Mae Hong Son Loop By Motorcycle, Thailand Itinerary (5 days)


This itinerary will cover the Mae Hong Son motorcycle loop over 5 days, and is the first part of my Thailand - Laos backpacking trip. To fast forward to my next itinerary, please check out my 6 day itinerary for Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, Thailand13 day itinerary for Northern Laos and 9 day itinerary for Ayutthaya, Bangkok and Hua Hin, Thailand

Trip Summary

  • Trip length and when did I go? 5 days in June 2015
  • Places visited: Chiang Mai, Pai, Soppong, Pang Ung, Mae Hong Son, Khun Yuam, Namtok Mae Surin, Mae Chaem, Doi Inthanon
  • How much did it cost me? MYR 550

At A Glance

  • Day 1 - Chiang Mai to Pai. Arrival in Chiang Mai. Rented a motorcycle in Tha Phae gate, then rode from Chiang Mai to Pai, where I stayed at Pai Walking Street guesthouse. Went to Wat Phra That Mae Yen for sunset, before heading back and spending the rest of my evening at Pai Walking Street. Overnight in Pai.
  • Day 2 - In & Around Pai. Sightseeing around Pai, visiting various points of interest in the area such as Yunnan Cultural Village, Pai Canyon and Memorial Bridge. Also stopped by popular must-trys such as Coffee in Love and Love Strawberry Pai. Overnight in Pai.
  • Day 3 - Pai to Mae Hong Son. Check-out from the guesthouse early in the morning, and continued on to Mae Hong Son, with short stops at Kiew Lom viewpoint, Soppong and Pang Mapha. Detoured to Pha Sua waterfall and Pang Ung lake before arriving in Mae Hong Son, where I stayed at Boondee House. Later in the evening, I went to Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu for sunset. Overnight in Mae Hong Son.
  • Day 4 - Mae Hong Son to Mae Chaem. Sightseeing around Mae Hong Son, visiting various points of interest in town such as the morning market and Jong Kham lake. Check-out from the guesthouse and continued on to Khun Yuam, with a stopover at Ban Huai Shua Thao, a Karen village on the way. From Khun Yuam, I detoured to Namtok Mae Surin, before continuing on to Mae Chaem, where I stayed at Mae Chaem Hotel. Overnight in Mae Chaem.
  • Day 5 - Mae Chaem to Doi Inthanon to Chiang Mai. Sightseeing around Mae Chaem in the morning, before checking out and continuing on to Doi Inthanon. Later in the afternoon, I head down and visited some waterfalls in the area such as Wachirathan and Mae Ya, before returning to Chiang Mai to complete my loop.

Itinerary Map (click to view POIs and routes)


Travel Montage




Arrival in Chiang Mai
  • 8.40 am - Arrive at Chiang Mai international airport by flight (Air Asia) - RM120 (one way)
  • Immigration clearance
  • Note: From the airport, you can take an airport shuttle to Chiang Mai city centre, only costs 40 baht per person but keep in mind it only leaves when full. Since there weren't enough people for the airport shuttle, I decided to exit the airport to catch a red songthaew to the city centre
  • 10.00 am - Ride a red songthaew to Chiang Mai city centre - 30 baht
  • 10.10 am - Hop off at Tha Phae gate

Arrival in Chiang Mai international airport
Tha Phae gate, one of Chiang Mai's hotspots for tourists and backpackers alike

Getting ready for the Mae Hong Son loop
  • At Tha Phae gate, I went to a Pop Rental shop nearby and rented a motorcycle - 150 baht per day. Renting for 5 days (total cost - 650 baht). Pop Rental is quite well established here, and although there are cheaper rentals around (like 99 baht per day cheap!), I'd choose reliability over cost any day
  • Needed internet for the trip so I rode to the nearest DTAC center to buy a sim card and data plan (3GB data, valid for 30 days) - 499 baht
  • Before starting the motorcycle loop, decided to refuel at a nearby gas station - 100 baht

Pop Rental in Tha Phae Gate

Chiang Mai to Pai
  • 12.00 pm - Ride from Chiang Mai to Pai. Took highway 107 out of Chiang Mai heading north, then headed westward to Pai via highway 1095
  • The journey from Chiang Mai to Pai is about 130 km in length and takes approximately 3 hours if you ride non-stop, however it took me longer as I was enjoying the sights and stopped at every opportunity I could. If you don't feel like going non-stop, there are plenty of cafes on the way to make your stop.
  • Using this route, you will traverse a total of 762 curves on the way to Pai. The road is in good condition throughout, but don't be tempted to slam on the throttle as there are a few potholes littered around places where you least expect

Turning into highway 1095 from 107 and the scenery changes dramatically
The reason why my journey took longer than expected. Just had to stop for incredible scenery like this on the way to Pai
One of the 762 curves to Pai

In & Around Pai
  • 4.00 pm - Arrive in Pai
  • Check-in to Pai Walking Street Guesthouse - 244 baht per night. Staying for 2 nights (total cost - 488 baht). Really liked the location, it's right in front of Pai Walking Street. Took the fan room, not a good idea especially if you go around the time I went, the room can get unbearably hot in the afternoons
  • 5.30 pm - Ride to Wat Phra That Mae Yen to watch the sunset (under 15 minutes). Parked my motorcycle at the parking lot and walked up some stairs to the top. It's not a very difficult climb, only takes about 5-10 minutes to get to the top
  • 7.00 pm - Return to the guesthouse for a quick shower
  • 8.00 pm - Walk around in Pai Walking Street
  • Dinner at various stalls - Padthai (50 baht) & cha yen (30 baht)
  • 2nd dinner at Fine Rice restaurant - Pineapple fried rice with minced pork (150 baht)
  • 10.00 pm - Return to the guesthouse to get some rest

Arrival in Pai. This is Pai Walking Street, not much is going on yet, 
Pai Walking Street Guesthouse is actually part restaurant, part cooking school and part guesthouse, that is located around the back of the restaurant
The room I got in Pai Walking Street Guesthouse
Watching the sun go down at Wat Phra That Mae Yen
Pai Walking Street at night
A popular stall in Pai Walking Street, selling tea of various kinds, served in bamboo cups



Sightseeing around Pai
  • 8.00 am - Wake up
  • 9.00 am - Ride to Santichon village, about 5km away from Pai. Refuel at a nearby gas station on the way - 100 baht 
  • 9.15 am - Photo stop at Yhun Lai viewpoint. Paid the admission - 20 baht (inclusive of free tea)
  • 10.15 am - 11.10 am - Photo stop at Yunnan cultural village. Admission was free but there's almost no activity there due to low season
  • 11.30 am - Back in Pai
  • 11.30 am - 12.00 pm - Photo stop at Pai river, near Pai Nai Fun Resort
  • 12.15 pm - Quick photo stop at Wat Pa Kham before continuing on

Gateway into Santichon Village
Inside Santichon Village
Having some chinese tea at Yhun Lai viewpoint
Yunnan Cultural Village in Santichon Village
Tea tasting shop in Yunnan Cultural Village
Pai Nai Fun Resort along Pai River
Wat Pa Kham, located near Pai Nai Fun

Sightseeing around Pai (continued)
  • 12.30 pm - Ride to Pai Canyon, about 8km from Pai
  • Stopover at Coffee In Love on the way - Iced latte (60 baht) & strawberry cheese cake (80 baht)
  • 1.30 pm - Photo stop at Pai Canyon. Admission is free. Be careful where you step and don't fall, as the paths are quite narrow with sheer drops on either side
  • 2.30 pm - Ride from Pai Canyon to Memorial Bridge, another 1km away
  • 2.35 pm - Photo stop at Pai Memorial Bridge
  • 3.00 pm - Back to Pai
  • Stopover at Love Strawberry Pai for some refreshments - Strawberry smoothie (75 baht)
  • 3.30 pm - Explored the Pai countryside by motorcycle. A bit unplanned, but it was fun wandering aimlessly around the beautiful countryside for almost three hours
  • 6.30 pm - Went back to Pai canyon for sunset. Unfortunately, the weather was a bit overcast that day so I didn't get to see it :(

Stopped in Coffee In Love on the way to Pai Canyon. Having coffee here is one of the must-dos when in Pai
The relaxing vibe, coupled with the breathtaking scenery makes Coffee In Love a wonderful place to be at
Pai Canyon
Wow, just wow. Loved the scenery from Pai Canyon
Pai Memorial Bridge
Another must-do when in Pai. Having strawberry smoothies in Love Strawberry Pai
Some interesting sights while exploring Pai
Roaming around the Pai countryside

Back in Pai
  • 7.00 pm - Back to guesthouse for a quick shower before heading out again
  • 8.00 pm - Last minute shopping for souvenirs in Pai Walking Street
  • Dinner at Duang restaurant - Khao soi (40 baht) & iced coffee (20 baht)
  • 10.00 pm - Return to guesthouse to rest for the next day

Last minute souvenir shopping in Pai Walking Street
Duang Restaurant in Pai Walking Street
Had khao soi in Duang Restaurant, a Burmese-influenced dish and very popular in Northern Thailand



Pai to Mae Hong Son
  • 7.00 am - Wake up, pack up and check out from guesthouse
  • 8.15 am - Ride from Pai to Mae Hong Son (via highway 1095). The journey from Pai to Mae Hong Son is roughly 107km and should take roughly 2 hours if there are no detours
  • 9.00 am - Photo stop at Kiew Lom viewpoint on the way. From up here, you get a small taste of things to come over the next 1,864 curves to Mae Hong Son.
  • 10.20 am - Stopover in Soppong to refuel - 80 baht. The main attraction here is Tham Lod cave, but decided to give it a pass as I wasn't too keen on seeing it
  • 11.00 am - Quick photo stop at Pang Ma Pha viewpoint. Definitely worth a stop for the view, there are food stalls and restrooms if you need a break. 
  • Passed by Susa waterfall and Tham Pla cave on the way from Pang Mapha to Mae Hong Son. Both are great for a short stop but keep in mind you have to pay admission to enter

On highway 1095 from Pai to Mae Hong Son
Glimpse of the next 1,864 curves at Kiew Lom viewpoint
Interesting limestone karsts on the way to Soppong
Arriving in Soppong, a location that is quite popular for caving and river rafting
The scenery from Soppong to Pang Ma Pha
Pang Ma Pha viewpoint
Near Susa waterfall, on the way from Pang Ma Pha to Mae Hong Son
Entrance into Susa waterfall, giving this a miss due to time and money constraints
Random scenery past Tham Pla cave on the way to Mae Hong Son

Detour to Pha Sua waterfall & Pang Ung lake
  • 12.15 pm - Stopover at Chang Thai cafe (located just before the turn-in to Pha Sua waterfall & Pang Ung lake, on the way to Mae Hong Son). It's a very nice place to just sit back, relax, enjoy the view and a nice cup of coffee - Iced latte (55 baht)
  • 1.00 pm - Took a detour to Pha Sua & Pang Ung. The road goes north and away from Mae Hong Son, so a return trip will be necessary. The detour is about 26 km from the turn-in to Pang Ung lake, 52 km for the return trip.
  • 1.15 pm - 1.45 pm - Photo stop at Pha Sua waterfall. Admission is free. To reach the waterfall, you need to walk down the path for about 5 minutes. Felt a bit disappointed as the waterfall wasn't in its prime, but it's kinda to be expected when traveling during the hot season
  • 2.15 pm - Photo stop at Pang Ung lake, an almost picture-perfect lake. The weather is cooler here, due to its location in the highlands. If you're lucky, you may even be able to spot black swans swimming lazily around the lake. Wandered around for almost an hour before backtracking to Mae Hong Son

Chang Thai cafe, located just before the turn-in to Pha Sua waterfall
Candid moment in Chang Thai cafe
Beautiful scenery viewed from Chang Thai cafe
Pha Sua waterfall entrance
Going down a staircase through a bamboo forest to Pha Sua waterfall
Pha Sua waterfall, came to see a waterfall, left a bit disappointed
Continuing onwards to Pang Ung lake
The picturesque Pang Ung lake
Wooden chalets lined amongst a pine forest in Pang Ung

In & Around Mae Hong Son
  • 4.00 pm - Arrive in Mae Hong Son
  • Check-in to Boondee House - 488 baht per night (staying for 1 night). The staff at the reception couldn't speak nor understand english, so it took me a while to communicate to them what I wanted. Despite this, the room I got was really nice, so I felt the price and the earlier issue I had was justified
  • 5.30 pm - Ride to Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu (under 10 minutes). No entrance fees. Great views of Mae Hong Son from the top and I even managed to glimpse a double rainbow! Stayed until sunset before heading down again
  • 7.00 pm - Photo walk around Jong Kham lake. There's no night market though due to low season
  • 9.00 pm - Return to guesthouse

Arriving in Mae Hong Son
Checking in to Boondee House, my accomodation for a night in Mae Hong Son
My really nice room in Boondee House
Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu
View of Mae Hong Son from Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu
Double rainbow all the way!
Nightfall in Jong Kham lake
Beautifully illuminated Wat Jong Kham from across the lake



Sightseeing Around Mae Hong Son
  • 6.30 am - Wake up
  • Breakfast at the Mae Hong Son morning market nearby - Congee (35 baht)
  • 8.00 am - Photo ops at Wat Jong Kham & Wat Jong Klang temples, located near Jong Kham lake. Not required to pay any entrance fees
  • 9.30 am - Return to guesthouse to pack up and checkout

Morning market in Mae Hong Son
Walking aroung the morning market
Having congee for breakfast in a shop near the morning market
View of Wat Jong Kham and Wat Jong Klang from across the lake
Up-close look at Wat Jong Kham and Wat Jong Klang
Admiring the interesting architecture inside the temple compounds

Ban Huai Shua Thao Karen Village
  • 10.00 am - Ride from Mae Hong Son to one of the nearby Karen village, Ban Huai Shua Thao. This is only a short detour going in the direction of Khun Yuam, about a 22km round trip. The road going there is in pretty good condition, passing through jungle, some small streams and an elephant camp
  • 11.00 am - Photo stop at Ban Huai Shua Thao, a Karen tribe village on the way. Paid the admission into the village - 250 baht
  • The village was admittedly a bit touristy, not to mention that the entrance fee is pretty exorbitant, but seeing the long neck people had been on my wishlist for the longest time, and I suppose (and hope) that whatever I spend here goes to paying for the village's welfare

Short detour. The road from Mae Hong Son to Ban Huai Shua Thao karen village
Crossing a small stream on the way to Ban Huai Shua Thao. Be careful, it's incredibly slippery 
Arrving at the Karen village of Ban Huai Shua Thao 
Karen woman peddling her wares
The signature trait of the Karen women, long neck rings

Mae Hong Son to Khun Yuam
  • 12.15 pm - Ride from Mae Hong Son to Khun Yuam (via highway 108). This journey is about 70km in distance, and takes a little over an hour. Not many interesting sights to see on the way so for me, it was a straight shot to Khun Yuam
  • 1.45 pm - Arrive in Khun Yuam. It's a pleasant town which deserves a few hours of your time and a crossroads from where you can choose to either continue on south to Mae Sariang (via highway 108), or go east to Mae Chaem (via route 1263)
  • I chose Mae Chaem due to the fact it was the road less traveled, and also the fact that Namtok Mae Surin is along the way. Another side benefit was that it was closer to Doi Inthanon 
  • Didn't notice any gas stations along the road to Mae Chaem, so it's better to fuel up in Khun Yuam before continuing on - 60 baht

On highway 108 from Mae Hong Son to Khun Yuam
A short stop in Khun Yuam for some lunch before continuing on
The Thai-Japanese Friendship Memorial Hall in Khun Yuam, worth a look if you're a history geek

Detour to Namtok Mae Surin
  • 2.45 pm - Ride from Khun Yuam to Mae Chaem (via highway 1263)
  • 3.00 pm - Took a detour to Namtok Mae Surin national park. Distance-wise, the detour is roughly a 44 km round trip but it's worth doing just to see the beautiful landscapes on the way
  • Photo stop at Doi Mae U Kho. Every year, the Bua Tong (wild sunflower) blossom festival takes place here. Sadly, they only bloom in November, so there isn't actually much to do here. There's plenty to see though, the views here are amazing!
  • 4.00 pm - Photo stop at Mae Surin waterfall, the tallest single tier waterfall in Thailand

Heading to Mae Chaem from Khun Yuam via highway 1263
Detour from highway 1263 to Namtok Mae Surin national park
Viewing deck in Doi Mae U Kho
Plenty of epic landscapes such as this on the road to Namtok Mae Surin 
Mae Surin, the tallest single tier waterfall in Thailand

Khun Yuam to Mae Chaem
  • 5.00 pm - Continue on to Mae Chaem (via highway 1263). The journey from Khun Yuam to Mae Chaem is another 94 km in length, and should take roughly two hours or so
  • This route is by far, my favorite of the entire loop. Keep in mind though that the road has very little traffic, which means that if you get into trouble (a flat tire or an engine failure for example), help will be very far and few in between
  • Passed by Ban Pang Ung before turning in to route 1088

Continuing on to Mae Chaem via highway 1263. The road is in good condition throughout
A herd of bulls tarrying about on the road
Scenic farmlands on the way to Mae Chaem
Picturesque road along highway 1263
Beautiful sunset in the middle of nowhere
More picture perfect scenery past Ban Pang Ung
Getting closer to Mae Chaem. Doi Inthanon can be seen in the distance

Arrival in Mae Chaem
  • 7.45 pm - Arrive in Mae Chaem
  • Check-in to Mae Chaem Hotel - 400 baht per night (staying for 1 night). I got a small chalet of my own that had everything I expected for the price. Good for a night, though I wouldn't mind staying longer here
  • 10.00 pm - There wasn't much going on at night, therefore I decided to call it a night

My very own chalet for the night in Mae Chaem Hotel
The room I got had everything I expected for the price, so it's definitely worth it



In & Around Mae Chaem
  • 8.00 am - Wake up
  • 8.30 am - Explored Mae Chaem by motorcycle. Visited the Mae Chaem market and the surrounding countryside
  • Breakfast at Mae Chaem market - Thai chicken rice & coffee (45 baht)
  • Refuel at a nearby gas station - 90 baht
  • 10.00 am - Return to hotel to pack up and checkout

Morning in Mae Chaem market
The river that runs through Mae Chaem
Another part of Mae Chaem. Gonna take this road later to Doi Inthanon
View of Doi Inthanon from Mae Chaem
Mae Chaem in full view

Mae Chaem to Doi Inthanon
  • 11.00 am - Ride from Mae Chaem to Doi Inthanon (via highway 1192). The journey from Mae Chaem to Doi Inthanon is about 30 km
  • 11.30 am - Exit highway 1192 and turn in to highway 1009, that will go all the way to Doi Inthanon. Interestingly, this intersection is located past the Doi Inthanon national park checkpoint, so I wasn't stopped or asked to pay any entrance fees. Normally, you'd need to pay an entrance fee of 400 baht to enter Doi Inthanon
  • 12.00 pm - Arrival & photo stop at Doi Inthanon summit. Claimed to be the highest point in Thailand, I was expecting awesome views from the top but there is none. Only a fancy signboard :(

On the way to Doi Inthanon via highway 1192
Doi Inthanon reporting post, this is the furthest point you can reach in Doi Inthanon via highway 1009
The highest spot in Thailand is marked by this signboard
The mossy forest located around the corner from where the signboard was
Walkways are provided for nature lovers who love walks in the woods

In & Around Doi Inthanon
  • 1.30 pm - 2.30 pm - Photo stop at Naphamethanidon & Naphapholphumisiri pagoda on the way down. Paid the admission - 40 baht
  • 2.35 pm - Ride from Doi Inthanon summit towards Chom Tong (via highway 1009)
  • 3.30 pm - 4.00 pm - Photo stop at Wachirathan waterfall
  • 4.30 pm - Exit Doi Inthanon national park and did a quick stopover at Mae Klang temple, since it was on the way

On the way down from Doi Inthanon summit
Impressive vista of Doi Inthanon seen on the way down
Naphapholphumisiri pagoda
Garden area with Naphamethanidon pagoda in view
Amazing view of the lowlands from Doi Inthanon
Heading down via highway 1009 towards Chom Tong
Stopped at the beautiful Wachirathan waterfall on the way down from Doi Inthanon
Mae Klang temple. Did a short stopover since it was on the way

Detour to Mae Ya Waterfall & back to Chiang Mai
  • 5.00 pm - Arrive in Chom Tong. Took a detour to Mae Ya waterfall, about 14 km from Chom Tong 
  • 5.30 pm - 6.30 pm - Photo stop at Mae Ya waterfall,  Wasn't required to pay any entrance fees
  • 6.35 pm - Ride back to Chiang Mai (via highway 108) to complete the last 60 km of my Mae Hong Son motorcycle loop

On the way from Chom Tong to Mae Ya waterfall
The beautiful Mae Ya waterfall
Chom Tong to Chiang Mai, the last stretch to complete my Mae Hong Son motorcycle loop



How much?
What for?
THB 1,376
Accommodation
THB 488
Accommodation in Pai (2 nights)
THB 488
Accommodation in Mae Hong Son (1 night)
THB 400
Accommodation in Mae Chaem (1 night)


THB 990
Ground Cost
THB 30
Transportation around Chiang Mai
THB 650
Motorcycle rental in Chiang Mai (5 days)
THB 20
Admission – Yhun Lai viewpoint
THB 250
Admission – Ban Huai Shua Thao (Karen long neck tribe village)
THB 40
Admission - Naphamethanidon & Naphapholphumisiri pagoda


THB 1,080
Flight
MYR 120
Flight from Kuala Lumpur to Chiang Mai (one way)


THB 1,569
Misc
THB 640
Food & drinks
THB 929
Miscellaneous (gas & data plan)


THB 5,015
Total


How much did it cost me?

  • In local currency: THB 5,015
  • Conversion rate (at the time): MYR 1 = THB 9
  • After conversion: MYR 557 (for 5 days)




8 comments

  1. Bro Garrett

    A few questions for you?

    Did you leave your passport when you rent a motorbike?
    Do you use gps on your smart phone or car gps like garmin?

    Just asking because I want to do like this next time when I visit Chiangmai. Last time only visit Fang and use private charter texi. Maybe next time explore Chiangmai more with motorbike.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Nickunpai,

      1) Yes, I left my passport with Pop Rental (the company I rented from) as I was only renting for short term. If you're not comfortable doing this, you can give them a photocopy plus a refundable money deposit.

      2) Yup. I only used Google Maps on smartphone, and this was enough. Not most of the time though, it's not that easy to get lost anyways as the roads are fairly straightforward with plenty of signages around.

      Hope this helps on your future trip! :)

      Delete
    2. Ok thank you. Hope you will cover more country in the future. Cheers..

      Delete
  2. Awesome. U cover the entire chiang mai like using a motorcycle. I was in chiang mai for 5 days, i visited doi ithanon, went for a cooking class, watch muay thai, when for white temple, and lastly seeing the sunday walking street. Lovely. Will definitely go back and explore PAI again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Michael,

      You're welcome. Glad you liked the article.

      Delete
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