The Golden Triangle Ride

Jul 6, 2004

Leaving KAMPHAENG PHET, a historically listed town on the World Heritage List, noted for its fine example of an unrestored walled city and temple. I crossed the river Ping and again joined Highway No1 to CHIANG MAI, around 360k north.

I pass through TAK, then on to THOEN, I was planning to take Highway 106 to CHIANG MAI, but missed the turn, it didn’t matter as LAMPANG was on the main highway and after that about 30k’s of fast long bends through the mountains, it’s times like this you wish you had a big sports bike, I still managed 120 k/h through the sweepers, fully loaded and passing most trucks and cars.

Finally arrived in CHIANG MAI around lunchtime and booked into the North End Hotel, recommended by David Unkovich,I checked in and gave David a ring and arranged to meet him and have a beer.

I arranged to meet David for breakfast and go over some of his excellent maps he has produced of the area over the years, riding his bike for thousands of k’s using his trusty GPS. He also introduced me to an expat German called Joe, who owns a motorcycle repair shop here, Doris, my bike will be in his workshop for new brakes and tyres in preparation for my next major trip through LAOS and CAMBODIA. David has also written a book about rides in Northern Thailand and is well worth a look if you are thinking of touring in this area. The next few days will be spent checking out this ancient moated city.
I have decided to stay for a month in CHIANG MAI, as there is so much to see in Northern Thailand, all within 2 or 3 easy riding days away (about 350k to 800k round trips).
David mentioned that he may go to the Burma border to update his visa and invited me along for the ride together with his American mate, you beauty a chance to get out on the road again with a bit of company for a change. Unfortunately it absolutely pissed down for 2 days, so we had to wait for the weather to break.

Meet the boys for breakfast at a favorite café, called “The Kaff” and plan to leave around 10.00 am, people up here don’t get out of bed too early, heading towards CHIANG RAI and The Golden Triangle.
David Unkovich (Dave 1) is on his 750cc Honda Africa Twin and David Early (Dave 2) is on his 850cc TDM Yamaha and I’m on poor DORIS at 650cc,


a little out gunned in the horsepower stakes.
Dave 2 (shit there’s a lot of Davids up here) really flies, he’s been riding these roads for years and really knows his way around.
Leaving Chiang Mai at a good rate of knots, (would you believe 120k/h through the suburbs!) try that in OZ, and a steady 140k/h on the open road. DORIS was just coping, then into the mountains and the twisties, DORIS was more at home here and wasn’t far behind at our first coffee stop. The scenery (what I saw of it) was absolutely breathtaking, and Dave 1 was taking the opportunity to plot some back roads on his GPS ultimately we ended up at the Golden Triangle for lunch and took a great boat ride over the mighty MEKONG River (now in flood) to DON SAO in LAOS to flog off some of his maps to the local stall holders. If you get up this way, buy some local whiskey with an assortment of venomous snakes and scorpions inside the bottles, all dead of course.
We stayed the night at Chiang Rai at a good hotel for 500b after another high speed dash through the mountains, I even managed to tee bone an unfortunate chicken.

After a good hot shower and a change of clothes, it was off to a good Thai restaurant, the 3 of us are partial to a good Irish Whiskey over diner, and it was at a local bottle shop, that we bumped into 2 Brits, (Suzy and Simon) who had just come through Burma on their bikes, not easy in today’s political climate. Keen to hear their story, we asked them to join us for diner and Irish Whiskey of course.

Next day was another 10.00 am start, after a good breakfast, god we love our bacon and eggs, it was off to the Burmese border



and some of the most breathtaking scenery


I have ever seen in my life, riding through the clouds on unbelievable switch back deserted country roads and into MAE SA LONG, a Chinese village at about 1300m above sea level, from there it was back down to FANG (pronounced FUNG) and yet more incredible roads and scenery. We finally stop at THA TON by the river for lunch.

Dave 2 seemed to have a sign on his bike, saying “HIT ME!” as he not only disappeared into the biggest pot hole on the trip, trucks, bikes and the occasional animal, including a dog and a cow were all near misses, I got off relatively lightly with the chook, decapitated by my spokes.
We stayed in FANG for our final night for the princely sum of 300b, as we are 3 old bikers, not quite geriatric mind you, our bodies were starting to feel the worse for wear, we decided to shout ourselves a traditional 2hr Thai massage, definitely the highlight of the night in sleepy FANG, and a laugh a minute, listening and watching 3 mature aged western men go through absolute torcher at the hands of 3 very small Thai women.

Next day it was off to the head waters of the Ping river, the road


runs towards the Burmese border and the rural area of the Hill Tribes and the Chinese village of Nong Ouk, apparently the remnants of the fleeing army, chased out of China by good old Mao back in 1949. We topped up with fuel from the local petrol station


(a 44 gallon drum with a hand pump and a plastic hose) and an audience of a dozen smiling kids and a few rather dodgy looking adults, still a bit of illegal goings on in these hills.

Dave 2 said in passing, how fortunate we had been with the weather, you guessed it, next corner it totally pissed down and it was a very wet afternoon ride back to CHIANG MAI, with a stop off CHIANG DAO for hot coffee.

All in all some of the best riding and scenery I have experienced in over 30 years of motorcycle riding, and Dave 1 reckons there is even better to come, YAHOO!
Total distance traveled, 862k in 3 days and 2 nights.
VERDICT: ****in Awesome!


Oct 10, 2003
Hong Kong
Awesome report, Tom!
After hearing what David did to Kyle on the Laos topic, I thought I better post something to keep him happy. I can't remember if I have posted this report before (excuse my lack of memory) but I hope at least I care enough to do it.

Northern Thailand Adventure

Period: 4-12 Dec. 2003
Days: 9 days
Location: Northern region of Thailand

Day 1 ¡V I landed in Chiangmai Airport, northern capital of Thailand around late afternoon. Took the hotel limo bus to Pornping Tower Hotel in the old city of Chiangmai. Upon my arrival at the hotel, I can see my rental bike is already standing by the front entrance and the rental shop owner greeting me with a big friendly smile. Thanks to the pre-arrangement by the President of BMWMCT, I was able to get such a nice service. I quickly checked in and contacted my biker friend Kuhn Tan (former president of BMWMCT). We have made plans to meet up early the next morning so we can ride to Mae Sariang (the famous Mae Hong Son loop).

Day 2 - We met at the gas station just outside of Chiangmai city and rode to Mae Klang Waterfall for a coffee break. Then continued riding to Mae Sariang to meet up with the main BMW group riding up from Bangkok the day before. They opt to stay overnight at Tha-Song-Yang, TAK Province by the Myanmar border so we can meet for lunch by the riverside restaurant of Mae Sariang. After the great re-union lunch, the whole of about 15 bikes ride north to Mae Hong Song, a town in the mountains with many different minority tribes. This is also the place to get a certificate from the Tourist Office to prove you have survived the 1,864 sharp curves that completes the Mae Hong Son loop..

Day 3 ¡V We got up at 4:30am to go to the morning market where all of the hill tribe folks are selling their native produce. It was a cold foggy morning with temp. only at around 10 degrees C. Fortunately, we were able to get so hot tasty congee for breakfast at the market place. We spent the morning enjoying the peace and quiet of this small town and snooping around the temples and small streets with interesting small shops. We rode off to visit the Long Neck Village in the afternoon where women of this hill tribe have a custom to put copper rings around their neck at a very young age. This caused the extension of the neck to grow longer as the years go by. The longer the neck the more rings they can wear, thus the high social status they can achieve. We head for Pai in the late afternoon and stayed in Tha Pai hot spa resort just outside of town. After dinner, everyone jumped into the hot spa pool just outside our room. Cool mountain air filled the night but the hot spa rejuvenated our tired body

Day 4 ¡V Another quick dip in the hot spa before breakfast and everyone jumped on their bike full of energy. We rode back to Chiangmai early afternoon in time for the big party of Chiangmai Bike Week 2003. It is my 3rd time to this grand event where more than 1000 big bike from Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore meet. There was a large group ride around the countryside of Chiangmai in the afternoon but we decided to give it a miss and only go to the dinner party held at the plaza of Mae Ping Hotel. Bike show, stunt show, booths mended by motorcycle trade, rock band and live native and pop dancing filled the night, not to mention the noisy reunion of bikers from many countries and the Miss Chiangmai Bike Week contest. It was a hell of a party.

Day 5 ¡V Our group didn¡¦t drink too much as we need to head off into the mountains again. It is a long ride to Mae Ai along the army trail by the Myanmar border. This trail is not known to many local bikers so there is almost no traffic. But it also means it is less important to maintain it. We have to dance around fallen rocks, over grown weeds and some land slides till late afternoon where we have traveled 2/3 of the way. Then there is a big gap on the road and we decided not to risk crossing it as we have some riders with less experience. Back tracking 60km and find another route to Mae Ai in the dark is a difficult job but we managed to arrive safely at Tha-Ton Chalet. We shared our exciting experience of the day having a late night dinner by the Tha-Ton river.

Day 6 ¡V Early morning, we made the pilgrimage to the Tha-Ton temple at the top of the mountain where we reached the 9th heaven. Then a quick spin pass Mae Sai, Chaing Saen and Chiang Khong where it is famous to the world as the ¡¥Golden Triangle¡¦. We had lunch by the Mae Nam River overlooking the border of Myanmar & Laos. Thanks to the Thai government¡¦s anti-drug policy, many Thai farmers and hill tribes have given up growing ¡¥the crop¡¦ but we were told many still do on the other side of the river. Leaving the Mae Nam River we dart up the tallest mountain bordering Thai-Laos and stayed at the Phi Chi Fa National Park camp ground. Some opted for camping but I settled in nicely in a small bungalow where it is much warmer at night.. We had a barn fire party hat night and learn to sing some Thai folk songs.

Day 7 ¡V It¡¦s a 4:30am morning call again and we put all our clothes on in the cold dark night. Half an hour¡¦s ride later on a wet and slippery road we came to a parking area. Heading up 800m elevation to the peak of Phu Chi Fa sounds easy but it is different with all your riding gear and heavy boots on. By the time we got to the top, we were greeted by hundreds of folks already there waiting to see the sun rise. The amazing and breath taking sunrise made the tough hill climb worth its effort. We took breakfast back at the national park camping ground and started to move to Nan late morning. We have booked ourselves into the Doi Phoo Kha National Park where they have very modern facilities and bungalows that can house 10-12 people each. Dinner was out on the terrace under the star light.

Day 8 ¡V I said goodbye to my BMW friends after breakfast as they made their way back to Bangkok from Nan. I rode back to Chiangmai via Chiangmuan and Phayao by myself. Since I have traveled on this beautiful mountain road last year, I took my time enjoying the scenic drive and made it back to Chiangmai before sunset.

Day 9 ¡V Returned the bike in one piece and say goodbye to a few friends then fly back home. Thanks again for the friendship and assistance from both the BMWMCT & North Comet (organizer of CMBW 2003). I am returning for the 2004 & 2005 Chaingmai Bike Week!

This is the photo link to view photos of this trip: ... /my_photos

By Franki Yang
Hong Kong
Nov 14, 2004
Hi David M8, every time I read a post on the GTR I start dreaming, we'v started to plan the next trip, Loas & combo, & GT of course. I'm selling my suzi 400 & my Ducati 500 panta, combine the cash an buy somthing reliable an ridable, got a m8 over hear with a BMW 1100, it looks like a big armchair, keep carving up asia, stay upright, stay forever young.
Your M8 io "OZ" so green Scott Harper.

Your either on the gas or on the brakes, there's noth'n in between.


Oct 6, 2003
Scott, If you are looking for a BMW that is located in Thailand, I have a friend that will be listing a 1150 GS for sale shortly. He will probably have in on this site later this week. John