This story is not about a motorcycle tour per se, but it did occur during a motorcycle tour into Laos with the Superbike Club Of Malaysia. Bird Story was published in the Asian Wall Street Journal on Nov. 10, 2000.
When I was living in Malaysia from 1995 through 2000, I found myself traveling to Borneo often, mostly for motorcycle riding. Through these motorcycle tours I also became interested in Borneo’s tourism infrastructure and began making many contacts in the tourism industry there. One contact I made was Robert Basiuk who went on to become the Minister of Tourism for Sarakak Province in East Malaysia on the island of Borneo.
On one of my bike trips through southern Thailand, I was held up in a town called Suratthani for a week because the rainy season had flooded all the roads. With nothing to do except wait for the floods to subside, I couldn’t help but notice that many of the pickup trucks around town were filled to the brim with coconuts, and on top of the pile usually sat a monkey or two on a leash.
I was invited to go on the first exploratory cruise into Burma’s Mergui Islands along with two other journalists. The Merguis had always held a long time fascination for me for several reasons. First of all, they are strictly off-limits to foreigners and have been this way for at least a half century because of Burma’s xenophobic and paranoid government (I don’t know why, but all these off limit places are the ones I want to visit the most).
While on a motorcycle trip through Indonesia, I heard about a tiny island where the locals hunt whales from primative boats. Sounded interesting, I thought. So I loaded my bike on a local prahu and headed to Lambeta Island where this story took place. I actually went whale hunting with the Lamalerans, and, probably lucky for me, we came back empty-handed the entire week I took to the seas.
The Hmong are one of the most populous hilltribes in Southeast Asia. They live in southern China, north and central Vietnam, north Laos, northern Burma, amd throughout Thailand’s Golden Triangle region. And if you are lucky and find yourself on one of our motorcycle tours on the thirtieth day of the first lunar month after the rice is harvested …