It was an early start yesterday as we decided to head out for a road trip on our rented red Yamaha Filano scooter – sexy wheels!
Packing a whole 125cc of raw power, we headed north out of Chaing Rai on Route 1 – a long, straight road that had a fair amount of morning traffic on it, though nothing too bad apart from quite a few trucks full of pigs headed out for a lovely day in the countryside (right? Right?).
We followed Route One for just under 30 rather dull kilometres until we were approaching Mae Chan, taking a left turn onto Route 107 just before the town. The road immediately improves as it heads east, beginning to twist and turn through some attractive scenery. There are plenty of side roads you could take to explore villages and find waterfalls, but we headed onwards, enjoying the ride.
Using Google Maps to navigate the journey is a bit of a lottery – it seems unsure of where Route 107 becomes the 1089 and also is rather vague as to where Mae Salong actually is! I’ve plotted the route we took onto the map above, so you can see exactly where we went.
We decided to travel perhaps a little further than necessary down the 107, so that we could take the twisty-looking 1089 up to Mae Salong – we weren’t disappointed. The road is almost deserted and offers fantastic riding, even for two novices like us – just don’t ride like a maniac and crash through the barriers or you’ll have time to call your loved ones to say goodbye before you hit the bottom.
At this time of year (March), there seems to be a constant haziness to the weather – bit of a shame as the views would be even more spectacular on a really clear day (I use Lightroom CC to edit images and had to use the dehaze slider a lot!).
The road surface on the 107 and 1089 was generally good, though there are a few potholes to look out for. Part of the 1089 was being resurfaced, which meant a few kms riding on dusty gravel on some pretty steep sections, but it was nothing we couldn’t manage.
As I said, Google doesn’t really seem to have a clue where Mae Salong is, and we found ourselves entering the town about 15kms before our phone expected us to. You’ll know you’re there as you’ll see the Chinese Martyrs Museum on the right, just as you arrive in town. For 20 bath it’s worth a visit – it has a fair amount of information in English (you can read more about it here).
Leaving there, we headed through the town to Sweet Mae Salong cafe for a snack: delicious home made croissants and refreshing local oolong tea, all while looking out over a beautiful green valley…
Heading back into the centre of the town (which is essentially a main street with a few other streets branching off), we parked up the scooter near the market and had a quick wander around, picking up a tea set for 200 baht (about £4) and looking at the different shops selling all the local teas.
You really feel like you’re almost in a Chinese village as you walk around, and in everything but geography you are – the main language you’ll hear is not Thai; it’s Yunnanese.
We then headed back up the hill to Phra Boromathat Chedi and Wat Santikhiri – the stupa and temple above the town. The Wat is nothing special to look at (no doubt you may be ‘templed out’ in Thailand by now!), so we parked the bike there and headed up the steps to the Chedi, which overlooks the town and surrounding area and offers views across towards Myanmar. Now had we known how many steps there’d be, we may well have taken the option of riding up the steep road, but ignorance is bliss. Well bliss isn’t quite the right word; it was tiring and blooming hot 🙂 Anyway, our efforts we rewarded at the top, with a breathtaking view of a BLOODY BUILDING SITE!!!
Actually, the views of the surrounding area were fantastic…
On our way down we decided to count the steps: I made it 707, while Lisa counted 716. A quick google search tells me it’s actually 719. Damn, Lisa wins again 😦
By now it was definitely time for lunch, so it was back down into town for a plate of braised pork leg, which came with some fluffy dumpling things – absolutely delicious!
We then headed East out of Mae Salong on Route 1234 – a really twisty, enjoyable road to ride and, again, nice and quiet. On the way we stopped off at a tea plantation, mainly as it had some huge, quite bonkers sculptures outside it. I guess a downside of being in the area in the low season is that the plantation was absolutely deserted, apart from three rather territorial dogs who stole Lisa’s water bottle 🙂
There were (again) some gorgeous views though…
After that, it was back on the road for the long ride back to Chiang Rai. The route was very easy to follow, though is very steep and very twisty – really enjoyable! The 1234 eventually becomes the 1130 (though I can’t for the life of me remember it happening – I think it was a right turn at a T-junction) and then this takes you back to Route 1 which you follow for just over 30 km back into Chiang Rai.
All in all, a fantastic way to spend a day away from the tourist track. We enjoyed the riding and the views and food were brilliant. If you’ve any questions, we’ll do our best to help – our email is firstname.lastname@example.org