I’m up super early these days as I’m adjusting back to US time, and a short while ago while checking my email at 4:00 a.m., I received a nice note from my good buddy Sergeant Zuo. That’s Sergeant Zuo in the photo above. I took that shot somewhere in China when we rode across that great country in 2016.
Sergeant Zuo is about to participate in another long ride through China on a new Zongshen model. We wish them the best of luck and our blessings on their upcoming journey. Ride safe and have fun, guys!
If you’re thinking there are a lot of motorcycles in the above photo and video, you’d be wrong. I shot both of those in the middle of the day on a Sunday here in Bangkok, and traffic was substantially lighter than normal. During the week, the crowd of bikes at any stop light might be four or five times the size of the groups you see above.
So what’s this blog all about? Hey, I promised I would tell you a bit about the different kinds of motorcycles and motor scooters here in Bangkok, and this is that story.
Bikes dominate Bangkok’s urban landscape. I know that sounds like a catchy thing to say (it’s snappy writing, if I do say so myself), but it wasn’t intended to be literary lavishness. It’s just the way it is. In traffic, the bikes filter by on the left and on the right. In front of any business or in any parking area, there are hundreds of bikes. And at every stop light, a hundred or more bikes filter to the head of the line. The excitement builds as the countdown stop light nears green (they tell you how many seconds until the light changes over here), and in the last few seconds before the red goes away, a hundred motorcycle engines start revving. It is glorious.
There are no big bikes in Bangkok. Oh, you’ll see one now and then, but they are a rarity. Over here anything over 200cc or 250cc is just wasted displacement. I’ve been here a week and of the tens of thousands of motorcycles I’ve seen (and those are not exaggerated figures), there were exactly two big bikes. One was a Harley Sportster and the other was a Triumph Bonneville. There’s just no need for more displacement.
Here’s a lone Triumph Bonneville, tucked away in a Bangkok parking spot…
One moto thing that’s noticeable right away are the orange vests. When you see a rider with an orange vest, that means they are using their bike as a taxi. Yep, they give short rides (the folks here tell me typically under 2 kilometers). The riders have to wear the government-sanctioned orange vests and a helmet; passengers don’t wear any safety gear. A lot of the female passengers wear skirts and ride side-saddle.
I’d say roughly 10 percent of all the bikes are being used as taxis. Most of the drivers are men, but you do see women riders occasionally.
Surprisingly, it’s rare to see more than two people on a bike. You do see it, but not like I have seen in China or Colombia (I once grabbed a photo in Colombia of a motorcycle carrying six people). Here’s a shot of one of few times I saw this sort of thing here in Thailand…
Bikes are working vehicles over here. I mentioned the taxi thing, but it’s also very common to see bikes weighed down with all kinds of freight…
There are scooters (you know, the things that are styled like Vespas), step-through motorcycles (like the old Honda Cub), small sport bikes (small displacement CBR or Ninja type bikes), plain old motorcycles, and (surprisingly) a lot of Grom-styled bikes.
The flat black bike in the front is a scooter. The orange, red, and blue bikes to the right are step-through motorcycles (these are very popular over here)…
A blue scooter and more step-throughs…
A Vespa. If you’re thinking it’s from Italy, you’d be wrong. Zongshen produces these for Vespa in the same factory where our RX3s and TT250s are built.
A Ninja. Honda, Kawasaki, and Yamaha are popular over here. Surprisingly, I didn’t see too many Suzuki motorcycles. We did see more than a few Suzuki automobiles, though.
When I was last in Bangkok 6 or 7 years ago, I saw a few Kawasaki motorcycles that looked a little like the Honda Grom. Today, the Grom style is very popular in Thailand, with motorcycles of this style from several manufacturers. Here’s a guy on one that looks a little like a Ducati. I’m pretty sure these are made in China, as we also saw them for sale on our ride across China last year. The bike in the photo below sells under the “Demon” name. We saw a lot of them…
Here’s a photo of a motorcycle taxi, a regular rider, and a motorcycle guy delivering pizza. There’s a helmet law in Bangkok, but it’s not enforced…
I’ll close this blog with a three photos of a bike I spotted yesterday that I thought was pretty cool. It’s a CG-based regular old motorcycle, but the owner evidently has a sense of humor…
Today is our last full day in Bangkok. We’re up early tomorrow for out flight back to California. It’s been grand. We’re staying in the top floor of a 5-star hotel in downtown Bangkok (the Pullman Grand Sukhumvit) and we’re living in the lap of luxury. The room is awesome, there’s a pool and a gym, there’s a free tuk tuk ride wherever we want to go, there’s free booze and breakfasts and dinners, and it’s costing less than what a Holiday Inn might cost in the United States.
We’re going for a dinner cruise up the Chao Phraya River tonight with our good friends Kevin and Nan, and we’re going to hit another one of the temples today. More photos, more good times, and more fun. We took a grand long boat ride on the Chao Phraya yesterday and if I get a chance I’ll post a few photos of our adventures yesterday. That’s a big if, though. I may be having too much fun. We’ll see.
Today was another exciting day in Bangkok, and another exciting new aspect of this fascinating city I had never heard of. Susie and I took a tuk tuk ride to the train station and we made our way on Bangkok’s elevated inner city railway system to our destination du jour: The Jim Thompson House and Museum located squarely inside the city along a remote canal. Tucked away, you might say. And that’s entirely appropriate. Read on and you’ll understand why.
You might wonder: Who was Jim Thompson?
Okay, here goes, and when I’m done giving you the Reader’s Digest version of this amazing tale, you tell me if isn’t something that might be the story line of the next Indiana Jones or James Bond adventure.
Jim Thompson was a young east coast guy born into wealth who went to Princeton University and became an architect. He joined the Army just prior to World War II, he jumped out of airplanes while he was in the Army (hey, I like this guy already), and he ended up in the Office of Strategic Services during the war (the OSS was the forerunner of the CIA). Toward the end of the war, Thompson ended up in Thailand where he found interesting and previously unknown artisans doing amazing things with silk. To make a long story short, Thompson is the man who made Thai silk famous. Seriously. He designed silk clothing for royalty, elites all over the world, and folks in Hollywood (including costumes used in the The King and I).
Along the way and with his background as an architect, Mr. Thompson starting collecting classic Thai teak homes and Asian artifacts (like I said above, the guy had money). He built a compound comprised of six teak homes he moved from ancient Thai cities to Bangkok, and there he made the complex his home.
Then, to make this story even more interesting, in 1967 Jim Thompson disappeared in the Malaysian jungle without a trace. I know, it sounds like a story line from a movie or one of those adventure novels you buy in an airport bookstore, but folks, no one can make up stuff this good. A former US Army paratrooper/OSS officer/CIA agent turned wealthy silk magnate, complete with an ancient Thai compound on a canal in Bangkok who goes missing deep in the jungles of Malaysia. What was it? A tiger attack? An assassination when the bad guys finally caught up with him? Or something else?
So, with that as the backdrop, here are a few of our photos of the Jim Thompson House from earlier today. It was truly an amazing visit…
I would have liked to have taken more photos of the inside of the home and the amazing ancient Thai artifacts it held, but no photography was allowed. You’ll just have to take my word for it. This is one amazing place and one amazing story.
I did grab one more photo as Susie and I were walking back to the train station…
So, trust me on this: If you ever find yourself in Bangkok, the Jim Thompson House is a place that has to be on your “must see” list.
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Wow, it sure was a busy day yesterday, starting with a long ride south out of Bangkok to the world-famous floating market. The concept is that all of the shops are along and on the canals in the delta where the Chao Phraya River meets the sea. It was amazing…coconut trees, banana trees, heat and humidity…it was way better than Disneyland!
The idea is you are on the long boats and you float along, visiting shops and having the shops paddle out to visit you. Every turn in the canal was a scene right out of a movie. For me, the photo ops were the best part. Whatever you want (as long as what you want is not something you can buy at Costco or Walmart), they had. I took close to 400 photos in the space of a couple of hours, and then I picked the ones I liked best to share with you here on the CSC blog. Take a look…
We had shrimp fried rice for lunch, and wow, was it ever delicious! The freshness, the aroma, the taste…all of it was just a marvelous experience. It was easily the best shrimp plate I’d ever had. I’m not supposed to eat rice and I’m not supposed to eat shrimp, but I’m glad I broke the rules yesterday. It sure was good.
After that, it was back into downtown Bangkok. Our plans included having dinner with our good friends Kevin and Nan at Rosseno’s Italian Cucina, and wow, that was another five-star dining experience. Imagine that…a world-class Italian restaurant in the middle of downtown Bangkok!
From left to right, it’s Nan, Kevin, Susie, and me…
After dinner it was pouring. Kevin and Nan had ridden in on one of Kevin’s motorcycles, and to them it was no big deal. Nan put on her rain gear and they dove into Bangkok traffic.
Bangkok is one of the world’s great cities. It’s about the size of New York, and like most major cities in the world, it pretty much has everything you can imagine.
So let’s see…my computer is telling me it’s the end of the work day on Monday back in Los Angeles, and for us it’s the beginning of the day on Tuesday here in Thailand. That means there’s more good times coming up and more photos. I’m going to grab a few more motorcycle and motor scooter photos today, and tonight I’ll explain Bangkok’s motorcycle infatuation and infestation. It’s an amazing thing to see.
We’re having a lot of rain in Thailand and there’s been a lot of flooding. We’re reading and hearing about the wildfires you all are having back in the US (and in particular, in southern California). Stay safe and stay tuned!
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Susie and I visited the Wat Pho Buddhist Temple yesterday here in Bangkok. There are numerous Buddhist temples in this fine city, and on this (my third trip to Bangkok), the nod went to Wat Pho. It’s the home of the largest reclining Buddha in Thailand, and my 8mm wide angle lens earned its pay yet again.
We walked around town a bit last night, including a visit to the infamous Soi Cowboy area after dark (it’s right around the corner from us). I may post a few evening photos of it later tonight or tomorrow morning.
Today we went to the floating market…think of that James Bond movie and the chase scenes with those narrow boats (The Man With The Golden Gun). Yep, we were in that exact spot (it’s about 100 miles south of Bangkok) and we rode in those little boats. Here’s the clip from the Bond movie (with apologies in advance for the politically incorrect language)…
I’ll post a few photos from last night and today a little later. Next up tonight is dinner with our good buddy Bangkok Kevin.
Orchard Road is Singapore’s upscale shopping area, and the architecture, the night scenes, and feel of the place is amazing. Susie and I walked a few miles along Orchard Road with an 8mm fisheye lens on the Nikon after a simple wonton soup dinner and it was awesome…
You see two kinds of buildings in this area, and I captured both in the photo above. Old Singapore consisted primarily of shop houses…two-story structures where folks had a business on the first floor and lived on the second floor. And then, of course, there are the modern skyscrapers. The mix of both makes for interesting scenes.
We’re in a tropical climate here. It’s hot and it’s humid, but it’s not as bad as it has been. We had thundershowers last night, but it’s easy to stay out of them. The modern buildings have extensive overhangs, so the sidewalks stay dry.
See those trees along the sidewalks? They’re quiet during the day, but at night, the tens of thousands of birds roosting in those trees are deafening. You literally have to shout to carry on a conversation because the birds drown everything out. Last night was interesting because we had a thundershower (very common in this part of the world), and when the skies thundered, the birds all simultaneously fell silent for a second. Then, after a brief pause, they started squawking again. It was all pretty cool.
This is our last day here; later today we’re getting on a Royal Thai plane bound for Bangkok. It’s another one of my favorite cities, and I know we’re going to see about a zillion motorcycles, all at the same intersection, all trying to get through the intersection at the same time. Watch for the photos!