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The Mae Hong Son loop
By Pierre

This route joins the main touristic places of Chiang Mai and Pai through the city of Mae Hong Son. It's an ideal starting point for new bikers looking for green and traditional landscapes.

2



First time on a motorbike

Short formalities at the rental agency, first kilometres with the scooter in the crowded boulevards of Chiang Mai and I was free to enjoy three days alone in this mountainous region in the north west of Thailand!

3



After three comes six

The first experience (red dots) was a smooth success - except a breach near see below - I rode on for three extra days near the Burmese and Lao borders in the north of the country (blue, green and brown dots)

4



Thousands of landscapes

Green countryside, eroded mountains very fertile, subtle mixtures of forests, rivers and hills. No words can describe them as well as the pictures in the gallery at the bottom of this article.

5



Thai tourism along the rivers

To Thai people, the region is the closest mountain in their country. Plenty of them come during the sunny season to reinvigorate themselves around the rivers or waterfalls. They build around a lot of bamboo cabins to enjoy a picnic with their family below. What a pity to see them waste so much trash in their beautiful nature!

6



Temples, stupas, gompas

Buddhist religion is widely practiced here. The temples are renovated through donations of the faithful. There are so many we quickly do not notice them... However I went to appreciate the White Temple of Chiang Rai, a masterpiece.

7



The king is adored anywhere

His portrait or the one of the queen can be found everywhere throughout this vast country. The Thai are very attached to their king and crushing 1 baht coin to the effigy of his majesty is a crime severely punished. And every day at 6pm, the national anthem sounds on every media. Also people stop their walk, trains stop for the solemn moment.

8



Bulls on the roads

The grove is not a common practice here. So, it is not rare to have to slalom through the herds of cattle claiming their right of way!

9



Labouring farmers

This is the rainy season so it's the time to plant the rice in the fields. There are farmers everywhere, occupied in the fields with the famous Chinese hats on their head to protect them from the rain. But here, we work without tractors but with the tillers.

10



Meeting local people

Midday in Mae Sariang. Looking for lunch, I come to these people that I see seated near a temple. To my question "where can I eat in the city?", they responded of the most unexpected and the simplest way: they invited me to share their meals and questioned me on the reasons for my presence here. A good time of generosity and sharing! Thanks to all the Thais who crossed my path, they have a steel smile and a gold heart.

11



Eating street food

With a bike, it is easier to have dinner in town. I stopped for this local snack held by youngsters delighted to have such an unusual guest (white biker with beard). Some company, quinoa juice and some pastries, it is an almost perfect dinner!

12



Sleeping under the mosquito net

And during resting time, we can always find guesthouses that provide you with a mattress under a mosquito net for the night. What's more traditional?!

13



Sightseeing

There are tourist attractions all around the road: waterfalls, views at the top, caves and hot springs. These are good opportunities to have a break and enjoy the countryside I was crossing.

14



Climbing up to the top

After my first success: leave Chiang Mai alive, my second objective of the day was the climb to the top of Thailand: 200kms on the bike further, here I am on the road at the top of the Doi Inthanon at 2565m!

15



Shitty times

U-turn, we were on the wrong way to see the big Buddha of Pai, and a descent on gravel on my scooter with reversed brakes (stupid British system) was fatal to me. Three stitches and the risks in the art well assimilated!
In South East Asia, motorcycle accidents are common - leading cause of mortality to tourists. Roads aren't in a good condition, slippery during rainy season, as many reasons for shitty days, isn't it Benoît?

16



Some successes

One day of convalescence later, I hit the road again on a scooter to Chiang Rai. Advice for novice and rugged biker novice: avoid small muddy paths along the rivers. Advice that would have been helpful for me!

17



Three borders

The bike offers the possibility to follow the borders of Burma then Laos for exploring off the beaten track. Excitement is guaranteed!
Also we can admire the Golden Triangle, former crossing point to the three borders of the largest trading in opium.

18



Long Necks and our story

When travelling with a scooter, everything is possible! Discovering the local lifestyle can change your way of seeing things. I had this experience and here is my long story about the Karen long necks (pronounce Kay-lee-en), probably my best time in Thailand.

19





I met some French tourists on the road and they told me about their visit to the village long necks. I, little interested to observe human as we see animals in zoos, stayed still attentive to their story.

They went to the "real" traditional village, where tourist agencies don't go. In this place, where people are free to move and where there are only four long-neck women left!

The others, a dozen women-giraffes were transferred to the "zoo village" by the military, paid 8000 baht (200€) per women by the Thai government. Tourists visiting the park and paying the required fee of 250 baht (7€), don't help to put an end to this organized crime. When the greed of certain people restrict freedoms of other minorities... I'm ashamed!

20





I was advised to bring small gifts very useful such as laundry powder to support the villagers. At my arrival, I distributed my presents to the three women in long neck I encountered: soap, shampoo, biscuits and I was able to exchange simply with them.

21





The village is recent. Built in 1989 after the exodus of the minority Kayan/ Karen out of Burma, it is located on a land close to the border, allocated complimentary by the Thai state. Wooden constructions give the village an authentic look.

22





To find the village, you must find Nai Soi, 10km north west of Mae Hong Son. Hence, ask inhabitants where the long necks are. Follow the old signs "Karen Long necks", out of the village and continue far, far until the local border. The village is 50m on the left.

23





At the time of leaving, I discovered this sign and Pa Tan, a young (and pretty) Karen, 21 years, mother of an 18-month-old girl speaking a little English. The Karen people speak their own language karen, Burmese also, but Pa Tan had learned English at school and understands Thai (similar to Burmese).

1


The Mae Hong Son loop
By Pierre

This route joins the main touristic places of Chiang Mai and Pai through the city of Mae Hong Son. It's an ideal starting point for new bikers looking for green and traditional landscapes.



First time on a motorbike

Short formalities at the rental agency, first kilometres with the scooter in the crowded boulevards of Chiang Mai and I was free to enjoy three days alone in this mountainous region in the north west of Thailand!



After three comes six

The first experience (red dots) was a smooth success - except a breach near see below - I rode on for three extra days near the Burmese and Lao borders in the north of the country (blue, green and brown dots)



Thousands of landscapes

Green countryside, eroded mountains very fertile, subtle mixtures of forests, rivers and hills. No words can describe them as well as the pictures in the gallery at the bottom of this article.



Thai tourism along the rivers

To Thai people, the region is the closest mountain in their country. Plenty of them come during the sunny season to reinvigorate themselves around the rivers or waterfalls. They build around a lot of bamboo cabins to enjoy a picnic with their family below. What a pity to see them waste so much trash in their beautiful nature!



Temples, stupas, gompas

Buddhist religion is widely practiced here. The temples are renovated through donations of the faithful. There are so many we quickly do not notice them... However I went to appreciate the White Temple of Chiang Rai, a masterpiece.



The king is adored anywhere

His portrait or the one of the queen can be found everywhere throughout this vast country. The Thai are very attached to their king and crushing 1 baht coin to the effigy of his majesty is a crime severely punished. And every day at 6pm, the national anthem sounds on every media. Also people stop their walk, trains stop for the solemn moment.



Bulls on the roads

The grove is not a common practice here. So, it is not rare to have to slalom through the herds of cattle claiming their right of way!



Labouring farmers

This is the rainy season so it's the time to plant the rice in the fields. There are farmers everywhere, occupied in the fields with the famous Chinese hats on their head to protect them from the rain. But here, we work without tractors but with the tillers.



Meeting local people

Midday in Mae Sariang. Looking for lunch, I come to these people that I see seated near a temple. To my question "where can I eat in the city?", they responded of the most unexpected and the simplest way: they invited me to share their meals and questioned me on the reasons for my presence here. A good time of generosity and sharing! Thanks to all the Thais who crossed my path, they have a steel smile and a gold heart.



Eating street food

With a bike, it is easier to have dinner in town. I stopped for this local snack held by youngsters delighted to have such an unusual guest (white biker with beard). Some company, quinoa juice and some pastries, it is an almost perfect dinner!



Sleeping under the mosquito net

And during resting time, we can always find guesthouses that provide you with a mattress under a mosquito net for the night. What's more traditional?!



Sightseeing

There are tourist attractions all around the road: waterfalls, views at the top, caves and hot springs. These are good opportunities to have a break and enjoy the countryside I was crossing.



Climbing up to the top

After my first success: leave Chiang Mai alive, my second objective of the day was the climb to the top of Thailand: 200kms on the bike further, here I am on the road at the top of the Doi Inthanon at 2565m!



Shitty times

U-turn, we were on the wrong way to see the big Buddha of Pai, and a descent on gravel on my scooter with reversed brakes (stupid British system) was fatal to me. Three stitches and the risks in the art well assimilated!
In South East Asia, motorcycle accidents are common - leading cause of mortality to tourists. Roads aren't in a good condition, slippery during rainy season, as many reasons for shitty days, isn't it Benoît?



Some successes

One day of convalescence later, I hit the road again on a scooter to Chiang Rai. Advice for novice and rugged biker novice: avoid small muddy paths along the rivers. Advice that would have been helpful for me!



Three borders

The bike offers the possibility to follow the borders of Burma then Laos for exploring off the beaten track. Excitement is guaranteed!
Also we can admire the Golden Triangle, former crossing point to the three borders of the largest trading in opium.



Long Necks and our story

When travelling with a scooter, everything is possible! Discovering the local lifestyle can change your way of seeing things. I had this experience and here is my long story about the Karen long necks (pronounce Kay-lee-en), probably my best time in Thailand.





I met some French tourists on the road and they told me about their visit to the village long necks. I, little interested to observe human as we see animals in zoos, stayed still attentive to their story.

They went to the "real" traditional village, where tourist agencies don't go. In this place, where people are free to move and where there are only four long-neck women left!

The others, a dozen women-giraffes were transferred to the "zoo village" by the military, paid 8000 baht (200€) per women by the Thai government. Tourists visiting the park and paying the required fee of 250 baht (7€), don't help to put an end to this organized crime. When the greed of certain people restrict freedoms of other minorities... I'm ashamed!





I was advised to bring small gifts very useful such as laundry powder to support the villagers. At my arrival, I distributed my presents to the three women in long neck I encountered: soap, shampoo, biscuits and I was able to exchange simply with them.





The village is recent. Built in 1989 after the exodus of the minority Kayan/ Karen out of Burma, it is located on a land close to the border, allocated complimentary by the Thai state. Wooden constructions give the village an authentic look.





To find the village, you must find Nai Soi, 10km north west of Mae Hong Son. Hence, ask inhabitants where the long necks are. Follow the old signs "Karen Long necks", out of the village and continue far, far until the local border. The village is 50m on the left.





At the time of leaving, I discovered this sign and Pa Tan, a young (and pretty) Karen, 21 years, mother of an 18-month-old girl speaking a little English. The Karen people speak their own language karen, Burmese also, but Pa Tan had learned English at school and understands Thai (similar to Burmese).

.