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). After more as 10 years motorbike riding in Thailand I have done most routes, to read my reports of motorbike riding click on Motorbike Trip Reports.
You will find already many information about the famous Pai & Mae Hong Son Loop, so I will skip that. I will just add some routes that I have been riding in North Thailand. And for routes in Nan provinces you will have to look at Recommended Motorbike Routes in Nan province. So this will mostly cover the provinces of Phrae, Uttaradit, Phayao, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Lampang, Lamphun, Sukhothai and Tak.
Latest update : 24 June 2019 !
WarningBe aware that after rain the 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 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 Doi Mae Salong. 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 Thailand.
1. From Chiang Mai to Mae Sai
There are many ways to ride from Chiang Mai to Mae Sai, this route follows the Thai-Myanmar border. I would not ride this in 1 day but make a stop in Doi Ang Khang (a Chinese border village) and / or Doi Mae Salong (a Chinese mountain village). Take route 107 to Chiang Dao, then make an almost loop west via route 1332 and route 1178. Then follow route 1340 Doi Ang Khang. From there take route 107, route 1089 and route 1130 to Doi Mae Salong. From here take route continue on route 1130 (passing Doi Tung) and then route 1338 and route 1149 to Mae Sai. Route 1149 goes right on the Thai-Myanmar border and you will be passing military check-points.
2. Mai Sai to Chiang Khong
Again not the shortest route, but following the Mekong River. I love the Mekong River! From Mae Sai take route 1041 and route 1290 to the (in)famous Golden Triangle. After a sight-seeing stop at the Golden Triangle continue on route 1290 to Chiang Saen. After Chiang Saen keep on following route 1290 along the Mekong River. But somewhere route 1290 take a short-cut, try to keep on following along the Mekong River. Later this road will join again with route 1290 along the Mekong River in direction of Chiang Khong. Chiang Khong is a lovely small town with restaurants, pubs and many hotels. Personally I always like to stay right along the Mekong River.
3. From Chiang Khong to Chiang Kham
Again a route with stunning scenery and side-trips along the Thai-Lao border. From Chiang Khong start following route 1020 to the south. Then a bit after the bridge over the Mekong River take a left to route 1155 and keep following the Mekong River again. Then at a certain moment route 1155 will leave the Mekong River, but after a few km you can take a left Kaeng Pha Dai as a small side-trip. This is the point where the Mekong River stops being a border between Thailand and Laos. Then ride back to route 1155 again, after about 15 km take a left for route 4029 in direction of Doi Pha Tang, a beautiful viewpoint on the Thai-Lao border. From there start following route 1093 to Phu Chi Fa where is a stunning cliff overlooking Laos. After that keep on following route 1093 to Phu Sang Waterfall, right along the road. Keep on following route 1093, take a right for route 4010 and then a left for route 1021 to Chiang Kham.
4. From Phayao to Chiang Mai via Phrao
Again a lovely mountain sight-seeing route with beautiful scenery. And just via Phrao because I did the other route via route 118 already. From Phayao via route 1 to route 120. Then a little bit route 118 and then to the left for route 1150 to Phrao. I did stay overnight in Phrao town but a little bit north of Phrao town is a great resort. From Phrao take route 1001 all the way to Chiang Mai.
5. Taking the long way home from Lampang to Chiang Mai
Why this route? Because you will be riding route 1252 and passing Chae Son National Park. Take route 1035 to the north of Lampang, passing Kieuw Lom Reservoir. After awhile route 1035 changes into route 1287 and then in route 1252 that goes into the mountains. Once over the mountains and in Chiang Mai province I took route 4063 (with a bit of side-trip you can visit The Giant Tree) and route 1317 around the mountains in direction of Chiang Mai town.
6. Following the rail road from Lampang to Chiang Mai
Why this route? Because you will be passing Doi Khun Tan National Park and Khun Tan Train Tunnel. From Lampang take route 1039 to the west and after about 20 km (near Hang Chat) turn right in direction of Ban Huai Rian. Just keep following the small road into the mountains to Ban Mae Tan. From here it seems to be route 5017 to Khun Tan. Here you can take a left to the famous Khun Tan train tunnel, be aware the road is very small and steep. Keep on following the road to Ban Tha Pha Sak. Take a right (route 1229?) to Ban Mai Don Kaeo. Keep following route 1229 until you hit route 1317. take a left to Chiang Mai town.