The Ping River Loop: Tak, Li, Hot, Mae Sariang...

Kiwi Cruiser

Ben Kemp
Staff member
May 26, 2007

The Mission: Ride a loop around the Bhumipol Dam lake, south from Mae Sariang to Tak and back via Li & Hot.
The Team: just the three of us... Me, myself and I
The Transport: Honda Rebel 500

Day 1:
Route 105:

Mae Sariang south to Mae Ramat Noi. The 105 is the best it's ever been... I first rode it on my old Honda Shadow 1100 almost 10 years ago, and back then it was a bit of a mission. Not least because it was a rough as guts, but also from a fuel perspective, the Shadow had a desperately small gas tank and a prodigious appetite for petrol! For example, even at modest velocity, a 190 km ride from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai required a refill long before the destination! Heading into the unknown down 105, but knowing it was 235 kms to Mae Sot, was a concern.:sweat:

The first 20 kms has scattered villages, but from Amphur Sob Moei the population thins out. The Mae Nam Rid river bridge hints at things to come...

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From the Mae Ngao National Park entrance southwards, the road reveals its true character, climbing high and offering rewards for riders and bikes of all shapes and sizes.

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These days, the narrow, rutted gravel track through the jungle has long gone. Electricity has been extended through to all the small villages along the way. Glorious blacktop extends for the full length of the 105, it is now a seductively curvaceous road that rivals all the other great ones in the north!

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There are (at least) 2 petrol stations on 105 before the 1175 turnoff including a fairly new PT one. There's another right at the 105 / 1175 intersection.

Route 1175:
The turnoff is approximately 3 kms before Mae Ramat, and if you like a decent coffee and need petrol, then rolling that little extra distance past the turnoff delivers a PTT, a Seven 11 and an Amazon! That 3 kms is well worth it, I reckon...


The 1175 is actually a damned good ride - when Moto-Rex and I crossed over it a few weeks ago, he was hammering the KLX along in frisky fashion, precluding the usually obligatory photo ops... I thought I should remedy that a little....

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Tantalising glimpses of distant chedis are a common challenge in Thailand - getting to this one was an epic fail.

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It's much easier when the statuary is strategically placed closer to the highway...

Riding across the 1175, I encountered 3 different sets of riders making a trip north-west - road bikes and trail bikes in separate groups. Friendly waves exchanged, clearly everyone was enjoying a good ride in superb conditions!

For me, its always been a town that you pass through / skirt around on the way to somewhere else... Sukhothai, Uttarradit or Phitsanulok... I've never spent a night here in all the years I've lived in Thailand, which is a bit tragic. So, that was included in the loop ride. If there's one thing I've learned, its that a Thai town on a river always has some decent restaurants / pubs / hotels adjacent to the water.

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Tak is no exception, and the Viangtak Hotel was where I ended up. It ticks all the boxes in the "classic" sense of what an old Thai hotel should offer the travelling public - the quintessential "one stop shop" type of hotel!
  • - Restaurant/s
  • - Thai massage
  • - Karaoke
  • - Nightclub
  • - Swimming pool
  • - a bath with hot water in the bathroom
  • - a mini-bar, for that urgent "quick cold beer" while the bath is running
  • - patio with a water view for sundown beers

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It's aging and some aspects are a little tired but the rooms are spacious, the beds are very comfortable and everything is within walking distance.

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The room rate was 1200 THB but includes an expansive buffet breakfast.

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The menu was a bit pricy, a big bottle of beer Leo was 170 baht, so I'd not plan on having too many of those at that rate! :)

On the plus side;
  • The night market starts right outside on the town side of the hotel.
  • The Saturday morning market extends along the waterfront from the hotel to the Highway 12 bridge...
To be continued...


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Kiwi Cruiser

Ben Kemp
Staff member
May 26, 2007
DAY 2:

I got to the breakfast buffet at 6:15 am and acquired 2 freshly cooked eggs, steaming hot!!! The lady chef looked intent on building up an advance stack of those, so I was relieved at my good fortune. I can't face rice at breakfast time, and cold eggs are nasty...

Coffee confused me, usually its a DIY task from a jar, or there's a percolator simmering. Neither of those options were visible, and then I spotted the multi-functional and no doubt expensive coffee machine!

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It produced a fairly good coffee all things considered... machine-made cappuccino does not compare favourably to a barista-made one, but it beats powdered Nescafe by a country mile!

Having got that all sorted, I executed a quick checkout and was on the road by 7 am, after discussing the merits of the Honda with a gaggle of security staff. One of whom was a little sheepish at having been caught sitting on and admiring the bike as I came out a little earlier than most guests. :cool:

Route 1107:
Back across the Ping on the Highway 12 bridge, turned right and retraced my route from the previous day, as far as the 1175 intersection. I followed the 1107 on the est side of the Ping River all the way up to the bridge...

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Could it be the bountiful Ping River water that makes things nice and green out here?

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A gentleman with a fishing net in the early morning sun. My guess is that the water was damned cold.

Then, a shortcut through the back streets and side roads onto the main road to the Bhumibol Dam.

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Which is actually a bit of an oasis! I've never been into the dam before, and was surprised at the extent of the parks, gardens, guesthouses, resorts and even a golf course! Actually, a lovely spot for an overnight visit, if you could compartmentalise the veiled threat of a 200 foot concrete wall looming over you, holding back a 125 km long lake... Still, its been there since 1964 already... I'm sure I saw a sign to the effect that it was at one time the 8th largest dam in the world.

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I'd determined at the outset that I'd steadfastly avoid Highway 1, and take the country roads all the way from Tak through to Route 106...

Route 4011:
The Route Planner presented what turned out to be a somewhat optimistic cross country shortcut to the 1102... The fundamental problems with that were twofold;
  • I have yet to find a handlebar mount to hold my 7 inch Samsung Tab A 6...
  • mazes of itty-bitty roads that all look exactly the same size and usefulness
Needless to say, I picked the wrong option more than once, and had to retrace my miss-steps a couple of times. I got really irritated at having to stop, dismount, remove a glove, find the phone and determine where I went wrong, and how to get back on track...

Still, I did get to see some really boring little lanes and villages...


EVENTUALLY, I got onto the 1102 and progress resumed at a faster pace.


The 1102 is quite pleasant, with river views here and there.


But lots of little villages which, although nice enough, reduce velocity significantly because the 1102 is so narrow...

Route 106:
By the time I got through to the 106, at a point really close to Highway 1, I relented on my original plan and headed for a PTT / Amazon! I was dying for a coffee and a slab of Blueberry cheesecake... The cheesecake had sold out, but those 6-packs of little round cakes with the soft cream filling are a good Plan B... That was lunch...

Revitalised, I set forth to do battle with the 106. It occurred to me, after much pondering, that I'd never actually ridden a bike over it before. About 7 years ago, I did a visa run in the car to Mae Sot, went to Big C in Tak, and then drove Highway 1 and 106... but no excuse to ride it.

I did remember that it was narrow, hilly, winding and the passenger was struggling with car sickness most of the way. In other words, it seemed like a perfect motorcycle route back then. And so it proved to be - a road that ticks all the boxes. So much so that I was having too much fun to slow down / stop for photos. The thing is, after you've squeezed past a few big trucks, stopping means they pass you while you are taking photos, and then you are back to finding a way around them again!


I did stop at the top of the hilly twisty section and take a chedi pic... ;)

Saturday in Li must be market day... and I'm guessing there was some kind of festival in full swing too! 2kms of gridlock, I was saved from half a day of traffic jams by tucking in behind the ambulance that was steadfastly intent on getting its patient to hospital care...

Route 1103:
This one was a real surprise - I've never been on it before, and it was a real joy! Most of the way to the Doi Tao turnoff was relatively new seal. A glorious road, hills and dales, sweeping corners, glimpses of limestone hills through the trees. Too enjoyable to stop, so I used it to full advantage, making up time!

Route 108:
From Hot to west to Mae Sariang, the 108 is in superb shape all the way through. All the road works completed, sealed, and painted.

All in all, a nice 2 day trip that took some 14 hours ride time and clocked up 650 kms...
- and there needs to be a next time, doing it in reverse order!

Note: the roads are getting slippery in places. I had a "moment" on both the 106 and the 108 where the bike slid a foot sideways on a corner! Both times I was cornering a little hard, and slid on the well-worn high traffic "rubber" line just inside the centreline.


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Kiwi Cruiser

Ben Kemp
Staff member
May 26, 2007
I've done the trip from Mae Sariang down the 105 many times over the years. Our usual stop is at Mae Salit Noi, there's a minimart / restaurant at the intersection of the 105 and 1267, on the east side of the highway.

The food is ok, there are big fridges full of cold drinks and coffee is "self-help" from the counter. There is also a toilet block out back...

Distance from Mae Sariang: is approx 117 kms
Travel time: 2 hours

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The 1267 is worth exploring as it goes up steeply into Mae Moei National Park, and the road continues on to lookouts and waterfalls, as per the Mon Kru Ba Sai image below;

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On the way: there are a couple of rough looking options near Mae Salit Noi, and several rustic looking resorts about 20kms further south but we have not stopped to look at them.

Mae Sot: we usually stay at Mae Sot City Hills, which is a couple of hundred metres along from from the Central Plaza Shopping Mall, off the main highway. There is a cluster of pubs and restaurants nearby, and an excellent coffee shop near the Seven 11 at bottom of the image below:

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Jan 5, 2008
Ripper report.

Your right about the 105, its an amazing ride now, and the 1175 is also great fun.

Another loop to check out.


Kiwi Cruiser

Ben Kemp
Staff member
May 26, 2007
[format=h2]Trok Ban Chin (Ban Chin Alley)[/format]

This old area of town is located on the Ping River side of town, roughly half way between the Viang Tak Hotel and Highway 1, near Wat Sri Talaram.


Trok Ban Chin was once a bustling quarter of Tak city. Being the port area, it was the epicenter for commercial traffic and business. It also served as the distribution hub for goods transported between Tak and Pak Nam Pho in Nakon Sawan Province. These days, Trok Ban Chin still clearly shows much of its Chinese heritage. For those with an interest in century old Asian architecture, it is an interesting place to browse.

Local history explains that Trok Ban Chin was a flourishing commercial community in no small part due to a Chinese merchant named Chin Teng. He initially migrated to Bangkok and progressively expanded his business to Chiang Mai and across to Tak. He established a partnership with other two Chinese merchants, Chin Boon Yen and Chin Tong Yoo

Chin Boon Yen, whose official title was Luang Nara Pitak, served as Tak’s Chinese immigrant officer, before becoming Luang Chitchamnong Wanich - the East Trading Bureau officer.

Chin Tong Yoo, whose official title was Luang Borirak Prachakorn - the revenue officer. Teng and his partners traded under the registered brand called “Kim Seng Li.” The Kim Seng Li Store was assigned as the monopoly tax collector in Chiang Mai, and between them, the partners persuaded many more Chinese to settle down in the neighborhood. Married to a Tak woman, Chin Teng had one son and expanded his business in Tak.

In the reign of King Rama V, Chin Teng, as Revenue Officer - was assigned the responsibility to collect taxes on opium, alcohol, gambling and lotteries. This responsibility ended in 1909, at which time tax collection reverted to the government’s control.

As more Chinese settled in Trok Ban Chin, they built shop houses and sold a variety of goods along the narrow lanes. The houses on both sides of the streets had extended roofing which provided shade for shoppers, The shops sold everything - kitchenware, fabric, stationery, monk ordination items, food and general merchandise.

When Thailand moved from a monarchy to a democratic country, Mangsai Chum-in was the first Trok Ban Chin resident to become an MP. At that time, Trok Ban Chin was divided into 3 neighborhoods: Sao Sueng Village, Pak Klong Noi Village, and Ban Chin Village.

In 1952 the municipal government built a road over the old canal and pier that the cargo boats had used. Fences went up around the neighborhoods. Trok Ban Chin faded into obscurity after World War II, when the shopkeepers relocated their business to the northern quarters of town.

Trok Ban Chin's old houses stand in mute testimony to a distant past but are at least preserved in decent condition. The area provides an opportunity for visitors to go sightseeing along the narrow lanes and experience a brief insight into the life of the previous inhabitants of Trok Ban Chin.


Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
Chiang Khong
Fabulous that you got the time to check this little soi - Trok Ban Chin (Ban Chin Alley) - out & photograph it.
I saw it on the way out last trip, but was too hot at at the time, so noted it mark it down for a return trip, but you've beaten me to the draw once again. 55

There honestly can't be many places let like this in the Kingdom, or at least in the North. It is an absolute classic gem & well worthy of a ride through to savor the beauty of those gorgeous old buildings & the sweet winding narrow lane that it is. a National Heritage it should be!!

So guys don't blast on through Tak, take your time & smell the roses (or durians as it maybe) of this wonderful river bank time. Tak actually has a lot to offer.


Oct 23, 2014
Great report and info to boot. That 105 certainly is a good road, on par with much of the MHS loop. Wish i had time to visit it a bit longer and check out the rivers and camps along the way.
Got to admit just about every road up north is a riders dream.