Exploring Khao Yai by mountain bike with Bangkok’s Hash House Harriers
While Khao Yai National Park is ideally set up for hikers, it’s also just as accommodating for cyclists. And if you want to accompany a group of fun-loving characters who make regular biking trips to this region, then tag along with the Bangkok Hash House Bikers, a cycling splinter group associated with the Bangkok Hash House Harriers (the local chapter of the infamous international running organization).
Osama Rajkhan, a Social Affairs Officer at UNESCAP and long-standing member of the BHHH, has been doing bike hashes since 2001 and has braved the trails of Khao Yai numerous times. By the time you read this he and his band of merry men (and women) will have just completed the group’s first bike hash of 2017—and once again Khao Yai was chosen as their preferred spot.
What does a newcomer need to know about the Bike Hash?
The first thing to do, if you are a newcomer, is to look at the instructions on our website. You’ll see where the next event is going to take place and how to get there—and to get there you have various options, most of which are easy and affordable, including minivans we organize to take people up. You’ll also see information related to gear. You need to bring with you certain items: a helmet, padded shorts, gloves, two innertubes and a pump—in case you get a flat—and a Camelbak, which is a little backpack that has a bladder which holds up to 2 liters of water. You can bring bottles of water if you want, but they tend to fall off when you’re going over rocks and through streams. The Camelbak is more secure, and it’s easy to drink from. It has a little spout that goes directly into your mouth so you can keep both hands on the handlebars while drinking—you don’t want to go riding over rocks with one hand.
So it’s a rough trail?
Yes, very rough if you take the more challenging course. Every weekend that a bike hash takes place we do two rides. The Saturday ride is 45 km in total, and takes 4-5 hours—beginning at 1pm and finishing at 5 or 6pm. Normally the Saturday ride has one trail for easy riders, and one for the more competitive types. When we design the trail we have to consider all skill levels. You can be a novice and just enjoy the ride, or you can be a “stump-jumper” daredevil. But it’s not a race. In fact, if we catch anyone racing we penalize them with “down-downs”, a Hash tradition where you have to down a full beer in one go at the meeting circle after the race. We say you’re not supposed to be “race-ist”. (laughs)
What happens on Sunday?
Sunday we have the “hangover ride”, because we have a party on the Saturday night and everybody drinks copious amounts of beer and wine, and has a lot of fun. For the Sunday ride we make it easy, breezy, flat, and green. And this is when families like to come. It’s also half the distance, just 25 km, and it’s a totally different route than on the Saturday.
Do you need to bring your own bike?
You can bring your own, but if you don’t have one you can rent one. We work with a company that provides bicycles [LPR, a Bangkok bike shop that comes to each BHHB event]. You can rent one for about B1,000 for the weekend, or B700 for just one day. They deliver the bicycle to the resort, and they fix it, so you don’t have to worry about anything.
What kind of bike is best for the terrain of Khao Yai?
Just a regular mountain bike. There are two types basically—hardtail or full suspension. Full suspension tends to be slower, but allows you to do more things, because they’re more malleable and they absorb more shocks. Hard tail is faster, but when you’re going over really rocky bumpy single track terrain you have to go slower.
Do you ever see any wildlife?
Oh God, always! I’ve heard elephants roaring in the jungle. I saw a cobra once. One time a monkey jumped in front of me—that scared me. I almost ran it over because I was going really fast. Luckily it jumped out of the way.
Where is the meeting point?
The meeting point is at the resort where we stay. We always stay at a nice place, 4 to 5 star, and we get a group rate, so it’s a good deal. We then charge B300 for the Saturday ride [B400 for non-BHHH members], which covers the snacks and beer—all you can eat and drink. And the snacks are healthy foods, not just chips and peanuts. The Sunday ride is B200 [B300 for non-members].
Would you say Khao Yai is the group’s preferred place when it comes to organizing cycling trips?
Definitely. We call it the Switzerland of Thailand. It has lots of beautiful, green, cool hills that are excellent for mountain biking. Because you want the hills, you don’t want flat. You want to have a bit of challenge and excitement. Once a month we do a Bike Hash, and we go to Khao Yai about twice per year. It’s only two hours or so from Bangkok, and there are so many trails, clearly marked with kilometers and distances, and there are lots of park rangers all over the place. And we’ve never lost anyone, thank God! (knocks wood)