A loop through Eastern North of Thailand

Discussion in 'Northern Thailand - Road Trip Reports' started by Jurgen, Feb 19, 2011.

  1. Jurgen

    Jurgen Ol'Timer

    Excerpt: North Thailand has a network of smooth roads, in mountainous landscapes adorned with lush forests and often without traffic. It's a biker's paradise.

    The complete photo story can be found at:
    https://picasaweb.google.com/campusadvise/NanPhuChiFa#

    This report is not fully illustrated and documented, but meant to be a biker's itinerary, around the Eastern part of North Thailand. Most of the trails are already documented in various GT-rider posts.

    Chiangmai is the center of a trefoil covering loops in three cardinal directions, with innumerable variations. Toward the West the roads lead to Tak, Mae Sot and circle back around Mae Hong Son and Pai. The North Loop is the “Golden Triangle”, driving up to Mae Salong, Doi Thung, Mai Sai and back through Chiangrai. The third folium goes East, toward Nan province, and this is were we drove this itinerary, up to Pu Chi Fa. The chosen circuit follows (mostly) smooth hill roads, cut in mountainous landscapes.

    The total trip adds 1'110 kilometers to the odometers and was done in three days, as an inauguration ride for my Versys and in company of my brother, on his Harley. We did not stop frequently for pictures, and I used some of my archive shots to illustrate the environment of the story.

    First part: Maerim (Chiangmai) to Nan (340 kilometers)

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    Route 118, the highway to Chiangrai, is already interesting after Doi Saket, even if it is a “routine” for residents of the North. A short horning at the hill's summit, for Nang Kaeo, passing Kun Chae national park and it's already “Amazon” coffee time, in Mae Kachan.

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    After the village, a bifurcation leads on route 120, toward Wang Nuea. This is a wonderful trail, a bikers highlight in the region. The pavement is smooth, the route nicely undulating, climbing to a view point, before rolling down to Phayao.

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    Another coffee break, in this lovely city, to enjoy the promenade boarding Kwan Payao, one of the largest wet land in Thailand and we are back on wheels.

    Outside Phayao the road goes slightly back, following route 1021 then 1251, over the hill, toward Chiang Muan. Just before reaching this city, a small hamlet, with exquisite wooden houses, has several shacks serving noodles for lunch.

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    I can not resist to play the game of “Seven Differences” and submit my auto-portrait for this purpose.

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    Route 1091 goes uphill again, nicely winding and, eventually, down to Nan.

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    In Nan we checked in to Dhevaraj hotel as it is a known place and enjoyed a jump in the icy swimming pool. Coffee spots are now available all around. After some black shots, we ended the afternoon with the sunset at Wat phu Noi.

    Nan has some evening movements, particularly around the market, but we just had a “Da Dario's Pizza”, followed by some beers in a main road bar cum movie. Then we called it a day.

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    Second part: Nan to Phu Chi Fa and Chiang Kong (420 kilometers)

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    Devaraj breakfasts allow to start an early trip, with a filled stomach. Finding the bridge over the Nan river is a little tricky but then 1169, toward Santisuk and 1080 to Bo Klua are straightforward and great rides. Short sectors are under improvement, but are in good dirt condition.

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    Somewhere in the hills, the Harley became thirsty and we stopped in a remote village for a “refill”, served in half litter bottles. This gave us the opportunity for a joyous and rewarding encounter with locals.

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    In Bo Klua, the small coffee place had to warm up the machine, letting us time to visit a salt production next door. Local people collect brine from wells, under the mountain, and boil it overnight to crystallize the salt. Bamboo basket are used to dry it over large pans.

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    Route 1256 leads over Doi Phu Kha, through the national park. It is famous for hosting some of the last Chompoo trees and also affords breathtaking panoramas. When it follows the ridge of the mountain, with vertiginous views on both sides of the road, it is one of my favorite tracks.

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    In Pua, we took route 1080 toward the North (it is also called “Asian Highway 13”!) which eventually leads to the Laos border crossing, in Houai Kon). In Chiang Klang we took route 1097, over the mountain. Half of the 24 km segment is well paved but the last half is rough pavement. It is possible to avoid the sector, by driving around the mountain, taking route 1080 a couple of miles South-West and than route 1148 toward the North.

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    In Song Kwae, route 1097 meets route 1080, running up toward Chiang Kham.

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    After Chiang Kham, route 1093 climbs to Phu Sang waterfall and up to Phu Chi Fa mountain. It is pleasantly winding and leads through charming landscapes. The pavement, nevertheless, is in rough condition.

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    As twilight was pointing at the horizon, we increased the pace and rushed to Chiang Khong. There, we took the usual quarters in Tammila and spent the evening in the Mexican hangout, with food and the owner's chronicles.

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    Last part: Chiang Kong back to Maerim (350 kilometers)

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    Chiang Khong is well known by Laos travelers. Usually people get up early to queue at emigration, before eight o'clock, and get the first boats and ferry. It is also a charming place for Mekong sunrises and to observe boating activities on the majestic river.

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    From Chiang Khong, my usual trail goes straight on route 1174 to Payamengrai and then on 1152 toward hightway 1. This time, we tried another itinerary, leaving route 1174 after a couple of kilometers and taking 1098 toward Noen Somboon and then 1173, in Mae Bong, toward Wiang Chai. This is quite a pleasant promenade, slightly winding through hills and then crossing villages. The distances of both itineraries seem similar and this route provides an alternative, through a slightly different environment.

    After Chiangrai, the normal way back is on route 118, with, for me, a compulsory stop at Charin Garden Bakery.

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    After Wiang Pa Pao we decided to drive over the mountain, on route 1150 to Prao and then down route 1001 to Mae Jo.

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    We closed our 1'110 kilometers loop in Maerim's Sala Café, with a last drink .

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    This is an agreeable three days itinerary on amazing and mostly well paved roads (with the exception of 10 km on route 1097 and the summit sector of 1093). The second day's itinerary was too squeezed to really appreciate Phu Chi Fa. An overnight in one of the mountain's guest houses would provide a better balance in addition to a rewarding sunset and sunrise. It would be possible to shortcut some of the side loops (Phu Kha and Chiang Klang) but then, missing some interesting trails. The return path from Phu Chi Fa could go toward Thoen and Chiangrai, cutting out Chiang Khong.
     
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  3. Franz

    Franz Ol'Timer

    Juergen, amazing pictures of even more amazing roads, yes Doi PhuKa is something not to be missed....BTW how happy are you with your Versys ???? Very, me thinks...555555, cheers, Franz
     
  4. Jurgen

    Jurgen Ol'Timer

    I loved my ER6 ... so what would be the next superlative? For my type of riding Versys is perfect and amazing, far more than what I expected. On the slightly rough pavement, on Phu Chi Fa, she just flew over the trail, pretending it is a highway. And even 55 "77" :). See you soon with the toys!
     

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