After hearing about our friends’ epic Mae Hong Son Loop adventure over a pre-trip dinner, Steve and I knew that we wanted to do the loop. We began and ended our trip in Chiang Mai and decided to skip Doi Inthanon and head straight for Mae Sariang.
We knew it was going to be a good trip when we got a flat tire 50+ km outside of Chiang Mai. And amazingly it was right in front of a moto repair shop.
Route 108 from Chiang Mai to Mae Sariang, at approximately 180 km was a good warmup for the roads ahead; the roads only got steeper and curvier as the week progressed. Two people on one scooter for over 600 km and 3000+ curves is absolutely grueling and this is probably not the route for a novice. I didn’t realize just how hard the loop was going to be until we’d completed the first day’s ride and I stumbled off of the scooter hardly able to walk.
As soon as we arrived in Mae Sariang we ducked into the Riverview Hotel, which was way too posh for us to stay (1000 Baht/night), but the beer was the right price and the view of the river was superb.
Mae Sariang was our favorite place in Northern Thailand…a small town, a lazy river, and a barely perceptible trickle of tourists.
To break up the monotony of our loop we arranged a trek with “Mr. Salawin” of Salawin Tours. You can find him at the Good View Guesthouse. Steve and I wanted an “off the beaten path” trek…and that’s exactly what we got…for better and worse. We hiked down steep ravines, scaled waterfalls, swung on vines, crossed streams and encountered leeches. Our homestay was superb; the family was friendly and we were provided with plenty of bedding…although Mr. Salawin’s cooking was a little boring.
We had plenty of company for lunch and everyone was curious about the “farang” that had spent the morning trekking to their village. The kids were especially curious and after they warmed up it was hard to get them to settle down again.
If you book with Mr. Salawin don’t expect very much….he’ll probably wing it..in fact I know he’ll wing it and the food won’t be that great, but you’ll have an epic story when you get finished and the villagers along the way will make up for Mr. Salawin’s devil may care attitude.
Also, on the last day, when he was falling far behind us and we were having to wait for him to catch up he informed us that he is diabetic….luckily we had a couple extra snacks with us….oddly enough he couldn’t survive on coffee and cigarettes.
The drive from Mae Sariang to Mae Hong Son was stunning…super green rice paddies, a fun cave and winding mountain roads.