A short GT Loop

Discussion in 'Northern Thailand - Road Trip Reports' started by DavidFL, May 12, 2008.

  1. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    RIDERS & BIKES
    1. The SEO guy & Kawasaki Vulcan 400
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    2. David Unk & Honda Africa Twin 750.

    Why: for a visa run, plus a ride along the Laos border.

    THE WAY
    Chiang Mai – Chiang Rai - Mae Sai. Routes 118 - 1
    Mae Sai – Golden Triangle – Chiang Saen – Chiang Khong – Phu Chi Fah – Thoeng – Chiang Rai. Routes 1290-1129-1020-1155-4029-1093-1020
    Chiang Rai – Chiang Mai. Routes 1-118.

    THE WEATHER
    Heavy overcast / cool / humid / tropical.

    DATES
    Friday 9th May – Sunday 11th May 2008.

    HOW IT WENT
    Got away from the Kafe at leisurely 11.00 am, but not before spying Mrs. Mechanic’s niece sporting a GT rider shirt. Miss Yui’s been working at Mr Mechanic’s for 6 months & is one hell of a sweet young gal.
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    I also think she’s following in Gung (Mrs. Mechanic)’s footsteps as I’m sure she likes to be wined & dined as well.

    ON THE ROAD
    It was a straight run down 118 direct to Charin Resort & some cheesecake ‘n cappuccino.

    The road works on 118 between the hot springs & Mae Kachan are only a minor irritation & almost not worthy of a mention such is the rapid progress lying on some nice thick asphalt.
    And I noted that Ben did not even back off on the dirt riding his 400 chopper; so he’s a good rider, got a good bike, or the dirt’s a piece of cake. Or it’s a combination of all three. Good on you Ben.

    The traffic lights on the Chiang Rai super all seemed to go against us, until we did the Thai motorcyclist’s trick & cruised through a red one on the shoulder of the road. From then on we only got green ones. Ha. Ha.

    We hit Mae Sai around 3.30 pm & checked into the Umporn Resort. A bit out of town but with rooms at 600-700-800 baht I reckon the 700 baht ones are excellent value for money. Quiet, clean, secure parking, strong hot water pressure & whisper quiet cool air con. Plus there’s a nice on-premises garden restaurant with music, good food & good service.

    The trip was only a regular visa run for me, but the SEO guy had not been in Mae Sai / Tachilek for a few years, so the novelty was still there & we spent an hour or two fossicking around in Tachilek – mainly music CDs, looking at the imitation bike gear, plus a few bots of duty free for the night & a bit more. Back at the Umporn for happy hour, an SMS comes in from Happy Feet, he’s on his way also on a visa run & expects to hit town at 8pm.
    So as luck would have it happy hour got extended somewhat & we were the last to leave both the Country Home Pub & the BM disco. It was a highly entertaining night; on account of a couple of separate happy go lucky inebriated local guys’ first in the Country Home Pub, then in the BM. And not surprisingly the next morning I noted that that my 2nd bottle of 12 yr old whisky was a bit low. Not that anyone else had consumed much (I don’t think) but it did seem a bit of a waste. So the tip is if you’re already sufficiently lubricated, don’t take your good whisky to the disco & expect to have much left the next day. I should have taken the cheaper Benmores!

    The next day was a bit slower than normal, although we did get on the road by 10.45.

    I think I felt a bit "ancienent" & in need of a massage in Mae Sai after the big night out......
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    Happy feet tagged along until Chiang Saen, then peeled off to Chiang Rai to supervise Honda Honkey getting set up for the local enduro race.

    The SEO guy & I continued on along the ‘Khong & what a glorious day it was.

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    Brunch was one of those “Mae Chan American breakfasts” at 2.15pm, at the Easy Bar & Restaurant in Chiang Khong, & what fantastic value for money the Easy Bar is......
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    From Chiang Saen on all the roads were new for Ben & I seem to think he really enjoyed himself, even with the late thrash into Chiang Rai in the dark!

    On the road, riding the Khong.....
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    The route from Chiang Khong then was 1020-4029-1093-1155-1020.

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    For those of you who don’t know R1093 is the Lao border Phu Chi Fah road & it rates as one of the top rides in North Thailand.

    But before you get to R1093 you have to do R1155 & R4028. R1155 is an excellent hilly twisty one & 4029 is a real “steepie” to ascend from R1155 & Pang Had to Pha Tang R1093.

    Pix below: Riding R1155 & R4029.
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    We weren't the only ones on the road...
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    Pha Tang is an old Chinese KMT village that was off-limits for many years, for suspicious border activities that you weren’t supposed to know about.
    It’s claim to fame now is Pratu Siam from where you have spectacular views of the Mekong (on a clear day) & the “road to Phu Chi Fah. Otherwise it’s a real sleepy hill top town.

    Down town Pha Tang, a hive of activity….
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    R1093 at the north Pha Tang end has a few bumpy bits & 2 bailey bridges from flood damage in the wet season 2 years ago....
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    Rom Fah Tong is the “Phu Chi Fah village” with all the guesthouses & resorts.....
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    In the cold season & specifically New Year thousands of Thais in the cars come here to experience the views & cold. Yep they even have traffic jams way up here on the Lao border!

    From Phu Chi Fah it was straight down the short cut to R1155. This road rates right at the top with the Doi Ang Khang roads for the steepest in North Thailand.....
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    Back on R1155 it was a lefty & head south for Thoeng.
    But before we got there it was time for a drink in Pang Kha. Here I noted the road to Lao U is now all asphalt & as the last time I used this road it was all dirt & a wild one & also as steep as, I thought let’s check it out…
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    Ben & I both agreed that we think the Lao U link up is steeper than the Phu Chi Fah short cut, but the profiles don’t seem to suggest there’s much difference. Either way check both out if you’re ever in the area. You’ll find them incredibly exhilarating.

    Below: Lao U on R1093 & the turn off to R1155 & Pang Kha. Not very inviting from R1093 but do it!
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    What your missing if you don’t…
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    The SEO guy & I did this Lao U link up both ways from R1155 & I’ve never seen such a huge smile on Ben’s face when we got back to R1155! Could it have been better than sex? I don’t know, but I could see that his smile had that huge Cheshire cat grin, indicating something extremely gratifying had happened.

    Ah, it was just another day at the office.
     
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  3. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    One of the reasons I always enjoy R1129 Chiang Saen - Chiang Khong is because I have fond memories of when it used to be dirt.

    Here's some pix from 91 (& note the bike!)
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    I recall we left Chiang Khong at 9.00am & arrived in Chiang Saen at 3.00 PM & proceeded to demolish a few cartons of beer with some pommy nurses. (Some things never change you might say?) But we felt pretty chuffed with ourselves, it was M-U-D most of the way & the hardest bit was getting up over Kiu Khan. It must have taken us 1-2 hours just for that one hill!
     
  4. Dougal

    Dougal Ol'Timer

    Great post and pics as always David.

    I've already got the 1155 planned fro this year (Dec) but that 1093 looks a cracker.

    Those pics from '91.............Wow.
     
  5. burnjr

    burnjr Ol'Timer

    nice picture bro :D
     
  6. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Photo added.
    The 'Khong from the viewpoint upstream from Chiang Khong.

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    Just so you can see how much water is in it at this time of the year.
     
  7. Franz

    Franz Ol'Timer

    David 1991 ?? That means you're here since then ?? By the way, the bike on the foto is that the old Honda CB125 steamhammer, the ones they still use in Udon for their "skylab's" ????
     
  8. Kiwi Cruiser

    Kiwi Cruiser Ol'Timer

    The ride up to Lao U was really wild - late in the day, unknown road... the first section was a series of steep uphill hairpins that went on and on - full noise in 1st and 2nd gear.

    Then, it straightened out a little bit with some fast twisties, some steep enough that my bike could not pull 3rd gear - so I'm bellowing uphill at 50kph (valve-bouncing in 2nd gear) in a few places, trying in vain to keep up with the Fearless Leader, who steadily pulls away from me on the 750 AT and vanishes! :)

    Finally emerging out of the forest, the road runs along the crest of a long, steep and exposed ridge, soaring up in a series of roller-coasters and finally reaching the village of Lao U! There's a hell of a crosswind blasting us, but that just adds to the atmosphere!

    Here's the main man, powering up to the top in the gathering gloom.

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    Its getting late - nearly 6pm, and its a bloody long way from Lao U to Chiang Rai... A quick turn around at the top and David stops for a photo but I am looking down that ridgeline at the roller coaster, and wondering how fast I can make the Vulcan go downhill... Curiousity takes control and I'm off - swooping down at full throttle! :) Holy crap!!! The answer to that one was "Very Fast Indeed!" :shock:

    Anyway, I'm in front, and determined to reach the bottom without being overtaken... Severe brake fade not withstanding, there's not a glimpse of FL in the mirrors on the way down. I was grinning, there's no doubt about that!! What a buzz!!!

    That was truly a superb little detour! Still not sure if going down was better than going up - might have to go back and do it again a couple of times!

    The run back to Chiang Rai was a blast as well - gathering darkness, riding fast... and FL's brake lights don't seem to work! This added a new dimension of excitement to some corners, as its hard to spot when he's slowing down under brakes! The new tyres on the Vulcan were put to the sword a few times, inadvertently entering curves at a speed somewhat faster than the leader, and testing the limits of adhesion!

    There was a forested gorge section somewhere along the way that was bloody excellent - an endless series sweeping high-speed corners, with a very good surface! By this stage, I have no idea where the hell we are!
    :) All I can do is ride full-throttle, trying to keep FL in sight.

    The last section, I remember a sign saying 65 kms to Chiang Rai.. the time is 6:20 pm... and the mad dash in the fading light means we finally hit the superhighway intersection at 7:05... just as its getting really dark. All in all, a wonderful day out on the roads!

    David is a great guy to ride with - his knowledge of the terrain, roads and trails, the local stories, history and people is priceless. He's also great to have in front as he sets a thoughtful pace. He was aware that my bike does not do left-hand corners as well as right hand corners, due to the low position of the side-stand - and seldom led me into a corner at too high a speed. :)

    However, the pace picked up significantly after he figured out I was probably not going to fall off at the first sign of grit or gravel... :)

    Cheers

    Ben
     
  9. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Franz
    Yeah sure I've been around since then. The first GT Rider Mc guide book for the GT was published in 1988 & sold at least 5,000 copies easy, back then before the "real riders" discovered the place.

    Time flies by nowadays & I reckon the new guys have got it too easy - new big bikes, good riding gear, maps, GPS, mobile phones, internet, good whisky, English language road signs.

    The bike in the pic was a Honda Wing 125 road bike, but mine had a 175 kit & cam in it. It used to fly in the mountains believe me. Some of my travel times on the tight twisty roads today on a much bigger bike are not any quicker!

    I've dug out a few more pix from 91 & that "flood mud" trip in August 1991.
    My mate Bob was on a 250 Baja, one of the first in Chiang Mai, so he had it easy. Me, I did it all on the Wing with standard road tyres, slipping & sliding all the way in the clay. It was all about throttle control, plus a nice pointed stick to clean out the front mudguard every now & again.

    Immigration down by the river in Chiang Khong, was under water. If you know CK, the Mekong was right up to the steps of the Krua Thip restaurant! Unbelievable......
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    The Mekong river was waste deep in the Immigration office!
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    But back to R1129 Chiang Khong - Saen. The distance is only 54 kms, but it took us most of the day. Again we left CK at 9.00 am & arrived in CS at 3.00 PM.

    Here's the road going over Kiu Khan hill.
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    Pure snot 'n greasy clay all the way. ..
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    The dirt started straight out of Chiang Khong on the first hill & continued all the way to about 10 kms out of Chiang Saen.
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    But to get to Chiang Khong on that trip we also did R1150 Phrao - Wiang Pa Pao, then all dirt & which also had lots of mud from the heavy rain.
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    R1129 going over the Kiu Khan hill had a massive flood & landslide in the late 80s / early 90s & the road was closed for over a week. A mate Jon Boyes had a ghouse in Kiu Khan then & they were basically trapped up there for a week with no vehicles able to get in. I'll dig out some pix & put them up on another thread for a laugh.

    Enjoy.

    The Golden Triangle is full of great steep & winding mountain roads.
     
  10. Franz

    Franz Ol'Timer

    David that must have been real fun at that time, I can remember late 88 I had a MTX in Mae Hong Son and quite a lot of dirt on the by then not yet finished road via Pai to CNX. It is getting harder by the day to find such dirttracks. Anyway your pictures speak for themselves, great report, great times !!!
     
  11. BignTall

    BignTall Ol'Timer

    David and Ben - great pics and sounds as though the ride was a laugh and in good company. Reasons to be here.

    Love the early Pics David. Great stuff.

    Yes us newbies have it easy now. Unk tells me to go explore a dirt road and see where it goes. Gives me a GPS waypoint and thats all thats needed. However luckily once into the unknown its still all new, fun and enjoyable, hopefully a little like when Unk started two decades ago.
     
  12. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Just in from another 4 nights up around the GT dodging rain showers, wrapping up the new GT map & linking up with some of the other GT riders in Phayao for an entertaining night.

    Noted in Chiang Rai, the new bridge being built across the Kok river, 'right in town" basically straight behind the tourist office.
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    Further on up the road I managed get in all of R1149, the Doi Tung - Mae Sai Burma border road.
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    After the non-stop rain ride from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, I was pretty chuffed with myself for pulling this one off in the wet season. But you never quite know when if & where it will rain, so for me nothing ventured nothing gained. Suck it & see.

    R1149 running along the ridgeline & Burma border.
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    500 metres further on, the road was wet & I slowed down to let it clear up ahead.
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    The army guys at the checkpoints on R1149 are pretty cool & always polite. Even going to the extent of providing excellent signage...
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    In case you forget where you are
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    But the winner for me is
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    There are still a few landslips on steeper sections of the border road..
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    But the views over Pa Mi are always stupendous.
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    In Mae Sai I stayed at the Umporn Resort & again was very impressed with the rooms / price / service. If you're on a bike & don't mind a being out of town a bit, then I can highly recommend the Umporn Resort. They have a good open air restaurant, also with good food & service.
    The place is also conveniently located just a few hundred metres from the Fai Kam Pub & Restaurant, which is another good eating & drinking establishment. Then for the end of the night the BM Disco is further on into town, but these places are all on the same side of the 4-lane divided carriageway.

    After Mae Sai I had a glorious run along "the Khong " to Chiang Khong.
    Between Chiang Saen & Chiang Khong they’ve finished building Wat Hua Kuan on a hill overlooking the Mekong. In the late afternoon light the views & the colours really dazzled. Check out this new wat if you're going past, the views are superb & the bright new paint makes for some sweet photo opportunities...
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    Going over Kiu Khan hill the views were again fabulous & I could not believe my luck with such beautiful clean air & outstanding views.
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    In Chiang Khong the views over the river were also sensational.
    The view of Houei Xai in Laos...
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    Looking down the Khong from Tammila Ghouse
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    Disturbing news from Watchara & Gung at Tammila is that Bungalow # 7, my fave all time bungalow & Mekong river view will be replaced later this year. So if you've ever slept in # 7, had a good night there & still have fond memories hurry back for one last night in bungalow 7 with the magnificent panoramic views of the Mekong, before it goes.

    Next night was in Phayao linking up with the "Nan riders" & what a story they have to tell in the coming days.

    En route to Phayao I had the misfortune to fuel up at a PTT petrol station & get mobbed by the Hang gals.
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    This was a first for me, seeing the Hang PGs at a gas station. Anyone else experienced this? Indeed I thought it was worthwhile & I felt like hanging out a bit longer.

    The run home from Phayao was a fast dry one.
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    If you like these GPS Profiles of the roads, wait till you see the new GT Rider Golden Triangle guide map. Coming out real "soon."
     
  13. feejer

    feejer Ol'Timer

    Fabulous pix. Man, you guys are making it tough over here as it is still f-ing cold up here in the NW USA. Can't wait for Oct to see your neck of the woods for myself.

    This is what we got into over the weekend. Had to keep it quiet as there were slopes of snow threatening to come down onto the road. Didn't want to be found next month after the thaw!

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  14. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Bump for the R1093 road + the Lao U road.
     

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