Fang - Chiang Khong Loop

Discussion in 'Northern Thailand - Road Trip Reports' started by DavidFL, Apr 25, 2004.

  1. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    DATE: Sat 17th April – Tues 20th April

    THE WAY:
    (1) Chiang Mai – Chiang Dao – Fang
    (2) Fang – Tha Ton – Chiang Rai
    (3) Chiang Rai – Thoeng – Chiang Kham – Phu Chi Fah – Chiang Khong.
    (4) Chiang Khong – Payamengrai – Chiang Rai – Chiang Mai

    (1) 107
    (2) 107 – 1314 – 1089 – 1
    (3) 1 – 1020 – 1021 – 1155 – 1093 – 1155 – 1020
    (4) 1020 – 1174 – 1152 – 1020 – 1 – 118

    THE WEATHER: Very hot & humid & sometimes wet!

    Escaped from the city on time at 3.00 pm & not too bad considering the circumstances of the day, but that’s a long story.
    Picked up Dave “Silverhawk” at the Jet petrol station on the super & rode straight to the Chiang Dao area. Just south of town we took a lefty & headed up into the steep hills of Chiang Dao mountain. We rode around here for around 45 mins checking out all the new concrete roads that lead “nowhere.” Actually they turn into nice steep dusty dirt trails, and you can easily spend a couple of days riding around here. There are several links that go from the tea plantations near Raming Tea (1) down to the Mae Taeng near Mae Taman, and (2) around to Pakhia & the south side of Chiang Dao. If you like steep “gentle” trail riding, this area on the south side of Chiang Dao is good for a nice day going bush, a mere 60 kms out of Chiang Mai.

    After coming back down the mountain it was time to cruise the roads east of Chiang Dao & check out a few of my fave old time hill tribe villages. Mae On Nai was one of my original Lisu hill tribe villages I used to hang out in 10-12 yrs ago for Lisu new year and well it seems to have progressed a bit – the houses are more solid made of timber & cement / brick, plus they’ve got a few pick-ups. But to be honest the village is still real poor & the villagers are struggling just the same.
    Back on the road we headed North & then turned left at Ping Khong & tracked the road north-west to link up with route 1178 at Mae Cha. This is a real nice undulating narrow country lane, good for a change of scenery on the fast sweeping route 107 highway. From Mae Cha then it was back down 1178 for lunch at Rim Doi resort at 5.30 pm.
    The Rim Doi’s still a nice pretty impressive resort, good for a weekend get away with the girlfriend & / or the family.
    After a 45 mins lunch break it was back onto route 107 & north towards Fang. A short 15 mins later the roadside was alight with a serious brush fire & we got a couple for brilliant snaps with the bikes outlined against the wild flames. Silverhawk thought this was real cool, until the bamboo forest started to come crashing down around his bike & blocking the road.
    We helped clear away the burning bamboo & decided it time to make a fast retreat & hit the road again.
    Riding the steep hilly twisties of 107 in the dark was glorious fun, and with the warm dry conditions, its probably easier this way than in the daylight, as you can take more chances in the corners by anticipating that the lack of oncoming lights usually indicates that there are no vehicles coming.

    Once into the Chai Prakarn area it was pitch black dark with a massive power failure & no village or street lights, that lasted for 20+ kms all the way into Fang!
    Then checking into the Chok Thani hotel in Fang the power went off, & we both thought, this could be an interesting night. I declined to complete the full hotel check in, on account of a previous experience several years ago when the power failed & there was no power in Fang for 12 hrs. Not such a problem you’d think, but if you are ensconced at the Chok Thani you wont have any auxiliary power or even water for a shower or toilet facilities as the Chok Thani is a bit basic & has no water tank on the roof for a gravity feed, only an electric pump. Now if you’re already dirty & grubby & looking for a nice bath & peaceful sleep in an air con room – forget it, it won’t happen at the Chok Thani when the power’s out! Fortunately this did not eventuate that night & the power came back on after 10 minutes as we were debating whether to seek out another hotel that had auxiliary power plus some water for a shower.
    After a quick shower & freshen up it was down town for a 2 hr massage and nice meal at the Ritzy. After the Ritzy we hit the Krua Luang / Cheers pub complex for the last 45 minutes entertainment of the night. The fabulous red-haired singer & her band have gone, but the replacement band & 1 of the singers are really quite acceptable. Arriving later than normal & quite sober it was seriously good fun to watch all the little games & plays going between the inebriated customers. Fang’s always been good for a laugh & a decent night on the town, despite what you might think on first appearances.

    The next day we cruised the roads west of town, trying to work out a link up that might run from right down south in the Chai Prakarn area, north to and past Fang, if possible – we failed. And, I figure that it will take a full day at least 2 more survey rides to correctly work out the road network that exists to the west of Fang. If you’re cyclist I can recommend these roads, as they are generally undulating – gentle rolling hills through orchards & rice paddies. But believe me, with such a maze of roads it is very confusing trying to work out which ones to take! Good luck….

    After Fang it was north to Doi Larng to the west of Mae Ai. Route 1314 is the new number for this road now and it runs right long the Thai / Burma border to Tha Thon. There’s also an extension that runs south to near Doi Ang Khang, but generally this part is closed for security reasons, and also because you can’t get through in a car – the road has collapsed leaving only a 1/3 of the road, just a meter of two wide! Check out
    if you want to know more. And if you’re really interested, see the Doi Larng loops P64-65 of the Motorcycle Guide To The Golden Triangle book.

    Tha Ton by the Kok River was our lunch stop at 3.00 pm, after which we headed straight for Chiang Rai on 1089 & 1.
    We hit Chiang Rai town at 4.45 pm, which gave us just enough time to check into the Nimseeseng & get down town to the 3 Monkeys bar to watch the 1st MotoGP of the year. The atmosphere at the 3 Monkeys was pretty good, despite the fact that only 1 of the 3 farang monkey owners was in town. I'm actually not sure if I’d like to be around when the full 3-monkey crew is there either as it might get rather intoxicating in the extreme, and that could be a good night for some….

    Next morning (late), it was quick ride over to Chiang Kham on route 1020.
    R1020 is a nice fast flowing undulating sport bike ride, although the road can get a bit busy and bumpy in a few places.
    From Chiang Kham we back tracked onto R1155 and headed north. It’s been a few years since I’ve done R1155 and it used to be a real wild steep narrow tight bumpy very winding one. Now, apart from approx 14 kms of easy flat dirt (soon to be asphalt?) at the south end, the road is a wonderful steep “undulating” hilly winding one & a first class wide asphalt surface – in the top 10 in the North.

    Pic below: Route 1155
    R1155 is fashionble now because of its access to Phu Chi Fah & route 1093.
    There are 3 Phu Chi Fah turn offs from R1155
    1. Pha Tang
    2. Nong Tao
    3. Lapavee
    (1) The Lapavee one is the one furtherest south & the good easy super spectacular one. This one is also signposted R1093 & is the main road to Phu Chi Fah. Id also rate this as probably the steepest most spectacular road in the north, but it’s very short, being only 9 kms from R1155 up to the main R1093 road at Rom Fah Thai. This also makes it no trouble to do a couple of runs up & down for photos etc.

    Pic below: on the main Lapavee road up to Phu Chi Fah, looking towards R1155 (pretty good eh)

    (2) The Pha Tang one is furtherest north, rough & very steep for about 5 kms. The Pha Tang turn off is signposted & in Pang Had village.
    (3) The Nong Tao one is in the middle & has some steep tough winding dirt at the end towards R1093. It too, is also signposted Phu Chi Fah, but is only recommended for dirt roads fans, looking for something steep & a bit dodgy in places.

    After taking some photos of the road & views we headed north again on R1155 to Wiang Kaen, & onto the end of the road at the Pha Dai rapids on the Mekong.


    It’s a pretty neat spot here – good for a picnic with the family or the girlfriend. It’s also where the Mekong river leaves Thailand & flows into Laos & worth putting on your list of places to “see and do” in the North.

    We arrived in Chiang Khong around 3.30 pm, just in time to catch the end of the local Songkran parade & water throwing. Unbelievable it was still water festival! However as luck would have it we were able to safely navigate the back sois of Ch Khong get to our g/house partially dry – I got wet once.

    The night in Ch Khong was a good one. After checking in we hit the beauty contest & downtown party at the Haad Khrai. As luck would have it we ended up in the tent with the Lancang River Beer agent, plus the winning boat crew from the day boat contest on the Khong. We observed a few slightly inebriated locals stumbling around, sufficient in numbers to lead us to believe that entire town was drunk. It was a totally amazing scene, but also unbelievably friendly & good natured – no aggression whatsoever. Now try that in farang country & you’d have aggro & fights galore. Note here, that we certainly don’t recommend that bottled Chinese stuff called Lancang River Beer!
    Also as luck would also have it by the end of the night we ended up at the Madam Pub for a super night with the staff & customers.
    2 winners from the beauty contest made appearances at The Madam, & at least one of whom was a gender bender, plus the announcer, plus the leading dancer-singer. If you’ve never been there the Madam’s real entertaining.
    Also of note was the drinking rate we observed for a couple of ladies at the table next to us. One moment they seemed to be dawdling with 3 bottles & soda down against a mere 5cms of whisky, then 30 mins later we noticed that 1 ½ bots of 100 pipers had disappeared down their throats - they were well & truly wired up in a flash. By the end of the night the 2nd bot of 100 pipers had been demolished & by 2.00 am at the local kow tom spot, we observed that one of them was rather ill. How they & their mates got home, we don’t know!
    It was a good night in Chiang Khong.

    Keep the power on
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  3. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    The routes and locations have been covered in David’s post, but I had to add a couple of my own comments. Hate to be upstaged.

    One doesn’t realize how time consuming it is to GPS these routes for the maps. I have to give David credit for the amount of time he takes to assure the accuracy of all the roads he has plotted. We cover many kilometers but certainly do not set any records in the time between towns, due to a lot of circling and a lot of backtracking, but the scenery and the villages make it well worth the time. Exceedingly hot this time of year.

    I should have known after stopping near Fang for photos at the fire that this was not going to be an ordinary trip. It was a great photo op, but while I was hamming it up for the photos I didn’t realize all the burning bamboo was falling around me. A quick attempt at clearing the road and then a rapid escape.

    This was planned as two nights away, well nothing is ever as planned. After buying a couple t-shirts and socks along the way, and hitting the ATM I returned to Chiang Mai on day 5.

    It was almost longer as while I was checking the internet in Chiang Khong I received a call from David about 10PM. It seems he was stopped at the north end of town and the Africa Twin would not start. I found him sitting at an outdoor bar talking to a local who he obviously has known for a while. The AT was next door waiting to miraculously recover by itself I guess. David had his typical combination of “No worries mate/mai pen rai” demeanor. I found 3 wires from his regulator which had burned completely through. We did a quick patch job and it was good as new, well at least good enough to get to the Madam Pub (and eventually back to CMX).

    What a crazy place. The other times I have been to Chiang Khong this is just a typical sleepy little bar cum disco. This night I think half the town was intent on maintaining their drunk from the earlier celebrations. A people watchers heaven.

    The next day we found ourselves back in Chiang Rai about 5:30PM. David was all for a quick blast back to CMX despite a threat of rain and looming darkness. I decided I was not that anxious to get back and a return to visit some of the “friendlier establishments” we have come to know in CR was in order. Day 5 I made a leisurely return to Chiang Mai down 118.

    Well, May 2 we are off again for another “3day tour”. Oh yeah, another Moto GP at 3 Monkeys also. See you there?

    Dave Early

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

    BobS Ol'Timer

    Hey Dave

    Did you move? Chiang Mai is CNX, not CMX.

    Heading out tomorrow, see you on the 6th. Have a nice "3 day" trip. Hope David's AT makes it this time.

  5. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    Dear Bob,

    No, I didn't move, but if you weren't bringing back all my "M/C goodies" from the U.S. I may consider it before you find me.

    I don't know how I got along without your corrections and advice for the last month. Anyway, CNX, CMX, whatever, I will see you tomorrow. BTS has your extra helmet and also a ticket refund I believe. Have a safe flight.

    Dave Early

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

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