Why We Must Ride The 4009!


Dec 9, 2008
It was a chilly morning when I left, but the white silk scarf prevented draughts.
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It was clear up to Kiu Satai but foggy on the west side of the mountains
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By midday I was on the 1346 to Phrao, always a pleasure.
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My dream touring bike
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Went to have a look at the hot springs in Phrao
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There were a couple of pools to go in, but I didn't linger
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First night stop was to be in the Pong Duet Hot Spring, off the 1095 up to Pai. I'd been there in the rainy season and knew it was a great place to be in the cold weather.
The cold air and hot mineral bath was most therapeuthic..
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Got the hammock up before dark
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and cooked some dinner.... a very average cheese broccoli quick meal
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After a cold night, I was in the hot spring early next morning. Great to lie in a hot stream in the jungle.....
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Next morning at a lunch stop, came across a couple of huge tea leaf drying and processing machines, at the back of a restaurant.
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The Thunderbird has landed...
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It was a beautiful clear day and I had great views from the Kiew Lom Viewpoint NW of Pai. I could clearly see Doi Chiang Dao on the skyline, 60 klms to the east.
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An hour later, the view at Pangma Pha viewpoint was also great.
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Next campsite was above the Pai river just north of Mae Hong Son.
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While there, I saw several inflatable boats pull in to the bank, just arrived from Pai, by river. That's along way in a rubber boat, but I bet the scenery is great.
Rode into the city to visit Herbert at the Pizza Primavera restaurant, for some decent dinner.
Next morning, I cooked some fish sticks....... which were disgusting.......
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So, warmed up some smoked ham, which was pretty good with home made bread.
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Then rode off south to my main destination.
David and Herbert had both mentioned, that north of Khun Yuam, the road 4009, from Ma Ja, up into the mountains and to Nong Khiaow lake, had been concreted and was well worth a ride. How right they were..........
Here is the turn off the 108, about 25klms north of Khun Yuam.
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1. What a road, 4009.... Spectacular...... Steep, sharp hairpin bends and a rapid scary ascent up high into the mountains.
It's on a par with the 4018 Phaya Phipak road and the 1149 Doi Chang Moob Burma ridge road, both in Chiang Rai.
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No-one else on the road. Beautiful scenery.
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Some of this is really quite scary when on a 60 year old bike, with little 7" single leading shoe drum brakes....
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But we made it to the top and pretty quickly, you've gone up over 1,000m, where the views are stunning.
From this point you can see the road and the ridge you just rode up.
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Then soon you come to..
2. Nong Khiaow Lake.
A lovely spot. The lake is a couple of klms long. I didn't have time to check it out unfortunately, but it is promoted as a tourist destination and there is an interesting hill tribe village next to it.
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Riding on, after about 15klms, you come to..
3. Mae Surin Waterfall. A beautiful waterfall, hidden in the cleft of a gorge. Probably the tallest single fall in the country.
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I had planned to hike down to the base of the fall, but the NP rangers said No can Do. Doubtless a steep trail and perhaps they were just not keen on doing it......
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I set up camp at the waterfall. The campsite was big enough for about 100 tents....... but only me there..... and total darkness after the sun set.
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After a very cold night, a couple staying in a little cafe up the road, had a welcome fire going.....
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I had another quick look at the spectacular waterfall. You can see it on Google Earth clearly.
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This fella was just hanging near me in the morning.... as big as your hand.....
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Then I rode off to...
4. The BuaTong Fields. The flowers had finished a couple of weeks earlier. But well worth a visit if you haven't seen them before, at the end of November. Although the area does get very crowded with Thai tourists.
In this shot, you can see the next destination with the communications tower on the top..
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On a tip-off from David, I had found.....
5. Phu Chee Phuea.
Few people know about this mountain I would guess. Just one little wooden sign in Thai.
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I followed the 4 klms of dirt road, wet and sticky in places...
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and could soon see better, the south side of Phu Chee Phuea.
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I parked at the gatehouse and walked the rest of the steep way up.
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A good climb up.. with a 50m set of exposed steps cut into the mountainside and no handrail. Not for those who suffer from vertigo..
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On the top; 18 deg 53'17"N 98 deg 06'39"E
This is looking roughly east to south at 10:00 in the morning, so a better view on this side in the afternoon.
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Difficult to see in a photo as looking into the sun, but I could make out the huge mound of Doi Inthanon to the SouthEast over 50 klms away.
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3 chimes on the bell needed to show respect to the spirits of the mountain.
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Solar powered communications tower. A couple of guys were building a bathroom nearby and I saw a pickup, as there is another dirt road going round the back of the mountain right to the top.
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Definately one of the best high vantage points in the north. This is looking roughly northwest down to the Buatong fields.
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Due to the shape of this mountain and lack of large trees at the summit, the vistas in all directions are incredible.
This is a panoramic view from a small house about halfway to the summit on the southwest face. There is a small rectangular balcony you can sit on and admire this very special view. This is a 180 degree panoramic view from northwest to southeast.... Stunning...
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The photograph doesn't do it justice........ you need to be there.......!
After walking down the mountain and riding back down the dirt road, I rode off the rest of the 4009 and then onto the 1263 for the usual lovely ride along the rest of the short MHS loop through Mae Chaem.
Doi Inthanon was looking good on a such a clear day.
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So, next time you get a chance...... ride the 4009.
There are so many good reasons why.........


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Dec 9, 2008
Credit where it is due. It was David's idea to try the recently paved 4009. Last time I was there, it was a dirt road.
But do give yourself time to walk up to the top of Phu Chee Phuea. It's not that difficult and the astonishing views you are rewarded with make it worth the effort.


Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
Chiang Khong
Awesome. Glad evrything worked out ok.
That R4009 road is a real hidden gem of a steep twister - & now it is all concrete every serious bike rider should do it.

I was last out there in 2005 I think it was when it was all dirt, & they just started laying some concrete down.
The MHS Loop: Checking Dirt Roads Trails

I wonder if there is some accommodation in Nong Khio now too; as there surely must be something happening there by now. I must check it out when it's warmer.

Mae Surin waterfall is a beauty too & there should be some track down to the waterfall somewhere.

That mountain top Phu Chee Phuea, certainly looks sensational & my tip off originally came from Johpa (Rande) on GTR. But I think you are the first one I personally know who has ben on the top = sensational photos!

Thanks for the report- what a beauty to close out the year.
2017 is gonna be even better - more photos for the 2018 GTR calendar.

Oh yeah, these roads are all on the GTR MHS Loop map if you want see the big picture & understand the road network.
Mae Hong Son Loop Map


Oct 23, 2009
Enticing report Ian for a interesting, not yet really crowded, trail. Also great that your report is already Google indexed :) ... Power on GT-Rider forum!


Mar 18, 2013
Some pictures from March 2010 on the 4009.



If you think it's the wrong bike for the road at that time, you're right. But fun.
In 2013 it looked like this.
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Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
Chiang Khong
Dug out my GPS tracks from 2005

The elevation profile for the 11 kms climb up

The Google Earth view of the track going up the ridge line

The ascent ran up to Junction.


then it was left to Nong Kheow / right to Mae Surin waterfall

The road loops around the lake & runs back south-east to Mae Surin waterfall

& out onto R1263 the Mae Chaem - Khun Yuam road.

How it looks on the GTR MHS Loop map

The GTR MHS Loop map
Mae Hong Son Loop Map


Dec 9, 2008
It felt steeper and twistier than the roads you mention above. A bit scary in places. I would group it with the 4018 Phaya Phipak road and the 1149 Doi Chang Moob Burma ridge road, both in Chiang Rai.
Sharp steep hairpin bends you need to really concentrate on a d keep the power on, if going up. Personally I would avoid ever going down the 4009 to the west.
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Staff member
Mar 22, 2016
I drove down it one wet day a couple of years ago, whilst the top few kilometres were still dirt. To say that it was somewhat alarming in a few places would be an understatement! I was very pleased that the Hilux 4WD had a new set of mud grip tyres on it, plus the newly installed front diff locks.

The last time I drove up it, I caught up to two dump trucks on the lower zig-zag section. Both trucks were heavily loaded with gravel for the concreting project higher up. At each hairpin, they could not get around in one go... Their technique was to power into the turn as far as possible until they touched the bank, and then reverse out until the deck was overhanging the edge of the ridge. They then completed the turn on the second attempt...

The potential for disaster seemed awfully high!!! Given the amount of concrete in the dual lane road all the way to the top, those drivers must have done that trip literally hundreds of times! :)


Dec 9, 2008
Blimey, I can't imagine full dump trucks up there. Some very brave drivers..

Here is an Earth view of the 40009 between the camp site at Mae Surin NP and 1263. The track up to Phu Chee Puea mountain starts just south of the Bua Tong fields, here; N18 deg 52' 10.2" E98 deg 05' 25.3"

Earth view Phu Chee Puea.jpg
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Jan 5, 2008
After reading this report named “Why we must ride the 4009” I decided I must go and ride the 4009, and what a ride it was.

I was staying in Mae Hong Son, so I planned to ride down to the 2009, do the loop, have some noodles in Khun Yuam, then ride back up to Mae Hong Son for some pumpkin soup at Salween restaurant, followed by a couple cold beers by the lake as the sunset over the temple. All up 190 kilometres.


The start of the 4009, approximately 40kms south of Mae Hong Son.

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Difficult to get a photo that shows just how steep this road is.
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I had the advantage of modern front and rear disc brakes unlike Ian on his classic triumph.
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So nice along here.
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Why we must ride the 4009…..this is one good reason.
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As I rode the 4009 in the rainy season, I didn’t get the spectacular views that Ian enjoyed. There currently behind the cloud.
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Nong Kheow lake
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The cloud lifted for a little while so I got to see some decent views.
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The upside of riding this road in the rainy season is you get to see views like these.
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What a beautiful part of the world it is up here.
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The next photos were taken in one of the most scenic parts of the 4009. But you can’t do much about the clouds.
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So after some noodles in Khun Yuam, I headed north, stopping at the view point about 15km south of Mae Hong Son which has lovely coffee and snacks with a view. The owner and staff are so nice, so if you ride past grab a coffee and help out there little business.
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Well that’s my take on the 4009, and I must thank Ian for alerting me to this brilliant ride.

I spotted a few dirt tracks that looked interesting, so when the sun comes out I will check them out.

Amazing road. You must ride it.

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Dec 9, 2008
Thanks Rex,
Great to see those photos of green green green. Best time of year to see the beautiful countryside even if the views are somewhat obscured.

George HuaHin

Jul 25, 2011
Hua Hin
Last week I rode the 4009, starting from the 108 and ending at the 1263. Unfortunately it was no more season for sunflowers.
Riding it in reverse direction might be not too much fun as the road is really steep with sharp turns. Impossible to show it in a picture.




This road is definitely not for beginners
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Eoin Christie

Jul 16, 2019
This looks very enticing. It’s now trying to sneak it’s way into my October break.
Thank you all, for adding more dilemmas and decisions... :)