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Not so long ago the Golden Triangle was considered the most notorious territory on the planet. But today, the residue from this legacy is an extensive road system that just might be the finest collection of motorcycle roads found anywhere on earth, both on‑road‑and‑off-it. If you think one of life’s greatest pleasures is taking a motorcycle tour into an exotic land on fantastic roads over terrain you truly have to see to believe, then don’t dare miss out on this tour!
Whichever hotel that Asian Motorcycle Adventures choose is the finest in each location and chosen to reflect the culture and charms of an area. Asian Motorcycle Adventures categorize their tours as luxury tours so they can make sure every lodging facility has the highest level of comfort possible. Each participant gets their own hotel room for the entire tour.
Occasionally, Asian Motorcycle Adventures does venture into an enchanting but remote area where basic amenities like electricity or running water may not even be available. In these instances, Asian Motorcycle Adventures makes sure the accommodations are, at the least, clean and comfortable.
These basic lodgings are often the most enjoyable and memorable on the trip. This is when the feeling of being in a far-off land hits hard. The small sacrifice in personal comfort is only for a single evening and is well worth the immense pleasure of being able to stay in such a hard to reach and remarkable environment. It is part of the fun, part of the excitement, and an integral part of adventure travel.
The Rim is a boutique hotel in the truest sense of the word. The Rim makes a great base to explore the charming city of Chiang Mai, one of Southeast Asia’s most popular tourist destinations. Also, when you finish the tour and return to Chiang Mai, you once again are returned to the comforts of The Rim.
Pukha Nanfa Hotel, tucked away in the scenic mountainous North of Thailand, is a legendary getaway among Thais and cosmopolitan travelers the world over. It is just five minutes’ ride from the airport and conveniently located right in the heart of the tranquil cultural town of Nan. Unveiled some 80 years ago, this delightful 14-room, three-story all-wood hotel has since undergone extensive renovation. Its friendly and charming character is classical Lanna, yet stylishly contemporary and furnished with the latest amenities that meet the needs of today’s traveller to make your stay a truly restful and enjoyable one.
Located on the Maekok River, the resort offers simple and attractively styled accommodation with private patio or balcony set in beautifully tended gardens. All rooms are air-conditioned and equipped with mini bar and TV. The en-suite bathrooms have Balinese-style open showers. Fresh fruit, home-made cookies, tea, and local coffee from the nearby Wa Wee hills are provided complimentary.
The rooms are prepared with care and attention to detail including fresh flowers from the gardens. There are 36 rooms, 19 with king size beds, and 17 twins. Whilst all rooms are the same in size (36 square metres) and layout and enjoy a pleasant and peaceful outlook, the frontage and views from the different positions of rooms vary. A range of TV channels is available as well as Thai TV. Resort-wide wireless internet is available free of charge.
Where the Mae Taeng and the Mae Ta Man Rivers meet, you'll find another Northern Kingdom Sib San Resort. About one hour from the city of Chiang Mai, this facility is located in a jungle valley of Mae Taeng. It too boasts a five star experience, this one in a forest, mountain setting. You'll enjoy Lana Style living in a choice of a private bungalow, complete with private pool, or a beautiful Lana styled suite.
Nestled in a lush valley outside the town of Mae Hong Son, in the mountains of Northern Thailand, you find this beautiful place for nature lovers. The sounds of running water and the peaceful jungle setting are pure relaxation.
Thirty wooden bungalows are built in the local Shan style scattered on former rice paddies. To let you be as close to nature as possible there is no TV and telephone in the rooms - here you can enjoy the sounds of the surrounding jungle, the floating waters, and the relaxing atmosphere. All rooms provide air-conditioning, hot water facilities, private terrace or balcony, and complimentary drinking water.
As soon as you arrive in Chiang Mai, before you even start your tour, you’ll be lodged in the most atmospheric five-star hotel in Chiang Mai’s old city, The Rim.
The first day’s ride to Nan is the easiest one on the tour. This will allow you to familiarize yourself, relatively stress free, with your bike and road conditions, as well as get a handle on the style of driving practiced by the average Thai citizen.
After driving up and down a couple of gentle mountain passes on a mostly wide and forgiving road, you will stop for lunch on the shore of the largest lake in northern Thailand. Their local specialty is a delicious, barbequed fish plucked right out of the lake waters.
After that, you will have another relaxed ride along the outskirts of a national park and across gentle, rolling farmland before starting the first hair-raising riding segment through the western mountains of Nan Province. From this point on, all the riding is basically high-octane right on up through the end of the tour.
The first night’s lodging is in the provincial capital of Nan and home to Wat Phumin, one of the most important temples in the north. The interior walls of Wat Phumin are covered with colorful but crumbling murals from the late 1800’s that depict Thai secular life from that period as well as the arrival of the first foreigners.
The art style known as Lanna has its roots right in this temple, and for the rest of the tour, you will see how deeply embedded this style is in the Golden Triangle region today. Out of all the towns in Golden Triangle, Nan is probably my favorite.
Different too, because around 100 years ago it was a separate kingdom with its own culture, art, clothing, and language. Nan is considered the seat of the Lanna culture, and Thais themselves, from all over the country enjoy visiting Nan to experience its uniqueness.
Nan has fine shopping for hand-crafted silverware, and for hand-loomed textiles, furnishings, and clothing. Your hotel tonight is in a land-marked teak building over eighty years old. This small boutique hotel, the Pukha Nanfa with only nine rooms, was lovingly refurbished and the personal project of the owner of one of the Thailand’s largest banks. No expense was spared to bring this historic residence back to its shining splendor.
After a first long day in the saddle there is a swimming pool at the end of it. Today will also be your first opportunity to experience one of several excellent Thai massage techniques. There is nothing that feels better or is more therapeutic after a long ride than Thai traditional massage. Plus the cost of massage in Thailand is a fraction of what it costs in the West.
One of the best restaurants on this tour is located right next door to your hotel, which also prepares one of my favorite dishes on the entire tour. As it happens on every night on this tour, you will sleep soundly and in luxury after such a full and enriching day on a motorcycle.
Day 2 is the longest ride on this tour is 350 kilometers or 210 miles. Be prepared to spend at least seven hours in the saddle, all of it with a wide smile plastered across your face. Many of the past participant’s rate the second day as the best day of riding they have ever experienced on a bike in their lives!
After arriving at your simple bungalow resort high up on a mountain ridge, and after all the ‘wows’ have subsided about the views, it is time to crack open a few bottles of ice-cold beer and watch a spectacular sunset descend over the world.
Tonight, you will dine early because nature has a special treat in store for you in the early morning hours: your old friend the sun, arising again but through a vast ocean of clouds. What makes this scene so special is that you will watch it unfold from the peak of a 1,700 meter or 6,600 feet cliff with a straight drop into Laos.
Day 3 is fairly easy, except in the morning when you depart Poo Chee Fah on another spectacular road and then ride up one of the two steepest roads in Thailand (the jury’s still out which one is steeper). Whatever, if you do not hold onto your handlebars tight enough, you will be in danger of sliding off the back end of your motorcycle.
By late morning, you will greet the Mekong River for the first time and roughly follow its course upstream. Along the route is a magnificent Wat carved from teak and gilded in gold and presided over by a monk who stays there to answer all questions from foreigners about Buddhism.
Monk Gaer is super friendly and looks forward to it when your bikes pull up in front of his temple - he might even have been a biker in a previous incarnation.
You will dine in Chiang Saen, a nine-hundred year-old town considered to be the cradle of Thai civilization. Founded as a fortified city, this present-day antiquity is surrounded by defensive walls and moats and is presently undergoing an extensive archeological restoration.
You will putt-putt around the antiquities and visit some of the more substantial ruins. For the next several hours, the route will take you through rolling farmland, roughly following the course of the Mekong until it veers northwards. This point is the exact apex of the Golden Triangle, and you will stop here for the obligatory group photo.
The next sightseeing stop is another temple, but this one is home to a population of monkeys tame enough to eat peanuts right out of your hand. You will spend this evening and the following one in Mai Sai, the northernmost point in Thailand.
The fourth day is your first rest day of the tour. Mai Sai is the border town connecting Thailand to Burma. The Burmese side is called Ta Khee Lake and it is a place unlike any other in your experience. You will take a walking tour through Ta Khee Lake on your rest day.
The main attraction is shopping. Just about everything is available, from rubies to elephant bones. You can buy fine Burmese traditional crafts like lacquerware, carvings, puppets, and tapestries at prices not to believe if you can drive a hard bargain.
Pirated goods abound for items such as sunglasses, watches, sneakers, perfumes, designer bags, clothing, DVDs and CDs, to mention a few. You will take a mid-shopping break for a snack in a local tea house rubbing elbows with the locals. A nearby barber gives an excellent, straight-razor Burma shave. Also in town is a casino if you are feeling lucky and a golf course if you are feeling energetic.
On this day, you will start climbing up into a karst mountain range immediately upon leaving Mae Sai and ride in it for most of the day. Looking at this terrain, it is hard to believe that anyone could even think about building a road through it.
The first stop is a mountaintop temple with another one of those ‘I can’t believe how steep this is’ roads. Wat Doi Tung has hundreds of bells and it is said that if you ring them all it guarantees you a place in heaven. An offer like that doesn’t come along every day so you might as well ring them all.
The second stop is at the headquarters of a former drug warlord who had his own private army. It is located in a remote corner of Thailand and many participants rate this stop as one of the highlights of their tour. Khun Sa was one of the most unique and important players in late 20th-Century Southeast Asian history, and for decades, Khun Sa was the FBI’s most wanted criminal.
After Khun Sa, you will start driving through back country on perhaps the most technical roads on the tour, but ones that are also a hell of a lot of fun. You will enter a tea country in the afternoon and stop off at a tea estate for a tea tasting.
After that, you will ride up to a mountain-top shrine on another ridiculously steep road. The view from the top is breathtaking and is the very same scene depicted on many official travel posters promoting Thailand. More great riding all the way down into the valley where you will stay in another exquisite lodge, the Mae Kok River Village Resort, along the banks of the Thaton River.
Mai Sai is not that far from southern China and a lot of Yunnanese have migrated into northern Thailand. There is one superb Yunan restaurant in Mae Sai that you will eat in not once but on both of your nights here. Their sublime poached fish could be the culinary highlight of the entire tour.
Only in Thailand are army camps turned into tourist stops and on the morning of day 6, you will visit one. To reach it, you will have to drive up what is considered to be Thailand’s steepest road. After that, you will drive across another convoluted karst mountain range with spectacular views the entire ride.
This mountain road is very tight, twisty, and technical, but beautiful beyond compare. Asian Motorcycle Adventures try to keep stops to a minimum today so you can arrive as early as possible at one of the most beautiful resorts in Thailand or anywhere else, the Sib-San Resort and Spa.
Just down the river valley road from the resort are many optional activities that will compete for your leisure time. An elephant ride through the countryside is included in this tour package, but there many other activities available, such as: whitewater rafting, a zip line through the jungle canopy, ATV vehicles, nature walks, bamboo rafting, and oxcart rides.
There is also great, dirt road riding directly behind the resort and this can keep you busy most of the day. Tough choices, because even with a two-night stay here, there is still not enough time to fit everything in.
This is your second day of the tour and you will spend the day at Sin-Sab Resort and Spa. Just a few suggestions for optional activities on your rest day: do nothing and just laze in front of your poolside bungalow, bamboo rafting, off-road riding, quads, zip-line, kayaks, and elephant upkeep programs.
Day 8 is the start of what put Thailand on the world motorcycle touring map to begin with; The Mae Hong Son Loop. To put the Mae Hong Son Loop in perspective, when knowledgeable bikers talk about the best motorcycle roads in the world, the Stelvio Pass in the Italian Alps is always mentioned.
They describe how awesome the sixty-linked hairpin turns are over its thirty-kilometer length. Well, the Mae Hong Son Loop has at least sixty hairpin turns per hour! Completing the entire Loop takes two days. And there’s no traffic! And there is no traffic police.
To sum it up, there are over 3,900 curves along the 500 kilometers of Loop we will be traversing. Some participants complain they actually became dizzy getting whipped around so many non-stop turns. And to put this entire tour in even sharper perspective, Asian Motorcycle Adventures do not even rate the Mae Hong Son Loop as the best road on the tour!
But nonetheless, the Mae Hong Son Loop is definitely one of the greatest motorcycle roads in the world. Towering forest, corkscrewing mountain roads, waterfalls, lakes, and hill tribe villages will not fail to impress even the most widely-traveled rider. This is one hell of an exciting drive through some of Thailand’s most breathtaking scenery.
You will stop for the night in the provincial capital of Mae Hong Son. Your lodgings are at another award-winning lodging, the Fern Resort. Their restaurant has won numerous awards from numerous culinary organizations - wait till you taste the chicken wrapped in pandan leaves! Another feast awaits.
If you possibly have any energy left, there are nature walks into the bordering national park. What most of the participants wind up doing, though, is lounge around the pool and go for another massage.
On day 9, you will ride down to Mae Sariang, which anchors the southwest corner of the Mae Hong Son Loop. This section of the Loop is not as mountainous as the previous sections, but it is loaded with numerous series of chicane-style turns perfectly designed for motorcycles.
This region of Thailand has a heavy presence of people from the Shan State of Burma and you will notice the distinctive styles of their Buddhist temples. The predominant hill tribe group in these parts are the Karen, also from Burma, and they traditionally work as the mahouts - the elephant drivers on the caravan routes.
If you arrive in Mae Sariang early enough, you can continue on, down to the wild Salween River that forms the border between Thailand and Burma. This road is badly broken up and is more dirt than sealed, but such a spectacular drive through primary forest is worth the effort. The best massage of the trip is available in Mae Sariang and there is an outstanding restaurant in town as well.
Your last day sadly arrives. But the great riding continues as you finish up the Mae Hong Son Loop and climb up the back side of the highest mountain in Thailand, Doi Inthanon. On the way down into the Chiang Mai valley, you will stop off at a spectacular waterfall where we eat lunch in the swirling mists stirred up by the cascade.
You’re only about ninety minutes from home at this point, so Asian Motorcycle Adventures will tone down the riding a notch and ease into town by mid-afternoon and a most memorable motorcycle tour finally comes to an end.
When you finish the tour and return to Chiang Mai, you once again will return to the comforts of The Rim.
This tour will take place in various places in Thailand, namely Nan, Poo Chee Fah, Mae Sai, Mae Hong Son Loop, Mae Sariang, and Chiang Mai.
If there is a highlight on this tour besides the motorcycling, it has to be the food. Start dieting now and bring along a looser change of clothes. Each meal is a joy, but dinners are no-holds-barred feasts.
Lunch stops are usually in medium-sized towns along the route. Occasionally, you will drive far out of your way just to sample an especially delicious example of a region’s cuisine.
Evening is when time is ample to savor the culinary delights of Asia at a leisurely pace. Local delicacies are cooked to perfection and eaten in neighborhood establishments rubbing elbows with the citizenry. You will soon be eating like a native.
Asian fruits are a story unto themselves and Asian Motorcycle Adventures make it a point to introduce you to many exotic varieties you had no idea even existed. No fast food allowed! Hotel coffee shops are strictly for breakfast.
Here’s just a partial list of available rest-day activities that will keep you plenty busy: off-road motorcycling, scuba diving, snorkeling, river tubing, sea canoes, board sailing, deep sea fishing, sea cruises, golf, bungy jumps, massage, health spas, casinos, rock climbing, elephant rides, horseback riding, oxcart rides, white water rafting, bamboo raft excursions. Or just laze around. Catch some rays. Catch some fish. Catch some sleep. The choice is yours.
All stops on the itinerary have something inherently unique about them. It is a shame there isn’t enough time to pay each one an in-depth visitation. This is simply not possible considering the amount of ground you will cover – which is more than 3,000 kilometers (more than 2,000 miles) on certain motorcycle tours. Some of the Asian Motorcycle Adventures selected rest-day locales are:
Please book your flight to arrive at Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX). If you are travelling to Asia from North America or Europe, it is highly recommended, imperative even, to arrive at least two or three days before your motorcycle tour begins so you can recuperate from jet‑lag, a condition no one is immune to. Many participants like to spend these first few days sightseeing in Bangkok, the gateway city most people fly into. Flights to Chiang Mai from Bangkok are frequent, inexpensive, and short - an hour. Many other Asian carriers fly direct into Chiang Mai so you might want to check if your international flight can bypass Bangkok entirely.
There is also a train to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, but it is a terrible ride, suffers frequent operational problems, and consistently arrives hours late. Asian Motorcycle Adventures do not recommend this option.