Day 1 – I landed in Chiangmai Airport, northern capital of Thailand around late afternoon. Took the hotel limo bus to Pornping Tower Hotel in the old city of Chiangmai. Upon my arrival at the hotel, I can see my rental bike is already standing by the front entrance and the rental shop owner greeting me with a big friendly smile. Thanks to the pre-arrangement by the President of BMWMCT, I was able to get such a nice service. I quickly checked in and contacted my biker friend Kuhn Tan (former president of BMWMCT). We have made plans to meet up early the next morning so we can ride to Mae Sariang (the famous Mae Hong Son loop).
Day 2 - We met at the gas station just outside of Chiangmai city and rode to Mae Klang Waterfall for a coffee break. Then continued riding to Mae Sariang to meet up with the main BMW group riding up from Bangkok the day before. They opt to stay overnight at Tha-Song-Yang, TAK Province by the Myanmar border so we can meet for lunch by the riverside restaurant of Mae Sariang. After the great re-union lunch, the whole of about 15 bikes ride north to Mae Hong Song, a town in the mountains with many different minority tribes. This is also the place to get a certificate from the Tourist Office to prove you have survived the 1,864 sharp curves that completes the Mae Hong Son loop..
Day 3 – We got up at 4:30am to go to the morning market where all of the hill tribe folks are selling their native produce. It was a cold foggy morning with temp. only at around 10 degrees C. Fortunately, we were able to get so hot tasty congee for breakfast at the market place. We spent the morning enjoying the peace and quiet of this small town and snooping around the temples and small streets with interesting small shops. We rode off to visit the Long Neck Village in the afternoon where women of this hill tribe have a custom to put copper rings around their neck at a very young age. This caused the extension of the neck to grow longer as the years go by. The longer the neck the more rings they can wear, thus the high social status they can achieve. We head for Pai in the late afternoon and stayed in Tha Pai hot spa resort just outside of town. After dinner, everyone jumped into the hot spa pool just outside our room. Cool mountain air filled the night but the hot spa rejuvenated our tired body
Day 4 – Another quick dip in the hot spa before breakfast and everyone jumped on their bike full of energy. We rode back to Chiangmai early afternoon in time for the big party of Chiangmai Bike Week 2003. It is my 3rd time to this grand event where more than 1000 big bike from Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore meet. There was a large group ride around the countryside of Chiangmai in the afternoon but we decided to give it a miss and only go to the dinner party held at the plaza of Mae Ping Hotel. Bike show, stunt show, booths mended by motorcycle trade, rock band and live native and pop dancing filled the night, not to mention the noisy reunion of bikers from many countries and the Miss Chiangmai Bike Week contest. It was a hell of a party.
Day 5 – Our group didn’t drink too much as we need to head off into the mountains again. It is a long ride to Mae Ai along the army trail by the Myanmar border. This trail is not known to many local bikers so there is almost no traffic. But it also means it is less important to maintain it. We have to dance around fallen rocks, over grown weeds and some land slides till late afternoon where we have traveled 2/3 of the way. Then there is a big gap on the road and we decided not to risk crossing it as we have some riders with less experience. Back tracking 60km and find another route to Mae Ai in the dark is a difficult job but we managed to arrive safely at Tha-Ton Chalet. We shared our exciting experience of the day having a late night dinner by the Tha-Ton river.
Day 6 – Early morning, we made the pilgrimage to the Tha-Ton temple at the top of the mountain where we reached the 9th heaven. Then a quick spin pass Mae Sai, Chaing Saen and Chiang Khong where it is famous to the world as the ‘Golden Triangle’. We had lunch by the Mae Nam River overlooking the border of Myanmar & Laos. Thanks to the Thai government’s anti-drug policy, many Thai farmers and hill tribes have given up growing ‘the crop’ but we were told many still do on the other side of the river. Leaving the Mae Nam River we dart up the tallest mountain bordering Thai-Laos and stayed at the Phi Chi Fa National Park camp ground. Some opted for camping but I settled in nicely in a small bungalow where it is much warmer at night.. We had a barn fire party hat night and learn to sing some Thai folk songs.
Day 7 – It’s a 4:30am morning call again and we put all our clothes on in the cold dark night. Half an hour’s ride later on a wet and slippery road we came to a parking area. Heading up 800m elevation to the peak of Phu Chi Fa sounds easy but it is different with all your riding gear and heavy boots on. By the time we got to the top, we were greeted by hundreds of folks already there waiting to see the sun rise. The amazing and breath taking sunrise made the tough hill climb worth its effort. We took breakfast back at the national park camping ground and started to move to Nan late morning. We have booked ourselves into the Doi Phoo Kha National Park where they have very modern facilities and bungalows that can house 10-12 people each. Dinner was out on the terrace under the star light.
Day 8 – I said goodbye to my BMW friends after breakfast as they made their way back to Bangkok from Nan. I rode back to Chiangmai via Chiangmuan and Phayao by myself. Since I have traveled on this beautiful mountain road last year, I took my time enjoying the scenic drive and made it back to Chiangmai before sunset.
Day 9 – Returned the bike in one piece and say goodbye to a few friends then fly back home. Thanks again for the friendship and assistance from both the BMWMCT & North Comet (organizer of CMBW 2003). I am returning for the 2004 & 2005 Chaingmai Bike Week!
For more photos of Franki's trip to Thailand, please check out his album on Yahoo .