After climbing the Himalayas for the previous New Year’s Eve, I was in a big dilemma about what to do to welcome 2017. After all, being in Thailand opened a lot of options for me including some grand parties in glitzy Bangkok, heading off to beautiful islands, and joining intention setting retreats among others. Talk about a problem of plenty!
With an idea of doing something different and challenging to bid adieu to 2016 and welcome to the new sun, I decided to go on a 4-day motorbike ride through the mountainous countryside in the north-western Thailand, close to the border with Myanmar. Since each day was filled with good food, great places, and unique experiences, I am writing about each day in a separate post. Let’s begin our journey to day 1!
Although Mae Hong Son loop is quite popular, there are different variations of it with little information available. I and my fellow rider, Prashant, had to search vigorously to find information and we could get just this one. After we decided on the route, it was time to arrange for suitable motorbikes and accessories. I decided to get Yamaha NMAX with automatic transmission as I thought it would give me time and space to enjoy the scenery on the route instead of focusing on the gears. Prashant chose bigger CBR 250 with a manual transmission. After arranging for warm clothes for the mountains and safety accessories, we were ready to start!
With loads of excitement and a bit of fear of the unknown, We started the journey on December 30, 2016, at about 7 am. We planned to cover a distance of about 300 kilometers on the first day, passing through Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest peak, and stopping for the night at Mae Sariang, farther southwest. However, we ended up spending the entire day at Doi Inthanon National Park, forcing us to drop Mae Sariang and camp at the headquarters of Doi Inthanon National Park (300 baht for a double tent, 100 baht for blankets). We clocked about 130 kilometers on Day 1 through route 121 (mostly highway), route 108 (countryside), and route 1009 (mountains). Day 1 opened us up to some wonderful places inside the Doi Inthanon Nation Park (Park Entrance fee: 300 Baht).
Mae Klang Waterfall
Located right at the entrance of the park, this multi-tiered waterfall is breathtaking, even if not a big one. Since we reached quite early by Thai time, we were the only ones at the waterfall with a local selfie-crazy guy! I hope that the following picture will give you some idea about it.
Wat Namtok Mae Klang
Not far from the above majestic waterfall stands an equally majestic man-made structure, A Buddhist temple called Wat Namtok Mae Klang. The architecture of the temple is quite different from other Buddhist temples in Thailand. To our surprise, there were no tourists at all even though the ground right in front of the temple was being used as a parking lot for large buses. We didn’t mind!
The temple hosts possibly the only vegan dragon in the world! 😀
As you continue into the park through epic scenery and curvy roads, you encounter a few more waterfalls. The first waterfall after Mae Klang is Wachirathan Waterfall on the right side of the road. This one is massive with a plenty of water in it. The height of this waterfall extends beyond 50 meters.
Doi Inthanon Peak
Although there are a couple of other waterfalls on the way to the peak, we decided to skip them as our eyes were way too hydrated for that. We instead chose to drive up to Thailand’s highest peak, Doi Inthanon. Even with 2 jackets on, the ride up was fairly chilly but scenic, giving glimpses of mountains and valleys on both sides. The idea that you can drive all the way up to Thailand’s highest peak (2565 meters) is absolutely funny. The top itself is nothing special and doesn’t offer any great views but the sheer joy of being at the top of a country after riding almost 100 kilometers is overwhelming. There is a food market at the top serving some hot and delicious food. There is also a small park with a small temple inside.
Kio Mae Pan Nature Trail
Kio Mae Pan trail partially makes up for the weird feeling of not having to hike to the Doi Inthanon peak. 2 hours and 3 kilometers through this mixed deciduous forest trail opened us to views of waterfall, stream, fallen trees, mountain ridge, and deep valleys. Moreover, you can see the two grand stupas, dedicated to a former king and queen, with a backdrop of lush green mountains from a spot on this trail.
The two stupas
A bit down from the trail lie 2 giant stupas dedicated to a queen and a king. While I personally didn’t find anything great about these man-made structures amid awe-inspiring scenery, the fact that you can see them from far away makes them stand out.
A night-out at the headquarters
A bit tired after the day’s action, we decided to call it a day and look for a place. What’s better in camping on a huge ground full of tents and locals with delicious street food around? That’s the headquarters. For merely 10 dollars, we shared a cozy tent with warm blankets. The ground also had a lot of food stalls selling lots of stuff from French Crepes to Thai food. That’s how we called it a good night, only to wake up to another exciting day ahead!
Follow www.50by50.in for the second day of the trip and more adventures.
Traveling is no big deal as it seems. We just have to reduce or delay some material aspirations to fulfil our nomadic dreams!