Mae Hong Son Motorbike Loop
Freedom – absolute freedom!
We hired a 125 CC automatic scooter and set off for 10 days of scenic bliss and fresh air! Picture it, Rudi driving in the front, wind in his face and adventure in his eyes, with Jen at the back, singing Bryan Adams, ‘Life is an Open Road’ as loud as she could as we swerved around each curve. Was the road crazy, yes. Did our bums die, yes. Was it the best thing we did in Northern Thailand – YES!!!
The Mae Hong Son loop is a very popular motorbike trip in Northern Thailand, starting and finishing in Chiang Mai. The loop is around 600kms and can be done in as little at 3/4 days. Most people do the loop in an anti-clockwise direction, as follows: Chaing Mai – Mae Taeng – Pai – Soppong – Mae Hong Son – Mae Sariang – Mae Chaem – Mae Na Chon – Chiang Mai.
Our Mae Hong Son Loop Highlights
Chiang Mai – Chiang Dao
70kms – 1 hour & 30min
Chiang Dao is directly North of Chiang Mai and is an 80km detour from the routine drive straight to Pai. It is an untouched area set between lush lime stone cliffs and dusty villages, making it our secret top spot on the loop. The drive there was very easy and enjoyable – great practise before the road to Pai. The first section is flat and quite hot, but the air starts to chill as you make your way along the river and into the dense mountain valleys. We were so happy that we discovered this town on travelfish.com’s blog, as what started off as a quick one night stop ended up being three nights of mountainscapes, cultural hikes and lazy naps in our hammok.
Chiang Dao Accommodation:
Chiang Dao Hut which can be booked through Agoda.com – 300 to 500 Baht per bungalow.
Chiang Dao – Mae Taeng
57kms – 1 hour (we took the whole day)
Mae Taeng is South from Chiang Dao and is the last big town before the mountain road to Pai. Although only a 1 hour drive, we decided to make it a day trip and took the sneaky scenic route through the local farmlands to the Sairung Waterfall. Although the waterfall is small, the drive is absolutely incredible! An overnight stay here was so worth it in order to visit the incredible Mork Fa Waterfall first thing in the morning (when there are no crowds).
Mae Taeng Accommodation:
Relive Resort which can be booked through Agoda.com – Price between 600 – 800 Baht for a bungalow.
Mae Taeng – Pai
101kms – 4 hours
This is the famous section of the loop as you enter the very steep mountain passes and corner turns – 762 hilly curves to be exact. It makes for beautiful scenery and amazing views of the lush surroundings. There are a few restaurants and coffee shops along the way. We wouldn’t recommend this drive as a first time scooter/motorbike driver, but more importantly, we wouldn’t recommend you catch a taxi if you are in any way prone to motion sickness. And becareful of Pai, you may never leave!
Churn Yuen Guesthouse which can be booked through Agoda.com
Pai – Soppong
42km – 1 hour & 3o min
There is a massive mountain pass between these two towns. At the top of the mountain is a spectacular viewpoint, restaurants and a fun round about swing. Here you can also walk a further 2kms to Pang Ma Pha (the highest point in Thailand). The drive from Pai to Soppong can be done as a one day trip. The main attraction at Soppong is the famous Tham Lod Cave, a must see when you’re in the area. We ended up spending two nights at the nearby Cave Lodge which was just dreamy. Pretty sure we could even see Myanmar from here!
The Cave Lodge in a bungalow for 300 baht a night (dorms available for 150 Baht)
If we had to try describe the loop, it would be somewhere between the Jurassic Park and the mountain stage of the Tour De France, but you should really go and find out yourself!
Watch our 10 day trip in 2 minutes with our GOPRO Hero 5:
Recommendations for the Loop:
1. Rent a motorbike/ scooter from a reputable agency in Chiang Mai. We recommend using Tony Big Bike. If they don’t have bikes available, there is a great place opposite Tony Bike rental.
2. Check the brakes, lights and oil before renting. Take the bike for a quick test drive to make sure everything is working. Take pictures of any damages on the bike for your record.
3. We recommend that you do not hand over your passport and rather pay a deposit. The loop is close to the Myanmar border so you are very likely to drive through a passport check road block.
4. Read the T&Cs of your signed lease and make sure that the bike is insured by the agency – it should be.
5. Make sure the bike is licensed and that everything is still valid – there is a police presence on the loop.
6. Get the Maps.Me App – best travel discovery ever (Thanks Jake and Jan)!!
Some typical roads from Mae Taeng to Soppong while using the App:
7. If you don’t want to commit to so much time on the scooter, you are able to hire scooters in Pai too. Allowing you to go one way with taxi or mini van.
8. Our most important tip: Get travel insurance and make sure it covers motorbike accidents (not all do). Also take note that if you don’t have a valid license your insurance probably won’t pay out if you’re in an accident – this is a pretty major risk! Have a look at World Nomads Travel Insurance: