Just dropped the bike back and checked into our room here in Chiang Mai.
We’ve just completed a little over a 1000km on the bike, it’s been momentous, a little wet at times and we’ve seen some great sights – we’re shattered. Having decided upon hiring a 250cc enduro, the woman at Pop Motorcycle Hire soon talked us out of it – apparently the roads ‘oop north are all tarmaced and fairly decent; just prior she’d been laughing away at my suggestion of riding cross-country with no maps nor GPS (which is a fair one if truth be told) In the end we opted for a 650cc Kawasaki, a couple of dodgy helmets and little else – in fact we had a daypack between us with 2 pairs of skids each, a couple of t-shirts and a bar of a soap and toothbrush (we overdid the personal hygiene I know!)
Our first day was meant to be our longest, with a 360km ride Chiang Rai, on the edge of the Golden Triangle – North West of here are two borders, Burma to the North West and North East is Laos. Chiang Rai was a little unremarkable if truth be told though apparently it’s a little sleazy at the weekend – a kind of Brighton in the mountains as it’s where the Thais head to for a ‘dirty-weekend’ away with the missus or indeed her sister! Finding a place to stay we ventured into town and had a couple of beers, vowing to leave early the next day having seen none of the shenanigans we were expecting!
Rather than continue East, we decided to head West and the mountain top ‘town’ of Mae Salong – a Chinese Nationalist Outpost and one of the spots (several years back now) for the production of opium (though since the 80’s the government has clamped down and almost all villages in the area now produce other cash-crops.) We were planning to stay over though having seen all of its joys during the short ride through the town we made plans to make for Pai – some 300km South West of where we were currently – initially made up of mountain roads followed by a some nice straights mid-ride then back on to mountain roads into Pai.
We set off at breakneck speeds – the roads in the main were good, occasionally you would come around a bend to find a massive pot-hole in your way or even worse, a local driver (in a 4×4) overtaking on the bend you were coming around on (almost knee down) to find said truck bang in the middle of your line – a nightmare! Eventually making our turn-off, we had about 90 minutes to make it to Pai as it was getting dark and what with the local standard of driving and mountainous roads we wasn’t relishing – we’d also been told that from the turn-off to Pai was roughly 2.5 to 3 hours to drive, a distance of just over 100km…
We made it, just!
It was just getting dark as we arrived and beginning to rain – how we got there in one piece I don’t know, we over-took everything in front of us, cutting the corners of the road and powering out of bends, a rally exhilarating ride though we did pass a lorry trailer half way along which had jack-knifed in the road, the trailer well an truly in the ditch and no sight off the cab – not sure if this went over the edge as we managed to squeeze through and carry on with our journey!
For some reason Pai lacks a good write-up in the guide books which is odd – true, it is a little touristy and they have several western hippies all of whom have taken up residence in the town however we really liked the place. It was tranquil and having been riding for two solid days we were looking forward to putting our feet up and garaging the bike for a few days. We ended up staying for four nights – sightseeing the whole area, visiting local hot-springs, Pai’s version of the Grand Canyon and feeding elephants whole pineapples(!) we had a great few days there and left feeling totally relaxed – we even bumped into someone we’d met several weeks back whilst on Phranang beach in Krabi Province!
Our next stop was Mae Hong Son – apparently one of the most popular tourist centres in the North West, someone somewhere is having a massive laugh at anyone visiting here – it was more dead than Nunhead Cemetary and I couldn’t wait to get out of there, the only thing missing was tumbleweed tumbling down the high-street! It’s one redeeming feature is the Highway 108 heading south – what a fantastic motorbiking road this was, long sweeping bends and super fast straights – a massive grin spread across my face as we powered on to Khun Yuam which is where we turned east, opting to ride through Doi Inthanon National Park – we should’ve stayed on the 108, the road through the park was too narrow, too windy and was quite difficult to ride – plus the Chief Navigator missed our turning which added an additional 60km to the trip!
Having completed 1027km we arrived back into Chiang Mai, we’re back in the same room we were in when we left and we’re glad to be back. Not sure of our plans tonight – probably a beer and a game of pool at Pinkys, followed by bed – probably a little after 10pm!