Biker Heaven on the Mae Hong Son Loop
125cc fuel injection motorbike was what our butts were going to fall asleep on for the next 4 days. We were embarking on our biggest motorbiking adventure yet, as we finally found a place where you could drop the bike of at a different location than the one you picked it up from. And so for 4 days we were going to be driving around a stretch of road that loops in a full circle in the North-West region of Thailand, all the way around the highest regions Thailand had to offer.
At the beginning of our trip we were pleased that we had come up with such an inventive plan and was excited to explore some less touristy regions after our disappointment in Pai. The loop in general was certainly less touristy as we explored smaller towns running parallel with the Myanmar (Burma) border. However, what we hadn't known at the beginning was that this loop was bikers heaven and we were to pass and meet many big boys on their extreme powered toys. The Mae Hong Son loop is not made famous by the intense altitudes and views you experience (that is certainly a factor), but mainly because of its 1,648 bends! Oh did I forget to mention...? This route is also nicknamed 'the road of 1000 hairpin bends!'
Now I know the weather in Britain isn't as ideal as Asia is for motorcycling, but this journey really wasn't helping to disuade me from investing in one for home! It's funny thinking back at the journey now as i have thought, "how did it not get awkward with so little conversation during an average of 5 hours driving a day?" but then I remember the intense concentration as i tackled 15% descent and ascent corners, and Fay on the back taking in the scenery in absolute awe (of course i appreciated the scene too but while slowing down or even stopping when they were truelly astounding!)
We felt really fortunate enough to see some of Thailand the way it should be, in their natural form and not completely over-run with tourists. We went to an actual Thai fun fair in Mae Hong Son itself. It was the night of the full moon so we think it may have had something to do with that. We were the only westerners present which was amazing, we had stumbled across it by complete accident. They had stalls of food, a stage with cultural shows and singing, community stalls with local information and best of all fun fair stalls! I actually won a big teddy prize by popping 7 balloons with all 7 darts, Bobby George eat your heart out! But of course we couldnt take a big teddy becuase it wouldn't fit in our bag so we chose a Doraemon pillow instead (Doreamon is a robot cat who is very very popular in Asia, and has become popular with Fay too)!
We stopped in a town called Mae Sariang. This was a risky stop as we had no information about it, but turned out to be the best stop of all of the Mae Hong Son Loop stops. Not only was our 300baht (6 pounds) room amazing with an awesome riverside view and a sunset that dipped over the hills on the horizon, but we also had an incredible neighbour from Belgium called Eddie. He had his own bike which he brought on the plane and had already cycled from Bangkok which took him 11 days and was about to cycle the 400KM's we had just done in 2 days on our motorbike and carry on all the way around Thailand for an entire month. He was very grey and old and we thought he was well into his late 60's/early 70's and couldn't believe what he was achieving. But when it turned out he was actually only 58 we could not believe it, he looked as old as Bruce Foresyth, i dont think long distance cycling is doing much good to him!
Mae Sariang was also our chance to visit Burma, without visiting. There was a road that lead all the way to the Myanmar border, where Thailand and Myanmar was only divided by a 50m wide river. The drive took an hour and a half, and most of the road was pretty sketchy with piles of rubble, great big pot holes and even a massive boulder in the middle which had toppled from the cliff alongside the road. The view was pretty spectacular when we arrived and the first thing we did after watching the locals enjoy a casual cockfight was to eat some classic Pad Thai (traditional noodle dish). It was amazing to see the difference in the two countries. Thailand had a small pier and a a giant concrete promenade area with seating, shelter and palm trees. Burma had a small sand bank which led straight into forested bush where you could make out some very basic huts within. Only local Thai and Burmese were permitted to use this as a border crossing, no tourists. It had been told to us that there is always fighting and violence at this crossing with Burmese trying to escape and smuggle their way into Thailand.
The last day of our motorbiking expedition saw us drive to the summit of the highest peak of Thailand. At 3,000ft stood some Buddhist stupas and a view that we were hoping could have been better. For an area that boasts being the highest point of Thailand, they had no real good view points to gaze out towards the hills of Thailand, only trees welcomed our sight and due to the weather any gaps in the trees were blocked by a rolling cloud. With the mercury only reaching 14c we were sure to feel a chill and zip up our jackets, lets hope its not TOO much lower for when we come home in a couple weeks time, though I'm absolutely sure it will be!