Tha Ton to Phayao, the GTR dinner.

Steve Merchant

Dec 11, 2009
Probably 2 weeks back I heard talk of a GTR dinner in Phayao and having spent too much time in front of a computer screen immediately put my name down. Ten days later after too many grey days with heavy storms I was contemplating a trip down the main routes to Phayao, soaked to the skin on arrival and a repeat on the way back. Thankfully, having committed myself to a room booking I decided I wouldn't opt out and would just get on with it. On Wednesday morning I woke at the regular 5.40am to find blue skies and bright sun, already a bonus before actually mounting the bike. With this good start to the day I changed plans and decided to take the 107 to Chai Prakan, the 1346 to Phrao and the 1150 to Mae Kachan.


Far from being a wretched wet morning the sun shone, the colours were exceptional and the roads almost empty. The Karen villagers on the route south to Phrao had been exceptionally busy and their fields a sight to enjoy, corn and rice all in and growing. Having done this road several times coming north I was also surprised by how different it all looks coming the other way. My intended coffee stop at Phrao was cancelled due to the clouds quickly forming over the mountains and my desire to get the mountain road done before it rained. There wasn't the same superb views over the mountain as my last trip in the cold season but the refinished road surface and markings made for a terrific ride over the hills and past the Lisu villages. Unfortunately the well known potholes on the downhill stretch to Wiang Pa Pao are not only still there but growing, one or two big enough to serious damage if hit at speed.

Once again my planned coffee stop at Mae Kachan was cancelled due to a very black sky heading from Chiang Mai direction so I turned left onto the 120, pleased to see the storm behind me. I reached Wang Nua after 4 hours of riding broken by several photo stops but nothing else, so took a quick lunch break at the PTT and finally the much desired coffee. The journey over to Phayao was a pleasure with no surprises and its nice to see a road widening scheme that doesn't leave you travelling over mud, stones and badly rutted tracks as we all saw on the 118. On arrival at Phayao the dark clouds were now forming over both the lake side (north) and the mountain range in the west, a lovely light for some pictures of the local fishermen.
It took a few circles before I tracked down the guest house and just 15 minutes after getting my room the skies opened and it poured down.
Now for what I see as the second part of this post. During the afternoon people I knew and several I didn't rolled into the guest house and brought their own stories of the trip, sat around with a beer and turned the afternoon into a pleasant party. Here I was meeting new friends, sharing thoughts and ideas with other foreigners and generally enjoying a lovely time instead of being sat at home reading the depressing news. The venue changed from guest house to restaurant, new faces arrived and a large sized group partook in a great meal at a stunning location on a perfect tropical evening startling for its absence of biting bugs. I felt like I was on holiday if that's at all possible for someone who doesn't work and generally enjoys his time at home.

As usual I made an early start and return home the direct route of highway 1 and the 1089 from Mae Chan to my village. Another dry morning, lovely light and some pretty skies over the famous white temple and the huge Godess of Mercy statue.

It was one of those days when I was real glad I'd made the effort and made it happen. I'll give a big thumbs up for these 'distant dinners' (and lunches) and the people who make them happen. I'm having a great time.
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Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
Chiang Khong
Great write up Steve. Glad you had a good time. Wished I could have been there but I have a few issues living in the small Chiang Khong community right now, and need to curtail my travel or hanging out in big groups to keep the peace with the phu yai baan and villagers.
We've been "locked down" for GTR dinners for so long everyone is probably chaffing at the bit to get out, ride and socialize. I sincerely hope we can get back to "normal" in the coming months, but perhaps just sticking to provincial capitals or the big main towns, no small amphurs that we love so much for awhile.
Many thanks for the write up and contribution.
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Mar 2, 2019
Great report Steve, its hit and miss with the weather this time of year, and it can change either way so quickly :eek:

DKT Dave

Sep 25, 2019
Nice one Steve. Phayao really is lovely at the moment. See you at the next one.