Samui Wining & Dining
QUADROPHENIA
Quad bikes add a whole new dimension to heading off-road on Samui.


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Sun, sand and sea are the main reasons we’re all here. But when end-to-end sun-cream and lazing-about begins to drag, there are two choices. You can get off the island on a boat trip or a diving jaunt. Or you can go cross the ‘great divide’ – otherwise known as the ring-road. And, yes, there is life on the other side! This essentially falls into two categories. Calm and tranquil daytrips for the serene-at-heart – plodding about on an elephant, temple tours or visiting a waterfall – things like this. Or you can opt for something that involves a bit more activity.

        There are actually a great many things to do on Samui, and most of them are neatly contained in a rack of leaflets and brochures, which are usually found near the reception desk of every resort. These tour operators are well-organised and reputable, and this is the most efficient way to get out and about on excursions. Plus they’ll include a pick-up from your resort and (of course) a return when you’ve finished. Sightseeing is one thing. But if you’re really up for a bit of activity (and a lot of fun!) then keep an eye out for ‘ATV Jungle Safari’.

        ATVs, all-terrain vehicles, quad bikes – whatever you want to call them – these are . . . well, 4-wheel motorbikes, and you’ve no doubt seen them before. They have the advantage of being comparatively stable, and lend themselves perfectly to the less-than-level conditions of the dirt tracks that are everywhere on Samui, once you move away from the main concrete strips. They’re really good fun, you’ll be under constant supervision, and any competent teenagers (with parents, of course) will quickly be able to manage them. Plus they range in power from 125 ccs to 450 ccs.

         But a word of caution here before I go any further. If you are anything like me, one of the first things you’ll do when pondering on any new resort/restaurant/venue/tour will be to Google it. It’s instant info and opinions – all hail to the great god of the internet. Unfortunately, not all gods are perfect. And it’s a constant frustration to read reports that make you want to go “. . . yes, great, I’ll have some of that!” and then notice the item is dated four years ago. If you Google ‘quad bikes Samui’, there’s all sorts of stuff. You’ll read about being able to rent quad bikes, or beach buggies, like you can a car or scooter. Well, the bottom line is that you can’t take most of these out on the public roads. It’s not only illegal, but you won’t have any insurance either.

          By far the longest-established quad-bike outfit on the island is Samui Quad Motor. They started life with just seven quads, back in 2001, and owner/director, Rick, today has more than 40 quad bikes on site. “I’m a mechanic by profession,” Rick told me, “and so I keep a close eye on the maintenance schedules. These are very capably put into place by my chief mechanic and site manager, Khun Suthep, who’s been handling this side of things for a very a long time now. But the well-being and safety of our customers is the priority. And I’ve got three mechanics here working more or less full-time, as well as the four trip guides.”

          There are two runs each day, with a hotel pickup being part of the package. “We don’t have any idea who is coming in,” Rick continued. “We might have two families with kids, a couple of adventurous female backpackers, and a stag party. (Note: this is one of the best outings for the fellas if you’re getting married here.) But the usual number is around a dozen each time. Everyone sets off in a line together, with three guides riding along on Moto-Cross bikes. After only a few minutes, these guys are experienced enough to spot who is struggling or who needs help. A guide might sometimes just abandon his bike and sit-in alongside an inexperienced rider. The procession stops for a moment and is rearranged, usually into two new groups. The experienced riders might then head onto a more challenging trail, whereas the others are taken somewhere less demanding. There’s always a leader on a Moto-Cross bike, and he’s in walkie-talkie contact with us at the base. We’ve learned by experience that this approach is the best.”

          Samui Quads are based on Soi 1 in Maenam. Looking at a map you’ll see the concrete strip of the main ring-road running all the way through Maenam and along the north coast. Every now and then there’s another side-road running off this at right angles inland; Soi 1, Soi 2, Soi 3 and so on, right up to Soi 7. What isn’t obvious (unless you look carefully at Google Maps) is that there are many little dirt roads that run parallel to the ring-road, and it’s these off-road cross-country routes that you’ll be taking advantage of. The quad tours head off from Soi 1 towards Soi 5 (via several possible back-trail routes), then stop at the very pleasant waterfall there for a break and refreshments, before heading back again on a different trail. It’s a two-hour journey, it demands your attention without being intense, and it’s some of the best fun to be had on the island, whichever way you look at it.

          Rick’s been here for quite a while now and he’s not just a businessman out for your cash. He and his wife, Khun Nan, have become a part of the local community, and when it’s low season use the quads to clear the paths of fallen trees – he was even on call with the recent Samui Triathlon to go where normal ambulances or cars couldn’t go. He’s an upfront guy and will make you not only feel safe, but welcome, too. In fact – you could even say he’s a bit of a quadrophenic!

          

 Rob De Wet


 


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