The MHS Loop: Checking Dirt Roads & Trails
Printed on: 04 Jun 2007
Subject: The MHS Loop: Checking Dirt Roads & Trails
Posted on: 12 May 2005 03:00:1
A short trip to
check on some old & explore some new dirt trails.
2 nights 3 days trail riding on the MHS Loop.
DATE: Tues 3rd Ė Thurs 5th May 2005.
WEATHER: generally fine, hot & a little cloudy, with 1 light shower.
(1) Chiang Mai Ė Chomthong Ė Mon Hin Ė Khun Pae Ė Mong Luang Ė Mae
(2) Mae Chaem Ė Pang Hin Fon Ė Mae Hae Ė So Lo Sa Ė Mae La up Ė Mae
La Noi Ė Mae Hong Son
(3) Mae Hong Son Ė Huai Pong Ė Nong Khiao Ė Mae Surin Ė Pang Ung Ė
Mae Na Chon Ė Mae Chaem Ė Doi Inthanon Ė Khun Wang Ė Sanpathong Ė
1. Cnx - Mae Chaem: 108 Ė off road Ė 1088
2. Mae Chaem Ė MHS: 4006? Ė off road Ė 1266 Ė 108 to Mae Hong Son
3. MHS Ė Cnx: 108 - off road Ė 4009 Ė 1263 Ė 1192 Ė 1264 Ė 1013 Ė
THE RIDERS: Silverhawk & Davidfl (minus a 3rd one who piked out as
it was boring riding with old man Unkovich while he was mapping.
What's the world coming to I thought?)
Picked up a couple of rental 250s from Tom & Jerry motorcycles. This
was the end of the high season & there was no doubt that the bikes
had done their work picking up loads of baht for Tom & Joe (Joeís
Bike team.) Read this as the bikes were a ďbit tiredĒ = soft
suspension, poor rear brakes & ďsteelĒ seats (after 45 mins you sat
on the frame!)
This might all sound bad, but unfortunately it is standard for
rental bikes at the end high season, such are the joys of riding a
renta 250 in North Thailand. To get a good one, just make sure you
come at start of the high season.
This is also not a black mark against Joeís Bike team, but rather an
approval, as while Joeís bikes sometimes might be no less tired than
any other rental shop, they are always mechanically sound & seldom
break down, unlike a few of the others. And true to form neither of
the bikes suffered any break down or the slightest mal function in
the 3 days on the road riding long hours on steep twisting mountain
roads / trails. We were impressed yet again Joe, youíre a renta
By the end of the trip though, it was the seats that bothered us the
most & boy did your arse hurt after several hours in the saddle.
Itís been awhile since either of us has ridden a 250, having been
pampered for too long riding our bigger bikes - 750 Africa Twin &
850 Yam TDM. And it certainly was obvious to anyone around that each
time we got off the bike, we found it painful to walk the first few
steps! Age might also have something to do with this, as I recall
riding from Luang Nam Tha (N Laos) to Chiang Mai, non-stop in a day
on a 250 Baja a few years ago & not complaining as much, but that
was my own 250 with a nicely re-padded seat.
Even happy Tom had a line for me as I picked up my bike:
Silverhawkís name is Dave Early, which would be correct as he is on
time & early compared to you late (as usual) & behind schedule. So
you must be David Late. I could not disagree with that & seem to
remember it being a bit of a feature on this board several times.
(The trouble is that none of these other guys have a happy
voluptuous girlfriend singer who comes home late every night & wakes
you up for a gossip plus some ďslap & tickleĒ before sleeping.)
THE TRIP DAY 1
With our 2 handy bikes we got away around 11.00 am, just a tad later
than my regular start time.
My original plan was to take a run out to Samoeng & then head
west-south-west to check out a trail that linked Samoeng directly to
the Mae Wang Ė Sanpathong road, but I felt a little heavy that
morning after a busy night with some mates in various bars drinking
various spirits. The various bars were ok, but the various spirits
were not a good idea or conducive for an early start & challenging
So (unknown to Silverhawk) I piked out, took the easy way out &
headed straight down R108 to Chomthong. This was nice & easy
(boring) to give me enough time to freshen up.
To the west-north-west of Chomthong there are some really good
trails that run into the mountains & onto the west side of Doi
If youíre a bit of a trail riding fan, then this is one of the best
areas for good trail riding in North Thailand. The whole area is
crisscrossed with tracks that go high up on the side of Doi Inthanon
& you could easily spend a couple of days riding around here. I have
still not worked out the full network of trails & it is easy to get
confused, if not ďa bit lostĒ in here.
But from wherever you start off from you should basically end up in
1 of 3 places (1) Chomthong, (2) Doi Inthanon near the Pha Tang
lookout opposite Siriphum waterfall, or (3) Mae Chaem & somewhere on
For this trip I decided to take a look at the Mon Hin Ė Khun Pae Ė
Mong Luang trail (check out the MHS map to see where), one that I
had not been on for a few years & was keen to check out again.
Just before the turn off we stopped at the PT fuel station to fuel
up both the tanks & the bodies. It was stinking hot, a bit cloudy &
so humid with sweat pouring out from the various spirits. And we had
not even got off the asphalt yet!
Talking to the sweet shop assistant she asked why I was trying the
Khun Pae road as it was still rough & one that you would not want to
be caught out on in the wet. Yep thatís right I agreed, on one trip
there several years ago we turned back because of light rain & a
totally greasy track that offered no traction, steering or braking
whatsoever. I explained this to Silverhawk & he sort of smiled Ė he
must have been thinking the almost non existent rear brakes on the
Anyway after a lengthy break & a full load of liquids on board we
headed off. (Iím not sure if it was the sweet shopkeeper or the
genuine heat & need for the extra liquids that kept me / us in the
shop for so long.)
You turn off at Mon Hin & after just a km the asphalt runs out & the
road becomes slightly stony, steep, winding gravel. Itís a beauty &
winds its way up a small canyon
to give some glorious views. Once thru the canyon the road changes
to a grit like sand, then laterite.
Just follow the road in & there are no real turns, apart from one to
Om Ting, (now on the right).
Khun Pae is 23 kms in, & thereís a bit of asphalt thru the village.
KP is a large Karen village & a royal project site, so there is a
bit of activity & development going on.
Stop & have a drink or two in Khun Pae to get the feel of the place
& youíre bearings.
After Khun Pae it gets tricky, with numerous turns & a narrower
steeper tighter trail. The road is also laterite & one you would not
want to be caught on if it rains.
Basically after Khun Pae you take all the left turns, except the 1st
one from memory, & you should end up in Mong Luang. Thereís about 19
kms of trail to get across to Mong Luang, if you get it right. If
you donít then you should end up either back in Chomthong or on Doi
Inthanon by the Pha Tang forestry lookoutÖÖ.good luck.
Pic below: deforestation (what you don't like to see) on the way
between Um Lan & Mong Luang.
If you get to Hin Lek Fai & then Um Lan, (both Karen hill tribe
villages) then youíve got it right & are on the road to Mong Luang.
High up, thereís splendid forest cover & superb views with loads of
fresh air gusting in.
We lucked out with the weather Ė no rain despite the clouds building
up the higher we went & it does get a bit worrying at times, as you
know should not be in there when its wet!
In Um Lan, we took a longish break. Thereís a nice little village
shop on the left as you pass thru, and this shop has one of the
thickest solid wooden table tops that Iíve seen in a long long time.
Silverhawk & I both had a chuckle over it & wondered where it would
eventually end up. The Karen villagers were all cool people
& had a fun time chatting to the silly ol farang on their motorbikes
looking for forestry trails to ride. The mature female shopkeeper
was a delight & a truly amazing lively character. We could have
spent an hour in the village but had to move on as it was getting
late in the afternoon & more clouds were moving in.
Between Um Lan & Mong Luang the road gets pretty steep in places,
but nothing serious as there are no real switch backs to complicate
the issue. In fact itís all probably easy if you had any sort of
rear brake for a quick dab to slow you down at the right moments.
From Mong Luang itís only 2 1/5 kms & your back on asphalt.
Pic below: the asphalt from Mong Luang - to R1088.
On route 1088 & headed North towards Mae Chaem, I decided we still
had a bit of time to play around with & took a dirt side road
west to Sop Long. This too was a little beauty as it runs out 14 kms,
generally alongside the Mae Chaem river.
There are some wonderful views of the river, but the countryside on
the road side is badly deforested & somewhat disappointing. However
this does make for panoramic views & as we headed back in from Sop
Long we were rewarded with some outstanding pictorials of Doi
Inthanon in the fine late afternoon light.
This side trip would be a real gem in the rainy season as beside the
road there are heaps of little waterfalls, that must tumble across
the road & into the Mae Chaem river. But we were in the dry season &
they were all dry. A likely problem though is that the road is all
dirt & most likely impassable in the wet!
Now if they could only asphalt the road, it would be a totally
gorgeous wet season excursion from Mae Chaem.
Pic below: the bridge across the Mae Chaem river in Sop Long
In Sop Long, we lucked out again, with a shower of rain, but were
under cover at the time & so kept dry. The shower was also only
light & short so that we had no trouble getting back out to the main
Pic below: R1088 heading north towards Mae Cahem & Doi Inthanon.
We hit Mae Chaem at 5.45 pm, hungry, thirsty & tired.
Mae Chaemís actually booming with several new guesthouse / resorts
in town, and we opted to stay at the new Mae Chaem hotel Resort. The
old hotel was a bit of a rat hole (& I could tell a few stories
about over nighting there on the creaking floor boards, paper thin
walls & cold showers), but the new resortís got a nice clean pool &
a bit alright (youíd think.)
The other good option for Mae Chaem is the Navasoung Resort, a few
kms out of town beside R1192 the road to Doi Inthanon. Itís got
better food service & probably rooms, but no pool.
We sat by the pool for happy hour & a snack, watching the cool clean
pool & kids splashing around having fun. But both of us were too
tired to want to change, shower & get in the pool.
Despite the fact that Mae Chaemís booming, the town is still bloody
quiet quiet Ė arguably the quietest in North Thailand! Khun Yuam /
Tha Ton / Doi Mae Salong have more night life, & only Soppong might
beat MC for quietness at night!
Unbelievably I was in bed by 9.45 pm & it was a shocked girlfriend
who rang At 10.00 pm to check up & could not believe that I was
already in bed Ė you canít be alone & must have a girl in there with
Actually I was not that sabai in my little bungalow, as Iíd opted
for the non air-con one rather than the ďdeluxeĒ air con bungalow.
The logic being that
(1) It would be nice & cool at night, so need for air con
(2) I could do with the few extra baht
(3) I was not expecting any company & so did not need to impress
Foolishly I thought I was putting one over Silverhawk as he paid the
extra 200 baht & got the air con hut. This did not quite work out,
as once in the bungalow I found out that the hut was un-shaded, had
been out in the sun all arvo, & so was warmed up like a microwave
And unbelievably I could not open any of the windows to get an air
flow & cold it down - one of the windows was jammed shut & the other
two had furniture in front of the windows so that you could not even
access the windows! Real fine you eh? The pink curtains, pink
bathroom floor & wall tiles, complete with pink grouting, plus a
blue plastic bathroom door made me feel as if I was in a little
dollís house. This was definitely not hunky dory, & there were
flying insects in the hut with the one small ceiling fan not of
sufficient power to even keep them at bay. At breakfast I was not
smiling, but once heíd inspected the dollís house Silverhawk thought
it was all quite funny. Yeah yeah I thought, just what I needed
after a long tiring dayís ride - a poor sweaty sleep under siege
from flying insects! You canít win Ďem allÖ
Next morning it was breakfast out at the Navasoung & good it is. In
hindsight we should have definitely stayed at the Navasoung & not
the Mae Chaem resort, where the pool looked good (but we were too
tired to try it!) We also had quite a bit of trouble getting our
food at the MC poolside. The fried mixed vege dish was ordered 4
times, & still came out as a fried rice, plus the beer & the soda
took a good 15-20 minutes to appear Ė youíve been warned!
What was good was the actual meal we had later on at the Khrua Lai
Hin restaurant. This is a huge open air restaurant out of town, on
the road into Mae Chaem from Doi Inthanon. We were the only
customers & were a bit worried about what we might end up with. The
food however as excellent & the servings huge - we only ordered 3
dishes for the 2 of us & just finished half of it! What was
hilarious here was ordering & getting the attention of the female
owner who was addicted to the Thai soapie on TV at the time. The TV
was high up on the fridge & she stood less than a metre directly in
front of the TV, totally glued to the screen. She could not even
complete writing down a 3 line order without taking a break &
standing in front of the TV, obsessed by the melodrama. And in the
same manner, the 3-line bill took a good 10 minutes to write out.
Not even Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein turning up for a meal would
have distracted or motivated her to move any faster!
THE TRIP DAY 2
After brekky we chugged around Mae Chaem environs GPS-ing a couple
of new roads & 1 trail, then headed west towards Mae La Noi via Pang
Hin Fon & Mae Hae.
Pic below: looking east towards Mae Chaem & Doi Inthanon
On some of the newer maps coming out of Bkk this is shown as a main
highway with connections to both R1270 & Kong Loi / R1266 & Mae La
Noi. I have not been out here for a few years either now & wanted to
see what was going on & if it was true that the highways &
connections were complete. To cut straight to the point Ė they
arenít & the connections are still ďgoat tracksĒ the same as they
were years ago.
Pic below: The connections are still the same.
What is new is that there is considerable asphalt on the Mae Chaem Ė
Mae Hae road, oddly enough at both ends, with a good dirt section
still in the middle. That asphalt runs 21 kms out from Mae Chaem to
the road junction at Ban Pui / Pang M O.
Then dirt until another 10 kms before Mae Hae, then asphalt into Mae
Hae. The asphalt is going from Mae Hae towards Mae Chaem. Silverhawk
& I both noted that the asphalt application did not appear to be
generous & we hoped that it was not going to be the final layer, or
it would not last 12 months & the wet season. Good on you Dept. of
From Mae Hae then we took the trail up the mountain a bit further to
Se Lo Sa & onto Huai Ha & Mae La Up. 5 kms after Se Lo Sa the track
links up with R1270 from Kong Loi (& I need to check this one out
later on to see if how much asphalt is on the road from Kong Loi &
R108.) At the R1270 junction we continued on the trail to La Ang
Nua, then Mae Pi Khi
& eventually came out at Du La Poe, 12 Ĺ kms further on.
After Du La Poe the track improves & 10 kms from Mae la Up it is a
pretty good dirt road.
Pic below: Mae La Up
This puts you on R1266 & the asphalt starts 13 kms further at Huai
Manu. From Huai Manu then its approx 12 kms into Mae la Noi & R108.
It was around 4.00 pm when we arrived in Mae La Noi, took a lengthy
break & headed straight for Mae Hong Son. Silverhawk would have
preferred to go to Mae Sarieng, but I wanted MHS for some night life
/ good food / massage. The pressure was on & the ol 250s were wound
right up for an excellent thrash thru the golden twisties of R108. I
only got away from Silverhawk a couple of times due to superior road
knowledge (that maniac quality?) and we arrived in MHS just on dusk,
not tired but exhilarated. Yes sir a 250 is perfect for a thrash on
the MHS loop as you can throw the lighter bike around a lot easier &
so carry much corner speed. It really does give you a buzz!
In MHS it was the Piya ghouse by the lake. One of my fave spots in N
Later on it was a foot massage at the Mae Thai to start the evening
with the papers & a bottle of scotch.
Then onto the Salawin Restaurant Pub. The Salawinís got the best
farang food in town, plus is a bit of a Hang out for the local NGOs,
so you often get a decent farang conversation. Alan the pommy owner
is also a bit alright.
After the Salawin, Silverhawk retired & I hit the disco at the
The band at the Chalet rocks & most nights the place is good, except
when thereís a crowd of boisterous obnoxious Israelis trying to run
the show. And tonight was no exception. It was break time & a couple
of members of the band, mates from Chiang Mai, came over to sit at
my table & help themselves to my whisky (one of the perks of being a
muso & certainly not unlike the girlfriend singer).
Anyway during the break the band had some taped music on, when an
Israeli jumps up on stage grabs the microphone & starts to sing &
dance to entertain only himself & his mates. Not very cool I
thought. The bandleader sitting at my table grimaces, quietly slips
over to the back of the stage & turns off the microphone. End of
performance & the failed Israeli Idol superstar sits down. But not
for long, several drinks later he pounces back onto the stage to
test all the microphones and manages to find one still switched on.
The Israeli rabble let out a cheer & hey presto its shown time once
more for our Israeli Idol, but no one else is impressed. My mate,
the band leader promptly and firmly walks up onto the stage &
switches all the sound gear off Ė is that a message or not. Still
not good enough for an Israeli Idol fan, who stumbles over to our
table & asks for the manager so he can complain because they canít
sing to entertain (their own little crowd.) What is it with these
guys I thought? Iím glad he never asked me anything as he would most
definitely not have been impressed with my reply, & WW3 might well
have erupted. As it was the Thais handled it real well, ďoh yeah you
need to speak to the manager, he has just gone across the street to
the market for some rice soup, you can go find him over there
yourself & ask him if it would be ok.Ē Our drunken Israeli warrior
staggered off into the street in search of the manager, only to
return unsuccessful and see that the Thai band was back on stage
playing at full volume & speed.
That was enough for me though. I did not want to hang around any
more annoying drunken Israelis - the air con no longer seemed to be
working so well. So it was off to a late, quiet relaxing massage,
then home to bed for a solid nights sleep in the cool air con
without any flying insects.
It had been just another day at the officeÖÖÖ
Keep The Power On
Replied on: 12 May 2005 11:17:07
Want to thank all of
you who take the time to write down your rides through the north of
Thailand. They keep me going until my return in Nov. ( now in the
San Francisco area for 6 months or so ). I have used this info on
several rides on my last stay in Thailand, you guys are "right on"
on all the road, guest house, restaurant & scenery info. Can't wait
to get back & check out the roads around Nan. Thanks again!!!!!!!
Replied on: 20 May 2005 01:21:28
THE TRIP DAY 3
Breakfast at the Lucky Restaurant & this was a good one too.
Silverhawk & I are both resident in Thailand & semi-native, but both
still insist on a decent farang breakfast, & the Lucky has one. The
staff are also easy on the eye, which helps make a good start to the
day. The Lucky is next to the Salaween, but the Salaween is not open
early (Alanís place is for night owls), & as itís not much chop at
the Piya either, itís the Lucky for brekky. Check it out next time
in MHS (tell the gorgeous owner that David sent you for some extra
The weather looked ok, reasonably fine so we headed south to check
out a new road Ė one Iíd wanted to look at for quite a while. This
is a new trail that runs into Mae Surin waterfall the back way & is
absolute little ripper Ė as steeps as (probably the steepest so far
in North Thai), with switchbacks, good altitude, a run along
forested ridgelines, plus road work just to complicate the issue. It
is also one that you certainly would not want to do if it was wet,
as you could be stuck in here for a day or two!
But before that we checked out the Pha Bong waterfall, a little east
off R108. The road in here is narrow tight smooth asphalt. The
scenery is gorgeous & most likely the waterfall will be a very very
pretty one in the wet season, when there is some water!
Make sure you check it out if you are in the area.
The turn off for the Mae Surin trail is clearly signposted with a
bright blue highways dept sign, indicating Nong Khiao & Mae Surin
W/fall, approx 3 kms south of Huay Pong.
Whilst its might be a big bright highways dept it certainly aint no
big highways dept road once you turn off R108.
We got to re-confirm all this just 500 metres in at a checkpoint
where we were asked where we were going & then advised that well
maybe we couldnít get through because of the road works ahead, but
it might be ok on a small dirt bike. Pretty specific eh? Silverhawk
& I both thought well that actually sounds a bit inviting, so letís
suck it & see what happens. (I thought that if anything it would be
some bulldozers making a new cut through the mountains & we might
have to hang out for a bit while the boys cleared a path thru for
Within 2 kms of leaving the checkpoint the roads get a bit unreal, a
series of extremely steep slippery gravel switchbacks. These are the
steepest Iíve been on in North Thailand, & there arenít any photos
of them because werenít prepared to stop & snap away.
Pic below: GPS evidence of the steep road below.
If you did attempt this, then I doubt if youíd be able to hold the
bike & stop it from sliding back down the mountain. After about 2
the road ďlevels outĒ slightly & runs along a steep ridgeline to
reach a T-junction 11 kms from R108.
It was along the ridgeline that we encountered the road works Ė wet
concrete Ė the total width of the track.
At first we were a bit unsure what to do, but the road crew started
yelling & waving out to take the bush trail, only we could not see
one. We had to get off the bikes to find it, a foot track down the
side of the hill into a dry stream, along the stream, & then back up
onto the road.
Now I knew why at the checkpoint they said you might not be able to
get through Ė certainly on 4 wheels it was impossible & would you
ever be pissed off coming in that far, only to have to turn around &
go the same way back out (and what an ear bashing youíd get at the
gate for the giving out the wrong info). There was a series of 3
sections of wet concrete to avoid & after the 3rd one, we considered
ourselves much better trail riders.
Itís real weird riding out there in the jungle to suddenly come
across sections of concrete or asphalt road in the middle of
nowhere, seemingly for no reason.
But if youíve ever wondered about it, my theory is that they slip on
the cement / asphalt in the places where they have the most trouble
in the wet season. And if youíve ever wondered why the asphalt /
concrete never seems to quite run into the village, but always stops
just a bit short Ė my theory is that the missing bit is always close
to 30% of the total distance. And the 30% missing = the 30% tea
money paid to get the contract!
At the T junction there was a road crew camp & the boys slaving away
mixing up concrete in a generator powered mixer / come cart.
It was quite a trick machine & one that well served the purpose out
there in the boonies. We were impressed.
Anyway at the T-junction, you have a choice, left or right Ė if you
know where youíre going.
If you take the right one you head straight to Mae Surin w/fall8 kms
If you take the lefty youíll end up in Nong Khiao & the lake 4 Ĺ kms
Then from NK you can continue on to loop around another 14 kms &
link up with Mae Surin w/fall.
Both these roads are good forestry trails ď nice lateriteĒ - ones
that you certainly would not want tom get caught out in the wet.
Then from MS W/fall it is 8kms before the asphalt starts & then runs
onto R1263 & the Khun Yuam ĖMae Chaem road.
By the time we got to the asphalt it was 3.00 pm & we were pretty
shattered. I bought a pack of cold tablets & scoffed down the pills
to help with the bum pain. Even Silverhawk did not decline, which is
saying something. 30 mins later we took a lengthy break in Pang Kia,
the big Hmong village on R1263.
Pic below: Stopped in Pang Kia (at the zebra crossing?)
We had been riding pretty much non-stop since we first hit the dirt
at 10.30 am. Indeed it was difficult just getting off the bikes, our
Baja arses were so sore! I ate my mama noodles standing up, which
amused the Hmong gals & guys considerably Ė silly old farang.
Pic below: R1263 Pang Kia - Ma Na Chon (worth a ride!)
From then on it was a bit of a race & a non-stop ride back to Chiang
Mai Ė because we most definitely did not want another night in Mae
Chaem (& the dollís house for me.)
After a quick break in MC for fuel & a couple of sponsors it was
straight on up R1192 & Doi Inthanon. R1192 is such an adrenalin
rush, that we both forgot out sore arses in this section. You come
out near the top of Doi Inthanon & then its an easy run down, except
I wanted to do more little GPS run Ė route 1284 thru Khun Wang &
into the Mae Wang valley & R1013 to Sanpathong. By the time we got
to R1013 it was already dark & we were both glad that there is only
8 kms of dirt left on R1284 from Khun Wang to R1013.
The final run into town got a bit messy as we were both somewhat
tired & instantly bothered by the traffic on the road Ė its funny
how you get used to no traffic on the jungle roads & then are
immediately stressed out when thrown back into the real motorized
world with cars all around you.
We arrived at the ol Kafe hang out around 7.30 pm, extracted
ourselves from the bike seats, had significant drink & snack stop,
then went home to collapse in bed.
Pic below: outside The Kafe
It had been another good day at the office.
This is Part 1 of "The MHS Loop: Checking Dirt Roads & Trails."
Part 2's been surveyed (but not written up & tomorrow I'm off on
Keep The Power On
Replied on: 25 May 2005 19:27:48
PART II: THE MHS
LOOP: CHECKING DIRT ROADS & TRAIL
DATE: Friday 13th Ė 15th May 2005
THE WEATHER: Sunny - overcast & what youíd expect for the tropics.
THE RIDERS: The same team, Silverhawk & Davidfl
THE BIKES: 250s rentas from Tom & Jerry again. Silverhawkís got the
same bike & Iíve got lucked out with another special. The motor was
real crisp, the brakes supposedly improved although Silverhawk
disagreed & so I had no real complaints about mine, except that it
was the worst seat Iíve ever sat on. You canít win em allÖ
Pic below: bike with special high tech seat padding
(1) Chiang Mai Ė Chomthong Ė Pa Kluai Ė Khun Pae Ė Hot Ė Mae Sareing
(2) Mae Sarieng Ė Khun Yuam via dirt side roads
(3) Khun Yuam Ė Mae Hong Son Ė Huai Poo Ling Ė Wat Chan Ė Samoeng Ė
THE START: An earlier one than the last one & one that did not work
out on account of a later & lengthier breakfast in the cool air con
of Ratanaís Kitchen discussing possible trails & BobS' new BMWF650
with BobS himself.
THE TRIP DAY 1: So the planned 9.30 am start materialized at 11.30
am, 1 hr later than last weekís start & a mere 2 hrs later than the
original planned start for the 2nd survey. You can tell the boys
were under real pressure with starts like that eh?
Out on the super it was flat stick all the way to Chomthong on the
4-lane & at the first pit-stop (the PT gas station)after Chomthong
we both agreed that it had been one of the worst runs ever out of
town. Numerous times we had both been cut off, all in almost
unbelievable stupid situations, probably just to confirm that it was
indeed Friday the 13th. I had suffered more than Silverhawk due to
the fact that Iíd only had 4 hrs sleep the night before, on account
of the happy go lucky girlfriend singer, & had great trouble
maintaining any sort of concentration.
Its funny how it goes, but when youíre tired you tend not to look
too far down the road to where you are going to end up, but instead
look directly in front of you where you are. This is not the way to
ride / drive & something Iím always reminding the happy go lucky
singer girlfriend when she is driving her car in the mountains.
Anyway the pit stop
was not so long as the sweet gal from the previous week was not on
duty, so Silverhawk headed straight off into the hills to check out
an old trail.
This is the Pa Kluai road (Check out the MHS Loop map grids 8 & 9F)
& used to be one of my favourites as a day trip from Cnx many years
ago. Well the Hmong are still living up there on the mountain on the
same ridgeline, growing cabbages everywhere, but there certainly is
nowhere was near as much traffic using the road as there used to be.
So itís a "good road" & it starts off a bit gravelly
& does get a bit steep in places, then runs along the ridgeline for
a bit, then climbs steeply up on 2 concrete tracks.
Its obvious why the concrete is there, as in the wet youíd probably
never make it up (or down). Once on the ridgeline, its kinda eerie
as all the trees are wrapped in yellow / orange "monks robes"
to protect them against the cabbage growers.
Several years ago the lowland Thais got a bit tired of the Hmong
cabbage farmers chopping down the forest & destroying the watershed,
so that the streams below ran dry in the hot season. Rightly pissed
off, the lowland Thai farmers went up the mountain to sort out the
Hmong, & unfortunately things got a bit unpleasant with the police /
army called in to cool the situation down. The end result was that
the Hmong were told to restrict their cabbage growing activities &
leave the forest alone. And just to remind the Hmong that it was
naughty to chop down the trees, the trees were wrapped in orange
cloth to protect them against both the Hmong & evil spirits. It
works & make sense, right? Check out the pics below:
In Pa Kluai we took a brief drink stop
then headed off to find the track, or tracks to link up with the
Khun Pae trail from last week. After Pa Kluai the road winds
through rice paddies & cabbage fields,
then drops off for several kms is just a 4WD trail through the
There are several turns to make & we only lucked out with the right
one as we met a couple of monks
who sent us on what we thought was most definitely a rougher one &
not the right one, but it was.
30 minutes after Pa Kluai Friday the 13th hit again, & it started to
rain, with the track nice & greasy. I immediately cursed my worn
rear tyre when I got into a downhill slide & Silverhawk cruised past
smiling. Smart arse I thought, then I saw a Honda Dream coming
uphill towards me. Both the rider & pillion were females, wearing
thongs & Mum wearing a sarong, sitting side saddle on the back. I
could not believe it! So much for the big great white motorcycle
adventurer all kitted up on his 250 Baja off road machine Ė it must
be time to brush up on the greasy road skills.
We kept plugging along in the slime & eventually linked up with our
tracks from the previous week, so at last we were on the right road.
But incredibly neither Silverhawk or I recognized the road Ė it had
changed so much & now was muddy, rutted & with water filled pot
holes. Quite unsure I zoomed right down on the GPS to 20 meters &
sure enough it was the right trail!
Once we dropped down off the mountain into Khun Pae the rain stopped
& we increased the pace (to keep up with the Honda Dreams?) to run
back out through the small canyon & onto R108.
A quick break was taken in Hot for fuel & a chain lube, and more
importantly to put the water proofs on. We were heading for Mae
Sareing for the night & the Hot Ė Mae Sarieng roads climbs high into
the mountains & more than likely into the clouds & rain.
And indeed it did rain making the road wet & more than greasy (see
Arrival time in Mae Sarieng was around 6.30 pm, ďhappy hourĒ time
for me, & I stopped off at the MSís # 1 liquor shop on the way into
town. (If youíve got a copy of the MHS map itís between the Lotus
Hotel & The Mitaree, heading into town from the super.) The shopís
pretty funky really, & before I could make a selection I was offered
a glass of whisky by one of the shopkeeperís mates, sitting outside
drinking. It didnít taste that great & one that I could not
identify. The shop is a pretty old one, & has some real classy
whisky labels: West End, McNairs, Glen Castle, Noble Scots, Scots
Lair, Christian Bros (brandy), Gun, & the best one ďSuper ScotchĒ
all for around 200 Ė250 baht a bottle. I almost bought the Super
Scotch as a gift for BobS (the whisky connoisseur) but decided that
he would not appreciate the humour. So out of blind respect for BobS
my final choice was good ol' Ballantineís (43% proof) & at a mere
450 baht. Old stock & old prices = a bargain.
We checked into the Riverhouse resort, showered, sat out on the
terrace to read the dayís papers & had a nice relaxing drink after a
hard day in the saddle.
Dinner that night was down by the river at the Khrua Bai Mai, which
has the best food & atmosphere in town. Thereís a sweet young
waitress there who looks like sheís only 14 or 15, but insists sheís
18 & likes to drink Spy cooler. At the outset she claimed she could
drink 4 or 5 bottles a night, but after the 2nd bottle we paid the
bill & left her somewhat inebriated.
Silverhawk cruised town for awhile & I headed for the ďParadiseĒ
bar, down by the Christian Hospital. Itís a new nightspot in town &
probably the only decent place to go in MS for a late night drink. I
started off ok here, chatting up a nice group of hot gals out &
about for the night, when they all suddenly left, holding hands &
arms & kissing, it was then that I realized it was a group of sweet
lesbians. Iíll know better next time. Disappointed I headed back to
the Riverhouse & my room to watch TV alone for the rest of the
A Thai / Chinese restaurant sign in Mae Sarieng
THE TRIP DAY 2
The day was filled in with
1. GPS-ing some of the rural back roads around Mae Sareing
2. A short run N-W out along the Sao Hin road.
3. A short run E to an old quarry
4. Getting a new rear tyre & tube fitted.
5. Checking out the site of the new Kaeo Komol cave, east of Mae La
The Sao Hin road is probably the longest dirt road left in the North
& runs out to the Burma border, N-W of Mae Sarieng. It runs thru the
Salaween Wildlife Sanctuary & has excellent forest cover & few
Unfortunately we ended up on this accidentally without a full tank
of fuel to do a return trip, so turned back after riding out for 40
minutes. The route # is R3005
& at the start, thereís good asphalt, that runs out just past the
Wildlife Sanctuary headquarters. After that itís dirt & impressive Ė
a big wide road, suitable for big trucks & (probably tanks?), but
going on what we saw it should be quite a mess in the wet & serious
4WD stuff in many sections.
We chugged along here for quite a while, dodging herds of cattle
coming in from Burma. One of these had blue horns.
Yep thatís right, blue horns. My guess is the horns were painted
blue to differentiate that particular herd. Sounds quite logical,
but the first time you come across them, its pretty weird & you have
to wonder if theyíve just dropped in from another planet for a
stroll down the road.
The quarry road was a real tight steep little beauty, but on which I
discovered that my rear tyre was badly under inflated. On a rougher
section I thought that Iíd felt it ďpopĒ with the back end not
handling so well. Twice I stopped to take a quick look at the tyre
while still on the bike & thought it was ok. However at the quarry I
dismounted to take a proper look & it was way down. Silverhawk was
amused, but not I. We beat a hasty retreat all the way back into Mae
Sarieng where I had both the tube & tyre changed. The rear tyre was
worn way down & I did not want to tempt fate by picking up nails on
a bald tyre or struggle on any greasy wet roads that might
Khun Yuam was our destination for the night, but before then we
checked out a couple of side roads, plus the site of the ďnewĒ Kaeo
This cave is just near a large quarry, a few kms east of Mae La Noi
& just off R1266.
The cave was only found a few years ago, because of some tunneling
being done for the quarry. So Mae La Noiís now got a tourist
Pic below: the cave entrance, "impressive" eh?
The road to the cave is concrete & seriously steep for the last 500
metres. It is also incredibly well signposted with an amazing
assortment of road signs.....
Originally we did not intend to check out the cave, as we had all
our riding gear on & no lights, but a female guide came along with a
torch so we thought why not. However just as were about enter the
cave, we were joined a group of Thais & it was obviously that it was
going to be "the grand tour" in broken English with a single flash
light shared by 6 people. It would also take 20-30 minutes for the
tour, so Silverhawk & I both decided to skip out Ė we only wanted to
walk through the cave quickly in 10 minutes, get back on our bikes &
hit the road.
Between Mae La Noi & Khun Yuam we checked out another couple of side
roads, but discovered nothing great or new.
In Khun Yuam we stayed at the Ban Farang ghouse. The Ban Farang is a
pretty nice ghouse in one of North Thaiís quietest towns (after Mae
Chaem) & it was quiet.
We were the only customers at Ban Farang, had a good meal, although
Silverhawk was not 100% sure about his tuna spaghetti. We checked
out the local karaoke, but left after a single beer to be in bed by
9.30 pm (my normal meal time & just the start of the night for me in
THE TRIP DAY 3
Up super early (7.30 am) for coffee & on the road, straight to Mae
Breakfast at the Lucky, where I was reminded by Silverhawk that weíd
come to ride & not gossip with the staff.
The weather looked ok, so I decided it would be ok for a crack at
the Mae Hong Son Ė Huai Poo Ling Ė Wat Chan road. Then at Wat Chan I
would re-assess the situation & either head for Cnx or Pai. The
deciding factor would be whether I could reach Cnx in time & watch
Sundayís MotoGP or not. Silverhawk was heading for Cnx regardless,
but for me I needed my MotoGp fix first & if Cnx was going to be too
far away, the Iíd head for Pai instead of Cnx.
The MHS Ė HPL Ė Wat Chan trail is one of the more remote beautiful
trails in the North
& another one that Iíd not been on for a few years (too much time in
Laos the last 2-3 years!)
The rumours are that it might end up being the new super highway
short cut from Cnx Ė Mae Hong Son, so I was real interested to see
what sort of road development had been going on.
And it was not a lot. Indeed if something ever happens then someone
has run a huge scam to cream millions of baht for a road that is
totally unnecessary. (Unfortunately such is life in Thailand
nowadays, that more than likely they will succeed as the amount of
corruption & money to be had will be over powering!)
If youíve not been on this trail for a few years, then there has
been considerable road improvements at the west MHS Ė HPL end, but
from HPL to Wat Chan it is still the road and pretty much untouched.
At the west MHS end the road number is R3006 & at the Wat Chan end
it is R5032. Exactly where it changes over could be anyoneís guess.
At the MHS end, it is still an incredibly steep climb from R108 up
to the ridgeline.
Just about all of this is either concrete or asphalt, then at the
top thereís an impressive little cut through the crest of the hill,
before the asphalt runs along the ridgeline a short way, then
dramatically changes to dirt & plummets straight down into the Karen
village of Nam Hu. All good stuff & you descend in 3kms what youíve
gained in 15 kms coming up the other side from R108.
From Nam Hu on its all good forest, with the road alternatively
or steep concrete
all the way to Huay Poo Ling.
HPL is a gorgeous Karen village, in a steep little valley in a what
must be one of the most remote / isolated parts of North Thailand.
East of HPL the ďroadĒ is still an untouched forestry track
sometimes rough & as steep as anything in many places. It would be
absolute hell if you got caught out here in the wet, so if thereís
any rain around Ė DONíT GO!
Unbelievably as good as the forest was, there were sections of bad
deforestation from crops being planted.
I dread to think how fast it will all go, once & if they ever build
a real (& unnecessary) road through here. At a wild guess, it would
all be gone within 2 years with terrible consequences for the Pai
river, MHS province & its tourism industry.
Not having been on the road
for a couple of years there was one section between HPL & Huay Poo
Leoy that I was unsure of
but as we had not seen any turns of note continued on. Eventually we
descended a steep trail, that had looked vaguely familiar, to end up
in Huay Poo Leoy.
The Karen villagers were particularly cool, so we took a break
hanging out at the village shop with everyone else.
There was no doubt here that the villagers lacked salt in their
diet, as several elder people had huge goiters around their necks.
From Huay Poo Leoy to Huay Tong the road is considerably better Ė
rolling hills & not steep. What was fun here was following a young
Karen couple on their Honda Dream carrying a laundry basket with the
clothes on coat hangers blowing in the wind as they rode along. It
was almost surreal & exactly what they were doing or going to we
could not figure out. Perhaps it was just a Sunday picnic ride, &
with no kids, they were taking the washing for a ride?
Once in Huay Tong
the road is good dirt & just a few kms to Wat Chan.
Arrival time in Wat Chan was 2.00 pm, so it should have been plenty
of time for the run into Chiang Mai & the MotoGP. This almost didnít
work out as the supposed new asphalt from Wat Chan to Samoeng still
had a 40 kms dirt section in the middle. So much for the hot tip
weíd been given by a German rider, just before we left Cnx (no
trouble, Pai Ė Wat Chan Ė Samoeng is now finished & all asphalt.)
This really did put the pressure on, & both Silverhawk had our own
little MotoGp race getting into Cnx on time Ė a mere 15 mins before
the lights changed & the real race was under way.
Another day at the office was over....
Keep The Power On
Replied on: 18 Jun 2005 14:18:49
PART III: THE MHS
LOOP: CHECKING DIRT ROADS & TRAIL
(Still going. More of the same - same but different?)
DATE: Friday 20th - 22nd May 2005
THE WEATHER: Sunny - overcast ?tropical.
THE RIDERS: Half a team, Davidfl (Silverhawk's on tour in China!)
THE BIKE: Yet another 250 renta from Tom & Jerry. The same bike as
last time, motor real crisp, improved the brakes, but still the
worst seat I've ever sat on!
(1) Chiang Mai - Pai - Soppong - Nam Khong - Na Pu Pom - Pang Kong
side trip - Mae Hong Son
(2) Mae Hong Son - Khun Yuam - Pratu Muang loops - Khun Yuam - Hang
Pong dirt side trip - Mae Sarieng.
(3) Mae Sarieng - Kong Loi - Mae Tho - Ban Sam - Kong Loi - Hot -
(1) Chiang Mai - Mae Hong Son: 107 - 1095 - 4015 - 1095
(2) Mae Hong Son - Mae Sarieng: 108 - 3007 - 1337 - 108
(3) Mae Sarieng - Chiang Mai: 108 - 1270 - 108
THE TRIP DAY 1:
Riding alone, so no pre trip breakfast, & got away from Cnx at
approx 10.00am headed North on R107 for Mae Malai & route 1095 to
MHS. On R107 with the road works - 2 to 4 lane- north of Mae Rim
it's fun dodging traffic & swapping lanes all the time. Not unlike a
dodgem cars but the real thing, with no lanes, then wide open lanes
5 cars wide, then a single lane, & vehicles heading in all
directions at various (conflicting speeds.) A clear head helped & I
was thankful to not being the same state as I was in the previous
trip, otherwise I might not have made it to Mae Malai!
First stop was Mae Sae for a splash & dash -"bottle of sponsor"
Then straight onto Pai & a quick visit to see the Monk father-in-law
at Wat Mae Hee. He's a cool guy, speaks reasonable English & always
appreciates a farang dropping in for chat if you're ever in the
area. (It's a change from local "chao baan" villagers.) He was on
the ball as usual & commented that I was late - it was 10 past 12 &
I said I'd drop by before 12! I complained about the dodgem car
track north of Mae Rim and he just smiled like only monks can,
knowing so well.
After the temple it was a quick bite to eat & drink at Baan Pai,
then top up with fuel at the Cosmo on the west side on town. Before
heading West into the hills I made a quick Kodak snap stop to marvel
at the new asphalt runway on the Pai airstrip.
I had a serious chuckle to myself here over the grand plan to
re-open Pai airport to fly in the tourists & up market backpackers
by the plane load. A great "Pai in the Sky" idea, & no doubt a scam
for someone to make heaps of money on dodgy contracts & even more
dodgy workmanship - I wonder how much the asphalt cost on the runway
& how many planes had actually used the refurbished strip. Ah yes I
though, life is indeed fun - how can you take it seriously when you
see this sort of shyte? Better to hit the road & ride.
1 hr later I was on R4015 & trying to negotiate my way past an army
checkpoint heading for the Burma border.
R4015 is the Na Pu Pom road, a "newish" dirt road that runs up a
valley alongside the Nam Khong river, up to Pang Kong & the Burma
border. I'd never been right up this baby before & thought it must
be time to check it out.
It would have been nice to try R1226 further east, but the Wa were
having a bit of a go at the Shans on the border with a few shells
flying around to make life difficult for anyone in the immediate
area. More than likely too it would have been difficult to get past
any checkpoints in that area, so R4015 it was to be safe & sure.
After negotiating the checkpoint, with a promise not to go further
than Na Pu Pom (14 kms up the road) I took off, headed for the
border / as far as I could go.
Except for a few sections of road works - nice laterite that would
be seriously interesting riding in the wet - the road's good dirt
for approx 31 kms, until just after Pang Yum.
Pic below: Pang Yum.
Then the road quality drops off & it gets a lot steeper & stonier,
but with some fantastic views of the forest & border area.
Along the way there's a few pretty villages, inhabited by either
Shan or Lahu people.
3.5 kms before Pang Kong there's an unsignposted fork in the road,
but I guessed "right" & took the left fork to end up in Pang Kong.
(Where the right fork one goes to I don't know, but I suspect you
might not want to know either.) PK is a quaint little Lahu village /
outpost at the end of the road, & you do get the feeling that you're
right out there, sitting on the edge of the planet. 1 kms after Pang
Kong the track fizzled out by a Thai army camp surrounded by
sharpened bamboo. There was no one around (to my knowledge), & in
the deathly silence I thought this would be enough for the day - it
was 4.40 pm, darkness would not be too far away, & I still had a 1
1/2 hrs ride into MHS.
After a few photo stops & a good 50 minutes riding I was back at the
checkpoint, smiling & confessing to not having found Na Pu Pom. The
soldier nodded in acknowledgement, but I don't think that he
believed me. The barrier was lifted & was on my was asap.
Tired & hungry & thirsty I arrived in MHS at 6.40 pm. Perfect for
happy hour, the obligatory foot massage, the day's papers & a bottle
of whisky.......another day's gone.
Keep The Power On
Replied on: 22 Jun 2005 16:43:30
PART III: THE MHS
LOOP: CHECKING DIRT ROADS & TRAIL
THE TRIP DAY 2:
After a successful night on the town it was up early for a quick
brekky at my old favourite The Lucky. By the end of the 3rd coffee I
was all fired up & ready to hit the road south.
It was a bit of thrash to Khun Yuam & it never fails to impress me
how much fun you can have can have on a small bike on a tight twisty
road. The MHS loop on a 250 (small bike) really is awesome ?you
donít need a big Ďun.
I made 1 Kodak stop before Khun Yuam to marvel at the road
improvements on R108 - removing one of the long hair pin bends to
make it easier for trucks to navigate I guess. Check out the pics
below to see where they are cutting thru a hill to avoid an
800-metre section or road.
Impressive eh & a no doubt good value for money project (for
Anyway the master plan for Khun Yuam was to survey the dirt loops to
the west of town. Again it had been quite a few years since Iíd been
out here, the last time being over 10 yrs ago with a young Joe from
Joeís bike team to check out a long neck hill tribe village set up
for tourists, but one that never lasted long because of the serious
malaria at the time (too many got sick & ended up with malaria ?not
good for tourists or the locals!)
To the west of Khun Yuam there are basically 2 dirt loops ?a
northern loop & a southern one ?which join up in the middle at Pratu
Muang. Pratu Muang is directly to the west south west of Khun Yuam &
18 kms from town on a good twisting flowing sweeping hilly rolling
asphalt road (i.e. itís a good ride!)
The road to Pratu Muang also has the famous (locally) Wat Tor Pae
temple, but if youíre not a temple freak itís more than likely just
The northern loop via Mae Sape is approx 52 kms, starting &
finishing in Khun Yuam.
The southern loop via Mae Khi is approx 71 kms, starting & finishing
in Khun Yuam.
The dirt road surface on the Mae Sape loop is better than the
southern Mae Khi Loop, being wider, more flowing, less steep & less
The dirt surface on the Mae Khi loop is more stony / gravel,
tighter, narrower & more steep hilly.
The scenery (including blue horned cows)
is also arguable more beautiful on the southern loop. There are also
more villages on the southern loop.
Pic below: villages signposted on the southern loop
At the start of the Northern Mae Sape loop there is the Doi Wiangla
Wildlife Sanctuary HQs, nearby which is a lovely little lake &
supposedly a good spot for bird watching. So if youíre a nature fan,
this place is worth checking out.
On the Northern Mae Sape loop, there are 3 or 4 possible trails that
go out to the Burma border, but I did not have time to explore
Pic below: A trail out to the Burma border
Be warned too, that the staff at the Mae Sapae checkpoint was not
particularly friendly, although this was obviously heavily
influenced by their alcohol level (2 of them were pissed as farts &
exceptionally obnoxious = we did not get on well.)
To check out these loops (with border side roads) properly you need
to allow at least 1 ?days riding / 2 nights in Khun Yuam. And
unfortunately Khun Yuam City at night does not turn me on that much.
Also of note on the Mae Sape loop was a huge concrete bridge leading
into a hill tribe village, crossing a stream that you could step
over in a single stride, then once in the village the road was
immediately single lane ďcart trackĒ. Only in Thailand some might
say, but I guess a few years down the road thereíll be a 4-lane
highway there to serve the purpose of the original bridge 10 years
Luckily I had finished both these dirt loops by 5 pm so it was stay
on the road & head south again to Mae Sarieng for the night.
As fate would have it though, a mere 4 kms further south on R108 I
noticed another new turn off to the east & one that I thought needed
checking out. (The temptation was too great & I could not help
myself.) The signposts indicated that the trail ran in at least 25
kms, which was good, & possibly provided link ups with either Mae
Chaem or Pang Ung (on the Khun Yuam ?Mae Na Chon road R1263) that I
This road was a sweet little beauty, good gravel surface, tight
steep & hilly.
Gorgeous riding. All too good to be true youíd think. And youíd be
right ?12 kms in I rounded a corner & started a steep ascent to look
up & there she was ?WET CEMENT.
I quickly dismounted & trudged alongside the glistening grey slime
to meet up with a couple of villagers mid road works & have a 5
minute pow-pow about what to do. With Honda Dreams they had
patiently waited a mere 1 ?hrs at the other end with no way to get
I suggested that if we had a rope or pole & enough willing helpers
we might be able to manhandle the bikes along the narrow ledge
beside the road & continue on, but the villagers were not impressed
with the farangís foolish idea. Theyíd rather wait.
The good news was that the road crew said in 2 more hours more
?around 8 pm - & we could use it! Yeah yeah I thought good idea,
hang out here until it gets dark then continue riding just to see
where the road goes.
Not being one to be so jai yen-yen I decided that was it time for me
to flee the scene. And fleeing the scene it was, as I noted that the
sky to the west was seriously black & undoubtedly a heavy tropical
rainstorm was on the way. Previously Iíd been heading east & been
totally unaware of the big black monster in the sky sneaking up from
behind. I rode as fast as I could all the way back to R108, hitting
the black top at 6.15 pm. A few minutes later it was ďfaded?lights
on & I struggled all the way into MS dodging rainsqualls & insects.
What was ďrevealing?in this section was how weak the lights were on
Joeís trick front Baja end ?youíd get more candle power out of a
regular torch running on a single double A battery.
If you renting any of Joeís 250s & think you might actually do some
night riding then stay clear of the bike with the Mickey mouse toy
headlight. Itís only a decoration.
Luck was on my side & I was not trapped in the mountains somewhere
on a dirt road in the wet in the dark.
Another day was doneÖÖ?.
Keep The Power On
Replied on: 22 Jun 2005 20:09:55
THE DAY TRIP 3:
MAE SARIENG - CHIANG MAI
On the road at 10.30 am, no need for a rush home.
Approx 19 kms east of Mae Sarieng I took a lefty & checked out the
asphalt to Mae Sawan w/fall & Forest Park. The asphalt runs in
approx 4kms then turned to grease & mud ĀEthe previous nightís heavy
rain. I wimped out on the grease & mud.
R1270 at Kong Loi soon beckoned & this was another I needed to check
out. Was there a real highways standard link up with the Mae Hae
road from Mae Chaem?
1270 I have not been on for years either. I think the last time I
was on it towards the northern end they were still bulldozing the
road thru, so thatís a while ago.
Not a lotís changed though & you have to wonder whatís gone on all
with all these super road projects ĀEwhy were they never finished?
Someone ran out of money I guess, or did someone get too much money
& there was none left to finish the project.
The good news on R1270 is that 5 kms in from Kong Loi & R108 thereís
some fabulous fast flowing smooth sweeping asphalt perfect sport
bike stuff ĀEall 15 kms of it.
To get onto the sport bike asphalt youíve got, first 2 kms of old
bumpy asphalt, then 3 kms of easy stony hilly steep dirt.
Then you can let rip for a short fast blast.
R1270 really is a beauty ĀEflowing undulating & eventually it will
be one of the top rides in the North! At the current rate 5 more
years, that might be 5 more years away ĀEso donít hold your breath.
But if youíre on a dual-purpose machine, then R1270 is a brilliant
The scenery aint great ĀEits all seriously deforested ĀEas bad as
Iíve seen in the North ĀEhardly a tree left standing, but that means
sweeping panoramic views all round & lots of cabbages.
Is there any value in the question: if we didnít eat so many
cabbages there might be a few more trees around?
R1270 towards the end is considerably narrower ĀEoften one car wide
- & a bit bumpy.
Eventually it trickles out to link up with the goat track from Se Lo
Sa / Mae Hae that I was on a few weeks earlier. So its confirmed
there aint no highways standard road link up in there yet. Ya can
all keep riding & looking for whatís not there yet. Aint life grand
ĀEenjoy it while you can.
Keep The Power On
Replied on: 05 Jul 2005 03:32:52
Great report, David!
Replied on: 08 Feb 2006 21:58:04
I agree. Great
report and great pictures, too!
Replied on: 14 Apr 2006 01:42:34
PART IV THE MHS
LOOP: CHECKING DIRT ROADS & TRAILS
Yep, a year later still going & picking off more dirt trails on the
DATE: Monday 10th Ė Tuesday 11th April 2006
THE TRIP / THE WAY
DAY 1: Chiang Mai Ė Mae Sarieng via Mae Chaem Ė Ban Pui Ė Mae Ngan
Noi Ė Huai Phung Mai Ė Mae To Ė R108 Ė Mae Sarieng
DAY 2: Mae Sarieng Ė Hang Pon Ė Mae La Ka Ė Ma Hin Luang Ė Mae Ko Pe
- Hua Mae La Ka Ė Pang Ung Ė Mae Na Chon Ė Mae Chaem Ė Chiang Mai.
THE WEATHER: HOT, dry & smoky & HOT. It was hot!
THE RIDERS: Silverhawk & Davidfl
THE BIKES: A Honda Baja 250 renta from Mr Mechanic & Silverhawkís
own 250 Suzuki Djebel.
Above: Silverhawk's got a nice new blue Suzi 250 & uses blue chain
lube to go with the bike.
THE START: Up ďearlyĒ at 8.00 am, something of a record for me, for
a quick brekky at the Kafe & pick up the bike from Mr. Mechanic.
The bike was a renta Honda 250 Baja & I donít doubt sheíd been busy
making baht for Mr & Mrs Mechanic for awhile with a superb soft
suspension- front & back. But the brakes were awesome Ė the best
Iíve ever had on a renta plus it was fitted with a brand new tyre
front tyre for the cranky old GT Rider.
Silverhawk turned up on time at 9.30 am for breakfast & the 10.00
a.m. departure. After brekky & half a newspaper I had to quickly
ride home & pick up the power supply cable for the GPS, that Id
forgotten. While racing home for this I noticed that the bikeís rear
tyre was totally worn, so it was back to the bike shop with a
request for a new rear tyre as well.
Silverhawkís real cool about all this - he must be used to the
delayed GT Rider Chiang Mai starts, & simply put his head back down
into the newspaper. Fortunately the Bangkok Post turned up before
heíd finished the Nation so he had plenty to read while he waited
Eventually we got away ďon timeĒ at 11.00 am Ė about the regular GT
Rider time, so no complaints. (I should know better than to try &
THE TRIP DAY 1
It was a quick blast for 125 kms then; down the R108 4-lane to
Chomthong, up R1009 to Doi Inthanon & down R1192 into Mae Chaem.
We arrived in Mae Chaem to be greeted by some pre Songkran
festivities with a few buckets of murky stream water. This did cool
us down, but it eventually manifested into the ol ďitchy body
syndromeĒ towards the end of the trip.
Unfortunately in MC my fave restaurant had closed, & it took awhile
to find something else suitable. So this meant that we had to ride
around town dodging buckets of water to make it more of a challenge
- just to get a plate of fried rice! Now oddly enough there are very
few restaurants in the old main street of MC, & they all appear to
be on the main road into town from Doi Inthanon, before you hit the
MC T junction right in front of the police station. Watch out for
them on the left hand side on the way in. Once you hit the T & turn
right, there is not much anymore.
After a lengthy break in MC it was straight west & up onto R4065,
the Pang Hin Fon road. This road is a beauty too Ė tight steep &
twisting upward. About 19 kms up you reach the turn off to Pang Hin
Fon & Mae Hae. Itís left to PHF / MH & straight onto to? Here almost
a year ago we got a trip from some garlic / cabbage pick-up drivers,
that there was another link up via Ban Pui to R108. So this was the
plan for the day Ė see if we could find this other way out to R108
from Mae Chaem.
Pic above: Young Hmong girls by the T Junction shop.
We took a quick break here at the T Junction shop & tested the
locals out with some questions where the road went to. They rattled
off a half dozen village names, not all of which rang a bell, but
they all seemed to agree that you could indeed go to Mae La Noi.
What was unclear though was exactly where / how you got to Mae La
Noi, from R108 or from R1266. Armed with this knowledge that some
sort of dirt roads / trail did exist we set off for the next
village- Ban Pui.
Above: the main street of Ban Pui.
The asphalt runs out in Ban Pui, a big Hmong village; & here we got
the hot tip that it was two lefts & a right & we would be on the
right trail out to R108.
Above: guessing the right fork to take.
Above: Just another fork in the road.
After Ban Pui the road gets a bit ratty in places, but was amazing
was the convoys of pick-ups coming out loaded to the hilt with
garlic. We thought we were being pretty adventurous exploring this
trail, but to me the real explorers are these guys in their pick-ups
bringing in garlic & cabbages.
Above: Negotiating a route past the pick-ups.
They are trail blazers with their pick ups transporting veges by the
ton from the hill tribes. Its unbelievable how & where they go!
Steep stony slopes, ruts, streams, bull dust donít seem to stop
them, only slow Ďem down occasionally!
In hot season the smoke from fires is always bad, sometimes
extremely bad & it was a real eye opener for me to see kilometres of
scorched land, just to grow cabbages & garlic.
Above: Cabbage fields. The good stuff?
Five forks (not 2 lefts & a right), four villages & 35 kms later we
arrived on a narrow single concrete road in the middle of nowhere.
Above: The single lane concrete
Several kms later then we crested a small hill & dramatically were
on a huge wide concrete road, almost big enough for a football
Above: The concrete football pitch.
Unbelievable! Silverhawk & I could not stop laughing. It was almost
as if the road contractor had reached the end of the road with an
excess of concrete, so decided to spread the unused concrete around
for something to do.
The total concrete distance is approx 40 kms & the main village on
the concrete, is Mae Tor approx 20 kms in from R108. From Mae To -
R108 the road is a delight, steep rolling swooping with beautiful
Not all the concrete is in tip top shape though, as the pic below
Imagine doing this road at night & riding into the hole in the
This varying concete quality maybe due to the work process
Back in Chiang Mai, my son was complaining about his work & I showed
him the pix above, suggesting that he may like to get a job in the
fresh mountain air, mixing concrete out in the boonies. He decided
that his work in the city was ok after all.
On R108, the turn off for Mae to is signposted like this below
Check it out sometime
It was 6.00pm by the time we hit R108 & then it was a fast dash into
Mae Sarieng for the night. And yes the total distance must have been
100 kms, but not all of it was dirt fortunately.
Keep The Power On
Big & Tall
Replied on: 15 Apr 2006 08:58:02
Great post David.
The dirt road explorations are really appreciated as you're off the
beaten track a bit more. Nice to see a veteran of Thailand like
yourself still flummoxed by the directions from the local thais.
"two lefts and a right" is about as promising and reliable as "the
checks in the mail".
Replied on: 18 Apr 2006 02:42:47
PART IV THE MHS
LOOP: CHECKING DIRT ROADS & TRAILS
DAY 2 THE TRIP DAY ďhomeĒ
Mae Sarieng Ė Hang Pon Ė Mae La Ka Ė Ma Hin Luang Ė Mae Ko Pe - Hua
Mae La Ka Ė Pang Ung Ė Mae Na Chon Ė Mae Chaem Ė Chiang Mai.
A relatively easy start to the day with 9.00 a.m. breakfast of
sorts. A cheese & ham omelette with coffee & toast that had to be
ordered repeatedly after each item came out separately and somewhat
slowly. This was even more amusing by the fact that both Silverhawk
decided to order the same for ease of preparation & ordering. But if
youíve ever stayed at the Mae Sarieng Riverside youíll understand
why & how easy it can be there. The joint reminds me of a Thai style
Fawlty Towers, where the building has been the home handymanís dream
& construction. Build a room, see how it looks, get a new idea, then
tack on another couple of rooms with slight improvements, then
probably renovate them before getting new ideas & tacking on another
few rooms, but on another floor to make it a higher class than those
down below. After a few years it ends up being a bit of a
bewildering establishment. The bewilderment includes the service.
The ultimate bonus in this place is the water pressure. As good as
the Dheveraj in Nan, but you need to be extremely careful with the
ďtoilet spray" which is powerful enough to blow the bearings out of
the wheels of a 10-wheel truck. Youíve been warned, use it at your
Anyway over breakfast I could not decide on the route for the day.
There were a couple of options available. One starting approx 16 kms
east of Mae Sarieng Ė Mae Um Long & a possible link up to Mae Chaem,
or one approx 75 kms north of Mae Sarieng - from just south of Hang
Pong & a possible link up with Mae Chaem or R1263 & the Mae Na Chon
Ė Khun Yuam road. The cheese omelette must have been half decent
because we opted for what we thought would be the longer harder
ride, the ďHang Pong east trackĒ. This was one Iíd tried in May last
year, but turned back because of wet cement. So it must be about
time to take another look.
We got away about 10.00 am Ė ďunder pressureĒ to return to base in
Chiang Mai later that day.
The turn off is approx 75 kms or 1 ľ hrs north of Mae Sarieng & is
signposted like this,
if you want to check it out yourself.
Itís a nice trail going in, although the forest is only dry &
probably not as pretty as it could be.
Unbelievably we hit the concrete after only 6 kms. The last time I
was in here they were just putting concrete down 10 kms in & heading
east, not west! It does not take much I guess when the boys have got
some money & want to bend their backs & to get it down. Overall the
concrete lasted for approx 10 kms & certainly made the start of the
trail ride easy.
12 kms in we hit the first village, Mae La Ka & were able to
establish that yes the road did continue until the next village, but
was not as good, & that after the next village it probably went
further & maybe came out at Pang Ung, which was what I was hoping
for; but no one was really sure, as the locals did not go that way Ė
silly old farang on their motorbikes I bet they were saying to
Between Mae La Ka & the next village Ma Hin Luang, the trail was
really quite beautiful & reminded me of the original Houei Xai Ė
Luang Namtha trail in Laos 10 years. It was narrow, tight & steep
running up a narrow steep valley with a nice drop over the edge. The
only trouble it was about 6 kms.(You can't win 'em all.)
Arriving in Ma Hin Luang the main road headed right, but for some
odd reason I decided to stop & ask in the village where the roads
went to. Silverhawk was all gung ho to follow the right hand fork
past the village, but I was unsure. We had an enjoyable time in the
village then when a young Karen girl, whom we assumed was a school
teacher insisted in trying to explain in broken English where the
Pic above: Getting directions from the "school teacher."
And believe it or not the one we wanted went through the village,
not up the right fork! We could not believe our luck. Then 150
meters into the village the trail petered out to be a bit of a foot
Can't be right we thought, she must have made a mistake, so we
turned back only to be confronted by the ďschoolteacherĒ telling us
to be on our way up the track. That was the right way. It was only 5
kms & then we would hit the next village & be on the "road" to Pang
Ung & R1263. She was right.
After 5 kms we arrived in Ko Pe, surprising the local Karen
villagers as if we we'd just dropped in from Mars.
We found a small village shop, hung out there for a bit to drink a
few bottles of warm orange juice. This seemed to break the ice with
the villagers, we were human. 40 minutes later after a nice photo
session, & some considerable fun we were on our way.
The track ran along a stream, the Mae La Ka, the next village was
Hua Mae La ka, roughly translated as Mae La Ka head(waters), so that
meant we were at the top or close to it.
22 kms, 2 villages & three forks later we bumped our way along a
cabbage field track & arrived in Pang Ung on R1263.
Yep there is a nice little connection between Hang Pong & Pang Ung
if you want to have a go Ė but not in the wet; & probably not from
east Ė west, as Iím sure youíll get lost amongst the cabbage field
tracks just south of Pang Ung. Heading east it seems a lot clearer
which is the main trail out. Ya all listen to the school teacher
now, or youíll take the right fork & end where we donít know (yet.)
Keep The Power On