At a time when the United State's-based motorcycle industry and its accompanying rallies, shows, and other events are struggling to continue, in Southeast Asia the beat goes on. Possibly due to the iconic biker identity that exists in the area, there is a pragmatic foundation that is built on a solid concept of bikes, bikers, and camaraderie-old-school Hollywood-style, alive and vibrant.
To wit-another new bike show in the middle of the bustling and chaotic Bangkok (the capital and largest city of Thailand), also known as Krung Thep (City of the Deity). Imagine putting on a big bike show in the middle of the city of Angels (Los Angeles, California), or the Big Apple (New York, New York). I mention this because putting a show in a densely populated, traffic-clogged shopping center creates another obstacle to an already difficult task of getting people there. A Harley is of little value in terms of overcoming traffic here, as they are too large to fit between lanes in the tightly congested streets of Bangkok, so you may as well be in a cage. This put somewhat of a question in the mind of the rally organizers and the community. But, as they say here, "no problem." To get there I was able to use the efficient and fairly new Skytrain, a modern and economical monorail (free of graffiti and thugs) built about eight years ago. Why can't we have one?
Siam International Bike Week was the brainchild of Chaiyaphat Chanvilai and bankrolled by him to the tune of $180,000. To the surprise of most, lots of bikes did in fact show up along with some classic U.S. cars. In my amateur way, I guestimated about 200 to 300 bikes, most of which were Harleys and most of those were baggers. Baggers are very popular in Thailand as the roads out of the city are quite conducive to long tours. The number of people were surely in the many of thousands but it was hard to separate the shoppers from the bikers. This is not a "shopping center" as we know it in sprawling Southern California or other parts of America, with a huge parking lot, but more like a city center of multi-storied shopping malls converging on this central area of single-lane streets where the show was held. As a side note, there are an estimated 10,000 registered Harleys in Thailand giving some drawing power for such events. It is not unusual to find people from many nations on hand like Malaysia, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, and even the Philippines. And of course at least one (me) American. Actually there were many Americans here but were surely in the minority with only about 10 percent of the ex-pat population being of U.S. origin.
As the photos show there were some great bikes on hand for the viewing public. The primary focus of this event was a fundraiser to restore the old "Royal Fleet" of government escort Harleys: 1200cc Electra Glides. There was as much old iron here as I've seen at any bike rally in the States: Pans, Knucks, Flatties, and tons of Shovelheads. And they get ridden. All the usual trappings of an American-style show were present although with a different presentation. Temporary vendor tents were set up on the streets while the permanent shops and restaurants were open for business. A stage was set up for announcements and of course a Miss Siam Bike Show contest.
Although a bit warm, it was actually a super-fun time-of people watching, mingling, and photographing. English is fairly well spoken in the business community so communication is generally not difficult. Although some of the stage segments were in Thai, it only added to the cultural diversity. Other going-ons were a raffle for an 883 Sportster Iron, a bike competition with awards for Best Classic, Best Custom, Best Stock, and Best of Character (I need to find out about that one). Of course live music onstage was ongoing with some talented musicians belting out some familiar motorcycle rock. This was a great trip and the first-time event was well organized and well run. Check it out at siaminternationalbikeweek.com.