After completing the ride from Mae Sot to Mae Hong Son, which currently ranks as the best day of riding I’ve ever had, I was eagerly ready for more as I prepared for the ride to Chiang Mai. The route to Chiang Mai is roughly 150km shorter than what I had just completed, however on the map it looked to be much more technical as it climbed into and zigzagged through the mountains of northern Thailand.
To give myself plenty of time for a leisurely ride, as well as time for some photo pit-stops, I was up in the pre-dawn hours packing my things and prepping the bike to hit the road around sunrise. Riding out of town I was once again one of only a few vehicles on the road, creating a peaceful zen felling as I roared off into the mountains. Here is my account of the twists, turns and scenery you can expect to experience when riding this section of the Mae Hong Son loop, it’s nothing short of amazing.
Wasting no time, the road quickly climbs into the mountains heading out of Mae Hong Son. With little traffic on the roads navigation was easy and I was able to dip into the turns and roll through the countryside at whatever pace my mood dictated to the throttle. I’m not much of a tea or coffee drinker, however when I saw this view out behind a small roadside vendor I had to pull over, order a Thai tea and admire the beautiful mountains and hazy valley which I just rode through.
At about the same time the sun began to rise, my first introduction to the tight turns which would saturate the remainder of this route came into view. Cresting a small hill, this was the first of many slithering ‘S’ curves which dove into the seemingly endless rolling hills.
Rounding turn after turn the thick jungle opened up to many small farms with rows of rice and corn fields. Being far up in northern Thailand the scenery is just about as opposite as you can get from the big city, and at times fells like you’ve been thrown back in time.
With the sun shining bright, a break in the mountains opened to a lush valley floor. With a few grand prix style arching curves leading the way down, the road dipped into a straightaway splitting two mountains off in the distance. Hitting the apexes and exiting onto the straight, I jumped on the throttle and took off through the farmland.
After about an hour and a half on the bike my stomach was rumbling and it was time to fill up. One of the best parts of riding in the outer provinces is meeting the people and eating the food. Pulling over at one of many roadside food stalls, I knew I hit the jackpot when I smelt the delicious aroma from the wok and saw the sous-chef preparing the meat for the day. While it might not be FDA approved, it’s 100% hungry-rider approved.
I took a seat and ordered Krapao Moo Glop Kai Dao (Stir fried crispy pork with veggies, served over rice and topped with a fried egg). My two chef’s looked on with smiles as I devoured the plate; and I don’t think I could have ordered a more delicious, hearty or perfect meal to keep me filled up for the remainder of the ride. I told them how delicious it was as I settled up my bill, and with a full stomach I hit the road.
The post-meal ride was followed by more hills and a continuous climb upward. As I focused on the road, I couldn’t help glancing off to my right to look at all the small villages dotting the hillside. With basic amenities and a wealth of natural beauty, you could say these villages are living the good life.
Winding higher and higher the road couldn’t be more inviting. Climbing up the mountain the turns varied from switch backs to corkscrews, and whenever a small chicane opened up the roar of the engine was all that could be heard reverberating off the hillside echoing my enjoyment.
At times it felt like the climb was going on forever and I’d never reach the top. Passing a small area of road work and rounding what came to be the final turn, the road plateaued and the Doi Kiew Lom mountain peak unfolded in the distance. Marking the boarder of the Mae Hong Son and Pai provinces, from here you can see 5 additional mountain peaks off in the distance. I stopped to rest and enjoy the view before nailing a two wheel, soul moving Powerkick photo.
Descending from the peak began the most technical and tricky part of the ride. Starting out cruising along the ridgeline the road quickly turned downhill. The downhill portion was made up of tight u-turns, narrow hairpins and confined corkscrews. With little to no shoulder of the road available for stopping, I was only able to safely pull over once for a photo.
Weaving my way down the mountain the roads eventually flattened out as I entered Pai. The Pai memorial bridge approached quickly and I thought it would be a great place to stop for a photo. I rode out onto the bridge, set up the tripod and gave my best GQ pose, however, I came to find out that riding onto the bridge was definitely not allowed.
Filling up the gas tank before leaving Mae Hong Son I was sure I had enough fuel to make the 244km ride. It was either the climbing through the hills or the opening up of the throttle full-bore when a straightaway came into view that caused me to use much more gas than I had anticipated. Realizing I was inching closer to the zero-fuel danger zone, I decided to fill up at what was luckily the final ‘home fill up station’ before riding back to civilization in Chiang Mai. I was charged an additional 10 baht extra per liter as a ‘convenience’ fee while filling up, but I figured the added 30 cents per liter was worth the experience.
Approaching Chiang Mai I was getting the feeling that the country roads were coming to a close. I made sure to make the most of every last twist, turn and straightaway in the road; allowing my tires to eat up the pavement as we jammed through the hillside before dropping back into the city.
The curvy country roads which started in Mae Hong Son continued right up until they couldn’t wind, twist or bend any further at the intersection of Highway 1095 and 107. Once on Highway 107 it’s a straight directly into Chiang Mai and the Tha Pae Gate at the old city wall. Arriving at the gate I parked to snap a photo, then celebrated the completion of an unreal two days of riding with an ice cold Chang at my guesthouse. This ride got me hooked on the back country roads of northern Thailand. I know this ride only scratched the tip of the iceberg, but I also know I’ll be back again soon to continue the exploration.