Pattaya, Thailand - Burapa Bike Week sets the standard for being far out, pushing at the crazy envelope, creating a lavish spectacle that can be enjoyed by bikers and casual visitors alike and this year's edition was simply no different as a veritable feast was on offer for those who like to see the world of motorcycling taken to the extremes.
And Bike Week isn’t just about two wheels too as it packs in many diverse classic cars and vans of all shapes and sizes with most of them being firmly at the weird and wonderful end of the scale.
Burapa Bike Week is focused primarily on highly customised bikes and taps into a huge and enduring scene here for personalised machines that have been taken to the max – and then some more. It’s a festival of life lived on the edge, of pushing to the extremes, it’s for people who choose to beat their own path, to live as they want to, unfettered by society’s more established norms.
Held these days on the vast stretch of empty land behind the Eastern National Indoor Sports Stadium just a few kilometres south of the city, Bike Week sprawls out, starting off in the asphalted carparks, then into the contoured grassy zones and finally dropping away into the vast dust bowl.
It's random, haphazard and the location’s sweeping layout often means going round and round, it’s certainly easily to get lost.
The story of Burapa Bike Week actually goes back 23 years to when the event was founded with the idea of bringing local biker rivals together to enjoy their common passion in an atmosphere of peace and harmony. Around two hundred bikers took part in that inaugural meeting.
Fast forward just over two decades and today Burapa Bike Week is very well supported with a decent list of sponsors and scores of booths that all put a lot of effort into creating unique themes as well of course as an almost endless array food vendors. This year’s edition was run under the slogan “Shadows of Love”.
Thailand’s bike scene is huge and well established and coupled to Bike Week being so colourful and vibrant that means crowds pour in each evening and it gets very busy and crazy and in total around 100,00 people are estimated to visit over the three days.
The dynamic hubs are the two main stages, namely the Kings Stage and the Rock Stage. At the former Bike Week this year played host to a film première, "Burapa - Bikers of the East". This challenging documentary, which was filmed over the past two years, takes an in depth look behind the scenes at Pattaya’s many motorcycle clubs (as well as the international ones that slot into the picture) and how Burapa Bike Week has, for more than two decades, successfully brought these often rival communities together for one harmonious event, examining the hurdles that have had to be overcome as well as the extensive charity work these clubs undertake.
On the Rock Stage bands lined up to keep the crowds entertained, both Thai and international, with Stockholm band Mud Pie South being one of the draw acts. Other bands included Goober Gun, Fish Bone, Deepest Purple, Electric Stones and Fahrenheit.
While Pattaya has a thriving custom Bike scene, riders also arrive from right across Thailand. They come from overseas too, especially participants riding up from Malaysia, while there were bikers that had journeyed from as far away as India. Many two-wheel loving tourists to the bustling resort city of Pattaya time their holidays to overlap with Bike Week. As an international festival the dots have really joined up.
It's a real melting pot of the personalised bike world with all shapes and sizes of machine in evidence – but aside from the machines themselves there are endless rows of merchandise, memorabilia and every type of ornament. There’re hairdressers, tattooists, stunt riding, parades. Bike manufacturers’, such as Triumph this year, also set up booths. The event is free and a lot of money is raised for charity.
This year there was a strong native American theme and as well as a long row of U.S. styled booths there were plenty of wigwams and people wearing traditional native headdresses. There was also a quartet of cowboys on horseback.
At the more contemporary end of the American scale, Hooters turned up with an expansive beer garden, their signature orange shorts clad waitresses as well as a mechanic bull ride. Chang had a themed beer garden too and there were never-ending aisles of food vendors as well as speciality trucks dishing up burgers, pizza, kebabs, ice creams and just about everything that’s been created to slow down the arteries.
On the perimeter Pattaya’s obligatory music trucks rolled in as the nights unfolded to provide their usual thumping volumes and ground shaking reverberations.
This show isn’t just about bikes either as cars and vans are scattered everywhere with an emphasis on the weird and the wonderful – all are classics of course. There's always a big turnout of American machines and this year was no different, the roster ranging from a huge shiny-chromed Mercury Cougar sedan to a slammed patina-finish Dodge pickup by way of several raw looking rat rods and an eye catching ‘low rider’ Jeep.
Always from the stateside cars and other four-wheel novelties included a gaggle of Mk1-vintage Ford Transit vans, a Toyota Corolla sedan brutally converted into a “roadster” with a full interior length yacht-like wooden floor while swiftly back to the Blue Oval and there was an immaculate Mk1 Escort complete with rally style spotlights and signature thick side stripes.
That extravaganza was edition number twenty-three. It was just as dazzling and nutty as the first twenty-two were – so expect this event to continue to thrive in the coming years.