Pai Loop: (Samoeng > Wat Chan > Pai > R1095 >Chiang Mai)
A fun ride with (party people) friends, with the focus being not just the ride, but the nightlife of Pai. So this trip report is a bit of a social and fun one, with an update on how the town of Pai is in more recent times..
FULL LOOP (google map link)
<–I did this route back in February 2016, when the road was still largely under construction, with a high percentage of dirt track. Now the route is finally 100% complete (completed in January 2018). So was curious to see how it compared now, and if it would be a nice alternative to the main R1095.
You can read my original trip report HERE
Day 1: Samoeng>Wat Chan>Pai (google map link)
We set the meeting point at the X-Centre in Mae Rim, which is on the Samoeng Loop (Samoeng Loop guide). Turned out to be a great meeting point, as it meant i could have a morning coffee whilst waiting for the others to join (four of us riding in total). I knew this ride was going to be a chill out ride, with the focus being on the social aspect, so time was not so much of essence for us.
After a great coffee we headed off on the 4021 for around 40km until we reached the 1349 junction that would take us to Wat Chan (with an obligatory stop on the Samoeng Lookout area first, of course).
The 1349 to Wat Chan route was fun and twisty with some nice views. The only down factor was that the scenery was sadly a bit dry from the approaching hot season and also from the burning that takes place at this time (info on burning here). So it wasn’t as scenic as it will surely be in the rainy season and cool season period. Still a great road though!
We stopped in at a small restaurant in Wat Chan (google map link). A good place to stop as it is next to a rural fuel stop where you can get a bit of extra petrol (if, like me, your bike doesn’t have a big fuel tank). The food at this restaurant is fairly simple, and pre-cooked. Often pretty spicy too. So don’t expect anything fancy. If you have special dietary requirements then take a packed lunch/snacks, because this particular route doesn’t have a lot on offer (as opposed to the main R1095 to Pai, which has plenty of restaurants and coffee shops en route.)
As we were eating lunch we noticed a large amount of pristine classic cars passing through. Not a common sight! Was quite amazing to see such stunning vehicles driving past. I was able to get a short piece of footage of some of the cars that went past, but there were much more than my video caught.
*UPDATE* : So talk about a “small world” feeling. Turns out these classic cars are on a rally from Singapore to Saigon, being filmed for BBC2. I found this out because my friends from TBB Tours just bumped into them in Khao Koh, whilst out on one of their tours! Turns out that one of the cars is owned by Martin Kemp (Singer/ Actor), (which he rolled, but no one was hurt!) with Noel Edmonds (British Personality / Presenter / exec) also taking part in the rally (see photo). How amazing!
We also had a giggle at a herd of cows running (with what initially seemed to be with purpose) through the streets. My friend commented about how amazing it is that they seem to know exactly where they are going. However, a few moments later they came running out from where they had just gone, to run down another way.
Then a few moments later they headed back on themselves and then off to the right! Haha!
One of the herd members was obviously frustrated by all this running about and decided to break the monotony… erm…. hah… (keep watching, it’s worth it. Trust me ^^)
After lunch (and topping up the fuel tank) we headed back on the 1265 bound for Pai.
We had a couple of stops at some nice scenic areas (for our smoker companions) and also to take a couple of photos. We also noticed a local lady collecting ants (to cook and eat), so went over to take a look and have a chat to her. Next thing I knew my friend and I were getting bitten by rampaging fire ants! Had to have a bit of a body check after that as I didnt fancy riding with an ant suddenly biting at me. (If you have never been bitten by one of these large ants before, believe me, they really pack a punch!)
Also had myself a bit of a jump a little later, when this cow decided to do this:
After riding for around 50km we eventually met with the R1095 junction, for the last short 10-15 minute ride into Pai town.
We headed straight to our accommodation, which I had (unfortunately) pre-booked. I don’t mind pre-booking places i know to be good, but this place was a gamble. The images on Agoda.com looked pretty good and most of the accommodation in the centre of Pai was surprisingly already booked out (or very overpriced or dorm rooms – which I wont do. I would rather sleep outside than in a dorm, personally!) All my usual places weren’t available and as we planned to have a night out in Pai, we wanted to be within walking distance of our accommodation.
This accommodation was small private bungalows within the centre of town and the price was good, so, it seemed ideal..
We arrived and parked up and the first odd thing that happened is not being able to find anyone in the reception area. T.I.T (This is Thailand), so we decided it wasn’t such a big deal and went to have a cool drink at the restaurant next door. Intermittently I checked if anyone was at the reception, but no one was there to help. I eventually called up the number provided on the ‘resort’ sign and it was eventually answered, and eventually someone was sent along to sort out our booking.
As I waited I noticed a tank of black water which was actually a fish tank, and even had some fish in it. It didn’t really bode well, if this could possibly reflect the cleanliness of the bungalows. Poor fish! (One of my friends did actually ask one member of staff about why this tank was so dirty and was told it gets cleaned out every few days, but gets dirty fast. I call BS on this one personally…)
A member of staff finally came to register us, and we were shown our accommodation. When she opened the doors to each bungalow room, it was a shocker. I don’t mind simple accommodation, but these bungalows were run down and dirty. The bed sheets seemed clean at least, so that was something. Otherwise I would not have stayed at all. I did feel very bad for my friends though, as I was the one who had pre-booked (and paid online) for such awful accommodation.
One bungalow we were shown I refused to accept, as it had a swarm of dead bees on the carpet (yes, the bungalows were actually carpeted. Dirty frayed carpet. We realised later this had been put down to hide the termite riddled wood beneath). Cobwebs were everywhere..and although we had paid for air con rooms, we had to go through a palava to get the remote controls to switch the air con on!
Add to that the fact that there was no toiletries and not even one bottle of water, well, it was frankly not ok. I rarely complain about accommodation, but this was the epitome of sheer laziness. This place, even if run down, should at least be clean for customers. Absolute shocker.
Sadly, because of Thailand’s serious defamation laws, I am unable to name and shame the ‘resort’. However, lets just say it is close to Pai Highlands Bar and Restaurant, and let you work it out for yourself. 😉 A scathing review on Agoda will be upcoming. My friends thankfully (seem to have) forgiven me, so that’s good. Phew!
We then walked around Pai walking street zone, checking out what food was available and having a wander into one or two shops. Two of my friends decided to eat at Sugar Cane Restaurant, as they know the owner and like the food there, whilst my friend and I opted for street food, because the options looked tempting.
Pai street food is very different from the general Thai street food, as it is usually catering for western tastes. So, it makes for an interesting experience if you are used to Thai style street food. There is also a large range of vegetarian and vegan food too, if that is your preferred diet. My friend and I opted for a couple of lasagnas and some cheese nachos. Eyes were definitely bigger than bellies though, as we struggled to finish the high carb meals.
After another wander around the night market we headed for a drink at Pai River Restaurant. It was quiet and secluded, and a good place to have a chat before we headed into the fray. To be honest, every bar we looked at along the way to this place had extremely loud music. Unpleasantly loud. Plus, most were packed out too.
Over the years Pai seems to have evolved into something I don’t quite click with. That could also be an age thing maybe. However, it seems to have gone from a quiet sleepy quirky hippy place (a decade ago), which initially evolved into a young backpacker hippy chill out place (sort of an island vibe of the north), but now has evolved into a Kho San Road style place. The tourists and expats aren’t quite the same anymore in my opinion, and feels a touch more aggressive than i remember it being.
Anyway, we finished up our drinks at Pai River Restaurant and headed back to Yellow Sun. We had a couple of drinks there, listened to a band play and watched the customers dance barefoot and braless, then headed off to Don’t Cry Bar.
By this time we were shivering. Yes, really. The air had cooled right down and we had a serious case of the shivers. Thankfully Sunset Bar had a nice fire going and so we warmed up by the fireside. This place doesn’t get going until all the other bars close, so it was pretty much dead when we arrived (approximately just before midnight).
After that we headed to our last stop of the night Sunset bar.
Altercation on the street
On the way to Sunset bar we had a surprise altercation with a local French expat, whilst we were walking down the main road towards Sunset Bar.
This road has NO sidewalk, so you are forced to walk on the road.
It was extremely quiet, with occasional scooters going past, so we weren’t overly concerned with walking on the main road.
Suddenly a scooter passes us honking its horn like mad at us.
My big mouth got the better of me as i shouted out “อะไร?!” (“What?!” in Thai. Meaning more like “what is your problem?!”), because basically I am wondering what the riders problem was and it annoyed me.
Suddenly the rider pulled over, got of his bike (a tall silhouette in the dark appearing) and headed towards me.
To be honest, I was ready to stand up for myself no matter what happened (Scottish genes prevail. Haha!)
Now, I really think this guy got himself a shock when he approached us. I think he was expecting to see four tourists, rather than us. I don’t believe for a minute he expected to encounter two Thai girls and two expats.
I figure he likely had a bad day and decided he was going to shout at what he thought were tourist types who were out for the night, destroying ‘his’ Pai.
So as he was walking our way he started shouting saying that we are idiots for walking on the road.
What he got back in return was a deluge. A huge cyclone of abuse came firing right back at him, from all angles.
I think by the end of it he felt really put in his place to be honest.
He chose the wrong people to try have a fight with that night for sure.
After the close encounter of the wrong kind, we turned right and down the road to Sunset bar, which turned out to be an interesting end to the night. The owners were fun and the atmosphere was chilled, and for the first time in my life (maybe i will regret admitting to this), I sang Karaoke! We sung ourselves hoarse then headed back to our ritzy bungalow accommodation.
Day 2: Pai to Chiang Mai (google map link)
I slept ok that night, except for intermittently waking up from having cold feet. I woke up surprisingly fresh too, given that it was well after 2am that I had gotten to bed. I was dressed and ready to head out for coffee by no later than 10am.
I sat outside my bungalow for a while as I messaged my friends to see if they were awake yet, but no reply. There were some loud guests talking at an excessive volume outside the bungalows and it began to grate on me I’m ashamed to say. So, I mentioned to them that my friends had had a late night the night before and could they keep it down a bit. What i got in return was a bad attitude. Pff. Welcome to the new Pai style tourist?
I headed out of the bungalows and up the road for coffee, stopping in at Coffee Stains Cafe, where the coffee was really good.
As I was sitting there (admiring an interesting looking e-bike) I noticed an expat lady taking three dogs for a walk. I recognised her face from a complaint written about her in one of the Facebook groups i am part of. Apparently one of her dogs had lashed out and bit a tourist visiting Pai, and she refused to help with hospital fees, etc. I watched her with curiosity as she walked slowly past, casually pausing at the pristine e-bike and allowing one of her dogs to take a pee against it. She then continued on her way.
Welcome to the new Pai style expat..? My friends joined me at the coffee shop a little bit later, and we ate breakfast there (well, all except one friend, who was feeling a little worse for wear from the night before!).
We headed back to the bungalows and packed up. Again, no one around to take care of retrieving our bungalow keys, so we just left them on the counter and headed off. A huge thumbs down for that place and will never stay there again.
I set off first, as I needed to put more air in my tires. I am currently using vee rubber vrm 163 dual sports tires, and found that I had them a little too soft for the ride up. I wanted to inflate them for the ride back. I headed to the first PTT, where all they had was an old style pump and gauge, and watched in horror as the pressure gauge went DOWN instead of up! Something was going badly wrong, and the gauge was taking air OUT of my tires instead of in to my tires. I decided not to mess with it further, and headed to the second PTT down the road. Hah..but here the air pressure machine was broken. Arghh! This was a moment of shame for me, because actually I have my own pressure gauge and compressor, but i figured it wasn’t worth taking as I am only going on a quick ride to Pai. Shame on me. I had tools with me, chain oil and even a siphon hose, but no pressure gauge, pump or compressor. Hah!
I messaged my friends to let them know of the drama and to not wait for me. I knew I could get it resolved and no point in us all waiting on each other. So we arranged a coffee shop meeting point halfway down the R1095 instead. I am fairly confident on the 1095 so I knew I could pick up some speed once I sorted my tires out. Eventually the situation was resolved when I found a local mechanic and explained the situation. He got my tires pumped up perfectly and I was good to go.
Was a nice ride to Coffee We coffee shop. Lots of fantastic curves and switchbacks on this road, and a riders real delight. If only there were no minibuses or cars to navigate past, it would be perfection! In saying that, it wasn’t too bad that day, considering it was a Sunday. The main problem isn’t the intermittent vehicles, but more that the vehicles end up piling up one-by-one, close behind each other. So, riders end up having to pass six or so vehicles on tight twisty (and often blind) corners, which can be a tricky to navigate.
The ride back from Coffee We was great, and we took the 3009 village route back to Chiang Mai to escape most of the main R107.
When we reached the 1096 junction, two of my friends headed home, whilst my other friend and I stopped in at the X Centre for a quick bite to eat. Great food and sorted us out well for the last few KM home.
With a full belly and a mellow feeling overtaking me, I was glad to finish the last few km and get back to my comfortable home.
Was a great ride and a ton of fun.
Hope you enjoyed this silly kind of trip report ^^.
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Some other random images from this trip..Thanks for reading!