“An easy one,” I told the motorcycle rental man. “I haven’t ridden in a long time, so I’d like your easiest one.”

“Izzy wun,” he repeated, looking over the two dozen shiny cycles lined up in his parking-lot-cum-rental-shop on the island of Ko Samet, Thailand.

He strode forward and put his hands on a sleek machine with the red-and-yellow Manchester United logo painted on its side.

“Thiz izzy,”’ he said, smiling as he wheeled it over to me. “Mannches Yoonite,” he said, pointing to the logo and then to his eyes and his head, indicating that I should remember my bike by the distinctive logo.

He sat astride the bike and flicked up the kickstand, then looked at me. He put his hand on the left brake and squeezed it. “Bak brik,” he said. Then he put his hand on the right brake and squeezed it. “Fron brik.”

“Numbah wun bak brik. Allway bak brik.”

He released the back brake and then squeezed the front brake. “No bak brik, fron brak,” he said, and with his hands he portrayed the motorbike somersaulting through the air. “No goo.”

“Got it,” I said.

“Make go,” he said as he mimed turning the accelerator with his right hand.

“Now star.” He squeezed the left brake, turned the ignition key, then pushed a switch, and the engine magically chugged to life.

He turned off the key, stepped off the bike, and gestured for me to get on. “Yoo try.”

I repeated the three steps and the bike again chugged to vibrating life.

The best way to see Ko Samet? By motorbike. (Photograph by hempa, Flickr)
Motorbikes are a popular form of transportation on Ko Samet. (Photograph by hempa, Flickr)

Now came the problem. I knew I’d ridden motorcycles before. I’d definitely ridden them in Thailand 40 years ago and I was pretty sure I’d ridden a cycle or (Read more...)

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