes and no.

Thankfully Thai people are extremely welcoming of Westerners. With a small number of residents in the regional mountain areas able to speak English, one can certainly get by for five days. And in March, I did. 

But in November, we had a secret weapon and her same is Tik. I mentioned her earlier. We were so thankful to Bike Tour Asia that they gave us Tik. Particularly because we were determined to experience this tour as a sisterhood. Having a female tour guide elevated the “all-female” experience. 

By the way, you may not realise how unusual it is to have a female motorcycle guide. Women rarely ride “big bikes” in Thailand. For that reason alone, Tik is pretty exceptional. She is also one of the most inspiring, accomplished, independent women I have ever met. With a riding ability that is nothing short of aspirational to boot. The five of us Aussie ladies strongly agree that this tour would not have been the same without Tik. 

Our guide Tik

Her individual traits aside, it also elevated the experience to have a Thai-speaking, knowledgeable local guide accompany us. It was particularly noticeable when we attended a night-market in Mae Hong Son town for dinner one night. 

This market is for locals, not tourists, so none of the signs are in English. Tik ordered and negotiated and conversed on our behalf, which meant we were introduced to an array of food and experiences that would never have happened if not for her. 

Adventures with the girls

You may be wondering why this tour was offered to ladies only. There are several reasons why, and I write about more of those reasons in other articles. 

But one of the main reasons was because no one had before.

That’s right. We were the first all-female tour to be curated by Bike Tour Asia. I don’t know for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we were the first all-female tour out of Chiang Mai full stop!

Many female riders are hesitant to ride in Thailand. If she does, most often it is as a pillion with a male rider. Less often, she is the sole female among a group of male riders. 

Back home in Australia, I spend a large portion of my time creating group riding opportunities for women. I have learned a lot about why women like to ride with other women. So, I wanted to create an overseas riding experience that celebrates all that is female group-riding. 

Many women ride just as much for the connection and friendship with other women as they do the ride itself. 

Many women worry they will be too slow for mixed gender groups, so they prefer to ride with women. 

Many women need to overcome some fears to ride in another country, and riding with other women, who can identify with those fears, is reassuring.

Many women like to travel with other women, because they enjoy similar cultural experiences.

It’s for all these reasons, and more, that the Girl Moto Tour of Thailand was just for the girls.

And of course, who doesn’t love to be the first! 

Experience being a celebrity for a day.

Internally, it felt special sharing the experience with the girls. Externally, we were surprised just how much we were noticed by the locals and tourists alike. If you want to feel like a rockstar for a day, come and join an all-female motorcycle tour in Thailand! 

It’s a rare sight to see one woman on a “big motorbike” in Thailand let alone six all in one group!  We felt proud to be leading the way. 

Several strangers asked to have their photos taken with us. We were waved at and filmed, by adults and children, as we passed through their towns. And we were stopped on more than one occasion by other riding groups to be told how awesome it was to see us doing this ride as a group of women. 

Photos with the military

We bonded over bikes and commemorated it with tattoos!

Yes. The tattoo. I need to explain the tattoo.

Spending a week in close quarters, conquering some fears, and achieving some bucket-list goals has a pretty special way of bonding a group of strangers. Especially a group of women, who over time, were willing to let their guard down.

Despite not knowing each other at the beginning of this trip, by the end, it’s almost impossible to put into words just how close and connected we had become. Each of us had come to accomplish something for ourselves. None of us expected to leave with the strong bond that we did. And none of us expected to walk away feeling this trip was life changing.

We shared in each other’s stories. We learned from each other. We supported each other. We took thousands of photos! We ate great food. We laughed. So much laughter! We even cried together. Because, as we became more comfortable with each other, we became more vulnerable. There is an invisible thread running through all of us now. A thread that has connected us by a shared experience that was so much more than just riding bikes around a beautiful country. 

During our farewell dinner, each of us agreed that it felt strange to end this life-changing experience, just like that. It was more than just the holiday come down. Something told us we would be touched by this experience forever, and that deserved to be acknowledged.

The suggestion of a commemorative tattoo was made. And, I might add, not because we were under the influence! We had only had 1 or 2 drinks each.

We all felt it. This strong “knowing” that we had achieved something special. Something that no one, except us, would be able to relate to.

Because we couldn’t put it into words, we knew we had to put it into a symbol instead. That’s how, at around 9pm on our final night in Chiang Mai, we found ourselves in the back of a Songthaew (public transport) on our way to a tattoo shop that Tik managed to track down for us. When we arrived, much to our delight, we found that our tattooist was a female! It felt right.

Surprisingly quickly, we were able to agree on our design. It’s the numbers “1864” in Thai, along with a Unalome, which is a visual metaphor for “journey”, and more specifically, “journey of life”. 

Why 1864? A section of the Mae Hong Son Loop is famous for the 1864 corners that motorcyclists from around the world come to ride. Riding those 1864 corners (plus a bunch more for fun) was an accomplishment we would be proud of forever.

The Unalome symbol also felt fitting. Each of us was there on our own journey, but we had achieved part of that journey together. Each of us had now created that same little squiggly section on our individual map of life. It’s that special section of our map that we made together in November 2022. It will be cherished by each of us forever. And we get to remind ourselves of it every day when we see that tattoo, aptly placed on our throttle wrist.

Do you want to ride the Mae Hong Son Loop with Girl Moto?

It’s my goal to create the opportunity for Girl Moto’s from around the world to ride the Mae Hong Son Loop together. I am excited that this tour will be running again in November 2023. No matter where you are in the world, come and meet me in Thailand.

Come and experience the Thailand twisties. 

Make memories. 

Make connections. 

19 – 25 November 2023

Just like the six of us from the 2022 tour, we will start as strangers. 

By the end, we will be friends, with a story to share for the rest of our lives. 

Love, laughter and connection essential. 

Tattoo optional!

Girl Moto Tour of Thailand 2022

For more information about the 2023 Girl Moto Tour of Thailand, click here to complete your details. You will receive an email with dates, price, inclusions and payment options.

Loren
Lorenhttp://www.girlmoto.com.au
Loren is our Girl Moto founder and editor. Several years into her leadership role with East Coast Female Rides (ECFR), Loren felt a desire to bring a female-focussed publication to life. One that would serve to unite Girl Moto's around the world. With a background in business finance, marketing and copywriting, Loren actually creates Girl Moto content as an excuse to call riding motorcycles "work". When not being Girl Moto, you will find Loren enjoying downtime with her family, riding with her ECFR tribe or feeding her obsession for travel and good food, with a healthy side-serve of beach vibes, whenever possible.
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