Time for Rob to live out his dreams and go on a motorbike ride trip! We decided to follow the popular Mae Hong Son Loop, 650km through the mountains and jungle till we’ll be back in Chiang Mai. We hired a scooter, packed a bag, bought a butt cushion for extra comfort and headed off! Once we got out of the city we picked up the road that we’d be following for the next few days, essentially it goes right through the middle of a huge forest and up and over mountains with far too many sharp corners for my liking!
The first leg was 150km to Pai, lots of bendy roads where Rob could pretend he was a motor GP rider. We stopped once for lunch and once to grab the raincoats as the heavens opened but after 4 hours we made it to Pai. Pai is a little town nestled in the mountains with a certain hippie vibe to it, far too many dreadlocks for my liking but each to their own. Its also home to the best food market we’ve come across, they had street side lasagne and bruschetta, so good!
We had two nights in Pai so we had a little time to explore, we found some waterfalls, visited the old world war 2 bridge and walked the Pai Canyon (not a patch on the real thing). We spent both evenings in the bars watching football, because I’m a nice girlfriend and because Rob let me put a pound bet on each game!
Before we left Pai we went for a run to find the Mae Yen waterfall, Google maps let us down again so we ended up just running round some fields, but we did make a little running friend who followed us for most of the route! After that we loaded up the bike ready for leg 2, 120km to cover until Mae Hong. We made a little detour to find some hot springs which happened to be up the steepest hills possible and despite me telling Rob we needed a big bike before we left we found ourselves with a 125cc crawling up the hills. I was not impressed when I had to get off and walk with the bags whilst Rob snaked it up the hill. After a quick soak it was back on the road again.
The road to Mae Hong from Pai boasts over 1,800 bends so it was quite the ride! The views from the tops of the mountains were something else, the road bordered the Burmese jungle so it was quite the view. We stopped at the Tham Lod cave on the way which was awesome! A local Thai man took us round on his bamboo raft with his gas lamp, the cave was enormous it took almost 2 hours to go round it! The only thing I didn’t enjoy were the thousands swallows flapping round the mouth of the cave, a bird poop to the head was inevitable!
Mae Hong didn’t have much to offer, a very quiet town with only a handful of people dotted about, we were the only customers for tea anyway!
Another quick run in the morning (we’re on a roll) and a session on the lake side gym and we were ready for leg 3! There’s a lot of hillside tribes who have fled from Burma in this area so we paid a visit to the Kayan tribe otherwise known as the long neck people. The road to their village was a bit off the beaten track crossing through about 10 streams, and Rob who was meant to be keeping us safe crashed the bike!! When I say crash it was more of a tip over at 5mph, but it was right in the middle of the stream so I was soaked! Somehow Rob managed to come out of it dry but I, and my bag full of clothes, ended up drenched to the bone, cheers Rob. Fortunately when we got the village the women were all really friendly and they sold me a traditional top at a discount (or so they said). All the women in the village descended from Burma but moved to Thailand for a better way of life, they spoke really good English so it was nice to learn a bit about their traditions.
The road to Mae Chaem was beautiful right through the country side and past villages. We spotted a sign for coffee so took a dirt road down to a tiny village, for the first time since we’ve been in Thailand we found people who didn’t speak English! Fortunately I was prepared! I expected no one to speak English before we came so I’d been swatting up on my Thai knowledge and finally I could use it! Successfully found a man who sold us two cold coffees out of his kitchen fridge and paid for them in Thai, result!
There were only a few places to stay in Mae Chaem, we found a homestay in the centre of town where we were joined by a Spanish couple and an Italian guy who were also on the same route. These guys were cool, Aida is a writer and photographer, her husband Jordie is a ski instructor and photographer and Luca is just a cool Italian guy who likes to take photos. We ate together and then planned to travel the last of the loop in the morning.
Convoy in tow we headed out, the last leg of our journey took us up to the highest point in Thailand Doi Inthanon, everyone’s bike was better than ours so we got burnt out on the hills, averaged a whopping 10mph up those bad boys! Half way up the mountain we got stuck in a massive thunderstorm and the clouds rolled in, that meant by the time we got to the top we were soaking and couldn’t see a bloody thing. In hindsight doing the motorbike loop in rainy season wasn’t ideal but hey ho you learn from your mistakes. Decided we wouldn’t be able to outstay the storm so we began the 2 hour drive back to Chiang Mai in search of sunshine! A quick stop at the Chiang Mai Canyon so Jordie and Rob could jump in and then we headed back to our pal Boyd!
It’s been a very wet few days but the route was awesome and the views were amazing and we met some pretty cool people along the way, happy days. Time for Chiang Mai round 2 now.