Eastern delights with a western flavour.

Prasit Aphiphunya is bringing a little slice of Asia to Europe.

He’s the man with the unpronounceable family name – Aphiphunya – but everyone in the BMW GS community knows him by his first name, Prasit. Indeed, the Thailand-based BMW-certified tour guide lives for motorcycle travel, and he’s just set off on a 18,000 kilometres journey from Bangkok to BMW Motorrad Days in Germany, to launch his latest Ride Asia programme for 2018 and beyond.

It’s all about the ride.

It’s true that every year, some people travel extreme distances to arrive at the picturesque Bavarian town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen for the annual BMW Motorrad Days festival, but few will have journeyed further than Prasit, who will be riding through Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, China, Mongolia, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Czech Republic and Germany to join the festivities over the first weekend in July. It’s a journey he will be making for the second time, having traversed three continents in 2015 to arrive at the BMW fans’ annual gathering.

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“In 2015 I wanted to explode the myth of adventure travel and show that you don’t need to be an expert to make a big overland journey. I also wanted to show that a standard BMW bike is capable of such a trip without needing to be equipped with loads of extras. I just bought an F 800 GS and set off on my adventure across three continents. I learnt a lot about myself during that trip but the GS proved to be the ideal travelling companion — it never missed a beat the whole journey.”

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Tips from a local.

Tips from a local.

For 2017, Prasit won’t be travelling alone, or on his trusty 800 either, because it’s still in Europe, waiting to be ridden home on a future trip. This time he’ll be riding an R 1200 GS, accompanied by his Vietnamese business partner on an F 700 GS. For Prasit, this year’s journey is about bringing a little slice of Asia to Europe, as he will be using the world-famous BMW owners’ festival as the launchpad for his 2018 touring programme.

“It’s a little known fact that parts of Asia are some of the best places in the world to explore by motorcycle, but you need local knowledge to get into them in the first place, and then know which roads are the best ones to explore once you are there. I’ve been riding, discovering and mapping routes across the Asian continent for the past 20 years and I’m really excited about sharing the highlights with BMW riders from across the globe.”

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When East meets West.

When East meets West.

Prasit has the perfect credentials for a BMW-certified tour guide. Born in Thailand but educated in China and the USA, he has the life experience and awareness that allows him to move effortlessly between cultures, languages and countries — a pre-requisite for efficient cross-border travel for his clients, who appreciate the important local touch he brings to proceedings.

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“I’m probably the most westernised Asian you’ll ever meet,” says Prasit. “This certainly helps in this line of business because when you come to countries like Laos, Vietnam and China, there are a lot of things that you may be unsure about, such as the food. Some people are afraid to experiment and try local delicacies, but this should be what travelling is all about — stepping outside your comfort zone and trying things that you can’t get at home. Having someone there to explain how and what to order in a restaurant, or what’s worth eating (or avoiding!) at the roadside street stalls can enrichen your whole travel experience.”

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PART OF THE GS-COMMUNITY

Prasit’s love affair with the BMW GS came about during his years as an active member of the BMW Motorcycle Club of Thailand. Originally a K 1200 RS owner, Prasit had already toured extensively, but when involved with planning a tour to mystical city of Shangri-La in China, he realised that there was simply no way he could get there on the powerful 130hp sports-tourer, so he was ‘forced’ to buy a GS. It was 2004, when an all-new model came out and it became a real turning point for Prasit.

“As soon as I got on that R 1200 GS, I never went back to the K again. I knew it was the only bike I’d ever need. Also, during those tours, I was always the guy who looked after finances, routes and itinerary for the others, and I realised that I was good at it — and enjoyed it. I began to see an opportunity to show some of these amazing places to other riders and the idea of Ride Asia was born.”

The years since have been spent planning routes, doing recces and taking tours throughout the continent of Asia, always with a fleet of GS BMWs and certainly with a lot of ‘firsts’ along the way. Indeed, Prasit was the first BMW rider to cross the Laos and Vietnam borders with a group on motorcycles; and the first BMW tour guide to cross from these countries further into China and Shangri-La beyond.

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A chance encounter that changed his life.

A chance encounter that changed his life.

Always happiest when on the road, Prasit was on a recce in Laos in 2011 with two of his GS-riding friends when he discovered a note that had been left by GS French legend Eric Massiet Du Biest, who was himself in the country planning a route for the ‘One World One R 1200 GS’ campaign to launch the then groundbreaking new liquid-cooled boxer to the world market. Eric was looking for some local support, was surprised to see the GS bikes in such a remote place as Laos, and wanted to make contact.

“I connected with Eric over the weeks that followed and we hit it off straightaway,” reminisces Prasit. “We made a deal for him to rent a couple of our BMW bikes locally and we joined the ‘One World’ tour as it passed through Laos. We were the first Asians to ride the pre-production liquid-cooled GS.

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We had a blast with Eric and the team, who subsequently invited me to take part in the final stage of the tour that took place in Europe, from Barcelona to Munich. It was an offer that I couldn’t refuse.

Prasit Aphiphunya

Triumphant finals in Munich.

Triumphant finals in Munich.

Everyone who casts their mind back to that successful One World One R 1200 GS campaign will remember the emotional final stage, where featured rider Stephanie Rowe was accompanied by Prasit and other ‘stage winners’ Herbert Unger and Alessio Cigolini for the ride-in to the BMW Museum in Munich, where the GS community had gathered to welcome the group in for its triumphant finale.

“Arriving into Munich and seeing the welcome and the scene with the GS community convinced me that I just had to develop this touring business, so I could represent Asia — as an Asian — to the world markets. After that I also hatched the idea of a big ride of my own and when BMW started building the F 800 GS in Thailand, it was the perfect opportunity for me to buy one of the locally-produced bikes and ride it all the way from Bangkok to Garmisch in 2015. Afterwards, I rode it to Munich and was the first Asian to successfully complete the international tour guide academy training programme. The rest, as they say, is history…”

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From one marathon rider to another.

From one marathon rider to another.

Prasit Aphiphunya knows Asia like the back of his hand, so it was lucky when GS overlander Andy Dukes bumped into him at the border between Myanmar and Thailand. Prasit was leading a group of Portuguese, Brazilian and Spanish GS owners on an adventure tour through Laos and northern Vietnam and invited Andy along for the ride.

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“It was great to catch up with Prasit in his own country, after first meeting him at BMW Motorrad Days in 2015 on completion of his first Bangkok-Garmisch ride,” says Andy. Prasit was one of the many who inspired Andy to undertake his own round-the-world adventure (www.themarathonride.com ) because he gave him the confidence to believe in himself and the amazing ability of a standard BMW GS Adventure bike.

“To see Prasit lead this group of riders from BMW official travel partner MotoExplorers makes me realise that if you want to go to an exotic place and really immerse yourself in the local culture and cuisine, then make sure you use a guide with the local knowledge and connections to give you the fastest border crossings, explore the best roads and experience the tastiest food. It was a privilege to join these Portuguese GS fans for a few days before heading off alone but I know our paths will cross again — that’s how the GS community is.”

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R 1200 GS.

An icon among travel enduros.

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Welcome him ‘home’.

Welcome him ‘home’.

If you’re going to be at the 2017 BMW Motorrad Days on the first weekend in July, make sure that you welcome Prasit to the picturesque Alpine ‘home’ of BMW Motorrad in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where the annual gathering always takes place. He’ll be tired after such a long journey but would be delighted to meet you in the Tour Tent and tell you all about what an amazing place Asia is to visit by motorcycle. With a full fleet of GS bikes in operation, and a programme that includes an amazing 30-day expedition from Thailand to Everest Base Camp, as well as other journeys through Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, China and beyond, Ride Asia is your first port of call for exciting overland travel on two wheels.

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