Rt.1178 Wife walks while I duck paddle

Jan 22, 2005
Rt1178 Wife walks while I fish tail and duck paddle, but we got it done. BMW1150RT 2 Up and fully loaded.

The part of Rt1178 we are talking about is a 69km stretch that goes from East to West and more or less paralles the Burma border in Northern Chiang Mai Province. Using Chiam Mai as the reference point, go North about 80km along Rt 107 towards Chiang Dao. 6km past Chiang Dao, turn left onto Rt1178 and continue North for about 35km or about 8km past Na Wai and when the road splits into a Y, this is where Rt1178 becomes more interesting. From here it runs North Northwest towards Muang Na Nua Caves (14km) and then continues in a more or less Westerly direction for another 55km to Ban Chong. At the “Y” intersection there was a police check point, with the police wearing flak jackets. Wonder what prompted this extra protection. Can’t say as having recalled them wearing these anywhere else, except in the deep Southern Provinces.

We were coming from our home in Chiang Khong on our way to Chiang Mai and then off to Southern Laos for a few weeks and were fully loaded up with tank bag, panniers and top box stuffed full of goodies. We had just spent an enjoyable evening having the entire resort at Doi Ang Khang (up in the mountains West of Fang and about 140km North of Chiang Mai) all to ourselves and wanted to go do this stretch of road that looked interesting to us when we passed this way last January. At that time we thought wiser of it, because the road is reported to not be passable on a “road bike”. But this time, not being so wise, we decided to give it a go. Having just finished riding it, we would have to say it’s still not passable on a “road bike” but with my wife walking for over a half hour on various parts of it and my duck paddling way too much of it – we managed. So passable on a road bike it is, but…

We dropped South out of Doi Ang Khang on Rt1340 around 8:30 in the early cool/cold of the morning and the scenery was spectacular with the clearest of skies and views down into the multiple lush green valleys below Very much unlike during the winter when the fog hangs heavy in the valleys below and all-over visibility is less then good anyway due to a lot of field burning over most of South East Asia in general. We skirted along the ridges enjoying the views to both East and West and on South past the KMT Village, pack mules grazing along the road side and the colorfully dressed hill trip folks off to another day in the mountain top fields. We then dropped down into Pha Daeng and on for another 13km to the "Y" interesection where Rt1340 meets with Rt1178.

Rt1178 along this East to West stretch is 69km from point to point and for the most part, over 1,000 meters in elevation and the temperature is cool and the scenery can be spectacular while going from one hill top to another along the ridge backs with falling away distances down into the green below. For the first 20km the road is asphalt with beautiful rolling and fully cultivated hills with steep mountains for the back drop – and from then onto the end of it – the road becomes a bit of a work out. On a dual purpose or off road bike, the last 49km would be a good mud kicking and rock bumping ride with great scenery and only a few minor inconveniences. For 2up on a fully loaded RT, it was at times; “well we can’t go back what we just managed to get through so the only thing to do is keep going and hope it doesn’t deteriorated too much more”. And of course then rain started to drizzle when we were less then half way through, but luck held and the sky started to clear. The road was still wet though from the heavy rain the night before and mud was more or less the order of the day. We road as much as possible on the thick carpet of pine needles along the edge of the road and where ever we saw a lot of 3-5 inch rock we would head for this to allow the tires something to get at least a marginal grip on and to avoid the mud as much as possible.

Road construction is going on at around the 30km mark (Kae Noi) and for a few miles past this we thought we would be in luck and things would improve; “maybe they are improving the road from Kae Noi to Ban Chong”. Ah what blissful naive fools we can be when it’s not going as we would like. Of course this was not to be. In fact, for the last 25km or so we felt we could not possibly be on the correct road, for it just got narrower and more difficult as we went along. If we had approached this route from Ban Chong (where Rt1178 terminates at Rt1322) we would not have attempted the road, for it was all too easy to see that it was not going to be much fun on a road bike. A real case of the hind sight here…

If your wondering what the wife thought of her walking for more then a half hour over various stretches of Rt1178 so I could more easily duck paddle along. She thought this much preferred to the alternative of unexpectedly laying in the mud, looking up and over at the bike, as we had found ourselves when we last attempted a road like this a few months past when we were riding in Northern Laos up by the Viet Nam border. So she was more then happy to walk (her idea actually) and I was more then happy to sweat buckets while paddling along – when considering the alternatives…

After finishing with the 69km of Rt1178 is was good to see Rt1322. And what a Great Ride this road turned out to be. From Ban Chong, Rt1322 parallels a twisting lush narrow valley and then the road starts its climb back into the mountains and to over 1,000 meters in elevation where the temperature immediatly starts to improve to down right comfortable. And the bike speed picks up and we start to lean into them. For most of the 90km of this road the riding is up in the mountains with one twisty after another, after another, and with spectacular views all around. We could see Doi Chiang Dao and it’s surrounding jagged mountain peaks for most all of this ride, especially as we raced from hill top to hill top along the ridge backs.

We highly recommend the excellent twisties and road condition of Rt1322 and when you get to the Northern end of it and are on a GS or other similar multi purpose or off road bike, then strike out up and over Rt1178. You won’t be disappointed. If you happen to be on a “road bike” then still give 1322 a go, riding it both ways with a lunch stop in Ban Chong and then return to Malee’s guest house at the base of Doi Chiang Dao and just 1.5km up past the Chiang Dao Caves. The coffee and fresh baked bread is just the best!!

David and Mai
Apr 22, 2003
After your demonstration of the retractable wind shield on your bike Im suprised BMW havent come up with a version that has retractable mud guards and knobbies that pop out on the push of a button for when one encounters such conditions, how thoughtless of them, you just cant get value for money these days.
Enjoy your stay with us