The Golden Triangle region of northern Thailand is dirt bike paradise and riders can expect rocky climbs, jungle trails and river crossings, plus of course stunning mountain views, spectacular waterfalls, ancient temples and a unique opportunity to ride through remote hill tribe villages.
We ran a recce trip to Thailand in 2014, and in October 2015 Steve led our first official Thailand Dirt Bike Adventure. It was a fantastic trip, and for one rider in particular it was a definitely a ‘Big Adventure’ as he’d never done anything like this before.
Steve met our Big Adventure clients in the vibrant city of Chiang Mai on the afternoon of Friday 16th October. Coming from the UK were Trevor Evans and Phil Nash who have been friends since school, and Sanj Sivarajah who is a city trader taking 6 month’s sabbatical to try things that he has never done before. Mike Gunn flew in from Mississippi and he was the ‘Old Fart’ of the group (he even wanted ‘Old Fart’ on the back of his rider shirt!). Joining Steve, Trevor, Phil, Sanj and Mike on this trip were Duncan who was our lead rider, Con the sweep rider, and Bas driving the support vehicle.
On the first day Trevor, Phil, Sanj and Mike visited Doi Suthep Temple, Tiger Kingdom and the elephant sanctuary. In the evening we had our first group meal together at Dash which is one of Chiang Mai’s best restaurants.
Ride Day 1
We left Chiang Mai early this morning and headed into the jungle, destination Mae Chaem. It was an awesome first day! We had rocky climbs, lots of sand, amazing jungle trails and then we followed a riverbed through the bottom of a valley. This was Sanj’s first dirt bike trip and he had a baptism of fire with a couple of tumbles, but he still had a massive smile on his face when we pulled in to our resort at Mae Chaem.
Mae Chaem is a beautiful place and it offers spectacular views of Doi Inthanon, which is Thailand’s highest mountain at 2565 metres. Doi Inthanon is actually part of the Himalayas (the mountain range that stretches from Nepal and Bhutan, across to Burma and Northern Thailand) and the Doi Inthanon National Park is known at the ‘Roof of Thailand’.
Ride Day 2
Today we rode from Mae Chaem to Mae Sariang. From the recce trip last year we knew that there had to be a way across the hills - we tried to find it last time, but had to give up and turn back. Today however we found it! A scary swing bridge across a fast moving river led us to some awesome single track riding. Steep rutted climbs and descents took us through some very remote hill tribe settlements where the curious locals looked at us like we are from another planet dressed up in our riding gear!
We spent the night in the town of Mae Sariang surrounded by mountainous jungles and breathtakingly, beautiful scenery.
Ride Day 3
This morning’s ride out to the Salawin National Park was amazing, and the day just got better and better as we dropped into the valley below us. We had over 30 river crossings today, but somehow everyone remained relatively dry!
We rode on a trail to the Salawin River which forms the border with Burma. This trail isn’t used as often these days due to a new road, however this just meant more fun for us as we tried to find it before it became overgrown and impassable. Two fallen trees made things even more interesting, but with everyone working together we made it to the Burmese border for a well earned warm orange juice and rancid fish flavoured crisps!
We then made our way back to Mae Sariang where we had a delicious Thai meal.
Ride Day 4
Today’s journey from Mae Sariang to Mae Hong Son was epic! We started the day on the famous Mae Hong Son loop for a quick blast along twisty pristine tarmac before heading off on to dirt for some amazing remote single track riding which involved trailblazing through the jungle as the trail is no longer used and is completely overgrown in places!
Just like the previous day we had lots of river crossings and it was seriously tough, but thanks to team work and our sense of adventure we managed it. At times it looked like we might to need to build a shelter in the jungle for the night, but we made it through in the end and rolled in to Mae Hong Son just as the sun was setting.
Today we had a well earned rest day in the remote mountain town of Mae Hong Son
Ride Day 6
Today we left Mae Hong Son and we followed the ‘elephant trail’ which was the ancient elephant trading route from Burma to Chiang Mai. We stopped for a very tasty lunch of noodle soup with pork and beef balls in a hill tribe village before reaching Pai - the backpacker capital of northern Thailand!
Ride Day 7
This was an incredible riding day. As we left Pai and headed towards the Burmese border the trails became steeper with more ruts and very technical.
We stopped at the site of a crashed army helicopter in the middle of the jungle to take some photos, and then we had a quick break for lunch in a Shan state village before tackling the toughest ride of the trip yet. A fantastic climb on a little used single track trail led us to a very steep and slippery descent into Wiang Haeng. It was certainly tough, but there was a great team spirit amongst our group and we pushed through the challenges.
Unfortunately we had the first mechanical problem of the trip - a particularly nasty climb today led to Phil burning his clutch out and Duncan having to change the clutch in the middle of the jungle. A local hill tribe man heading out to hunt for his dinner found us very amusing!
It was an amazing, but tough day! The ice cold Chang beers we drank upon arrival in Wiang Haeng had never tasted so good!
Ride Day 8
Today we rode from Wiang Haeng to Chiang Dao. The first half of the day was a very pleasant trail ride following a river, and then in the afternoon we headed off to see some of the more remote hill tribes which meant a more technical ride with some very steep sections. The hill tribe villagers took a lot of interest in us dressed in our riding gear and making lots of noise as we tackled the hills around their villages.
Arriving at Chiang Dao is always a wonderful moment. The hotel where we spend the night nestles in the shadow of the mighty Chiang Dao Mountain and it’s an incredibly beautiful and serene setting. Chiang Dao is nicknamed "Little Tuscany" and there are actually a few local wines produced in the area.
Ride Day 9
Our final day’s riding was fantastic as we rode from Chiang Dao back to busy, bustling Chiang Mai. We rode through beautiful national parks, however it wasn’t an easy ride as we encountered some of the steepest, rockiest, narrowest and scariest sections of our entire journey!
Back in Chiang Mai we had a well earned rest day where we reflected on the many highlights of our Big Thailand Adventure, and then it was time to say our goodbyes as we each headed back to the airport for our flights home.