road report from inexperienced rider

Aug 16, 2003
In Januari and Februari I have been riding in Thailand and Laos. David's website has been a huge help and I doubt I could have done it without all the info I got from it and its members. I want to share some of my experience. If you want to have a safe ride and see most of North Thailand (and Laos), this might be useful.

First some background. Two years ago in Vietnam I met a German guy who was travelling the country by motorcycle. I had never considered driving a motorcycle before, but his stories made me see the light: traveling on bike was THE way!! Back home in Holland I started to take driving lessons and got my license. April 2003 I bought a motorbike. Last December, Januari and Februari I have been travelling. I spent december in Kashmir and Nepal. I rented a bike in Kathmandu and rode the country for 5 days, which I can highly recommend. The views are even better than in Thailand and Laos.

In Januari I arrived in Bangkok, in search to buy a motorbike. I will spare you the story about the trouble I've been through. The moral of the story is: 1. don't do business with a Thai shop; 2. if you do, don't leave the bike with them after you bought it because they'll strip it. Anyway, I got out of it financially unharmed and bought a bike from Siam Superbike (I will post a separate message about that).

With David's Motorcycle Guide to the Golden Triangle in hand, I planned my trip. Every part of my itinerary is described in David's book and I have nothing new to add to that. The reason I am posting my route is that it might help others in their planning. Especially less experienced riders who want to play it safe and see most of North Thailand. Since I was still rather unexperienced I drove on safe roads. With my Honda Super Four I had no business on dirt roads anyway. Looking back I think I had a very efficient itinerary, that took me through most of the great scenery of North Thailand and Laos.

day 1: Bangkok - Ayuthaya (Higway 1)
day 2: Ayuthaya - Sukothai (Highway 1 & 12)
day 3: Sukothai - Chang Mai (road 101 & Higway 11)

In the first three days I visited the historical parks of Ayathaya, Sukothai and Si Satchanalai. The latter is the least visited but most interesting. Road 11 winds through the hills and is a nice ride.

day 4: Samoeng loop
day 5: Chiang Mai - Soppong
day 6: Soppong - Mae Hong Son
day 7: Mae Hong Son - Chiang Mai

For more info on day 5-7, see my post about the Lisu New Year Ride.

day 8: Chiang Mai - Ang Khang - Tha Ton (page 15)
day 9: Tha Ton - Mae Mo - Doi Thung - Mae Sai - Chiang Saen
day 10: Chiang Saen - Nan (roads 1129, 1020, 1155, 1021, 1148 & 1080)
day 11: Nan - Nan (Doi Phukha loop, page 157)
day 12: Nan - Chiang Mai (roads 1091, 1021, 120, 118)
day 13: Chiang Mai - Bangkok (Highway 11 & 1, took me 13 hours to get to the center of BKK, incl. stops)

Later I went to Laos:
day 1: Bangkok - Nakhon Ratchisima
day 2: Nakhon Ratchisima - Vientiane
day 3: Vientiane - Vang Vieng
day 4: Vang Vieng - Luang Prabang
day 5: Luang Prabang - Vang Vieng
day 6: Vang Vieng - Vientiane - Tha Khek
day 7: Tha Khek - Ubon Ratchatani
day 8: Ubon Ratchatani - Bangkok

Road 13 from Vientiane and Luang Prabang is briliant. Vang Vieng is a very pleasant stop over. Spend at least one day in Luang Prabang. Vientiane to BKK was a boring ride.

You've seen I went back from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and from there to Vientiane. I had to take that route due to registration issues (see separate post). Of course it's much better to go directly to Nan to Vientiane. It's much quicker and saves you a lot of boring miles.

Last note: I found driving in Bangkok a living hell. Avoid it if you can. If you fly to Thailand and want to buy/rent a motorccycle, I recommend to do it in Chiang Mai.

Thanks to David and other riders I've met. I wish everybody a happy and safe ride.

Aug 16, 2003
Sorry to take so long to answer, I totally forgot.

When I was in Nepal, I did some searching on the internet to find a motorcycle shop. Didn't find any (lots of organisations who arrange motorcycle trips though). I ended up just walking around Thamel, the tourist area in Kathmandu. There are verious little shops who rent motorcycles (up to 200 cc). I rented a 165 cc Honda from a guy at a square in the south side of Thamel. Looking at the map, I think it's called Chhetrapati Chowk.

I guess the best thing to do is just walk around Thamel and compare different bikes and prices. If have any more questions, please ask.