The Mae Hong Son Loop. Part 1.

7 11 2011

Once again I had found myself in Chiang Mai, this time waiting around for a yacht to arrive in Singapore.

Interestingly, half of Thailand had also fled north, told to leave Bangkok as floodwaters continued to rise. So low-season in the walled northern city was pretty damn busy.

“To the hills,” we cried.  To the north and west of Chiang Mai, mountain ranges hold Myanmar at bay. They looked like a giant amusement park to us part-time bikers.

Thailand’s refreshing tourism policy of look-after-your-damn-selves meant no one even questioned our ability or qualifications as we picked out powerful motorcycles. OK, maybe a 250cc Kawasaki isn’t termed powerful, but it was certainly dangerous enough.

This was no groundbreaking plan, mind. The Mae Hong Son loop is an established touring route through the north, renowned for its 1864 curves in just the first half of the trip. It sounded challenging bloody great.

As luck would have it, our timing for this venture could not have been better. A record wet season had left the entire country bursting with colour and life. But we never got rained on once.

cute little passenger

Rice shined greeny-gold as it ripened in mountain paddies. Jungle-covered limestone karsts loomed large over winding roads. Sprawling fields of Mexican sunflowers nodded their little yellow heads. Orchids lined every tree. Outrageous.

And the roads. The freakin’ roads.

Hairpin turns, long smooth straights, gently winding curves rising higher and higher into the mists.

I’m no biker, but this must be one of the world’s great rides. Every day it was “Whoa, that was a great road.”

When we met fellow riders at the frequent viewpoints, we would give a knowing nod and watch grown men on big bikes giggle like schoolgirls.

Over seven days we knocked out 820km, through Pai, Mae Hong Son, Mae Chem, Chom Thong and back to Chiang Mai.

And that feeling of seeing the open road ahead, winding up the throttle and leaning into it with the wind roaring in your ears still hasn’t left me.

I might be hooked.

plotting our route thru the hills.


sunflower hill


the inevitable bikshop visit. Out of there in 5 mins and no charge.

Important to have the right shoes for motorbiking. Not these then.




5 responses

7 11 2011
AC Reardon

Ben…..I wonder who u inherited the “bikie” thing from???? AR

9 11 2011

You’re an inspiration to all of us unlicensed motorcyclists on the backpacker trail. Let’s do a loop of Laos next time, even less traffic on the roads there apparently. I might even have taught myself to change gears by then.

13 11 2011

Looks and sounds epic mate!

13 11 2011

Epic is really the only word to describe that trip.
If there’s a better way to enjoy picturesque mountain roads, i haven’t found it.
Every time i stepped on that bike, I just started grinning at what lay ahead, at least until my ass began aching too badly to even walk.
Stay tuned for part 2, hepcats.

3 12 2011

take it easy keysie

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