Traveling via motorbike is now a trend especially in Southeast Asia. During my travels in the Philippines, I’ve seen a lot of local and foreign travelers taking this mode of transportation in Bohol and Cebu. The use of motorbikes has also become popular in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia.
But why do people choose to travel via motorbike? I experienced driving a motorbike for the first time when I went to Bantayan, Island in Cebu. It was one of my most memorable experiences.
Since it’s a small island, driving a motorbike is the best option to explore it. Renting one will only cost you P250 or US$5 for the whole day. Since we were on a budget, we grabbed the offer instead of paying someone to drive for us.
I told my friends that I’d never driven a motorbike in my entire life. They asked me, “Do you know how to ride a bicycle?” I said, “Yes.” They replied, ” It’s like riding a bicycle. Go, you can do that.”
Admittedly, I was worried about my safety. I prayed that I pass the test drive, as it was the cheapest option to tour the island.
My first attempt was unsuccessful. I couldn’t control my hand and didn’t know when to hit the brakes. Maybe because I was panicking. My second attempt was successful, but I was still uncertain if I could make it to the major road. They said there were only few vehicles, so I should not worry.
I started driving at 20 kph. Yes! I drove that slow. While everyone were flying on the road, I was slowly learning it. I was focused and in full control.
As I started to be more confident in driving, I also started to enjoy the view. Driving a motorbike is one of the best road trips I ever had. I felt as though I was totally free, immersing with everything that surrounded me. The scenery in Bantayan is stunning. There’s a lot of trees. The road is almost empty. There’s a mixture of traditional and modern Filipino houses. And there’s the clear blue sky.
The feeling of the sun’s warmth touching my face and of the cool breeze blowing my hair, and the people that I talked to convinced me that at least once in our life, we should drive a motorbike. We should try something that we’ve always thought we couldn’t, something that we’re afraid to do. It’s rewarding.
Besides driving really slow, another funny thing during my motorbike trip was I entered a one-way road and the traffic enforcer caught me. I just apologized and said I wasn’t familiar with the place. He simply laughed at me.
When you visit Bantayan Island, never miss the opportunity of driving a motorbike. It’s a good place for beginners since the main road is in good condition. Few vehicles ply the roads. You will surely enjoy the magnificent surroundings.
I asked some of my friends to share their motorbike experience, too, and here are some of them.
- Christine Rogador of Thetravellingpinoys.com
I’d never ridden a motorcycle for more than 30 minutes until my friends, a Costa Rican and two Vietnamese nationals, and I decided that we would ditch the commercialized bus tour we were supposed to go with. It was a 3-hour ride to Mekong Delta in the South of Vietnam. I was scared initially. With all the statistics of backpackers figuring in accidents from what they thought would be the ride of a lifetime, it is somewhat scary.
Armed only with sunscreen, water, camera, and phones for GPS, we went on one of the most memorable trips with my good friends. Memorable not only because of the amazing views along the way, but also because I saw the motorbike culture in Vietnam. It had been amazing from the time we maneuvered ourselves out of the convoluted traffic in Ho Chi Minh City, to witnessing locals passing a drink as we waited for the traffic light to flash green, riding our bikes in a rusty barge to get us across and for driving in a less-than-a-foot-wide pathway in the middle of a muddy field, to dancing in our motorbikes as we passed by local parties and weddings.
My old self would never bother with all of those things. Especially when I could just either rent a car or join a tour bus wherein I could be more comfortable and safer.
But that’s the thing. Sometimes you need to go out of your comfort zone in order to realize that some things are not as scary as it sounds. And some new experiences could actually take you to the best ride of your life.
- Deborah Provenzale of 101coloreddoors.com
One of the most amazing scooter trips I ever took was around the Mae Hong Son Loop in northern Thailand. I loved it so much that my friend and I did it for two years in a row. The first time we went around, we did the full 600+ km circuit from Chiang Mai, south to Mae Sariang, then up to Mae Hong Son, an adventurous detour to Ban Rak Thai on the Myanmar border, then over to Pai, and back to Chiang Mai. We did the whole loop in five days.
That was an aggressive pace riding 150-200 km each day, spending only one night at each stop. Then on top of that, my friend and I both had scooter problems. First, my 150cc rented scooter did okay on level ground, but once we started going uphill, it lost power and would only go about 40 kph – so annoying! So in Mae Sariang, we lost half a day waiting at the mechanic, only to get on the road again and discover it wasn’t fixed.
Then, my friend’s scooter started having major issues wherein every time she turned it off, it was difficult to start again. It got worse and worse until finally, at the peak of the mountain pass, in the middle of nowhere, 13 km from Ban Rak Thai and about 10 km from the main Mae Hong Son Loop route, my friend’s scooter completely died, and we were stranded. To make matters worse, we had maybe an hour left of daylight, and needless to say, we were not prepared to spend the night on the top of a mountain.
Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait too long until our rescuers came. First, a motorcycle with a couple of young military guys, probably border guards, stopped to help. They couldn’t get the scooter started, but they stayed with us until another vehicle came – a large pick-up with a nice couple. The men worked together to put my friend’s scooter onto the back of the pick-up, my friend got inside, and I followed behind on my scooter. They took us all the way to Ban Rak Thai and even helped us find a mechanic.
In the end, the scooter couldn’t be fixed, so we ended up putting both scooters in a hired truck and transporting them to Pai. We were disappointed to miss the best part of the Mae Hong Son Loop. We rode in a truck instead of on our scooters. The amazing experience we got from it, however, was although our rescuers didn’t speak English, and we didn’t speak Thai, somehow we were able to communicate. It was a humbling experience, and it just showed how kindness isn’t limited by boundaries like language, race, or geographical borders.
The following year, we decided to go back and just do the northern part from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son, stopping off in Ban Rak Thai again, and then back to Chiang Mai on the same route so that we could experience the part we missed the previous year. In addition, we did it in a leisurely 10 days, so we could really enjoy the experience and beauty of the Mae Hong Son Loop. To be honest, even now, I would love to ride the Mae Hong Son Loop a third time. It’s amazing.
Whether we drive or ride a motorcycle, I believe everyone would agree that this is one of the most amazing ways to travel because you will feel like you are part of the place you are visiting. You totally free to check an interesting place. You can take in a more beautiful view. And you have the opportunity to explore the off beaten track and interact with locals.
If you’re planning to do a road trip soon, make sure that your motorbike is in good condition. You can even buy motorcycle parts online. Also, if you need a good tire for your motorcycle, check out Metzeler Motorcycle tire. Always remember to check your motorcycle and ensure that it is in its best condition before hitting the road and creating travel memories.