Quiet Roads: Chiang Mai-Thaton-Chiang Rai- Nan-Phr

Jan 13, 2006
Since this is my first trip report, I think I should first tell a little about myself and the way I like to travel.
I am quite an old guy already, 65, backpacker since I don't know when, mostly travelling alone (well, nothing against the wonderful TLs). I am not really a motorbike freak, for me the small 125s are just fine, but I love those winding peaceful roads going up and down, of which you find so many in the thai mountains. I like to drive not too large distances on a day (I realize that most of you would do 2 or 3 of my day trips in one day), because finding nice places to stay is half of the fun. So I will try to give some recommendations, but you must know I prefer the middle priced places, not too simple, but my upper limit is about 500B.

Well here is something about my last trip ( see route above), I think parts of it are certainly described in other reports of this forum, so I describe only the parts I liked most.
In my report I refer to the map "Thailand North" by Berndtson & Berndtson, which is not easily to be got nowadays. I ordered it via internet from England.
One general remark in advance: On the whole trip I had very reasonable road conditions, 98% asphalt surface, no bigger road construction as I remember.
And since it was November not a single drop of rain, therefore no problems with high water.
I find that month the absolutely best to travel in North Thailand, best weather, rather clear view, not too many tourists (therefore no problem with accommodation), pleasantly cool nights, but not too cool for riding (as sometimes in December).

Started in Ch.M. first aim Phrao. Using the 1001, not too exciting but make a detour to the Sri Lanna NP at the water reservoir, some small roads, but easy to find. Going into the NP would cost now 400B, but they let you enter to the nice restaurant at the lake, wonderful view, nice food.
At Phrao I had in mind to stay at the Doi Farang Resort, my guide book said 600B. I wanted to give myself a treat. Lies far out in the countryside at the foot of the hills, but well signposted. It is really a gem in the nothingness, beautiful garden, singular bungalows, little lake, restaurant all very tasteful, but...1200B without AC. Too expensive for me, went back to Phrao Hotel. What a contrast, only 200B but worth only 50. But in the little restaurant nearby "Nanta's Kitchen" I heard about nice new bungalows for about 350B, ask there.
Phrao is a very thai town, does certainly not see many foreigners (though there are living some permanently).
Next aim was Thaton. First the 1150, nice drive, then from Ping Khong 5 km south on the 107, then onto the 1178 up north to Arunothal very close to the Burmese boarder. Saw some military posts, but was never stopped.
From there starts a most spectacular road via Sinchai to the Doi Ang Khang. As described somewhere else the 1249 from the Doi down is the steepest road I have ever driven in Thailand, though perfectly surfaced.. Back on the 107 it goes all straight to Thaton with a lot of traffic.
I like the Garden Home Resort in Thaton very much, have stayed there 3 times now, 500B for a very nice bungalow just at the riverside, with AC (and BF, if you bargain).
Thaton itself is a very sleepy town, even the new Bamboo Bar closes about 9 pm. But you have to go to the big temple and further on until the road ends at the big Buddha: the view from there down into the Burmese jungle is my absolute favourite in Thailand.

I think the road to Mae Chan (1089) and then to Chiang Rai (1) has been described many times , a very good alternative is the 1234 over Mae Salong and then the 1130 to Mae Chan.
I have done it before (almost freezing to death in December), it is fantastic, though I did not find Mae S. very exciting.
You can also make the wonderful river trip to Ch.R. (I did before without bike). I asked how much it was to take the motorbike on the boat, I think it was 700B, but I don't remember precisely.
I usually stay in the Ban Bua GH in Chiang Rai, it has a beautiful garden, very clean rooms, I usually take one without AC for 220B. And there are mostly pleasant people staying there.
I also looked at the Akha GH there, very nicely situated at the riverside, also very cheap and clean, maybe an alternative.

From Ch.R. to Phayao on back roads. First on 1020 to Chiang Khian (boring), then after about 7km towards Chun (don't know the road number) then at Phuang Phayom right onto 1126. This goes very nicely over a mountain ridge until it meets the 1202 leading into Phayao.
Well I like P. I have been there before and enjoyed this very thai city, lying on a beautiful lake with lots of restaurants along the lakeshore. You may be the only tourist around at least in the evening. During the day some tour busses stop at a rather modern open air café at the lake (mainly for the toilet) but there you can also get the best coffee I have ever had, try the cappuccino!!
The hotel I stayed twice is on the mainroad, "Tarn Tong", quite pleasant (400B?), ask for a room in the upper floor, from there you even have a view to the lake, though over the roofs.
From Phayao to Nan I took the wonderful, absolutely quiet 1251, what a nice ride , of course others have written about it before. When you pass the NP on that way, just drive down the 2 km and chat with the girls at the headquarter, they speak no English at all but it is fun anyway.
The 1091, also a pleasant slightly more busy road leads straight into Nan.
What shall I tell about Nan, there has been written a lot about it in this forum. It is my favourite thai city, I have been there now already 3 times and I will visit it again soon. I like the easy going life there, the pleasant but not too professional infra structure, the dinners by the river, the Riverside Art Gallery (20km north), and of course the wonderful surrounding.
Most trips from there are described in the forum, I will only give one tip. Go to Mae Charim first (very nice road), then on to Nam Phang. There are a lot of possibilities, e.g. Nam Pu, nice rapids. But the best is the road to Rom Klao (maybe you have to ask first, but when you are on the right road then all is easy). This about 25km are the most spectacular I have ever gone. I met no vehicle all the way, the (well paved) road is partly half overgrown and it goes up and down steeply. Only be careful there may be cows lying on the road suddenly.
And there is this very remote Mong village at the end of the road, of course they have sen farangs before, but for a while you may think you are the first one.

Sorry I get a little tired of writing, I will continue in a later posting.

David, you see, you have really kicked me in my lazy a..
Hope you like it.


Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
Chiang Khong
Loved the report mate. Also glad you did the Rom Klao & Nam Phang roads.
If anyone is a bit unsure where they are & how good they are, take a look at
http://www.unlimit-travel.com/board/vie ... c&start=75