Sukhothai & The North's Worst Short Cut

Mar 15, 2003
Bob S and I started out for Sukhothai from the Kafe about Noon. He on his TDM 900 and me on the TDM 850 I bought over Christmas in Bangkok. Bob was heading for Pattaya but I was only going as far as Sukhothai and back. Just an excuse to ride.

108 to Hot, and then 1130 to 106 at Mae Tan. A nice easy ride with some decent road and scenery. After about 50km on 106 you hit some really nice twisty mountain roads for about another 50K. You have to really be careful and not take the blind curves too fast because there is a lot of heavy truck traffic, but where you can be sure of no oncoming cars it’s quite fun.

At Thoen you have to search a little bit to find 1048. Best to loop north and then hit Highway 1 south to the turnoff for 1048. Sounds confusing, but it is pretty obvious when you see it. From there to Sukhothai is a nice 2 lane road with light traffic. It reminded me of a fall ride in the northern U.S. as many leaves were falling from the trees and littering the highway. Follow the signs for Sukhothai Historical Park and your home free. We then followed 12 into the heart of Sukhothai.

We stayed at a really great guesthouse, Lotus Village Owned by a Frenchman, Michel Hermann, it is first class. It is located on the east side of the river so just turn left across the bridge and it is easy to find. A variety of accommodation types from typical fan bungalow to air con rooms. The dining area, main office and grounds are decorated in antiques and collectable furniture he has acquired over the years. Even a small library area. At B500 you can’t go wrong. Of course if you’re an opportunist who happens to be an engineer, and at the right place at the right time, when the power fails, you can fix the problem and get your room for free. Right, BOB!

Dinner at the Chopper Bar and drinks and music at the “Country …(something or other, help me Bob)” finished off a good day. They actually had a “red haired singer’ but I won’t start that saga again.

The next morning Bob S was off headed south and I took in the sights of the historical city. This is the way Chiang Mai should have been. Very beautiful and some great photo ops. One can see everything in an hour or so unless you’re a real history freak.

I headed north on 101 and just past Si Satchanalai I made a left onto 1177-1125-1023, finally joining up again with Highway 11. This knocked off about 27k of 101 and another 33k of Highway 11. It was a nice quiet route with the few villages I passed through looking shocked to see a big bike and a falang. Some hilly areas and good scenery.

I took 11 into Lampang but felt like finding something different into Chiang Mai. Even though my butt was starting to hurt and it was getting late afternoon, I thought I would try a diversion. BIG MISTAKE!

This is what not to do, the areas worst “short cut”. I searched a little around Lampang and found 1035 north. It follows the east side of the mountain ridge and is a nice road similar to 118 but without the traffic. 66K north is a “line” on my map that cuts across the mountain ridge and comes into 118 after about 50K.

One day I will learn about following narrow, jagged “lines” on the map even if they do have a number. In this case, 1252. 8k north of Chae Hom is the turnoff. A small paved road heading into the mountains. So far so good. The map shows a right turn before Jaeson National Park, but in reality you turn left for the park and just keep going straight for 1252.

Now the road turns to dirt, but “good dirt”. Really. It is about 3 lanes wide and graded smooth with a heavy and thick dirt surface. This is kinda of fun as you need some speed to keep the bike from digging in too much and sliding the back wheel around a little is a little exciting. So far I love this bike. Only 50k or so to go on this won’t be bad at all.

OK we run out of dirt and start to get some hard packed “2 tracks” and wind into the mountains. To make a long story short, lets just say I have not ridden on anything worse. There are looooooooong stretches where there are literally thousands of small rocks and stones embedded into the dirt and steep climbs and descents. Not only is it bone jarring, even at a minimal speed, but I really start to get concerned about tire punctures or breaking the tire from the rim. Definitely in the middle of nowhere I pass only a couple of oncoming scooters who look at me with amazement. I pass a couple of what I believe are Hmong farming on the roadside but that is about it. 2 small villages are shown on the map but they consist of only a couple buildings. I press on as the sun is setting, the temperature is dropping and I am just creeping along. At least I HAVE learned to fuel up before taking one of these unknown diversions.

Every time I think the route is beginning to improve it soon deteriorates again. A couple of mud crossings just add to the “enjoyment”. In typical Thai fashion they actually have the nerve to still put in highway markers. I get passed by one oncoming truck loaded with farmers and it is a near miss as neither of us expected to see someone.

About 30K at what the map shows as Pang Klang the road suddenly opens up into a huge tri-section dug out of the hills. It looks likes they have layed a dirt roadbed for a future paving and up on a hill is some type of checkpoint. I think this is where I can swing south toward Doi Saket and get back on pavement. I shout up to the checkpoint “Doi Saket” and point, they confirm to the left.

This starts as steep ( the back end tried to pass the front more than once), rough and rugged asphalt but levels out into a nice winding country road through some very pretty areas toward Mae Takhrai Park area and works back to 118. There are no numbers on the map and frankly I was too tired to document much except that I came out around Pong Din north of Doi Saket.

Would I do this route again? Absolutely not! Well, maybe. Well, how about hitting 1252 from 118 and seeing what I missed?

Dave Early

Ever notice that "What the Heck!" is usually the right answer?