By David Smee
After our few days in Chiang Mai we were desperately ready to get out of the city. We'd found out about another motorbike loop we could do* and, having really enjoyed the loop in Lao, set about preparing. The Mae Hong Son Loop was both bigger and seen as a 'proper' motor-biker route**, famed for having lots and lots of bends (1864 curves in total). We managed to squeeze all we needed for the week-long trip into our two small day packs, hired a couple of bikes*** and were on our way to Pai (pronounced without the 'a').
The journey really began as we left the main road and started to climb up into the mountains. Our very helpful route map -- The Golden Triangle Rider map -- highlighted a lot of different view points and waterfalls on the first day. I'd selected just one waterfall to stop at which promised swimming under the falls. However, after a short walk along the river with our cosies, we found that while the water fall was very pretty the pool was a bit small and shallow. Slightly disappointed we continued on our way. The route continued to climb, the road getting more twisty and the weather started to deteriorate. We were tired, wet and more than a little miserable.
Then, as we started to doubt why we were doing this, we turned a corner to find... a bright pink french-looking mansion, just sitting there beside the road! We thought this was worth investigating. It soon became apparent this was just a facade; the grand drive and massive front were all for show. It was a cleverly designed little shop and coffee house. There was tea and cake, which we had (unsurprisingly), it was good.
On our way again, feeling revived, we noticed we were passing a massive number of coffee houses, all slightly twee in one way or another. These included Love Strawberry, Love Pai****, In Love, Love on the Hill... All there because of the massive number of Asian tourists who come on a pilgrimage to Chiang Mai and Pai due to "THE" asian romantic comedy (imagine asian Love Actually) having been filmed here.
Having survived the rain and avoided running over any Asian tourists we were glad to find a place to stay, called Pai Chan. At this little guest house we got our own little hut, nestled in a lush garden beside a pool, complete with views over the corn fields. Already we wished we had more time here!
*There is in fact quite a few routes you can do in Northern Thailand, but the one we choose is the most popular.
**Compared to the loop in Lao, which was generally done by travellers hiring rubbish bikes, the routes in Thailand are mainly done by bikers with very nice bikes.
*** These bikes were not up to what we had got in Lao, they were only 115cc (35cc less) and older.
****And who doesn't love Pie (I even love Pi!)