Chasing Floods-Chiang Mai-Uttaradit-Nan

Mar 15, 2003
DATE: Sat 27th May 2006

(1) Chiang Mai - Den Chai-Uttaradit-Laplae Nan
(1) 11-101 & 102-11-101 Loop

Riders: David Unkovich (Davidfl)- Honda Africa Twin
David Early (Silver Hawk)- Yamaha TDM850

After our usual breakfast at the Kafe (Chiang Mai) we got away pretty close to the planned time of 9:30AM. The weather was almost perfect for this time of year, varying cloud cover, sun but not too hot, and the ever present chance of rain.

We swept out of Chiang Mai on Hwy 11 at a good pace with light traffic and a clean road through Lamphun and Lampang. Leaving Lampang we headed up into the mountains. I hadn’t been this way in a while it was nice to see the now green forests against a nice blue sky.

Our mission was to try and find some of the damaged areas from the recent flood and mudslides. Torrential rains has caused flooding and mudslides over a vast area in this region. Although the exact toll may never be known it is estimated at least 100 people are dead and missing and 100,000+ left homeless and entire villages wiped out.

We would then continue to Nan and do some GPSing the following day.

As we approached Den Chai we started to get a little rain and the roads were wet but nothing that warranted putting on rain gear. We could see where this little town had some minor flooding and there was a lot of damage to river banks but this was not what we were looking for. We grabbed lunch at a little restaurant and decided to loop back and south on Hwy 101 since the rain had passed.


We found this strange Temple just outside Den Chai

Hwy 101 is a great road twisting through jungle and pine forests and would be nice ride for sport bikers. The surface is good but rough in places though not much to worry about.

We cut east across Hwy 102 and turned north to the village of Laplae near Uttaradit. As we entered the village I could not understand all the traffic. The roads were dirty and covered in dirt and mud. Police were directing traffic as the electricity had been turned off in the region to prevent electrocution.

The further we went into town the more devastation was visible. And the traffic? People bringing food, clothes and water. Amazing.


DavidFL seems to have a sense as to where to go. After driving through the main road of Laplae until we could go no further, we doubled back and took some side roads that I thought were of little interest. They turned out to be some of the most heavily hit areas.






The losses are unbelievable.



Young and old, cleaning, picking up and even playing music.


A motorcycle shop will be doing a lot of business. Some of these bikes I believe were in the shop and disassembled when the flood struck filling them with mud.

Here is a letter I wrote that was published in the Bangkok Post

> I have just returned from viewing the flood/mudslide damage in the Uttaradit area, specifically Laplae. I traveled there with my Australian friend on motorcycles. The devastation and loss of human property is hard to describe. I have seen the damage caused by the floods in both Chiang Mai and Pai, but this far exceeds those events in scope and area.

As we rode our motorcycles through the area and photographed the astonishing damage, we were even more astounded by the Thai people. With all their loss and suffering they still waved and shouted greetings to us. There was no fear of looting but instead neighbor was helping neighbor and friend helping friend. Instead of the region being cordoned off, line after line of cars and trucks entered the area. Not just gawking, but delivering food, water, and clothes from their personal vehicles. As we left, even more groups of people, four wheel drive clubs, and individuals were seen for many kilometers entering the area to deliver their goods and offer their services. .

Finally, two elderly Thai ladies, standing ankle deep in mud amongst their ruined belongings, were bowing and saying thank you and sawasdee to the line of departing vehicles. I wished we could do more.

The many complaints in these columns seem trivial when compared to what these people are experiencing. The strength and harmony of the Thai people is truly amazing.

David Early
Chiang Mai

We saw flood damage all the way past Uttaradit and along the highway. Way behind schedule we continued up 101 on into Nan. Traffic was fairly heavy with people coming and going from the flood areas. We rode into the night and arrived about 8PM I believe. About 540k total riding for the day.

We checked into the hotel and had a hot shower followed by dinner at Da Darios Italian Restaurant. Exhausted from our day and awe struck by what we had seen, it was time for a good nights sleep. No night life this night.
Aug 3, 2004
Saw your letter in the Bkk Post Dave. Well done. Better still with the photos.
ps. I have written to the Editor of the Bkk Post several times on different topics and can't seem to break through.

"The Journey is the Destination"
Oct 12, 2005
Excellent post. Sadly overseas you get little reports of this kind. Thank you for bringing it home.


Jun 1, 2006
Hi there,
We are absolutely amazed at your news and pictures. We are 2 ozzies on our way north and although we have heard of the rain and floods there has been little news of this devastiation in S thailand. Looks like we have an "interesting" time ahead. Like you we have come across some amazing people here, especially away from the "tourist' areas and their resiliance to problems make us realise how trivial our domestic worries are.
Thanks again for the news, ride safe and enjoy the journey!!
Skip and Rachel
Mar 15, 2003
Skip & Rachel

Thanks for your comments, just a bit of reassurance for you. None of the main roads are blocked any longer and there is nothing in the current situation that would interfere with your plans. Come North and enjoy some of the best riding.

Dave Early

Ever notice that "What the Heck!" is usually the right answer?


Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
Chiang Khong

Silverhawk’s flood report is pretty much spot on – the flood damage was awesome & yet the affected people still seemed remarkably friendly & "happy?" It was an unbelievable scene with hundreds of pick ups driving into the affected area & distributing whatever they could to help the locals. Their generosity and sincerity to their fellow countrymen was moving, and both Silverhawk & I felt quite powerless just looking at it all.

Anyway back in Nan the day after.....
Next day was up at 8.30 am (super early for me, but after the previous day’s events & weariness we had most definitely been in bed early = no massages & no pub / coffee shop / disco drinks.)

Breakfast in Nan has never really been that great. The Fahtanin hotel we stayed at offered zilch, & the Dheveraj has generally been weak, if not disappointing. So I thought we might find something else / better, but after a quick cruise around Nan city we reluctantly opted for a chicken rice breakfast. And the verdict is that chicken rice does not quite do the job, especially when there’s no coffee. So next time it will be back to the Dheveraj for a “weakie!” Actually in high season, when it’s busy & there are lot of farang around, the Dheveraj does put on a buffet breakfast which is quite good, but you have to stay there to get it.
On the subject of hotels the water pressure at both the Dheveraj and Fahtanin is almost unbelievable. JimOi, plus David & Mai have commented on this at the Dheveraj. At both places it is more like turning on a fire hydrant, and at the Fahtanin this time round the shower in my room had enough water pressure to peel the skin off a baby, if not drown it. It’s that impressive. Exactly which one is better water pressure wise I don’t know, but the Fahtanin is only 400 baht a night & the Dhev at least 600 baht. However you do get better service & reception at the Dhev, which is a lot more professionally run. You get what you for pay I guess, but if you’re in a money saving mode, then go for the Fahtanin.

Back to the riding…....
The master plan for the day was to check out a couple of loops east of Nan, suitable for quick half day / day rides. There were two options I wanted to explore (1) via Santisuk – “Lak Lai” and (2) via Mae Charim - Nam Muap – Sa.


Pic above: R1169 from Nan, heads North alongside the Nan River & is a delight to ride. R1169 links up with Santisuk & from here you can head north to do the Doi Phukha loops, south-east to Mae Charim, or do the R1257 loop.

I opted to take the first one via Santisuk as it ended up on R1081 & the Doi Phukha loop – the most spectacular loop in North Thailand. The routes. nos for this loop are 1168-1169–1257–1081–1169. Total distance from Nan is about 120 kms.


Pic above: the start of R1257, running along the ridgline.

Route 1257 was a new one for me & believe me it is a fantastic little tight narrow roller coaster road and ride with stunning views.


Pic above: R1257, swooping along the ridgeline with magnificent views of the rolling hills.


Above: one of the locals out for a Sunday ride.


It’s a long time since I’ve been so excited and happy on a new road, but 1257 did it for me. Maybe it was just the fresh mountain air? Maybe it was the sweeping panoramic views. Maybe it was the non existent traffic. Whatever, R1257 is worth a ride in Nan!



I enjoyed it so much that I "might have" got a bit carried away with the photo stops, such that even Silverhawk got a bit disgruntled several times, and he seldom gets worried about anything; except for.......


Above: Yamaha TDM 850 sidestands can be very fickle things at times

R1257 is only about 35 kms but I think it took over 2 hrs to do! Some of this had to do with an extended drink stop in a Hmong village, Don Prai Wan about ¾ of the way along R1257 between R1169 & 1081. Somehow having a couple of bottles of M150 to supplement then chicken rice breakfast, I got way laid but the most wonderful pleasant 80+ yrs old Hmong woman ever. She was a fabulous personality and one of the friendliest Hmong persons I have met for many many years & it was indeed hard to leave her village shop. So if you’re ever on R1257, stop at this ol lady’s shop.
Heading “north” towards R1091, the shop is on the right hand side, immediately after you cross the bridge over the village stream. Don’t miss it now. You’ll have fun & be impressed with such a dynamic 80+ yr old super friendly personality!

Eventually ended up back at Santisuk, completing the first loop, but time was ticking by so it was a quick blast down R1225 to Mae Charim


Above: the exciting megatropolis of Mae Charim.

where we decided there was not much going on & it was time to head back to Nan for MotoGP…….

Yep it was Sunday & that was the other reason for staying at the Fahtanin, they have UBC TV plus a large TV for our regular fix of the Dr & the hot upstart challengers in MotoGP. So there’s another tip, if you want to watch MotoGP live on TV in Nan, stay at the Fahtanin, as the Dheveraj does not have it – only cable TV.

Last but not least….
Nan is the top dog for sport / road bike riding in North Thailand. Just getting there on either R1148 / 1091 / 101 will put a smile on your dial a mile wide. Nan’s got hundreds of kms of rolling hills with swooping twisting asphalt roads. And if you cant do any of the full Doi Phukha loops, then do yourself a favour & take R1257 for 120 kms of exhilaration!

Keep The Power On
Mar 15, 2003
David's right about the Hmong Lady;

I got way laid by the most wonderful pleasant 80+ yrs old Hmong woman ever. She was a fabulous personality and one of the friendliest Hmong persons I have met for many many years & it was indeed hard to leave her village shop. So if you’re ever on R1257, stop at this ol lady’s shop.

He is also right about the fickle side stands. That's the second time I've "dropped it". This time only at the expense of a clutch lever and minor turn indicator damage. If you stop on a hill, make sure it is in gear and stable or facing uphill (you probably knew that already), but in the excitement of taking the 100th photo of a road that day I got carried away in the moment (just kidding David, we did hit some really good roads and got lucky with the weather).

Dave Early

Ever notice that "What the Heck!" is usually the right answer?


Nov 2, 2005
As a late arrival for this trip I "only" got to enjoy the ride from Chiang Mai over to Nan with the 1148 and the 1080 hi'ways being nothing more than amazing!


And being on a sport bike I could take full advantage of the brilliant surface and empty roads and somehow didn't see much of the beautiful scenery until the next day on the return trip.


The road flows like a racetrack along the ridges, down through the valleys and even as you wind your way back up to the next ridgeline there are no nasty surprises to catch you out and very, very little traffic.



One of the best roads around for sure and even on a Honda Dream you would have a (very slow)blast. On the return trip with Silverhawk and FL we stopped for the odd picture or two so I did get to see some of the great scenery, although when the road is so good, the scenery doesn't really count.



I mean, who cares when you a having such a blast!

I've learned that I don't suffer from insanity, I enjoy it!
If being sane is thinking there's something wrong with being different, then I'd rather be completely f***ing mental
Jan 22, 2005
Hi David and David,

Breakfast in Nan. You are spot on about Nan being a bit weak when it comes to breakfast - of any kind, and especially about good coffee. BUT we did manage to find an excellent spot some time back. Here are the directions, but they could be one or two streets off, but if you try a little bit you can find it.

As you come out of the Dheveraj, go right to the main intersection. Turn right at this intersection and about two blocks up on the left is a little funky wooden white-ish and light blue paint job place that opens about 0700 with a sidewalk sign out in front in English saying "fresh coffee..."

Sorry we forgot to share this with before. Actually we found this place 6-8 months ago when we were doing all that traveling in the Nan area.

David and Mai
Apr 22, 2003
Not a bad little b/fast stop from memory didnt get there this trip but i got to teach the staff how to make toast at the fartanin, just as they got it right they ran out of bread.
Just arrived back this evening from 5 days out Chiangmai to Nan via phayao down the 1251 (worth doing) over to Nan where i met up with F/L, i was travelling with 3 customers from my guest house, our evening out for eats and drinks later didnt pan out too well with no one able to make a decision on what to do left every one going off doing thier own thing.
Next morning said our goodbuy's to F/L and went off and did the Doi Phukka loop back for another night in Nan, still making a section of the road up on the loop which rattled a couple of the inexperianced but no off's , every one had a great day out. Next day with Mae Sai in our sites we set off and got in one of the best days of riding ever the 1148 would have to one of my favorite strips of tarmak, ( did someone mention scenery along that road, i must have riden that about 8 times and i havent noticed any) actually i got to do it this time a lot quicker than i wanted, at a rest break i took some time to point out a couple of tips to the novices on cornering, one of them took to it like duck to water, he went from having about 1'' of unused rubber on the side of his back wheel to about 1/4" and his sites were so fixed on the road he didnt see me stop at a look out to take some pics ( i dont know how he missed seeing me i was right on the edge of the road) but he slipped by unnoticed and when the others arrived which i knew they were behind him because i had only took off past the group about half a Klm back worry set in, i took off incase he had past and one other went back to look over the edges of the road, about a klm down the road a bus driver told me he had passed through the police check point so i wound up the wick to run him down, about 5 klms down the road and still no sight i was almost going to give up and join the search back at the look out when way off in the distance i sighted a bike, not being sure if was him or a villager on a honda dream i kept it on, finally i caught up and was relieved to see it was him and when i stopped him i was greeted by a big smile and a complaint why i had'nt taught him the tips a day earlier, i was too exhausted to answer and besides that judging by the smell my brakes were almost ready to burst into flames. After regrouping we had lunch in Chiang Kham and took the 1155 to Chiang Khong, got a suprise from a hill tribe guy on a honda dream on the 1155 , he went flying past me on a long down hill sestion and could this guy flick this thing around corners, after a coffee break in Chiang Khong and a photo stop at the golden triangle and 392 klms later we rolled into Mae Sai. Next day two of the group headed off and made it back to ChiangMai while myself and one of the guys had a rest day and another night in M/Sai and shot straight back home through Chiang Rai to avoid the weather.
Another incident free outing and every one had a great time