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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Chiang Mai: Bike Week

Mini-Sturgis! It was Bike Week in Chiang Mai, a small and rather different version of the big annual bike rally in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Rooms were scarce, but not outrageously priced. No one had to pay $100 a night to pitch a tent in someone's back yard. Houses didn't rent for $8000 for the week.

Sunday was Constitution Day, making this the second long weekend in a row, and this time in addition to the all the Thais getting away from the Bangkok, the bikers were in town. The parking lot of the guest house was lined with Harleys, and even I could tell these were beautiful bikes.

There were big parties out by the stadium, and some special rides. Kevin, the guy who sold the bar to go touring on his Harley, turned around from an errand Saturday afternoon when he learned they were doing a poker ride. Each participant chips in 500 baht, then rides to five different bars for a drink, where they receive a playing card. At the end, the rider with the best poker hand wins half the pot, and the other half goes to charity. Kevin decided he really didn't want to be out there while this was going on.

Nick, the bartender at the Pirates Cove, told me that having a big Harley in Thailand means you have it made, you have money, you are rich. Listening to the guys at my hotel had me agreeing. This morning as they got ready to leave, I could overhear two of them exchanging business cards. Apparently some of them are executives at the General Motors plant in Pattaya. Nearly all of the bikers staying at the Top North were American.

Like all bikers, they couldn't resist gunning the engines before starting out. I finally asked one if the purchase contract required the owners to gun the engines ten times before pulling out. "I don't think so," was the reply, "My contract said thirteen."

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