Nan-Doi Phu Kha Loop

Mar 15, 2003

Date:15July 2005 to 17 July 2005.

Weather: “Perfect”


Chaing Mai-Lampang-Phrae Nan

Doi Phu Kha Loop-recommended 1080N-1170E-1081N-1256E-1081S-/ 1169-1168 to Nan, (or in my case 1169-1225-1168 ).

Nan-Tha Wang Pha-Chiang Kham-Chun-Phayao-Mae Khachan-Chiang Mai

Bike: Yamaha TDM 850 (David “Silverhawk” and Fon)

David’s book says “You can’t claim to have ridden in N. Thailand until you have done the Doi Phu Kha loop”. I haven’t, so I decided to give it try.

We left Chiang Mai about 9:00AM on a beautiful sunny Friday morning with blue skies and white puffy cumulus clouds. As it is rainy season we still had our rain gear handy.

The usual route was uneventful, Super Highway from Chiang Mai to Lampang. Left on Highway 1 and up to the Phrae-Uttaradit Hwy 11 turnoff. We cruised on through Phrae taking a little time to look around and then headed for Nan. Good roads and unbelievably good weather all the way.

We checked in to the Devaraj Hotel (New Phone # 054-710078, 751577) for two nights planning on doing the loop and then returning for the night, so we could leave our clothes and extra gear in the room while we rode to Doi Phu Ka.

We spent the afternoon riding around Nan and checking out some of the temples. I am not a big temple fan, seen too many already, but there are some gorgeous examples in Nan and it really is worth doing. It was interesting to hear Fon comment on how clean and organized the other cites are compared to Chiang Mai. She kept commenting “Why can’t Chiang Mai do like this?”

Saturday morning we again were lucky and greeted by perfect weather. As we rode up 1080 I could see clouds sitting on top of the mountains and figured we would either a) get wet and cold, or b) our views would be obstructed by the low lying clouds.


Wrong again. Once we reached the top, you could look out directly at the bottom of the clouds and it made you try to reach out and touch them, but the views were spectacular.



As we climbed Doi Phu Kha on route 1256 we reached a checkpoint where they wanted to charge the usual National Park fee. I was able to convince them that the sign said “Non-residents 200bt”, not “foreigners 200bt”. I showed them my Thai driver’s license and we were on our way for 50bt.


The book says you can do this ride in 2.5 hours hard riding, but it would be a shame to approach it that way. The scenery is great and well worth taking your time. We spent 4.5 hrs for the whole distance including a little “detour” south on hwy 1252 when I missed a turn. It just brought us out a little farther south of Nan.



Some Notes:

First check the map carefully or David’s book. In the past I never really paid close attention to the map and I thought “the loop” was the road leading all the way up to the Lao border at Huai Kon and back. WRONG! You will see the much shorter Doi Phu Kha route just north of Nan on the map.

When going north on 1080 from Nan, it is recommended you turn west on hwy 1170 before Pua. However there are no signs and 1080 turns into a divided highway just before the turnoff so there is almost no way of seeing 1170. I found it by going as far as the turn off for Hwy 1148 west and then making a u-turn back south at Tha Wang Pha . About 2 km back there is a sign for 1170. If you’re vigilant, you can probably make a u-turn just after the road divides and you will see it.

Take 1170 to the end and go north on north on 1081 to Pua.

You want to go east on 1256 but it is almost the same situation as 1170. I had to go to the main intersection in Pua, do a u-turn, and found the turnoff for 1256 by backtracking. There are signs pointing to Champhu Phu Ka along the way. I learned later “Champhu” means National Park.

We spent another night in Nan, had a nice dinner down on the river and headed back for Chiang Mai via Hwy 1148 to Chiang Kham-Phayao and home. 1148 is a great ride that has been covered many times on this board.

I am not sure that Doi Phu Kha loop is the “best” but it is well worth doing. It is way up at the top of the list, for sure.


Even in the rainy season you sometimes get lucky.

Dave Early

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