Burapa – Bigger, Bolder, Better

The Fryed Brothers Do Thailand

By Art Hall

View the Burapa gallery!

‘Same Same But Different’ is a phrase emblazoned on T-shirts and signs everywhere around Thailand. I am still not completely sure what it means, but it seems to apply here. This years rally was the same as last year but man, was it different. The old adage of bigger is better is not always true and precisely the mantra I have been denouncing in recent years.

With the sudden turnaround in the motorcycle world here in the U.S. a few years back, many events were scaling back to the hue and cry of those that said it wasn’t as big as it used to be and not as good. I would counter to say bigger is not necessarily better, but Burapa is the contradiction.

I have been attending the annual Burapa Motorcycle Rally for several years now and I must admit that it has looked the same for quite a while. They (whoever “they” are) say that from change comes good and this is certainly one such manifestation of that old adage. The event had been firmly ensconced at an established venue which offered many permanent facilities and convenient infrastructure. This year the facility was taken over by the military to play host to the annual Cobra Gold U.S. Armed forces joint training exercises with the Thai military – I guess they think national security is more important than a motorcycle rally. At any rate the site was moved about 10 miles further away from town to a completely barren parcel of land used for temporary concerts. This brought the lamenting of naysayers bemoaning failure because it was too far for late night driving home, “possibly” inebriated or just plain to far for those smaller bikes to even make the trek. The negative input I heard made me a believer and as such I did not expect the show to be up to par. Well let me tell you that the reality couldn’t be further from the conjured images of doom.

Rounding the bend on the main highway gives you a panoramic view of the whole “field of dreams”. I have a reluctance to estimate size and numbers when they are compared to previous events especially when the “field” is twice as big and the numbers of attendees are that large also. What I saw was a Burning Man venue almost one mile square set up for Woodstock and mingled with Sturgis inspired motorcyclists making their pilgrimage to Mecca. I was completely blown away with this “small city” that had been built for just a few days of biker brotherhood and revelry, the new and improved Burapa Bike Rally 2013.

Streets/roads were outlined, street signs were posted, three truck sized generators were not enough for the needs, the stage was as big as any and the organization was terrific. In addition to the main stage there was a smaller stage that saw over 100 local and emerging bands play every day and into the night. Restaurant row was a separate area of food purveyors galore and the merchandise vendors were all assembled in a convenient fashion ensuring the best possible exposure. Also in abundance were special displays of various and sundry vehicles from an old cargo plane, to military jeeps, a small PT Boat, custom bikes, classics, choppers, rat rods, antiques and stock new motorcycle dealer displays. The Western Village of cowboys and Indians was bigger and neater than before with horse riding displays and authentic costumes of the period.

Many of Thailand’s most popular musicians show up and play as well as more from other nearby countries. This year saw our own Sacramento-based Fryed Brothers play for their second year being the only non-Asian band to perform on the Burapa stage. They are really well received, a big hit with all ages and they are looking forward to playing again in 2014. These guys fit the Asian biker lifestyle perfectly.

One curious fact is that with all these tens of thousands of revelers there is no police presence for crowd control. As well, there is no need for it as the event has gone on without incident for 16 years now; peace brother – not war! So it is that MC’s from all over the world gather and have a good time in the spirit of motorcycle brotherhood. I cannot for sure enumerate all the countries from all over the world but have seen or heard of the USA, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Morocco, Japan and there are many more as well as most major MC’s and dozens of less well know clubs all having a party in harmony under the slogan of “War is Over”. Not only is this rally designed to promote peace among the bikers but to also also promote peace between the neighboring countries and various religious sects all of which have challenging moments.

Silverlake Vinyards, who was the host for the event has staged many large concerts in this facility and as such has a good handle on estimating crowd size. I still am amazed that they estimated 50,000 people over the big day Saturday with Friday seeing maybe “only” 10,000. Last year I was totally impressed with the meager crowd of 20,000 and 6,000 bikes at the old site. Clearly this is the largest motorcycle event in all of Asia. As such it draws many important dignitaries too numerous to list and even had an honored appearance by the Royal Family a few years back. I would be remiss to not give a bit of background on Burapa, the MC (Motorcycle Club) that promotes and produces this event, having done so for 16 years now with the founding of the club. Khun Jumeen is the founder and with his vision of bringing peace to motorcycle clubs everywhere the show has grown from a meager two hundred to the now overwhelming 50,000 estimated this year. During the year they also promote the young guys crafting little 80cc custom bikes to keep them off the street of crime and into some more productive endeavors. The program has been verified to have reduced crime in this demographic by as much as 70% – outstanding ! With their far reaching influence they summoned up aid for the massive flood victims last year providing money and manpower assisting those in need. there are only 70 members in the club with a few being non-Thai but it seems that they have many more hands available to get the work done when need be. Here’s to a job well done!

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