Motorbike riding in Thailand, especially in North Thailand (Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Nan) and North-East Thailand is becoming popular. Not only for Big Motorbikes but also for scooters and even some people do the same routes by bicycle! So in a serie Recommended Motorbike Routes I will show you some great routes to ride. Some people will ride routes like this in 1 day but you could also do it slow and take 2 or 3 days (you will see much more). I am now I think motorbike riding for more as 10 years in Thailand, to read my reports of motorbike riding click on Motorbike Trip Reports. This posting is again under construction to get more information and more routes. And will be updated in the following weeks.
The North-East of Thailand is for motorbike touring and for tourisme in general a bit under-visited area. Although it is a wonderful area with mountains, the mighty Mekong River, ancient Khmer history and lovely small villages and some bigger cities. The routes are chosen to be passing many points of intrest. But you will have to find them yourself. As I did live for 5 years in Khon Kaen city all routes will start in Khon Kaen city. Photo above is one of Thailands most stunning routes to ride, route 2331 to Phu Thap Boek viewpoint. An almost endless serie of curves leading you from about 200m high to about 1500m high in about 20 km distance. Also a popular route for bicycle diehards!
WarningBe aware that after rain roads can be slippery. Especially in the mountains, also in the early morning with fog. In the raining season there could be landslides blocking roads or some parts of road could be washed away.
When to go?Motorbike riding can of course be done the all year round, but personally I hate riding in the rain. Not only because it is not comfortable but also because roads in Thailand become much more dangerous in the rain. And I do not like riding in the real hot season with temperatures of 38 to 42 degrees Celsius. So my personal best riding season is from November to March. But also during the end of the raining season, let's say September & October.
AccommodationDon't worry about accommodation, there are small hotels almost everywhere. Most you will find on BOOKING or Agoda but others you will just find by riding along. Except of course during high season for Thai tourism and at popular places. Like a long-weekend (national holiday) in November or December and you want to stay in Chiang Khan. Well then be prepared that it will be busy and that all hotels will be full. I made a kind of review from almost all places I stayed in, see All Accommodation in North-East Thailand.
1. From Khon Kaen to Lomsak (430 km)
This route includes one of Thailands most curve & steep mountain roads! My trips west-wards did mostly go to Loei province. There are many ways to get there, but I always try to avoid the big highways. I really hate route 12! So I always start on the west-side of Khon Kaen at the PTT gasoline station along route 12. After about 20 km you make a u-turn and ride 500m back to take a left in direction of Ubolratana Lake. Just follow the signs on the small local roads along the lake in direction of Ubolratana. After about 40 km you will enter a T-section at route 2109. Go left and after 500m go right again. After about 5 km the road will change from route 2109 to route 2146. But just follow the signs Loei and follow the main road. About 3 km after the PTT gasoline station (left) there is a T-section where we go left. Just keep on following the main road (route 2146) to the lake again and then along the lake again. Continue on route 2146 until Song Sila where you will hit a T-section with .... route 2146. Take a right in direction of Nong Bua Lamphu. Keep on following route 2146 until just south of Nong Bua Lamphu where you hit a T-section with route 228.
Go to the right and continue straight ahead into Nong Bua Lamphu. Until you get at an intersection with route 210. Go to the left and follow route 210 in direction of Wang Saphung. You will be passing the Erawan Cave. Here you will hit an intersection with route 201, go to the right in direction of Loei. Just follow the road for another 20 km and in Loei you will hit a T-section with route 21. Go to the left in direction of Phu Ruea. Just follow route 21 for another 70 km until you get at a kind of T-section where you take a right to Dan Sai. Just follow route 2013 to Dan Sai. Drive straight thru Dan Sai and keep following route 2013 in direction of Nakhon Thai.
Just before Nakhon Thai there is a Y-section. Take a left in direction of Phu Hin Rong Khla. After about 5 km there is a T-section, take a left in direction of Phu Hin Rong Khla National Park. Just follow route 2331 to, into and thru Phu Hin Rong Khla National Park (entrance fee!!!). Route 2331 goes to the other side to Phu Thap Boek and from there it goes down via one of Thailands most curvy and stunning routes.
2. Loei Loop (600 km)
This route includes some other famous motorbike riding routes. Route 12 might be at many places a bit boring or even uncomfortable busy, but between Chumpae and Lom Sak route 12 goes thru the mountains Nam Nao National Park (no entrance fee, only check point). A really great road to be motorbike riding! And route 21 along Phu Ruea is also a great road. Again the trip starts at the PTT gasoline station along route 12 on the west-side of Khon Kaen. It is simple, just follow route 12 all the way until Lom Sak. Along the route are a few nice view points. At Lom Sak there is a an big intersection with route 21. Here you go to the right into Lom Sak. In the "city" is a small weird intersection without signs, but here you have to go to the left in direction of Phu Ruea and Loei. Just keep on following route 21 and you will be passing stunning mountains and later also Phu Luang and Phu Ruea. At Loei there is a T-section with route 201, take a right in and keep on following route 201 until you get at an big intersection with again route 12. You will be passing Phu Kradung and the Phu Man Forrest Park & Caves. At the intersection with route 12 take a left and follow route 12 all the way back to Khon Kaen. Loei is be a great place to stay overnight, in town are many hotels, restaurants and some pubs. The Saloon is a famous bikers meeting place for a drink and food.
3. The Chiang Khan loop (640 km)
Again the trip starts at the PTT gasoline station along route 12 on the west-side of Khon Kaen. Just follow route 12 until a bit weird intersection with a huge dinosaurs. Here you take a right in direction of Phu Wiang and route 2038. Follow route 2038 until Phu Wiang and keep following the main road that will change into route 2133. Keep on following route 2133 until you hit a T-section with route 228 and take a right in direction of Nong Bua Lamphu. Ride into Nong Bua Lamphu until a T-section and take a left on route 210. Then after about 5km take a right to route 2097.
From here it is going to be all small upcountry road until you will hit route 211 along the Mekong River. I did choose to ride in direction of Sangkhom but you could also enter route 211 a bit more east-wards at Ban Than Thong. Just follow the 211 along the Mekong River until Chiang Khan. At Chiang Khan take a left to Loei via route 201 in direction of Loei city. At Loei you will have to take a left at the main T-section. Then again follow the 201 in direction of Chumphae where you will hit again a T-section with route 12. During this trip you will be passing Phu Wiang, the Mekong River, Chiang Khan, Loei city and Phu Kradung.
4. The Mukdahan loop (560 km)
This trip begins on the east-side of Khon Kaen on route 12 in direction of Kalasin. Just follow the road until Yang Talat. Here you take a left and continue in direction of Kalasin. Some maps call this route 213 but it is also called route 12. Just before Kalasin is a Y-section, take a right. After 1km is an intersection, take a left to route 227. Keep following route 227 (with a few weird curves) in direction of Lam Pao lake. Just after the lake is an T-section in a curve, take a right to route 2041. This goes back to route 12 again. At the intersection with route 12 take a left in direction of Sakhon Nakhon and follow route 213. From here you will start to go into the mountains.
Follow route 213 until just after Sang Kho Police station. Here you take a right to route 2291. Keep following route 2291 until you get to a T-section with route 2287 and take a left. Keep on following route 2287 until Wat Pho Si Keao. There in the curve go straight to a very small road, route 3008. Follow route 3008 until a T-section with 212, take a left for 100m and then a right again to route 3010. Follow route 3010 straight ahead for a few km and you will hit a T-section right along the mighty Mekong River. Take a right in direction of Mukdahan. Following this small road you will end up right in the city of Mukdahan.
From Mukdahan take the upcountry road back to Yang Talat via route 212, route 2047 (Ban Sawat), route 2136, route 2116 (Phon Thong), At Yang Talat enter route 12 again back to Khon Kaen. During this trip you will be passing Lam Pao lake, Mekong River, Mukdahan and Kalasin.
5. The Mekong Route (850 km)
A total of almost 900km! But many nice places to stay overnight. Like Nong Khai, Bung Khan, Nakhon Phanom or Mukdahan. And many things to visit. This route made by Google Maps takes the main roads but in reality many times you can actually take smaller roads and ride really along the Mekong River.
This trip begins north of Khon Kaen on route 2 in direction of Udon Thani. Just follow route 2 until Udon Thani and then take the eastern ring-road (route 216). North of Udon Thani take a right to get to route 2 again. Just follow route 2 until Nong Khai. In Nong Khai you will hit an big T-section, take a right and start following route 212 along the Mekong River. Route 212 goes all the way along the Mekong River and will pass Bung Khan, Nakhon Phanom, That Phanom and Mukdahan. Exit Mukdhan via route 12 and follow route 12 to Somdet. Here take a left and continue on route 12 in direction of Kalasin. Take the ring road and follow route 12 in direction of Yang Talat. From here follow route 12 back to Khon Kaen.
6. To Chulabhorn Dam
OK the first 90 km on route 12 is bloody boring but after that that it becomes lovely upcountry riding with some nice sight-seeing and scenery. The Chulabhorn Reservoir was created in 1970 and is surrounded by the Phu Khiai Wildlife Reserve.