Necessary and sufficient things to pack in your knapsack for a summer motorbike tour in unknown environments and unplanned destinations

  1. Your passport, even if your original plan was not to leave the country.
  2. Depending on the duration, 3 to 4 T-shirts.  Black so that the dirt is not obvious.
  3. 3 to 4 underwear. Black for obvious reasons.
  4. A swimming suit for the sea, lakes or rivers. Preferably black, just in case.
  5. 2 black tank-tops for driving and the beach.
  6. A pair of short trousers for driving and the beach.
  7. A pair of long trousers for driving when it is cold, and for going out in cities.
  8. A pair of sandals for driving short distances and the beach.
  9. A pair of shoes for driving long distances, dirt roads, and going out in the cities.
  10. A warm jacket/sweater for driving at night or mountainous areas.
  11. A rain jacket because it will most likely rain somewhere.
  12. A towel, most useful for swimming, sleeping (e.g., on ship decks), showering (e.g., in camps) etc.
  13. Toothbrush, toothpaste and soap, preferably in solid form.
  14. Earphones for listening to music on the long highway trips.
  15. Charger and portable battery, especially if you do camping.
  16. If you still have space, a bottle of your favourite alcohol because you may not be able to find at your first destination.

Anything else will most likely create unnecessary distractions and will make finding the essential things more difficult.
Like life in general.

Dimitris Papadias
Professor of Computer Science
25+ years of touring experience in 5 continents



2023 December – 2024 January


South and North Thailand: With Andreas and 4 Honda Click 160.

Compared to last year's trip to Vietnam and Cambodia this was easy. Easy to rent motorbikes, easy traffic conditions, easy to find and order excellent food everywhere, easy to communicate since most Thai people speak English etc. The trip had two parts. We took a flight to Phuket island and from there we explored south Thailand. When we got bored, we took another flight from Phuket to Chiang Mai, and rode around the mountains of north Thailand. The first part is shown in the map below. In reality, we rode many more than the kilometers indicated in the maps because we did several detours and visited additional places, including the islands Koh Samui and Ko Pha Ngan. 

Although the road conditions in Thailand are suitable for larger bikes, based on last year's experience, in Phuket we rented two Honda Click 160 that can cruise comfortably with up to 110 km/hour. We had to pay a higher deposit than usual because we took the scooters to mainland Thailand, but still prices were very low. As expected, Phuket was full of tourists and we only stayed there a couple of days. The first picture below is from Yanui beach, the southernmost on the island,  and the second one from Karon viewpoint. Compared to previous trips where most of the photos were taken by mobile phones, this year we brought a full frame camera (Sony A7CII) with an assortment of lenses. Thus, you may observe a more "artistic quality" to the photos. I also had an incentive to take more and include more in this page.

Once you leave Phuket, through the bridge connecting it to the mainland, the traffic drops significantly. We followed the direction north, towards Ranong, a town next to the border with Myanmar. The road is near the sea (but no sea view) and in good condition. There are many detours towards national parks, beaches and waterfalls, which are worth exploring. The pictures below are some of these detours.

Our first overnight stop was Khao Lak, about an hour drive north of  Phuket. Khao Lak was among the worst hit areas by the tsunami of 2004, and you can still see several reminders, including a tsunami museum.  In my opinion it is one of the most underrated places in Thailand with several of the advantages of Phuket (landscape, beaches, facilities, easy accessibility), without the heavy traffic and overcrowding. There is even some decent nightlife. The photos below are from Pakarang Cape and Coconut Beach.

Ranong, about 220 km north of Khao Lak, is a provincial town without much to do, except maybe of visa-free trips to neighboring towns or islands in Myanmar. We did not take this option because of the civil war there. Instead, after spending a night in Ranong we continued north towards central Thailand and Hua Hin, 200 km south of Bangkok. This was a long trip (380 km) for scooters and it became more difficult because both of us had high fever since we caught flu or something similar. We stayed a couple of days in Hua Hin, but unfortunately it was cloudy and rainy. The first photo below is from the trip, where the road comes closest to Myanmar (on the other side of the river). The second picture is from the beach of Hua Hin.  

After Hua Hin, we returned south towards Chumphon. In order to see different places, we took small coastal roads, instead of the main highway connecting Bangkok to south Thailand (i.e., the road that we used from Chumphon to Hua Hin). Indeed as shown in the pictures below, the landscape was worth it. The overnight at Chumphon, on the other hand, not so much (the third photo is at a river restaurant in Chumphon).

We continued south to Surat Thani and the port for ferries to Koh Samui. There are frequent ferries and we found one departing immediately. Koh Samui was too busy for our taste and the next day we took another boat (I would not call it a ferry) to Ko Pha Ngan (a couple of hours north of Koh Samui). As you can see in the first picture, the boat was full of people because there was a full moon party at Ko Pha Ngan (second photo). We liked the relaxed atmosphere of Ko Pha Ngan and stayed a few days at a small hotel by the beach (third picture and video at the end).

We then took the ferry from Ko Pha Ngan back to Surat Thani and went further south to Krabi. Although Krabi is beautiful (picture below) and has many places to visit nearby, including Phi Phi and other islands, we were getting tired of the crowds in south Thailand - moreover I had visited Krabi recently. So we decided for a change of scenery (from beaches to mountains), rode back to Phuket, returned the scooters and boarded a flight to Chiang Mai, the Thai capital of the north.

Using Chiang Mai as our base, we did four mountain tours each ranging between 1-3 days. Since we were happy with the Honda Clicks, we rented again the same. The weather conditions were excellent, with pleasant temperatures and sunny days.

Our first tour is the iconic Mae Hong Son loop to the west of Chiang Mai. As shown in the map below it is at least 500kms and it takes at least three days, but it may become much longer depending on your exploration mood. We started with direction northwest. The first picture below is from a waterfall (in north Thailand there is always some waterfall near you, when you are on the road). The second one is at the entrance of Pai, the village where we had our first stay. Pai is rather touristic, with visitors enjoying the relaxed way of life, various outdoor activities and marijuana (legal in Thailand). The second day we traveled from Pai to Mae Hong Son, the capital of the province with the same name.We did several detours to visit mountain peaks and traditional villages (third picture below). Such detours are usually short (up to 10-15km) and worth it. Mae Hong Son is a sleepy town. However, we were lucky to find a street food market when we arrived and enjoyed our dinner by the lake (fourth picture).The last day involved more mountains, including Doi Inthanon with the highest peak (2,565 meters) in Thailand. The last two pictures below are near that peak - the road goes all the way to the top, but bring a jacket.

The next tour was north of Chiang Mai and included an overnight in Chiang Rai, the second largest city in the area. The main road to Chiang Rai is the, mostly flat, highway 118. It is worth stopping at Mae Suai Dam viewpoint (first picture below). Before entering Chiang Rai, you can also visit the White Temple (second photo), one the area's main attractions. Compared to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai is much smaller and limited in terms of nightlife. However, its food night market is far superior (third picture). The second day of the trip we took the long way back to Chiang Mai, visiting Doi Pha Hom Park (fourth photo), the Cave Temple at Chiang Dao (fifth picture), and Karen Village with the long neck women (sixth photo). Less challenging than the Mae Hong Son loop, but with interesting places to visit.

The destination of the third trip was the Sky Pagodas in Lampang (Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat Phrachomklao Rachanusorn in Google maps). It was the most enjoyable day of riding during the entire tour. The first part was highway 118, that we took to Chiang Rai before. After exiting 118, we passed through a beautiful gorge with picturesque villages and (the usual) waterfalls (first picture), and ended up at several peaks and viewpoints (second and third photo). When we eventually reached the pagodas, we had to take a pickup truck to the base of the mountain (no private vehicles allowed), where we realized that the visit still requires 800 meters of climbing steep steps. This was well above our daily quotas for climbing and we turned back. The fourth photo makes fun of our situation - if you try hard, you can imagine the roofs of the pagodas at the top of the mountain behind me. Despite getting late, and Google map's advice, we decided to ride back to Chiang Mai through Chae Son National Park. The road is narrow, full of tight curves, and passes through uninhabited forests and streams. It also has some of the steepest uphills that I have ridden in my life (worse than those of Mae Hong Son loop, which are the second steepest). Surprisingly, while we had not encountered any sign of human life for several kilometers, the GPS indicated heavy traffic 500 meters ahead of us. We thought that this was a mistake, but it turns out that it was Mae Kampong Village, a resort popular with Thai people (last photo). After the village, the rest of the route to Chiang Mai became easier, faster and more boring.

The last tour in northern Thailand, called the Samoeng loop, was the shortest and the "lightest" in terms of challenges. We started from Doi Suithep, the mountain west of Chiang Mai. In addition to a palace and one of the most sacred temples in Thailand, the mountain provides impressive views of Chiang Mai (first photo below). We next visited Mae Sa waterfall, which is 1.5 km long and has several nice coffee shops next to the water (second photo). Finally, we took the usual mountain view photo (third one) at Samoeng viewpoint. Although less interesting than the other trips, the loop offers a convenient way to spend a day. After finishing all bike tours (and bars) that we could find in Chiang Mai, we took the next flight back to Hong Kong.

Thailand is one of the best places for bike tours that I have seen. In addition to the amazing landscape, it is cheap (especially the non-touristic places), the food is excellent, the roads are good, and the drivers are careful. Even the policemen are helpful. I was stopped the only time that I did not have my international driving license on me, and the policeman suggested to go and pick it up from my (nearby) hotel - in other countries this is standard excuse for a bribe. I especially enjoyed north Thailand (it was my first time there). The beautiful rides in the mountains compensate for the lack of beaches. Moreover you avoid the crowds and the heavy traffic of touristic places like Phuket, Koh Samui and Krabi. And if you want to go swimming, there is always some waterfall in the vicinity.

Bonus pictures and drone video from a beach north of Kao Lak and our hotel in Ko Pha Ngan.

Taking cover from a storm in south Thailand

Random mountain in the north

2022 December – 2023 January


South Vietnam, Cambodia: With Andreas and 2 Yamaha 135 Cubs.

After a long break, mostly due to the COVID pandemic, we did the "Back to the Basics" tour of South Vietnam and Cambodia. I call it "Back to the Basics" because we rented cubs, which is the standard learner's motorbike for most young riders in Greece, including me. In addition to nostalgia, there are practical reasons that we selected cubs. First, they are easy to ride. Especially in Vietnam, a heavy motorbike would be unmanageable due to traffic. In Saigon entering/exiting a roundabout can be a traumatic experience. Second, they are reliable, and even if there is a problem, it is easily fixable. We had an issue with a carburettor in Mui Ne, and a local mechanic fixed it within two hours for 5 Euros. Third, they are inconspicuous. Attracting attention with a big bike (in places that there are very few), is not good for thieves, policemen and custom crossings. There is bike theft in Vietnam, and we heard that policemen may ask for the occasional bribe. We paid a small bribe at Customs to enter Cambodia. Finally, renting cubs is very cheap (as low as US $100 for a month, or $5 per day). We were very happy with our choice because their maximum travel speed of around 90km/hour is more than enough for any road that we encountered. Even if we had bigger bikes, going faster would be very dangerous due to traffic/road conditions, animals, kids, kids with bikes/bicycles, strange three-wheel vehicles carrying even stranger things, etc.


We started the trip in Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh, where we stayed a couple of nights. I had been there before, and the most distinguishing characteristic that I can think of is the heavy traffic. Everybody has the right of passage independently of the type of road that they enter, their direction (including opposite direction), type of vehicle (bicycles to trucks) etc. Driving accessories such as turn lights, mirrors or brakes are rarely used. Instead everybody presses the horn all the time, expecting every other driver (who also peeps incessantly) to pay attention. Even crossing a busy street on foot is challenging. Compared to some years ago, when most of the traffic was due to cubs and small scooters, now there are many more cars, including some very expensive ones, such as Rolls Royce and Lamborghini. In general, there was a feeling that the whole country is under development, with shiny luxurious buildings next to poor run-down neighbourhoods. We rented from Dragon Bikes - Patrick was helpful and importantly easy to communicate in English (he is American). In general, most Vietnamese do not speak English, and I suggest to have Google translate readily available, with Vietnamese downloaded, especially in non-touristic areas (e.g., do not always expect restaurant menus in English).


From Saigon, we headed towards the sea and our first destination Mui Ne. The map below covers the first part of our trip in South Vietnam, until reaching Cambodia. Note that Google Maps show that the travel time for 1843km is 39 hours. Indeed, it was mostly accurate. Also note that this was the dry season. I would not consider at all a trip (to any tropical destination) during the rainy season because it may pour for weeks in a row, which combined with the road and traffic conditions, makes driving difficult and dangerous. This is the reason that we did not go to North Vietnam although there are some impressive routes in the mountains. It was the first trip that we used a drone (DJI Mini 3 Pro) for pictures, and I am very happy with the results. It really enables some unique perspectives that are impossible with regular cameras. I even started taking video.



With few exceptions, the coastal road in Southern Vietnam is not scenic. First, all over the coast, there are huge hotels and resort towns under development, which block access to the sea. Some of these projects are really impressive, if not of questionable taste, as they can accommodate thousands of people (see video from "Venice" in Phuk Quoc at the end). I wonder if there are enough rich people in Vietnam, or the rest of the world, to fill them. Nevertheless, there are some traditional fishing towns (first picture below), as well as some beautiful camping sites (second picture).



We stayed in Mui Ne a couple of nights. It is an old fishing village around a port (first picture), which has substantial touristic development. However, it seems that tourism has not really recovered from COVID yet, and most places were half empty. Nevertheless, there are nice coffee shops by the sea (second picture) and bars/restaurants. Vietnamese ice coffee (with condensed milk) is among my top coffee choices. While there are coffee shops everywhere in Vietnam, bars in the Western sense of the term only exist in touristic areas. In some places it is even complicated to find restaurants, or food that agrees with Western taste. On the positive side, you can always get a Banh Mi, the tasty Vietnamese sandwich, from a nearby food stall. In general, food, beer and hotel accommodation was very cheap in both Vietnam and Cambodia. Whiskey not so much.


Unfortunately, during our stay in Mui Ne it was very windy. We tried to swim but it was impossible due to the strong currents and waves (first picture). Nevertheless, the kite-surfers had the time of their life. Actually, this is where I had kite surf lessons about 15 years ago. Just outside Mui Ne there are the white sand dunes, and a bit further to the north, the red sand dunes (second picture), which are the largest of the two, and a major touristic attraction. Surprisingly, they were empty when we went (see video at the end).



After Mui Ne, we headed towards Nha Trang, the major coastal city in Southern Vietnam. We did a detour from the directions of Google Maps in order to visit Vinh Hy, which was worth it as it was the most scenic route on the coast. The first picture is outside Vinh Hy, and the second one at a coffee shop at the port, where we enjoyed our Vietnamese ice coffee.



Unfortunately, we were disappointed in Nha Trang. First, despite being supposedly in the middle of high season, there were not really enough visitors, or vibe, to justify the huge number of hotels. In addition, the weather was cloudy and windy, and the beach closed (I guess due to the wind). Thus, after a night there, we decided to go to Dalat. Dalat was built by the French colonists in the mountains (altitude 1500 meters), in order to escape the summer heat and humidity of Saigon. Getting there from Nha Trang involves a scenic road through mountain passes (first picture) and waterfalls (second picture). Be prepared for low temperatures (a little above 0 Celcius at night) and possible rain along the way.


Dalat does not resemble any city that I have visited in Southeast Asia. With French architecture, a lake, and surrounded by forests, it is a Vietnamese version of Geneva (first picture). It was busier than Nha Trang, and, based on what we saw, it had a more lively nightlife. Around 15 km south of Dalat are the Elephant falls, with a temple and a huge statue next to them (second picture). 



Our next destination was Dong Xoai, near the border with Cambodia. After leaving the mountains, the road becomes again mostly flat and dull. We had a lunch stop in Bao Loc, a nice town built around a lake (first picture), and a coffee break by a river (second picture), but nothing really remarkable. Also, I did not really find anything interesting to mention about (or take a picture of) Dong Xoai, other than it was conveniently close to the border crossing to Cambodia.   

We crossed the border at Bavet. It was a bit complicated due to the motorbikes, and we paid a "consultant" to facilitate the process (they approach you to offer their services), but I have seen much worse border crossings. If you plan to enter Cambodia with a bike, ask the rental shop for the blue registration card of the bike. Also, since currently Vietnam visas are single-entry, you need to apply online again when you re-enter Vietnam. The first picture below is at the border, waiting for the "consultant" to arrange our visas. The other two are at Tsubasa bridge, over the Mekong river, around 100km before Phnom Penh.


Phnom Penh (population 2.3 million) is smaller than Saigon (population 9 million) and easier to navigate. It is also easier to drive around as the Cambodian drivers are not as aggressive as the Vietnamese. In general. Cambodian people are more similar to other South East Asians (e.g., Thais) both in appearance and behaviour (friendly and talkative). We stayed a few days and did some touristic things, including the sunset tour of Mekong river (picture below), played poker at the casino, and explored the nightlife. We liked the atmosphere and the bars at Bassac Street. Better to visit them in the weekend, when it is busy.


The map below contains the second leg of the trip inside Cambodia. Our first destination was Siem Reap, the city closest to the ancient temples of Angor Wat. Siem Reap (see picture below) was the busiest touristic spot during the entire trip. However, even there, we managed to find a nice cheap hotel with the first attempt. I guess this was the silver lining of COVID.

Angor Wat contains several ancient temples. The main one (first picture) is the most impressive and featured in the flag of Cambodia. It is also worth visiting other temples (second picture), some of which are almost taken over by the jungle. The bikes were useful as the temples are a few kilometers apart. Unfortunately, they do not allow drones, so we could not take aerial photos and video.





The next destination was Battabang, west of Siem Reap. It is the provincial capital of the main rice-producing province of Cambodia, with an old town center, and not much more. After one night there we continued towards Phnom Penh, where we welcomed 2023. Below are some pictures of the trip: the first one outside Battabang, and the second at a random stop somewhere in the middle of Cambodia.



After Phnom Penh, we headed south towards Kep. Kep beach (first picture, in the background) is supposedly the only beach in mainland Cambodia, but we were not impressed, and we did not even swim. In general, with the exception of the islands (to be discussed later) both Vietnam and Cambodia lack in terms of beaches. Near Kep is Kambot (see second picture), a nice town by a river, with a visible expatriate (e.g., Western) community. I am not sure, but several of the expatriates seemed either retirees that enjoy the low cost or life, or "hippies" that enjoy the "relaxed" lifestyle of the area.

Then we took the road to Sihanouk. Sihanouk is the main port of Cambodia, and the target of major Chinese investments. There are huge resorts and casinos, several of which seem under development, or abandoned due to COVID disruptions.  We left our bikes at the port, and took the speed boat to Koh Rong Sanloem, and Koh Rong, the main touristic islands of Cambodia. Koh Rong Sanloem (first picture) is the smallest of the two, and has no roads, or vehicles. The larger Koh Rong, has scooters, but not really a road network. Instead, if you stay at the main village (Kao Touch Beach), like we did, rent a scooter and visit the rest of the island, through a combination of paths and narrow streets. The most interesting part is the long beach on the west side, where you can enjoy the beautiful sea (Sok San beach, second picture) and a romantic sunset (third picture), if you are in the mood.





During the whole trip, we tried to avoid taking the same road twice. The only part that we could not avoid was the last 50-70km from Sihanouk to Kambot, where we had to go through again, in order to reach the southernmost border crossing to Vietnam. About 25km of that road was gravel, and it was the most difficult part of the trip, with the exception of driving in Saigon. Outside Kambot there is Bokor National Park, a mountainous area with French colonial buildings, temples and waterfalls. In addition, it is worth visiting for the twisty road that includes monkeys (first picture), statues (second picture), and views of Phu Quoc island. Interestingly, Phu Quoc is opposite of Kambot, although it belongs to Vietnam.

After spending the night in Kambot, it was a short ride to the Vietnamese border at Ha Tien. This border crossing was faster, much less complicated than the first one, and bribe-free. Ha Tien, the town on the Vietnamese side, has nothing noteworthy, except for a port ferry to Phu Quoc, the main touristic island of Vietnam and our next destination. Unfortunately, due to rough seas all the ferries to Phu Quoc were suspended. We had to spend a night in Ha Tien, and we were lucky that eventually there was a ferry late in the second day (I doubt that we would manage a second night in Ha Tien). Below a picture leaving the port, with Ha Tien in the background.



Phu Quoc is very developed, with an international airport, good roads and many hotels/resorts. Although much bigger than Koh Rong, it is rather small at 574 square km, and we explored most of it.

Below some pictures from the beaches.


Starfish Beach

Khem Beach

Main Beach, outside our bungalows

After a few days in Phu Quoc, we took the ferry to Phu Gia, and drove around 200 km to Saigon, concluding the trip. It was a solid "experience" tour, with few "feel good" moments. First, none of the beaches that we visited in mainland Vietnam and Cambodia was welcoming enough for swimming, or even spending some time there. Moreover, with the exception of weekends in Phnom Penh, we did not find any type of nightlife to our liking. Instead of "Back to the Basics", the trip could well be called the "Balconies" tour, since we did most of our drinking at the balconies of the hotels/bungalows that we were staying, or at the beach (picture below). Would I do the tour if I knew the outcome in advance? Of course. Will I do the same tour in the future? Probably not.



Below some drone videos:

Camping "Forest and Sea" in South Vietnam

Red sand dunes in Mui Ne

Elephant falls near Dalat

River cruise at Mekong in Phnom Penh

Long beach in Koh Rong

Main beach in Phu Quoc

"Venice" resort in Phu Quoc


2017 July

Transylvania, Romania: With Andreas and 2 BMW GS1200.

We were short of destinations because we have visited most places around Greece. So we intentionally started a trip without a particular target. Our first stop was Ikaria (first picture below), an island famous for its fiestas/festivals that last several days, and the longevity of its residents. Maybe the two are correlated. After that we went to Samos, an island next to Turkey (second picture). The plan was to cross to Kusadasi with a ferry boat. However, none of the ferries to Turkey carried motorbikes. Instead, we took the ship back to Athens (around 10 hours). We arrived after midnight, and we decided to start our trip to Sofia, Bulgaria, 800km north of Athens. The sunrise found us somewhere in Northern Greece (third picture).


After an uneventful Monday night in Sofia, we went to Veliko Tarnovo, a picturesque town in the mountains of North Bulgaria (first picture below). From there, we crossed the border to Romania. As shown in the second picture, the area around looks more like a wasteland than the border between two European countries. We spent the next night in the old town of Bucharest, which is much livelier than Sofia, even during the week nights. The selfie below is from the Parliament building of Bucharest.


Then, we continued north, towards Brasov, the largest city in the Carpathian Mountains. The main road connecting Bucharest and Brasov is rather small and has heavy traffic, including many trucks. The first picture below is where the road starts climbing the mountains. Brasov is very beautiful (second picture), but boring compared to Bucharest.


The next day, we visited Bran, a village near Brasov. The Bran Castle, in the picture below, is a popular tourist destination because according to urban legend it was home to Count Dracula. From there we did some routes on the mountains, which are well-known among bike riders. Although the landscape was at times impressive (second picture), we did not really enjoy driving because of the rainy weather, the traffic and the very bad road conditions: there were potholes full of water, from which you could not be sure that you would re-emerge.



Our final destination in Romania was Vama Veche, a beach town on the Black sea, next to the border with Bulgaria. Compared to other popular beach destinations in Romania, Vama has an alternative life style (it started as a nudist beach) that attracts musicians, backpackers and similar types. We liked our first night there. However, the next day it started raining and we decided to head south. The first couple of hundred kilometers were among the worst in my life. In addition to the heavy rain, there were strong winds. Thus, we were riding sideways, on a road that was slippery like a mirror. On top of that, extremely aggressive Romanian and Bulgarian drivers were getting stuck behind us trying to overtake in very dangerous situations. We managed to avoid problems, and eventually we made it back to the border with Greece at sun down (picture below).

After a few days with friends in Xanthi and Thasos island, and a night with family in Ioannina, we arrived safe to our basis in Pyrgos, Peloponnese. The whole trip was worth it as an experience, but you must be lucky in terms of weather and traffic to enjoy riding in the Carpathian mountains. You should also be very careful of the drivers both inside and outside the cities.

2017 May

Central Thailand: With a Honda CB 500X.

I used a Yamaha T-Max scooter as my daily commuter in Hong Kong for a few years, and I always wanted to test it in a long trip. Thus, I rented a Yamaha T-Max 530 from Bangkok Bikes Rental (BBR), which is conveniently located near the airport. I arrived shortly after midnight and I immediately started the trip south. I was feeling happy that I avoided the terrible Bangkok traffic and the high daytime temperature. The T-Max was indeed excellent for the speed I was travelling, around 120km per hour. That is, until about 100 km out of Bangkok, smoke started coming out of the engine, and then it died completely. I called the people at BBR and they showed up with a CB 500X replacement bike. I did the rest of the trip with that, but I kept missing the convenience and the wind protection of the T-Max. I arrived at Cha-am Beach, about 200 km south of Bangkok, early in the morning. As shown in the picture below, the beach was full of people, although it was around 7 am.

For the next couple of days, I stayed in Hua Hin Beach, a popular resort town on the Gulf of Thailand (first picture below). From there, I visited several nearby destinations, including Prachuap Khiri Khan (second picture). However, I found the beaches of the Gulf of Thailand inferior compared to the ones of Andaman Sea (e.g., Phuket). 

My next destination was Kaeng Krachan National Park, surrounding a water reservoir (first picture below). From there I continued inland, towards Ratchaburi. The sky was getting darker (second picture), and eventually a tropical storm caught up with me. The third picture below is a during an urgent stop to avoid the heavy rain.

I spent the night in Kanchanaburi and visited the nearby Bridge on the River Kwai 
(first picture below), made famous from the american movie with the same title. I also went to the Tiger Temple (Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Yanasampanno), but the tigers had already been relocated. My final destination for the day were the Erawan Waterfalls (second picture), where I enjoyed the cool water.

After spending a "Night in Bangkok" I took the flight home. The whole experience felt more like a pleasant long weekend than motorbike touring. All the kilometers that I drove (roughly 1000 km) were on small roads, but in relatively good condition. The only highways I saw were in Bangkok, and motorbikes were not allowed. The people at BBR were helpful and responsive during unconventional hours. However, they eventually kept my bike deposit, even if the damaged T-Max was not my fault. No hard feelings though.    

2016 June

North Luzon: Philippines with a Kawasaki KLR 650.

I rented through the internet a KLR 650 Motoribike from Mabuhay Bikes in Manila, which unfortunately closed recently. Although the bike was more than 20 years old, it did not cause any problems. Moreover, it would get a lot of attention from the locals during the stops, because bikes above 50cc are rare in the Philippines. The first stay was at a beach (see picture below) near San Fernando, La Union, about 300 km north of Manila. These were the easiest kilometers of the trip because it was mostly highway. However, at some point when I was entering, I was asked by the highway patrol to wear protective gear. Due to the hot weather, I only had shorts with me. This explains the T-shirts folded around my knees in the picture above, supposedly for protection. Eventually, they let me enter the highway and I removed the T-shirts after a couple of kilometers.

The next day, I continued north towards Vigan City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Vigan, built in the 16th century, is the best-preserved Spanish colonial town in Asia (see first picture below). Although less than 150km from San Fernando, the trip was unpleasant because of traffic, residential areas and high temperature. Liitle did I know at this point, that soon the easy roads would be over. Below a picture from a gas-stop. Note the number of people on the bike.

The second night, I stayed at a beach near Pagudpud, at the northern coast. There are several nice beaches in that area (see pictures below), most of which seem only recently developed. I did not see any foreign tourists there, unlike Boracay, Cebu, Palawan and other touristic places in the Philippines.

After enjoying the beaches, the next day I continued east on the coastal road, which was scenic (see two pictures below). The inland road was less interesting. It is worth mentioning that while in the interior of Luzon, it was difficult to find something edible during the stops. In the third picture below, I had eaten some kind of sticky rice, which I could not swallow no matter how much coke I drank.

The road became interesting again after Tabuk, the last large village before going up the mountains (see first picture below). The more I was leaving civilization, the more unpredictable it would become. I never knew if around the corner, there would be asphalt, stones, dirt, goats, or no road at all due to landfalls. However, as shown in the second picture, people were  friendly and hospitable despite the fact that those tribes were headhunters until less than a century ago. Actually, because I could not find a hotel, and it was very dangerous to drive in the dark, some locals offered me a shed to pass the night. It was an exciting experience, as there was only a metal sheet separating me from a family of pigs sleeping next door.

Notwithstanding the risks, the mountain road is rewarding in terms of landscape. There are numerous rice terraces (see first picture below), even in high altitudes (the tallest mountain is 3000 meters, and I believe that I almost reached that altitude while riding). The peak in the second picture is called Sleeping Beauty due to its shape.

Probably the most beautiful town in the mountains is Sagada, which is famous for its hanging coffins (see first picture below). After Sagada, I continued towards Baguio, the largest city in the area. Although only about 150km away from Sagada, Google maps indicates a driving time of about 5 hours. Probably it took me even longer, because of traffic, rain and heavy fog, sometimes combined with the road conditions mentioned above. The second picture below is from a stop – obviously the "jacket" I was wearing did not offer sufficient rain protection.  

After spending the night in Baguio, I took the road south. In the first picture below, I celebrate the end of the mountains with a cigarette. I spent the night at Subic Bay, 
the area of a former American Military base, near the town of Bagac (see second picture). Although a popular weekend resort for Manila residents, I did not like it much and it was very expensive; the cheapest hotel that I found, was more than US$100 and it did not offer much more than the shed with the pigs, which I kind of missed during that night.

The last day included an easy ride to Manila. After returning the bike, I went to the closest Burger King for a proper meal. It was a remarkable trip that left nice memories. Next time, I will take with me a pair of long trousers (in case I have problems at the highway again), a proper rain jacket, and sun screen (even the top of my hands burned).

2015 June

Southeast Australia: Victoria, New South Wales with Andreas, Nikos, a BMW 1200 GS and a Ducati Multistrada 1200.

We took a flight to Melbourne, where we had arranged to rent the bikes from Garner Motorcycles. Their service was excellent, and we were ready to ride a couple of hours after landing to Australia. The first picture is before the beginning of the trip outside Garner Moto. Note that since it was June (start of winter in Australia), we brought heavy bike gear. We started with direction east towards the coast. Our first stop for the night was at Lakes Entrance (see second picture below), a picturesque town, which I assume is rather busy in the summer (but not when we visited).


The next day we continued towards Sydney. Although the road is close to the sea, there is no seaview for most part. In general, with few exceptions, throughout the trip the landscape was boring: mostly straight lines with eucalyptus trees blocking the view on both sides, as in the first picture below. The second picture is a stop at Eden, the southernmost town on the east coast of Australia. The third picture is one of the landscape exceptions, with a lake on the left hand side and the ocean on the right.

At Sydney we stayed for a couple of days. It is beautiful and clean. However, we did not manage to find proper nightlife (but we were there during week-nights). Moreover, they have some strange rules in the bars. First there is lockdown, meaning that after some time you cannot exit the bar, not even for smoking, which is obviously prohibited inside. Supposedly, this helps reduce the fights among drunk people, but I cannot see how. Second, in some bars they do not serve hard liqueur on the rocks, or with water, or even with soda water. Consequently, I had, for the first time in my life, whiskey with lime, which was an unpleasant experience. If the first rule is inexplicable, the second one is much more beyond that. Below, some pictures from Sydney.

After Sydney, we continued for about 100 km north and then west towards the interior. There is not much to see there, but we enjoyed the ride inside Wollemi National Park - it was the most exciting road for bike riding that we encountered in Australia (see first picture below). We then went to Katoomba, at the Blue Mountains range, one of the largest in Australia, but small by any other standard since Australia does not really have high mountains. The rocks at the second picture below are called "three sisters", and constitute one of the major touristic sites.

From Katoomba, it is about 2 days ride to Melbourne. We stopped at Wagga Wagga (first picture below), midway between Sydney and Melbourne. It is the largest inland city in NSW (population 46,000). After an uneventful night that we had to drink our whiskeys with soda water (at least not lime this time), we continued towards Melbourne (second picture below), which is similar to Sydney but a bit more multi-cultural due to the immigrants from Southern Europe, including many Greeks. Although we stayed in Melbourne for almost a week, we again did not manage to find proper nightlife, despite repeated attempts. However, near Melbourne starts the Great Ocean Road that traverses through beaches, cliffs and rainforests (third picture below).

Conclusion: Unfortunately, there is not much to say about the trip because nothing really interesting happened. With few exceptions, the landscape and the ride were boring. Moreover there were speed cameras everywhere (we received a couple of speeding tickets by post a few weeks after the trip). Except for the gas, everything else (e.g., food, water, drinks) is expensive. Given that the nights were also uneventful and regulated (whiskey with lime!), it is a trip I would not recommend. Below, are pictures during some stops; probably among the most memorable moments of the trip.

2014 June

Western US: California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana with Panos and a BMW 1150 RT (and a Toyota Corolla!). 

Although I had done tours of the US with cars before, this was the first time on a motorbike. Since renting a proper bike is in general very expensive, we decided to buy a used BMW and sell it after the end of the trip.  As discussed later, this proved to be a bad idea. Nevertheless, we started from San Francisco on a beautiful day with destination Yosemite National Park about 320 km away. The route is mostly highways except for the part near Yosemite. The only interesting incident happened when, during a stop, we entered 20 meters in a farm, in order to take cover in the shadow of the trees (see first pic below). Immediately a farmer came out of nowhere and asked us to exit his property; this was not the kind of hospitality we experienced in previous trips. The Yosemite valley is very beautiful (see second pic), but the camp-site was full; so we had to go to another one, at altitude around 2500 meters, to set our tent. We arrived there at night, totally freezing as the temperature was below 0 degrees Celsius. We quickly set up the tent (see third pic), and we tried to eat at the local kiosk. Not only we were not allowed to do so because we were 10 minutes past the closing time, but we were told that we could not stay inside to warm our bones. Supposedly, they wanted to clean up, but they were still serving food. In general, although we found professionalism everywhere during the trip, I cannot say that we encountered true hospitality.

The second day we continued exploring the mountains in Yosemite Park. The first picture below is at altitude above 3000m. Then, we continued towards lake Tahoe, about 200km to the north. The lake is impressive, with great forests ending next to the water.

After Tahoe, we continued on highway 80, crossing Nevada with direction northeast. The highway is mostly a straight line in the desert (see first pic below) and dull. This actually made me realize why there are so many Harleys in the US - there is no need to turn much. The temperature was gradually dropping and when we reached Elko (northeast Nevada) at night, we were again freezing. Although our original goal was to go to Yellowstone National Park, we were not properly equipped to handle the harsh weather (snow, and below zero temperatures at night). Thus, the next day, we continued south, in search for higher temperatures. Optimistically, we wore our shorts (see second pic) for the trip. Indeed we were right and in the evening when we reached the Red Cliffs Conservation Area (Utah, borders with Nevada, about 750km south Elko, third picture) the weather was pleasant.

The next day we did the short ride to Zion National Park (Utah). It is worthwhile mentioning that helmets are not mandatory in Utah (and Arizona). Zion contains an impressive canyon with very nice trekking and climbing paths. We also swam in the river - the water was cold but bearable.

From Zion we continued towards the north rim of Grand Canyon (Arizona). Although the distance is less than 200km, we enjoyed riding the twisty roads inside the forests. As shown in the pictures below, the view from the top of the canyon is breathtaking.

After Grand Canyon, the plan was to continue south towards Flagstaff (about 300km) and then Las Vegas (another 400km from Flagstaff) for poker. However, at this point we ran out of luck. Somewhere in the desert on the way to Flagstaff, while the landscape resembled western movies (see pic below) and the temperature was about 45 degrees Celsius, the gearbox failed. This means that the motorbike would only start when rolling downhill, which is difficult to find in the desert. With effort, and clutchless gear changes, we reached Flagstaff, Arizona. Fortunately, near the entrance of the city we found a mechanic who sent us to another one, at the other side, specializing in BMWs. We crossed the main road of Flagstaff (Route 66), without stopping at a single traffic light. Following the advice of the second mechanic, we decided to go to the BMW service of Las Vegas. Riding to Las Vegas without a gearbox is a long story, but we eventually managed it. Once in Vegas, the problems that we encountered is another painful story ("what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas"), but, to cut a long story short, we shipped the bike to San Francisco and rented a Toyota Corolla to continue the trip. The second picture below is "leaving Las Vegas" in the Corolla.


The second part of the trip, shown in the map was with the Corolla.

At least, with a car it was possible to visit Yellowstone National Park, even in the absense of heavy clothes. Our next stop on the road to Yellowstone was Arches National Park (Utah) about 750km northeast of Las Vegas. Again the landscape reminded me of western movies.

From Arches we drove to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, about 850 km north. We arrived at 2am and everything was closed. However, a benefit of the car is that you can sleep comfortably inside (see first pic below), even when it is too cold for camping. Jackson Hole is a small but picturesque ski resort. To be honest, given its reputation, I was expecting a larger town - it basically has a main road and not much else. The second picture below is at the town center.

North of Jackson Hole is the Grand Teton mountain range (see first picture below), and about 100km after that Yellowstone, one of the largest active super-volcanoes featuring half of the world's geothermal features (see second picture). In addition to geysers, it contains lakes, canyons, rivers and mountain ranges. In my opinion, if you must see a national park in the US, this is it. After touring Yellowstone, we drove a bit in Montana, another state for our itinerary (third picture), and then continued south to Salt Lake City (Utah). 

Salt Lake is a well organized city with not much to see and even less to do. The landscape around it has some high mountains and ski resorts (first picture below is Snowbird). At the end of our trip, we took highway 80, this time with direction west, towards San Francisco (second picture is at a stop in Northern California).


Bonus Pictures: Riding without helmets in Utah. Getting rid of the bike and switching to the car at BMW Las Vegas.

Conclusion: It could have been a much better trip, if we did not have the problem with the gearbox. Eventually, it was too expensive to fix and we ended up selling the bike for spare parts. The landscape was at times impressive (i.e., the national parks), but most rides were boring because the roads were straight and the changes of scenery infrequent, especially in the desert. Moreover, all the national parks that we visited were congested and most campgrounds fully booked. The only place where we found some kind of nightlife was San Francisco (in Las Vegas we had too many problems to think about it). In the rest of the towns and cities, it was difficult even to find a restaurant after 9pm. We did not have to pay tolls anywhere (in Europe we would spend several hundreds of Euros for the same distance). We were stopped for speeding three times; the first two the policemen let it go when they saw my international driver license. The third time Panos was exceeding 170km/h in Idaho and the policeman gave him a ticket for $250, which he kept as a collectible from the trip - I guess he will not drive in Idaho again.


Sardinia, Italy and Corsica, France with Andreas and 2 BMW 1200 GS. 


This year's trip was "light" since it included two popular touristic destinations in developed countries. We took the usual boat from Patra (Greece) to Ancona (Italy).
From there we drove about 400km to Livorno, but instead of highways, we chose the equally fast route through Perugia using national roads.
In addition to avoiding the tolls, this route involves some beautiful landscape in Umbria and Tuscany, and permits quick visits to Siena and/or Florence.
To add excitement, we had intentionally not looked at the ferry schedules in advance; therefore, when we arrived at Livorno in the evening, we only found one ferry departing to Olbia, Sardinia.   

As in all the ferry trips this summer, we slept somewhere on the floor, and we arrived fresh in Sardinia in the morning.

Pictures below: a quick stop in Siena and sleeping accommodations in the ferry.

The first day in Sardinia, we rode the eastern part from north to south, passing through some beaches around Orosei and great roads on the mountains of Parco Nazionale del Gennargentu (see pictures below).

However, the second part (southern) of the trip is not really interesting as it involves monotonous landscape through uninteresting villages.

Actually, with a few exceptions (e.g., the old town of Cagliari), we were not impressed by the architecture of Sardinia. After our stay in Cagliari (the capital), we were not overwhelmed with the nightlife either.

From Cagliari, we took the highway to Oristano (west Sardinia, in the middle), and then the coast-road all the way to the north (Portu Turre).
Although we encountered some nice beaches on the way, we expected more given the reputation of the place. The same was true for the northern coastline. 
Thus, after some quick discussion, we decided to advance our visit to Corsica.
It is worth mentioning that when we were “racing” with Andreas in the remote twisty roads of north Sardinia, a local “pilot” riding a T-Max, overtook us both, rather easily.
Before that incident, I thought that it is not possible for a scooter to overtake a 1200 GS, independently of the road conditions and the driver capabilities.

The ferry from Lungone (north-east Sardinia) to Bonifacio (south Corsica) takes about an hour. Bonifacio is striking both when approaching with the ferry and when walking around inside.

Fortunately, our positive impression of Corsica remained during the rest of our visit.
We stayed 5 days and we enjoyed very much the roads, the beaches, the mountains, the well-preserved villages/towns and poker at the casino of Ajaccio.

I will let the pictures below to do the talking.

Approaching Corsica by ferry. Bonifacio in the background. 

Sartene, south-west Corsica.

Porto, west Corsica

Typical landscape, west Corsica

Roadside, north Corsica

Old port of Bastia, the capital

The mountains near Ghisoni, central Corsica (the altitude at that point was more than 2,000m).

The only problem in Corsica was that my moto-luggage was stolen at night, outside our hotel in Bastia. Fortunately, I did not have valuables inside, but it feels strange after visiting so many exotic places,

to  have this experience in France. On the way back, we took a ferry from Bastia to Savona, Italy (again it was the only ferry departing when we decided the trip home).

The ride through the highways of north Italy was uneventful, except that we stopped at San Marino, a micro-state near Ancona. Unfortunately, unlike Gibraltar and Andora, San Marino does not have duty free goods.

San Marino (pretty much that's it - population 30,000)

Bonus Pictures: Yellow plants in the mountains of Sardinia. Andreas and locals in Corte, Corsica.

Conclusion: An easy trip. Despite being about one third the size of Sardinia, we found Corsica much more interesting and pleasant, but we may have missed something in Sardinia.

Except for the stolen luggage, the only issue I can see in such a trip are the high prices, especially in Corsica. We often paid 3-5 Euros for a bottle of water, sometimes in the middle of nowhere.

The common charge for hotels in touristic (i.e., most) areas, was 140 Euros. The ferry tickets were also rather expensive, but then we visited during the high season.


Albania - Montenegro - Croatia - Bosnia – Serbia - FYROM, July 2012 with Andreas and 2 BMW 1200 GS. 


I met with Antreas at Patra, we drove to Northwestern Greece to the border with Albania near Kalpaki (north of Ioannina), and then to Sarande, the largest city in the south of Albania.

The distance is around 330km and the border crossing easy. The terrain in the south part of Albania is mountainous and the roads are narrow. I would avoid this trip with a car –

you may remain stuck behind a truck for a long time since overtaking is difficult. Photo below is at the start of the trip outside Patra.


Although, when we first entered Sarande, we got the impression of third world (with the characteristic smell of sewers), the center of the city near the sea is actually well-developed.

There were nice beaches, coffee shops and numerous people enjoying the sun and the sea.


From Sarande, we took the coastal route to Vlore, the largest Albanian city by the sea. The distance is less than 200km, but the road is narrow and twisy.

However, the bike trip was worth it, as it is the most scenic route we found in Albania (see two pictures below). Vlore was full of tourists, mostly from other parts of Albania.



The northern part of Albania (after Vlore) is flat, and the trip was boring. Moreover, there was heavy traffic especially when approaching the capital Tirana.

Thus, we decided to go directly to Budva Montenegro, which is about 350km from Vlore.

We stayed in Budva for a few days and we drove through the entire coastline of Montenegro, which is only about 150km. Tth photos below are from Sveti Stefan and the golf of Kotor.

Despite the short coastline, the landscape is at times breathtaking. Moreover, there was a lot of tourism, mostly Serbs and Russians, and lively nightlife, but the bars closed at 12, even in the weekends!

Those wishing to continue had to go to big nightclubs, usually far from residential areas.


Then, we visited Dubrovnik, Croatia, which is a short drive (120km) from Budva. Dubrovnik is a truly international destination and it does not really resemble the rest of the Balkans.

It is definitely worth visiting, but it was too civilized for our taste. Therefore, after staying for the night we continued towards Bosnia.


 Our first stop in Bosnia was Mostar, about 80km from Dubrovnik. The town became known during the civil war of 1992-93, when it was besieged by the Yugoslav army for 18 months.

Although it is mostly re-built today, you can still see the marks of shelling and bullets on several building. The picture below is taken from Stari Most (bridge), the landmark of Mostar. 


The road from Mostar to Sarajevo (70km), is mostly next to Neretva river and rather scenic. Since it was very hot during that day, we swam into the river which, surprisingly, was very pleasant

(I was expecting colder water). Sarajevo is the capital and largest city of Bosnia (population about 500K). The ottoman influences, including kebabs and veiled women, are visible everywhere;

the same is true for the western influences, including nightclubs, mini-skirts etc. The first photo below is after the swim in Neretva, and the second outside the hostel that we stayed, right at the center of Sarajevo. 


The part of the road Sarajevo – Belgrade (total distance about 200km) in Bosnia passes through picturesque mountains and it was a pleasure to drive (see photo below). However the Serbian part is flat.

It is worth mentioning that after Sarajevo, and upon entering the Serbian part of Bosnia we were stopped by policemen for speeding – the incident cost us 20 Euro in “gifts”.

Around 50 kilometers before Belgrade we entered the first real (toll) highway of the trip.


We stayed in Belgrade for a couple of days and we enjoyed it. The city is beautiful and the nightlife lively, especially in the weekends. Start with a coffee or early drink at Strahinjića Bana,

continue to one of the bars under the Most bridge, and finally end the night (or morning) in one of the boat-clubs at the other side of the river.

It may be worth visiting the Sava lake, where locals go to swim in the summer. Frankly, we were not impressed because it was too busy (we went on Sunday) and the water was not appealing.

Below, sunset at the castle of Belgrade with a view of the Danube.  


The return to Greece was uneventful. We had a stop-over at Skopjie, the capital of FYROM, where most landmarks (e.g., airport, main highway and square) are called Alexander the Great.

Come on people – get a life. I have to admit, however, although Skopjie is small (less than 500K) and we were there on a Monday night, the city was bristling with life, until very late.

This was in stark contrast with Athens, which was very quiet during the week days.  Blame it on the crisis.


Bonus Pictures

On the left, a stop at Sveti Stefan in Montenegro. On the right, outside Tirana we met a cyclist who was returning home to Spain after a 3-year tour of the world. This is indeed hard-core touring.

Conclusion: Compared to some previous trips (e.g., Morocco, Syria), this was a walk in the park in terms of conditions and kilometers traveled.

All the custom crossings were straightforward and the roads in no worse condition than those in Greece.

Among the places that we visited, I mostly liked Montenegro and Dubrovnik (for the landscape) and Belgrade (for the vibe). Keep in mind, however, that most of these places are not particularly cheap. 




France - Spain - Morocco - Portugal - Andorra, July 2011 with Andreas and 2 BMW 1200 GS. 

We started our trip from Peloponnese, Greece. Here, outside Andreas' house, lighting "one for the road" - in the background the bikes fully packed.

We took the ferry from Patra, and after 23 hours we reached Ancona, Italy. There are 1-2 ferries per day Patra - Ancona, and the tickets are relatively cheap for the distance and the quality.
Below, Andreas at the port of Ancona. The weather was cloudy (common for northern Italy - as opposed to Greece in the summer), which is convenient for long riding.

We crossed northern Italy and part of southern France (a total of about 900km) in a single day, in order to reach Aix en Provence, where we stayed at a friend's place.
For those who are not familiar, the highway tolls are very expensive in Italy and France, and even more so in Spain. Moreover, there are a lot of speed cameras in France (not that we cared because of our Greek plates).
Continuing south, we visited Sete, a tradditional town 20km south of Montpellier, and Cap d'Adge, a beach town around 30 km further (see pic below).
I prefer this area to the more touristic (and in my opinion overdeveloped) strip between Nice and Cannes, i.e., the most famous part of Cote d' Azur.

We continued to Barcelona, where we stayed for a couple of days.  Barcelona has extraordinary architecture, nice beaches nearby and lively nightlife.
However, it is very busy during the summer, and we spent several hours before we found a hotel downtown.

After Barcelona, we crossed most of mediterranean Spain (650 km) to Almeria. Although, we arrived late (around 10pm), there were 3 ferries departing to Morocco within the next 1-2 hours.
However, they seemed fully booked (due to Moroccan immigrants returning home), and people in that part of Europe do not, in general, speak English. Eventually, we managed to get tickets and depart around 11:30pm to Nador, east Morocco.
It is worth mentioning that, although the trip is only 5-6 hours, the tickets were more expensive than those for Ancona-Patra (23 hours and much better ferries).
The good thing is that in the ferry there were Moroccan officers so that passengers can pass through the time-consuming immigration procedures during the trip. Indeed, we spent most of the trip completing forms and queuing up,
so that upon arrival, we only had to wait for about half an hour at the customs. From Nador, we continued east, on the mediterranean coastline, until reaching the borders with Algeria (see pics below).
On the way we stopped for coffee and swimming at the (touristic) beach town of Saidia. Although the landscape and the sea was nice, I cannot say that we were overwhelmed (maybe our Greek standards are too high).

Mediterranean coastline at east Morocco and border with Algeria

From there, we turned southwest and we rode through a gorge at the national park near Berkane, stopping on the way to sample the local cuisine (see pics below).
After the park, and towards Fes the landscape changes to desert-like and we encountered the highest temperatures in our lives. It must have been well above 50 Celsius, despite being cloudy.
We were afraid that either we, or the bikes, would crack under the extreme heat, but eventually we all made it to Fes.

Most Arab cities have a "medina", i.e., an old town surrounded by walls. The picture below is outside the medina of Fes, possibly the largest in Africa..

Inside the medina there are open markets as well as workshops for making local artifacts. Below Andreas outside a tannery - Fes is famous for its leather products.

From Fes we drove to Marrakech in a single day. Although, the distance is not large (around 400km), it was one of our most difficult days, due to the extreme temperatures, the bad road and the heavy traffic.
You can see the discomfort in our faces in the pictures below. We actually wanted to cool down in the lake of the first pic, but we did not manage to get the bikes close enough.

We liked Marrakech more than any other city in Morocco. It has a huge open market (see pics below), with many shops, open restaurants, coffee shops and strange characters that perform all kinds of tricks.
It also has decent bars. A word of advice though: if you see a beautiful woman smiling at you in a bar don't get too excited; chances are that she is working.
This is true for most (if not all) single women in bars in Morocco. On the positive side, despite being a muslim country, it is easy (but relatively expensive) to find whiskey and most types of alcohol.

Our next stop was Essaouira, west of Marrakech, on the Atlantic ocean. We were mostly impressed by the sudden drop of temperature when reaching the ocean,
 since within a few kilometers of intensive heat, we had to wear the winter jackets. Because of the low temperature and the strong winds, there was nobody swimming, but many people were wind and kite surfing.

The road south of Essaouira, towards Agadir, passes through some beautiful beaches. Possibly, this was the most scenic route we did in Morocco (but we did not go up the Atlas mountains). 

Agadir is a modern beach town on the Atlantic, near the border with Western Sahara. It has lots of tourists from  Morocco and elsewhere, but not much character (and no medina).
We stayed for a night and then headed north, taking the only highway in Morocco. After a stop in Casablanca, we drove all the way to Ceuta, the Spanish enclave at the northern tip of Morocco.
Entering Ceuta was impressive. Although still in Africa, it could be a nice town anywhere in Spain. We stayed there for a couple of days.
Andreas even participated in a poker (hold' em) tournament at the local casino and got second prize (and a useful amount of cash).
The statue in the picture is Plato, another reminder that we are back in European culture.

The ferry trip for Ceuta to Algeciras (Spanish city on the European coast) takes about an hour. The picture below is from this trip, with Gibraltar rock in the background.

Similar to Ceuta in Morocco, Gibraltar is a small British colony in Spanish territory, and requires passport inspection.
Except for the duty-free cigarettes and alcohol, we did not find any reason to stay there - instead we continued west towards the atlantic coast of Spain.

After a scenic, but windy, route we reached Cadiz, a beautiful town on the Atlantic (see pic below), with a well-preserved historic town center.

From Cadiz we rode to Lisbon, Portugal, a distance of about 600km . The road was mostly highway, and the trip was easy (if not boring). I had never been to Lisbon before and I was pleasantly surprised.
It is an imposing city built at a striking location. We also happened to be there in a weekend, and it was nice to see so many people out partying (compared to our previous unexciting nights in Morocco).

During the trip from Lisbon to Porto (north Portugal), we encountered some very strong winds and rather cold weather (we had to wear the winter jackets again).
After Porto we turned east, towards the mountainous area near the border, re-entered Spain and continued until Valladolid. This was probably the day that we covered the longest distance
(we crossed more than half of Portugal south-north, and almost half of Spain west-east). Below Andreas at the central plaza of Valladolid.

From Valladolid, we took country roads to Zaragoza, the highway to Lleida, and then we turned north to Andorra. The last part is on the Pyrenees and involves some breathtaking landscape,
as shown in the picture below. Obviously, the temperature dropped as we climbed the mountains, and the evening in Andorra (altitude more than 1000m) reminded me of winter in Greece.

Andorra is an independent principality, sandwiched between Spain and France, and entering it requires a fast passport inspection. It contains a small town and a few villages nearby,
for a total of 80,000 people. Although there is not much to see, it is a shopper's paradise, at least according to European standards. In addition to the usual tax-free suspects (alcohol, cigarettes),
you can find cheap designer clothes, and most importantly for us, motorbike accessories.  We bought  helmets,  gore-tex jackets, and other small things.
However, the smile in the picture below, is because we found (and transported on the bike all the way to Greece), a gallon (4.5 liter) bottle of Jameson (Ireland's finest whiskey) for only 50 Euros. Priceless.

The route from Andorra to France also involves some curvy roads (see pic below). It was unusually cold and windy for the season (at some point we saw
a thermometer indicating 6 degree celsius in relatively low altitude), but I prefer this to the heat of the desert.
After a few days stay with friends and family in Montpellier, France, we took the way back to Greece, where we enjoyed the rest of the summer drinking Jameson.

Conclusion: Since most people know what to expect in Europe, I will focus on Morocco.  First, I recommend this trip as an experience, but not for having a good time
(if you look for a good time you'd better fly to a luxurious resort in Greece, Brazil, or Thailand with much less money than the cost of the bike trip).
Often, the heat is too much, the roads too bad, the people too poor, the beaches not that good, and the nightlife not that exciting.
However, I am happy that I did it, and I would do it again soon if only it were closer to Greece, at least to go-up the Atlas mountains and deeper in Sahara.
But I would choose a cooler season.
Regarding the practical issues, we always felt secure, but we avoided the lawless hash-growing areas around Ketama. Although we had heard stories about bribe-taking police officers,
we did not have any problem; we were never stopped and the policemen were willing to help us whenever we asked for directions. There was unleaded gas almost everywhere, but sometimes of dubious quality
(the engines would occasionally complain). Next time, I would avoid the gas stations with goats and other folk themes, and go to the more modern looking ones instead.
The only complaint was about the people who where bothering us all the time, asking for cash in exchange for services like parking the motorbikes, completing custom forms,
finding hotels, guiding us through the cities etc. In most cases, we simply ignored them, unless we really needed to find a hotel or navigate through a city fast.
Finally, this link contains useful information about custom procedures and riding in Morocco from somebody much more experienced on the topic.

Bonus pictures from Morocco:
Andreas with his new friends, and a local chef (perhaps surprisingly, we did not have diarrheas or related problems this year - maybe we got stronger after last year's experience in Lebanon).




Turkey - Syria - Lebanon, July 2010 with Andreas and 2 BMW 1200 GS. 

We took the boat from Athens to Rhodes, near the southwest coast of Turkey. Rhodes is one of the largest and most touristic islands in Greece.
There, we met Steve, an old friend from Hong Kong.


After a couple of days in Rhodes, we took the boat to Marmaris, on the coast of Turkey. Although the trip is less than two hours, the ticket is very expensive because there is
only one operator and only three boats per week. This is, in general, true for all crossings between Greek islands and Turkey.


From Marmaris, we drove southeast to the seaside town of Fethiye. Among the sites of this region, we were mostly impressed by Kaya, a Greek "ghost" village that has remained
abandoned since the population exchange of 1923. The legend is that Muslim immigrants from the Balkans refused to relocate in the village because they considered it haunted.


Near Kaya, is the beautiful lagoon of Oludeniz, where we camped for the night. The area was very busy (maybe too busy for my taste) with several options for nightlife,
water sports and paragliding.


From Oludeniz, our plan was to cross the southern coast of Turkey before entering Syria. The trip to Antalya, our second stop-over, was full of ancient monuments,
beautiful beaches, picturesque towns (especially Kas), and high mountains. In general, I liked the southwest part of Turkey (Lycia) much more that the northwest part
(Canakkale to Izmir), which I visited in 2006. Below, pictures at the monuments of Patara (with an excellent beach nearby), and at the old port of Antalya.
It is worth mentioning that in Antalya we met and went out with some local people who confirmed for one more time that the supposed enmity between Greeks and Turks
is only political, and not real. In general, throughout our 3000km within Turkey, we never had a problem because of our nationality - on the contrary people were
genuinely friendly.


The 100km between Antalya and Alanya (to the east) is flat and full of huge hotels. However, after Alanya the terrain becomes mountainous and touristic development stops.
The road is small and curvy (see photo), almost all the way to Mersin, the next big city, several hundred kilometers away. From Mersin, there is highway to Iskenderum,
an industrial city next to the border with Syria.


We had tried to obtain Syrian visas in Athens, but it was not possible because their computer system was down. At the time, the explanation sounded strange, but things became clear
when we arrived at the Syrian side of the border; it was simply a mess. A huge queue of trucks and cars, people running around and no obvious organization of any kind.
We had to wait a few hours in several offices (see photo below), pay a significant amount of money (most of it - about $120- for the carnet du passage,
required for all  vehicles every time they enter Syria), and give small "gifts" to various "officials". On the positive side, the visa process was simple
(the visits to the embassy in Athens were unnecessary, as the complications were due to the bikes - not the visas), and there were always good people around willing to help.
The landscape after entering Syria and towards Haleppo is distinctively third world.


Haleppo is a world heritage site, and it deserves it at least because of its well-preserved old city. It also has a decent number of tourists, some good hotels

and excellent food. I was surprised by two things. First it was the diversity of the people; among the deeply religious folks (e.g., fully covered women),
you could see a few that could be easily European (e.g., women with tight skirts or jeans), but were locals.  Second, it was the hospitality;
wherever we went to Syria (and later in Lebanon) people would go out of their way to help us navigate, offer us tea, food or whatever they could provide.
I had heard about Arab hospitality before, but I was pleasantly surprised to experience it first-hand.

After Haleppo, we crossed a large part of Syria to reach Palmyra, possibly the largest site with ancient Roman ruins in the world. The trip was interesting for two reasons:
(i) most of the route was in the desert under 40-50 degrees Celsius with no trees or anything to take cover from the sun; (ii) to our horror, we discovered that the (few)
gas stations did not have unleaded gas. Eventually, we had to fill the tanks with leaded gas, and we completed the trip fearful that at any point the engines would break down
in the middle of nowhere. The engines held, and eventually we reached Palmyra, which is indeed impressive, but in my opinion it does not deserve an overnight stay
(unless you are an archaeologist).



From Palmyra, we continued to Damascus. Again the landscape is mostly desert with few villages breaking the monotony.
However, as usual, we had some worthwhile moments and met some interesting people during our travel breaks.


Damascus is a big city with chaotic traffic. With a little help from our friends (see Arab hospitality), we quickly found a nice hotel in the old city, and started exploring the
(i) famous bazaars, (ii) the colorful coffee shops, (iii) the numerous food options and (iv) the local characters as shown in the pictures below.


We liked Damascus, and we hope to visit again. However, we loved Beirut, and we will definitely visit again. Beirut is around 100km west of Damascus
and the border crossing is less complicated (but still non-trivial). First let me finish with the negative aspects of Lebanon, so that I can focus on the positive ones.
It is very densely populated and has so much traffic in the summer that you cannot enjoy driving or the landscape. The roads are full of roadblocks (sometimes including tanks),
which may stop you (e.g., we were not allowed to enter Saida, and were made to U-turn in the middle of the highway). Finally, there is always the risk of being trapped inside Lebanon
because the borders often close, if there is fighting (which is rather common). All these disadvantages are outweighed by its people: intelligent, multi-lingual, helpful and optimistic.


We stayed only four days in Beirut, but I have too many stories to tell. It is worth mentioning Elio do Brazil (see picture below with Andreas), the Lebanese-Brazilian,
who helped us with some bike problems, showed us around Beirut, and brought us in contact with other locals (including Greeks). The center of Beirut, recently rebuilt after the civil war,

is beautiful; go there during a summer afternoon and you will see some of the most expensive cars parked around, and beautiful women sipping their coffee or shopping in exquisite stores.
However, I was mostly impressed by the liveliness of the night life - these people know how to party (and I have enough experience on this topic to be an objective judge).


Because we stayed in Beirut longer than planned, we decided to rush our way back, and ride all the way to Cappadocia, Turkey in a single day. This was a difficult task because,

in addition to the long distance, we had to cross two time-consuming borders (Syria and Turkey). Therefore, we started the trip at 6:30 am, after a long Beirut night, which ended at 4:30am.
However, we had not predicted an unforeseen factor that complicated things even further; apparently the Lebanese food proved to be too heavy for our stomachs, so we spent much of the day
(and indeed the rest of the trip, until we reached Greece) with diarrhea. This necessitated several relief stops in rural (below a mountain in Syria) and urban (below Antakya, Turkey) places.
On the positive side, both the Syrian and Turkish borders near the Mediterranean (i.e., close to the Syrian city of Latakia) were much better than those near Haleppo,
and we managed to reach Cappadocia around midnight.



The landscape in Cappadocia is truly impressive, with several villages (within a few kilometers from each other) consisting (partially or entirely) of houses carved in rocks.

It was an interesting site to see, but I am not sure that I would do it, if it were the only destination of the trip. Maybe everything else after Beirut would be boring anyway.


From Cappadocia, we took the way back west, crossing Central Turkey. Interesting places that we visited include:
Konya, a tidy and deeply religious city at the heart of Turkey,

the natural springs of Pamukale,

a nice lake on the mountains near Mugla,

and finally, Bodrum, the expensive, busy resort opposite to the Greek island of Kos.

After two days in Bodrum, we took the boat to Kos, concluding an interesting trip (and an unpleasant diarrhea).

Conclusion:  I strongly recommend this trip provided that you can take the summer heat, and that your motorbike can take the leaded gas of Syria.

We never felt in danger, and the people were always willing to help, although, except for Lebanon, they did not normally speak English. However, it would be advisable to have good road insurance

because, in most places, you will not find experienced mechanics or spare parts, and there are many crazy drivers in the cities of Syria and Lebanon (this is a statement for somebody coming from Greece) .
Gas is very expensive in Turkey (about 2 Euros per liter), but very cheap in Syria. If I did it again, I would enter Syria from the south borders with Turkey (towards Latakia instead of Haleppo);
although the distance to Haleppo is larger, the border is less busy (no trucks), more organized, and the route more scenic (forest instead of desert).
Allow for a few days in Beirut and try to find somebody to show you around the night-life. Finally, be careful about what you eat - after 15 years in south-east Asia I thought that I was immune to food  poisoning
(apparently I am not).


In the summer of 2009, instead of a big tour abroad, we did several small ones around Greece.

Ipeiros, Halkidiki, Skiathos island, July 2009 with Tony and 2 BMW 1200 GS.

Egnatia Highway in Ipeiros is a pleasure to ride. The same is true for the new part of the Ionian Highway, recently delivered outside Agrinio.

Camping at Armenistis in Halkidiki, and sunset in Skiathos

Patmos island, August 2009 with Andreas.
Patmos is beautiful and has the highest quality visitors (VIPs, artists  etc) that I have seen in any Greek island.
Compared to Skiathos that I went before (which is full of "mass production" entertainment), the difference is large. Compared to Zakynthos that I visited later, it is a different planet.
However, the island is small  (it takes about 30 minutes to cross it on the motrobike), crowded and very far from Athens (I spent more than 11 hours on the boat to reach there).

Zakynthos island, Tour of Peloponnese, Elafonisos, August 2009 with Andreas, George and 3 BMW 1200 GS.
In Zakynthos, we stayed in Laganas, a place famous for his drunk young tourists.
However, most of the island is destroyed by touristic overdevelepment, and in certain places it reminded me of thirld world destinations (notably, Phuket in Thailand).
The good thing is that it is cheap and close to the mainland (1 hour by boat from Kylini, on the west coast of Peloponesse).
The bad thing is that it is dangerous for driving (too many drunk kids on 4-wheel bikes, at any time of the day and night), and you should  stick to beer  unless the bar-tender is your brother (all hard drinks are tampered).

Andreas on the boat to Zakynthos - George and I relaxing after dinner at Porto Roma, at the southernmost tip of the island.

I did tours of Peloponnese in 2000 and 2005, and I remembered them as the best tours that somebody could do in a few days. This summer, I reached the same conclusion again.
Peloponnese has a huge variety of landscapes and interesting places in a rather small area: the beautiful long beaches on the west, the green mountains of Arcadia, the towers of Mani,
the castle of Monemvasia, the ancient monuments around Olympia, the orange groves of Argolida etc. etc. As good as it gets.



Balkans - Moldova - Ukraine, July 2008 with Andreas, Tony and 3 BMW 1200 GS. 

We started from southern Greece and rode for almost 1000 km to reach the north-eastern borders with Turkey.
A quick relief stop on the way - Andreas on a bridge over Evros river, Edirne Turkey.

The roads in Turkey and Bulgaria were full of animals (we came face-to-face with a couple of donkeys and cows, among others), and should be driven carefully (more on this topic later).
Our first night was spent in Burgas, Bulgaria. Here relaxing on the beach.

The next stop-over was in Costanza, Romania. We followed the coastal route from Burgas, which is not very interesting, except for the extensive construction (mostly touristy) in Bulgaria.
My opinion is that they are ruining whatever landscape was there. From Costanza we continued north, towards the Danube delta. The land is mostly flat and the road mostly straight.

Upon reaching Tulcea (Romania - near the border with Ukraine), we turned west towards Galazi.
Here, waiting for the ferry to cross Danube (Galazi in the background).

Galazi is next to the border with Moldova, where logic stops, and the fun (or nightmare, depending on how you see it and whom you meet) begins.
At the customs, there was an artificial queue of cars so that people would pay to get in front. This queue crossed a railroad line. Fortunately, the train stopped until people moved their cars.
On the positive side, the small bribes in official Moldova is nothing compared to what came later.

The south part of Moldova is considered the poorest area in Europe and has some of the worst roads I have ever driven (in comparison, the afore-mentioned roads in Bulgaria and Turkey seem like highways). 
Due to the delay at the customs, we had to ride at night and under a severe thunderstorm. Eventually, we arrived at the capital Chisinau at midnight.
Chisinau is a rather lively city that combines soviet with western influences. 

In order to go from Chisinau to Odessa (Ukraine), we had to drive around 50 kms in Transnistria, officially a part of Moldova, but in reality a no-man's land governed by gangsters with soviet era uniforms playing custom-officers/policemen in a non-existent country.
It took us about 5 hours and 500 Euros to cross these 50 kms, as we were asked to pay 5 times (for non-existent reasons).
Below, a "highway" in Transnistria, probably the most expensive in the world, and the necessary cigarette immediately after entering Ukraine.

Odessa is a beautiful city. Furthermore, its reputation regarding good-looking women is true. Here Andreas, trying (unsuccessfully) to mingle with the crowd.

On the way back, we took a different road south-west towards the Danube delta (Ukraine side), which is worth visiting (and avoids Transnistria).

After a short re-entry in Moldova and the usual small bribe (around 5 Euros - this is not Transnistria), we reached Romania, i.e., the civilized world (I never thought I would say that).
The most interesting event in Romania happened during a quick stop at a rather busy road between Galazi and Bucharest, when we realized that we were surrounded by hashish trees.


On the route from Romania to Bulgaria we found some heavy rain. Nevertheless, when the goings get tough, the tough get going, and we arrived safe in Sofia.


The last day we crossed South Bulgaria and re-entered Greece (i.e., the really civilized world, although some western Europeans may disagree).


Conclusion: in some sense it was good to visit the last wild part of Europe, but I would avoid the Transnistria experience again at any cost. Take good care of your bikes before the trip - in certain areas, even a flat tyre may cause serious problems.

There is a lot of car/bike theft in Ukraine and Bulgaria - leave your bikes in guarded garages. The customs are always time-consuming (even when you do not have to bribe). A GPS would have been very helpful, especially for navigating inside the cities. Do not expect people to speak English.

Bonus pictures: Tour of Chalkidiki (second leg) in Northern Greece. Impressive landscape and beaches.



In 2007, I had three motorbikes: a BMW 1200 GS in Greece, a Yamaha FZ1-N in Hong Kong and a Yamaha FZ6-S in Singapore, where I stayed most of the year.

Malaysia Tours

September 2007: Tour of South Malaysia.
I started from Singapore with FZ6 for a tour of Southeast Malaysia – on the road from Johor to Mersing


Pulau Tioman

Although there are some excellent roads, the tropical heat and storms do not make riding very pleasant. 

April 2007: Tour of central and eastern Malaysia.
The road from Singapore to Kuala-Lumpur is an almost straight highway (and bikes do not have to pay tolls).
Then, I crossed Malaysia west-east and rode along the eastern coastline.

The best part was in the hills/mountains of the Malay interior. Curvy roads and relatively low temperatures.


I first made a stop in Perugia, Italy to see Tony.

Next, I continued to France, where I spent a week in to Montpellier.

Here mountain-climbing.


Upon return to Greece, I joined Andreas for a tour of Northern Greece (here in Kavala),


and Turkey.


Our first stop Constantinople (Istanbul), a city with impressive monuments.

Agia Sofia


and Golden Horn Bridge.


Then, we continued south, towards the Aegean coast. Below, Canakkale, in Asia Minor.


Camping on the way.


Tired and dirty, we reached Cesme, where we took the little ferry to Chios - the Greek island on the other side.


Despite not being a very popular tourist destination, Chios offers some of the best landscape / bike routes


and beaches, that I have ever seen.


Southern France, Basque Country, Madrid, Pyrenees with Sophie

Southern France: Carcassone and Foix

Near the border with Spain: every village and a castle

Basque Country: San Sebastian

and Bilbao (Guggenheim museum)

Santander, Cantabria, Spain. Beach on the Atlantic Ocean

The flat land to Madrid and sightseeing there

Going up the Pyrenees from the Spanish side

and traveling around the mountains

about 7,000 km in 10 days. Very nice and good shopping if you stop in Andorra (especially for bike stuff).