For the past 15 years or so, around the time of the Songkran festival, big hogs than usual are seen roaming around Phuket Island.
These aren't the four footed kind. They are large motorcycles. It is Phuket Island Bike Week.
From modest beginnings on Friendship Beach between Chalong and Rawai, the event has grown into one which brings together 5,000 to 7,000 bike riders from more than 30 countries, as well as the representatives of several motorbike companies, and the merely curious and interested.
The event is now recognized as an official tourist activity and it is estimated that it creates 800 million baht of revenue annually. Every event has a socially aware theme, such as riding for "world peace" or being against illegal drugs.
Bike Week raises a considerable amount for charity. Bike Week – which actually lasts only three to four days – is fun and has become big business.
Bike Week has long since shifted to Patong Beach and is mainly centered around the Jungceylon shopping complex near the western end of Bangla Road and Loma Park in north Patong. Contrary to popular belief, the event is NOT really about actually riding motorcycles or motorbikes on Phuket Island – although those that come to the Bike Week can do that.
The celebration is much more about meeting other bikers and having fun, and viewing or exhibiting the latest developments in motorbike style and technology. Participants in Bike Week activities can buy cards with different prices allowing them to participate in different festival events.
Most of the money collected is given to charities. Representatives of all the major motorbike and motorcycle manufactures and sellers will be on hand to demonstrate and explain their products.
By the first day of the festival, those interested in participating should have bough their cards allowing them to participate in the events that interest them.
On the first day, the main day time event is the motorcycle exhibition at Jungceylon. Bikers, and biking companies such as Yamaha, Suzuki, and, of course, Harley Davidson show off their latest bikes and choppers.
There are also various bike contests. In the evening the focus shifts to the Bangla walking street where there is a carnival which is generously supported by area businesses and bars. The event which most people wait for is the evening beach party-concert of Loma Park.
Over the years, some very high profile Thai performers, such as the group Carabao, have performed in the party in the park.
On the second day, the exhibition at Jungceylon continues, and in the late afternoon, the one major biking activity of Bike Week begins.
The bikers head south through Karon and Kata, their ultimate destination being Nai Harn Beach, which is some thirty kilometers away. Later in the evening they will roll into Phuket town for dinner.
In Patong, there is another beach party in Loma Park featuring more well known talents.
The third day is somewhat anticlimactic. There are some more rip roaring party activities and the exhibitions continue at Jungceylon. Things begin to wind down toward evening and the Bike Week festivities begin to merge into the Songkran holiday.
Bikers may join in a Songkran procession on the beach road. The major event of this day is probably the Miss Songkran contest. Those attending the festival are encouraged to enter into the Songkran festivities.
As the festivities wind down, it is possible for visiting bikers to cruise around the island and see the sights but they must be cautious. Riding bikes on the Songkran holiday is one of the worst and most dangerous things they could do!!
Every Songkran, the roads become morasses of water, and operating a motor vehicle on them is very difficult. Furthermore, those on the streets consider it good, clean fun during this holiday to throw water at all motor vehicles driving on the road.
It certainly seems very strange to have a motorbike week during the Songkran Festival. It seems ashamed that motorbike drivers are not able to safely operate their motorbikes during this time. One must simply conclude it is another of those strange things about Thailand that can't be easily understood.
Perhaps in the future, this strange contradiction in timing might be corrected. Nevertheless, Songkran can be fun. It is a good time to get drunk and play and meet girls, so it is certainly possible to be active during this period. One should, however, consider the strange timing of bike week when trying to decide if one wants to attend.