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Riding the Mae Hong Son Loop in Northern Thailand

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Getaway Category: Adventure & NatureGetaway Tags: Asia, chiang mai, Mae Hong Son, Mae Sariang, Northern Thailand, Pai, thailand, and weekend

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  • One of the country’s most famous motorcycle trails, the Mae Hong Son Loop is an epic 600km journey from Chiang Mai through the Mae Hong Son province. What makes this trail unique? The Mae Hong Son province is coined as one of the last frontiers for off-the-beaten-track exploration in Thailand, and there’s no better way to see it all than by motorbike to feel at one with its stunning landscape.

    However you want to tackle the route, from only partially riding it for two days or stretching it out for a week, the trail can be approached from either direction and will still provide you with beauty untouched by tourism for the whole ride. Prepare yourself for changing landscapes, cascading waterfalls and mist covered forests, while you explore the cool mountainous region of Northern Thailand.

    Day 1 in Thailand

    Fly into Chiang Mai and spend the morning choosing the right motorbike for you and filling in the necessary paperwork. For beginner riders, we recommend a 125cc automatic scooter as it is very easy to ride. For more experienced riders, a semi-automatic bike or a 200-600cc manual bike will give you more power and control. This is also an ideal bike for two passengers.

    Before heading off on your journey, choose which route you want to take. Taking Route 107 in the anticlockwise direction is recommended for more experienced riders as the trail involves a lot of steep riding with tight curves. Route 108 starts off flat, which is better for newer riders to build your confidence, and the road is in very good condition.

    Chiang Mai to Mae Sariang (190km)

    Starting the trail at the beautiful old city of Chiang Mai, exit out the South Gate and take Thipanet Road following signs for Mae Hong Son. If you also see signs for the airport you’re on the right track! When you reach the roundabout turn right and continue following Route 108. Now you’ll notice the landscapes drastically changing and you can start to enjoy riding alongside the river with lush vegetation and greenery surrounding you. Soon, approximately 3 hours without stopping, you’ll find yourself at the town of Mae Sariang.

    Things to do/see on the way to Mae Sariang:

    Doi Inthanon – The highest mountain in Thailand is on the trail to Mae Sariang so if you are making good time, it is worth a detour for amazing views! If you want to visit the mountain, it will add 2 hours to your drive time not including your time at the stop. Tip: If you have longer, this is a perfect camping spot to spend the night.

    Wat Chomchaeng Temple – 35 minutes away from Chiang Mai on route 108 is this mountain-top temple offers amazing views of the valley with a quiet and peaceful atmosphere to enjoy them.

    Things to do/see in Mae Sariang:

    As Mae Sariang is quite a small town populated with small ethnic groups and tribes, this is mainly a place for relaxing by the river.

    Visit the Karen Lahwi tribe near the border of Myanmar

    Wat Jong Sung and the Wat Si Bunruang – two stunning birman-chan temples in the centre of town.

    Day 2 in Thailand

    Mae Sariang to Mae Hong Son (140km)

    The trail to Mae Hong Son is one long road where hairpin corners soon turn into sweeping racetrack curves. Not only is it great fun to ride but the stunning scenery changing from thick forests to green farmland makes the journey all the more pleasurable. As this stretch of the trail is so beautiful, make the most of your stops at the quaint little villages you’ll come across. Arriving in Mae Hong Son, spend the whole evening exploring the city and all its amenities.

    A remote and mountainous region, the province of Mae Hong Son is sparsely populated and home to hill tribes such as the Shan and Hmong. The town of Mae Hong Son is quite big in itself, with not a tuk tuk of tout to be seen anywhere. Although remote, tour groups do come here as the town is a good base for activities such as boat trips and trekking.

    Things to see/do in Mae Hong Son:

    Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu – A stunning temple atop Kong Mu hill. It is worth a visit to see its amazing Shan architecture and the spectacular view of the valley of Mae Hong Son.

    Lake Jong Kum – Since we love green spaces so hanging out here was one of our favorites! Surrounded by a public park, this is an ideal place to chill out or explore the temples.

    Wat Chong Kham and Wat Chong Klang – two twin Burmese-style temples dominating the skyline at the edge of Lake Jong Kum.


    Day 3 in Thailand

    Mae Hong Son to Pai (110km)

    For this stretch of the trail there will be countless photo opportunities and attractions and the trail becomes increasingly difficult with a lot of bends and steep hills, so plan for this and start the day early. Enjoy the picturesque and beautiful views as you make your way towards Pai, riding to the top of a mountain pass and descending down a winding road into a valley full of spectacular vistas. Make sure to stop at Pha Sua Waterfall on Route 1095. Follow the signs through quaint villages to the huge, majestic waterfall in all it’s glory.

    Things to do/see on the way to Pai:

    Waterfalls – Pam bok and Mo Paeng Falls are two of the favourites among backpackers out of many stunning waterfalls in Pai. For beautiful scenery and a few hours swimming in rock pools, they are definitely worth finding.  

    The Land Split – The best stop for travelers! Not only can you walk to the mountain top to see the beautiful views of the land crack, surrounding lands and mountains, you will also be provided with a feast by the people who own the land. As the crack has made the land useless for growing crops, this family provide travelers with food and you can donate however much you want to give them. A really special and quick stop for breakfast or lunch.

    Things to do/see in Pai:

     The Pai Hot Springs – 7km southeast of the town is the Huai Nam Dang National Park where a scenic stream flows through the park and mixes with hot springs. A perfect place to bathe and relax amongst nature.

    Pai Canyon – for hiking and photographers, the Pai Canyon offers hours of exploration and plenty of photo opportunities of breathtaking landscapes.

    Day 4 in Thailand

    Pai to Chiang Mai (130km)

    The most popular section of the Mae Hong Son Loop is from Pai to Chiang Mai so expect it to be busy! On leaving Pai, you will climb another steep hill with 762 bends. After this tough ascent, enjoy the landscape of dense pine trees and the sweet aroma that they give off before making your descent. Following this is more tight corners but also more stunning views from the mountains. Make sure to stop at some villages during this journey to rest and make the most of the views, as you will soon reach the highway before entering Chiang Mai to finish your round trip. If pushed for time, you can complete this journey in approximately 3 hours if you ride without stopping. However, we recommend starting the day early (8am) to make scenic stops on your ride, return your bike and have some time to spend in Chiang Mai before catching your 6pm flight. As the airport is only a 25 minute drive from here, you should aim to  leave here at half 3 to get to the airport for 4pm.

    Things to do/see:

    Wat Phra That Doi Suthep  

    Sunday Night Walking Street or Saturday Night Markets

    Cliff diving – head to the Hang Dong Rock Quarry to jump into a turquoise green lagoon from heights up to 12 metres!

    Watch a Muay Thai match

    X-Centre – for adventure and extreme sports, you should definitely check this place out!

    share your experience by using #singaporenbeyond on social media!




  • Where to Stay in Mae Sariang:

    Budget

    Stay at Good View Guest House in a deluxe room right on the river bank for $19 SGD per night. Book here now!

    Mid-range

    Tamarind Grand Resort Mae Sariang is perfect for leisure or business stays. Starting at $30 SGD  per night for a twin cottage on Agoda, you can enjoy free WI-FI and breakfast included by the river. Book here now!

    Splurge

    Conveniently located on the river with close proximity to all the city’s main attractions, a Modern Wooden House costs $45 SGD per night at the Riverhouse Resort. Book here now!

    Where to Stay in Mae Hong Son:

    Budget

    For an affordable stay in a deluxe room, a stay at the Panorama Hotel with cost $12 SGD per night. Book here now!

    Mid-range

    If you have a slightly larger budget, the Saksuay Klangdoi Resort has sizeable double rooms and an outdoor pool all for $29 SGD per night and is available to book here. For a terrace and views of the mountains, The Likeview Guesthouse will cost $25-30 SGD for a deluxe room depending on if you want breakfast. Book here now!

    Splurge

    The Phu Chaba Resort is a great base to explore the city as it is a short walk away from local attractions such as the Pai River, Tour Merng Tai and the Chong Klang Temple. Book here now for a double or twin room ($65 SGD) or a deluxe room ($94 SGD) with breakfast included.

    Where to Stay in Mae Sariang:

    Budget

    If you want to chill out in Pai, Jungle zone is the perfect place. Surrounded by nature with its own restaurant, bar and garden, you can stay in a comfortable room for as low as $7 SGD per night. Book here now!

    Mid-range

    If you want to be in the town and in close proximity to the main streets, the bus terminal and the night market, Soi One Boutique Bedrooms is ideal. With comfortable rooms and serving the “best breakfast in Pai,” room prices start at $46 SGD per night.

    If you prefer staying outside of town, Mont Goei Pai (or Mon Goey Pai) is located near the mountains only a 5 minute drive or a 20 minute walk from the centre. For a peaceful environment, beautiful views and breakfast included, book here for at least $35 SGD per night.

    Splurge

    A stay at Bura Lumpai Villa (Him Naam Pai Resort) will have you not wanting to leave. With full use of the swimming pool, hotel gardens and nearby waterfalls, you can relax in this luxury villa from $106 SGD per night. Book here now!

    Where to Stay in Mae Sariang:

    Budget

    One of the cheapest hostels in Chiang Mai, the ELK/Jing Jing Guesthouse is conveniently located near the river, the airport and 300m from Chang Phuak Gate. Book here now for a bed in an A/C dorm for $6 SGD per night, or $3 SGD for a fan room. We recommend A/C as it can get uncomfortably hot!

    Mid-range

    Located around Chiang Mai’s Moat, temples, the Old City District, Sunday Night Walking Street and Kad San Kaew Shopping Centre, The Peaberry is perfectly located. At a minimum of $45 SGD for two people including breakfast, this small resort is ideal. Book here now!

    Splurge

    For a hipster vibe, stay at The Art Mai Gallery Nimman Hotel in the trendy area of Chiang Mai, where many bars and cafes, great street food stalls and restaurants are all in proximity. Prices start at $100 SGD for two people including breakfast. Book here now!

    If hipster is not your style, head to the Dhara Dhevi Hotel for a real luxury experience. Prices start at $550 SGD for two including breakfast and stunning views. Book here now!

    Getting to Thailand

    Singapore Airlines fly directly to Chiang Mai almost daily and at numerous times, with a flight duration of approximately 3 hours. Make sure to always check all flights and their times on the days that you want as on the rare occasion there may not be one. The direct return flights are also daily departing with multiple times to choose from. Prices normally range from $400 to $700 SGD depending on the fare type and time of travel. Check out their flight schedules here.

    To take the least amount of time off is to fly with Singapore airlines on Friday morning at 8am and return Monday evening at 6pm.

    For alternative budget flight options, Air Asia and Thai Airlines fly to Chiang Mai daily with a stopover in Bangkok.

    Where to Rent Your Motorbike in Thailand

    With hundreds of motorbike rental shops willing to offer you a bike for a ‘good price,’ it is really important to make the right choice. Since moving to Chiang Mai, we’ve compared the best rental places and tested out their bikes. We recommend Tony’s Big Bikes - a bike rental company ran by two very professional British Expats who are riders themselves. With every bike rental you receive a comprehensive accident insurance form, additional safety equipment you can hire (we highly recommend the air flow armoured mesh jackets!) and personal recommendations of the best trails and things to see/do! Check out their website here for an up-to-date list of prices. A 125cc automatic scooter will approximately cost 200-500 baht per day while manual bikes can cost anywhere between 800 and 2,500 baht depending on the model and engine size.

    Where to Eat in Thailand

    It is hard to recommend a place to eat in each place as we literally ate in loads of small hole in the wall restaurants and street food stalls. A good rule of thumb to follow in Thailand is to look for a place which is busy with locals. That’s when you know they serve good food!

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