The MHS Loop: Checking Dirt Roads Trails

Discussion in 'Northern Thailand - Road Trip Reports' started by DavidFL, May 12, 2005.

  1. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    A short trip to check on some old & explore some new dirt trails.
    2 nights 3 days trail riding on the MHS Loop.

    DATE: Tues 3rd – Thurs 5th May 2005.

    WEATHER: generally fine, hot & a little cloudy, with 1 light shower.

    THE WAY:
    (1) Chiang Mai – Chomthong – Mon Hin – Khun Pae – Mong Luang – Mae Chaem.
    (2) Mae Chaem – Pang Hin Fon – Mae Hae – So Lo Sa – Mae La up – Mae La Noi – Mae Hong Son
    (3) Mae Hong Son – Huai Pong – Nong Khiao – Mae Surin – Pang Ung – Mae Na Chon – Mae Chaem – Doi Inthanon – Khun Wang – Sanpathong – Chiang Mai.

    THE ROUTES:
    1. Cnx - Mae Chaem: 108 – off road – 1088
    2. Mae Chaem – MHS: 4006? – off road – 1266 – 108 to Mae Hong Son
    3. MHS – Cnx: 108 - off road – 4009 – 1263 – 1192 – 1264 – 1013 – 108

    THE RIDERS: Silverhawk & Davidfl (minus a 3rd one who piked out as it was boring riding with old man Unkovich while he was mapping. What's the world coming to I thought?)

    THE BIKES:
    Picked up a couple of rental 250s from Tom & Jerry motorcycles. This was the end of the high season & there was no doubt that the bikes had done their work picking up loads of baht for Tom & Joe (Joe’s Bike team.) Read this as the bikes were a “bit tired” = soft suspension, poor rear brakes & “steel” seats (after 45 mins you sat on the frame!)
    This might all sound bad, but unfortunately it is standard for rental bikes at the end high season, such are the joys of riding a renta 250 in North Thailand. To get a good one, just make sure you come at start of the high season.
    This is also not a black mark against Joe’s Bike team, but rather an approval, as while Joe’s bikes sometimes might be no less tired than any other rental shop, they are always mechanically sound & seldom break down, unlike a few of the others. And true to form neither of the bikes suffered any break down or the slightest mal function in the 3 days on the road riding long hours on steep twisting mountain roads / trails. We were impressed yet again Joe, you’re a renta winner!
    By the end of the trip though, it was the seats that bothered us the most & boy did your arse hurt after several hours in the saddle. It’s been awhile since either of us has ridden a 250, having been pampered for too long riding our bigger bikes - 750 Africa Twin & 850 Yam TDM. And it certainly was obvious to anyone around that each time we got off the bike, we found it painful to walk the first few steps! Age might also have something to do with this, as I recall riding from Luang Nam Tha (N Laos) to Chiang Mai, non-stop in a day on a 250 Baja a few years ago & not complaining as much, but that was my own 250 with a nicely re-padded seat.

    Even happy Tom had a line for me as I picked up my bike: Silverhawk’s name is Dave Early, which would be correct as he is on time & early compared to you late (as usual) & behind schedule. So you must be David Late. I could not disagree with that & seem to remember it being a bit of a feature on this board several times. (The trouble is that none of these other guys have a happy voluptuous girlfriend singer who comes home late every night & wakes you up for a gossip plus some “slap & tickle” before sleeping.)

    THE TRIP DAY 1
    With our 2 handy bikes we got away around 11.00 am, just a tad later than my regular start time.
    My original plan was to take a run out to Samoeng & then head west-south-west to check out a trail that linked Samoeng directly to the Mae Wang – Sanpathong road, but I felt a little heavy that morning after a busy night with some mates in various bars drinking various spirits. The various bars were ok, but the various spirits were not a good idea or conducive for an early start & challenging dirt trails.
    So (unknown to Silverhawk) I piked out, took the easy way out & headed straight down R108 to Chomthong. This was nice & easy (boring) to give me enough time to freshen up.
    To the west-north-west of Chomthong there are some really good trails that run into the mountains & onto the west side of Doi Inthanon.

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    If you’re a bit of a trail riding fan, then this is one of the best areas for good trail riding in North Thailand. The whole area is crisscrossed with tracks that go high up on the side of Doi Inthanon & you could easily spend a couple of days riding around here. I have still not worked out the full network of trails & it is easy to get confused, if not “a bit lost” in here.

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    But from wherever you start off from you should basically end up in 1 of 3 places (1) Chomthong, (2) Doi Inthanon near the Pha Tang lookout opposite Siriphum waterfall, or (3) Mae Chaem & somewhere on route 1008.
    For this trip I decided to take a look at the Mon Hin – Khun Pae – Mong Luang trail (check out the MHS map to see where), one that I had not been on for a few years & was keen to check out again.
    Just before the turn off we stopped at the PT fuel station to fuel up both the tanks & the bodies. It was stinking hot, a bit cloudy & so humid with sweat pouring out from the various spirits. And we had not even got off the asphalt yet!
    Talking to the sweet shop assistant she asked why I was trying the Khun Pae road as it was still rough & one that you would not want to be caught out on in the wet. Yep that’s right I agreed, on one trip there several years ago we turned back because of light rain & a totally greasy track that offered no traction, steering or braking whatsoever. I explained this to Silverhawk & he sort of smiled – he must have been thinking the almost non existent rear brakes on the bikes?
    Anyway after a lengthy break & a full load of liquids on board we headed off. (I’m not sure if it was the sweet shopkeeper or the genuine heat & need for the extra liquids that kept me / us in the shop for so long.)

    You turn off at Mon Hin & after just a km the asphalt runs out & the road becomes slightly stony, steep, winding gravel. It’s a beauty & winds its way up a small canyon

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    to give some glorious views. Once thru the canyon the road changes to a grit like sand, then laterite.

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    Just follow the road in & there are no real turns, apart from one to Om Ting, (now on the right).

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    Khun Pae is 23 kms in, & there’s a bit of asphalt thru the village. KP is a large Karen village & a royal project site, so there is a bit of activity & development going on.
    Stop & have a drink or two in Khun Pae to get the feel of the place & you’re bearings.
    After Khun Pae it gets tricky, with numerous turns & a narrower steeper tighter trail. The road is also laterite & one you would not want to be caught on if it rains.
    Basically after Khun Pae you take all the left turns, except the 1st one from memory, & you should end up in Mong Luang. There’s about 19 kms of trail to get across to Mong Luang, if you get it right. If you don’t then you should end up either back in Chomthong or on Doi Inthanon by the Pha Tang forestry lookout…….good luck.

    Pic below: deforestation (what you don't like to see) on the way between Um Lan & Mong Luang.
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    If you get to Hin Lek Fai & then Um Lan, (both Karen hill tribe villages) then you’ve got it right & are on the road to Mong Luang.
    High up, there’s splendid forest cover & superb views with loads of fresh air gusting in.
    We lucked out with the weather – no rain despite the clouds building up the higher we went & it does get a bit worrying at times, as you know should not be in there when its wet!
    In Um Lan, we took a longish break. There’s a nice little village shop on the left as you pass thru, and this shop has one of the thickest solid wooden table tops that I’ve seen in a long long time. Silverhawk & I both had a chuckle over it & wondered where it would eventually end up. The Karen villagers were all cool people

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    & had a fun time chatting to the silly ol farang on their motorbikes looking for forestry trails to ride. The mature female shopkeeper was a delight & a truly amazing lively character. We could have spent an hour in the village but had to move on as it was getting late in the afternoon & more clouds were moving in.
    Between Um Lan & Mong Luang the road gets pretty steep in places, but nothing serious as there are no real switch backs to complicate the issue. In fact it’s all probably easy if you had any sort of rear brake for a quick dab to slow you down at the right moments.
    From Mong Luang it’s only 2 1/5 kms & your back on asphalt.

    Pic below: the asphalt from Mong Luang - to R1088.
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    On route 1088 & headed North towards Mae Chaem, I decided we still had a bit of time to play around with & took a dirt side road

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    west to Sop Long. This too was a little beauty as it runs out 14 kms, generally alongside the Mae Chaem river.

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    There are some wonderful views of the river, but the countryside on the road side is badly deforested & somewhat disappointing. However this does make for panoramic views & as we headed back in from Sop Long we were rewarded with some outstanding pictorials of Doi Inthanon in the fine late afternoon light.
    This side trip would be a real gem in the rainy season as beside the road there are heaps of little waterfalls, that must tumble across the road & into the Mae Chaem river. But we were in the dry season & they were all dry. A likely problem though is that the road is all dirt & most likely impassable in the wet!

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    Now if they could only asphalt the road, it would be a totally gorgeous wet season excursion from Mae Chaem.

    Pic below: the bridge across the Mae Chaem river in Sop Long
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    In Sop Long, we lucked out again, with a shower of rain, but were under cover at the time & so kept dry. The shower was also only light & short so that we had no trouble getting back out to the main road.

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    Pic below: R1088 heading north towards Mae Cahem & Doi Inthanon.
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    We hit Mae Chaem at 5.45 pm, hungry, thirsty & tired.
    Mae Chaem’s actually booming with several new guesthouse / resorts in town, and we opted to stay at the new Mae Chaem hotel Resort. The old hotel was a bit of a rat hole (& I could tell a few stories about over nighting there on the creaking floor boards, paper thin walls & cold showers), but the new resort’s got a nice clean pool & a bit alright (you’d think.)
    The other good option for Mae Chaem is the Navasoung Resort, a few kms out of town beside R1192 the road to Doi Inthanon. It’s got better food service & probably rooms, but no pool.
    We sat by the pool for happy hour & a snack, watching the cool clean pool & kids splashing around having fun. But both of us were too tired to want to change, shower & get in the pool.
    Despite the fact that Mae Chaem’s booming, the town is still bloody quiet quiet – arguably the quietest in North Thailand! Khun Yuam / Tha Ton / Doi Mae Salong have more night life, & only Soppong might beat MC for quietness at night!
    Unbelievably I was in bed by 9.45 pm & it was a shocked girlfriend who rang At 10.00 pm to check up & could not believe that I was already in bed – you can’t be alone & must have a girl in there with you!

    Actually I was not that sabai in my little bungalow, as I’d opted for the non air-con one rather than the “deluxe” air con bungalow. The logic being that
    (1) It would be nice & cool at night, so need for air con
    (2) I could do with the few extra baht
    (3) I was not expecting any company & so did not need to impress anyone.
    Foolishly I thought I was putting one over Silverhawk as he paid the extra 200 baht & got the air con hut. This did not quite work out, as once in the bungalow I found out that the hut was un-shaded, had been out in the sun all arvo, & so was warmed up like a microwave oven.

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    And unbelievably I could not open any of the windows to get an air flow & cold it down - one of the windows was jammed shut & the other two had furniture in front of the windows so that you could not even access the windows! Real fine you eh? The pink curtains, pink bathroom floor & wall tiles, complete with pink grouting, plus a blue plastic bathroom door made me feel as if I was in a little doll’s house. This was definitely not hunky dory, & there were flying insects in the hut with the one small ceiling fan not of sufficient power to even keep them at bay. At breakfast I was not smiling, but once he’d inspected the doll’s house Silverhawk thought it was all quite funny. Yeah yeah I thought, just what I needed after a long tiring day’s ride - a poor sweaty sleep under siege from flying insects! You can’t win ‘em all…

    Next morning it was breakfast out at the Navasoung & good it is. In hindsight we should have definitely stayed at the Navasoung & not the Mae Chaem resort, where the pool looked good (but we were too tired to try it!) We also had quite a bit of trouble getting our food at the MC poolside. The fried mixed vege dish was ordered 4 times, & still came out as a fried rice, plus the beer & the soda took a good 15-20 minutes to appear – you’ve been warned!
    What was good was the actual meal we had later on at the Khrua Lai Hin restaurant. This is a huge open air restaurant out of town, on the road into Mae Chaem from Doi Inthanon. We were the only customers & were a bit worried about what we might end up with. The food however as excellent & the servings huge - we only ordered 3 dishes for the 2 of us & just finished half of it! What was hilarious here was ordering & getting the attention of the female owner who was addicted to the Thai soapie on TV at the time. The TV was high up on the fridge & she stood less than a metre directly in front of the TV, totally glued to the screen. She could not even complete writing down a 3 line order without taking a break & standing in front of the TV, obsessed by the melodrama. And in the same manner, the 3-line bill took a good 10 minutes to write out. Not even Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein turning up for a meal would have distracted or motivated her to move any faster!

    THE TRIP DAY 2
    After brekky we chugged around Mae Chaem environs GPS-ing a couple of new roads & 1 trail, then headed west towards Mae La Noi via Pang Hin Fon & Mae Hae.

    Pic below: looking east towards Mae Chaem & Doi Inthanon
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    On some of the newer maps coming out of Bkk this is shown as a main highway with connections to both R1270 & Kong Loi / R1266 & Mae La Noi. I have not been out here for a few years either now & wanted to see what was going on & if it was true that the highways & connections were complete. To cut straight to the point – they aren’t & the connections are still “goat tracks” the same as they were years ago.

    Pic below: The connections are still the same.
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    What is new is that there is considerable asphalt on the Mae Chaem – Mae Hae road, oddly enough at both ends, with a good dirt section still in the middle. That asphalt runs 21 kms out from Mae Chaem to the road junction at Ban Pui / Pang M O.

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    Then dirt until another 10 kms before Mae Hae, then asphalt into Mae Hae. The asphalt is going from Mae Hae towards Mae Chaem. Silverhawk & I both noted that the asphalt application did not appear to be generous & we hoped that it was not going to be the final layer, or it would not last 12 months & the wet season. Good on you Dept. of Rural Roads!

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    From Mae Hae then we took the trail up the mountain a bit further to Se Lo Sa & onto Huai Ha & Mae La Up. 5 kms after Se Lo Sa the track links up with R1270 from Kong Loi (& I need to check this one out later on to see if how much asphalt is on the road from Kong Loi & R108.) At the R1270 junction we continued on the trail to La Ang Nua, then Mae Pi Khi

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    & eventually came out at Du La Poe, 12 ½ kms further on.

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    After Du La Poe the track improves & 10 kms from Mae la Up it is a pretty good dirt road.

    Pic below: Mae La Up
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    This puts you on R1266 & the asphalt starts 13 kms further at Huai Manu. From Huai Manu then its approx 12 kms into Mae la Noi & R108.

    It was around 4.00 pm when we arrived in Mae La Noi, took a lengthy break & headed straight for Mae Hong Son. Silverhawk would have preferred to go to Mae Sarieng, but I wanted MHS for some night life / good food / massage. The pressure was on & the ol 250s were wound right up for an excellent thrash thru the golden twisties of R108. I only got away from Silverhawk a couple of times due to superior road knowledge (that maniac quality?) and we arrived in MHS just on dusk, not tired but exhilarated. Yes sir a 250 is perfect for a thrash on the MHS loop as you can throw the lighter bike around a lot easier & so carry much corner speed. It really does give you a buzz!

    In MHS it was the Piya ghouse by the lake. One of my fave spots in N Thailand.
    Later on it was a foot massage at the Mae Thai to start the evening with the papers & a bottle of scotch.
    Then onto the Salawin Restaurant Pub. The Salawin’s got the best farang food in town, plus is a bit of a Hang out for the local NGOs, so you often get a decent farang conversation. Alan the pommy owner is also a bit alright.
    After the Salawin, Silverhawk retired & I hit the disco at the Baiyoke Chalet.

    The band at the Chalet rocks & most nights the place is good, except when there’s a crowd of boisterous obnoxious Israelis trying to run the show. And tonight was no exception. It was break time & a couple of members of the band, mates from Chiang Mai, came over to sit at my table & help themselves to my whisky (one of the perks of being a muso & certainly not unlike the girlfriend singer).
    Anyway during the break the band had some taped music on, when an Israeli jumps up on stage grabs the microphone & starts to sing & dance to entertain only himself & his mates. Not very cool I thought. The bandleader sitting at my table grimaces, quietly slips over to the back of the stage & turns off the microphone. End of performance & the failed Israeli Idol superstar sits down. But not for long, several drinks later he pounces back onto the stage to test all the microphones and manages to find one still switched on. The Israeli rabble let out a cheer & hey presto its shown time once more for our Israeli Idol, but no one else is impressed. My mate, the band leader promptly and firmly walks up onto the stage & switches all the sound gear off – is that a message or not. Still not good enough for an Israeli Idol fan, who stumbles over to our table & asks for the manager so he can complain because they can’t sing to entertain (their own little crowd.) What is it with these guys I thought? I’m glad he never asked me anything as he would most definitely not have been impressed with my reply, & WW3 might well have erupted. As it was the Thais handled it real well, “oh yeah you need to speak to the manager, he has just gone across the street to the market for some rice soup, you can go find him over there yourself & ask him if it would be ok.” Our drunken Israeli warrior staggered off into the street in search of the manager, only to return unsuccessful and see that the Thai band was back on stage playing at full volume & speed.
    That was enough for me though. I did not want to hang around any more annoying drunken Israelis - the air con no longer seemed to be working so well. So it was off to a late, quiet relaxing massage, then home to bed for a solid nights sleep in the cool air con without any flying insects.
    It had been just another day at the office………

    Davidfl
    Keep The Power On
     
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  3. rosmoe

    rosmoe Member

    Want to thank all of you who take the time to write down your rides through the north of Thailand. They keep me going until my return in Nov. ( now in the San Francisco area for 6 months or so ). I have used this info on several rides on my last stay in Thailand, you guys are "right on" on all the road, guest house, restaurant & scenery info. Can't wait to get back & check out the roads around Nan. Thanks again!!!!!!! Bill Moeller
     
  4. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    THE TRIP DAY 3
    Breakfast at the Lucky Restaurant & this was a good one too.
    Silverhawk & I are both resident in Thailand & semi-native, but both still insist on a decent farang breakfast, & the Lucky has one. The staff are also easy on the eye, which helps make a good start to the day. The Lucky is next to the Salaween, but the Salaween is not open early (Alan’s place is for night owls), & as it’s not much chop at the Piya either, it’s the Lucky for brekky. Check it out next time in MHS (tell the gorgeous owner that David sent you for some extra brownie points!)

    The weather looked ok, reasonably fine so we headed south to check out a new road – one I’d wanted to look at for quite a while. This is a new trail that runs into Mae Surin waterfall the back way & is absolute little ripper – as steeps as (probably the steepest so far in North Thai), with switchbacks, good altitude, a run along forested ridgelines, plus road work just to complicate the issue. It is also one that you certainly would not want to do if it was wet, as you could be stuck in here for a day or two!

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    But before that we checked out the Pha Bong waterfall, a little east off R108. The road in here is narrow tight smooth asphalt. The scenery is gorgeous & most likely the waterfall will be a very very pretty one in the wet season, when there is some water!

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    Make sure you check it out if you are in the area.

    The turn off for the Mae Surin trail is clearly signposted with a bright blue highways dept sign, indicating Nong Khiao & Mae Surin W/fall, approx 3 kms south of Huay Pong.

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    Whilst its might be a big bright highways dept it certainly aint no big highways dept road once you turn off R108.

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    We got to re-confirm all this just 500 metres in at a checkpoint where we were asked where we were going & then advised that well maybe we couldn’t get through because of the road works ahead, but it might be ok on a small dirt bike. Pretty specific eh? Silverhawk & I both thought well that actually sounds a bit inviting, so let’s suck it & see what happens. (I thought that if anything it would be some bulldozers making a new cut through the mountains & we might have to hang out for a bit while the boys cleared a path thru for us.)

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    Within 2 kms of leaving the checkpoint the roads get a bit unreal, a series of extremely steep slippery gravel switchbacks. These are the steepest I’ve been on in North Thailand, & there aren’t any photos of them because weren’t prepared to stop & snap away.

    Pic below: GPS evidence of the steep road below.
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    If you did attempt this, then I doubt if you’d be able to hold the bike & stop it from sliding back down the mountain. After about 2 kms,

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    the road “levels out” slightly & runs along a steep ridgeline to reach a T-junction 11 kms from R108.

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    It was along the ridgeline that we encountered the road works – wet concrete – the total width of the track.

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    At first we were a bit unsure what to do, but the road crew started yelling & waving out to take the bush trail, only we could not see one. We had to get off the bikes to find it, a foot track down the side of the hill into a dry stream, along the stream, & then back up onto the road.

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    Now I knew why at the checkpoint they said you might not be able to get through – certainly on 4 wheels it was impossible & would you ever be pissed off coming in that far, only to have to turn around & go the same way back out (and what an ear bashing you’d get at the gate for the giving out the wrong info). There was a series of 3 sections of wet concrete to avoid & after the 3rd one, we considered ourselves much better trail riders.
    It’s real weird riding out there in the jungle to suddenly come across sections of concrete or asphalt road in the middle of nowhere, seemingly for no reason.

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    But if you’ve ever wondered about it, my theory is that they slip on the cement / asphalt in the places where they have the most trouble in the wet season. And if you’ve ever wondered why the asphalt / concrete never seems to quite run into the village, but always stops just a bit short – my theory is that the missing bit is always close to 30% of the total distance. And the 30% missing = the 30% tea money paid to get the contract!

    At the T junction there was a road crew camp & the boys slaving away mixing up concrete in a generator powered mixer / come cart.

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    It was quite a trick machine & one that well served the purpose out there in the boonies. We were impressed.
    Anyway at the T-junction, you have a choice, left or right – if you know where you’re going.
    If you take the right one you head straight to Mae Surin w/fall8 kms away.

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    If you take the lefty you’ll end up in Nong Khiao & the lake 4 ½ kms away.

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    Then from NK you can continue on to loop around another 14 kms & link up with Mae Surin w/fall.

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    Both these roads are good forestry trails “ nice laterite” - ones that you certainly would not want tom get caught out in the wet.

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    Then from MS W/fall it is 8kms before the asphalt starts & then runs onto R1263 & the Khun Yuam –Mae Chaem road.
    By the time we got to the asphalt it was 3.00 pm & we were pretty shattered. I bought a pack of cold tablets & scoffed down the pills to help with the bum pain. Even Silverhawk did not decline, which is saying something. 30 mins later we took a lengthy break in Pang Kia, the big Hmong village on R1263.

    Pic below: Stopped in Pang Kia (at the zebra crossing?)
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    We had been riding pretty much non-stop since we first hit the dirt at 10.30 am. Indeed it was difficult just getting off the bikes, our Baja arses were so sore! I ate my mama noodles standing up, which amused the Hmong gals & guys considerably – silly old farang.

    Pic below: R1263 Pang Kia - Ma Na Chon (worth a ride!)
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    From then on it was a bit of a race & a non-stop ride back to Chiang Mai – because we most definitely did not want another night in Mae Chaem (& the doll’s house for me.)
    After a quick break in MC for fuel & a couple of sponsors it was straight on up R1192 & Doi Inthanon. R1192 is such an adrenalin rush, that we both forgot out sore arses in this section. You come out near the top of Doi Inthanon & then its an easy run down, except I wanted to do more little GPS run – route 1284 thru Khun Wang & into the Mae Wang valley & R1013 to Sanpathong. By the time we got to R1013 it was already dark & we were both glad that there is only 8 kms of dirt left on R1284 from Khun Wang to R1013.
    The final run into town got a bit messy as we were both somewhat tired & instantly bothered by the traffic on the road – its funny how you get used to no traffic on the jungle roads & then are immediately stressed out when thrown back into the real motorized world with cars all around you.
    We arrived at the ol Kafe hang out around 7.30 pm, extracted ourselves from the bike seats, had significant drink & snack stop, then went home to collapse in bed.

    Pic below: outside The Kafe
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    It had been another good day at the office.

    This is Part 1 of "The MHS Loop: Checking Dirt Roads & Trails."
    Part 2's been surveyed (but not written up & tomorrow I'm off on Part 3.

    Davidfl
    Keep The Power On
     
  5. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    PART II: THE MHS LOOP: CHECKING DIRT ROADS & TRAIL

    DATE: Friday 13th – 15th May 2005

    THE WEATHER: Sunny - overcast & what you’d expect for the tropics.

    THE RIDERS: The same team, Silverhawk & Davidfl

    THE BIKES: 250s rentas from Tom & Jerry again. Silverhawk’s got the same bike & I’ve got lucked out with another special. The motor was real crisp, the brakes supposedly improved although Silverhawk disagreed & so I had no real complaints about mine, except that it was the worst seat I’ve ever sat on. You can’t win em all…

    Pic below: bike with special high tech seat padding
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    THE WAY:
    (1) Chiang Mai – Chomthong – Pa Kluai – Khun Pae – Hot – Mae Sareing
    (2) Mae Sarieng – Khun Yuam via dirt side roads
    (3) Khun Yuam – Mae Hong Son – Huai Poo Ling – Wat Chan – Samoeng – Chiang Mai

    THE START: An earlier one than the last one & one that did not work out on account of a later & lengthier breakfast in the cool air con of Ratana’s Kitchen discussing possible trails & BobS' new BMWF650 with BobS himself.

    THE TRIP DAY 1: So the planned 9.30 am start materialized at 11.30 am, 1 hr later than last week’s start & a mere 2 hrs later than the original planned start for the 2nd survey. You can tell the boys were under real pressure with starts like that eh?
    Out on the super it was flat stick all the way to Chomthong on the 4-lane & at the first pit-stop (the PT gas station)after Chomthong we both agreed that it had been one of the worst runs ever out of town. Numerous times we had both been cut off, all in almost unbelievable stupid situations, probably just to confirm that it was indeed Friday the 13th. I had suffered more than Silverhawk due to the fact that I’d only had 4 hrs sleep the night before, on account of the happy go lucky girlfriend singer, & had great trouble maintaining any sort of concentration.
    Its funny how it goes, but when you’re tired you tend not to look too far down the road to where you are going to end up, but instead look directly in front of you where you are. This is not the way to ride / drive & something I’m always reminding the happy go lucky singer girlfriend when she is driving her car in the mountains.
    Anyway the pit stop

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    was not so long as the sweet gal from the previous week was not on duty, so Silverhawk headed straight off into the hills to check out an old trail.
    This is the Pa Kluai road (Check out the MHS Loop map grids 8 & 9F) & used to be one of my favourites as a day trip from Cnx many years ago. Well the Hmong are still living up there on the mountain on the same ridgeline, growing cabbages everywhere, but there certainly is nowhere was near as much traffic using the road as there used to be. So it’s a "good road" & it starts off a bit gravelly

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    & does get a bit steep in places, then runs along the ridgeline for a bit, then climbs steeply up on 2 concrete tracks.

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    Its obvious why the concrete is there, as in the wet you’d probably never make it up (or down). Once on the ridgeline, its kinda eerie as all the trees are wrapped in yellow / orange "monks robes"

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    to protect them against the cabbage growers.
    Several years ago the lowland Thais got a bit tired of the Hmong cabbage farmers chopping down the forest & destroying the watershed, so that the streams below ran dry in the hot season. Rightly pissed off, the lowland Thai farmers went up the mountain to sort out the Hmong, & unfortunately things got a bit unpleasant with the police / army called in to cool the situation down. The end result was that the Hmong were told to restrict their cabbage growing activities & leave the forest alone. And just to remind the Hmong that it was naughty to chop down the trees, the trees were wrapped in orange cloth to protect them against both the Hmong & evil spirits. It works & make sense, right? Check out the pics below:

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    In Pa Kluai we took a brief drink stop

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    then headed off to find the track, or tracks to link up with the Khun Pae trail from last week. After Pa Kluai the road winds

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    through rice paddies & cabbage fields,

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    then drops off for several kms is just a 4WD trail through the forest.

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    There are several turns to make & we only lucked out with the right one as we met a couple of monks

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    who sent us on what we thought was most definitely a rougher one & not the right one, but it was.
    30 minutes after Pa Kluai Friday the 13th hit again, & it started to rain, with the track nice & greasy. I immediately cursed my worn rear tyre when I got into a downhill slide & Silverhawk cruised past smiling. Smart arse I thought, then I saw a Honda Dream coming uphill towards me. Both the rider & pillion were females, wearing thongs & Mum wearing a sarong, sitting side saddle on the back. I could not believe it! So much for the big great white motorcycle adventurer all kitted up on his 250 Baja off road machine – it must be time to brush up on the greasy road skills.

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    We kept plugging along in the slime & eventually linked up with our tracks from the previous week, so at last we were on the right road. But incredibly neither Silverhawk or I recognized the road – it had changed so much & now was muddy, rutted & with water filled pot holes. Quite unsure I zoomed right down on the GPS to 20 meters & sure enough it was the right trail!

    Once we dropped down off the mountain into Khun Pae the rain stopped & we increased the pace (to keep up with the Honda Dreams?) to run back out through the small canyon & onto R108.

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    A quick break was taken in Hot for fuel & a chain lube, and more importantly to put the water proofs on. We were heading for Mae Sareing for the night & the Hot – Mae Sarieng roads climbs high into the mountains & more than likely into the clouds & rain.

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    And indeed it did rain making the road wet & more than greasy (see pics below.)

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    Arrival time in Mae Sarieng was around 6.30 pm, “happy hour” time for me, & I stopped off at the MS’s # 1 liquor shop on the way into town. (If you’ve got a copy of the MHS map it’s between the Lotus Hotel & The Mitaree, heading into town from the super.) The shop’s pretty funky really, & before I could make a selection I was offered a glass of whisky by one of the shopkeeper’s mates, sitting outside drinking. It didn’t taste that great & one that I could not identify. The shop is a pretty old one, & has some real classy whisky labels: West End, McNairs, Glen Castle, Noble Scots, Scots Lair, Christian Bros (brandy), Gun, & the best one “Super Scotch” all for around 200 –250 baht a bottle. I almost bought the Super Scotch as a gift for BobS (the whisky connoisseur) but decided that he would not appreciate the humour. So out of blind respect for BobS my final choice was good ol' Ballantine’s (43% proof) & at a mere 450 baht. Old stock & old prices = a bargain.

    We checked into the Riverhouse resort, showered, sat out on the terrace to read the day’s papers & had a nice relaxing drink after a hard day in the saddle.
    Dinner that night was down by the river at the Khrua Bai Mai, which has the best food & atmosphere in town. There’s a sweet young waitress there who looks like she’s only 14 or 15, but insists she’s 18 & likes to drink Spy cooler. At the outset she claimed she could drink 4 or 5 bottles a night, but after the 2nd bottle we paid the bill & left her somewhat inebriated.
    Silverhawk cruised town for awhile & I headed for the “Paradise” bar, down by the Christian Hospital. It’s a new nightspot in town & probably the only decent place to go in MS for a late night drink. I started off ok here, chatting up a nice group of hot gals out & about for the night, when they all suddenly left, holding hands & arms & kissing, it was then that I realized it was a group of sweet lesbians. I’ll know better next time. Disappointed I headed back to the Riverhouse & my room to watch TV alone for the rest of the night.

    A Thai / Chinese restaurant sign in Mae Sarieng
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    THE TRIP DAY 2
    The day was filled in with
    1. GPS-ing some of the rural back roads around Mae Sareing
    2. A short run N-W out along the Sao Hin road.
    3. A short run E to an old quarry
    4. Getting a new rear tyre & tube fitted.
    5. Checking out the site of the new Kaeo Komol cave, east of Mae La Noi.

    The Sao Hin road is probably the longest dirt road left in the North & runs out to the Burma border, N-W of Mae Sarieng. It runs thru the Salaween Wildlife Sanctuary & has excellent forest cover & few villages.

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    Unfortunately we ended up on this accidentally without a full tank of fuel to do a return trip, so turned back after riding out for 40 minutes. The route # is R3005

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    & at the start, there’s good asphalt, that runs out just past the Wildlife Sanctuary headquarters. After that it’s dirt & impressive – a big wide road, suitable for big trucks & (probably tanks?), but going on what we saw it should be quite a mess in the wet & serious 4WD stuff in many sections.

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    We chugged along here for quite a while, dodging herds of cattle coming in from Burma. One of these had blue horns.

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    Yep that’s right, blue horns. My guess is the horns were painted blue to differentiate that particular herd. Sounds quite logical, but the first time you come across them, its pretty weird & you have to wonder if they’ve just dropped in from another planet for a stroll down the road.

    The quarry road was a real tight steep little beauty, but on which I discovered that my rear tyre was badly under inflated. On a rougher section I thought that I’d felt it “pop” with the back end not handling so well. Twice I stopped to take a quick look at the tyre while still on the bike & thought it was ok. However at the quarry I dismounted to take a proper look & it was way down. Silverhawk was amused, but not I. We beat a hasty retreat all the way back into Mae Sarieng where I had both the tube & tyre changed. The rear tyre was worn way down & I did not want to tempt fate by picking up nails on a bald tyre or struggle on any greasy wet roads that might eventuate.

    Khun Yuam was our destination for the night, but before then we checked out a couple of side roads, plus the site of the “new” Kaeo Komon Cave.
    This cave is just near a large quarry, a few kms east of Mae La Noi & just off R1266.
    The cave was only found a few years ago, because of some tunneling being done for the quarry. So Mae La Noi’s now got a tourist attraction.

    Pic below: the cave entrance, "impressive" eh?
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    The road to the cave is concrete & seriously steep for the last 500 metres. It is also incredibly well signposted with an amazing assortment of road signs.....

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    Originally we did not intend to check out the cave, as we had all our riding gear on & no lights, but a female guide came along with a torch so we thought why not. However just as were about enter the cave, we were joined a group of Thais & it was obviously that it was going to be "the grand tour" in broken English with a single flash light shared by 6 people. It would also take 20-30 minutes for the tour, so Silverhawk & I both decided to skip out – we only wanted to walk through the cave quickly in 10 minutes, get back on our bikes & hit the road.

    Between Mae La Noi & Khun Yuam we checked out another couple of side roads, but discovered nothing great or new.

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    In Khun Yuam we stayed at the Ban Farang ghouse. The Ban Farang is a pretty nice ghouse in one of North Thai’s quietest towns (after Mae Chaem) & it was quiet.

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    We were the only customers at Ban Farang, had a good meal, although Silverhawk was not 100% sure about his tuna spaghetti. We checked out the local karaoke, but left after a single beer to be in bed by 9.30 pm (my normal meal time & just the start of the night for me in Cnx!)

    THE TRIP DAY 3
    Up super early (7.30 am) for coffee & on the road, straight to Mae Hong Son.
    Breakfast at the Lucky, where I was reminded by Silverhawk that we’d come to ride & not gossip with the staff.
    The weather looked ok, so I decided it would be ok for a crack at the Mae Hong Son – Huai Poo Ling – Wat Chan road. Then at Wat Chan I would re-assess the situation & either head for Cnx or Pai. The deciding factor would be whether I could reach Cnx in time & watch Sunday’s MotoGP or not. Silverhawk was heading for Cnx regardless, but for me I needed my MotoGp fix first & if Cnx was going to be too far away, the I’d head for Pai instead of Cnx.

    The MHS – HPL – Wat Chan trail is one of the more remote beautiful trails in the North

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    & another one that I’d not been on for a few years (too much time in Laos the last 2-3 years!)
    The rumours are that it might end up being the new super highway short cut from Cnx – Mae Hong Son, so I was real interested to see what sort of road development had been going on.

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    And it was not a lot. Indeed if something ever happens then someone has run a huge scam to cream millions of baht for a road that is totally unnecessary. (Unfortunately such is life in Thailand nowadays, that more than likely they will succeed as the amount of corruption & money to be had will be over powering!)

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    If you’ve not been on this trail for a few years, then there has been considerable road improvements at the west MHS – HPL end, but from HPL to Wat Chan it is still the road and pretty much untouched.

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    At the west MHS end the road number is R3006 & at the Wat Chan end it is R5032. Exactly where it changes over could be anyone’s guess.

    At the MHS end, it is still an incredibly steep climb from R108 up to the ridgeline.

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    Just about all of this is either concrete or asphalt, then at the top there’s an impressive little cut through the crest of the hill,

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    before the asphalt runs along the ridgeline a short way, then dramatically changes to dirt & plummets straight down into the Karen village of Nam Hu. All good stuff & you descend in 3kms what you’ve gained in 15 kms coming up the other side from R108.
    From Nam Hu on its all good forest, with the road alternatively steep dirt

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    or steep concrete

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    all the way to Huay Poo Ling.

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    HPL is a gorgeous Karen village, in a steep little valley in a what must be one of the most remote / isolated parts of North Thailand.

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    East of HPL the “road” is still an untouched forestry track

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    sometimes rough & as steep as anything in many places. It would be absolute hell if you got caught out here in the wet, so if there’s any rain around – DON’T GO!
    Unbelievably as good as the forest was, there were sections of bad deforestation from crops being planted.

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    I dread to think how fast it will all go, once & if they ever build a real (& unnecessary) road through here. At a wild guess, it would all be gone within 2 years with terrible consequences for the Pai river, MHS province & its tourism industry.

    Not having been on the road

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    for a couple of years there was one section between HPL & Huay Poo Leoy that I was unsure of

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    but as we had not seen any turns of note continued on. Eventually we descended a steep trail, that had looked vaguely familiar, to end up in Huay Poo Leoy.

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    The Karen villagers were particularly cool, so we took a break hanging out at the village shop with everyone else.

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    There was no doubt here that the villagers lacked salt in their diet, as several elder people had huge goiters around their necks.

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    From Huay Poo Leoy to Huay Tong the road is considerably better – rolling hills & not steep. What was fun here was following a young Karen couple on their Honda Dream carrying a laundry basket with the clothes on coat hangers blowing in the wind as they rode along. It was almost surreal & exactly what they were doing or going to we could not figure out. Perhaps it was just a Sunday picnic ride, & with no kids, they were taking the washing for a ride?

    Once in Huay Tong

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    the road is good dirt & just a few kms to Wat Chan.
    Arrival time in Wat Chan was 2.00 pm, so it should have been plenty of time for the run into Chiang Mai & the MotoGP. This almost didn’t work out as the supposed new asphalt from Wat Chan to Samoeng still had a 40 kms dirt section in the middle. So much for the hot tip we’d been given by a German rider, just before we left Cnx (no trouble, Pai – Wat Chan – Samoeng is now finished & all asphalt.) This really did put the pressure on, & both Silverhawk had our own little MotoGp race getting into Cnx on time – a mere 15 mins before the lights changed & the real race was under way.
    Another day at the office was over....

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    Davidfl
    Keep The Power On
     
  6. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    PART III: THE MHS LOOP: CHECKING DIRT ROADS & TRAIL
    (Still going. More of the same - same but different?)

    DATE: Friday 20th - 22nd May 2005

    THE WEATHER: Sunny - overcast ?tropical.

    THE RIDERS: Half a team, Davidfl (Silverhawk's on tour in China!)

    THE BIKE: Yet another 250 renta from Tom & Jerry. The same bike as last time, motor real crisp, improved the brakes, but still the worst seat I've ever sat on!

    THE WAY:
    (1) Chiang Mai - Pai - Soppong - Nam Khong - Na Pu Pom - Pang Kong side trip - Mae Hong Son
    (2) Mae Hong Son - Khun Yuam - Pratu Muang loops - Khun Yuam - Hang Pong dirt side trip - Mae Sarieng.
    (3) Mae Sarieng - Kong Loi - Mae Tho - Ban Sam - Kong Loi - Hot - Chiang Mai.

    THE ROUTES:
    (1) Chiang Mai - Mae Hong Son: 107 - 1095 - 4015 - 1095
    (2) Mae Hong Son - Mae Sarieng: 108 - 3007 - 1337 - 108
    (3) Mae Sarieng - Chiang Mai: 108 - 1270 - 108

    THE TRIP DAY 1:
    Riding alone, so no pre trip breakfast, & got away from Cnx at approx 10.00am headed North on R107 for Mae Malai & route 1095 to MHS. On R107 with the road works - 2 to 4 lane- north of Mae Rim it's fun dodging traffic & swapping lanes all the time. Not unlike a dodgem cars but the real thing, with no lanes, then wide open lanes 5 cars wide, then a single lane, & vehicles heading in all directions at various (conflicting speeds.) A clear head helped & I was thankful to not being the same state as I was in the previous trip, otherwise I might not have made it to Mae Malai!
    First stop was Mae Sae for a splash & dash -"bottle of sponsor"
    Then straight onto Pai & a quick visit to see the Monk father-in-law at Wat Mae Hee. He's a cool guy, speaks reasonable English & always appreciates a farang dropping in for chat if you're ever in the area. (It's a change from local "chao baan" villagers.) He was on the ball as usual & commented that I was late - it was 10 past 12 & I said I'd drop by before 12! I complained about the dodgem car track north of Mae Rim and he just smiled like only monks can, knowing so well.
    After the temple it was a quick bite to eat & drink at Baan Pai, then top up with fuel at the Cosmo on the west side on town. Before heading West into the hills I made a quick Kodak snap stop to marvel at the new asphalt runway on the Pai airstrip.

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    I had a serious chuckle to myself here over the grand plan to re-open Pai airport to fly in the tourists & up market backpackers by the plane load. A great "Pai in the Sky" idea, & no doubt a scam for someone to make heaps of money on dodgy contracts & even more dodgy workmanship - I wonder how much the asphalt cost on the runway & how many planes had actually used the refurbished strip. Ah yes I though, life is indeed fun - how can you take it seriously when you see this sort of shyte? Better to hit the road & ride.

    1 hr later I was on R4015 & trying to negotiate my way past an army checkpoint heading for the Burma border.

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    R4015 is the Na Pu Pom road, a "newish" dirt road that runs up a valley alongside the Nam Khong river, up to Pang Kong & the Burma border. I'd never been right up this baby before & thought it must be time to check it out.
    It would have been nice to try R1226 further east, but the Wa were having a bit of a go at the Shans on the border with a few shells flying around to make life difficult for anyone in the immediate area. More than likely too it would have been difficult to get past any checkpoints in that area, so R4015 it was to be safe & sure.
    After negotiating the checkpoint, with a promise not to go further than Na Pu Pom (14 kms up the road) I took off, headed for the border / as far as I could go.

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    Except for a few sections of road works - nice laterite that would be seriously interesting riding in the wet - the road's good dirt for approx 31 kms, until just after Pang Yum.

    Pic below: Pang Yum.
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    Then the road quality drops off & it gets a lot steeper & stonier,

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    but with some fantastic views of the forest & border area.

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    Along the way there's a few pretty villages, inhabited by either Shan or Lahu people.

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    3.5 kms before Pang Kong there's an unsignposted fork in the road, but I guessed "right" & took the left fork to end up in Pang Kong. (Where the right fork one goes to I don't know, but I suspect you might not want to know either.) PK is a quaint little Lahu village / outpost at the end of the road, & you do get the feeling that you're right out there, sitting on the edge of the planet. 1 kms after Pang Kong the track fizzled out by a Thai army camp surrounded by sharpened bamboo. There was no one around (to my knowledge), & in the deathly silence I thought this would be enough for the day - it was 4.40 pm, darkness would not be too far away, & I still had a 1 1/2 hrs ride into MHS.

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    After a few photo stops & a good 50 minutes riding I was back at the checkpoint, smiling & confessing to not having found Na Pu Pom. The soldier nodded in acknowledgement, but I don't think that he believed me. The barrier was lifted & was on my was asap.
    Tired & hungry & thirsty I arrived in MHS at 6.40 pm. Perfect for happy hour, the obligatory foot massage, the day's papers & a bottle of whisky.......another day's gone.

    Davidfl
    Keep The Power On
     
  7. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    PART III: THE MHS LOOP: CHECKING DIRT ROADS & TRAIL

    THE TRIP DAY 2:
    After a successful night on the town it was up early for a quick brekky at my old favourite The Lucky. By the end of the 3rd coffee I was all fired up & ready to hit the road south.
    It was a bit of thrash to Khun Yuam & it never fails to impress me how much fun you can have can have on a small bike on a tight twisty road. The MHS loop on a 250 (small bike) really is awesome ?you don’t need a big ‘un.
    I made 1 Kodak stop before Khun Yuam to marvel at the road improvements on R108 - removing one of the long hair pin bends to make it easier for trucks to navigate I guess. Check out the pics below to see where they are cutting thru a hill to avoid an 800-metre section or road.

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    Impressive eh & a no doubt good value for money project (for someone)?

    Anyway the master plan for Khun Yuam was to survey the dirt loops to the west of town. Again it had been quite a few years since I’d been out here, the last time being over 10 yrs ago with a young Joe from Joe’s bike team to check out a long neck hill tribe village set up for tourists, but one that never lasted long because of the serious malaria at the time (too many got sick & ended up with malaria ?not good for tourists or the locals!)

    To the west of Khun Yuam there are basically 2 dirt loops ?a northern loop & a southern one ?which join up in the middle at Pratu Muang. Pratu Muang is directly to the west south west of Khun Yuam & 18 kms from town on a good twisting flowing sweeping hilly rolling asphalt road (i.e. it’s a good ride!)
    The road to Pratu Muang also has the famous (locally) Wat Tor Pae temple, but if you’re not a temple freak it’s more than likely just another temple.

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    The northern loop via Mae Sape is approx 52 kms, starting & finishing in Khun Yuam.
    The southern loop via Mae Khi is approx 71 kms, starting & finishing in Khun Yuam.
    The dirt road surface on the Mae Sape loop is better than the southern Mae Khi Loop, being wider, more flowing, less steep & less tight.
    The dirt surface on the Mae Khi loop is more stony / gravel, tighter, narrower & more steep hilly.

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    The scenery (including blue horned cows)

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    is also arguable more beautiful on the southern loop. There are also more villages on the southern loop.

    Pic below: villages signposted on the southern loop
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    At the start of the Northern Mae Sape loop there is the Doi Wiangla Wildlife Sanctuary HQs, nearby which is a lovely little lake & supposedly a good spot for bird watching. So if you’re a nature fan, this place is worth checking out.

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    On the Northern Mae Sape loop, there are 3 or 4 possible trails that go out to the Burma border, but I did not have time to explore these.

    Pic below: A trail out to the Burma border
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    Be warned too, that the staff at the Mae Sapae checkpoint was not particularly friendly, although this was obviously heavily influenced by their alcohol level (2 of them were pissed as farts & exceptionally obnoxious = we did not get on well.)
    To check out these loops (with border side roads) properly you need to allow at least 1 ?days riding / 2 nights in Khun Yuam. And unfortunately Khun Yuam City at night does not turn me on that much.

    Also of note on the Mae Sape loop was a huge concrete bridge leading into a hill tribe village, crossing a stream that you could step over in a single stride, then once in the village the road was immediately single lane “cart track”. Only in Thailand some might say, but I guess a few years down the road there’ll be a 4-lane highway there to serve the purpose of the original bridge 10 years earlier.

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    Luckily I had finished both these dirt loops by 5 pm so it was stay on the road & head south again to Mae Sarieng for the night.
    As fate would have it though, a mere 4 kms further south on R108 I noticed another new turn off to the east & one that I thought needed checking out. (The temptation was too great & I could not help myself.) The signposts indicated that the trail ran in at least 25 kms, which was good, & possibly provided link ups with either Mae Chaem or Pang Ung (on the Khun Yuam ?Mae Na Chon road R1263) that I suspected existed.
    This road was a sweet little beauty, good gravel surface, tight steep & hilly.

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    Gorgeous riding. All too good to be true you’d think. And you’d be right ?12 kms in I rounded a corner & started a steep ascent to look up & there she was ?WET CEMENT.

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    I quickly dismounted & trudged alongside the glistening grey slime to meet up with a couple of villagers mid road works & have a 5 minute pow-pow about what to do. With Honda Dreams they had patiently waited a mere 1 ?hrs at the other end with no way to get past.
    I suggested that if we had a rope or pole & enough willing helpers we might be able to manhandle the bikes along the narrow ledge beside the road & continue on, but the villagers were not impressed with the farang’s foolish idea. They’d rather wait.
    The good news was that the road crew said in 2 more hours more ?around 8 pm - & we could use it! Yeah yeah I thought good idea, hang out here until it gets dark then continue riding just to see where the road goes.
    Not being one to be so jai yen-yen I decided that was it time for me to flee the scene. And fleeing the scene it was, as I noted that the sky to the west was seriously black & undoubtedly a heavy tropical rainstorm was on the way. Previously I’d been heading east & been totally unaware of the big black monster in the sky sneaking up from behind. I rode as fast as I could all the way back to R108, hitting the black top at 6.15 pm. A few minutes later it was “faded?lights on & I struggled all the way into MS dodging rainsqualls & insects. What was “revealing?in this section was how weak the lights were on Joe’s trick front Baja end ?you’d get more candle power out of a regular torch running on a single double A battery.
    If you renting any of Joe’s 250s & think you might actually do some night riding then stay clear of the bike with the Mickey mouse toy headlight. It’s only a decoration.
    Luck was on my side & I was not trapped in the mountains somewhere on a dirt road in the wet in the dark.
    Another day was done……?.

    Davidfl
    Keep The Power On
     
  8. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    THE DAY TRIP 3:

    MAE SARIENG - CHIANG MAI

    On the road at 10.30 am, no need for a rush home.
    Approx 19 kms east of Mae Sarieng I took a lefty & checked out the asphalt to Mae Sawan w/fall & Forest Park. The asphalt runs in approx 4kms then turned to grease & mud
     
  9. turkish

    turkish Active Member

    Great report, David!
     
  10. Ajarn

    Ajarn Member

    I agree. Great report and great pictures, too!
     
  11. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    PART IV THE MHS LOOP: CHECKING DIRT ROADS & TRAILS
    Yep, a year later still going & picking off more dirt trails on the MHS loop!

    DATE: Monday 10th – Tuesday 11th April 2006

    THE TRIP / THE WAY
    DAY 1: Chiang Mai – Mae Sarieng via Mae Chaem – Ban Pui – Mae Ngan Noi – Huai Phung Mai – Mae To – R108 – Mae Sarieng
    DAY 2: Mae Sarieng – Hang Pon – Mae La Ka – Ma Hin Luang – Mae Ko Pe - Hua Mae La Ka – Pang Ung – Mae Na Chon – Mae Chaem – Chiang Mai.

    THE WEATHER: HOT, dry & smoky & HOT. It was hot!

    THE RIDERS: Silverhawk & Davidfl

    THE BIKES: A Honda Baja 250 renta from Mr Mechanic & Silverhawk’s own 250 Suzuki Djebel.

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    Above: Silverhawk's got a nice new blue Suzi 250 & uses blue chain lube to go with the bike.

    THE START: Up “early” at 8.00 am, something of a record for me, for a quick brekky at the Kafe & pick up the bike from Mr. Mechanic.
    The bike was a renta Honda 250 Baja & I don’t doubt she’d been busy making baht for Mr & Mrs Mechanic for awhile with a superb soft suspension- front & back. But the brakes were awesome – the best I’ve ever had on a renta plus it was fitted with a brand new tyre front tyre for the cranky old GT Rider.
    Silverhawk turned up on time at 9.30 am for breakfast & the 10.00 a.m. departure. After brekky & half a newspaper I had to quickly ride home & pick up the power supply cable for the GPS, that Id forgotten. While racing home for this I noticed that the bike’s rear tyre was totally worn, so it was back to the bike shop with a request for a new rear tyre as well.
    Silverhawk’s real cool about all this - he must be used to the delayed GT Rider Chiang Mai starts, & simply put his head back down into the newspaper. Fortunately the Bangkok Post turned up before he’d finished the Nation so he had plenty to read while he waited for me.
    Eventually we got away “on time” at 11.00 am – about the regular GT Rider time, so no complaints. (I should know better than to try & getaway early!)

    THE TRIP DAY 1
    It was a quick blast for 125 kms then; down the R108 4-lane to Chomthong, up R1009 to Doi Inthanon & down R1192 into Mae Chaem.
    We arrived in Mae Chaem to be greeted by some pre Songkran festivities with a few buckets of murky stream water. This did cool us down, but it eventually manifested into the ol “itchy body syndrome” towards the end of the trip.
    Unfortunately in MC my fave restaurant had closed, & it took awhile to find something else suitable. So this meant that we had to ride around town dodging buckets of water to make it more of a challenge - just to get a plate of fried rice! Now oddly enough there are very few restaurants in the old main street of MC, & they all appear to be on the main road into town from Doi Inthanon, before you hit the MC T junction right in front of the police station. Watch out for them on the left hand side on the way in. Once you hit the T & turn right, there is not much anymore.

    After a lengthy break in MC it was straight west & up onto R4065, the Pang Hin Fon road. This road is a beauty too – tight steep & twisting upward. About 19 kms up you reach the turn off to Pang Hin Fon & Mae Hae. It’s left to PHF / MH & straight onto to? Here almost a year ago we got a trip from some garlic / cabbage pick-up drivers, that there was another link up via Ban Pui to R108. So this was the plan for the day – see if we could find this other way out to R108 from Mae Chaem.

    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Pic above: Young Hmong girls by the T Junction shop.

    We took a quick break here at the T Junction shop & tested the locals out with some questions where the road went to. They rattled off a half dozen village names, not all of which rang a bell, but they all seemed to agree that you could indeed go to Mae La Noi. What was unclear though was exactly where / how you got to Mae La Noi, from R108 or from R1266. Armed with this knowledge that some sort of dirt roads / trail did exist we set off for the next village- Ban Pui.

    [​IMG]
    Above: the main street of Ban Pui.

    The asphalt runs out in Ban Pui, a big Hmong village; & here we got the hot tip that it was two lefts & a right & we would be on the right trail out to R108.

    [​IMG]
    Above: guessing the right fork to take.

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    Above: Just another fork in the road.

    After Ban Pui the road gets a bit ratty in places, but was amazing was the convoys of pick-ups coming out loaded to the hilt with garlic. We thought we were being pretty adventurous exploring this trail, but to me the real explorers are these guys in their pick-ups bringing in garlic & cabbages.

    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Above: Negotiating a route past the pick-ups.

    They are trail blazers with their pick ups transporting veges by the ton from the hill tribes. Its unbelievable how & where they go! Steep stony slopes, ruts, streams, bull dust don’t seem to stop them, only slow ‘em down occasionally!

    In hot season the smoke from fires is always bad, sometimes extremely bad & it was a real eye opener for me to see kilometres of scorched land, just to grow cabbages & garlic.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

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    Above: Cabbage fields. The good stuff?

    Five forks (not 2 lefts & a right), four villages & 35 kms later we arrived on a narrow single concrete road in the middle of nowhere.

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    Above: The single lane concrete

    Several kms later then we crested a small hill & dramatically were on a huge wide concrete road, almost big enough for a football pitch.

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    Above: The concrete football pitch.

    Unbelievable! Silverhawk & I could not stop laughing. It was almost as if the road contractor had reached the end of the road with an excess of concrete, so decided to spread the unused concrete around for something to do.

    The total concrete distance is approx 40 kms & the main village on the concrete, is Mae Tor approx 20 kms in from R108. From Mae To - R108 the road is a delight, steep rolling swooping with beautiful forest.

    Not all the concrete is in tip top shape though, as the pic below shows.
    [​IMG]
    Imagine doing this road at night & riding into the hole in the concrete. Ouch!

    This varying concete quality maybe due to the work process
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Back in Chiang Mai, my son was complaining about his work & I showed him the pix above, suggesting that he may like to get a job in the fresh mountain air, mixing concrete out in the boonies. He decided that his work in the city was ok after all.

    On R108, the turn off for Mae to is signposted like this below
    [​IMG]
    Check it out sometime

    It was 6.00pm by the time we hit R108 & then it was a fast dash into Mae Sarieng for the night. And yes the total distance must have been 100 kms, but not all of it was dirt fortunately.

    Davidfl
    Keep The Power On
     
  12. BignTall

    BignTall Ol'Timer

    Great post David. The dirt road explorations are really appreciated as you're off the beaten track a bit more. Nice to see a veteran of Thailand like yourself still flummoxed by the directions from the local thais. "two lefts and a right" is about as promising and reliable as "the checks in the mail".

    Cheers.
     
  13. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    PART IV THE MHS LOOP: CHECKING DIRT ROADS & TRAILS
    DAY 2 THE TRIP DAY “home”
    Mae Sarieng – Hang Pon – Mae La Ka – Ma Hin Luang – Mae Ko Pe - Hua Mae La Ka – Pang Ung – Mae Na Chon – Mae Chaem – Chiang Mai.

    A relatively easy start to the day with 9.00 a.m. breakfast of sorts. A cheese & ham omelette with coffee & toast that had to be ordered repeatedly after each item came out separately and somewhat slowly. This was even more amusing by the fact that both Silverhawk decided to order the same for ease of preparation & ordering. But if you’ve ever stayed at the Mae Sarieng Riverside you’ll understand why & how easy it can be there. The joint reminds me of a Thai style Fawlty Towers, where the building has been the home handyman’s dream & construction. Build a room, see how it looks, get a new idea, then tack on another couple of rooms with slight improvements, then probably renovate them before getting new ideas & tacking on another few rooms, but on another floor to make it a higher class than those down below. After a few years it ends up being a bit of a bewildering establishment. The bewilderment includes the service. The ultimate bonus in this place is the water pressure. As good as the Dheveraj in Nan, but you need to be extremely careful with the “toilet spray" which is powerful enough to blow the bearings out of the wheels of a 10-wheel truck. You’ve been warned, use it at your own peril.

    Anyway over breakfast I could not decide on the route for the day. There were a couple of options available. One starting approx 16 kms east of Mae Sarieng – Mae Um Long & a possible link up to Mae Chaem, or one approx 75 kms north of Mae Sarieng - from just south of Hang Pong & a possible link up with Mae Chaem or R1263 & the Mae Na Chon – Khun Yuam road. The cheese omelette must have been half decent because we opted for what we thought would be the longer harder ride, the “Hang Pong east track”. This was one I’d tried in May last year, but turned back because of wet cement. So it must be about time to take another look.
    We got away about 10.00 am – “under pressure” to return to base in Chiang Mai later that day.

    The turn off is approx 75 kms or 1 ¼ hrs north of Mae Sarieng & is signposted like this,
    [​IMG]
    if you want to check it out yourself.

    It’s a nice trail going in, although the forest is only dry & probably not as pretty as it could be.
    Unbelievably we hit the concrete after only 6 kms. The last time I was in here they were just putting concrete down 10 kms in & heading east, not west! It does not take much I guess when the boys have got some money & want to bend their backs & to get it down. Overall the concrete lasted for approx 10 kms & certainly made the start of the trail ride easy.
    12 kms in we hit the first village, Mae La Ka & were able to establish that yes the road did continue until the next village, but was not as good, & that after the next village it probably went further & maybe came out at Pang Ung, which was what I was hoping for; but no one was really sure, as the locals did not go that way – silly old farang on their motorbikes I bet they were saying to themselves.
    Between Mae La Ka & the next village Ma Hin Luang, the trail was really quite beautiful & reminded me of the original Houei Xai – Luang Namtha trail in Laos 10 years. It was narrow, tight & steep running up a narrow steep valley with a nice drop over the edge. The only trouble it was about 6 kms.(You can't win 'em all.)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Arriving in Ma Hin Luang the main road headed right, but for some odd reason I decided to stop & ask in the village where the roads went to. Silverhawk was all gung ho to follow the right hand fork past the village, but I was unsure. We had an enjoyable time in the village then when a young Karen girl, whom we assumed was a school teacher insisted in trying to explain in broken English where the roads went.

    [​IMG]
    Pic above: Getting directions from the "school teacher."

    And believe it or not the one we wanted went through the village, not up the right fork! We could not believe our luck. Then 150 meters into the village the trail petered out to be a bit of a foot track.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Can't be right we thought, she must have made a mistake, so we turned back only to be confronted by the “schoolteacher” telling us to be on our way up the track. That was the right way. It was only 5 kms & then we would hit the next village & be on the "road" to Pang Ung & R1263. She was right.

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    After 5 kms we arrived in Ko Pe, surprising the local Karen villagers as if we we'd just dropped in from Mars.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    We found a small village shop, hung out there for a bit to drink a few bottles of warm orange juice. This seemed to break the ice with the villagers, we were human. 40 minutes later after a nice photo session, & some considerable fun we were on our way.

    The track ran along a stream, the Mae La Ka, the next village was Hua Mae La ka, roughly translated as Mae La Ka head(waters), so that meant we were at the top or close to it.

    [​IMG]
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    22 kms, 2 villages & three forks later we bumped our way along a cabbage field track & arrived in Pang Ung on R1263.
    Yep there is a nice little connection between Hang Pong & Pang Ung if you want to have a go – but not in the wet; & probably not from east – west, as I’m sure you’ll get lost amongst the cabbage field tracks just south of Pang Ung. Heading east it seems a lot clearer which is the main trail out. Ya all listen to the school teacher now, or you’ll take the right fork & end where we don’t know (yet.)

    [​IMG]
    Last but not least for Koen. Check out the downstairs Payakor Bar of the Riverhouse Resort in Mae Sarieng. The gals there are cute & like to drink. Tell 'em David sent ya.

    Davidfl
    Keep The Power On
     
  14. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Here's a google earth snap of the Hang Pon - Pang Oung sector
    [​IMG]
     
  15. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    [​IMG]
    Above: The Google Earth view of the Nong Kheaw Loop.
     
  16. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Here's the Mae Chaem - Mae Tor road in Google Earth for you guys.
    [​IMG]
    And the road's on the MHS Loop map, so there's no excuse for not having a crack it!
     
  17. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    I think you're getting hooked on your new Google Earth toy. Addicting isn't it? :D
     
  18. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Yep, just tweaking the reports & killing time while I get the AT sorted out again (& ready for Laos.)
    Got quite a bit more coming & hope I'm not boring other board members with these little updates & new bits.
    Actually I hope they inspire a few more guys to get there ride 'n explore the MHS Loop.

    You should check out the area north-west of Mae Surin on R108 south of MHS. I can see we've missed a few "unknown" tracks that seem to run out to the Burma border. Be worth a look in the next month or two!
     
  19. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    :wink: Bump. The rain's going - going - going......gone? :roll:
     
  20. Franz

    Franz Ol'Timer

    Thanks David :mrgreen: ! Eric, you seen this post yet :clap: ? I think fi I can sell the SRX and rent out my condo it will be KLX250 buying time.... :smile1: and first route should be this one......cheers, Franz
     
  21. Blister

    Blister Ol'Timer

    Franz !, Not WR 250 F ? :lol: :happy2:
     
  22. Franz

    Franz Ol'Timer

    Hi Art, I would love to :mrgreen: but checking on all websites there's only unplated ones available :crazy: and as you know I never ride any Invoice bike :smile1: . But if you come across one let me know.... :thumbup: . In the meantime the DR needs some suffering.....555555......cheers, Franz
     
  23. pee

    pee Ol'Timer

    Hi Franz,

    I knew it wouldn't be too long before you consider filling your stable with a versatile dirt bike... Whatever comes up... A good old trusty XR 250, 400 or Baja could do the trick too...
    Let's go back play in the mud like 5 years old kids... That's where the fun is...
    Hope you find a tenant soon for your condo... As for the SRX; it's heartbreaking; I won't dare having an opinion about selling it...
    Pace & Salute
     

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