The big Indochina trip: The Mae Hong Son loop, day 1

Like I mentionedin my last post  a lot of travelers have talked about riding motorbikes from Chiang Mai to Pai. When I studied the map I realized there’s a loop called the Mae HongSon loop that people do in a couple of days. It runs northward from Chiang Mai up to Pai, westward over to Mae Hong Son, then back to Chiang Mai in a big southward semi circle (see the map below for details). This sounded like the perfect plan for me, so in the morning I set of in search for a motorbike. 

Map of the MaeHong Son loop

There are more motorbike rental places in Chiang Mai than you can shake a stick at (isn’t that a weird expression?) . Most have scooters  for rent and few of them also have full sized bikes. The price levels are largely similar too, so it’s hard to know which one to choose. I went with Rider’s Corner because it is recommended by Lonely Planet. Though I’m sure you can do the loop by scooter I went with a Honda 250 CC dirt bike because I miss riding a real bike. I miss the mechanical sensation of operating a fully manual gearbox and the feeling of gripping the tank with your knees as you go around a bend. 

The road up to Pai is easy riding, a bit curvy but nice, smooth asphalt. It felt really good to be back on a proper motorbike. The only problem is that I got a taste for riding something a bit more powerful, it will be hard to go back to my small bike when I come home. 

Since  I had plenty of time, I made a stop at Mok fa waterfall along the way. It’s not the most impressive waterfall in south east Asia, not even by a long shot,  but a nice place to stop and rest your legs. 

Mok fa waterfall

A small cave near the fall

Near Pai there are a couple of sights worth visiting, the first of which is Pai canyon. When I got there I really didn’t know what to expect but what I saw was beyond my wildest dreams. The canyon is more like a valley with a kind of sand stone ridge that goes snaking through the forest. There is a path on top of the ridge and you can get some fantastic views from there. However, the path is  pretty narrow and there’s no safety what so ever, so taking a walk is not for the faint of heart. 

Standing on the edge

The ridge passing through the tree tops

The path from a different angle

The ridge in the distance

The path

It’s pretty narrow

Another view from the side

I’ll admit I was a bit nervous sitting on that outcrop

I didn’t know there are hot springs in Thailand, but apparently there are some close to Pai. The most famous Tha Pai hotspring which is a kind of open air hot spring river in the middle of the forest. Of course I’ve been to many hot springs in Taiwan but this one is special because it’s in the middle of the forest, with trees right on the edge of the pool. There are even some vines you can sit on with your legs in the water, like Tarzan but more relaxing. 

Hot spring in the forest

When I left the hot spring, the sun was already setting so I headed back to the hostel. On the way the bike died and I couldn’t get it started again. I had to push it for a bit and let me tell you, a big bike like that is really heavy to push up hill. Eventually some nice Thai people stopped and helped me push start it but it soon died again. I knew there was petrol in the tank so that shouldn’t be it by I rembererd the rental place had mentioned a reserve tank. Apparently tbe fuel level was so low it didn’t count as the main tank, but after switching the fuel valve to reserve and getting a second push start (Thank you Thai guys where ever you are) I could ride all the way back to town. 

Sunset near Lao


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