SLICE OF LIFE
Joerg Waldmann devotes as much care and attention to his BMW 800 motorcycle as he would a girlfriend. The German expat has ridden it on numerous off-road trips, the most recent being in Myanmar. A project manager for Go Thailand Tours, he has resided in Thailand for close to a decade.
Waldmann recalls having a fondness for motorbikes from an early age.
"Since my recollections take me, I have always felt a deep passion and admiration for bikes," he said.
"As a kid, I enjoyed riding a 80cc bike with kick start lever. Then as a teenager, I had the great fortune of riding the bike of a motorcyclist, who was somewhat of a local hero in my community. I was very proud that he let me ride his bike. I was both inspired and frightened at the same time of the power and speed of this monster, a Kawasaki with 1,000cc."
Waldmann's growing interest in motorcycles came to an abrupt halt when a close friend's brother had the misfortune of being in a bike accident which put him permanently in a wheelchair. So it doesn't come a surprise that for his 16th birthday he opted not to ask for a motorcycle as gift from his father.
As he grew older, and moved to Asia, his love for this mode of transport was rekindled. But at the back of Waldmann's mind, there was still a morbid fear of speed, and when he rode beyond 100km/h he started to feel jittery.
When he finally moved to Bangkok, he made up his mind to purchase a scooter to beat traffic. He had his heart set on getting a Honda, but when it came to putting down a deposit, an inner voice told him "don't do it yet". Six months later he decided on getting a Yamaha Fino, and yes, there was no voice stopping him from making the purchase.
It has always been Waldmann's philosophy to not accumulate a collection of motorcycles. So whenever he changed his bike, he would sell the older one first before purchasing a new one. Eventually his fear of speed abated, and he was ready to take up the challenge of riding a more powerful, faster bike.
"This one particular evening I saw this beauty in the vicinity of my condo," recalls the German. "It was a BMW 650 GS Dakar, a big Enduro, a travel machine which ignited in me the passion for travel and adventure. It was love at first sight.
"While I didn't end up purchasing it, I did go on to rent a small Enduro (Honda XR250) to sojourn across remote areas of Cambodia. Eventually, I changed my little Fino into a 'real' motorbike - a Kawasaki D-Tracker 250 - and I started trips all around Thailand.
"Two years later after coming back from another off-road trip in Cambodia I found my current love - a more powerful BMW 800 GS - which allowed me to keep up with the other guys of my motorbike gang. Today we are still happy with each other, and yes, she is still my favourite. We have clocked up over 20,000km each year."
The challenge of preparing for an off-road trip in Asia is not as arduous as you might imagine. One benefit of travelling in a tropical climate is the fact that you can take off on a trip anytime of the year. The most obvious obstacle for off-road tours is probably rain. But then you can always stay on road, and with proper gear you stay relatively dry. Thailand, with its huge option of road networks and warm weather, is a paradise for riders, says Waldmann. "Even when driving off-road in the rain you don't freeze as much as you do in Europe."
Waldmann shares a couple of photos from his off-road trips in the region.
This is one of many photos I took during my first trip to Cambodia, which has some of the most spectacular scenery in this part of the world. It was also after this trip that I seriously became passionate about motorcycles. Cambodia is ideal for offroading, primarily because almost the entire country is offroad. Due to this there are almost no limitations or restrictions put on motorcycle owners to obey road regulations.
This is yet another photo taken in rural Cambodia that brings back fond memories. Getting your vehicle stuck in the mud, as seen in this photo, is part and parcel of the experience of being off-road. Patience is often a virtue when you find yourself in such a bind.
I came across this family of elephants while on a trip to Phetchabun province, which has a number of interesting tourist highlights, waterfalls included. I really enjoy looking at this photo because of the curious baby elephant who was courageous enough to come and check out my motorcycle.
This is yet another favourite photo of mine, taken while riding to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. It was a wonderful encounter because the road, which was newly built, allowed motorists to pick up speed while manoeuvring around its wide curves. Coupled with this adrenalin-pumping excitement, I found the beautiful scenery of tea plantations a real treat. The greenery was refreshing.
About the author
- Writer: Yvonne Bohwongprasert