Phayao - Phrao - Chiang Dao

Kiwi Cruiser

Ben Kemp
Staff member
May 26, 2007
18/11/2007 Weekend in sleepy Phayao, a lakeside town in the mountains 150kms northeast of Chiang Mai. Turn onto Highway 120 at Mae Kachan, out through Wang Nua and over the mountain to Phayao.
Photo: Entering Wang Nua. Phayao is over the mountain range ahead...

From Wang Nua, there is a short section of road with breaking seal and some potholes, aside from that it just gets better the further you go.

Phayao is pretty quiet and sleepy, but in a lovely setting in a wide valley, right on the lake, with some nice waterfront restaurants etc. Stayed at the Gateway Hotel
Photo: View from the 7th floor at sundown was good!

The morning mists peeled back as the sun came up, revealing the lake with a mountain backdrop.


First part of the return trip was a repeat of the previous weekend - blasting up highway 120 from the Phayao plains, the road is brilliant! Newish ashfelt surface, wide sweeping bends through nice forest. The little Honda Phantom loves this stuff, full noise in 3rd, 4th and 5th gear, occasional sparks off the footplates :)

Turned right at Mae Kachan, and then left at Foei Hai to take Highway 1150 through to Phrao. This is a country road, through very hilly country, steep in places with lots of sharp turns - not a place to hurry!

A disconcerting and disproportionate number of right-hand corners seem to have loose fine grit on the left lane, right at the point of maximum g-forces. There were several times when my $300 Aussie stockmans boots were almost called to do speedway duty! I suspect this is because the locals habitually cut the corners, leaving the correct lane virtually unused... Id say its important to bear in mind that the possibility of meeting a Hmong farmer in a Toyota Tiger loaded 8 feet high with cabbages - in YOUR lane - is quite high!

The descent into the Phrao valley is real pretty - but I never quite found the right place to get the obligatory photo, and then it was too late. Phrao was a bit the same... a couple of cross streets and I'm out the other side, wondering where the hell "town" was! Oh well, who needs lunch!

From Phrao, the country changes dramatically - suddenly, its citrus groves! There's some awesome looking mountains in the distance...

This is nice section of road, with a much more reliable surface. However, there's still a few spots with pitted seal and loose grit...

There's some lovely little villages in superb settings.

The highway 107 bypass (correction from BobS) :) around Chiang Dao heading back to Chiang Mai has a very dramatic moment for the unwary... one minute you're on a major highway, coming around a sweeping left-hander... and the highway ENDS... there's a couple of dirt lanes, going either left or right... no signs to explain the mystery... I stopped and turned around, but then a couple of mini-van tours rumbled down and turned right, onto the rutted dirt track... I followed, and after 300 meters, the highway appeared again. :) Bob says there is a property dispute on the small section in the middle of the route! :eek:

The majestic Chiang Dao draws nearer... I've seen this one on a clear day, looking north from my 6th floor apartment and thinking - wow, that looks good! Might have to see if there's a hiking trail to the top...

This is a beautiful place to live - there's just so many places to go exploring!