(Or..... doing the Mae Hong Son loop) Less than 1 week after returning from a 3 day 2 night trip up the “Top End” I find meself off again…… this time to do the famous Mae Hong Son loop. I had to check out a hotel in Mae Hong Son and arrange a few places for lunchtime buffets for our club ride in December, so thought it’d be nice to do the short version ie. return to Chiang Mai on the 1263 from Khun Yuam, a road I’ve not travelled before. I had been gearing up to do something completely off the wall like take my street draggin’ Yam XJR1200 on this one, and my buddy Greg was going to pilot his Ducati 999 SR4S Monster but the day before the off we had a phone call from another bud who lives in Pai who said the roads were not good at all and it looked like rain for the next 5 days. So, with Greg volunteering to take the car, I hung the leather ridin’ strides up again, packed away the lid & gloves and broke out the holiday travel kit: shorts, t-shirt, Crocs and washbag, and away we went! The route is a well documented well travelled one but I’ll mention the highway numbers for those who haven’t had the pleasure yet but want to….. this is part of one of my favourite rides in Thailand but I usually do it from south to north….. this time I felt I was doing it the wrong way round, but at least I got to see it from a different perspective! We headed north out of Chiang Mai on the 107 and turned west onto the 1095 just before Mae Taeng. Our destination this first day was Pai, as Matt, a good friend of Greg’s has a business there with his wife, so the plan was to join up with Matt and sup a beer or three. It probably took us about 3 hours to get to Pai, we weren’t in a hurry and stopped at a few coffee joints and viewpoints along the way. Awesome scenery and the roads were fine, only a few potholes and one nasty mud-slide just before Pai. Matt and his wife Nat are the new(ish) owners of Pai’s Burger House, and they have breathed terrific new life into the place. A traditional wooden shophouse, they have done some great work to it, and it’s looking really good. But that’s not all…… the menu has improved greatly and now features such delights as Indian Burgers (I had two!), Lamb Burgers, Aussie Burgers (with beet!), Veggie, Fish, Cheesy Mushroom, Chilli, Barbarian, Juicy Lucy burgers, and more! My God the list is endless! It really is a great place for good food, and boasts rooms for rent upstairs too now! Check it out on www.burgerhousepai.com We met up with Matt and allowed him to feed us copious Heinekens with our Burgers, then ambled off (as one does in Pai) down to the local nuthouse, the Almost Famous Bar, where we met the South African owner Messy (I’m sure that’s not his name, but it’s what he was so the name stuck!) and a bunch of other reprobates…… and that’s kinda where my memory stops! I know I got totally hammered, I know I watched some live music somewhere, I know I found my way back to my room in the Burger House at some stage and I know that I lost me teeth somewhere along the way, but that’s all! I do remember Messy has no front upper teeth and for some reason, in my Heineken induced feeling of goodwill I tried to get him to accept my three lower incisors as replacements…… and as I’ve yet to find ‘em, maybe he actually accepted them! Greg however is sure I swallowed ‘em with a pink Sambucca as I’d dipped them in it for some reason so I’ve had to keep an eye out during potty visits just in case…… well, don’t have to elaborate, do I? The next morning was a very delicate affair, with another spicy Indian burger to try to burn the hangover off, and a nice easy 4 hour drive to Mae Hong Son. Yes, I know it’s only 110km, but it’s very twisty and we were both feeling slightly under the weather! The scenery was, as before, gorgeous so we stopped about halfway at the Pang Ma Pha viewpoint for a photo shoot…… whatever you do folks, you must stop and take pics….. the views are breathtaking and it is just soooo cool to show folks and say “Yep, this is where I ride!” We got into Mae Hong Son early afternoon where I did the business I had to do reference my bike club tour in December, had a feed at the quirky Crossroads Bar and decided to hit the road again and head for Khun Yuam, 65km on down the road. By the way it’s the 108 now as the 1095 finishes in Mae Hong Son. We made for a small resort called the Ban Farang which was quite nice, cheap but definitely not cheerful as the owner is a grumpy old Ma who does not go out of her way to make you feel welcome. They were not doing food, had no beer and zero inclination to help us get either so we dumped our bags and went in search of a feed. About a kilometer south on the left hand side we saw a two storey open air restaurant which looked like a good possibility: went in and were very warmly greeted by owner Chuchip and his girlfriend Meay. We ordered gai pad met mamuang, pad grapao moo, pad pak bung fai daeng, pad pak ruam and a couple of ice cold large Heinekens and thoroughly enjoyed sitting on the top deck enjoying the view. The place was popular with local young couples and the food was very good. I had a long chat with Chuchip and he told me they will open some rooms-for-rent in 2 months time…… work has already started which was evident by the travelling builders in their hut enjoying a laugh and a bottle or three lao khao! Chuchip said at the moment they open at 0900 but when we discussed the fact he’d probably get custom from two wheelers doing the loop and wanting to get on with their day he said he understood the need to have breakfast available from 0700, and that’s what he’s going to aim for. So if you, like myself, will not be using the Ban Farang again, by early December there will be an alternative in this village, and if the hospitality (and extremely clean kitchen with chef wearing a face mask whilst she cooked) shown us by Chuchip and Meay is anything to go by, this will be a valuable place to take note of. Oh yes, the name…… Krua (kitchen) Nong Gatin. Go check it out. The next morning (this morning as I write!) we decided not to go on to Mae Sariang and in via Hot but to do a route which was new to me, the 1263 from Khun Yuam to Mae Chaem and then the 1192 and 1009 via Doi Inthanon, the highest point in Thailand, en route back to Chiang Mai. And bloody hell, I’m glad we did! What a route! It’s only 95km to Mae Chaem, but it’s awesome! The first part we christened the Cabbage Patch Run, because that’s predominately what’s being grown, and the second part was the Corn Run, because…. well, you should’ve guessed by now! Yep, sweet corn being grown everywhere….. literally everywhere! Steep sides of the mountain? No worries, plant some corn! The locals were out and about in abundance (should’ve seen the calf muscles on the buggers!), the cabbages were being cut, trimmed and loaded onto pick-up’s as we passed, the corn cobs being sun dried in front of houses….. the whole area is alive with green vegetation (rice in the valley floors, cabbages and corn on the slopes) and everywhere had quite a good feeling of prosperity about it. What a lovely route! After Mae Chaem we got into National Forest land, the heavens opened and we drove up to the highest point in Thailand to have a lovely view of a total cloud-out! Couldn’t see a bloody dicky-bird! No problem, it’s all good fun….. we headed off down for a stop at the Vatchiratham Waterfall which was in full spate and extremely impressive, stopped to buy a fresh caught hill-tribe pumpkin for some gaeng fuk and got home for a nice afternoon cuddle ‘n’ cuppa tea from ‘er indoors…… what a trip! Get off yer **** and get out there….. it’s awesome!