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Motorcycle travel in Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, India...

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  #1  
Old 3 Dec 2009
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Laos&Cambodia, 1st time on bike & 2 up

A bit like Adam's post further down but back to Basics!

A friend of ours is owns a dive company in Ko Tao and is getting married in October next year, loads of our friends will be going out so we will probably go. Now I want to combine this with a further agenda and would love to go back to Cambodia and into Loas (I backpacked around there and VN in 04). Having driven my Land Rover to Morocco and the Alps (solo vehicle) I now crave my own wheels and freedom and recently have entertained thoughts of buying a bike in Laos/Cambodia and seeing the country that way.

1st problem. I only ever rode mopeds last time i was there! never ridden a proper bike. I dont have a license.

2nd problem. Can you take a passenger on something like a minsk or Honda 250? I want a bike to take on the dirt roads, I dont see the point in staying on sealed routes. My otherhalf wont ride her own bike (she broke a leg on a push bike! ).

I have seen Minsk bikes for sale here for aorund £300 which seems better than renting as i dont have to worry about breaking it, it getting stolen, setting fire to it to keep warm etc etc. Seems the sensible option. Would I need any specific riding gear other than a lid? I was hoping to travel as a lightweight outfit and keep it cheap. We will prob have 2 60L sacks with us (usual stuff plus sleeping bag, bivi, tarp for emergency shelter use)

with regards to my license, what will it cost? lessons etc. and likely timeframe to complete? as a bit of background I used to race downhill mountain bikes for Scott USA and raced XC mountain bikes for years. I feel pretty confident on 2 wheels, the mopeds I used in Thailand and VN i took offroad!

Nothing else for now, would like to get my bike license, buy a bike there, travel around for a month on/off road then sell it on before flying back to the UK.

What does fuel cost in these countries? and what will my likely MPG be for a 2 wheeled steed. and do bikes break as often as my land rovers!?



cheers my 2 wheeled cousins this may convert me to the darkside.

G
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  #2  
Old 3 Dec 2009
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Laos Cambodia.

Hi, I have travelled quite a bit round Lao and Cambodia, though ita a few years ago now and things change very quickly. A lot of the roads I rode were dirt and now are surfaced. Kho Kong to P.P, Bokor mountain...Most of the main routes are now surfaced. Two up on a Honda, sure its possible but doesn't leave much room for belongings ( the rear seat frame breaks quite easily if used on the rough two up. Minska are not that common in Lao or Cambodia so not much infrastructure to fix them. My mate hired a Honda Baja $10 per day. He fell off ...marked the bike. Shop owner had been called out to fix some bikes he had hired out ( hirers had filled them with Diesel). Spotted mates bike..found us and asked if it would be ok to service it and check it over..never mentioned marks/damage. Neither of us broke down..a puncture each collected while riding in less rural areas..nail and pop rivet respectivly. You will have problems crossing borders since the hirer normally insists on your passport...afraid theve been scammed too often by tourists...

just my twopence worth.

jimmy
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  #3  
Old 3 Dec 2009
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Interesting what you say about damage etc. that seems like good news. I looked at a few sites and rentals are about $30/day. hence why I thought buying would maybe be better. From what you say, it looks like honda would be best. cheers for that.

Would it be possible to ride 2 up with 40-60L rucksacks on? or will this be too tiring/bulky?

thanks for the reply jimmy.

G
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  #4  
Old 4 Dec 2009
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Re Touring two up.

Hi, yes I am sure its possible...however its not neccassary to carry much when travelling in Cambodia or Lao. You will stay in small hotels or guest houses, you wont be cooking or camping, you need a change of clothes and your wash bag. You can buy a new tee shirt for $2 or launder in your room, it will be dry in the morning. I would be much more worried carrying a passenger on the bike in Cambodia or Lao, especially if I had very little experience of motorcycling...and two up...in a country where your understanding of road rules and expected practices does not apply. Be very carefull, spend an afternoon solo getting an understanding for the local driving and tell yourself repeatedly....there are no rules, the unexpected will happen ...often! the impossible frequently! the unbelievable every day! Have fun, but have your eyes wide open. A small tale to assist. I had my bike in store in P.P. Came back some months later. Tyres flat battery flat. Spoke to motorcycle shop and arranged service etc. Guy said bring it on a Cyclo!. Mounted the bike crossways across footboard, I sat on backrest to counter balance load. Cyclo man sets of. Mates follow in remork. We arrive at junction with dual carriagway and need to go left. Cyclo turns sharp left cause its only a few hundred yards and this way its shorter and easier. We are now going the wrong way up a dual carriageway with my bike sideways across the front of a cyclo..back wheel of cyclo just kissing the ground..the only brake is on the very very lightly loaded back wheel..remember the remork..that followed?. The driver of that decided to give cyclo a boost...put his foot on cyclos back wheel spindle and accelerates us up to about 25 miles per hour...!! Constant and heavy traffic...crazy..however no one is at all surprised no horns blowing... no angry drivers..they have no sense of ownership of the road...if its possible and I need to do it...why not?. lol If you can understand and adopt a similar mindset...you will enjoy and be safe.

Jimmy
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  #5  
Old 4 Dec 2009
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Hey guys,

what's so great about Laos and Cambodia when compared to Thailand?

I mean what would motivate you not to spend that time in Thailand?

Actually I'm looking for an excuse to spend time in Laos and Cambodia.\

Thanks in advance
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Old 4 Dec 2009
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Thailand is a more developed country, and tourism-wise it´s still more mainstream, even though Cambodia & Laos are gaining popularity. All have different & exciting cultures, that alone makes them well worth a visit (all even have their own language)... But if you already have experience of Indonesia, its possible Cambodia & Laos might not feel so exotic to you, as they would to someone visiting Asia for the first time.


On the original question: if you´ve got absolutely no experience of riding bikes, I dont think SE Asia would be the right place to start. ESPECIALLY if you will want to travel 2-up.


There was a guy, an old-timer, who took part in an organised trip by a Finnish tour-operator around Cambodia some years ago. When booking the trip he´d lied about the fact he´d never ridden a proper motorcycle with clutch&gears (I believe he had ridden some scooters, though)...... and he had several minor crashes during the first 1-2 days on the tour, luckily escaping injury, but after these he agreed with the group leader that it will be better to take him back to Phnom Penh, and he continued the trip by some other means.
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Old 4 Dec 2009
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interesting thoughts Pecha. sobering.

As i said in my opening post, i did spend 3 months in VN and Cambodia in 2004 so i know what the traffic will be like. My idea was to head into the hills away from the crowds and cities. I have driven in Africa and that was an experience.

The 60L pack mentioned was to carry a bivibag and small sleeping bag for emergency use. I understand you can travel light. IF i was just backpacking, I would take my 30L berghaus freeflow. food for thought.

with regards to bike experience. I was planning on doing my CBT. I wasnt thinking of just going out there and jumping on. do you think this will be enough? I had no driving license when i hired the mopeds out there in 04! I rode around Ko Samui and the island off Halong Bay (VN) without incident. (ok they are quiet places, but thats why i want to stay out of cities). I was also on my own at this point.

hmmm, lots to think about. thank you for your suggestions, keep them coming

G
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Old 4 Dec 2009
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Arrow Pillion's perspective

Hi Griffdowg
Okay, this is coming from the pillion's perspective... my other half (Mark) and I hired a 250cc bike in Cambodia, and another in Laos (to solve the border issue) in 2005. He has a lot of experience dirt biking (but had no license at time), whereas this was my first time riding on the back since I was a kid. It opened my eyes up to the joys of motorcycle travel, but I was very glad to have an experienced rider at the bars... traffic is unpredictable and there were some close moments. I feel luck always has a lot to do with riding safely, but if you can increase your odds (and therefore safey, confidence and enjoyment) then do all you can to do this, cause remember, it ain't easy for the passenger literally trusting you with their life.

As for comfort, a 250cc offers little in the way of this (having since gone two up throuth NW Africa on a 1150GS I now know the difference). The rider has more padding on the seat, passenger ends up partially resting on the back bar. We ended up bungeeing a doubled up pillow to the back because at times the pain was unbearable, and whilst this helped, it did not alleviate it entirely. We did do some off-roading, crossing corrugated rice paddies for hours at a time, and this was hard work for both of us (and our bums) but also the highlight rides of our journey. Just don't underestimate how irritated both of you may get when uncomfortable,and allow for frequent rest stops. I got so sore that some days I refused to get back on the bike as instantly my rear was hurting, so factor in some rest days to recover.

Practical elements... we hired the first bike in PP, $8 US daily from Lucky (sorry, don't have details but were listed in LP guide), then Laos bike $30US daily for a newer bike (which we later changed at another office due to problems with it as poorly maintained but did not have a choice when hiring as only one in Pakse). The Lucky bike was in better condition, with the two Laos bikes doing wheel bearings, though luckily on both occasions we got to local mechanics. The bike we picked up on Luang Prabang was also poorly maintained, but hey, we did not have much choice. We met expats coming from Thailand whilst in Luang Prabang, all having mechanical problems with bike hires whilst in Laos from the reputable travel agency we went through (though sorry don't have the details of this, again in the LP guide), so don't always think that more money equals better bike. As for what we carried, literally the clothes on our backs and a day pack bungeed on the back with a change of clothes and passport. We left our other luggage with offices we hired bikes through with no problems. Clothes easy to get washed in guesthouses along the way. Just remember to pack some first aid gear, we forgot and wished we had a thermometer at least when Mark came down with bad fever near Kep.

On a sidenote we hired a scooter two up for two days as 250cc not available at the time, this was cheap option and locals will have tires, repair etc at hand (which we needed twice). But it is slower and limited off-road (and we looked like Dumb and Dumber given Mark is 6'6).

Hope this is helpful and we are envious as have fond memories of this trip and especially the people en route.
Cheers,
Allison
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  #9  
Old 5 Dec 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pecha72 View Post
Thailand is a more developed country, and tourism-wise it´s still more mainstream, even though Cambodia & Laos are gaining popularity. All have different & exciting cultures, that alone makes them well worth a visit (all even have their own language)... But if you already have experience of Indonesia, its possible Cambodia & Laos might not feel so exotic to you, as they would to someone visiting Asia for the first time.

Thanks mate. Food for thought!
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Old 7 Dec 2009
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Controlling a motorcycle with a heavy load is not so easy, and traffic in those parts of the world is actually quite wild, most people do take some time to get used to it. Having to learn both simultaneously would be a very tough task, with very real risks involved - for you, your passenger, and possibly others as well. If it was me, I would not deliberately put myself into that position.

When doing a self-drive/ride tour in Asia, traffic is probably one thing that´s just as likely to get you into trouble as other security issues, or some exotic diseases, so it shouldnt be underestimated. It´s also good to keep in mind, that as a falang, you´re considered the one with the thicker wallet, so pretty much anything that might happen - you pay.

Don´t get me wrong, I do not mean to put you off at all, these are truly wonderful countries to travel; beautiful, exciting, warm, friendly and cheap - and doing them on 2 wheels is even more fantastic. Some of the best riding I´ve ever done in my life has definitely happened in this region, and usually people have no problems. But considering all this, I would find a way to get some experience of riding a bike before I´d set off. And preferably also go riding in Asia 1-up first, before doing it 2-up.

(Here´s just a thought, even though this may not be your solution for 2-up:
a group of my friends, who usually spend their winters in Thailand, all now ride 115 or 135cc Yamaha Nouvo scooters (automatic), and they all have decades of riding experience; all of them also have big bikes back home, some also in Thailand, but they seem to be quite happy with these small "chicken chasers"... (it does look funny, when big falangs are riding such small bikes, though!!) I joined them 3 years ago, when they tried to enter Vietnam with Nouvos (wasnt allowed, but we had a great time in Cambodia & Laos!)... and since then, they´ve tried to enter Burma, and toured extensively in many parts of Thailand with them as well. Next January, they´re planning a ride to Malaysia&Indonesia! This kind of vehicle is surprisingly bulletproof, and wheels&tyres can be fixed in even the smallest villages in the backroads. The locals ride them year-round, even in the muddy roads in the rainy season, and they often have luggage like you would not believe, so a good rider can take them surprisingly far. It´ll run at 100-110kms per hour all day, uses almost no gas, and I believe nowadays costs around 1000-1300 euros new. Some of those Nouvos now have over 20.000kms on the clock, and they´ve never missed a beat. Being light, and having no clutch and gears it´s also much easier for a beginner to learn. I didn´t understand their enthusiasm for these scooters at first, but as I´ve now done some 6-7 thousand kms with them, there´s no denying it is a very economical and surprisingly capable "bike" to tour SE Asia)
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