Dan Sai / Phi Ta Khon 2004 Return

Discussion in 'Northern Thailand - Road Trip Reports' started by DavidFL, Jul 7, 2004.

  1. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    DATE: 18-19-20 -21 June 2004

    THE WAY:
    (1) Chiang Mai – Lampang – Den Chai – Uttaradit – Thong Saen Khan – Ban Pae - Chat Trakarn – Nakhon Thai – Dan Sai
    (2) Dan Sai - Pak Mang – Dan Sai.
    (3) Dan Sai – Na Haew – Rom Klao – Huay Mun - Nam Phat – Sirikit dam – Uttaradit – Den Chai – Lampang – Chiang Mai.

    (1) 11 – 1214 – 1246 – 1149 - 2013
    (2) 2114
    (3) 2113 – 1268 - 1239 – 1047 – 1146 – 1045 - 11

    Approx 1,000 kms.

    Heavy overcast, but unbelievably dry (except for a short festival downpour!)

    An “early” brekky (for me) at the Bier Stube at 8.15 am.
    Before mounting his bike Dave Silverhawk decides to put his waterproofs on as a precaution. Ok I admit the sky did not look good at all, but I thought that maybe we would get 40-50 kms out of town before the rain came, before it was necessary to cover up. However I also considered my riding mate would already be covered up & have to wait for me while I put mine beside the highway somewhere, maybe even out in the rain. So out of respect for a good riding buddy I put my rain gear on as well. It’s not too often that I do that as I usually prefer to be independent and do my own thing; so Dave you got me there!

    We got away from the super then at around 9.00 am and it was a might hot sitting at the some of the traffic lights waiting for the green light to come on.
    Stopped at the lights, the silly farang on big bikes & their rain gear on always get strange looks from the Thais, and it’s kinda fun to see the bemused expressions on their faces wondering what’s going on with these guys and where they are going to?

    Anyway we pretty much had a dream run all the way down route 11 to Lampang, then Den Chai & the turn off to Uttaradit. Despite the time of day we had no hold ups in the traffic & no rain – neither of us could believe it! The road might have looked damp in places and rain seemed to threaten, but no such luck, it was a nice dry run.

    After 2 lousy cappuccinos at the PTT stop, off came the rain gear. (Note that I only had the 2nd lousy cappuccino to confirm that it was not just the first one that was lousy!)
    Despite the lack of rain, we were quite wet inside just from sweat. Wearing waterproofs in the tropics really is a big gamble & it is always a difficult call.
    Wear your wet weather gear in dry conditions for more than 45-60 mins & you’ll be wet with sweat inside anyway!
    Personally I like to put mine on “at the last minute” and only when I’m convinced it is going to rain heavily for a lengthy period of time. I don’t mind getting wet in 30 mins thunderstorms, when you know you can dry out 20- 30 mins in hot sunny conditions.

    Heading south from the Den Chai / Uttaradit turn off, we kept up a good pace, as the clouds did really look black several times & I was sure I was going to have to admit to a silly mistake in taking off the rain gear. But as luck would have it, I was able to wind up the wick on the ol' Africa Twin to power down a couple of straights (with the TDM 850 nicely in tow right behind) & miss any rain.
    Just south of Uttaradit it got a bit tricky, as there are a couple of choices for heading south-east towards Chat Trakarn. My decision to take the first turn, rather than the faster route via the 2nd further turn off was made easy by the serious bank of low heavy black clouds further south near the quicker route.
    However, I have to admit that in my haste I again stuffed up at my nemesis –the Ban Pae intersection - & stupidly turned right to race straight back onto route 11, & end up 40 kms south of Uttaradit (at the 2nd turn off!!)
    It was full throttle then to make up the lost ground & keep out of the rain.
    We snuck into Nakhon Thai without any trouble for a late lunch at 1.30 pm.

    The lunch snack in Nakhon Thai developed into a lengthy one on account of a certain female shopkeeper making a seriously indelible impression on young DavidFL (yeah, he still gets love struck at 51!)
    I reluctantly dragged myself away after exhausting most of the easy lines & not making too much progress with my invite for lunch in Dan Sai tomorrow……..

    Arrival time in Dan Sai was a comfy 3.15 pm, & time to suss out the accommodation scene.
    Earlier I had tried to book my fave ghouse, the Wiang Kaew, but the rooms were booked (& paid for) 2 weeks earlier, so Phi Ta Khon festival is getting serious!
    As a precaution I had a room reserved at a friends house, but with Dave Silverhawk in tow we decided it would be more convenient if we could find something outside, just in case…......
    First stop was the View Thong short time joint, opposite the army camp & yes they did have a couple of ratty dark musty rooms if we needed them.
    Next stop in town was the Yen Sook, and again we were lucky, they had 3 rooms left. While Silverhawk paid for two of these I rode back to the View Thong to cancel the bookings there. We were safe & ready to enjoy Dan Sai & the build up for Phi Ta Khon festival......

    Is a pretty weird very raunchy fertility festival that has to be seen to be believed.
    Its about spirits & ghosts, picking up a white marble pebble from a stream, that is supposed to be a re-incarnated monk with supernatural powers & taking it back to the village temple. The villagers then celebrate dressed as ghosts & parade around town with huge phallic symbols teasing one & all. Eventually most the villagers are drunk (us included) & everyone has a good time. If you just run into town on the day of the parade you do not get any feeling for what is going on. You HAVE to be in Dan Sai 1 day before the festival starts & the place is “normal quiet”. Then over the next 2 days just see it come to life & build up very raucously. It really is an amazing scene & a totally fun place to hang out, drink & be merry for a few days. I’ve now seen 9 Phi Ta Khons & never get tired of it. I’ll be there next year 2005!
    (I’ll let Dave Silverhawk write up more about how we lucked out & enjoyed Phi Ta Khon.)

    If you don’t enjoy just hanging out in Dan Sai that much there are a couple of nice little rides you can do.
    1. The easiest one is route 2114 that runs up to Pak Man & the Lao border.



    This road runs up a beautiful valley with lots of wonderful villages and superb scenery. From Pak Man you have 3 choices (1) return the same, which we did. (2) at Pak Man, take a left onto route 2195 & head over to Na Haew, then back down route 2113 to Dan Sai, (3) at Pak Man, take a right follow route 2195 along the Lao border to Tha Li, then take route 2115 down to Loei & back to Dan Sai. This 3rd option however is a longish loop for a day ride from Dan Sai.
    2. Overlooking Dan Sai, just 600 metres before the View Thong hotel, there’s a turn off to an absolutely stunning Wat


    on a hill over looking Dan Sai. Check this one out & you’ll be impressed. I don’t have the name of the Wat right now, but will post it later on.
    3. Just 130 west of the Wat turn off, there’s another steep winding asphalt side road that goes in 2.5 kms to a small hydro electric dam. The dam’s nothing to look at, but the road in is a beautiful tight winding steep one. There’s also a nice little waterfall & hanging bridge en route if you can spot them. The whole road is a popular one for the local lads to take out the girlfriend out for a cruise. Check it out if you’re in Dan Sai for Phi Ta Khon.
    4. About 8 ½ kms up route 2113, the Dan Sai – Na Haew road, there’s a dirt track off to the right that leads to some rocky outcrops with fantastic panoramic views over Dan Sai.

    Got away from Dan Sai at 10.20 am. Not bad considering the ATM card recovery job at the bank.
    Route 2113 to Na Haew is an awesome ride. Steep – very steep winding & flowing.
    We stopped approx 24 kms up the road at the well signposted Wat Po Chai to see the “renowned” murals, but the place was locked up. This is a bit of a disappointment, especially since you see Wat Po Chai signs everywhere around Dan Sai & figure that the place must really be an important tourist attraction.

    After Na Haew we took route 1268 that heads into the mountains along the Thai / Lao border.


    This road also is an unreal ride & a brilliant motorcycle road. Eventually you pass thru Rom Klao that is where the Thai & the Lao armies had a little shoot out quite a few years ago. There’s a funny village signposted in English as Laokohok, which very roughly translated sounds like Lao Bullshit to me, but I’m sure it must be something else….


    Halfway up route 1268 at Huay Mun, we turned left onto route 1239 for some sheer exhilarating. 1239 runs across to Nam Phat & for 46 kms you have an amazing tight steep hilly undulating roller coaster ride that absolutely twists & turns all over the place. Silverhawk & I both had grins a mile wide when we reached the end. We also both chuckled on how one of the other notoriously slow cornering GT Riders might tackle this gem of a road.
    Nam Phat was just a quick noodle stop & to check on the weather ahead in Cnx – heavy overcast but no rain yet.
    From Nam Phat it was a quick blast on 1047, then 1146 to Sirikit dam


    which is biggish & maybe impressive I guess, but it could also just be another dam if you’ve seen a few before.
    From Sirikit down 1045 its all basically flat, straight “downhill” to route 11, then take a right and home to Chiang Mai.
    The only incident en route was the TDM850 running out of fuel, but I wont tell that story.
    We arrived home in Chiang Mai at around 5.00 pm if I’m right.

    Keep the power on
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  3. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    There are always two sides to the story……………..

    I met David at the Bier Stube for breakfast and we were actually both on time for a change. I made the rain gear decision before leaving my house. I have an “all weather” type jacket which I decided I would wear the whole trip and just leave my regular armour riding jacket at home. So donning rain gear for me was simply a matter of slipping on my rain pants and not a big deal. David and I agreed there was no way we would make it without hitting rain. I don’t think David gave up TOO much of his independence when he put on his wets. We were both in shock at how we seemed to dodge through any major storms for the rest of the trip.

    As we made the turn on route 11 from Lampang to Denchai the ‘Boys in Brown” were out in mass stopping the traffic heading towards us. It appears they had some type of speed trap set up along with the usual helmet fines.

    I have to agree with David about the cappuccinos at the PTT stop, but I was able to make up my mind after only one. I had strapped on my sleeping bag after hearing from David of the quality accommodations we may face, figuring at least this way I would be guaranteed a clean sleeping surface. Well, I had not secured it well and it slipped to one side of the bike during our trip up. Naturally, as luck would have it, it found its way over the exhaust tip and burned through about 3 layers. Scrap one sleeping bag.


    David and I have traveled many kms together and pretty much know each others riding habits and capabilities. I can tuck the TDM on his back wheel and we have some pretty great rides through the twisties. It never turns into a competition however, as neither of us have anything to prove, and it makes it quite enjoyable. When Davidfl says he “cranked up the wick a little” that usually means 150+ kph cruising. The only time this is a little uncomfortable is his habit of doing this when we are approaching a major destination (usually entering Chiang Rai or returning on the Super to Chiang Mai), too much traffic for the pace.

    It is unusual for Davidfl to miss a turn off as he did at Ban Pae intersection. As I am almost always playing ‘follow the leader’ I get a little nonchalant about concentrating on where we are, or where we’re going for that matter. What one needs to be aware of is what I call his “Michael Schumacher” stops for a GPS entry or a quick Kodak moment (For those that don’t follow Formula 1, at Monaco during a caution, Schumacher locked his brakes to warm them and his tires. Juan Montoya in turn drove over him knocking of Schumacher’s front wheel). However if I give a little extra room I usually hear “What’s the matter? You looked a little off the pace back there”. We have some great rides.


    This was my second festival. The first one I went by truck and you just do not get the same flavor or attention you get with the bikes. The accommodations weren’t all that bad, if you don’t mind no frills, cold water and kinked shower hoses. Both our rooms had shower hoses which pointed upwards, thus causing a terminal kink and water shortage when gravity took over. Oh yeah, it also is right behind the temple with the festivities so you can’t sleep either.

    The townspeople are great. We were constantly given offers of drinks and meals from perfect strangers who were vendors or residents of Dansai. The best one was a visit to the home of a family who were connected with our favorite coffee stop. We met the 76 year old patriarch who insisted on dancing for us and who had better muscle tone than David or I. <>.

    On the outskirts of town is a sing/song bar located just after the roadway narrows from four lanes to two. Sorry, that’s the best directions I can give. They had some lovely ladies, one of whom I thought was quite special and she decided to plant herself next to me for a late evening.

    We were having great fun snapping photos in the bar and of her on the bike outside. Suddenly an IRATE Thai man came over. Although I could not understand what he was saying, it was clear my camera flash did not make him very happy. The girls intervened along with some of his friends and took him back to his table. After the situation had truly registered on my somewhat numbed brain, I decided he probably had a point and I approached his table to offer an apology and buy them a drink. Wrong move! The shouting started again, the bar turned on all the lights and it looked like it was going to be a full scale brawl with the girls in the middle. This was not high on my agenda so I came back to my table to see Davidfl sitting there with a smirk on his face. This guy’s buddies came over later and apologized and we all had a nice conversation. Seems the real truth was he was there with his Mia Noi and he was afraid that I would somewhere let the photos go public. Ironically we kept running across this group all weekend.

    Also beware when about every girl in the bar comes and joins you just before closing. As the lights come on and it is time too leave, they all try to make us feel bad that we have not given each and every one a substantial tip. Sorry girls.


    In the morning my young lady from the bar showed up at my room, no she did not spend the night, and wanted to take us to the temple south-west of town (after I took her to get her hair done at the beauty salon of course).

    The name of the temple is Wat Neramit Wiphatasana and is like nothing else I have seen in Thailand. It has large grounds with sculpted landscaping and flowers. The temple and its other buildings are made of red brick and resemble more of a Christian Cathedral atmosphere. Inside are murals painted around the main temple by a famous Thai artist depicting the life of Buddha. He has been painting for 7 years and estimates another 5 years to complete (thank you Lonely Planet).

    As we left the temple my young lady friend received a phone call and urgently wanted to get back and “party”, not ride with Davidfl and I. I only spent brief periods of time with her the rest of the festival, usually when she wanted a ride somewhere or tried to get us to buy more whiskey and beer. (This distraction/story has a point later under EXCUSES).
    Davidfl and I decided to go for an impromptu loop to Ban Pak Man and some other nice areas. We were both too lazy to go back to the hotel and grab helmets or sunblock. The resulting sunburned necks, faces, and in my case nose, later led to an uncomfortable night and showed another reason for wearing helmets.


    We gassed up in Dan Sai and planned on heading out on Sunday. David called me in the morning and said “You won’t believe what happened!” Seems the ATM machine decided it would keep possession of his Aussie ATM card. This meant an extra nights stay so David could retrieve it when the bank opened. 2 nights in Dan Sai was nice. 3 nights, a little too much.

    We got a fairly early start on Monday and Davidfl covers the ride home in his report. I have to add that the route 1239 was truly a blast. With actual boot scraping cornering and beautifully lush forests it is a ride to remember but not for the feint of heart.

    I was enjoying the ride home and actually saw a number of reptiles (more than normal) in, or crossing the road. Maybe it is due to the season. The scientific names of some of what passed are; Big ****ing Green Snake, a fast black mother of a snake, and a Lizard that runs on it’s hind feet, which narrowly missed becoming road kill from the Africa Twin. Also from the looks of my fairing and headlight I did my share to make the butterfly an endangered species.


    One of the nice things about the match up between the Honda AT and my Yamaha TDM is that we get almost identical fuel mileage. Many times when we fill up our pumps match to the baht/liter. Blasting home I was again daydreaming playing follow the leader when I saw Davidfl switch too reserve, I thought “Wow I’m getting really good mileage this trip”, when my bike began to sputter. No problem, I reached down to flip to reserve. “What? I am on reserve?” “Oh shit”. The TDM quietly coasted to a stop.

    It didn’t take Davidfl TOO long to notice I was missing in action. While I sat on the side of the road looking in my Thai/English dictionary to see how to say “Yes I’m **cking out of gas, why else would I be sitting here?” David went and retrieved a plastic jug of fuel. Seems I ran short 1km from the pumps. Why? I have no idea. Well, you see while I was filling up in Dan Sai I got a phone call from this girl (remember her?). Apparently with my thoughts elsewhere I didn’t make sure I got a full tank and I didn’t switch off of reserve. Oh well, it was only a few minutes break.


    All in all an enjoyable trip and we really lucked out with the weather. If you go it is nice to see the festival build up over the days as Davidfl says. But I would plan some loops or other activities because after a while the festival, which is disorganized to say the least, turns into what resembles a bunch of drunks in costume having a Halloween nightmare. 2-3 nights good, more than that definitely too much.

    The girl? Since I am home I have been inundated with phone calls and SMS messages in Thai only. Translated they APPEAR to say “I miss you very much and I want to come to Chiang Mai and be your devoted and faithful companion”. Why does the real meaning seem to read “OK I saw your wallet, now I want the bank account too!”. Answers next year…..ahh! Phi Ta Khon.

    Dave Early

    Ever notice that "What the Heck!" is usually the right answer?
  4. BobS

    BobS Ol'Timer

    I have done those roads several times before, and #1268 requires some creative route finding.

    There are at least 3 places where another road intersects it, and the new road is also numbered 1268. Never did get REAL lost.

  5. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

  6. cdrw

    cdrw Ol'Timer

    Thanks for the timely BUMP....and the informative TR.

    I've been trying to decide what festival to next experience, after my recent and
    fun trip to Yasothon's Rocket Festival.
    Phi Ta Khon was high on my what's next list. But, I am concerned about finding a room....for cheap charlies. I will likely arrive at least the day prior to July 1st. Any suggestions for cheap rooms?

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