Golden Triangle Short ride. 25-27 June.

Jan 12, 2003
Golden Triangle Short ride. 25-27 June.
« on: Jun 29th, 2002, 7:39am » Quote Modify Remove

DAY 1. Chiang Mai - Tha Ton - Doi Mae Salong - Thoed Thai.
Routes # 107 - 1089 - 1234.
DAY 2. Thoed Thai - Doi Tung - Mae Sai - Golden Triangle - Chiang Saen - Chiang Khong.
Routes # back roads to Doi Tung & Mae Sai, then # 1290 - 1129 to Chiang Khong.
DAY 3. Chiang Khong - Wiang Chai - Chiang Rai - Wiang Pa Pao - Chiang Mai.
Routes # 1020 - 1174 - 1098 - 1173 - 1233 - 1 - 118.
Total Distance: 750 kms.

DAY 1. Left Chiang Mai at 9.07 am & arrived in Thoed Thai at approx 3.45 pm.
Fueled up at (1) Chiang Mai & (2) Tha Ton. First (breakfast) stop for the singer girlfriend was Chiang Dao Hill Farm 83 kms out of Chiang Mai & then Doi Mae Salong 220 kms out of Chiang Mai.
DAY 2. Left Thoed Thai at 9.15 am & arrived in Chiang Khong at approx 4.50 pm.
Fueled up at Chiang Saen. Lunched in Mae Sai.
DAY 3. Left Chiang Khong at 10.00 am & arrived in Chiang Mai at 3.30 pm.
Fueled up on the super in Chiang Rai & lunched at Charin garden resort.

This was an unbelievably smooth, almost dry run in the wet season, picking the eyes out of the best roads up around the Golden Triangle.
The best mountain roads were
(1) R1089 to Doi Mae Salong
(2) Doi Mae Salong to Thoed Thai
(3) Thoed Thai to Doi Tung
(4) Doi Tung to Mae Sai the back way
Other great biking roads were
(1) Route 107 Mae Taeng - Chai Prakarn. Excellent smooth winding hilly.
(2) Route 1129 Chiang Saen - Chiang Khong. Undulating to steep hilly, winding alongside the Mekong. Magic views & riding.
(3) Route 1173 fast smooth flowing through the rice paddies.
(4) Route 118 Chiang Mai - Chiang Rai.

None of the roads gave us any trouble, although the road from Thoed Thai to Doi Tung via Huai Mu is being resurfaced and in many places you only have half a road to use, while they are asphalting the other half. This is a bit tricky, when the half you are left with to ride on is very narrow, very winding with all blind corners, bloody steep and either covered with loose stone / gravel or even wet sticky asphalt!
Route 1089, from Kaen Nua across to Mae Bong was the worst one with the surface very patchy & quite bumpy in many places.
Route 1173 is a racetrack, newly surfaced, and wide, smooth, sweeping for a brilliant sport bike ride.
Route 118, the main Chiang Rai - Chiang Mai road, is always a good ride, except the 15 kms of shyte at the Doi Saket end.

The only slight low point was getting drenched for 10 mins, less than 10 kms short of Chiang Khong on the 2nd day. This really cheeses me off, as I don't mind getting wet or riding in the rain even, but I do hate to arrive at my destination waterlogged. Now if I'd only skipped the last 5 minute photo stop, 18 kms out we would have been home and dry in Chiang Khong - self inflicted over indulgence with the camera. It was my fault.

North from Chiang Mai really is a neat riding road with all the road works done.
South of Chiang Dao you have the "smooth flowing, sometimes tight, twisties", alongside the Ping River.
Then North of Chiang Dao up to Chai Prakarn, you have the more "real hilly, tighter more winding, same smooth asphalt" to make it loads of fun, even with some traffic on the road.
Chai Prakarn to Fang & Tha Ton is not much fun, with too many roadside villages to be able to relax and / carry any speed.

My newest recommended drink stop here is the Chiang Dao Hill Farm, on the right (east) side, going up hill, about 2 kms north of route 1150 (the Phrao turn off). Unfortunately they don't have any signs in English, so you have to look out for the "cleared hill land" with the vineyards.
There's plenty of parking space with seats outside so that you can sit & watch your bike, while you get a quick bite to eat & a drink (a couple of sponsors for me.)
Here, I have to admit that I was not able to resist a bottle of their finest - "Red Wine, Chiangdao Grapes", 10.5% alcohol - all for 150 baht a bot. With a label like that how could you resist (I think that it was the 10.5% alcohol that did it?)? Now, I can't tell you how good it is, but later that night in Thoed Thai, when the verbal diarrhoea was flowing, there was no doubt that we got our money's worth and I woke up the next morning without any sign of a hangover. So if you're riding north on route 107, stop in at the Chiang Dao Hill Farm and load up with some of that classy "Red Wine Chiangdao Grapes" brand. At 150 baht a bottle it certainly does the trick when you're in Thoed Thai for the night.

If you want to take a longer proper lunch break, then stop at the Chiang Dao Hill resort, another 15 kms further north up the road.

ROUTE 1089
From Tha Ton to Doi Mae Salong is one of the great biking roads in the North. Its only 46kms, and can be done in about 45 mins if you get a good clean run, but with such brilliant scenery and views at the top Mae Salong end, you can easily drop an hour just taking photos and enjoying the villages en route!
Be careful though, in the first 10 kms north from Tha Ton, of a few places with a lot of sand on the road, (always in a blind corner), that has been washed down from the hills. If you're riding hard & got the bike cranked right over it could get a bit messy.

We arrived in Doi Mae Salong, 20 mins early much to the surprise of brother David & Lex - the first time I'd not been late for an appointment in 3 weeks while they had been in Thailand. On their 1st trip to the land of smiles, they had still not got used to people operating on Thai time, and me being early really did give them a jolt!
Doi Mae Salong is still one of my fave out of the way places in North Thailand, but it is changing fast with heaps of development - new shop houses & the odd karaoke, & some of this does not add much character to the place. Mae Salong's also got an ATM machine at the south (Tha Ton) end of town if you need some fast bucks.
After a longish coffee break in DMS & a photo stop to get a snap of the "Toliet Is Clean" sign it was off to Thoed Thai.

If you like DMS & thought it was a bit out of the way you, then try Thoed Thai, ex HQs of Khun Sa, one of the original opium warlords of the GT. TT's even better than DMS - more out of the way and with more locals who are not Thai. TT is mainly Shan with Chinese KMT / Akha / Lahu / Lisu & Hmong people. Not much appears to go on in town, but you can't but help get the feeling it's oddly busy & there is something going on; then it dawns on you, this is a frontier town & smuggling is what it is all about.
In Thoed Thai we stayed at the Rim Taan g/house. This is one of the real hidden gems of North Thailand, & at 300 baht a night (in low season), you get a wonderful clean hot water wood bungalow set in a nice garden right alongside the Mae Kham river. All night you can listen to the music of the stream burbling away, it really is a neat place.
Right next door to the Rim Taan is the Ting Ting restaurant, one of, if not, the cleanest restaurant I have ever seen up-country in North Thailand, and its in Thoed Thai of all places! Their food's also very tasty and cheap, with big servings! You have to eat here when you are in Thoed Thai.
In Thoed Thai don't forget to check out the old HQs of Khun Sa, as they have a bit of a display and some info that is interesting, especially when you are right there in heart of the Golden Triangle. It helps to put things into a better perspective about what has & is going on.

From Thoed Thai we cut across to Doi Tung via Huai Mu. It can be a bit confusing in here with roads being upgraded & new ones built, but basically you should end up either on the back of Doi Tung somewhere, or back down on route 1130 the Mae Chan - Doi Mae Salong road.
At Doi Tung we took a longish break, while the girls checked out the Mae Fah Luang gardens, then it was down the back road, along the Burma border into Mae Sai.
Going down in to Mae Sai this way we were stopped and asked for ID twice, so the army guys are still doing their job and the right thing in the war against drugs and illegals - good on you guys!

Routes 1290 & 1129. 1290's a nice fast flowing road with good smooth asphalt. The view of the Mekong coming over the hill just before the Baan Boran Hotel is awesome. Route 1129 from Chiang Saen to Chiang Khong is always a wonderful ride, especially in the steep hilly winding stuff alongside the Mekong at the Chiang Khong end.
Mae Sai was dead with the border closed so it was straight onto the Golden Triangle & Chiang Khong.
The ride from Mae Sai to Chiang Khong got real interesting, as there was rain all around, & we had to keep varying the pace to either stay ahead of the rain or behind it, depending on which direction the road was going & the wind was blowing! Eventually our luck ran out & just 10 kms from Chiang Khong we got drenched in about 2 short kms, when we rode around a corner & got hit from all sides, and this was just when I thought it was going to be a passing shower - how could I get it so wrong?

Was relatively busy with backpackers going to Lao PDR as usual. In CK we had to take the obligatory feast at the Bamboo with Taew's fantastic Mexican food. Expats are even coming from Chiang Mai to eat here now, so it is GOOD!
We stayed as Watchira's Tam Mi La g/house, which is still my favourite g/house in all of North Thailand. (Tip: get bungalow number 7 down by the river if you can.)

Was a nice smooth ride home & we were able to dodge the rain all the way, without having to put on the waterproofs.
R1089 was not much fun, as the road needs resurfacing, but route 1173 really is awesome right now - a smooth flowing racetrack of a road. Check it out if you've got a sport bike and looking for good sweepers with a wide clear view of the way ahead. Its too bad the ol Africa Twin's in need of both new tyres & in another few more weeks.........

« Last Edit: Jul 23rd, 2002, 10:47am by Davidfl »