Riding The Yom River & R1091

DavidFL

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Living in Chiang Khong my preferred route to Nan is via R1091, which I think is a much better biker's road than the more renowned R1148.
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R1091 starts from Chun & the road junction with R1021 that runs from Phayao to Chun to Chiang Kham to Thoeng.
R1091 rocks for a riders road despite it being a bit old, narrow & bumpy from Pong to to Chiang Muan. That section however is one of my favourite bits for a blast on account of the undulating twisting nature of the road.
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Then from Chiang Muan it is a super road that soars up and down through the mountains, to drop you right in town just 500 metres from Hot Bread & Nan city centre! It is a total winner every time.
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Most riders would just blast along R1091 for the ride, because it really is a rider's road; but should you slow down a bit & look at the scenery and old villages along the way...WOW.
There are scores of fantastic old & new wood houses built & being built.
Why?
Well R1091 sort of follows the Yom River, which has it's official source in the town of Pong; and the Yom has had some of the best teak forests in its watershed.
One of the longest controversial proposed dam plans in Thailand has been the Kaeng Sua dam on the Yom River, downstream from Chiang Muan, which villagers have been fighting against since 1989, when the dam idea was first mooted.
It has been approved and then suspended again several times = it is still on the drawing boards perhaps.

It is estimated that 5,000 people in four villages in Sa-iab sub-district of Song district, plus the whole of Chiang Muan district, and at least five villages in Pong district will be inundated by the dam!

One of the controversies over the proposed dam is that it will flood the last golden teak forest in Thailand.
This golden teak forest covering an area of 1,600 ha, is located in the Mae Yom National Park & has an estimated value of US$67,000,000.

Faced with the inevitably that one day they are going to have to move & end up with very little, many villagers started logging in the forested areas reasoning that eventually it will be lost to the dam, they won't get anything & some big company will get the logging rights to the forested areas. So they help themselves & get what they can. The timber can't be sold as such, but it can be used to build a house, which can then be sold. So as you cruise along R1091 take your time & look at some of the magnificent wood houses along the way.

The best section for me is between Pong & Chiang Muan, but should you want to cruise around the small streets of both Pong & Chiang Muan check these lovely little towns out.
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more to come
 
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DavidFL

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The Yom River
The 735 km long Yom River, passing through Phayao, Phrae, Sukhothai, Phitsanulok, and Phichit provinces, is the smallest tributary of the Chao Phraya.
It's watershed is 23,616 km2 & where it joins the Nan river the flood plain covers 500 km2 and extends from Sukhothai to Phitsanulok provinces, and is one of the biggest wetlands in Thailand. It is classified under the Ramsar Convention as a wetlands of international importance.
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It's official source is just east of Pong, where the Nam Khuan & The Nam Ngim come together.
Looking at it in a drought you would never think it was such an important river in the North!

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It doubles as a local picnic area with a nice sala, table & chairs
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There's also a famous log, that is a spirit shrine & I guess maybe came out of the river sometime?
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more to come..
 

Dodraugen

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Great write up David!

Yom, Nan, Wang and Ping - the four rivers that makes up the Chao Phraya river that runs through Bangkok. That was one of the first facts my geography-nerded brain sucked up when I started to travel to Thailand some 18 years ago.

But Yom river has in my mind somewhat been the least interesting. Now I know it isnt, thanks to you...:idea::)
 

DavidFL

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Great write up David!

Yom, Nan, Wang and Ping - the four rivers that makes up the Chao Phraya river that runs through Bangkok. That was one of the first facts my geography-nerded brain sucked up when I started to travel to Thailand some 18 years ago.

But Yom river has in my mind somewhat been the least interesting. Now I know it isnt, thanks to you...:idea::)

Yeah it has always been a bit of a little known attraction, but the dam story is quite something.

For anyone who is interested, some links with info

Thirty Years of Resistance: Stopping the Kaeng Sua Ten Dam on the Yom River - EarthRights International

Living in the ugly shadow of the kaeng sua ten dam

Fighting for the forest, battling against the dam

http://www.mekonginfo.org/assets/midocs/0002761-planning-cadastre-local-participation-and-the-kaeng-s

What happens when anti-dam protestors win? - Southeast Asia Globe

https://www.newmandala.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/03/changnoikaengsuaten.pdf
 
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DavidFL

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Chiang Muan is a gem of a little own and was one of the first Tai Lue settlements in North Thailand, until they were forced to move to Chiang Kham because of a huge flood, and then drifted back again??

If you ride around the back sois of Chiang Muan there are lots of wonderful new & old wooden houses lining the streets too.
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My favourite Chiang Muan restaurant & pit stop is out on the highway
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The food here is always fresh & tasty. Location: Google Maps

A magnificent teak wood house, the property backs onto the Mae Yom River.
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4.6 kms away & towards Nan off R1091 is a local tourist attraction: Fang Ta
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A local picnic spot with some impressive cliff erosion & a small stream dammed.
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Location: Google Maps
 
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DavidFL

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Wats along the way.....R1091

Pong - Wat Bun Yuen
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A 200 year old wat with fantastic teak posts & doors.
The abbot Luang Pu Kru Barod was / is 90 years old, although I'm not sure if he is still around.

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Magnificent big doors & windows
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A post & a half
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Location: Google Maps

Wat Na Prang - Pong City
A small quiet wat in the centre of town.
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Location: Google Maps

Wat Tha Fah Tai
is a famous classic old Tai Lue wat
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It was constructed in 1769 by Khru Thammasena and Phothao Saen-atthi, the leaders of the Tai Lue people who immigrated from Sipsongpanna in Yunnan province, China.
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The Buddha image was taken from Sipsongpanna in China in the original migration of Lue people from China to Thailand in the 18th century.
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Location: Google Maps
 
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DavidFL

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R3020 a "short cut" to Wiang Sa from Ban Luang

Off R1091 on the way to Nan, there are a couple of "short cuts" than run south to R101.
One of these uses R4002 - 3046 - 4004 - 101 - 1026 & is written up here
My Gtr Dinner Trip - Chiang Khong - Na Noi Return
the road is all asphalt.

The other road uses R3020 south from Ban Luang & comes out on R101 by Huai Lot.
A masterplan to check out R3020 on the way to Wiang Sa surveying for the GTR dinner was foiled by the girls hanging out at the Aoi coffeeshop at Ban Luang, while I watched MotoGP practice on my phone. We ran out of coffee, so had a few beers to celebrate Lung's return & I ran out of time to survey R3020 that day...some thing never change they say?
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But 3 days later I was able to check out R3020 with Steve Prince on my return from Wiang Sa to Chiang Khong.

Steve had most graciously volunteered to come down to Wiang Sa, with a charger (& spare battery should it be necessary), as I had mentioned that I stupidly left the key on in the ignition & totally flattened the lithium battery on my bike.
I wasn't too concerned & thought I'd just hunt down a lithium battery charger in Wiang Sa or get one from Nan if necessary. BUT..
Steve says I will see you in the morning at 9.30AM, it's not far & only a couple of hundreds kms - 235Kms?
Wow, I wonder where he is?
Hey Steve I'm in Wiang Sa, not Chiang Khong & not Nan. It's about 400 kms from Chiang Rai!
Oh bloody hell that's further than I thought, but see you in the morning the same.
Man, that's impressive & Steve was there in Wiang Sa at 7.30am, taking a night ride down from Chiang Rai!!
With a power extension from the resort we connected the charger the charger up to the battery on the bike still parked in the street & sauntered off downtown for a cuppa at the The Chang Nan Coffee & Gallery

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And a couple of hours later we were back on the road. Mega thanks Steve for saving the day. "That's what mates are for" Steve says.

The turn of for R3020 is 24 kms west of Wiang Sa & it is 45 kms through to R1091 & Ban Luang
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Ian Yonok had tipped me off that this road was all asphalt & a wonderful ride
Nan "missing" Link Roads

That sound about perfect for me & a nice alternative getting to from Wiang Sa / Na Noi / Phrae from Chiang Khong.

R3020 is indeed a wonderful rolling undulating ride.

A deserted back road, again with some magnificent new wood houses
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Some amazing houses being built in the middle of nowhere!
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Halfway in from the south side road resurfacing starts
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Then the road climbs up out of the valley to cross the ridgeline & the watershed
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The wet season issue of no forest cover is clear to see.
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Approaching the ridgeline there's some heavy road works with a grader, roller on the new road, such that I was happy not be caught out in the rain that day on snot with the Vstrom. Steve was kms ahead though enjoying a blast on his Africa Twin.

On the north side of the ridgeline it is "plain sailing" down hill all the way.
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Down the hill & into the maze of village sois to navigate back onto R1091 & a cuppa at Aoi Coffee.

Wiang Sa to Chiang Khong is 300 kms via the Ban Luang short cut.
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Soon it will be time to go back & ride R1120 south from Chiang Muan to hang out along the Yom is the plan..
Sa Iab
Song
Phrae
Long
Wang Chin
 
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Heineken

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For those not aware Chiang Muan now has a new PTT with 7/11 and Amazon........the old 7/11 is still open, new PTT is only a few 100m down the road
 

Andrew

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Great to see Thai teak houses being built, I must do this ride when I’m back in Thailand.
Very informative report as always David
 

DavidFL

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Chiang Muan - returning from the GTR dinner @ Wiang Sa.
Youngie & I headed off with a master plan to go west from Wiang Sa & ride R101 Rong Kwang, then head north of R103 - R1154 - R1120 & maybe stop a night in Sa Iap on the Yom to check out the town , but as luck would have it was bucketing down in Sa Iap, so we plodded onto Chiang Muan for the night.

En route we hit Song & the Phra That Phra Lor, site of a famous Thai lovers triangle memorial, which is written up on GTR here My Chiang Khong - Phrae & Return, Gtr Dinner Rendezvous.

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In Chiang Muan the Wilai 59 was the place to stay
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Happy hour was the Twinkle Bar
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Cruising quaint Chiang Muan
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The intriguing Wat Si Muang Mang
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Youngie and I were impressed with the land plot ratio use plus the quantity of bricks n mortar. Must have had the local concrete company as a major sponsor we thought?
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The Viharn was magnificent with scores of concrete pillars.
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A magnificent rattan chair
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Back on the highway for brekky at my favourite Chiang Muan restaurant, there's a timber yard next door, full of timber & finished items: spirit houses, doors, wind frames, tables, chairs.
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I asked if the timber came from Bangkok or somewhere else, but nope it is all locally sourced around Chiang Muan!
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Asking how much they had, we got a guided tour downtown of the godown building...
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From Chiang Muan, Youngie & I split up. Youngie headed home to Chiang Mai & me to Chiang Khong.
Pottering up R1091there was another final wat on the way stop.

Wat Doi Yuak
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Wat Doi Yuak is the oldest & most important temple in Pong district.
The temple is a classic beauty & is claimed to have relics of Buddha - a hair & bones.

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Legend has it that Buddha came to the small hill Doi Phu Term where a Phaya Nak dwelled.

The Phaya Nak thought Buddha was a Garuda & so hid from Buddha, but eventually after listening to Buddha’s sermons the Phaya Nak respected Buddha.
Before his death, Buddha gave the monk Phra Arnot a piece of his hair, plus requested that after he died a piece of his eye socket would be kept at the temple.
 
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DavidFL

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Hard to imagine. This was the source of the Yom a month ago
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Then a tropical storm Higos comes in dumps a massive amount of water in the Yom watershed.
Wiang Sa is severely flooded, but in the Nan watershed.
Phrae gets flooded & that water flows into the Yom way downstream
Sukhothai then gets a massive flood, with the concrete river barriers breaking.

So its time to build the Yom river dam again, but way upstream where's there's been no flood??
30th August 2020.
The villagers of Sa Iab rightly demonstrate & protest once again.
Phrae villagers protest against 'unnecessary' dam

The campaign was launched after Capt Thamanat said during a visit to Sukhothai last Thursday that he planned to revive plans to build the Kang Sua Ten dam on the upper reaches of the Yom River in Phrae.
 

DavidFL

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Just 4 kms south of Chiang Muan you have to take a left hand turn to stay on R1091 to go to Nan.
If you carry straight on you go to Sa Iab, Song & Phrae.
OR 80 metres before (north of) this road junction, there's a soi off to the right (west) that goes to the Dinosaur Museum & a brilliant little temple on a hill with spectacular views of Chiang Muan.
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Wat Phrathat Phu To is the name.
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Take your time & check it out sometime.
Google Maps
 
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DavidFL

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Back on the Yom & the Mae Yom National Park & dam site.
Dave DKT & I did this route with a night in Phrae.
R1091 - R1120- R103 -R101 to Phrae.
Then back up R101 - R103 - R1154.

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The "mighty" Yom that villagers have fought over for 25 years.
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What's all the fuss about you'd rightfully think too.

Riding into the national park
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to be continued.
 

DavidFL

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In search of the dam continued....
We got into the National Park for the local price & was told yeah the dam site was just up the road, you can ride right to it.

The road starts as a beauty & goes past the NP camp site
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In search of a possible dam site
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the asphalt runs out as does the road
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Perhaps this was it, but nope, it was for an imaginary camp site.

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we wandered for a look around, but no luck.
So the final verdict, not definitive of course, that we reckoned it must have been on the last big hill we rode over.
That should be about here

And off we went the next day, up gorgeous R1154 to Ngao city in the hunt for a GTR Dinner venue.
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DavidFL

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Just to cap off....Ngao city for a GTR Dinner. Sadly we drew a blank downtown. Absolutely nothing of note - hotel or restaurant or bar beer.
Whilst there are places out on the super highway, that would be defeating the idea behind the GTR Upcountry dinners - enjoying the charm of a small up country town, to see what's there.
Dave DKT & I dawdled around Ngao city for 45 minutes trying to find some acceptable places, but we failed!

The only "high point" was a stunning teak Wat - Wat Pong Khok
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Location: Wat Pang Khok