A week or so ago we’d spotted two posters in a bike shop promoting two different bike events coming up in Chiang Mai as part of the Chiang Mai Bike Week, but attempts to find out more about Bike Week were both frustrating and less than completely successful. With that said, we eventually ascertained that there was an event being staged at the International Convention Centre on Saturday evening, 12th December, so about 5:45pm we grabbed a tuk-tuk and took the 8km ride out to the centre to see what “The True Return” was all about.
“The True Return” poster we’d seen listed a number of partners, including BMW, KTM, Triumph, Touratech, Klim and GoPro, as well as a large number of motorcycle groups including the Hells Angels, Bandidos, Immortals, Hells Devils, Mongols, etc etc so it promised to be an interesting event.
We arrived at the Convention Centre about 6:15pm, originally overshooting the entrance gate, but our tuk-tuk driver quickly sorted that out and got us back to where we needed to be. The Convention Centre was a fair bit out of town so we arranged with our driver to stay at the bike show and wait for us for 90 minutes whilst we browsed around the outdoor displays, so he could then run us back into Chiang Mai, and that was a good move as we’d still be walking home otherwise.
A large banner over the entrance to the display area welcomed all riders, and an adjacent sign indicated rules that applied – no brawling, no knuckle-dusters, no hand-guns. The show had just opened up when we arrived but already it was quite crowded with people bustling along the aisles and stopping to admire the bikes on display. By and large the show was dominated by custom chopper displays, but manufacturers like Benelli, Suzuki, Ducati, Yamaha and even Husqvarna had displays on as well.
Whether it was cruisers, sports bikes or adventure bikes on display, the common thread between most of the displays were the scantily-clad girls dancing and gyrating in front of the bikes, or sprawled across them like a seat cover. It was a bit distracting trying to check out the bikes in these conditions, and it certainly didn’t encourage a close inspection of the bikes.
The motorcycle groups also had tents set up, with their banners proudly on display, and some of them selling t-shirts and other souvenirs. One group had a colourful collection of wildlife paintings on show – somewhat incongruent but quite eye-catching. Another group was displaying jewellery items, including a ring that had won an award for best display at the show. An information card next to the ring explained the importance of Buddhism in the Thai culture, and the importance of trees in Buddhist traditions, with the ring fashioned to symbolise a tree wrapped with an orange cloth – one of the most important aspects in the life of Thai men, all of whom are entitled to become a monk if they so wish.
Quite a few riders had parked their bikes inside the display area and these impromptu displays were as interesting as the organised displays – the Vintage Bike Club had a great assortment of old BSA’s, a Matchless, Triumphs and old BMW’s, and in other places blinged-up Harley’s and old Hondas reborn as rat bikes attracted as much attention as the latest bikes for sale.
The logo for the Chiang Mai Bike Week was very cool – a big elephant’s head, and Karen and I were keen to track down the souvenir stall so we could get a t-shirt each. I couldn’t find a t-shirt that fitted me, but when we got home I was happily surprised to find a Bike Week sticker in Karen’s carry bag – so that’s now on show on our top box 🙂
Karen quite liked the funky old trucks on display as well – restored and customised, these trucks looked really cool with their big cabs and low-loader tray backs. A big black Dodge coupe with a massive supercharger sticking out of the bonnet was also good to see, but beyond these cars we didn’t stroll down the rest of the Classic Car Show section of the display as our time was a bit limited and we wanted to see all the bike stuff.
We spent a couple of minutes watching an artist hand-painting a design on a helmet for a customer, and Karen snapped a few photos of the girls dancing in front of the bikes as the blatant sexualisation of the bike displays came as a bit of a surprise to her – we couldn’t imagine BMW in Perth for example would be so overt, but we are in Thailand and different standards apply here I guess. We passed one really tall old guy – an expat – with dreadlocks that reached down almost all the way to the ground. In another part of the show a barbers shop had been set up and people were queuing up for hair cuts and beard trims.
Most of the displays had loud music and zany light shows to accompany their dancing girls, and a band was also performing for people sitting down at long tables adjacent to the food area. The ninety minutes we’d asked our tuk-tuk driver to wait passed by quickly and it didn’t seem that long before we had to join Aad and Mike back at the entrance to the show, ready for the ride back to Chiang Mai. I could quite easily have settled in for the evening and enjoyed the music and bikes, but we also wanted to go to the open-air food markets in downtown Chiang Mai (they are closed on Sunday evenings) so our tuk-tuk dropped us there and we enjoyed a steak and mashed potato (Karen) and curry from Yummy Curry (Aad, Mike and myself). Crepes for desert and a quick tuk-tuk ride home had us back at Panda House about 10:00pm. I had hoped to watch ‘The Boat That Rocks’ on the Mac but Mike couldn’t find it on his laptop, and Karen and I were both tired so we were in bed soon and trying to sleep whilst the bimbo backpackers that have invaded Panda House the past few days killed their ukulele’s.