In our last article we explained how best to prepare the Mae Hong Son Loop when leaving Chiang Mai. Today we will show you a slightly more visual article in which we will share with you our favorites on this little road trip in northern Thailand.
Before we moved here we knew there was a lot to do around Chiang Mai and that we were probably going to enjoy the scenery, but to be honest, we didn’t expect to get such amazed during this 6 days roadtrip.
Are you ready? Come on, fix your helmets and we’ll take you for a 800km ride on the mountain roads of northern Thailand.
Travel video in Thailand: The Mae Hong Son loop
A little info: In this article we will tell you about a lot of places. Instead of putting all the addresses in the blog post we made a great interactive map at the end of the article. On this map you will find absolutely all the addresses, viewpoints and attractions mentioned as well as the accommodation where we slept 😉
By clicking on one of the pins you will see a picture and information about the prices.
Day 1: From Chiang Mai to Pai
This first day starts early in order to avoid as much as possible the rather dense traffic of Chiang Mai. But let’s face it, the first 40 kilometers are not the most exciting.
We follow the huge highway 107 which is much more like a highway than a small bucolic mountain road. But after a short hour of driving (and some cold sweats with Thai driving habits) we turn off onto Road 1095. And that, my friends, is where the real fun begins!
The road becomes narrower (understand that there are no more 2-3 lanes and crazy traffic), the long straight lines give way to a winding road and the houses and shops are replaced by rice fields and strawberry plantations ! (And some buffaloes too 😉 )
During this first day we didn’t make many stops on the way except to have a small coffee by a lake. Well yes, we wanted to arrive in Pai early in order to have time to discover a little bit of the surroundings!
It was a little before noon when we arrived in Pai. We looked for a place to stay, went for a bite in the city centre and almost immediately got back on our scooter to explore the surroundings.
Pai: The must-see in the area
Pai is one of those places where you could easily stay stuck for several days. There’s something in the air that makes it a good place to live! But if you decide to let go of the fruithake and leave the hammock of your bungalow there are also a lot of fun things to discover. A brief overview:
The World War II Memorial Bridge
This bridge you will cross it anyway if you come by road with its 762 bends that connect Chiang Mai to Pai. So don’t be misled by the name, eh, but this bridge doesn’t date from the Second World War. It is a monument erected in memory of an old bridge. Personally, I didn’t find it transcendent, but let’s say it’s an opportunity to make a brief stop on the way!
Pam Bok Waterfall
Located 4km from the 1095 road, it is a nice (and free) waterfall where you can come and swim. We found that there were a little too many people. But if your butt doesn’t hurt too much yet, it’s a nice little detour!
The Pai Canyon
The Canyon is the spot with which we had an appointment at the end of the day! When we arrived, the first surprise was to find that access to the canyon was free! Rare enough in Asia to be noted 😉
So don’t expect the great canyon, eh, but the place still has a lot of charm! In fact, here you can walk freely on the different parts of the site. Sometimes the trail turns out to be a little dangerous and we will admit that we didn’t dare to cross at all places.
The place is pretty, but it is especially at sunset that it becomes sublime. When the low light comes to illuminate the red rock and the sun slowly disappears behind the mountains, a very special atmosphere emerges!
By the way, we noticed that several travellers had come equipped with their tents and once the sun set they began to set up their campsite. We admit it, we were almost a little jealous! 🙂
Day 2: From Pai to Soppong
For this second day we decided to give our butss a little rest, well… that’s what we thought! Between Pai and Soppong there are only 40km. So after a good hour’s drive we had already arrived at our destination for the day. We took the first hotel we saw, put down our bags and left for what was supposed to be “a little scooter ride”.
Our guesthouse: The Northern Hill
Our first stop was the Tham Lod Caves! Located about ten kilometers from Route 1095, it’s a short detour that’s well worth it if you want our opinion.
Before you can enter the caves, you must first pay the entrance fee of 450 Baths. This price is a fixed price for a group of up to 3 people. It includes the entrance to the park, a guide who will accompany you for a good hour and a tour on a small bamboo raft inside the cave. Frankly, at first we found it quite expensive, but in the end we don’t regret a single second!
Visit the Tham Lot Cavec
The visit begins with a small path that leads to the entrance of the cave. There, the guide lights his kerosene lamp and we then get inside with him.
We had read on the net that there could be a lot of people at Tham Lot, but who knows, we were almost alone there. Over the whole visit we may have met about ten people who were also on the road with their guide.
The visit begins in the first caves where the guide showed us in the light of his lamp all kinds of animals taken from his imagination. The elephant rock, the shark rock, the butterfly stone… Yeah…. The only one we were all unanimous on was a breast shaped stalactite! Mouahahaha
Cave visits are interspersed with small crossings of the underground lake on large bamboo rafts. Frankly, I was really confident! But that was clearly before we heard a thumping sound from a paddle that hit the water. Our guide turns around and provides light for a man standing on his small boat. He was lifting something that looked pretty massive in the water. At that moment, the guide exclaimed: “Look!!!!! Look!!!!!! Water snake! Big snake!!!!! »
Yep…. Well, it didn’t take much more for me to finish the rest of the crossing by staring at my feet on this little raft, only 10cm from the surface and praying that there wouldn’t be a huge snake coming out. #RealCoward
End of the visit in Tham Lod: the alternatives
At the end of the visit we have 2 options: either we cross the cave again on the raft, or we walk around it by taking a small path.
So knowing that the guy who operates the raft has to pull the raft against the current to bring the boat back to the beginning: we decided to take the path.
This brave man is already walking immerged to his waist in a water in which snakes have taken up residence. We weren’t going to ask him to pull us in addition to this effort. (And we immediately forget the option where I should have put a toe in the water, please!)
I must admit that I particularly enjoyed this visit for its nature touch too! Often in Asia, they tend to overkill the atmosphere by adding super kitsch coloured lights in cavec….
Here? A guy wearing flip flops and his kerosene lamp showed us the way. The small bamboo boats are not equipped with motors. They are simply pushed with the help of long poles and then dragged back up against the current.
Lost in the Thai countryside
After Tham Lod’s visit we didn’t really have a precise plan. But on Google Maps we saw that if we continued on a small road we might be able to reach the 1095 by an alternative route…. Hmm… how should we say…
- We arrived on a dirt track which was in really poor condition
- I had to get off the scooter because it was not manageable to ride in there with 2 people on it
- while Benoit went checking out the road a little further I got charged by a calf!
- I ran, I swore. Benoit came back because the condition of the track was deteriorating even more.
Well… this little “extra” detour turned out to be a total disaster 🙂
At sunset time we had no plan as such. So we drove along Route 1095 and when we saw some nice little rice fields we took a small road.
The, we did something we’re pretty proud of: 2 sunsets in the same night! hahaha
Haha it doesn’t take much to be happy, does it?
In fact we watched the sun hide behind a mountain, then we got back on our scooter and drove a few more kilometers around this same mountain. And, bim: a second sunset in one evening! Hihi, driving faster than light!;)
Day 3: From Soppong to Mae Hong Son
This third day will have been marked once again by a “small” detour to leave the road to go see a waterfall… Hmm…. I should rather say “to go look for a waterfall”. Because in the end we will have done 5 or 6 kilometers, including on a lot of dirt tracks, but actually we never found this waterfall.
I got off the scooter once again, Benoit dropped me in the middle of the jungle to go (I quote) “100m further just to have a loo”. Yep, well he actually came back 20 minutes later without having found a waterfall. He somehow suggested we try to cross a river with our scooter because he “tought” the waterfall might be on the other side. My reply was simply a BIG: Nope! Thus… this is Fail N°2 🙂
Fortunately for us a little further on there is the Pha Suea waterfall. A beautiful waterfall located by the roadside and free of charge! Besides, we loved the area so much that we even came back the next day, but we’ll get back to it later in this post.
The Bamboo bridge close to Mae Hong Son
Before arriving in Mae Hong Son we did one last stop at the famous Su Tong Pae bamboo bridge. Originally, this 500m long Bamboo bridge, which spans rice fields, was built to connect the village to the temple on the other side of the fields. In the meantime, the bridge is still used by monks and locals, but it has also become a tourist attraction. We thought the visit was nice, especially since we were totally alone on the bridge!
The buttocks in pieces we arrived at the end of the day in Mae Hong Son. After putting down our bags in our small guesthouse we walked up to Wat Phrathat Kong Mu. It is a temple that overlooks the village but which has the particularity of having on of the best sunset spots in whole northern Thailand.
Sunset in Mae Hong Son
We could have gotten up there by scooter by the way. There is the road leading to the temple. But after spending our days sitting, we needed to stretch our legs a little.
The temple of Phratat Kong Mu is really beautiful! But if you want our opinion, the most beautiful spot is still a few meters away. Behind the temple there is a small hill on which there is a viewpoint. The view from there is absolutely stunning!!!
Take a look:
We spent the rest of the evening strolling along the docks by Mae Hong Son’s small lake with Sofia and Thibault, two travellers we met at sunset.
Day 4: Around Mae Hong Son
In Mae Hong Son there are really lots of things to do! So we decided to stay a little longer and booked a second night at our guesthouse and left on our scooter to explore the area a little bit!
For this second day we went back in the direction of where we came the previous day and went up to the Pha Suea waterfall and then continue a little further. We had read online that it was really worth going up to the village of Moo Ban Rak Thai, a small Chinese village located less than a kilometre from the border with Burma.
So to be honest, the road that even there is absolutely STUNNNING! It is really worth taking it. On the other hand, make sure to have a powerful enough scooter, because it’s a serious climb!
The village itself we didn’t find it incredible. Certainly the small lake is pretty, but the line of shops, the buses filled with Chinese tourists and the omnipresent selfie sticks ruined a bit our experience
In short, it’s pretty, but it’s just a little too kitsch for our taste…
The Pang Tong Palace
On the way back we made a small detour to go see the Pang Tong Palace. Here we were expecting to see kind of a palace. (ohhhh that’s okay, with the name don’t tell me you wouldn’t have been fooled?). In the end… well… it’s not exactly this! 🙂
In fact, it is a place that is sponsored by the royal family. The project is based on the desire to help local populations get out of opium cultivation and develop other skills. The “palace” is therefore a huge house on a hill overlooking a gigantic garden that is very well maintained and that welcomes a lot of animals (mostly in cages). Not quite what we were expecting to be fair….
At the end of the day we walked up again to Wat Phrathat Kong Mu to admire the sunset a second time before finishing the evening in Mae Hong Son where a festival dedicated to art and culture was held.
A little advice: if you go up to admire the sunset: once the sun is down, don’t go down to Mae Hong Son right away. Wait a little while for the light to fade and stay within the temple premises. The temple is really beautiful after dark!
After getting back down it was time for this famous festival. We didn’t really understand because the infrastructures seemed pretty damn huge (stages, crazy lighting, sound, dance program, singing) but in the end there were very few people! We arrived clearly late and still had a seat in the front row… 🙂
Day 5: From Mae Hong Son to Mae Chaem
For this 5th day that we knew in advance that it was going to be one of the longest. We had roughly 2 alternatives:
- Go directly to Mae Chaem following the road strictly. 165km (which is already quite a lot when sitting on a small scooter)
- Take a detour to go see the Mae Surin waterfall and the sunflower fields of Thung Bua Tong. Problem? This is a 60km detour!
Let’s face it, we hesitated! In the end we thought it would be silly to be in the area and not to enjoy it to the fullest, especially since the weather was perfect. It’s not a little buttache that was gonna stop us!
So frankly, we’re really happy we did this detour! The road we took was probably one of the most spectacular in the entire Mae Hong Son loop! It climbs steep, it turns a lot but the further you get, the most amazing it becomes!
Our Guesthouse in mae Chaem: Sangthong Building
The Mae Surin Waterfall
When we arrived at the Mae Surin waterfall we paid the entrance fee of 200 Baths per person. (it’s a special foreigner price… it’s only 40B for Thai people).
Hmm… so how can I say this? The waterfall is superb, but we were a little disappointed because the path that allowed us to go down to its foot was closed. So for 200B we only had access to an observation platform that is still relatively far away. We let you judge on the picture… this is as close as we could get to the waterfall!
In short, you will have understood that we do not regret coming here by taking this amazing road! But on the other hand, we’re not sure we really recommend spending 400B to see this waterfall from so far away.
Try to come here during the week! We were there on the weekend and it is clearly an ultra touristic spot for Thai people! We maybe met only 3 Westerners all day long but there were several hundred Thai families who came to spend the day admiring the sunflowers and the waterfall.
Day 6: from Mae Chaem to Chiang Mai
For our last day we were, let’s face it, a little tired of having our buttocks screwed on a scooter. We briefly hesitated to climb on the Doi Inthanon. (The highest mountain in Thailand). But since we’re going to stay a few more months in the area we decided to postpone this excursion. 😉
Instead we simply opted for an alternative route for the return trip. The “normal” route through Doi Inthanon follows route 1009 to reach 108 fairly quickly. The 108 being a big highway, we preferred to opt for a slightly more scenic road.
And this was a great decision! Instead going up the mountain, we took road 1284 and then the road 1013. This alternative is a small detour in terms of kilometers but it’s much more scenic! We cross small villages while driving along winding mountain roads!
The detailed map of our Mae Hong Son loop:
That’s it, this time the loop is closed 🙂
If you want to find all the practical information on the loop as well as our budget for these 6 days, go this way!
If you have any questions or if you have done the loop and ant to share your favorite spots in the area; do not hesitate to leave us a comment!
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