Chiang Mai motorcycle tour options include many excellent day and multi-day tour options, making the city of Chiang Mai an excellent base for exploring northern Thailand
When you first arrive in Chiang Mai allow yourself a couple of days to acclimatize before setting off up-country on multi day rides. Do a couple of day trips first, while you are acclimatizing.
The Samoeng Loop is the very first loop you should do.
Samoeng the strawberry centre
Check out any of the below to get yourself ready & rolling.
Table of Contents
Take Your Time: For first timers, the tendency is often to cover as much ground as possible. You end up with general impressions that it is all good, but you want more. Its best to slow down, take your time & explore properly, enjoying the scenery, villages and people. Don’t try and do / see too much in a short space of time. Potter around the loops to take in as much as you can, and learn something about the people, places and culture as you go. If you rush through, it becomes a blur; & you will only want to go back to the same places again because you missed too much. Cornering speeds in the hundreds of kilometres of winding roads are down to 60-80 kph riding “hard & fast.” It takes time, so take your time. Aim to do no more than 250 kms in a day & you will both see & learn something, not just look at the road in front of you. To start in Chiang Mai, click here.
You can break the north up onto into basically three areas. One west of Chiang Mai & the Mae Hong Son Loop. Two, the North Golden Triangle area & three Nan to the east. From wherever you are in North Thailand you can get back to Chiang Mai in a day, so you can play it as you go. Anytime you have had enough, just return to Chiang Mai, take a break & head off again on another loop if you wish.
Usually start with this as a short primer. The legendary Mae Hong Son loop is good for 3-4 days the first time, & much more if you want to dawdle.
Mae Hong Son
The Way to go:
You can do this loop in either direction, clockwise or ant-clockwise, but it is best ridden in a clockwise direction first.
Trip Reports. Places to go & see on the Mae Hong Son Loop Pottering Round the Mae Hong Son Loop. Mapping Towns on the Mae Hong Son Loop. Mae Chaem a meander. Mae Sarieng Pai the Chill Out Town Rak Thai the Chinese village on the Myanmar border. Mae Hong Son The Steepest Road Mae Hong Son-The Kun Mai Sak Bamboo Bridge The GT Rider Chedi. GT Rider has their own memorial chedi on Doi Kong Mou mountain overlooking Mae Hong Son city. The chedi is in honour of departed riding mates who have lived in Thailand & ridden on the Mae Hong Son Loop. GTR has an annual ride to Mae Hong Son for which all riders are welcome to join and pay their respects. The event is usually the first or second weekend of November.
Inauguration of the GTR chedi.
The Mae Hong Son loop has three spectacular steep roads to ride. Rak Thai the Chinese village on the Myanmar border, north of Mae Hong Son. You can spend a night here. Rak Thai is unique in North Thailand & can be the highlight of doing the Mae Hong Son Loop. The views over the lake at Rak Thai are sensational. South of Mae Hong Son are Meo Microwave & Nong Khiew . Use the Nong Khiew road is arguably the steepest in the North. You can use it to cut across to Mae Chaem, or even use it for a day trip from Mae Hong Son. Meo Microwave is a wild steep twisting road that dead ends in a Hmong village on a mountain. The views here are spectacular.
The beauty of Rak Thai
The Long Necks: if you’re doing the Mae Hong Son Loop here’s the Long Neck Story & History on GTR. Its worth knowing before you go & may assist you in understanding the story of the long necks on the Thai border (and elsewhere in Thailand.)
The Long Necks at the 1st Mae Hong Son International music night.
Overnight in Mae Chaem / Mae Sarieng / Mae Hong Son / Soppong / Pai. Please yourself. Mae Chaem Accommodation Mae Sarieng Accommodation Mae Hong Son Accommodation. Rak Thai Accommodation Pai Accommodation Doi Inthanon Accommodation Hot Accommodation
Night life: Mae Chaem, Khun Yuam & Soppong have none. Pai has good night life; plus Mae Hong Son & Mae Sarieng both have enough to keep you entertained.
Crossroads Pub in Mae Hong Son. A GTR favourite.
After the Mae Hong Son Loop start a Golden Triangle / Laos Border Run. Return to Chiang Mai, & take off North from Chiang Mai on R107; or from Pai go direct to Chiang Dao / Fang, skipping out Chiang Mai, up to you……
The Golden Triangle: The Mekong river, Thailand / Myanmar / Laos.
The Way To Go Chiang Mai – Chiang Dao – Arunothai – Fang – Tha Ton – Doi Mae Salong – Thoed Thai – Doi Tung – Mae Sai – GT – Chiang Saen – Chiang Khong – Pha Tang – Phu Chi Fah – Chiang Kham – Tha Wang Pa – Pua – Doi Phukha – Nan – Chiang Muan – Phayao – Mae Kachan – Chiang Mai. Or from Nan – Wiang Sa – Na Noi – Khun Satan – Phrae – Lampang – Chiang Mai. Or do these in reverse. Please yourself where you sleep, but you should never be more than 45 minutes away from cozy accommodation.
Apple Resort – Tha Ton
Chiang Rai province: it should be noted that Chiang Rai province is jam packed with attractions, amazing roads & mountains to ride. The province is # 1 for attractions! Take your time & don’t ride on through too quickly. To get the big picture, use a GT Rider Golden Triangle guide map.
Wat Sang Kaew Photiyan
Mountain roads to ride on the GT – Laos border run. Doi Ang Khang Doi Larng The Doi Laem Loop Tha Ton – Thoed Thai – Doi Tung Doi Mae Salong Doi Tung Doi Pha Tang Phu Chi Fah A Chiang Kham Loop & Phu Arnmar The Great Roller Coaster Ride & Route Phaya Phipak – the big dipper. R1148 the Legends Ride Mountain Roads South of Nan & Phrae An easy meander round Nan The amazing Doi Phachi – Santisuk old communist HQs Phu Phayak the remote last communist HQs
Riding the big dipper
For local provincial up-country attractions on the Golden Triangle / Laos border loop start here Chiang Rai Nan Phayao
The serene beauty of Phayao lake.
Trip reports: Places to go & see on the Golden Triangle Loop. A Top End Meander Mae Sai Pottering Around. Doi Pha Tang The Big Dipper the steepest road on the GT – Laos border run. Phu Chi Fah
Spectacular Phu Chi Fah cliff top on the Thai – Lao border.
6 nights 7 days in the Top North. A Chiang Kham Loop & Phu Arnmar Kaeng Pha Dai & the Mekong End Of the Road Riding The Mekong @ Chiang Khong Riding the Mekong @ the Golden Triangle On the Trail of King Naresuan Chiang Khong & the Great Roller Coaster Ride & Route
Chiang Khong – The Great Roller Coaster Route
The Sensational Singapore Road Khun Sa the Opium Warlord’s 2nd camp The twisting steep Phu Anma Road Phayao – Dok Kham Tai’s Amazing Teak Wats R1148 & Nan Noi
Wat Si Chum – Dok Kham Tai
The Peacock Sanctuary Phayao Riding the Yom River Chiang Saen Attractions Pua & Back 1148 The Legends Ride Riding the Yom River & the Railway Line Takhong & Amazing Mekong Sunsets Chiang Khong – Phrae Nan A Loop Macadamia Nuts in the Mountains Phan City & Environs, an Off The Beaten Track District Kruba Boonchum The Most Famous Monk in the North Phrae & the back roads. The Sirikit Dam & surrounds Phrae a classic forgotten city Sa Iab, Golden Teak & the hooch city Nan -& the fantastic Wat Bo Kew @ Na Muen Riding around Phrae & Long.
Thoed Thai: You can’t claim to have done the Golden Triangle unless you have a night in Thoed Thai; the ex home of the late Khun Sa, the famous Shan freedom fighter / drug war lord.
Khun Sa’s old camp – headquarters in Thoed Thai.
Nan province: Has the best riding in North Thailand & you could easily spend 3-4 nights in Nan riding amazing loops & roads.
Nan has the best roads for motorcycle touring.
Some Nan Tip Reports to read Chiang Mai – Nan Explorer Ride Return to Nan & Back to the Future VDO Nan Backyard Race Track The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Go To Nan Wiang Sa Pottering Around – the 100 year old Bicycle Museum
The Wiang Sa Bicycle Museum
A Chiang Run The SSR GTR Ride from Bangkok to Nan & Around Pua & back – 1148 – The Legend’s Route. Doi Phukha & the rare Chomphu Phuka Tree
Some waterfalls in the North.
The top roads & rides in the North.
A road to ride R1155
Phu Chi Fah to Mae Hong Son
Take your time. Soak up the culture & history, don’t just focus on the number of kms you can log up. To fully understand the road network & how to get the best out of your trip take a GT Rider Golden Triangle guide map. With so many choices and options available it is important to know where you are in relation to all the towns and the distances involved.
Chiang Saen by the Mekong
A GTR guide to North Thailand’s Hot Springs. Most of the North’s hot springs have private bathing houses, or bungalows to stay over night, to have a nice soak & soothe the body after a long ride. In the cold season these places are an absolute delight to spend time at.
Sippa Hot Springs are a GTR favourite.
Quieter favourite overnight towns Chiang Dao Chiang Kham Chiang Khong Chiang Saen Doi Mae Salong Pha Tang / Phi Chi FAh Piang Luang / Wiang Haeng Pong Pua Sop Ruak – The Golden Triangle Tha Ton Thoed Thai The smaller towns generally give you a better cultural experience. GT Rider Dinners: Every month, on the last Wednesday of the month GTR has an up country dinner in a small town to enjoy the ambiance of a small up county town. All riders are welcome to join & meet up the designated rendezvous town.
Overnight towns with night life Fang Chiang Rai Mae Sai Phayao Nan Phrae Lampang Phitsanulok
Accommodation: you can check out the GT Rider Accommodation suggestions here
Tammila guesthouse in Chiang Khong is the GTR favourite.
Food – where to eat: GTR has a list of recommended restaurants for every town.
GT Rider city maps are the best, most accurate town maps with the most detail.
If you looking for dirt rides: check out this GTR directory of dirt options.
If you live in Bangkok & have a few days off consider these loop possibilities
Day 1: Ride up Bangkok -Cnx Day 2: Rest day Cnx? Day 3: Cnx – Doi Mae Salong Day 4: Doi Mae Salong – Doi Tung – Mae Sai – GT – Chiang Rai Day 5: Return to Bangkok.
Day 1: Bangkok – Sukhothai Day 2: Sukhothai – Nan Day 3: Nan R1148 – Chiang Rai Day 4: Chiang Rai – Tha Ton – Fang – Chiang Mai Day 5: Chiang Mai – Bangkok
Day 1: Bangkok – Tak / Mae Sot Day 2: Mae Sot – Mae Mae Hong Son Day 3: Mae Hong Son – Pai Day 4: Pai – Chiang Mai, easy Day 5: Chiang Mai – Bangkok.
Multiple choices & more than likely you will make up your mind on the day, subject to the weather conditions & outlook.
Riding from the bottom to the top: Phuket – North Thailand guide
Rough rain guide – consider this for predicting where the rain’s coming from & where to ride and avoid it. The rain comes from the sea & in North Thailand that means from either; The Bay of Bengal & Burma way = the west-south-west, or The Gulf of Tonkin / China Sea & Vietnam way = east-north-east
So if there’s a lot of rain around you just need to know where it coming from – either the West or the East.
If it’s coming from the west-south-west, then there’s a chance that the further east you go the less chance of rain. So if you’re starting from Chiang Mai then head towards the Laos border & Nan to get a dry ride.
If it’s coming from the east-north-east, then there’s a chance that the further west you go the less chance of rain. So if you’re starting in Chiang Mai then head west towards the Burma border & Mae Sarieng / Mae Hong Son to get a dry ride.
If you want to transport your bike one way from one part of the country to another there are a few options Train – you can transport your bike by train. You are supposed to travel on the train with your bike. Post Office yes you can post a bike in Thailand from one post office to another. Three Trans Transport – a professional trucking logistics company for moving motorcycles. Three Trans delivers bulk new model bikes to dealers all around he country – Suzuki, Honda, Kawasaki, KTM, Ducati, Yamaha. They all use the same company. They can supposedly pick up & deliver anywhere
The GT-Rider.com Trip Report Forums have some detailed trip planning information for other S.E. Asian countries.
Vietnam Trip Planning
Laos Trip Planning
Malaysia Trip Planning
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