Connecting 4 cities in 4 days of off roading Riders: Honda Honkey, BignTall Bikes: Lardy Honda XR 650, Lithe KTM 525EXC Route: CNX- Fang- Chiang Rai – Phayao – Chiang Mai Well after a few days of slothful retirement like living around Chiang Mai the road was singing to us like a cocktail singer in a jazz club to come join it. However the dirt was whispering in our ear like some floozy in a Karaoke joint, with a skirt that barely covered the bum, breasts heaving to burst out of a skimpy brassiere, and dragging her nails into the grey area where your thigh becomes your crotch… ……well you get the idea, we went with the dirt instead of bitumen. Yaaaay. Day one – Chiang Mai to Fang The day began at breakfast at a place where a lot of good (and not so good) ideas and rides originate, breakfast at Ians X-centre with the usual group of friendly faces to serve us brekkie. Hit the road to get off the road northeast of the Prem center and took truck dirt roads to our first stop, the thriving metropolis of Sop Gai, northwest of Mae Taeng (home of another balcony performing thriller but that’s a story for another board). Sop Gai's welcoming comittee about to initiate the XR with a much deserved golden shower. Once we reached Sop Gai it we filled up the tanks with fuel, keep your wits about you at the fuel pump as the gent operating it was learning off his Malaysian Fuel suppliers how to raise fuel prices between bikes and his math was as dodgy as Lukes late night acquaintances. Next stop was to explore some tracks to try and meander our way to Muang Khong. Lukes posted about some fun trails we did on another ride leading out of Muang Khong is detailed in another thread, some great riding around here. We left Sop Gai on a truck road that we thought would parallel the river; however it headed northeast away from the river into the jungle. Some fun tracks through this section with tires spinning out of all the corners and the day beginning to get into the groove. Ten KM’s later we hit a bridge that crosses over the Mae Taeng river. We enquired about how to get to Muang Khong and once again we were told we missed. Yep throughout life I’ve been reminded I missed the plot, missed the hole, and now missed the turn. The villager at the river stated the road did not go through to anywhere out the backside of the village. We did not confirm it so that means we’ll need another exploratory trip to this village to see for ourselves. We were told go back the way we came a KM and make a left and take the trail into Muang Khong. Dutiful gents we are we followed the kind mans words, who by the way spoke perfect English in this dinky hill tribe village. Sadly his command of our language helped us naught in gaining command of his jungle. Yep we got lost and dead ended into a river with no clear way to continue. The good side of this is it was wonderful singletrack to explore. Sort of like courting a dysfunctional girl, not what you’re really looking for but a hell of great time for the time being. Nice spot to get lost so we soaked it up pretending we were scouring the jungle for trails when we were just trying to figure out which way North was at this point. We backtracked again, hmmm beginning to see a lot of that already and the ride has just begun. This is why you need a gas tank that carries fuel instead of hints of fuel like the KTM. Exploring off road often requires numerous attempts up various trails to get to your destination. A limited fuel supply does not fill you with confidence when flipping coins about which trail to explore and not having any idea where it does and does not go. The left we needed was more than two Kilometers from the river (not one) and once again turned into some nice singletrack. If you hit this bridge you’re on the right track. Just pass this bridge is a fork in the trail. It’s at this fork I waited for the Honda Barge to make its presence known. I heard the burst of exhaust and knew Luke was gunning the phat pig up the trail, then like a fat girl post climax the XR let out a very uninspiring groan and passed out. Next was Luke’s comforting statement being whispered into the XR’s ear “oh for f___ks sake”, and I knew we would have a bit of quiet time for Luke and I to sort out the worlds problems. Seems the XR was learning the fine art of European whinging from the precious KTM. The XR in its post coital slump. The bikes are like Thai girls so when they threw a tantrum we just did as all good gents do….we ignored ‘em. Sure enough a few minutes for them to realize “hey, it could be worse, I could be picking rice in Isaan and living on a dirt floor” bought the bikes to reality just like it does the GF’s and all was bright and cheery again with the XR regaining its composure. Like the GF’s we never found out or could understand why the XR went into a tizzy. Onward through the fog. Next stop was Muang Khong for some drinks for the boys and a chance for the darker skinned Isaan Honda to attempt to chat enviously with the white skinned KTM about her lovely set of upside down forks. Luke applying the magic "abra kadabra" trick, the key to the XR's trademark reliability. We were trying to decide which way to take to Wieng Heng. There is a lovely piece of singletrack that goes but it involves three river crossings that you cannot ride through most times even in the dry season. Now being rainy season and we thought we might need a snorkel and flippers to get the bikes across so instead played the rational card and would avoid the river and take a truck dirt road to Huai Nam Dang then a right up and through doi Chang on into Wieng heng. In contrast to the fun singletrack the road from Huai Nam Dang to Wieng Heng is pretty sedate and not that exciting. It does however have a few nice spots for pictures. Having ridden this road a few weeks earlier pics were not paused for. The most excitement we had was trying to scour gas for the KTM. Just an FYI, gas in Doi Chang is pricey and the slimey guy sells it in two liter Coke bottles that are short filled. When Luke pointed this fact out to the gent by holding up a two liter new bottle of Coke next to his “two” liters of gas the difference was quite visible. This being Thailand the gent ignored the logic and refused to sell two honest liters of fuel. Bastard must have known about the needy KTM. Luke could snub his nose with his proper tank on the XR but the ever needy KTM had me bend over and get screwed without even a glass of wine. Rocked into Wieng Heng for some vittles and tried to figure a way to get the most dirt between here and Fang. We ended up choosing the dirt road that connects Wieng heng and the 1322 with the 1178 and ArunaThai. This is about 16KM of fast dirt fireroad with loads of drifting and tire spinning to be had. We came out to where the road turns to pavement and funnily enough I felt my motard tires on this dirt road worked as good as the knobbies. From this point on Luke and I were looking for a way to jump back in the dirt and find a way to cut off a large portion of pavement and come out lower down on the 1178 near a village called Na Wai. This is where off road exploring can become tiresome. Chasing down any road you see only to have it dead end and forced to backtrack, time after time causes one to eat through quite a bit of patience. Not to mention the gas and daylight that is wasted. We queried every villager we came across about ways to get from the northern edge of the 1178 near the border down to lower on the 1178 or even back on the 1322 but to no avail. Nobody said it was possible, we got more negative feedback than what Luke and I even get at the hi-so Thai dance clubs. If anybody has suggestions how to join up these roads we’re all ears. Sadly the exploring around and coming up short used up too much daylight and forced us to take pavement almost all the way to Arunathai. If you look at the map you can see where the 1178 comes southeast from the border and hooks up with the 1340 which has you do a U-turn and head back north into Aruathai. We were able to cutoff about 10kms of pavement by just cutting straight across the dirt in this section. The ride was a bit tricky this time for routefinding as we were in farming land and kept coming across dead ends but eventually got into town where we got some drinks and gas. I began fantasizing about tonights late night company a bit early. Whilst Luke wrenches on the XR. For those that have seen Robert Redfords movie the "Horse Whisperer" about a horse trainer that has insight into a troubled horses mind, Luke does his best Robert Redford impression on the XR. Sadly much like his insight into the Thai female mind Lukes draws a daunting blank. Then a look at the watch confirmed it would be pavement into Fang for an attempt at corrupting the locals. There is a very nice right hand corner on the way into Fang and the 107 that has a nice overlook. Luke and I stop hear often to plan the next ride we'll do, debate bike characteristic and other such worldly topics. The evening had us engage in the usual time wasting game of cavorting with pretty, white skinned girls in the hopes of lurid times. Why do we bother??? Then the evening changes for the better, we acknowledge a few brain cells and let the libido dictate, and do what every man does near closing time. Grab the ugly ones. And so ends the first day of the trip. Highlight being the singletrack from Sop Gai to Muang Khong. Day two to follow.