The sun has been red for two weeks: the burning season is here.


Every year, from the beginning of March, the mountains of northern Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar burn.

Sometimes it’s the farmers burning off agricultural waste or clearing new sections of jungle to plant; sometimes it’s the villagers burning the forests to clear the fallen leaves and promote growth of the lucrative hed thob mushrooms. In the lanes around your house, it’s your neighbours burning their garbage and fallen leaves.

Every man and his dog has an opinion about the burning season, and the ‘real’ source of the problem. All I know is, at this time of year, the sun rises and sets blood red in a grey sky over Chiang Mai.

Tonight, however, that’s not my problem: finally, I can go home.

After a mad tour season of beautiful riding – dirt tracks, river beds, and sweeping bitumen curves – I can finally retreat to my little house in the village. It’s been two months since I last saw it, and as we drive up the mountain, three dirt bikes in tow, I feel a peace descending on me again. 

I watch the temperature reading on the dashboard steadily descend as we climb. From 34C down to 24C; I reach into the back of the car and grab a jacket. 

We stop halfway at the market in Mae Malai, my favourite place for buying sketchy local delicacies and bulk vegetables. As I carefully pick out my tomatoes, I see that the other customer at the stall is a Karen woman, wearing the full glory of her lengthening gold neck bands as she buys her vegetables too. There is yellow thanaka paste on her cheeks: traditional sunscreen, skincare; just another day. I feel vindicated that I have clearly chosen the best vegetable stall.

When I arrive at my little house in the village, the grass is green. The air is damp with mist instead of smoke.


In Chiang Mai, in Issan, the grass has been yellow for a month already; the green is a balm to the eyes. We unload the enduro bikes and park them in my old teak garage, and everything is as it should be. 

* * *

My last update was six months ago, during my brief visit to Australia. That was last October, before this riding season. I flew back into Thailand on the 17th of October and plunged straight into HiVolt’s first tour season. It was wildly exciting: we had big groups, we had small private tours, and we even had a VIP tour so significant that the police kept trying to escort us everywhere with flashing lights and maximum awkwardness. We worked with KTM Asia to put on their annual Riders Academy training here in Chiang Mai and finished the season by riding the rivers which border the disputed territories of Karen State.


No disasters, no kidnappings, no logistical failures: I’m going to chalk this one up as a success!

Now it’s time for a deep breath; it’s time for me to catch up on paperwork; and it’s time for me to plan the next riding season.

But, there’s a catch, there’s always a catch. 

Remember last year, when I hurt my knee in Cambodia?

Well, it turns out I did a good job of it. Severed ACL, damaged meniscus. It’s seriously suboptimal. Surgery is required – six months ago. 

I’ve been working this riding season with my knee braced and my fingers crossed, because the surgery isn’t cheap. At least, that is, surgery by someone who can identify the difference between a sprain and a severed ACL.

My mother used to say, beggars can’t be choosers, and my insurance company says it’s not their problem. But I’m not old yet: I’m getting this knee fixed, and fixed properly. Watch this space.


10 thoughts on “End of a Season

  1. charlie (whooshide) opitz....from the northland of minnesota says:

    thank you!…reading this makes me want to return to thailand, i was there about 15 years ago but most of what we did was PARTY in bankok…and some sightseeing. A river tour was def interesting and i rode a borrowed Harley thru rush hour traffic 4 lanes wide crazy fast, bumper to bumper in 105 degree heat…never got to make our trip upcountry or down to pauhket…(i’m sure i’m spelling those wrong)…i live up in minnesota where we are having RECORD snowfalls and its gonna be quite a while before the bikes come out…good luck with your knee…i go in for shots in mine this month, just in time for riding season to start

    1. BikeHedonia says:

      Ah, well Bangkok is certainly good for a party, but you definitely missed out on some sensational riding in the mountains up north! Maybe next time??

  2. Guy Pierce says:

    Your posts I find very interesting and I like the way you write. I’m sorry to hear about your injured knee. Your right about being to young not to get it fixed properly. Can you tell me more about who the police wanted to help escort and do you plan on putting on another KTM school next year? Enjoy your time off.

    1. BikeHedonia says:

      Thank you! Ultimately I have to respect the privacy of our special guests, but I can just say that they are extremely nice people and it was a wonderful tour. 🙂

  3. Allen Thomson says:

    Is it just Thailand that does the burning or does Cambodia and Vietnam do it as well. Take care of your knees, I had mine done over 40 years ago , the first time it wasn’t done properly so I had to get it done again.

    1. BikeHedonia says:

      Thailand, Myanmar and Laos all burn a lot. Cambodia not so much, probably because the topography and vegetation is quite different down south. Some parts of Thai government and society have been trying to reduce burning over the last few years but there isn’t the same impetus in Myanmar and Laos as far as I am aware.

      I hate to hear that your knee wasn’t done correctly the first time – I am worried about this too. Of the hospitals I can afford here, some couldn’t even identify the problem. This makes me nervous!!

  4. Jay Coffman says:

    So glad to hear from you again and glad it was a good riding season. And for unsolicited advice here it goes–do take care of your knee as best you can. As you age nothing, except good friends, is as important as having your body work properly–specially as you have when you choose an active life. (Financial security is to be worked for but not wealth–wealth makes you an enemy of the planet and people but financial security makes you free. Look forward to more thoughts and adventures.

    1. BikeHedonia says:

      Thanks Jay, you are undoubtedly right.

  5. Clint says:

    Ah Grace, I was just regailing new friends with anecdotes of our FABULOUS TOUR with you ands P’lah(sp?). My smile gets so wide my lips split every time! From a couple who’ve done a bit of touring, you run a first rate operation. Can’t wait for y’all to make it stateside…

    1. BikeHedonia says:

      My dearest Clinton, we are missing you and Camille greatly. We have great stories to tell you.

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