Trip Report Nan/GT Loop


Mar 26, 2005
This is a report on a trip we did on the Golden Triangle/Nan loop early November. It took us a couple of weeks but we like to hang around in places. Dave is doing the Doi Pukha loop again today so should be able to give some bang up to date info on the state of the roads there. I already had this report half written but have completed it today without the map as Dave has that with him in Nan so it may be a bit sketchy in places towards the end.

Chiang Mai to Nan
Took 118 and then 120 to Phayao. 1021 and 1091 into Nan. This is easily achieved in a day if you don’t stop too often – we tend to ride until we get knackered and then ride on just that bit more. The stretch of route 1091 just outside Pong had some enormous potholes that had been very badly repaired. The stretch from Chiang Muan to Nan was very enjoyable and for us the start of proper Northern Thai roads with good scenery and plenty of bends. The famous Da Darios restaurant is shut on a Sunday. Stayed at Dheveraj – try the 2 hour massage at the place inside the hotel complex – very good and great value. There is a reasonable place to have breakfast or basic meals on the same road as the museum and temples called Hot Bread – they have freshly baked bread and biscuits. If you are a jogger, take a left out of the hotel and after 5 minutes there is a sports field on the right. If you turn right out of the hotel there is a park about the same distance near the river front.

Doi Pukha Loop
This was as good as everyone says. We did this as a day trip from Nan, booking into the Dheveraj for 2 nights. We missed the turning for 1170 from 1080 so be careful of that. We ended up going all the way to Pua on the 1080. The 1256 was amazing, spectacular scenery and as it was a Sunday there was some weekend traffic so we never felt too alone but traffic was still very light. The road surface was great, no serious problems with subsidence here just one or two places to look out for. At the top there are a couple of stalls where you can get drinks and something cooked for you fresh in a wok by a very friendly lady. A point worth noting is that we were prepared to pay the National Park fee but when we told the guy we were going to Bo Klua and not into the park, he waved us through without charging us. After Bo Klua on 1081 we really enjoyed the steep uphills for the first few miles but sadly the road condition seriously deteriorated after that with huge potholes lurking mostly in the shade where they could not be seen – definitely not for the inexperienced rider. There was also a lot of major road repair and rebuilding going on. Still an awesome day out though.

Nan to Chiang Khong
Took the 1080 and then the 1148 which became great fun after Song Khwae, very twisty with good views. From Chiang Kham we took the 1021 and 1020 to Chiang Khong so that we could save the more exciting 1155 for another day. This was half a day’s ride only. Too much beer imbibed in Chiang Khong meant that the next day was a write off as David Fl and David will confirm. Stayed at Thai Sophapan – good parking and great views across Mekong and very close to Lomtawan (?spelling) bar across the road run by Lenny. The Mexican food at Bamboo Riverside really is very good.

Chiang Khong to Pu Chi Fa to Chiang Khong
We did this as a day trip on David and Mai’s recommendation. Took route 1155 just east of CK and picked up the route to Pu Chi Fa. We are a bit confused about which road we took and not sure if we followed David’s directions correctly. There are several signposts for Pu Chi Fa but some are dirt roads and locals were telling us to go back. Anyway it is a spectacular ride up but unfortunately heavy cloud cover meant that the views were completely obscured. On the way back to CK we took the1174 as this was the only road into CK that we had not taken. Do not go anywhere near this road. It is flat and boring and full of appalling potholes – not enjoyable when you are nursing a 2 day hangover! This was a half day ride.

Chiang Khong to Mae Sai
Leave CK on 1129 and at Hua Yen take a right. Keep going right and you will stay with the river. A lot of this ride is in the valley right up close to the river; it makes a nice change and is very relaxing. Sop Ruak (The Golden Triangle) is a complete waste of time, very tacky and nothing to see. From there we went straight in to Mae Sai on the 1290. This was just a couple of hours ride.

Mae Sai to Mae Salong to Mae Sai
This is the best day’s riding we had done so far (before we went to Laos). It really was awesome and we stayed out a lot longer than intended as we were having such a good time. We did this as a day trip leaving our luggage in Mae Sai and returning there that night. We also did a visa run here leaving the bike behind while we went to Myanmar. DVDs are much cheaper there that they are in Thailand. Anyway back to the ride out. Follow the river out of Mai Sai to the left of the Friendship Bridge as you face the bridge and then climb steeply up Doi Tung – great views and fun riding, roads good. There is a checkpoint and the guy asked for our passports. Fortunately we had them with us – not sure what would have happened if we hadn’t had them though. We visited a temple right up on the hill and then down to the Queen Mother’s Gardens and Doi Tung Villa. If you go through the car park and entrance to the tourist attraction and stay to the right, this will bring you down into a really beautiful secluded valley where we saw no other life at all. Climbing out of the valley brings you back on to the road to Mae Salong. Can’t recommend Mae Salong highly enough as it is on the ridge with amazing views across both sides of the mountain. We then took the road to Thoed Thai and on to the Myanmar border until the asphalt road ran out. Great views and villages, good twisty quiet roads – great stuff. We retraced our steps to Mae Salong – plenty of checkpoints but no-one stops you and back up the 110 to Mai Sai. This was a full day out.

Mae Sai to Tha Thon
Took the most direct route down the 110 turning right at Mae Chan. Only a couple of hours ride mostly in the valley. Stayed at Apple GH a bit noisy as annoying kids hang around outside just like our house in the UK!. Can highly recommend the massage place behind the guesthouse – the elderly couple are some of the best masseuses we have come across in Thailand. Jogging along the river on the other side of the bridge from Apple excellent.

Tha Thon to Chiang Rai
Easy and fast along the 109 from Fang to Mae Suai and up to Pa Sak before joining route 1 to CR. This took about 3 hours. Can recommend the Saen Phu Hotel on the main street on the left after the clock tower – about 600 baht without brekkers but you get a bath tub and crisp sheets changed daily. It’s particularly good if you are a jogger as it is right next to a school with a running track used by locals from about 6.30 to 7.30 every morning.

Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai
Down the 1 and then 109 onto 118. Nice fast route. Took about 3 or 4 hours.

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