Kiwi in Thailand launches bikepacking route attracting 500 riders in first season

Mostly known for its beaches and full moon parties, Thailand is emerging as a bikepacking destination thanks to the efforts of a Kiwi woman and her English partner.

Bec Norman and Sam Rice have worked with locals in Chiang Mai to create a bikepacking route in northern Thailand that's drawn hundreds of riders from all over the world in its first season.

Norman and Rice have been together almost five years and they've spent almost that entire time on their bikes, a life they say gives them freedom and simplicity.

"It's about stripping everything back, not really having many things, and just using your body every day," Norman said.

"You're literally just fuelling your body, cycling, fuelling your body, cycling."

They make their living writing and filming content, but their biggest project yet is the newest bikepacking route in southeast Asia - a collaboration with bike shop owner Nu Chaijinda.

"We knew we didn't want to tackle it as 'this is Sam and Bec's route'," Rice said.

"Our mission for this route was always Nu is the champion."

Fed by Nu's local knowledge, a 400km route dubbed The Lanna Kingdom was born.

Rice and Norman have just released a film about riding the route a year after its launch.

Thinking it might draw 60 riders in its first season, they quickly realised they'd underestimated its popularity.

"We think it's about 450-500 people have ridden it so far," Rice said. "Which is pretty bonkers really."

It was important to Rice and Norman to ensure the communities along the way wanted an influx of tourists.

"We went through all the villages and the ones that really wanted people, who really wanted people to come and stay and bring that income into the villages, they're the ones we ended up using on the route," Norman said.

One homestay owner and farmer, Ping, has earned as much in one night as he usually does over a month from banana farming.

"We've facilitated it but he's the one now who's really growing it and people are going away with such amazing experiences from him and his wife and they're teaching people about the culture, teaching people about the food," Norman said.