Caution: Very Steep/Dangerous Road Collapse/ Restricted Area Dangerous Road

Discussion in 'Northern Thailand - Road Trip Reports' started by Rod Page, Apr 11, 2011.

  1. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    The above heading is taken from the GTR "Golden Triangle Loop" map's description of the road that hugs the Burmese border passing around Thailand's second highest mountain at 2285 metres, Doi Phahompok.

    I had sent Davidfl a PM indicating my interest in tackling this road to which he replied:
    "Rod
    That is quite a dicey one & I wonder if there is any road left after the earthquake?
    That man Captn Slash (Surprise) was up there recently
    http://www.gt-rider.com/thailand-mot...ns-Around-Fang
    Rossi was running his bike tours around there to give the customers a thrill, & I'm sure you will get one when you're out there.
    Brendan BJ was also up there
    http://www.gt-rider.com/thailand-mot...-Doi-Ang-Khang
    his photos are a bit more dramatic.
    "

    Brendan BJ's report is tempting, totally enticing & covers the section that is the subject of this report. It seems Captain Slash was trying to attack the section that rises to Nor Lae. I've been up & down that section several times in the last year - its unquestionably the toughest road in Thailand! Other reports I scanned appeared to cover this particularly terrifying stretch to Nor Lae & not the loop around Doi Phahompok.

    David was right - its dicey & its thrilling!!!

    I took the road to Wieng Wai off the Fang bypass. You know you're on track when you ironically pass the 'good luck' Buddha overlooking the scenic, rice field fillled valley of Wieng Wai:

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    Riding on to Mae Mao Dam is straight-forward if not signposted in english. The dam is a wonderful stretch of water. Looking for the checkpoint above the dam appearing on the GTR map I was pleased to stumble across such a checkpoint with relative ease. I rode up above the checkpoint to a viewpoint worthy of a 'beer stop':

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    Absolutely magnificent despite thee seasonal haze. The only problem which I was to later discover is that if you are 'here' then you've gone the wrong way! Its still worth it though! This route actually loops around back towards the Nor Lae climb where the section from the checkpoint back to Nong Tao is currently being re-surfaced.

    Frustrated (read 'its not easy if you dont speak Thai') I was fortunate to stumble upon a Thai fellow with a Baja who, showing great foresight, had learnt english in speaking with the pastor in Fang. In the photo below he shows me the correct way - to the right & not to the left which leads to the checkpoint photographed above:

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    The road offers spectacular views over the dam before climbing & climbing up around the face of Doi Phahompok. Its a scintilating ride, much along the ridges of extremely steep gorges & ravines affording tremendous views across to Burma. The road is in good shape reflecting I suppose the total lack of traffic it sees.

    You pass by several checkpoints one of which appears below (so that you know you're on the right track) & 3 times as many army camps set along the mountains overlooking Burma being watched in return by just as many camps on the Burmese side:

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    I understand this has been the theatre of much fighting between Thai, Burmese & Shan State armies & its a wonder, really, that the authorities will let you pass at all. And then there's the added risk of the collapsed road as you'll see below.

    Arriving at the collapsed road brings you quickly to a halt. You dismount & wearily investigate the scene. The road appears to have been constructed by pushing road-fill into a space between 2 hills, then sealing it. To the east of the road a large crater like hole has formed which gives the impression that it would fill with rain & then seep downhill to the detriment of what little road foundation remains. The western side presents a spectacular drop just waiting for what little remains to come tumbling down. The road to the north of the collapse rises steeply &, during rain, the water must absolutely hammer down the surface attacking the collapsed section without mercy.

    The first hole on approaching from the south with the eastern side showing the start of the crater-like hole:

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    The second hole in the road whilst heading north; you can get a feel to the left of the severe drop-off:

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    You have to determine if you can find your way across, calculate if what remains of the road will support you & your bike & then have a liberal dose of insanity to proceed.

    I was just too keen to grab a shot so left the bike midway & rushed over to take 2 shots to prove the crossing, thinking all the time just how, well, brilliant it would be if I captured the D-Tracker catapulting down the hill in one final collapse!

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    You can clearly see the steepness of the drop-off in the first shot whilst the second is taken from the north looking back.

    I rode on, feeling very pleased with myself though still concerned by the sanity of such a crossing. I wished I possessed the engeneering skills to roughly determine how much weight the crossing could truly take. The road on this the northern side of the collapse deteriorates in places into a series of potholes & associated lose gravel but its manageable. Suddenly you burst upon the most scenic of valleys where the buffalo were being readied for the ploughing ahead:

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    In the whole valley all was constructed of natural, locally sourced materials. To witness the ploughing here would be special.

    I continued along down to the Pang San Khrua checkpoint dreaming of returning once the haze passed & the buffalo were ploughing. I headed right down the 1314 snapping the following shot of the road ahead from the hill-tribe village of Doi Laem.

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    This is truly God's country.
     
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  3. Pounce

    Pounce Ol'Timer

  4. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

  5. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    Several days of rain & the forecast of more to come can make one restless. A window of opportunity presented itself yesterday so I had no hesitation in heading back for more of one of my favourite rides. I anticipated good views following recent rains & the completion, almost, of the burn-off season.

    An easy ride up R107 to the Fang turn-off, through Wieng Wai & on to Mae Mao Dam before the big climb!

    Arriving at the control point some 35kms from the Fang by-pass I stopped, dismounted & shook hands with the soldiers present ready to sign "the visitors book" to continue on my way.........................bad news - despite much negotiating & showing them pictures from my previous visit the military would simply not let me enter:

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    I've read elsewhere on this site of others seeking entry being similarly denied so its something anyone contemplating riding in the area needs to contemplate. (For what its worth I feel arriving at the control point early in the morning, say around 8am, or late in the afternoon, around 5pm, MAY help. Better also to arrive in SMALL numbers & above all be polite).

    I rode sensibly back down but the 1.5 hours in total (up & down) was not totally wasted - I decided I try to enter from the north; ride the route from north to south!

    Motored up to wonderful Tha Ton looking for lunch only to find myself being entertained by the local version of Poi Sang Long:

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    Despite the stunning beauty of the ride up to the Pang San Khrua check-point via the Doi Laem road I decided to hug the border taking the turn-off just south of the entry to Wat Tha Ton. The road rises sharply up behind the Wat offering a splendid vista of the surrounding area:

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    Wat Tha Ton is well worth visiting housing, as it does, impressive Buddahs donated by a multitude of countries & which reflect the local custom of the donating countries.

    The road continues its majestic rise offering exceptional views of the plains below.

    I was looking in particular for a 'White Chedi' that Davidfl had told me about & I may have found it. There are absolutely no signs to assist you, the Chedi is hidden from the roadside being surrounded by mature trees, entry to the access is difficult to determine, the access itself is no more than a track & eventually turns to simple grasslands requiring one to use intuition as much as anything else to locate the Chedi. It can be found in an area behind Pang Ton Dua, an area once again that 'may be in Thailand & may be in Burma, depending what day it is!' There is no signage on site, no details concerning its significance of the site & so on. I mention all this as such details lead me to believe this is the Chedi of which Davidfl talked where Khun Sa had his stronghold............the Thai authorities have a tendency to down-play anything associated with Khun Sa!!!

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    David - before I go further - is this the Chedi &, if so, can you repeat here the background to it that you gave me verbally???

    One thing I can say at this point, however, is that one is struck by the juxtaposition of a symbol of piece & worship surrounded by fortified gun positions!

    (To be continued.......................)
     
  6. Jurgen

    Jurgen Ol'Timer

    Thrilling report :), I checked with my bike's insurance company, no way that they let me through. And if I do the plunge, instead of the bike, I would even not have the pleasure of a last shot! I also love Wat Tha Thon, but usually take the short cut! Thank you for posting your story.
     
  7. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Yep I'd certainly say that was the one. Aftr Khun Sa was forced out of Thoed Thai he "hung out" on the Burmese side of the border at Doi Larng / Doi Phahompok.It was all very cosy & I seem to recall that one year there was a huge drug bust (tip off) down Chonburi & Khun Sa lost a lot of money, so he promptly drove down the mountain with some of his men robbed the bank in Mae Ai to recover his losses & drove back up the mountain & his camp on the Burmese side.
    Later on he moved from Doi Larng over to the Mae Hong Son area where he ended up before eventually surrendering to the Burmese.
     
  8. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    Here are some pictures from crossing the road collapse in October 2003. I believe this was the first it was mentioned in GT-Rider, although we didn't have the ability to post photos then. Slash says he rode it in 2002.

    It has steadily deteriorated over the years, and I often wonder when it will go completely. I just hope I am not on it when it does. :-?

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    Some "friends" I met along the way.
     
  9. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    Jurgen - even if your insurance precludes your riding through the restricted area you should take the magical loop up behind Wat Tha Ton &, following the GTR Map, head through Pang Ton Khong & on to the control point at Pang San Khrua - you may even find the 'White Chedi' - but there are other wonderful finds throughout the villages along the route & the views are endlessly sensational!
    Turn left at the control point & motor down through Doi Laem for another gob-smacking outlook on your way back to R107. Its a great run either way, depending whether you're starting just before or just after a good Tha Ton lunch!

    Davidfl - you always have the best stories; just that little bit extra to add to a report!

    Dave E - great photos; one can see the difference in the road condition from 2003 to date. Clearly the road is "disappearing". One wonders if military engineers are closely observing matters & will ultimately close the route before there's an accident.

    (Continuing the report...........................)

    Apart from the substantial turret pictured above there are a number of other fortified areas around the Chedi; the site was clearly of great strategic importance to Khun Sa:

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    Through the trees there appears to be a military post opposite on the Burmese side:

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    Now that it appears we have the right Chedi let me add the following that I subsequently found:

    Bangkok Post - Sunday 14 April 2002
    Chedi built to Demarcate Territory

    A Burmese-style chedi atop a mountain in disputed Doi Lang. At left is a bunker of former drug warlord Khun Sa.
    Rangoon troops ask to cross every year

    A small unit of Burmese troops in disputed Doi Lang find time once a year to pay homage to a white chedi, built atop a mountain near Ban Pang Nai of Mae Ai, Chiang Mai.

    ``In the past they have regularly asked our permission to pay tribute to the chedi. We have no objection,'' said an officer from Pha Muang Task Force in charge of security at Doi Lang.

    It was unclear when the Burmese-style chedi was built and it was widely believed that Burmese forces who once occupied the disputed territory put it up to show where the boundary lay.

    Burmese army commander-in-chief Gen Maung Aye was said to be responsible for the chedi's construction when he was a junior officer posted in the area.

    ``How could one take this chedi as a mark of a boundary? We did not know when the chedi was constructed but I don't think it was proper to make one-sided assumption that the border line lay here,'' said the officer.

    Also on the mountain is a bunker used in the 1980s by drug warlord Khun Sa's men to fight off Burmese troops and United Wa State Army fighters.

    Khun Sa's men took the land in 1982 from the now-defunct Lahu National Army and turned it into their stronghold.

    In the late 1980s, Doi Lang had become a fierce battle zone where Khun Sa's Mong Tai Army troops fought UWSA and Burmese troops.

    Under an agreement with the Burmese military junta following the 1989 break-up of the Burmese Communist Party, of which the UWSA was part, a brigade under Wei Sai-tang was relocated south from UWSA headquarters in Pang Hsan, northeastern Shan State near the Chinese border, to bring down Khun Sa in Doi Lang. Khun Sa's forces in Doi Lang were defeated in the early 90s by UWSA fighters, who were allowed to stay in the area. The UWSA, regarded as the biggest drug traffickers in the Golden Triangle, later used drug trade money to build Mong Yawn. Khuensai Jaiyen, former aide to Khun Sa, said Khun Sa lost more than 500 soldiers and spent more than 300 million baht defending Doi Lang, an area which the charismatic opium warlord called his ``back door to Thailand.''

    At the time, Khun Sa said Wa troops were the toughest fighters who would battle to the last. Khun Sa was forced to move his headquarters to Ho Mong opposite Mae Hong Son's Muang district in the early 90s. Khun Sa made his surprise surrender in early 1996.


    Footnote: Burma claimed the land, arguing that as it was previously controlled by Khun Sa it could therefore not be deemed by Thailand to be Thai territory.
    (Dont you love it....heaven forbid appearing one day before a Burmese military junta court!!!)

    With late afternoon approaching I decided to press on to the Pang San Khrua military control point hoping, well praying, that I'd be permitted access to the route homeward that hugs the border down to Wieng Wai. On this occassion - success - so I gleefully took a photo following signing the entry documentation:

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    (The final chapter of this report follows..............................)
     
  10. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    I am really quite surprised that you would even take the "insurance coverage" into consideration. I mean, half the joy of riding here is the freedom with few restrictions. I certainly wouldn't let the insurance company dictate my moves. Being a fan of your great reports, I am surprised at you Jurgen :?. How do they determine a "restricted area". There are many checkpoints around the North. What do they consider restricted or not? What about dirt trails? Have you also checked to see if they cover you in Laos? I would be quite surprised if they did.

    Sorry, I don't mean to get off topic but that was a shocker. It might make for an interesting separate topic.
     
  11. ronwebb

    ronwebb Ol'Timer

    Thanks Rod and Dave. This looks like a MUST DO place for a bit of a walk about so to speak. Great thread/report. Its on the 'must do' list.
     
  12. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    (Continued.....the ride home................)

    Headed off southwards on the loop around Doi Phahompok (more than a little pleased with myself having been blocked from entering from the southern side/preparing myself for 'the blockers' response when I presented myself before them from the other side!)

    Not far into the ride I noticed a military installation which being unmanned at the time was inviting enough:

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    Onwards up to the fortified look-out, access is via a cemented path dug down 2m below ground level:

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    The outlook from here is SPECTACULAR. You can see for miles over the northern plains of Thailand & over the peaks constituting the beginnings of the Himalayas & that form the boundary between Thailand & Burma way up into the valleys of Burma. I learned that this was in fact Doi Larng, Khun Sa's former stronghold - undetermined border issues explain why its 'sometimes in Burma, sometimes in Thailand' but also alert you to the need to be sensible when travelling this route. Camera shots of such landscapes are difficult but I hope what follows gives you an idea; the world is truly an awe inspiring place:

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    In the above shot you may be able to determine a Thai military outpost in the mid-right of the photo; there are two further groups of construction above the outpost which appeared to be hill-tribe villages.

    Some of the road from here southward is in a very poor pot-holed condition; if that doesn't get you then the growth following recent rains certainly will - I was constantly whipped from head to toe!

    Finally I arrived at one of my favourite village sites in Thailand, photos of which I posted in my earlier report on this ride. It presents itself in the middle of no-where & is totally authentic. A couple more shots from today's ride:

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    It was here on the road I encountered the only non-military people I had seen all day in riding up & down to the control on the south & since entering from the north; a hill-tribe family with an heir apparent clearly happy to have his photo taken:

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    From here onto 'the hole''. I'll let the photo do the talking:

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    From here its not far to the control where I'd been denied entry earlier in the day. The barrier opened upon seeing my arrival & I rode past witnessing a wide grin on the face of the soldier present!

    The military camp is obviously situated high up along the ridges & I was able to get a shot of the peak of Doi Phahompok which at 2285m is Thailand's second highest mountain:

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    Its clear from where the shot is taken that this ride takes you to a considerable altitude, in excess of 2000m I would imagine.

    I grabbed a few shots on the ride down of Mae Moa Dam from above; in the final shot one can see that the water is low despite recent rains:

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    Homeward bound after an exhilarating ride, I reached Mae Taeng around 7pm to be greeted by the current plague of flying ants - within minutes my visor was covered; wiping it just 'spread the juices' totally eliminating visibility; lifting the visor saw my face hammered by the pests.....it was a slow final few kilometres home.
     
  13. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    Good job, Rob. I liked the view from the abandoned military outpost lookout. I haven't seen that one before. I love that area, it always seems to have a sort of "mystique" as no matter how many times you ride it, there is always something different or unexpected that turns up. Nice report.
     
  14. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    Dave, I can see my english was a little confusing -the military outpost was not abandoned; only the point of entry was unmanned at the time. Whilst taking photos I noticed movement in hammocks hung in the pagola at the top of the hill & made my way back down as quietly as I'd ascended.
     
  15. helbob

    helbob Ol'Timer

    One of the biggest fruit gardens of thailand, on the Mae Mao Dam, a wonderful place

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  16. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    I just received this from Auke - intriguing stuff, Auke, & greatly appreciated. It goes a long way to explaining why David Unkovitch told me when I first visited the Chedi that I was "probably in Burma!" It also explains the sensitivity of the on-going border issue & the need to be prudent not to be caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Went yesterday to the White Stupa and some waterfalls. With regard to the White Stupa the plot thickens a bit. On the old Thai military maps (around 1980 or so) the stupa is clearly in Burma and on the older GPS maps made by ESRI Thailand the stupa is also in Burma. On the latest ESRI Thailand map the Thai border has shifted considerable to the north and the stupa is now suddenly several kilometer inside Thai territory (see attached map). The stupa was completely overgrown but at the same time it was clear that people visited the stupa from time to time.

    On the black and white Thai military map, the red line is the border according to the previous GPS maps and the light blue line is now the new border line according to the ESRI GPS map V 11.1 The green and yellow lines are my GPS tracks of yesterday. Actually on the old military map the Thai border is even a bit more south and Wat Chom Khiri would then also be in Burma. On my trip yesterday I did not notice any border patrols except for the turnoff from Rd 1314 which goes to the collapsed road. The other picture is from the latest ESRI map which shows that everything is kilometers within Thai territory.

    Went to the stupa along a very steep trail but once there, I noticed a dirt road going down the mountain and there were motorcycle tracks visible. Guess you can do it even by truck. The access road is in the village (sorry can't remember the name at the moment) and the dirt road is signposted for the wat in the village. Google Earth shows the stupa clearly and GE also has the border more or less at the same place as where the latest ESRI map shows the border. No idea why the old Thai military map showed the border much more to the south and why now suddenly the border is shown further up north.

    Will put a trip report with pictures on the RideAsia forum (sorry, can no longer log-in to the GT Rider forum as it appears that I am no longer welcome over there) and will let you know when it is up together with the URL.

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  17. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

  18. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Bump for Gary Sharpeyes
     
  19. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Gary

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    a photo test for you.
     
  20. ronwebb

    ronwebb Ol'Timer

    This road is now being repaired but its taking tons of earth to do the job
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  21. bsacbob

    bsacbob Ol'Timer

    That repair sure has made that loop around Tha Ton a lot more fun all they need now is a beer stop at the campsite !
     
  22. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    I found Ron's information a most interesting read. This is an area heavily manned by the Thai Army who clearly see the area as 'active', many seeking access to the area are regularly turned away by the Army, the border (like almost all the Thai/Burmese border) has not yet been agreed, large quantities of methamphetamines are said to pass through the area, &, in terms of engineering the site is poorly chosen to favour a simple reconstruction.

    It will be interesting to see what access is permitted once the works are completed.
     
  23. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Bump for Frank T
     
  24. fabianfred

    fabianfred Member

    is this where the old collapsed road was? I've been hoping they would fix it for years. I did it many years ago before the collapse...up through MonPin.... right at the T-junction and around the reservoir....up past the Shan Army camp at Loi Sam Sip...then down to Mae Ai.
    Going left at the T-junction ( http://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=19.985418&lon=99.090390&z=19&m=b )takes you up the Northern road to Ban NorLae on Doi Angkang. They finished the road, but the thai Army only let locals use it. Last year during New year when many visitors go to the Doi Angkang some silly people from BKK who do not know how to drive in hills went off the road, so they closed it for all visitors.
    Always some idiots to ruin it for the rest of us.
    This year I couldn't visit the Shan National Day clebrations at Loi SamSip (6/7 February each year) because they had to cancel them. They were afraid for the safety of people because the local (Burmese side) Wa Army had taken ten Shan soldiers captive. They had argued about drugs...the Shan Army do not get involved in them, but the Wa Army do. I wanted to visit the kids at the Loi 30 camp, especially the Lisu kids who remained after their village was abandoned up there. It went from 20 houses in 2009 to 4 in 2010 and in 2011 had gone. i don't think the Lisu could make a living so they went back into Burma and just a few families remained at the Loi 30 camp and the kids go to the school there.
    I do go on that road, right at the T-junction and around the reservoir almost daily as I visit and help a school there for kids whose parents work upon the orange plantations around the reservoir valley.
    http://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=20.006395&lon=99.098198&z=19&m=b
     
  25. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    Spot on - the roads you mention lead exactly as outlined by you.
    Given you are regularly out that way it would be of interest to many to know to what extent both the collapsed road & the climb to Nor Lae have been upgraded & whether or not access is being denied under certain conditions.
    Such a great place to ride!
     
  26. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Hi ya Fred
    Thanks for the update.
    If you've got any more tips or even some photos you are very welcome to share & post them.
    How did you go in Fang with the big wet last week?

    Next time I over night in Fang we should get together again - its been a few years.
     

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