Exploring some fun trails and amazing scenery between Mae Sarieng and Ban La Up!

Dec 27, 2007
After our challenging ride from Omkoi to Mae Ngao National Park the day before (A brilliant ride from Omkoi to Mae Ngao National Park!), my buddy Dave needed to head home to Chiang Mai attend to his broken bike and bruised body. We made plans to reconnect in a couple days for the Super Bowl :thumbup:

We enjoyed breakfast at the Riverhouse Resort and hit the road, Dave heading back to Chiang Mai via the 108 and me, headed off with no real destination in mind, which is pretty nice sometimes! A couple km out of Mae Sarieng on the 108 I saw a small road that headed up the Mae Sarieng River Valley, and off I went-

A beautiful cool morning; the freshly planted crops were such an amazing bright green- this must be very fertile land along the banks of the Mae Sarieng River-

Here's the GPX file should anyone want to follow my path: http://www.asianconnection71.com/2014-02-01%2000.01.11%20Day.gpx (For some reason the GPS split today's track in two, but no worries, we'll get to the second half in good time)

A bit further on I came to a fairly large dam that holds back the bulk of the Mae Sarieng River:

Nice spot, imagine there might be some good fishing on the reservoir side...

Looking downriver:

Continuing on I discover a bridge to nowhere ;)

Can't see any evidence of foundations on the other side and the bridge points straight at a steep hill. Was this just a big screw up??

You can see in the background a newer bridge that takes you across the Mae Sarieng River and into the small village of Ban Mae Sarieng-

Watch your step!!

A cool suspension bridge a bit further upriver; pedestrian only tho...


Such amazing colors! Had to stop for another pic!
Dec 27, 2007
The wonderful dirt track that followed the Mae Sarieng river eventually intersects with the partially paved 3010 that winds up into the mountains towards the village of Papae-

Just followed my nose and soon found myself on a small track cut into the side of the mountain- amazing views!

No idea where this goes, but I'm loving it! :mrgreen:

Eventually I come to a tiny hamlet, probably too small to be called a village, just a small collection of houses in the jungle. Dunno what they smoke in those pipes, but seemed like granny was feeling no pain!

It seems like the trail ends here, but they motion me to ride between the houses and continue on. Cool! :thumbup:

From here on it was all steep narrow single track with a whole lot of dead ends, but the villagers had indicated there was a way through so I wanted to try and find it.

It seemed there was a trail that followed the drainage- let's check it out!

Yeah, there's definitely a trail here, but it's in disuse and being reclaimed by the forest. I continued on foot a ways and even spotted some concrete road markers, so must assume this is what's left of an old road that's been abandoned.

That's the tricky part about navigating in Thailand- many maps will show roads that either were never actually built or have been abandoned. If you scroll around this area on Google Earth you'll see tracks that aren't on any map as well as roads that don't actually exist. Good fun!

Turned around and explored another track. This one ended with steps cut into a steep bank that led down to some fallow rice paddies-

This was quite steep. I figured I could get down, but if the trail didn't continue somewhere on the other side I really wasn't sure if I could get back up this way...

Didn't want to get myself stranded here, so again, turned around and did some more exploring. Eventually found a footpath that climbed up and out of the valley, but I was getting tired and if I stuffed it in there it would be a long walk back to the tiny village I'd passed earlier for help. Would be fun to come back here with some friends and explore further!

So, back through the little village, and then on to the larger village of Ban Hak Mai Neua which you can spot from miles away on account of the huge church the missionaries have built on one of the highest peaks in the area:

Dunno why but I find this church kinda creepy actually... Doesn't the front look like a face? To get in you have to walk through the mouth...


It must have been quite an undertaking to haul all that concrete up here and build such a large church! Yet it seems to be in a state of disrepair...

A plaque next to the front door in Karen. I didn't actually know that Karen was a written language- learn something new every day!


Riding on I'm simply amazed at how they cultivate these steep hills entirely by hand-

From here I follow a road down the mountain and realize that I was here last year with Trent, when we discovered this "missing link" from Mae Um Pok to Ban La Up:
[h=1]Epic Northern Thailand Dirt Tour! 5 days and 1200km of offroad fun![/h]We had discovered a really fun single track trail that linked the two villages:


I thought it would be fun to find it again and record it on the GPS as some folks had asked about it last year, but when I got to the road I thought would lead to the trail some locals tried to tell me that there was no way I could get through. I pointed at my big bad dirt bike and flexed my muscles, sign language of sorts to try to convey to them that I could do it, but they were quite insistent that there was no way to get to Ban La Up down that road... Hmmm, perhaps something had changed. These single tracks can come and go from one season to the next after all. The locals told me I should continue west a little ways where I'd find a way through to Ban La Up. Ok, so be it. Last year's "missing link" remains off the map for now!

What's so handy about the GT-Rider map is that even though it can't possibly show every single track, it has the names of the villages and that's really all you need to find your way here- simply ask a local the way to the next village and they'll always point you in the right direction :thumbup:

Following the locals advice I continued west and at the next village I again asked the locals the way to Ban La Up and they pointed me up a small dirt road that eventually crossed the small Huai Mae Um Lan river and brought me to the tiny village of Ban Mae Sa Keud-


Had to give this dodgy bridge a try! Held together with old tires, twine and wire!
Dec 27, 2007
Mid afternoon and need to press on. I'd like to get about half way to Chiang Mai today.

Funny to see election posters way out here in the sticks...

Gorgeous riding through green and fertile hills and valleys!

One of these farmers shacks would be a nice place to string up my hammock, and I bet there's water down there too!

But I didn't have much with me in the way of food, and wasn't keen to spend a night hungry, so pressed on. Climbing up and up and up, I reach a crest and stop to look back the way I've come-

To think, in another month or two this will all be brown and burnt... This is the PERFECT time of year to be up here!

Mountain Dew has made some kind of strange resergence on the Thai scene. Totally bizarre as it's a pretty nasty drink. (We used to call is squirrel pee when I was a kid!) I think its popularity has more to do with the bright neon green bottles which folks seem to love to hang off their fenders... :mrgreen:

I ride on and the track turns into a trail, the trail into a dirt road, then a concrete road, and finally, Ban La Up! Just love the name of this mountain-top town! :thumbup:

Stop for some drinks and snacks and a chat with the locals. Turns out Ban La Up is "Rawi", not Karen like most of the other villages I've been through in this area. Funny thing is, I can't find any info about this ethnic group... I may have heard the name wrong and will have to consult with some northern Thailand gurus over some Beer Laos in coming days to learn more about the "Rawi" of Ban La Up.

One difference that stands out right away is the different style of dress. Where as most Karen clothes are red, the dominant color here is blue-

Maybe, just maybe, what sounded to me like "Rawi" is actually Lawa? Thailand certainly enjoys a diverse mix of cultures and people!!