I caught an amazing sunrise over the Buhmibol 1 Bridge as I rode out of Bangkok in the pre-dawn hours last Friday morning. My destination was Hua Hin, a warm beach front community of friendly people and amazing sea food. 205 km, and three and a half hours later, I was beach side with my friends at Xplore Asia enjoying the best banana shakes Hua Hin has to offer. Most visitors can easily find it difficult to leave the beach behind to explore the endless natural beauty of the area. However, a full day motorcycle exploration of the area was exactly what we were hashing out over banana shakes.
Laying out all options for our Saturday ride we settled on the Pala-U Waterfall, a roughly 65 km trek north west of the city center. The day heated up quickly as we finished breakfast and packed our bikes. Heading out of town the urban environment quickly disappeared and beautiful two lane mountain roads emerged ahead of us. The roads wound through the mountains and in and out of the rolling valleys. As we passed fishing ponds, small one-road villages, monkeys on the side of the road and signs warning of wild elephants; it was clear we were entering ‘real’ Thailand.
The roads were next to empty and the only traffic we experienced were locals on motorbikes along with a few cows, monkeys and dogs crossing the roads. With virtually open road ahead, we opened up the throttles and enjoyed the roar of the engines as we zipped through the fresh country air. To break up the ride, and briefly escape the heat, we took refuge at a roadside BBQ stand. A round of waters, ice and BBQ chicken was all it took re-energize the batteries to continue riding in the heat.
Reaching the waterfall the canopy of trees quickly morphed into jungle vegetation of giant green leaves and hanging vines. The hot air noticeably dropped a few degrees and created goose bumps as it became cool, dense and tropical. The Pala-U waterfall has 5 levels, and each is easily accessible to hikers of all levels. We hiked our way to the 5th level which opened up to a flowing waterfall and pond that looked perfect for a swim. The cold water shocked the senses to to life; just in time to notice the resident schools of fish who were not afraid to nibble at our legs and feet to find out just who we were.
After a refreshing swim the afternoon sun was closing in and it was time to experience the ‘New Latitude’ wine movement. Located 20 km back towards the city, and smack on the 13th parallel, the Hua Hin Hills Vineyard is at the heart of an emerging region for wine growers. Operating in the foothills of a converted Asian elephant domestication corral; the vineyard has all the pieces necessary to produce world class wines. Warm ocean breezes, fertile soil and temperate weather are the building blocks for their Monsoon Valley wine label.
After a long day on the bikes we parked ourselves at a table overlooking the valley and relaxed over a bottle of their home grown Cuvée de Siam Rouge and a plate of over-sized calamari. The wine is a unique blend of Shiraz and Sangiovese grapes which are aged in French Oak barrels. With its hints of cherries, blackberries and pepper, and its smooth finish, it went extremely well with the crispy fried calamari and the citrusy flavored dipping sauce.
In one day we transformed from a grizzly bike gang cruisin the countryside, to adventure hikers climbing waterfalls to aristocrats enjoying the finest wines the world has to offer. It was an awesome ride and an awesome day. As I continue to explore more of the less traveled tourist paths this vast country has to offer, it’s quite eye-opening to see the natural beauty seemingly awaiting exploration. With an enjoyable bike at my disposal, I’m excited for more explorations to find that next hidden gem. Live to Ride!