Sunday, March 3, 2013

Suratthani Bike Week 2013

On Saturday night, I went with a group of friends to the Suratthani bike show, which was an event for all motorcyclists in the area. I had never been to a bike show, and so I had no idea what to expect.

Even in my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined the night would have gone the way it did.

The event was held at the local fair grounds, and before we had even arrived the sound of grumbling and roaring motors filled the air, and sent sound vibrations through my body. There were motor cycles everywhere, and not the kind that I normally see driving around the city. Most of the bikes are custom built, and believe it or not, Thailand does not   enforce the same "street legal" laws as America does.

As we were walking into the event, there was what I will call a motorcycle, although I think it was some type of transformer, pulling in beside us. It must have been at least fifteen feet long, with handle bars that reached a third of its length, and a seating area that was low to the ground. Behind the wheel was the driver and his gypsy wife and biker child. On the side was a giant plaque that read, Krabi Riders. Easily the coolest vehicle I have ever seen.

As I started to notice the crowd around me, I began to feel like I had either left Thailand completely, or I had somehow broken into a secret counter culture world. There were thousands of bikers and they were all swagged out in denim, big leather boots, leather vests coated in patches, american bandanas, indian headbands, jackets with fringe around the bottoms, and shirts with wolves and motor cycles and eagles all on them. Everyone had long hair, tattoos, and piercings, which is rare compared to the relatively conservatively dressed Thai people that I know. Even the children were all dressed as bikers. It was a side of Thai society I have never seen and I fell in love.

Everyone was drinking beer, giving cheers with cups full of whiskey, and dancing on their chairs and tables. It was absolutely wild and I joined right in the festivities. The performances were the best music I have heard in Thailand, and the band that headlined, Carabao, was a really famous Thai rock and roll bad that had finally reunited after 25 years. The crowd was going nuts and we joined the giant dance party at the front of the stage. By the end of the night we were sweating, disheveled and wearing huge grins on our faces.

Despite the obsessive need for people to take pictures of "farang" (us foreigners), it was the first time in a really long time that I didn't really feel like an outsider in their culture. We met a huge group of biker Thai guys my age and we all hung out and danced and it felt the same as being with some of my guy friends back home.

I don't know why this is the first time I have seen this side of Thai culture, but I hope to see more of it. It was really fun and had a total hippy feel to it. There wasn't any of the superficial-hyper-feminine-babydoll elements that I normally encounter in my day to day interactions and observations of Thai culture. It was as if a time machine in the sky opened up and dropped everyone to the ground for the night, and when the event was over they would return to the past.

And the best part is.... I left with a new t-shirt of a fire eagle riding a motorcycle.

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