Home > Thailand > Around Northern Thailand – on a beast!

Around Northern Thailand – on a beast!

1,000 kilometres

6 days

4 destinations

1 Kawasaki Naked 650cc

Having spent a lovely week in Chiang Mai, we needed to get out and do something else. Besides we were here to see some of the Northern Thailand, and not drink at expat bars, eat Japanese food and laze around (as nice as that was!).

Realising that we could apply for our Indian visas right here in Chiang Mai, and not need to travel back to Bangkok for it, we quickly decided to extend our stay – applied for the visa, left our luggage (bar a small bag) with our guesthouse, hired a motorbike (with the numberplate reading just ‘666’) and headed north!

1st stop – Chiang Rai.  A number of people we have met on our travels advised us to stay away from the touristy Chiang Mai and instead head to Chiang Rai, a hundred and twenty kilometres north of CM. We really liked Chiang Mai actually so were really curious to meet it’s smaller, apparently better liked neighbour. Half way through the journey the rain pelted and along with a other half a dozen bikes on the road, we parked next to a shelter and waited for it to die down. I saw these shelters pretty much everywhere we went which, along with the quality (generally very good) of road surface around here pleasantly surprised us.

On to the city of Chiang Rai, and having reached their in the afternoon we proceeded to try and find a room for the night which took us about an hour of asking around and seeing a variety of places by which time we had seen all of Chiang Rai. It is rather compact with a road catering to the western tourists, i.e. bars and restaurants plus the obligatory night market. Having checked into a hotel, showered and changed, we walked around the town and later in the evening visited a few bars. Cat Bar where we met some very friendly ex-pats married to Thais was the best of the bunch especially with the pool table though the live singing could have been turned down a little. By this time we had had several drinks and the expats had tried their best to convince us that Chiang Rai is better than Chiang Mai. I think we disagreed, but we are city rats!

Next morning we decided to move on and head further north, more remote into the mountains where the Lahu tribe has their strong(er)hold. 2nd stop -Mae Sailong. Winding through beautiful countryside we reached Mae Sailong at mid-day. The little hilltop village has a distinct Chinese feel and about 40-50 buildings including public buildings. The view is gorgeous from here and we sat down for an early lunch. Chinese obviously! After a little wander around we decided there wasn’t enough to hold us here and zig zagged our way out towards west and heading south again towards our next destination.

We ended up riding for 350 kilometres on this, only our second day, through most of the north east of border of Laos and dropping down back towards Chiang Mai though on a different route from the one we took north from CM. Just before the sun set we reach our 3rd stop – Pai. This is a small town situated right in the centre of the mountains in a valley which is really rather stunning. Full of guesthouses, bars, restaurants, markets and shops and yet tiny enough to walk all around unless you were going to visit the nearby attractions. Nevertheless, it had a calm quality about it and on the second night we found the perfect place by the river to stay. The first night we had ended up staying at the first guesthouse we came to as the dusk was setting in and the rain had just started to come down. Throughout the night a strange man sat on our private verandah. I think he was just sleeping it off!

A motorbike is a must around Pai because there is little public transport to take you to the attractions. There are a number of waterfalls, hot springs, caves and elephant camps to keep you busy for a week as well as seeing and meeting the local tribes of Lahu, Hmong and long-necked Karens. But just the scenery around is gorgeous and you can ride endlessly around the paddy fields trying to capture the right light on film. Four nights were plenty for us though many stay for a lot longer.

4th and final stop – Mae Hong Song. This is the administrative capital of the north east and we were told the town as well as ride will be scenic. So through threats of rain, we rode further into the mountains and reached Mae Hong Song near the Burmese border. We found four hotels of which we saw three and only one was clean enough to check into. Yet again, having showered, we set out to see the town and found a lake, well it was more a pond really and the ever-present Wat. There was a bar at he only junction in the town imaginatively called ‘The Crossroads’ where we sat down for a couple of hours to have a drink and eat food. In that time there were no other customers who even looked in and this was the best looking place in the town. Should have been called Sleepsville.

So the next morning we decided to make the 330 kilometre trip through some of Thailand’s tallest mountains. Ignoring my advice, Craig took a wrong turn and we ended up taking the road to the top of and back down the other side of the tallest mountain in Thailand!

What we enjoyed most was the stunning scenery of the North West, at every turn there was another vista and each one more beautiful than the next. With this trip, the saying – to travel is better than to arrive – was certainly true for me!

  1. Easterine
    July 12, 2011 at 02:27

    Tony haws been to Chiang Mai a few years ago. But now he favours the beaches of Patya. He is delighted to hear that you are touring Thailand as he thinks it is a wonderful country with beautiful people.

    • July 12, 2011 at 04:50

      Hi Easterine, lovely to hear from you and Tony. Hope you are enjoying the warm summer in London! Thailand is indeed beautiful and a great place where we have spent almost two months already! India next! Shelley x

  2. toogreytogrind
    July 13, 2011 at 05:44

    Very true that last statement. It is all about the journey, you never hear about stories about arriving. Love the bike of the Devil 666. LOL

    • July 13, 2011 at 05:58

      The journey is always the best for me, whether it is an overnight train or a long haul flight, or a speedy ride on the back of a motorbike – the anticipation of reaching somewhere new is the most exciting thing! S x

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