Date: 29 April 2006
Chiang Mai-Doi Inthanon-Mae Sarieng-Mai Sot-Chiang Mai
Honda Africa Twin
Yamaha TDM 850
DavidFL and I left the Kafe, in Chiang Mai, about 1PM with slightly overcast and hot weather. We were headed for Mai Sarieng via Doi Inthanon.
As we entered Doi Inthanon Park we could see it looked like it was going to rain on the mountain. The Park Rangers said they had not had any rain in months but today may be the first. They were right. As we neared the summit the rain started and the temperature dropped dramatically. As luck would have it, the shop we wanted to stop at and replenish David’s maps closed shortly before we arrived. Why? “Because it was raining and no one would come”, we were told as we drank hot coffee at the neighboring shop.
We rode out south toward Mae Chaem and the rain had stopped but we could see would soon begin again. We rode down Rt 1088 picking our way through the wet and dry curves. It was eerily quiet, with little traffic, and much of the brush was blackened from recent fires. It was quite a nice route and makes for a good loop back to Chiang Mai if you're short on time.
We headed out Rt 108 for Mae Sarieng and as we entered Mae Hong Song Province the sky opened up. I almost didn’t bring rain gear and would have really been hurting if I didn’t. At one point David saw a truck off in the trees as we passed. We stopped up the road to summon some help and then we went back. A pickup truck had slid off the road landing on its side in a precarious position with the front and rear suspended on hills but the doors over a small ravine. The lights were still on so we knew it was recent. I was able to crawl under and get inside and have a good look and although the keys and many belongings were still there, everyone was out. Shortly thereafter the Police arrived with a teenage girl who had apparently been the driver and was lucky to escape without injury.
We continued to Mae Sarieng and I spent a quiet evening as it continued to rain all night long.
The next morning we had overcast skies with on and off rain showers. Actually it made for pretty good riding as it kept the temps down. We took Rt 105 south headed for
At a couple of construction areas we did a little “slip-sliding around” in the mud and had to use caution on a pretty rough surfaced downhill section, but it is doable on any bike.
I had never taken this route before and was really impressed. It reminds me a lot of riding in Laos; small villages along the way and friendly people of many different hill tribes waving and smiling.
The most incredible sight is the refugee camp at Mae La, approx. 160km from Mae Sarieng.. It is primarily a Karen camp with others mixed in who have fled from Burma over the years. There are several military checkpoints on the road as you near the area and I was stopped from taking photos by a guard on a motorcycle patrolling the perimeter.
The size of this camp is overwhelming. It is about 6km long and stretches up and over the hills. I have read that anywhere from 35,000-50,000 refugees are confined to this one camp, the largest in Thailand.
We arrived in
MaeSot without incident and it was as I remember it from my last visit 3 years ago; unimpressive with little to offer other than the border crossing.
We rode up to the border, snapped a few photos and then found a hotel, Siam Hotel. We tried to do our usual routine of a couple drinks and a foot massage while we catch up on the newspapers but couldn’t find a massage place.
About 9PM we did go out and found a place on the main highway not far from the Central Hotel,on the opposite side of the highway, that we had been told about by friends in Mae Sarieng. They had some good singers and later some incredible dancers who joined us to finish off the bottle of whiskey we had and any food that we ordered.
It was an interesting place as when the entertainment started they pulled down a plastic curtain/awning in front which blocked the view from the road. They only used dim colored lights to highlight the dancers, no spot lights. At 1:15AM it was time to close, all the lights came on and people rushed for the exit and the parking lots. At 1:30 the police were cruising through checking that all were on their way and it was closed for the evening.
The next day we backtracked on Rte 105 about 30km and then went east on 1175 across the mountain.
This was a good route now and would be a great ride in the wet or cool season. Small hilltribe villages along the way with great sweeping curves and views.
At the end of the route we turned North to Bhumipol Dam which was quite impressive really. They even have a market and guesthouses if one wanted to layover there. The staff were pretty crazy and had a good time flirting and laughing. After coffee we headed for the boring Rte 1 and then turned onto 106 for a sweeping ride back to Chiang Mai.
Traffic got heavy as we approached Lamphun and we fought our way back to the Kafe, and our usual end of trip cappuccino, arriving about 5:00PM.
This route is a good change for those that are looking for an alternative to always heading north out of Chiang Mai and offers quite a few options.
Ever notice that "What the Heck!" is usually the right answer?
Reply author: Davidfl
Replied on: 09 Apr 2006 01:40:26
What really impressed me on this loop was route 105 Mae Sarieng -
MaeSot. Once you get past the road improvements after Mae Ngao, the road really is a gorgeous very smooth, swooping, flowing, rolling, downhill roller coaster ride, right along side the Burma border.
R1175 from Mae Ramat across to the Ping river & Tak was also an awesome steep hilly ride.
Originally I did not intend to go to the Bhumipol Dam, but once we got to the T by the Ping & saw the sign posts for the dam, plus the smooth winding asphalt road I thought why not. It was worth it, especially for the rural back rode ride along the Ping to the dam.
The dam itself is pretty impressive, if you're into dams.
Also impressive were the crazy flirting staff at the dam restaurant – they were full on & somewhat bizarre. I almost did not leave - it was unreal.
The twin coconute tree at the dam site was also a sight to see.
Overall this really is an excellent loop from Chiang Mai. If you want to do it, you don't have to overnight in Mae Sarieng. You can get to
MaeSot in a day from Chiang Mai via Mae Sareing, but it does make for a longish day in the saddle & no time for photos or enjoying the scenery. So if you've got the time, over night in Mae Sarieng on the way down / up.
The only let down for me was R106, which from Ban Hong – Chiang Mai was congested & no fun at the end of the day. Next time it will be either R1 & 11 from Thoen, or at Ban Hong turn off onto R108 & then up into Chiang Mai. To end on a positive note, the 25 odd kms of tight twisties just up from Thoen are a real buzz, so go for R106 & R108 for fun. Confused, so am I. Better go back for another look…
Oh yeah have to comment on the dancer gals in
They were indeed somewhat impressive. Towards the end of the night (& the bottle of Benmore whisky) I was still puzzled by the fact that the dancers did not call themselves dancers, but “quality”. Id never heard of that one before & it really has intrigued me for several days. Now back in Chiang Mai, a good Thai mate of mine “in the know”, says that it is not quality, but coyotes after a supposed movie! Know you know. Watch out for the coyotes in
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