Mae Sariang to Khun Yuam

Nov 15, 2022

We left our hotel in Mae Sariang, returned to the 108 road and continued north. The road is nice, and the traffic is fairly light, consisting of a few cars, some Toyota pickups with large cargo walls made of steel pipes and carrying farm staples: crops such as rice, bananas, papayas, or hay; and the steady stream of locals on scooters.

Thailand is sometimes referred to as the “World Capital of Scooters” and the “Land of One Million Scooters”, and it’s true. More than 80% of Thai households own a motorbike. Many have been modified to pull a trailer or have a sidecar attached. Some of the sidecars are actually the Thai version of a pop-up food truck. Some of the scooters are fully functional and some run enough to get by, but may not be roadworthy or registered. Thai police turn a blind eye to these locals for the most part. Of course it’s a different story if you’re a tourist on an unregistered scooter.

The scooters are very intent about riding only on the far left side of the lane (traffic here drives on the left, like in the UK). The scooters only leave the left edge of the road to pass another scooter or to turn right, and sometimes even then they stop on the left edge and wait for a break in traffic to turn right.

It’s not uncommon to see a family of three or four on a scooter. In the US, motorcyclists scoff at “small” motorcycles of less than 250cc and eapecially at mopeds and scooters. They think these are vehicles for children and only good for distances of a few blocks at a time. Here, they are the workhorses of the people, and adding a sidecar full of equipment and three more people to a 125cc machine is normal.

As we head north we are rarely out of sight of a scooter regardless of how far out in “the country” we are. I try to be vigilant of traffic behind me as I pull out to pass scooters; the approaching cars behind us sometimes assume we are another scooter and not capable of passing the other scooters at speed, so they don’t expect us to pull to the right to pass.

Just north of Khun Yuam we turn right onto a side road and begin climbing to the Thung Bua Tong fields at Doi Mae U Kho. We ride through miles and miles of rice paddies and a few small villages before suddenly emerging into the fields.

This seemingly random area atop these hills is covered in large sunflowers.

As quickly as they appear, they are gone again as we descend the other side of the hill. Just a few kilometers down the road we find Posaho Café and stop for a coffee and an iced Thai Green Tea.

Not Starbucks. What Starbucks should be.

Overlooking the fields from the deck at Posaho Café.

No mechanical farm equipment here. Everything is done by hand.

As we remounted to leave, the bike wouldn’t start. We’d been having this problem on occasion and I had narrowed it down to either the key switch of the engine stop switch. I had Diana try to push me and bump-start the bike (resulting in a burst of giggles from the children at the cafe, but no success). It became more clear that the problem was in the stop switch when, after flipping it on and off several times, I could suddenly hear the fuel pump start running. At that point the bike fired up and we were on our way.

About one kilometer down the road I had just begun to tell Diana over the intercom “I think it’s going to rain”, when half way through the sentence the skies opened. There was no reason at that point to stop and put on our rain gear as we were already soaked. Combined with the cooler temperatures at higher elevation, it quickly became quite chilly. The road quickly turned to a river of flowing red mud in places. We continued like this for about ten minutes until the sun broke out of the clouds. By the time we arrived at our hotel in Khun Yuam we had mostly dried out.

Our hotel for the night. Even the nicer places such as this are cheaper than camp sites in Europe and the US.

The owner of the hotel, like all Thai people we’ve met, was very nice. When she asked if we wanted a room in the main building or a bungalow for the same price, I asked which was nicer. Her response: she looked at me and said “The main building is not so far to walk.” Ouch. I hate getting old.

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