Sometimes The Road IS The Attraction

Nov 27, 2022

For about ten days now I’ve managed to prove myself wrong at the end of each day.

Every day I tell myself “it can’t get any better than this”. Then it does.

I knew the Mae Hong Son Loop was famous for its’ scenery, and there is a lot to like about it. Most of the loop passes through forest on mountains and hillsides, with patches carved out by local farmers who grow everything from tropical fruits to rice, tea and coffee.

What I didn’t know was how good the road itself would be. Yes, there are occasional spots where a hill has slid due to all the rain, taking sections of road with it, or simply depositing the contents of the hillside onto the road; utility poles, power lines, trees and mud. But these are few and far between compared to the spectacular sections of smooth twisty pavement.

On the way to Pai from Cave Lodge, I thought it couldn’t get any better. This was like the Tail of the Dragon, but with much more elevation change.

If you’ve ever done the climb up Ortega Highway from Lake Elsinore to the Lookout, think of that road and those curves. Now add lush forest, and extend it for about 60 miles.

Then we rode from Pai to the Witch’s House at Pa Pae, and I thought to myself, “Okay I stand corrected: it does get better. But this must be the best.”

Screenshot of the section of 1095 to the Witch’s House. Not much rest but lots of smiling.

Then we left Pa Pae and continued on 1095 towards Chiang Dao, and I said, “This is my favorite stretch of road.”

A day later and north of Chiang Dao we headed to Doi Mae Salong and then on to Pha Chang Noi, also known as Magic Mountain. By now I decided it was best to just keep my mouth shut, as it seemed like every time I said “it can’t get any better”, the road proved me wrong.

You can leave the sound off for the video…unless you just want to experience the sound of the tremendous power of the Honda CB500 (or just wind noise in an iPhone).

The view from Route 1148 Cafe on Magic Mountain.

Route 1148 Cafe. Popular biker hangout on Magic Mountain.

Most of our dinners are at places like this one (Na khor koi, in Sila Phet). Outside table, under a thatched roof, overlooking the hills and fields.

The menu at Na khor koi. Just pick something under “Yummy”.

Looking out at the fields from our room near Pua. This place had no English name, and was down a tiny road behind town. My kinda place.

Yet again this morning, on our way to Number Three Curve (and beyond), the roads continued to surpass my expectations, getting better and better; smoother, more fun, with lots of decreasing radius corners on steep hills just to keep you alert.

We had just left our room this morning when we passed a sign that said “No. 3 Curve 26 kilometers”, and I was suddenly reminded that we needed to go there.

You would think we were at Disneyland from all of the tourists posing for photos in the middle of the road. It’s not just motorcyclists who appreciate these beautiful stretches of tarmac.

Pretty obvious why they call it the “Number 3 Curve”

So yes, there are lots of interesting sights in Northern Thailand, but if you look around on your way there, you may find, as we did, that the road itself is one of the most interesting. This place gives true meaning to the old saying, “it’s not the destination, but the journey.” This may sound crazy, but I think I like the roads here better than the Swiss Alps. The scenery may not be quite as dramatic, but the road itself is worth every minute.

How can you not love Thailand for motorcycle touring?

It’s true…I love Thailand roads.

3 thoughts on “Sometimes The Road IS The Attraction

  1. They have done a lot of roadwork in the last 50+ years – looks like motorcycle paradise.

  2. Roads look awesome. I’m trying to figure out their road edge guarding system. In some spots, there is a nice, smooth concrete wall, and in others it looks like they have those darn i-beam meat shredders under the guard rail like we have. Is there any rhyme or reason for which method they use?

    • I’m sure there must be some explanation for it that I’m not aware of. Even better here in Vietnam: they have Armco barrier around the outside of the turns in the mountains where the steepest drop offs are. But just past the apex they leave about a six to eight foot section open (right about where you’d hit if you blew the turn). Haven’t figured that one out yet either!

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