Mae Hong Son Loop

Now thinking back on this adventure I can say it’s one of the most amazing things I have ever done.  As I told you in my previous post, I crashed my scooter the day before I left Chiang Mai to do a Mae Hong Song loop. Needless to say I was extremely nervous about doing 650km on Thai roads which actually turned out to be 860km and are saved in my memory as some of the happiest days of my Thailand trip.

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Day 1: Chiang Mai – Don Inthanon – Mae Chaem – 140km

We decided to do the loop anticlockwise and to head towards Doi Inthanon, the highest peak in Thailand (2565m). The start was slow and I remember going 40km/hour, being terrified of traffic, but it all improved as soon as we left Chiang Mai. The roads got quieter and I started enjoying the ride.

It also got colder the closer we got to Doi Inthanon. We expected to find hot weather in Thailand, so didn’t pack too many warm clothes, but it got so chilly the higher we went that I just remember shivering on my bike most of the afternoon.

Getting to the top of Thailand was worth the effort, even if it was freezing and some parts of the road were so steep and winding that I didn’t think my 150cc scooter would manage (but it did easily).

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After Don Inthanon we still had a long way to go to Mae Chaem. We arrived after the sunset, completely freezing and with sore bums. It was a long day! Mae Chaem was really lovely and tiny, which gave a sense of being far off the tourist track (we only saw couple of foreigners). It only had couple of places where we could get some food, but the food was delicious and we had some live entertainment that evening.

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Day 2: Mae Chaem to Mae Sariang, 128km

My confidence on the roads grew and it was slightly warmer that day, so I was finally enjoying the ride. Only in the afternoon we joined a bit of road that was dusty and busy with lorries which I did not found too pleasant. But a nice coffee gave me a power boost and we managed to get to Mae Sariang even earlier than planned. The town was rural but so much busier than Mae Chaem.

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That night we slept with all our clothes on. We later found out that the temperature dropped to the lowest figures the area had in more than 10 years. Unlucky!

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Day 3: Mae Sariang to Mae Hong Son 164km (plus a bit for the Salawin national park)

We got up and decided to explore Salawin national park nearby. We were asked to leave our scooters at the park entrance and were pointed towards the nature trail.

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The trail was OK but there was no wildlife around and the English translations of some plant descriptions were challenging to read. Bamboo bamboo bamboo….

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We left the park not entirely convinced it was worth a visit. However, the day on the road was extremely enjoyable. I was getting quite confident on my scooter, the roads were really good quality, scenic and pretty quiet. I absolutely loved it.

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We stopped in Mae Hong Song for couple of nights, it was the 23rd December and we decided to stay here for Christmas. We booked Sang Tong Hut which was a perfect choice. Lovely bamboo huts, nice owners and they also had a fire going most of the time (perfect for those chilly evenings!). We met two German guys there who told us about the route to the Myanmar border so we decided to check it out the next day.

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Day 4: A wee detour to Myanmar border (no idea how many km)

The day started slowly and it took us ages to get some breakfast in Mae Hong Son but eventually we were on the way to Myanmar.

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I am now looking at google maps and trying to figure out where exactly we went.  I remember we were given a map with some interesting villages to visit nearby but I think we just headed past them (although stopped at some waterfall) and went up north to what google maps call “Scenic border with Thailand – Myanmar”. There were a few guards around who showed us the view point and then let us cross the border without even bothering to check our passports. We had to leave our scooters in Thailand though.

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To be honest, we soon found out that the village across the border was pretty small and there was nowhere else to go since there was no road past it. We just ended up watching kids and some Buddhist monks (also kids) playing football and then walked back to Thailand.

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Played with guard dogs as well
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On the way back we went to check a place called Pang Tong. It had a lovely lake and pine tree forests and seemed like a popular spot for camping. Honestly, I just wished we were staying there that night but we went back to Mae Hong Son and had a hot pot dinner on our Christmas Eve.

Day 5: Mae Hong Son to Pai – 107km (plus detours)

We started our morning with a ride up to Wat Phra That Doi Kongmu temple for some white Christmas (sorry, I know it’s cheesy!). A beautiful white temple with great views of the surroundings, definitely recommended.

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We also stopped in a few places along the road to Pai that were recommended to us. One of them was called Ban Jabo village known for beautiful panoramic views and cool cafes where, as they say, you can eat with your feet above the clouds.

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We also stopped to explore the biggest cave system at Tham Lot, which has a length of 1666m and millions of bats. Worth a stop if you have some time.

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We had a lovely ride that day, enjoyed the sunset while still on the road and arrived to Pai at night.

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While looking for our hotel we accidentally drove into some yard where three huge dogs came running after and barking at us. They looked really scary and I thought they would definitely bite us. They left us alone for a moment but then unfortunately we found out there was no way out and we’d have to go past these dogs again to get on the main street. We then spotted another gate that had a pedestrian access open, so we ended up lifting our scooters over the ramp. It was heavy, but we were so scared to go past the dogs again, that it didn’t matter.

We made it to our Christmas dinner in one piece and I was thinking that it was probably the best Christmas ever.

Day 6: Pai

We just spent a day relaxing and exploring Pai. It was weird to be in such a busy place after spending almost a week in rural Thailand. But it was awesome to get some really tasty food, explore the town and chill.

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Day 7: Pai

We decided to stay an extra day in Pai since it was pouring and we felt tired. We also heard that the road from Pai back to Chiang Mai is extremely winding, with loads of people having accidents so we thought we better not risk it in such a poor weather.

We had enough time to stay in Pai thanks to my perfect planning skills, but had to cancel a guesthouse in Chiang Mai. We are still laughing when we remember the message received from the guesthouse owner, he told us to f*ck off! In the days of perfect customer service, that sort of things doesn’t happen very often.

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Day 8: Pai to Chiang Mai- 130km

So it was a sunny day again and we were ready to hit the road (not literally). I think my scooter skills were really quite good by then since I didn’t even find the road to be too challenging. I think during the week we were on so many crazy roads that the last bit just seemed normal. We were back to Chiang Mai in no time.

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Craig stopped at the side of the road specifically to pet this dog

I was worried that I might get charged extra for a wee scratch on the scooter that I got when I crashed it a week or so ago, but the guy from the rental shop just took the key, his wife jumped on it straight away and went to do some grocery shopping. I wished everyone was so relaxed.

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We then went back to the guesthouse where we stayed before, picked up our luggage and went to find a bus to Chiang Rai. Apparently all the buses were booked out, but we got a taxi half price since the driver was heading back home to Chiang Rai anyway. We arrived to Chiang Rai later than we planned so didn’t get to see that cool white temple everyone was talking about. We wandered around the night market instead, tried some delicious curry (Khao Soi) and so we finished our adventures in the North of Thailand. It was time to head south for some New Years fun!

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