Mae Hong Son Loopy-Loop *2 Biker Ladies & a Supercar Driver!*
Wednesday 16th October.
With a specific purpose in mind and a tight itinerary, three ladies set off on a three day Mae Hong Son Loop trip. My friend Sam was on her Honda CB500x and Ms Jeap was driving her…*wait for it*…
The first six seconds of this video is previous footage of Ms Jeap driving on the Samoeng Loop. This should give you a taste of her driving skills….
Haha, ok, with the title you expected an actual Supercar. Naughty me with my somewhat clickbate title, but it sounded too fun not to use! Hold on though, because on the twisties, in the hands of Ms Jeap, her car may as well have had a Turbo Boost button! Swift by name, swift by nature! Ok, let’s get on with the trip report!
The main purpose for this ride was to aide Big Bike Tours refine an itinerary ride plan for their upcoming all-ladies motorbike tour they are planning for next year. Sam and I have been invited along on this tour, and Ms Jeap, the TAT licensed guide (and wife of Big Bike Tours owner Kay), is running it. This was Jeap’s first time driving the loop!
Day 1: Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son (via Doi Inthanon and Mae Chaem) (GOOGLE MAP LINK)
At around 8:00am we met up at a local PTT garage. We had coffee/breakfast and went through the plan for day one together. A day or so beforehand I had created a My Maps guide for the stop-offs, to ensure we all knew where we were heading. (My Maps is a great tool, if you use google maps as a guide. At some point I will make a guide on it, for those unsure on how to use it.). Our first destination point was to be Wachirathan falls, which is a stunning waterfall in the Doi Inthanon National Park area. (This waterfall is actually free, however, if you wish to see other areas of the park, you need to pay the park fee. Sadly it is dual pricing at the park, which can stick in the throat a bit at times. 300 baht for foreigners and 50 baht for Thai. *Note* If you are riding through the park and not going to the viewpoint or into other areas, you do not need to buy a ticket. Just let them know you are riding through to Mae Chaem)
As we were planning to visit the main highlights of Doi Inthanon, we had to pay the 300 baht fee.
Really refreshing air and lots of lush greenery. Normally this waterfall has a glorious rainbow to enjoy too, but as there was no sun out, we weren’t treated to one.
After enjoying the view we had some refreshments at the cafe in the falls.
…and what a misty ride it was! (this video shows Sam riding back down from the viewpoint)
I confess that I got myself a bit confused here. I thought we were planning to go to the Royal Pagodas initially (we weren’t). Sam was leading that this point (and Jeap was behind me), so I was surprised when I turned left to go into the Pagoda entrance, only to see Sam riding straight on into the mist. I waited for Jeap to come by in her car to let her know the situation but felt like a right idiot when she confirmed that we were in fact meeting at the viewpoint first. Do’h!
I also ended up pulling into the first viewpoint area too, checking to see if Sam had parked up there beforehand, but unlike me she had her head screwed on that morning, and followed the correct plan to the main viewpoint.
Anyway, we arrived and parked up and did the touristy thing of following the trail up to the viewpoint sign etc. The temperature gauge said 11 degrees..but it felt far far more chilly when up so high and whilst wearing light mesh armour gear.
After the viewpoint we headed down to the Royal Pagodas, where we were rather disappointed to find out that we needed to pay an additional 40 baht on top of the 300 baht fee to enter. Not a huge amount in truth, but frustrating seeing as we had already paid a fair bit.
The Pagodas were stunning though and the views wonderful when the Rainy Season mist momentarily passed.
Our next stop after the national park was Mae Chaem, where we would also stop for food. I did not know of any restaurant in Mae Chaem though, so Jeap contacted her husband for a recommendation. Cue a comical situation of the GPS sending us in different directions and getting us all in a flux. Bloody GPS!
In truth Google Maps was just doing its job. It sent Jeap on the most suitable route for a car, versus my route for bikes. Just illustrates that GPS should only ever be a helpful aid, but never something to totally rely upon..and if you are in a group mix of cars and bikes, best to double check that everyone is following the same route. The result was that some time got wasted, which couldn’t be helped.
Sam and I ended up riding on ahead, with Jeap going the other way due to the GPS sending her off on the other route!
The views are so beautiful ! When Sam and I reached Mae Chaem, it turned out that the restaurant was closed (haha, we really were having a weird run of luck!). Sam suggested that to save time we should carry on and ride through to Khun Yuam and then eat there. So, we messaged Jeap to let her know. This was not exactly the best start for us all *eek*!
It is also always a mentally challenging ride for me, as this is the zone of my bad accident some years back. However, always good for me to ride though and lessen the feelings associated with it. Still, I did feel a bit of weird emotions when passing through.
As I was riding I was concerned about Jeap, as this was her first time driving the route, but a quick message here and there confirmed each time that all was fine.
We arrived in Khun Yuam and found a small eatery and ordered some food, preparing for a bit of a wait for Jeap. ..but HAH, within not much time at all there was Jeap saying hi with a smile on her face!
We ate fast then headed off on the wonderful smooth R108 to Mae Hong Son.
By the time we arrived in Mae Hong Son it was already dark. I think we arrived just before 7pm in the end (and just as the night market was in full swing, haha. So we had to navigate through it all to get to our accommodation). With all the stop-offs and hiccups it had been a longer day than anticipated, but we were all in good spirits. A good bout of laughs and giggles chased any stress moments away.
Chong Klang temple, one of the highlights of Mae Hong Son, was as stunning as always.
As Sam and I were checking in I had a “small world moment”, when I heard my name being spoken. I turned around to find my friend (and motorbike rider) John there. He said he had only just been talking about me to the new owner of the Sunflower Restaurant, and how bizarre it was to be walking past Piya only to then see me. Funny how things like that in life can happen!
All three of us got ourselves cleaned up and then headed out to the Sunflower Restaurant for some well-deserved dinner. We discussed the itinerary for the next day, picking and choosing which elements would be important for the tour etc, before heading back to our rooms to get some shut eye.
Shut eye didn’t actually come to me until about 1am, but that is normal for me when I am on a bike trip. So much stimuli and thoughts going around in my head that it is so often hard to settle.
Aa an aside, I thought this was a funny and odd coincidence earlier in the day…
Day 2: Mae Hong Son to Pai (Via Ban Rak Thai) (GOOGLE MAP LINK)
At around 8am we had breakfast at the Salween River Restaurant, having already packed up our bikes ready to go. Our first stop was to fill up at the local garage and then head up to Wat Phrathat Doi Kongmu temple to check out the view and visit the GT.Rider Memorial Chedi. The Chedi was set up by David Unkovich to honour fallen GT.Rider members.
..and we enjoyed the beautiful view from the lake.
After a walk around we had a delicious HUGE lunch at ต้าเหล่าซือ บ้านรักไทย (and we were told some weird beauty treatment thing with tea…. o.O )
After lunch we rode to Mae Aw, the Thai/Burmese outpost village.
(Also spotted a Mr Mechanic rental bike at the parking area.)
Mae Aw, located on the Southern most cusp of Myanmar’s Kayin State, was established in 1949 by Yunnanese KMT fighters who fled from communist rule. Now, decades later, the village’s population and architecture still remain rural Chinese, with most residents speaking Mandarin or Yunnanese. The village’s main industries are tea and tourism, and there are numerous places to taste the local brew, as well as several restaurants serving Yunnanese cuisine.
As we were walking around Sam spotted a bike outside a shop selling Duty Free items, we had a bit of fun on the bike (that was for sale). (We asked permission first! ..and I promise I was very careful with my boots. I totally respect other peoples items!)
The shop had Duty Free items on offer at great discount prices and a few other unusual items, such as miscellaneous meat…
After visiting the village we headed back on ourselves to get back onto the R1095. The Ban Rak Thai road certainly is a lot of fun!
The next stop for us was to be at Tham Lod Cave. (with a quick refreshment stop at Pang Mapha Viewpoint). Having not yet visited Tham Lot, but meaning to for so long, I was really looking forward to seeing it. I had already marked the cave location on my shared GPS map, so figured nothing could go wrong. .. haha….
Honestly, the good thing about things going a little wrong on this trip, is that it can all be refined and perfected for when the actual tour takes place. Better to have some hiccups and errors happen on Recce rides, than on the actual tour!
So anyway, Sam already knew the way to Tham Lot Cave as she had visited many times before, so didn’t need my map. Jeap and I used my GPS shared map as our navigator.
Jeap headed off just before us, after we had a stop at Pang Mapha Viewpoint, whilst Sam and I faffed about with bike stuff, (seeing as we can catch up to her), but as we were riding with Jeap just ahead of us, Sam pulled over. Sam then told me that Jeap had driven passed the entrance! ….What? I said to Sam that the GPS said to ride straight on, but for sure there it was, a road to the left with a sign saying it was the way to Tham Lod!
I thought maybe I had somehow screwed up on the map and cursed myself. I got out my phone to call Jeap, only to realise there was no bloody reception. I told Sam and she tried calling too, but again, no connection. Shit! I decided the best thing to do was to try ride on and see if I could catch up to Jeap..but already so much time had been wasted trying to get a signal, including restarting my phone.
I rode like the wind in the hope to catch Jeap (with Sam waiting at the junction), without checking to see if my GPS was still running. (It wasn’t ..haha). In my panic I rode all the way past my own map junction! Talk about a Comedy of Errors!
En-route I kept intermittently pulling over to see if I could get reception, but nothing.
In the end I rode all the way to Doi Kiew Lom Viewpoint where I finally got a connection after restarting my phone. I messaged Sam and Jeap, and was relieved that Sam was connected, but Jeap still wasn’t. I went with plan C and messaged that I would meet in Pai at the hotel.
Of course I didn’t find out all the full details until after everyone had arrived back at the hotel. I had wave of relief when I saw smiles and laughter, rather than upset faces. Sam was a trouper too, because although I had got caught in the rain, she got the full force of it.
Initially, when I arrived at the hotel, the receptionist was a bit grumpy with me and said I had to wait for the guide (aka Jeap) to arrive before she would give me a key. After some explainig she reluctantly gave me a room key. I suppose they might be used to some silly drama in Pai with it being such a high tourist place now, but surprised me a bit.
The room and pool was so nice though!
When we were all tidied up we headed out to the hippy trippy Pai-land town. ..and wow, how it keeps changing over the years! This was my first visit to Pai…
Now it is really geared towards the backpacker and tourist scene (now kind of a vibe mix of Chiang Mai’s Loy Kroh and Bangkok’s Khao San Road, I think). Neon lights and techno music along the start of Raddamrong road, which gives way to more trendy restaurants, wine bars, hipster hangouts and live music as you approach Vieng Tai street.
We checked out the area for good restaurant stops for the tour then got ourselves some food and drinks. It was time to wind down now, discuss the trip, and giggle at some of the errors knowing they can be corrected easily, whilst listening to some good live music. (Although in truth the music and bar scene isn’t really my thing, but the company and wind down chat was nice).
Day 3: Pai to Chiang Mai (via some back roads) (*Rough* GOOGLE MAP)
At breakfast Sam brought out her Marmite, and got Jeap to try it…
Our first stop was at the Pai Memorial Bridge, which is where this happened..lol
On a more serious note, the original bridge over the Pai River was built during World War II. The Japanese army needed to create a route from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son in order to attack Burma (which was a colony of the United Kingdom at that time). At that time the Pai River was fast and deep, so in 1941 the Japanese forced villagers to build the bridge, using elephants to drag trees from the jungle. After the war the Japanese soldiers left and burnt down the bridge. However, the villagers had come to rely upon the bridge, so they rebuilt the wooden bridge that we can see today.
After visiting the Memorial Bridge we carried on along the famously twisty R1095, which was supringly quiet. We decided to all meet up at Coffee We, roughly half way on the route, to have some refreshments and say our goodbyes.
Its a pretty cool café for some fun videos and photos!
P.s..if you watch this whole video, I think the dialog is pretty funny imo…
Jeap said goodbye first, as she had much to do that day, whilst Sam and I spent some time at the café, chatting about the experience and working out where are skills and weaknesses are. Its very much a different kettle of fish riding as a group (and with a tour in mind) than riding solo, and not something I am used to.
As for Coffee Wi, well this café for sure attracts many visitors with its eye-catching witch statues, so we ended up meeting other riders on the loop.The group on the left are father, mother & son (and his girlfriend). They were riding the Golden Triangle together. I can only imagine how wonderful it must be for a whole family to enjoy a moment like that together. The man on the top right was from S.Africa and the couple below go everywhere on this 150cc bike (previously he was riding big bikes for many years). I agreed with him that you do not need a big bike to enjoy N.Thailand roads, and in fact, in the hands of the right rider, small bikes very often leave Big Bikes for dust on twisties!
Then, after an hour or so at the café, Sam and I parted ways.
I decided to take a meandering way home, so I first quickly stopped in at Pankled coffee, to try figure out if there is a new way I could go to get home.
I took some small back roads back, as it was still early, enjoying a few impressive and pretty temples on the way…
…as well as having a small dance. Haha.
I arrived home at around 2:30pm, feeling reflective.
As an introvert and normally solo rider, it can be challenging for me at times to spend long hours in the company of others, but this was very much a fun and memorable trip.
Again, many thanks to Big Bike Tours for the suggestion and for arranging our accommodation for us. Big Bike Tours offer some fantastic tours in S.E.Asia, which you can look up on their website.
COMPILATION HIGHLIGHT VIDEO:
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