Ride report 24-25-26 july 2012 I am in the midst of a motorbike tour around northern Thailand and thought it might be nice to put a post of my progress on the gt riders forum. I was lucky enough to get to use a Bmw Dakar F650 GS, owned by a good friend and long time resident in Chiang Mai - though now he moved to Hang Dong. Back in 2002, I believe, we once toured around the Philippines by motorbike together and we share plenty of nice memories of that trip. I used to live and work in South-East Asia from 1999 to 2005, based in Chiang Mai, and have in the mean time - apart from a working trip in Cambodia and Vietnam a few years ago - not been back in the region since. I was now - during my one month holiday in Thailand - very eager to see if my - very positive - recollections of Thailand and the northern region in particular were somehow romanticed over time or not... After a first test of the bike, riding up the Doi Suthep, continuing on to Doi Pui, the hilltribe villages beyond and then down through the Lamyai farms - which for me is a rather challenging stretch of offroading in the drizzling rain - I found myself sweating at the Huay Tung Tao lake down an other end of the mountain. The bike did just fine : in Europe i ride a Triumph Bonneville T100, to whom I am very faithfull, because it took me from the Scottish Highlands to Spanish Andalusia and on some other adventures too without any problem at all. For this trip though the 650GS would perhaps be the better choice and I felt quite comfortable with this bike from the first encounter, so I was eager to set off. Unfortunately weather reports were not very promising. A tyfoon over North-Vietnam seemed to bring plenty of rain in about every northern province there is. The Thai TV weather reporters tried to prove their point by presenting this news in the most rainy and windy spot they could find, looking miserably cold and soaked - preferably with a wind-torn umbrella - to great dismay of the camera and soundmen I reckon. I hung around in Chiangmai for a few days looking up some old mates. Then I decided - finding myself in a rather rare brave mood - not to care too much about the rain - for I had very sensibly brought a gore-tex motorjacket and pants from my home in Belgium so there was nothing to worry about. So I ventured out on a first loop out of Chiang Mai via Phayao to Nan, next day via Phu Chee Fah to Chiang Rai, and the third day along Thatorn and some smaller roads back to Chiangmai. I had not done too much research before, and was keen to keep all opportunities open - but I had printed out the 'top ten favourite Roads in Northern Thailand' from gt's forum (of which - surprisingly enough - there are apparently twenty-five ;-) and had bought myself a Michelin Road map of Thailand. I am particularily fond of the Michelin maps worldwide because they are quite sparse with the famous green-lined 'scenic route' indiciations, so if you plan to come across one, you can be allmost sure it will be a great motoring road. For Thailand there was to be no exception : you will confirm this as you compare the 'green stretches' on the Michelin map with gt's top ten favourite road list : an almost identical match ! In fact I wonder whether... mais non, let us not upset the French parbleu ! For those who like to know the exact route : Day 1 R118 to Mae Khachan - Wang Neua - R1282 to Phayao lake - 1021 to Dok Kham Tai - R125? to Chiang Muan and R1091 to Nan. Day 2 Nan - Tha Wang Pa - 1148 to Chiangkham (wow, what a road) - 1021 to Thoeng - 1020 to Chom Phu - on to Phu Chee Fa via Khun Huai Kok (i think) and then south along the Lao border to Phu Sang - back to Thoeng and the 1020 to Chiangrai. Day 3 Chiangrai - 110 to Mae Chan - 1089 to Thatorn - Mae Ai - Fang - R13?? to Phrao (really nice) - 1001 to Chiangmai. In Nan province I used a drift hd720 camera mounted on my helmet to capture an impression of the experience - you can watch it here : Highlights during this loop for me were these : - The whole stretch from Phayao to Nan is very enjoyable : almost traffic free, curvy roads from the rice paddies in Phayao province - gradually rising up into the Nan province mountain scenery through increasingly sparsly inhabited tracts of subtropic dipterocarp forest with - in the monsoon season anyhow - clouds of mist seeping through. Just magnificent. - Any seasoned motorbiker will surely enjoy the 1148 road from Tha Wang Pa to Chiangkham. Is it simply as if around 50 travelled motorbikers - the kind you like to ride with - were requested each to contribute their most favourite stretch of bends they could remember - after which they were all combined into this road. ( I may have read this line somewhere on your forum and I am probably quoting someone else here, but I don't mind - being too busy putting my favourite stretch from the Portuguese Serre de Estrella mountain roads somewhere in between Song Kwae and the Yom river ) - The R12?? through the Si Lanna National Park : what a stunning and brilliant little ride, relatively close to Chiang Mai. Very exquisite indeed. - The amazingly beautiful smile of a gorgeous sensual thai lady staring right at me through the window of a video rental shop in Chiangrai - The Nan province has - due to its relative independence and isolation from the Thai kingdom during many centuries and the minimal impact of western influence and tourism - remained a very genuine and unique region. It's provincial capital will probably not win many beauty contests but is delightful to walk around in, especially if you do speak some thai language and like to socialize a bit. If you are there, do visit the Wat Phumin temple and take your time sit down to ponder over the murals. What I liked less : - realizing that while retracing my route on the map with a sizeable black marker, I actually unintentionally blackened out most of the road numbers on the Michelin map I am using, making it very hard to retrace these while writing this report.... - the rain soaking my book I just bought from Backstreek Book shop in Chiangmai (fyi : uncle oswald by R. Dahl) - the moment I realised the girl in the video rental shop in Chiang Rai was actually dreamily looking at a the reflexion in the glass shopfront of a poster of her favourite thai actor/singer instead of me. Will I never learn ?- I came to the Phu Chee Faa viewpoint at the wrong moment : to witness a sea of clouds hanging under the viewpoint down the cliffs overlooking the Lao valley, you ought to come during winter season early in the morning. I was there during monsoon season, in the afternoon and instead of soring above the clouds I was - as usual - with my head in them. The immediate surrounding offers stunning mountain scenery though. I already mentioned the small movie i made of the Nan part. I also took some pictures i would like to share, i will do so in my next post. While writing this i am already in Nakhon Sawan (having visited Phu Hin Rongkla on the way) as i am continuing my motorbike trip. I am planning on making my way back to Chiangmai along the Burmese border via Mae Sot, Mae Sariang and perhaps Mae Hong Son. I will report on this later on. Cheers and keep on riding.