On The Road Again: Chiang Mai - Mae Sai - Return

Discussion in 'Northern Thailand - Road Trip Reports' started by DavidFL, Aug 23, 2007.

  1. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    DATE: Thursday 16th – Saturday 18th August.

    THE WEATHER: Day 1 appalling torrential rain. Day 2 & 3 damp overcast, but dry (get that.)

    THE RIDER & BIKE: Davidfl on the trusty young Africa Twin @ 181,000 kms.

    THE WAY: Chiang Mai – Chiang Rai – Mae Sai & return (exciting stuff eh?)

    THE REASON: Time (1) for another stamp in the passport, (2) to checkout the wonky left arm again, (3) to do some more GPS mapping & (4) to keep the GT Rider flag waving with Robert H off to China again to complete his epic China ride. Isn’t anyone else riding or writing up trip reports (shame on you all.)

    ROUTES: 118 - 1 – 118 (pretty varied eh?)

    TOTAL DISTANCE: approx 600kms.

    THE TRIP. Got away from the super at 3.30pm & the g/f was not impressed. Why so late & such a rush to getaway? Well it was supposed to be a 10.30 am start, but one thing lead to another & that’s the way it goes. But when you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go.

    Actually one of the reasons for the late start was an oil & filter change. It should be done every 5,000 kms in my book, but alas my records showed that it had been 7,500 kms since the last one. And it was a bit dirty & that’s naughty for me. In order to kill time & 2 birds with one stone I decided to drop the bike off at a bike shop not far from the Kafe, where I would have brekky & read the papers first (you’ve got to keep your priorities right.) I had a 4 litre container of oil at home that I thought was about ½ full – not enough, so I picked up another 1 litre bottle to cover. 45 mins later breakfast & The Nation were done so it was back to the bike shop to pick up the bike, head home, pack up & hit the road. At the bike shop the mechanic said I needed a “bit more oil.” Ok no problem I’d pick up another 1 litre on the way home & top it up back at the house. At home then it was something of a surprise when I dipped the oil to see that it wasn’t even measuring on the dipstick! Oops I thought, lucky (1) I’m still not at the bike shop & (2) the bike shop to home was only a couple of kms. Anyway a mere 700cc later she was full of liquid gold – wait for it, Shell Helix Plus 15/50. Yep that semi- synthetic diesel engine detergent oil. Not the right stuff some of you might say but I’ve been running it in the Africa Twin for a few years now & reckon its ok (by my standards.)

    After packing the lap top in the Givi box she was a bit heavy, but I expected rain, & naturally did not want it to get wet. I also cursed my son who had my rain pants at work; & if he didn’t have his phone turned off he would have gotten a nice ear bashing. Instead it was a short sharp SMS & I would have to make do with the trusty RJays rain jacket & no pants!

    So I got way from the super at 3.30 pm, leaving behind a scowling suspicious g/f. The reason for wanting to get away today (Thursday), was that I planned to be back on Saturday & not miss MotoGP with the lads on Sunday.

    14 kms out the weather did not look to promising & wondered how far I would get before it started to rain & had to worry about whether to or not to put on the waterproofs.

    I only like to put mine on if it is going to stay wet & not just be a passing shower or 20 minute drenching that I can handle. I also hate it when I put them on too late & I’m wet already. Now with the wonky left arm it aint easy getting them on so, I decided that if I was going do it, it would have to be early, not in pouring rain beside the road & get sopping wet in the process.

    26 kms out then & just starting to climb the rain started to come down. Too far in the valley for my liking so I reckoned that was going to be it – put ‘em on now! This was a brilliant move because in another 5 kms it was pelting down & without a scrap of shelter I would have been totally drenched if I wanted to attempt a feeble covering up with the rain jacket.

    The mountain peak on R118 heading north to Chiang Rai from Cnx is 53 kms out & the further out I got the heavier it got. Eventually I was passing all the cars in the wet, even in the corners & was wondering what I was doing wrong? By the time I hit the hot springs & the valley on the other side it was serious torrential rain. I’d have liked to taken a few snaps as proof, but the camera was tucked up under the rain jacket & I’m not sure if I would have been able to get it out in the wet with my gloves on – it would have been a major operation & probably not worth it.

    The conditions were about as bad as I have ever encountered & I thought that perhaps it might be a better idea to admit temporary defeat & stop beside the road for awhile. Just what you need running in a wonky left arm I thought– aint life fun when you least expect it. It was quite an adrenalin kick for me & I wondered if I would drop it or not.

    With the cloud almost down to the ground visibility was extremely poor- low light, fog / mist & torrential rain. The visor fogged & was flipped up, then the glasses fogged up & you really could not see the road surface properly. There was muddy water flowing across the road from the road works, & it was difficult to know where the road went or what you were riding on! Just what I needed for running the arm in.

    My speed was down to about 40-50 kph & I thought about stopping. But then I remembered the wet riding pants & the boots full of water & decided what the heck, keep going regardless, don’t stop.

    I caught up to 3 trucks & was riding blind behind them for a few kms there was so much spray coming up. I fantasized that I was on the first lap of MotoGP for a bit! All I could do was follow the taillights in front of me & hope for the best with the wonky left arm. I made a couple of near fatal attempts to pass the trucks, & twice almost wiped out on oncoming vehicles without any lights. Indeed, amazing Thailand I thought - isn’t this a great country to live & ride your motor bike in. Never a dull moment & it’s what keeps me alive & ticking.....Eventually the rain slackened off a bit & I managed to get past the 3 trucks. The rain stopped just north of Wiang Pa Pao & I wound the throttle on.

    Charin Resort soon came up & it was time for a couple of cappuccinos & a couple of pies (donthold back when you're wet 'n cold 'n hungry). The place was deserted & I ended up having a lengthy conversation with Tim the owner. He didn’t know about Lao coffee, so I sent a quick SMS off to Rhodie slumming it in Xam Neua (wonderfully boring Lao town) with his nipper & 2 XR250s from Fuarks, to bring back some Lao. We’ll be back at the Charin in 10 days for some cheese cake & a Lao coffee!

    At 6pm I rolled into Chiang Rai, after a bit of a thrash down the 4-lane super to test out the wonky left arm. She’s ok at speed & able to hang on alright at a GPS (genuine) speed of 162 kph. So the Africa Twin's running alright & 600 kms later back in Cnx not burnt any of that 15/50 diesel oil.

    As usual I checked into the Nim See Seng, the fave GT Rider hotel in CEI (Chiang Rai.)

    At 500 baht a night I reckon that the place is excellent value for money: air-con, bath tub, carpet, and fridge, and cable TV, roof top restaurant with good food, folk music & massage on tap.
    Unfortunately for me I was somewhat knackered & immediately upon entering my room crashed out fully clothed-wet riding gear & all. 3 hrs later I awoke, showered & sauntered down town for my fave foot massage. My 42 yr old foot masseuse "sweetheart" was not there – gone home to look after granny. My pen rai, I’ll have the next one in the queue. This turned out to be Nik, a 23 yr old Lahu girl with a classic tight strong hill tribe body & no brains to match. But 1 ½ hrs later & 1/3rd bottle of Ballantines I reckon she was a bit alright. Not that she could drink or speak English, but a bit of a serious ting-tong & "probably" good value for money. I thought Id never seen her before, but she remembered me from 3 years ago, with my long lost brother & demolishing a bottle of Jameson’s in 1 1/2 foot massage process. It was a bloody good long inebriated massage & one that my brother firmly ensconced back home in Oz won’t ever forget – I always send him an SMS from the same massage parlour in CEI.

    After the massage was finished it was back to the hotel roof top for some steamed fish, a couple more drinks & into the sack by midnight! A record for me & clear proof that the wonky arm meant the body or the brain was tiring earlier than it should.

    It was 11.15pm when I hit the roof top garden, the singers ‘n music had quit for the night at 11pm, so it was just me & a few young college waitresses – all scared to speak to the farang who ordered his food in ”fluent” Thai. The highlight of the night for me then was when I’d eaten half the fish – one side & it was time to flip it over & eat the other side. With the wonky arm I was not quite able to get a decent hold of it, so needed a waitress to help me. They were already scared enough as it was, so it was quite an entertaining effort for me to get one of them to get them to understand that lung needed help turning his fish over. I’m sure there was a cheer go up from the other staff when one poor young embarrasses girl managed to understand & complete lung’s request to turn the fish over!
    20 mins later I was in bed, alone, snoring my head off, a very satisfied man. I was still alive, riding as well as ever, plus eating & drinking as well as ever. Sure beats working 9-5, Monday-Friday back at home in the west, or wherever I reckon.

    Brekky the next morning was at ye olde faithful, Chiang Rai Coffee. And with a name like that you know the coffee’s going to be good, & so are the eggs, bread &bacon.

    The staff are also easy on the eye. Plus you can park your bike right outside the door, take 5 or 6 paces, sit right down & order your food = convenience plus. I always use this place for breakfast & a quick lunch (if your passing through) in Chiang Rai. There might be better restaurants, but if you’re a biker & you want ease of parking, quick access & fast service (with internet), then don’t go past Chiang Rai Coffee in CEI.
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  3. StanGayuski

    StanGayuski Ol'Timer

    How long did you keep your rubbers on ?
  4. rene-s

    rene-s Ol'Timer

    Nice story David and great to hear that you are on the bike again. if you are around Chiangrai the next 3 weeks, please feel free to stop at our house, near chiangrai coffee, and take a lunch at our place, you,re welcome!
  5. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    Good too see you back in the saddle for real. Amazes me that after making this trip hundred's of times you can still make an interesting story out of it.
  6. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Silverhawk(& others)
    Yeah I'm back in the saddle for real. Only the strength & the pain barrier limit have to be improved. Mae Sai - Cnx non-stop is / was the current limit as the "whole" left arm from the elbow up aches like hell after 2-3 hrs.
    Next trip will be to attempt Cnx - Chiang Khong non-stop. I used to do Vientiane - Chiang Mai non-stop, but right now reckon that it would be a 3 or 4 day ride. So my current "dream" is Luang Prabang - Chiang Mai in a day, going via Houei Xai next year & then I know it is a full recovery.

    Funny but I almost always have a good ride & trip. Even after all this time here I find it hard to have a boring one. Even accidents have made them interesting challenges.

    Check out this profile of R118 & R1, Chiang Mai - Chiang Rai. You might sometimes think that it is a boring ride, being the main highway, but with a profile like that it's always going to be fun, either at the start or the finish (depending on which way you're going.)

    This place is so much fun as a motorcyclist, it's hard not to have a chuckle or two whilst riding, & then enjoy yourself in town at the end of the day. I reckon too that the older you get the better it gets. Ho! Ho! Suzuki Luke you've got a long way to go to catch up to Lung on the Africa Twin, & I hope that you don't have too serious a crash catching up.
  7. mja34

    mja34 Ol'Timer

    great to hear you are back on the road and the arm is on the mend!. those rain clouds look like the summer we are getting in the uk!!,but we are told that our bank holliday weekend it will be warmish and dry, about time.see you at the end of october and looking forward to some rides and i will be posting my reports, just have to make sure nat at piston shop has found me a bike!![:)]
  8. tropicaljohno

    tropicaljohno Ol'Timer

    Well done David, good to see you're getting fitter, well reading your report, got me up off my backside, and went for a ride. The rains down south have been so bad Khao Sok National Park was cut off by floods both ways. Hopefully we may get some decent weather down here now, as want to get out and about a bit more now.

    I like the update to the site where you can now skip to last post
  9. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Got another 8 mods I want done when & if I can find someone to do them up here.
  10. dirthonk

    dirthonk Ol'Timer

    great to see you back patrolling the 118 on the bike dave, inspirational stuff, and good luck on the chiang mai-luang prabang run in one day, now that would be a heroic effort!
  11. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    By 9.30 am Id managed to drag myself away from a 3rd cappuccino & the girls & was on the road – almost another record & time for a new master plan, as the one had been washed away with the torrential rain the day before.

    The original master plan had been to GPS more of the side roads between Phayao & Chiang Rai, with a night in either Phan "megatropolis" or Chiang Rai, depending on the pain barrier of the wonky arm; but once at Mae Kachan you did get the idea that it was going to be a very miserable wet ride going over the mountains again to get to Phayao, so direct to CEI it was.

    Mae Sai was the destination for the night. The weather was,” dry, but damp ‘n warm”, so I thought Id get some GPS-mapping in en route & while the arm was holding up.

    The first turn off was 6 kms north of the Kok river. R1151 to be exact & a nice rural back road, through booming villages out to Pong Phra Baht waterfall / forest park. No doubt this little area was booming as there were heaps of new mu baans, plus some magnificent private houses being built. Arriving at the waterfall I could see a Nat Park sign & gate up & thought, o oh, here we go an attempted 400 baht National Park sting coming up. But nope the place was deserted, with no one around. You’d think that might be a victory & I was going to get a free NP entry, but I recalled my last visit to PPB w/f was a significant disappointment = waste of time after a walk. So it was a quick turn around & off in search of a steep track I’d spotted running up the mountain behind the waterfall.

    You only have to back-track 600 metres from the waterfall, “chuck a lefty” & you’re on the road to Pu Kai – a neat Lahu village with stunning panoramic views over the Kok river valley.


    It’s also an incredibly steep track up to there & fortunately for me it was a concrete one. I was able to do it, but if it was dirt no way - there’s not enough strength in the arm yet to hold it up, should you get into any sort of trouble = just drop it man & hope you don’t fall & land on a shoulder again!


    Full lock either way on the AT is also a bit of challenge at the moment, so it was quite a spectacle for the hill tribe villagers to watch me doing a delicate, but safe 10-point U-turn (a few cms at a time?) at the top end of the steep slope. Silly old farang on his big motorbike they must have been thinking.


    If you’re ever in the area & want to surprise yourself with a view & a nice friendly Lahu village, then check out Pu Kai “sort of at the end of R1151, the Phong Phra Baht road.

    The next side road was north of Mae Chan & to the east, straight through glorious green lush rice paddies. You turn off in Ban Chong, onto R1083 for a gorgeous winding rural road that links up with Ban Dai, a big rural village with a 4 way intersection in the middle of no where. I get quite confused with the network of winding village roads in here, but if you’re looking to see some real traditional Thai rural life & kill time this is always a great area to potter around in: basically between Mae Chan / Mae Sai /Chiang Saen / Golden Triangle.

    Now right out here in the middle of nowhere amongst nothing but rice paddies is the totally bizarre Mountain View Resort with a big car park, cute concrete bungalows, a pond with a giant concrete boat & views of rice paddies & I guess the mountains in the distance. But nothing else – no guests, & just a caretaker gardener for staff I thought. My guess was the joint was a front for something, but exactly what I did not know – laundering money / drugs / girls. Check it out yourself sometime & have a chuckle – this is classic amazing Thailand! Turn off east in Ban Chong on R1 at large sign “Mountain View Resort.” You can’t miss the sign & you cant miss this outlandish resort in the middle of nowhere.


    By the time I’d done this the arm was starting to ache – bumpy rural back roads aren’t so gentle on a misshapen humerus head trying to work (grind) its way back into the socket. Once back on the super then it was time to wind up the wick, get some air flowing, get into Mae Sai for a rest ‘n a visa run to Tachilek to stock up on CDs /DVDS.

    The current GT Rider fave hotel in Mae Sai is the old Tai Thong. Cost 400-600 baht a night. For 6 you get carpet, a bath tub, fridge & cable TV with lots of 2nd rate channels from China / Burma / India & Thailand, but no BBC / ESPN / CNN. A disappointment for me as I like my news whilst resting in the room after a day on the road. I knew this in advance, & rode around town a bit looking for another good value for money joint, but could not find anything that appealed to me. The big plus at the Tai Tong is undercover parking & security for your bike.

    I still recall many years ago a couple of Honda MTX 125s parked at a riverside ghouse, that were locked but still managed to walk across the river on bamboo poles at night & were never retrieved. The rental shop in Cnx was not impressed & neither were the customers who had to pay up for the stolen bikes. Moral of the story don’t leave your bike out at night down by the river. Not that I think that it would happen with a big bike nowadays, but you never know & you don't want to be the one to find out.
  12. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Shyte young fellah, you did Hongsa - Chiang Mai in a day with a Mekong boat trip & that blew me away!!
    Actually I reckon that LPQ - Cnx should notbe that bad with good weather & an early start - should be easier than Hongsa - Cnx.
    7 years ago I did Luang Nam Tha - Cnx in a day when highway 3 was all real dirt! It would have been good to know which one of us walked the funniest after getting off our bikes eh?
  13. dirthonk

    dirthonk Ol'Timer

    yeah right weird feeling eh!!, chuck in 2 punctures and navigational problems out of muang ngeun which ended up in the riders being separated and it wasnt a bad effort!
    dave are these rural roads that you have on GPS going to go to print anytime soon. .?? without a doubt they are some of the most scenic and interesting routes around. but finding them and then trying to link them up with other roads can be a litttle tricky.
  14. Rhodie

    Rhodie Ol'Timer

    Impressive profile!!
    Congrats on being back in the saddle - but peaking at 60 clicks shows that you've got some staying power as well.
    But gaining a 1000 metre elevation puts you in a different league.
    Bravo mate & looking forward to a rumble together.
    Best wishes from Hanoi.
    Rhodie & Richard
  15. Peterxyz

    Peterxyz New Member

    Good to read your arm is improving. And a nice trip-report. I also like these maps & profiles in the report.
    Can you tell me if the mentioned side roads (like R1151) can be done with one of Mr. Mechanics Honda's CB750?
  16. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Yeah no trouble to do R1151 on one of Mr Mechanic's CB750s.
    Even the road to Pu Kai is quite ok - check out the pics. It's all concrete. The only tricky bit might be turning around at the top of hill on a very steep road = dont forget to put your foot down on the high side now!
  17. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    These rural roads will be on the new GT Rider Golden Triangle guide map when it is finished & printed, hopefully at the start of high season.
    Off again next week, probably with Big 'n Tall in tow for him to check out the sneeky slippery dirt trail link ups that I know about, but can't quite do. Too bad you aren't here to follow lung & learn some new mapping tricks.
  18. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    I'd better finish the story.
    In Tachilek I was disappointed greatly as all the CD /DVD shops were shut. Yep that's right all of them. Not one was open & there was not a CD / DVD in site! Unbelievable, & for such a free running market as in Tachilek there must have been some extremely heavy "politics" being played out. No one could give me a clear answer - come back in a few days, was the best I could get.

    I returned to my hotel room somewhat disappointed & had to make do with a copy of the Bangkok Post & Magnum ice cream for entertainment. The BKK Post must have been a bit tiring as I dozed off (crashed out) & did not wake up until 9.30pm.

    I was hungry & ready for a bit of a night on the town & no sleazy stuff for me down by the river 'n bridge.
    Trying to find what I thought was a good restaurant, I must have cruised Mae Sai for a good 40 minutes. My easy fave restaurant is the Labieng, straight across the street from the hotel, but town was so quiet that at 9.30pm it was already shut.
    I must have done 3 laps of town trying to suss it all out, & I laughed at how some of my riding companions often get disgruntled with me doing this. But I enjoy trying to get the feel & lay of a town. What I noted is that there really are a lot of Mickey Mouse joints in & around Mae Sai - probably not totally unexpected for a border town.
    Eventually I decided that the best area for me was out of town near the bus station, where there are collection of pubs, pub & restaurants & karaoke.
    I also checked the booming BM Pub Club, but figured they might not let lung in on account of him being over-age. Ho. Ho. Ho. (Actually it's my ears & hearing I value so much.) But for you young guys & babes, the BM is the place to go.
    I had a couple of drinks & a snack at the Country Pub, but decided it was not quite right for me that night. Eventually I ended up at the Umporn Resort & Restaurant, a fairly laid back open pub & restaurant, with low key music & some cute staff. The food & service here was good & next trip to Mae Sai this will be my eating & drinking spot. They also have a nice car park, plus bungalows that might be a winner over the Tai Tong.
    Now I was quietly minding my own business, eating, drinking & watching the scenery alone, with a male singer & his hot gal at the next table. The singer got up to sing & his lady friend immediately turned around to toast me. Surprise. I toasted her back. Double surprise. Uninvited, she jumped tables & sat down to chat. I had already ordered my food & was happily eating away, when food from her table was plonked on my table. O oh. Touch up coming I thought.
    She asked me if I was hungry, to which I replied I was & she asked if I wanted to eat. Strange I thought, I already was – half a steamed fish had been devoured.
    Before I could blink or reply she was spoon feeding me from her own plate. Bizarre in the extreme I reckoned. That was definitely a new one on me.
    Within in a few more minutes I was asked where my hotel was & did I need a lift home. Nope I had my own bike – the big one parked outside. I think she choked a little then, sprinted off to the horng-nam & never returned. Her bill came to 150 baht, but I never complained – it was worth it for the weird experience. 15mins later it was closing time & the cute staff came over to talk & ask if I knew girl. NO was the definite answer. I bought the waitresses a bottle of Spy Classic each, checked my bill & retired to my hotel still a dumbstruck by the whole episode. Aint life on the road fun when you least expect it. I can't wait for the next trip to Mae Sai.

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