Thailand Trip by Sietse Van Berkel

Text: Sietse. Photos: Schogn, and Sietse.
Love this shot of Sietse mid pivot switch foot steam captured on a night session.

My plan is to go to Japan for Flatark in December 2023 and Chimera A-Side in January 2024. There is a 2.5-week gap between the events, and I have decided to stay in Asia during that time. I need some sun, to get away from the Netherlands, and time for myself after a challenging period. I quickly decide on Thailand: curious about the culture, food, nature, and I think it’s easily accessible for the relatively short duration. I know Toon from various events in the past years, and I message him that I will be in Thailand during that period. Off we go!

Flatark: Always nice to be in Japan. A few beautiful days with everyone, thank you. Extremely cold, snow, wind. But a cool event, an interesting concept similar to Street League Skateboarding, focusing on difficulty and originality in a best trick format, instead of events where consistent riding is emphasized. I think it’s good to have different events with different formats, without undermining each other, so that the various aspects of flatland can shine through. It’s great to be a part of this and experience it. Props to Ucchie and Naoto for organizing this event.

Something about night time photography and flatland, Monchai flowing out on the streets.

After the event, I immediately head to Chiang Mai in Thailand, a city in the north in the mountains. Everyone says it’s cooler here than in Bangkok. I’m still getting used to the contrast between the snow and cold in the Netherlands and Japan and the 35 degrees Celsius here. Beautiful and relaxed city with an even more beautiful cultural and natural surroundings. Delicious street food, good coffee. Toon has connected me with Jym, a rider from this city. A great spot in the middle of the city. Nice sessions with Jym and Tanakit, two skilled riders. Due to the heat, we usually ride from the afternoon onwards.

However, I’m not used to the dryness, dust, and occasional slipperiness. This results in a major crash where I fall with the handlebars in my groin, and I walk around with a swollen leg and discomfort, as far as I can walk. I’m a bit worried if I’ll recover in time for Chimera. Jym and Danai help me with the necessary medications that may not be readily available in the Netherlands, but they work even better. I realize it’s amazing that I’ve connected with these riders through BMX flatland. They show me places in and around the city, let me taste local food, and we have a great time together. Thank you!

Next stop: Kanchanaburi. Night train to Bangkok, then a bus to the west. The Burma Railway was built here during the Second World War. I have some family history here, so I want to visit this place for different reasons.

Signature Sietse right here!

After a few days, I decide to continue to Bangkok. I’m very curious if I’ll like Bangkok. The stories I’ve heard from other travelers along the way are either very positive or very negative. However, I quickly realize that I really like Bangkok, fortunately. It’s big and busy, but there are oases of tranquility everywhere. Toon shows me cool places in the city, the BMX spots, great food, and introduces me to many riders. Thank you! It’s great to see how the Thai government supports BMX and other extreme sports in Thailand, and how Toon educates the new generation of riders. This synergy between top-level and grassroots sports is beautifully utilized. The Thai Extreme Sport Association is doing a great job.

Flatland lifestyle, Thai style.

Tamao from NOUS introduces me to Schogn. Schogn is a photographer and videographer who has been travelling to Bangkok for the past twenty years and living here for a decade. He runs ‘BMX Direct Thailand’, the distribution that brings brands like NOUS to Thailand and beyond. We’ve agreed to go on a photo mission in Bangkok, together with his brother Tim. Cool photos and beautiful adventures and conversations. Thank you so much!

Good times with a great crew!

By now, my leg is getting better, and I realize that I have recovered enough in time for Chimera A-Side. This is a huge relief. The days are filled with chilling, eating delicious food, reading and writing, BMX sessions, and just enjoying being bored, like you did as a child. Wonderful. With a BMX, you experience a city in a different way.

Almost daily BMX sessions at the Tha Chang spot, by the river. In my opinion, one of the most beautiful spots I have ridden. Good floor, relaxed vibe, beautiful view, great riders, and then off to find new tasty food. Once again, I realize that without BMX flatland, I would not have experienced these adventures or met these people and visited these special places. It’s cool to see so much of Thailand in such a short time, and experience the (BMX) culture over here. 

After 8 days in Bangkok, I fly to Osaka for Chimera A-Side. This time, it’s a battle format with 16 riders. 5-minute battles each time, with one rider taking their turn after the other completes or fails their combo. Again, it’s cool to see a different format from UCI or Flatark, or other competitions. In between the battles, there are workshops for children interested in BMX flatland. It’s great to see how top-level and grassroots sports can co-exist and enhance each other, and how all aspects of BMX lifestyle are highlighted, without solely focusing on winning and the competition. Of course, it’s a competition, but ultimately, everyone does it because it’s just beautiful to do. Huge props to Tamao and the Chimera team.

Thank you BMX, people I’ve met (you know who you are) and Chat GTP for the translation. I’m grateful where has brought me. Can’t wait for the next adventure!

2 thoughts on “Thailand Trip by Sietse Van Berkel

  1. Thank you , Sieste . You’re a rad rider , TIMES 7……and this was a cool read . I remember my first time in New Orleans for the 2015 Flatland Voodoo Jam . Riding @ the pre-jam , the contest , meeting several riders late in the A.M., in the hotel lobby , getting REALLY lost in the wards , just walking around and exploring……I finally understood how and why BMXers get ” addicted ” to traveling……..just briefly going to another state was so damn dope. I went in 2017 and 2019 , also. Can’t even imagine traveling to the extent that you have , Sieste. Thank you for sharing this and thank you , Big-E for the post. Oh , Sieste…..Mad respect on your ” levitation ” , I.E., your standing up -stem / pedal stance ,spinning side packer..Reeeeeeeettttttttttttttt ! ( meaning hell YEEESSSS ! )

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