Chiang Mai motorcycle tour options include many excellent day and multi-day tour options, making the city of Chiang Mai is an excellent base for exploring northern Thailand
When you first arrive in Chiang Mai allow yourself a couple of days to acclimatize before setting off up-country on multi day rides. Do a couple of day trips first, while you are acclimatizing.
The Samoeng Loop is the very first loop you should do.
Check out any of the below to get yourself ready & rolling.
Over Night / Multi-Day Trips:
Take Your Time: For first timers, the tendency is often to cover as much ground as possible. You end up with general impressions that it is all good, but you want more. Its best to slow down, take your time & explore properly, enjoying the scenery, villages and people. Don’t try and do / see too much in a short space of time. Potter around the loops to take in as much as you can, and learn something about the people, places and culture as you go. If you rush through, it becomes a blur; & you will only want to go back to the same places again because you missed too much. Cornering speeds in the hundreds of kilometres of winding roads are down to 60-80 kph riding “hard & fast.” It takes time, so take your time. Aim to do no more than 250 kms in a day & you will both see & learn something, not just look at the road in front of you. To start in Chiang Mai, click here.
North Thailand Trip Planner Outline:
From wherever you are in North Thailand you can get back to Chiang Mai in a day, so you can play it as you go.
The Mae Hong Son Loop
Usually start with this as a short primer. The legendary Mae Hong Son loop is good for 3-4 days the first time, & much more if you want to dawdle.
The Way to go:
- Chiang Mai – Doi Inthanon (highest mountain)- Mae Chaem
- Mae Chaem – Mae Na Chon – Khun Yuam – Mae Hong Son
- or Mae Chaem – Mae Sarieng
- Mae Sarieng – Mae Hong Son
- Mae Hong Son – Soppong / Pai
- Pai – Chiang Mai
Trip Reports. Places to go & see on the Mae Hong Son Loop
Pottering Round the Mae Hong Son Loop.
Mapping Towns on the Mae Hong Son Loop.
Mae Chaem a meander.
Pai the Chill Out Town
Rak Thai the Chinese village on the Myanmar border.
The GT Rider Chedi. GT Rider has their own memorial chedi on Doi Kong Mou mountain overlooking Mae Hong Son city. The chedi is in honour of departed riding mates who have lived in Thailand & ridden on the Mae Hong Son Loop. All riders are welcome to go and pay their respects.
The Mae Hong Son loop has three spectacular steep roads to ride.
Rak Thai the Chinese village on the Myanmar border, north of Mae Hong Son. You can spend a night here. Rak Thai is unique in North Thailand & can be the highlight of doing the Mae Hong Son Loop. The views over the lake at Rak Thai re sensational. South of Mae Hong Son are Meo Microwave & Nong Khiew . Use the Nong Khiew road to cut across to Mae Chaem, or even use it for a day trip from Mae Hong Son. Meo Microwave is a wild steep twisting road that dead ends in a Hmong village on a mountain. The views here are spectacular.
The Long Necks: if you’re doing the Mae Hong Son Loop here’s the Long Neck Story & History on GTR.
Overnight in Mae Chaem / Mae Sarieng / Mae Hong Son / Soppong / Pai. Please yourself.
Mae Chaem Accommodation
Mae Sarieng Accommodation
Mae Hong Son Accommodation.
Rak Thai Accommodation
Doi Inthanon Accommodation
Night life: Mae Chaem & Soppong have none. Pai has good night life. Mae Hong Son is ok too, plus Mae Sarieng has a bit.
After the Mae Hong Son Loop start a Golden Triangle / Laos Border Run. Return to Chiang Mai, & take off North from Chiang Mai on R107; or from Pai go direct to Chiang Dao / Fang, skipping out Chiang Mai, up to you……
The Golden Triangle – Laos Border Run
The Way To Go
Chiang Mai – Chiang Dao – Arunothai – Fang – Tha Ton – Doi Mae Salong – Thoed Thai – Doi Tung – Mae Sai – GT – Chiang Saen – Chiang Khong – Pha Tang – Phu Chi Fah – Chiang Kham – Tha Wang Pa – Pua – Doi Phukha – Nan – Chiang Muan – Phayao – Mae Kachan – Chiang Mai.
Or do this in reverse. Please yourself where you sleep, but you should never be more than 45 minutes away from cozy accommodation.
Chiang Rai province: it should be noted that Chiang Rai province is jam packed with attractions, amazing roads & mountains to ride. Take your time & don’t ride on through too quickly. To get the big picture, use a GT Rider Golden Triangle guide map.
Thoed Thai: You can’t claim to have done the Golden Triangle unless you have a night in Thoed Thai; the ex home of the late Khun Sa, the famous Shan fredom fighter / drug war lord.
Nan province: Has the best riding in North Thailand & you could easily spend 3-4 nights in Nan riding amazing loops & roads.
To fully understand the road network & how to get the best out of your trip take a GT Rider Golden Triangle guide map. With so many choices and options available it is important to know where you are in relation to all the towns and the distances involved.
Quieter favourite overnight towns
Doi Mae Salong
The smaller towns will give you a better cultural experience.
Overnight towns with night life
Accommodation: you can check out the GT Rider Accommodation suggestions here
Food – where to eat: GTR has a list of recommended restaurants for every town.
If you live in Bangkok & have a few days off consider these loop possibilities
Day 1: Ride up Bangkok -Cnx
Day 2: Rest day Cnx?
Day 3: Cnx – Doi Mae Salong
Day 4: Doi Mae Salong – Doi Tung – Mae Sai – GT – Chiang Rai
Day 5: Return to Bangkok.
Day 1: Bangkok – Sukhothai
Day 2: Sukhothai – Nan
Day 3: Nan R1148 – Chiang Rai
Day 4: Chiang Rai – Tha Ton – Fang – Chiang Mai
Day 5: Chiang Mai – Bangkok
Day 1: Bangkok – Mae Sot
Day 2: Mae Sot – Mae Sarieng
Day 3: Mae Sarieng – Pai
Day 4: Pai – Chiang Mai, easy
Day 5: Chiang Mai – Bangkok.
Multiple choices & more than likely you will make up your mind on the day, subject to the weather conditions & outlook.
Riding from the bottom to the top: Phuket – North Thailand guide
Rough rain guide – consider this for predicting where the rain’s coming from & where to ride and avoid it. The rain comes from the sea & in North Thailand that means from either;
The Bay of Bengal & Burma way = the west-south-west, or
The Gulf of Tonkin / China Sea & Vietnam way = east-north-east
So if there’s a lot of rain around you just need to know where it coming from – either the West or the East.
If it’s coming from the west-south-west, then there’s a chance that the further east you go the less chance of rain. So if you’re starting from Chiang Mai then head towards the Laos border & Nan to get a dry ride.
If it’s coming from the east-north-east, then there’s a chance that the further west you go the less chance of rain. So if you’re starting in Chiang Mai then head west towards the Burma border & Mae Sarieng / Mae Hong Son to get a dry ride.
Nationwide Bike transport
If you want to transport your bike one way from one part of the country to another there are a few options
Train – you can transport your bike by train. You are supposed to travel on the train with your bike.
Post Office yes you can post a bike in Thailand from one post office to another.
Three Trans Transport – a professional trucking logistics company for moving motorcycles. Three Trans delivers bulk new model bikes to dealers all around he country – Suzuki, Honda, Kawasaki, KTM, Ducati, Yamaha. They all use the same company. They can supposedly pick up & deliver anywhere
Other SE Asian Trip Planning Sections
The GT-Rider.com Trip Report Forums have some detailed trip planning information for other S.E. Asian countries.