David Unkovich – aka “The GT Rider”
David Unkovich is an Aussie who has lived in Thailand for 37 years. He resided in Chiang Mai for 35 years and has two sons from a (ex) Thai wife. (2nd son’s named Doohan after Mick, the ex 5-times World 500cc Motorcycle GP Champion.) A dedicated motorcyclist, he’s been the Golden Triangle’s leading biker for many years, riding 3,000 kms a month exploring new roads and developments in both northern Thailand and Laos. In 2022, David has clocked up one million kms riding round North Thailand & Laos, which is very impressive considering the smaller distances you travel. He “retired” his Honda Africa Twin had 320,000 kms on the clock. Then ran up 100,00 kms on a Kawasaki 650 Versys in 3 years, followed by 180,000 kms on Suzuki Vstrom 650 # 1, and in 2022 has 80,000 kms up on Vstrom 650 # 2.
In April 2018 he retired to Chiang Khong to soak up the good life – fresh air, traffic free roads & the superb majesty of the Mekong river ambiance. David still rides as much as ever & welcomes all riders to Chiang Khong.
Paradise road by the Mekong from the View Coffee
Chiang Khong has the most beautiful road in the North – Paradise Road; and David invites all riders to Chiang Khong to hook up for a coffee and riverside chat.
He earned the nickname FL, Fearless Leader, from riding mates years ago in Nan province – early one morning he led the way riding across a decidedly dicey swinging suspension bridge, when the rest of the crew baulked & stalled at the sight of it. His general knowledge of the region’s attractions and touring conditions is second to none, and this knowledge has enabled him to write three books for motorcycling in North Thailand;
- Motorcycle Touring in North Thailand (1988).
- The Mae Hong Son Loop, A Touring Guide (1991).
- A Motorcycle Guide To The Golden Triangle (June 1998).
David also researched and surveyed to draw the first accurate guide map of North Thailand – the Berndtson and Berndtson (B&B) North Thailand map, published in January 1997. This has been the top selling guide map for North Thailand.
In 2000, he surveyed, drew and published first The Mae Hong Son Loop guide map for touring North-West Thailand. The Mae Hong Son loop map is in its 5th edition (January 2015).
In November 2001 he did the same with the first accurate guide map to Laos “The Laos Guide Map.” The Laos PDR Guide map is in its 5th edition (March 2012) & is definitely the best accurate guide map to Laos.
Khone Phapheng falls on the Mekong, southern Laos.
In October 2004 the National Tourism Authority of Laos (NTAL) contracted him to draw a series of 4-guide maps for the provinces of Luang Nam Tha, Luang Prabang, Khammouane and Champasak. The maps were the first official tourist guide maps for these provinces, and are distributed from the respective local tourist offices. Copyright for these maps remains with GT Rider.
In November 2006 the Mae Sa Valley Samoeng loop guide map was published.
In July 2008 the 1st edition of the GT Rider Golden Triangle guide map was published.
He instigated and led bike tours to Kuala Lumpur & the Malaysian World Motorcycle GP Championship from the Golden Triangle in April 1994 & 1995.
In February 1995 David led the first motorcycle tour into Laos.
Laos with the Khamu 1995
In November 1995 he led the first ride into S-W China via Laos from Chiang Mai, North Thailand.
During May / June 1998 he lead the first AMA (Asian Motorcycle Adventures) 3 week tour from the Golden Triangle to Malaysia.
In May 2004 BMW Thailand sponsored him with a F650GS bike.
David is excited about the future of regional motorcycle touring in S E Asia, now that the borders between Thailand – Laos – China – Vietnam are opening up.
GTR was the first bike across the 4th Mekong Friendship bridge between Thailand & Laos at Chiang Khong / Houei Xai.
His first recommendation to any motorcyclist with the spirit of adventure is fly direct to Chiang Mai, hire a bike for a week or two and ride around North Thailand to get a taste of what Asian motorcycle touring is about. You’ll be hooked for sure and back to ride each year. Then, when you feel you know the place well enough, you’ll may want to ship your own bike to Asia for a ride. Once you’ve got all the right info, none of it is difficult; so give it a go soon – you won’t be disappointed.
Northern Laos, en route to Vietnam 2010.
For a history of motorcycling in North Thailand and the Golden Triangle, David Unkovich has featured in the following;
- Two Wheels. Australia. May 1989.
- Bike. UK. October 1989.
- Manager. Thailand. September 1991.
- Motorrad. Germany. November 1991.
- Far Eastern Economic Review. 19 August 1993.
- Motoplayer. Hong Kong. May 1994.
- Bangkok Post. Thailand. 3 June 1994.
- Look East. Thailand. July 1994.
- Thailand Handbook 1992.
- Bike. UK. February 1997
- Lonely Planet. Thailand 1995.
- The Ultimate Adventure Guide Book. USA.
- The Adventure Motorbiking Handbook. UK. 1997.
- Bike Magazine. UK. July 2009.
On the Mekong upstream from Chiang Khong.
FIRST LAOS MOTORCYCLE TOUR
- Asian Wall Street Journal. 3 March 1995.
- Motoplayer. Hong Kong. April 1995.
- Motorrad. Germany # 24 1995.
- Motorcycle International. UK. Nov 1995.
- Holiday. Singapore. January 1996.
- Kurier. Austria. 12 April 1996.
- Reise Motorrad. Germany. May / June 1996.
- Reise Motorrad. Germany. September / October 1996.
- Two Wheels, Australia. March 1997.
||FIRST THAILAND – LAOS – CHINA TOUR
- Horizons. Bangkok Post Thailand. 4 January 1996.
- Welcome To Chiang Mai. Thailand. February 1996.
- Bangkok Metro. Thailand. November 1996.
- Japan Off-Road Bike. Vol 11 No. 12 1997.
David at the Phu Phayak communist museum on the Thai-Laos border in Nan.
- Irish Blazing Saddles (170 cyclists) Charity Bicycle Tour North Thailand. April 1999. Traffic Marshall / Escort.
- Thailand. Thailand On Two Wheels. Adventure Crazy TV Show. Episode 1. Travel Channel. USA. April 1999 / Discovery TV. June 2000.
- Thailand. NCH (UK) Thailand Cycling Challenge 2000. The Big Bike Ride Charity Cycle Tour February 2000. Traffic Marshall / Escort.
- Laos. NCH (UK) Laos Big Bike Ride (Charity Cycle Tour) February 2001. Traffic Marshall / Escort with Lao police for 35 cyclists, the first cycle group from Luang Prabang to Vientiane.
- Laos. NDCH (UK) Cycle Laos Charity Ride. November 2001. Traffic Marshall / Escort for 46 cyclists from Luang Prabang to Vientiane.
- Laos. December 2001. Destinations Adventure TV Show UK: The Search For The Lost City
- Guidelines magazine. Chiang Mai. August 2002. Laos map review.
- Look East magazine. Bangkok. October 2002 issue. Mapping North Thailand story.
- Guidelines magazine. Chiang Mai. January 2003. Mae Hong Son loop map review.
- Laos NDCH (UK) Cycle Laos Charity Ride. February 2003. Traffic marshal / Escort for 34 cyclists from Luang Prabang to Vientiane.
- Chiangmai Mail 22 November 2003. Laos map review.
- Bangkok Post Horizons Section 12 February 2004. Discover Thailand motorcycling story.
- Chiangmai Mail 1st May 2004. Mae Hong Son Loop map review.
- Chiangmai Mail 31st July 2004. Local Personality interview.
- Good Morning Chiangmai magazine. June 2004. BMW motorcycle sponsorship report.
- Guidelines magazine. Chiang Mai. December 2004. Motorcycling / map making story.
- Good Morning Chiangmai magazine. Chiang Mai. December 2004. Lao map making / eco-tourism story.
- Bangkok Post Outlook Section P 08. 25 April 2005. Mapping & expatriate life in Thailand.
- Where Magazine Bangkok. December 2005. Exploring the Golden Triangle.
- Motorcycle Escape USA Summer 2006 Issue. Lovin it in Laos.
- Bangkok Post Horizons Travel Section. 25 May 2006. The Golden Triangle & Beyond. Mekong boat & bike trip Chiang Mai – Luang Prabang – Vientiane.
- Chiang Mai Toy Ride 2008. Committee Member organizing the inaugural event.
2008 Inaugural Chiang Mai Toy Ride
MHS International Music Night 2012
- Guidelines Magazine. Chiang Mai June 2012. The Mae Hong Son Loop map Review.
- Destination Thailand TV starting in 2014 David featured in a series of tourism film clips for Destination Thailand TV promoting motorcycle touring in North Thailand.
GTR on the road with Destination Thailand TV.
- The annual GTR Mae Hong Son Memorial Ride in honour of departed riding mates from North Thailand. Started in 2009 & getting bigger every year. A highly respected ride with expat riders in the North.
The crew for the 10th Anniversary GTR Mae Hong Son Memorial ride at the GTR Chedi in MHS.
November 2019 initiated & was instrumental in organizing the inaugural Chiang Khong Music Fest by the Mekong river @ Chiang Khong.
5 top bands played jazz, blues & rock for a night of Mekong magic right beside the Mekong river.
Midnight Ramblers rocking the Mekong river @ Chiang Khong.
November 2019 organised & installed the sign Paradise Road, for R1290 along the Mekong River from Chiang Saen to Chiang Khong.
Paradise Road R1290- Chiang Khong