Saturday, January 5, 2013

Our Mae Hong Son Loop

We did it. We made it and it only took eleven days, 865km (537 miles), and two scooters through the twisting roads of jungle filled northern Thailand. Words I could use to describe it seem to be too small to encompass the journey and the beauty we encountered.

our path on the Mae Hong Son Loop
We started the loop in Chiang Mai, where we rented two scooters from Tony's Big Bikes. Originally, we wanted motorbikes that were a bit bigger but since our packs were small, we were able to tuck them between our knees as we rode and didn't have to wear them on our backs. That was worth the slight downgrade in engine size.

Chiang Dao

Our first stop was Chiang Dao, which is technically a little outside the loop but well worth it. It's a beautiful little city with few tourists and lots of gorgeous scenery.

We stayed at Nature Home Guesthouse and it was perfection. Our little cottage was at the back of a great orchard filled with fruit trees, plumeria, and chickens with their baby chicks scampering around them. The couple who own the place don't speak English but communicating is easy and filled with smiles and laughter. They have to be the friendliest people we have met in Thailand so far. Also, they are excellent cooks!

Merry Christmas from the garden of Nature Home Guesthouse in Chiang Dao, Thailand


Pai is notorious on the Thailand backpacker trail. Everyone will tell you, "Go to Pai!" It's a great little city filled to the brim with tourists. I really think there were more tourists there than locals when we were there! Tourist levels aside, it's a beautiful valley and there are plenty of things to do. Divide your time between chillin' out in the small town and riding through the surrounding countryside on your rented motorbike. (Yes, you should definitely rent one while you're in Pai, if you don't have one already.)

somewhere in Pai
Pai Canyon
somewhere around Pai, near the elephant camps I think
Mor Paeng waterfall near Pai

view along the way from Pai to Soppong
Next stop: Soppong, which also goes by the name Pang Mapha. There's not much to do here besides see some caves and relax, as the city is very small. We stayed at Cave Lodge, which was great. We had a view of the river from our room! In the morning, we saw villagers with baskets on their backs cross the river. (Who needs a trekking tour to see villagers?! :)

We got a map from the Lodge with lots of helpful information on it, including places to hike and things to do/see. Cave Lodge is also very near the most popular cave in the area, Tham Lod. We didn't actually make it into the cave, but we heard it was pretty cool. 

section of the river at Cave Lodge

Mae Hong Son

Mae Hong Son is a bigger sort of town. We stayed in an adequate little guesthouse near the lake for New Years Eve. The New Year of 2013 was celebrated at the temples next to the lake with paper lanterns floating into the night sky, rhythmic chanting leading up to midnight, and a fireworks show to end it all. It was beautiful.

Mae Hong Song -- see the two paper lanterns?
Khun Yuam

on the road from Mae Hong Son to Khun Yuam
On new year's day we went to Khun Yuam and stayed at the aptly titled guesthouse, Ban Farang, which basically means Foreigner Village. :) The gardens at the guesthouse were beautifully tended and we relaxed in them using the free wifi most of the day. It was nice and relaxing and we appreciated the down time.

Mae Sariang

By this time in our trip, we were mainly thinking about making it back to Chiang Mai. Maybe that's why we didn't even take one picture in this city(!). I actually liked this city a lot more than the previous three cities we'd been to. It is a small, yet interesting city that is easily walkable. Maybe we should have stayed an extra night. 

Anyway, here are some pictures we took on our longest leg of the trip, from Mae Sariang to Chiang Mai. 

It was the views and the actual riding of the scooters that was the most fun. I would find myself in complete awe of a view that just seemed to jump from behind a mountain as I carefully navigated a hairpin turn, while a truck with villagers sitting in the back closely passed me. It was an incredible, exhilarating, very beautiful journey and one I will remember always. I would do it again in a heartbeat. 

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