My Mae Hong Son loop ride

May 14, 2007
Hello everyone. The folllowing is from my blog ( Feel free to check out my past writeups of riding in South Africa and my upcoming trip where I am riding from ChengDu to Kunming China.

First off I want to thank David for all the help. We met up twice while I was in Chiang Mai and I was able to pick his brain and get really good information for my ride.

I was up early Saturday morning to get ready for my ride on the Mae Hond Son loop. I packed my bag with all the clothes I thought I would need along with my other gear. I donned my heavy riding jacket loaded down with all my electronic stuff (camera, MP3 player, Autocom kit, etc). After trying a couple bikes at Tony's I settled on a 400cc Honda VTX, definitely a road bike. I strapped my gear onto the back with bungee cords and donned my riding pants over my shorts and took off. It took a while to get out of town, there was lots of traffic and the first 30 kilometers was going through the suburbs and neighboring towns and villages. I finally got out into a more open area and made my first turn off. The route David suggested and I agreed sounded the best had me leave Chiang Mai on Highway 108 heading south then to turn east onto road 1009 and go to Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand. On the way up road 1009 I ran into a brief but rather intense rain shower. I didn't have time to don my rain gear so I got a bit wet. Oh well what was a little rain? Ha Ha Ha. The mountain was beautiful, at one checkpoint they tried to charge me 420 baht to go up to the top but I told them I was going to a Mae Chaem and they let me through, then I "accidentally" took a wrong turn and ended going up the mountain before turning around and heading toward that village. My Bad

From Doi Inthanon I rode on 1009 to Mae Chaem where I turned on to 1088 and headed north up into the mountains again. There wasn't a lot of traffic on these roads, in fact I was lucky to see anyone else every 10 to 20 minutes. At one point I came to the top of a pass and saw lightening in the distance. There were also some pretty dark clouds in front of me so I decided to don some rain gear and wrap up my bags in plastic trash bags I brought for that purpose. I put the liner in my jacket by not my pants, something I came to regret. I started down the pass and within 20 minutes it was raining. Lightening was flashing about once per minute and the thunder was loud and getting closer. At this point I was on road 1263, which looks like a good road on the map, but it isn't. Over the next two hours I rode through heavy rain, my legs were soaked and there was water running into my boots. The road had long stretches of steep down hill that were just mud. It was raining so hard that there were strong streams running down through the mud making ruts in the road. I also rode past several land slides that partially covered the road as well as several places where the road had slid off down the mountain. I was beginning to wonder if I was on the right road but then I saw a marker saying I was so I kept going. There was no place to pull over and I rarely saw anyone else except for some farmers working their fields in the rain. After what felt like forever I finally got to Khun Yuam and the turn off for Mae Hong Son. I was back on highway 108 and good roads. I was still soaking wet but I was getting close and the rain was stopping.

The next 2 hours were pretty uneventful, I rode wet and a bit cold on the nice roads stopping only for gas and when the rear view mirror on the right side fell off (I stopped to pick it up). I finally got into Mai Hong Son and spent an hour trying to find the guest house David recommended (Piya Guest House). I was having a senior moment reading a map, but eventually got there and got a room (600 baht a night). When I got to the room I took off my boots and poured about 2 cups of water out of each one. I set them to dry on the air conditioner. After changing I went to dinner at a place David recommended Salween, they had great food, I really enjoyed it, then I went and got a 2 hour massage and a place that had been recommended by many people and is in the mae Hong Son map. It was a great massage and helped my immensely. During the massage it started to thunder and pour rain like you wouldn't believe. Welcome to Thailand during the rainy season. After the massage the owner loaned me her umbrella and I walked down to the Crossroads bar for a drink then to Balyoaks with live music for a second beer before going back to the Guest House and crashing at 10:30 PM. I was beat!

The next day the roosters woke me at about 5:00 AM, I really wanted to kill them. I got back to sleep until about 8:00 AM I got up and tried to shower. The shower in the guest house has an individual heater that you have to start by hand. I was able to get the starter to work but the pilot wouldn't catch so I had to hold in the button to keep the starter flame on and heat the water a little. I ended up having a very short semi-warm shower. I got dressed and went back to the place I had had dinner the night before. While having a great breakfast I met a guy named Cole. He is a freelance photographer from New York City on a month holiday in Thailand. We talked a bit about what to do that day and we both decided to go to see the long necks at a village outside of town. I told him that I would probably see him there and headed off to get ready.

I rode out of Mae Hong Son and up toward the village. At a cross roads about 15 kilometers outside of town there was a big crowd and some sort of festival going on. I turned to head toward the long neck village and spotted Cole so stopped to talk to him. He told me that he had been there about 30 minutes and that there were monks setting off rockets. We parked and watched the most amazing sight. People would bring these 30 foot long bottle rockets out and set them up leaning against a tree limb. A monk in the tree would light the fuse and duck behind a metal wall erected like a tree house. After a minute or two the rocket would take off and soar a few hundred feet into the air, maybe as much as 1000 feet before plummeting to the ground. A couple of the rockets just exploded in the tree, I am sure the monk was hard of hearing. It was a great sight and we stayed there for an hour or so before heading off to the long neck village. The last 2 kilometers to the village I should not have ridden, at least not on that bike. It was all dirt road, steep hills with deeps ruts, big rocks, potholes filled with water, etc. Perfect for an offroad bike, not for a street bike like I was on. What the hell, I rode it anyway and didn't drop the bike, though it was close a couple times. When we got there we had to pay 250 baht to get in. This tribe lives in a small village full of chickens, ducks and dogs. It was really hot as we walked around and everyone tried to sell us trinkets and jewelry. I was fascinated by the women and their jewelry but a bit disapointed in the commercialism. We didn't stay long as it was way to hot. We rode back out which was just as fun as riding in

We passed the festival where they were still setting off the 30 foot bottle rockets. One exploded just as we were going by. I hope that monk had good insurance. When Cole stopped for gas I realized that my gloves which I had bungeed to the back of the bike were gone, I guess the bungee popped off somewhere and a $200 pair of Held Gloves were history. I was to tired and didn't want to hit the dirt road again so I just gave them up and rode back to the guest house. Later that night Cole and I had some dinner at the same resturant and struck up a conversaton with Andrea, an English girl visiting her father who loves in Mae Hong Son. We had a few drinks after dinner then turned in early. I had a ride to Pai the next day and wanted my sleep.

At about 5:00 AM the roosters were up and trying their best to wake the dead. If I had a gun or even a golf club there would have been a lot of chicken steaks getting served that day. I finally got up around 8:00 AM and met up with Cole and Andrea at breakfast at Salween. The woman who owns the place comes from Burma. She was a refugee that hiked for 3 days over the mountains to escape the country and get to Thailand. She runs a great place and it seems to be a favorite of the locals and tourists.

After breakfast I started the ride to Pai. Pai is only about 110 kilometers from Mae Hong Son but everyone told me to plan 3 to 4 hours as the road was very windy and hilly, it ended up only taking me about 2 and a half hours and that included a couple stops for pictures. They were right about the road, it was a motorcyclists dream road, almost. It reminded me of the Alps, there were lots of hairpin corners, 180 degree turns going steeply uphill and some 180 turns going down steep hills. The longest straight away on the whole road was maybe the length of a football field. Where there weren't sharp turns there were sweepersthat were great to ride. All in all it was fantastic riding, but the reason I say it is almost perfect was that there were a few areas of construction that resulted in stretches of dirt and gravel for a kilometer at a time. When those are fixed it will make a great ride even better.

Keeping true to my luck I got rained on about 15 kilometers outside of Pai. It was a brief down pour and got me a bit wet but not as bad as the ride into Mae Hong Son. I also found the guest house in Pai much easier than the one in Mae Hong Son. When I got to the Brookside Guest House I asked if there were vacancies and there were, then I asked if #4 was available, David specifically recommended this one for the view. As luck would have it the people in there had just checked out and it was mine when they were done cleaning it.

When I got in it was worth the wait, it's a detached guest house (bedroom and bathroom) with a nice balcony overlooking a creek with beautiful mountains in the background. I took lots of pictures but it was really an idyllic scene and it sticks back farther than the other guest houses so when you are standing on the balcony you don't see them. After relaxing for a bit I walked the couple blocks into the main town where I found an internet cafe and then ended up talking with a guy who runs a hammock making shop and is head of the local enduro racing club. I got one of the Endure shirts as a souvenir. I walked around a bit exploring the town and doing a bit of shopping before finally stopping at a small place for some excellent Thai food. It is a small town with a couple major roads loaded with businesses. I was surprised at the number of tourists walking around, there were more of them than there were Thai people.

After my early dinner I headed back to the guest house to read, watch a bit of TV and relax. The only drawback to the room was at night it had more than its share of bugs (grasshoppers, moths and other things) because it is not completely closed to the outside, the roof is open at the eaves. I did have a fan in the room to help keep it cool and I didn't get any bites so no worries. There was also a mosquito net that I didn't use.

At about 3:00 AM a storm passed over and it rained so hard it sounded like golf balls on a tin roof. I listened to the rain for a bit before it slacked off enough for me to get back to sleep. When I got up the creek was noticeably higher than it was the night before.

I will write the next installment on the ride back to Chiang Mai next.

Feb 22, 2005
You're having fun on some of the same roads we took in January - no rain of course. Looking forward to the next episode.


Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
Chiang Khong
Great little trip report - it certainly sounded like a bit of an adventure with the rain & muddy roads.
I cant wait to see your photos & the 2nd half of the report (when you finish riding China.)