I grew up with bikes, but motocross wasn’t something that I had heard of until my late teens. My mum’s best friend was a rider, my mum’s ex was a rider, and I always thought that someday I would be a rider.
But then my mum’s friend died in a motorbike accident, and it scared me out of it for a while. So I watched from the sidelines. First with the annual bike ride that made its way to Arundel, then with Moto GP, and eventually with motocross.
There are a few tracks scattered across Thailand, but the closest one is a mere three hours away from Bangkok: Baan Ricky.
Baan (meaning home) Ricky (the owner) is the motocross track and home, of Ricky Giles. He bought the land fifteen years ago and has dedicated both his time and money to it ever since.
Located in Sai Yok (along the 323) in a beautiful area of Kanchanaburi that’s surrounded by greenery and rivers, the location displays nature is at its finest. Waterfalls, hot springs and the Sai Yok national park are all a short journey away, meaning there is plenty to see and do away from the track.
I was travelling with someone who had ridden bikes since they were a child, and at this point, I had only been a passenger, but I thought, what the hell. Why not spend a weekend learning to ride? Life’s short!
I arrived early morning around 10 am and after jumping out of the truck to stretch my legs I walked into the restaurant to say hello and was greeted by warm smiles. Ricky was not in the restaurant, but a kind gentleman informed us he was at the house and hopped on a scooter to show the way.
Ricky built his house in the middle of his land, around 6 years ago, changing the ‘Baan’ in ‘Baan Ricky’ from being symbolic, to literal. Arriving at the house we walked around to the garage where we found Ricky working on a bike whilst chatting to his friend Joe, and a guest, Keith. We were immediately made to feel welcome and were soon engrossed in conversation. After a little chinwag, Ricky showed me the gear. There were limited boots, so if you are thinking about booking a trip, contact Ricky ahead of time to enquire about sizes as it might be worth renting a pair beforehand to avoid squashed toes! The first pair of protective pants I put on had holes in them and irritated my skin, however, Ricky was quick to swap them and gave me another pair, which were in much better condition. My only problem was that they were too big on my hips and too small on leg length. A problem I have all over Asia due to my “English build”.
The jersey, although five sizes too big, was in top condition and after rolling the sleeves up, was perfectly manageable. Next up was safety gear. Ricky’s selection of chest protectors was much better, with one in every size and good quality. There was an array of helmets showing that whilst the kit could do with updating, his priorities are in the right place because you are well catered for when it comes to safety.
After kitting up, it was time to check out the bikes. There is one Yamaha 85 YZ, one Kawasaki KLX 110, one Yamaha 125 YZ, and three Yamaha YZF 250s (all ’09 editions) and if you fancy exploring nature and hitting the trails for a bit of enduro there is a Yamaha 250 WR.
Having never ridden a bike before and being a mere 5ft4, Ricky allocated me the KLX 110 so that I could learn the basics on a bike where I could touch the floor. The bikes were all clean and looked well cared for. The garage was filled with bike parts, both for his current project and spares. Showing that this was the most used part of the house, and as a mechanic, where most of Ricky’s passion lay!
Having sorted our equipment we popped the kit in the back of the truck and drove down to our bungalow. Living in an apartment without a shower made me shamefully excited about having a bath, However, I was then told that I had been moved to another bungalow due to the arrival of two others, postponing my bubble-filled dreams for another time.
The bungalows are both located near the pond. And by the pond, I kind of mean the lake, the thing is huge! The smaller bungalow has a little bench by the front door (perfect for kicking off your boots) and the doors in the bedroom open out onto a little seating area overlooking the lake. The rest of the bungalow is pretty basic. A bed and two side tables are all that occupy the room, leaving it feeling a little empty. The air con machine is fabulous and the bathroom has a western toilet, a random showerhead and a sink… But it also had a hefty square hole in the ceiling. I cannot tell you why there was a hole in the ceiling, but what I can tell you is that it had a cage around it and my overactive imagination decided it was time to stop playing detective.
Desperate to get away from whatever lay above, I retreated to the bedroom to unpack… Except I couldn’t, because there wasn’t anywhere to hang or put away our clothes. A huge oversight it would seem, as wardrobes are ranked pretty high on the “things to include when creating accommodation” list. But alas, the show must go on, so I wriggled into my gear and set off to learn how to ride a motorbike.
Up until this day, I had never ridden a dirt bike before. Ricky was very considerate and took me to one side to explain how everything worked. After mastering the start, clutch and gears without so much as a stall, I was off to the beginner’s track, where Ricky stayed with me for around half an hour, giving me tips on balance and arm positions. It was great.
The beginner’s track is a small section of Ricky’s lawn at the front of the site, featuring a flat piece of land with a small tabletop— making it perfect for young learners or nervous adults like myself! It also had a more intermediate section with a few jumps, however, this was quite overgrown with grass, so I thought it best not to explore it.
I spent the morning practising riding and getting my confidence up before heading back to the tracks. In typical motocrosser fashion, the person I was with wanted some photos, so I played personal photographer.
The track is a decent size but, speaking as somebody who has only watched motocross and not ridden, even I found the track to be neglected. You could make out the track, however grass had crept onto the track making it difficult in parts to see where the take-off/landing spots were. When I spoke to the other guys riding, they all felt the same and said they were hesitant to make some of the jumps because visibility wasn’t clear enough.
As we all sat there chatting, the heavens opened so I called it a day to head back for a shower. But as I sat on the bed catching up on social media before I did so, I noticed an extremely loud scurrying sound above my head. I assumed it was an animal on the roof, but as it grew louder I realised it was in the room, around whatever the cages surrounding the hole in the bathroom ceiling, were trying to keep in.
But trusting in the cage, I got over myself and went to take a shower. The water pressure was incredible, but one thing I was not ready for, was the temperature. It was FREEZING. Now, I’m no stranger to a cold shower, I actually quite enjoy them from time to time, but this was beyond cold and there was no warning about this.
So after a shower where I could only bear to wash one limb in ice water at a time, I ventured to Baan Ricky’s restaurant for a few drinks. It turned out that it was Ricky’s birthday a few days before my arrival, and he was hosting a little barbecue as a way to celebrate, very kindly inviting us to be a part of it. Keith, along with Martin and Gary (the boys that stole the bungalow with a bath!) were there and before long conversation was flowing freely.
The restaurant is the newest feature on Ricky’s land and is currently receiving the most attention. The menu has a variety of options, including traditional Thai dishes and the usual burgers and pizza. The difference between this restaurant and others I have been to is that the Western dishes here aren’t an afterthought to an otherwise Thai menu. Instead, much practice goes into the dishes. Whilst the burgers and chips are your standard frozen jobbies, Ricky’s wife Boom has been hard at work learning how to make pizza, including the dough. She gave her pizza a trial run at lunchtime, eager to hear feedback from everyone. That evening she surprised everyone with more pizza and took on board every piece of feedback given. The result? Rich flavour and the thinnest base you could ask for. Perfection.
That night, I let Ricky know about whatever was in the attic, to which he responded with laughter. When I told him that it sounded like it might break through the ceiling, he chuckled once more and told me “It’s just the rats, we’re sorting it.” I wasn’t reassured but seeing that no solution was presented I moved my conversation to more pressing issues…
His ice water.
Me: “Ricky, your shower is super cold, is it meant to be like that?”
Me: “But it’s really cold. I could only shower one limb at a time because I was scared of developing frostbite”
Ricky: “You’re English! You should be used to the cold!”
… Cementing my fears that this was not a blip, and there was indeed only ice-cold water. (Update: Ricky contacted me a week after my departure to let me know that he had ordered a hot water system!)
The night overall was pretty great, and after hours of watching MX GP on a projector in the restaurant, I went back to the bungalow to get some rest ready for another day of riding. Except my new ceiling friend/s had other ideas. The (un)friendly little house guest decided that it would take up running. And not only would it take it up. But I would love it. It would love it so much it would do it ALL night. It would run and crash into things until 9 am the next morning ensuring that it made all the noise! Meaning I didn’t get an ounce of sleep.
I originally planned to stay for a few days, however with a track that was more grass than dirt and a severe lack of sleep, I decided to leave that morning. So I settled the bill and left. Whilst a few websites claim that the price is 2,000฿ for the day.
It is 2,000฿ for the first hour, then 1,500฿ after.
Kit is included and accommodation is 600฿ per night.
You can find the website <here>.
Overall, I had a great time, but that was down to great people and interesting conversations and not the standards of accommodation or customer service received.
Will I go back? Probably not. The place is beautiful and full of potential. Unfortunately, at the moment, it’s just not living up to it.