‘Ride Journal Review’ – Phuket.

Now that 2022 is firmly in the rear-view mirror and gifts, Christmas cheer and kisses under the mistletoe have all been shared, I thought it a useful moment to follow the time-honoured tradition of reflecting over the previous year and wondering what 2023 might bring us from a riding perspective. To those who live here it should perhaps come as no surprise that the first word bouncing around my mind is: EXTREME.

Rain is of course always a feature of riding in South East Asia. It’s why I have a dedicated location in my tank bag for my waterproof jacket and pants to remain in an easily accessible spot. Regardless as to whether we are in a La Niña, El Nino or a neutral weather event, there’s usually a fair quantity of rain during low season. Every year – without fail – it will flood somewhere in Thailand. That’s a given. It’s why so many 7/11s, Family Marts and ‘Mum & Pop’ stores all over the country sell those ridiculous ‘one-time-use-only’ body condoms you so often see people riding in that barely last one ride as they get torn apart by any wind stronger than a Soi dog’s fart.

Yet, once in a while, the gulf stream shifts, the stars align and we get hit by not one but two La Niña events, the technical term for which is a ‘double-dip’ (No, honestly, that’s what it’s called). 2022 was the second part of a double-dip duo, which danced all over riders’ heads and made us work doubly hard to reach our destinations, if in fact we even could. As with just about every ride in 2022, be it to Koh Samui or Ao Nang, etc, one direction would be okay, while the other was a truly miserable experience or, it was raining so hard and often that it wasn’t even worth climbing on the metal steed in the first place.

“I began to fear my car, usually parked outside the house grounds”.

Ad, Farangbowl Contributor- Phuket, Thailand.
Ads car submerged following the heavy rain and flooding.

This time round, Phuket was hit far harder than I’ve seen before. Certainly, it has flooded in Phuket over the 18 years I’ve lived here, but not so much that I began to fear my car, usually parked outside the house grounds, was about to attempt a poor impersonation of a submarine. Now the rain has finally relinquished its grip on us for this season, let’s hope we don’t see a return of another ‘double-dip’ for some time.

Another extreme has involved the real return of tourist numbers after the 2.5 to 3year hiatus that affected us all. I always knew Thailand was a popular travel destination, but I guess I had no concept as to just how popular it was for those who have been deprived of its allures for so long. There are, naturally, two sides to this particular coin. One the one side, it is great news for the Thais who truly depend on the tourist economy for a living – finally, they can see a light at the end of the ‘economic woe’ tunnel and I am extremely happy for them. On the other, is a very concerning development from a rider’s standpoint or should I just say the standpoint of anyone who uses the roads.

Intense traffic in Phuket (Photo courtesy of Phuket 101 and Willy Thuan).

People are very quick to point out the dangerous laisse faire attitude exhibited by the young Thais on their hot rod scooters, and I’m the first to concede this is a very real problem that has been plaguing the country for more years than I’ve lived here. Yet the problem is now exacerbated by the vast number of tourists arriving and (seemly) all wanting to ride scooters and ‘big bikes’ with absolutely no riding experience among them. It also bogles the mind that one half of this contingent choose the noisiest scooters on offer and then plant their children on them to operate the controls, and the other half rent out 650cc – 1000cc sport bikes (equally, if not more, noisy) and then attempt to race through heavy traffic on small roads.That these individuals refuse to wear helmets, jackets, footwear and gloves, is to be expected; that they feel the need to risk life and limb of everyone in the nearest vicinity, should not.

When touring, I’ve always found (as many riders have) the moment you get over the Sarasin bridge and off the Island of Phuket that the general standard of driving seems to calm down and move (read change lanes) in a less erratic manner. Well, if the weather gods feel more favourable to us riders this year and the tourist numbers remain high, I will highly likely be travelling on the mainland much more often which, for those who like the journals here, will be good news as I’ll be writing them in earnest.

Happy New Year