5-Day Golden Triangle West:
In a quick summarization, from Chiang Mai we head southwest, up and over DOI INTHANON and then drive in it's entirety the Mae Hong Son Loop-the finest motorcycle road in all of Asia. We stay in the mountains alongside the Burma border all the way up to Mae Sai, the northernmost point in Thailand. Here we will enter Burma for a quick look-see before scooting back down to Chiang Mai. Over 1,200 kilometers of driving in total.
260 kilometers to MAE SARIENG. We leave Chiang Mai early in the morning heading south over a flat, easy road, a good introduction to Thailand's roads and drivers. We then drive up to the top of Thailand's highest mountain, Doi Inthanon, stopping off at a waterfall or two. On the peak we visit two important stupas honoring the King and Queen of Thailand. Afterwards, we ride down the back side of this mountain over an extremely winding road, and along this route we'll stop off at a traditional Lanna-style home of a textile artist - you'll have the opportunity to purchase some of her creations. We continue south, join up with the Mae Hong Son loop heading west, and spend our first night in MAE SARIENG.
175 kilometers to MAE HONG SON. We continue riding the road of 1,800 turns (yes, someone actually counted them), the morning entirely filled with great driving. We'll be doing well to average over 50 kph on this segment. By mid-day we will arrive in Khun Yuam, the scene of a mass Japanese retreat during WW2. Japanese veterans recently built an interesting war museum highlighting this little-known piece of history.
We continue winding northwards, make a detour, and drive up an extremely steep road to a Hmong hilltribe village situated on the peak of a lofty mountain. After that we ride to a Padong Long Neck settlement. The women in this hilltribe wear a series of brass rings around their necksthe women; They are also known as giraffe women. By late afternoon we arrive in Mae Hong Son, visit a couple of important temples, relax with a massage, then dig into a scrumptious gourmet Thai dinner.
230 kilometers to CHIANG DAO. We finish up the Mae Hong Son Loop over its most demanding section. There are so many turns that some riders actually complain they get dizzy whipping around them. Lunch is in PAI for a bowlfull of their famous Shan noodle dish: khao soy gai. After lunch we go for an elephant ride through the forest, and then more great riding all the way to Chiang Dao. Chiang Dao is Thailand's 3rd-highest mountain and at its base is a cave turned into a Buddhist shrine.
215 kilometers to DOI MAE SALONG. The terrain and character of the roads changes dramaticall today as we enter karst country-limestone mountain formations in incredible shapes. We run alongisde the Burma Border on little-used roads nearly all day long and drive down the steepest road in the country. Late morning is a stop at an agricultural research center with their lovely gardens, and we will dine in their outdoor restaurant on the freshest and most delicous furits and vegetables you have ever tasted. After lunch we visit a Thai army border post, take a stroll through their bunkers, and watch the Burmese army watching us.
The character of the people in this region is also changing because this is where the losing Chinese
Kuomingtong (Nationalist) Army fled to and settled after losing to Mao Tse Tung's communist forces during their civil war. In this town you could swear you are in China. Just before reaching our hotel we visit another important mountaintop chedi on a road so steep that many cars can not capable of driving up it. And tonight a Chinese-Yunnanese feast awaits that you will never forget.
300 kilometers to CHIANG MAI. Still more great riding is in store, this time through a mixed pine and bamboo forest on extremely narrow and curvaceous roads. First major stop is at another mountain top temple, its perimeter lined with bells. It is said that if you ring all 400+ of them (at last count), this will guarantee you a place in heaven: An offer like this doesn't come along every day. Then we tip-toe down the Thai-Burma border with opposing army camps on both sides of us (there is no real danger because everything has been peaceful and calm for many years now) and we pop out of the mountains into the northernmost point in Thailand, Mae Sai. We go for a quick walking tour into Burma, do some shopping, and have lunch.
Our final segment back to Chiang Mai is on a major road and we should hit town just before dusk for a well-earned rest. Total kilometers: just shy of 1,300.
5-Day Golden Triangle South:
330 kilometers to SUKHOTHAI. The first day ride out of Chiang Mai is a relatively easy one, mostly over a 4-lane, divided highway, and this will be a good introduction to Thailand's roads and drivers. After we check into our 4-star hotel and change into sightseeing clothes, it is a short ride to Sukhothai, the most famous antiquity in Thailand and a UNESCO World Heritage site. A wonderful meal is in store for us this evening.
320 kilometers to UMPHANG. From Sukhothai we cut west and across the Dawna Mountain Range, then ride south down an incredible biking road all the way to its end into the tiny town of Umphang. Along the way we will stop off at a gibbon rehabilitation center for a hand's-on display of these fantastic apes. Umphang is home to the largest waterfall in Thailand and we will visit it either in the afternoon or the following morning. Our lodging is rustic bungalow resort on the edge of a national park.
150 kilometers to MAE SOT. Today we head back north over the same great road we drove down on, and we will visit a hilltribe village or two. In the afternoon we enter Burma for a walking and shopping tour. Our accommodations this evening are in another 4-star hotel with a swimming pool; excellent massage and spa services are available.
224 kilometers to Mae Sariang. Another great riding day over mountainous terrain on a sparsely-frequented road because it is just too difficult for cars to handle, but absolutely perfect for motorcycles. Our night's lodging is a riverside hotel where we dine outside overlooking extensive rice fields. Some lovely temples are along this route which we will visit.
256 kilometers to CHIANG MAI. Our last day's driving is over the southern part of the Mae Hong Song Loop, the most famous biking road in Asia. We then cut up and over the highest mountain in Thailand, Doi Inthanon, and we should be back in Chiang Mai by late-afternoon. Total kilometers: around 1,300.
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