In July, a friend of mine posted on Facebook, “Who wants to go on a motorcycle tour in Thailand?” I got my motorcycle license in September and was boarding a plane to Southeast Asia for 16 days in November. I had just started my new job that April. To have enough PTO for the trip, I didn’t take a single vacation day since I’d started, and we went over the Thanksgiving holiday which was 2 free vacation days. I flew out Friday night on a red eye, was back in Reno by midnight Sunday and at work the following day by 9 am. I was exhausted, the jet lag was real, but it was all worth it.
Now that you know logistically how I got there, here is my quick breakdown of the Mae Hong Son Loop. So, what is it? The Mae Hong Son Loop is about 600 km long, has 1,864 curves and is in the northeastern mountains of Thailand. Because of the beautiful scenery and the tight curves, it is a popular motorcycle route. Your trip starts in Chiang Mai and you can complete the loop in either direction. For the novice rider, like myself, I recommend starting clockwise towards Mae Sariang with Pai being your last stop. Rent your bike in Chiang Mai; I used Tony’s Big Bikes. I ended up being too short to rent an actual motorcycle, so I ended up with a 150 CC scooter. It worked for me. This was my first motorcycle ride, so I didn’t need a lot of power; just something I felt comfortable with.
I was riding in a group of 6. Quite a few of us, myself included, were complete motorcycle rookies, so we took our time. We completed the loop in 10 days. Our first stop was just off the main freeway – the 108 – right before the turnoff for Doi Inthanon National Park – the tallest point in Thailand. We stayed a second night near the park, and the following day made it to Mae Sariang. Guide books say you can finish the loop in 4 days, we did it in 10. After Mae Sariang, we continued to Mae Hong Son where we spent a few days and then Pai. Pai was the “happening” place, and I recommend at least 2 nights there.
There are beautiful vista points to stop along during all parts of the trip. Some of the best meals I had were random huts along the side of the road where our only communication was “fried rice” and “pork”. November was the perfect time to go. The weather wasn’t overbearingly hot, and we only had one afternoon where we couldn’t ride because of the rain.
Driving in Thailand is different than driving in America. First, they drive on the left, and second, their rules for passing and staying in your own lane are quite passive compared to the States. Just stay confident and you’ll be fine.
Riding the Mae Hong Son Loop in Thailand was an adventure for the books. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and is one trip I will never forget. Check out my video below. It was my first time using a GoPro, so bear with me. Until next time…
Bonus: Want to see us playing with elephants in Chiang Mai? Click here!