Motorcycle log - Riding the round trip from Chiang Mai to Doi Inthanon and back, into the clouds and through the highest point in Thailand

Another week another motorcycle trip!

This time it was to the highest peak in Thailand, Doi Inthanon.

It was around 110km to the peak, so a 220km round trip. Not too far, but once again riding on a small 115cc bike - my trusty 4 speed semi-auto Suzuki Shooter (that in my previous post, I rode 500km in one day).

The trip

Departing from Chiang Mai at around 830am it was pretty cold - the weather has been and a peak of coldness recently. As I only really own what's in my backpack I had only three layers on, a vest, t-shirt and a hoody. I should invest in something warmer, but don't really have the space, or feel the need. I'll regret that later in this trip.

The ride out from Chiang Mai is pretty simple, head down on the 108 and basically follow the signs for Doi Inthanon there after. The 108 is pretty much a long straight, dusty road that sporadically provides a small town here and there, it was pretty unremarkable but just a necessary part of the ride. There are lots of fuel stops everywhere which is good to know, as there aren't so many when you get in the park.

Standard roads

After churning through the 60 or so kilometers, we threw a right and headed toward the national park. The park is sealed with a gate. If you want to go to the summit, you'll have to pay for a ticket.

As most of the people who've been in Thailand a while, there are broadly two prices:

  • The Thai price
  • The farang (foreigner) price

Recently there's been a lot of talk about the disparity between these two prices and at the national park it's not different. With the farang price being six times more expensive! Damnnnnn!

Ticket prices

But still, you've got to ignore the price differential and the apparent 'false cost fallacy', even though it was relatively more expensive it we must focus on the value that it gives us, not the illusion of cheap or expensive.

We headed through the gates and rode a few KMs up the rode to Mae Klang Waterfall. The immediate impressions eroded the perceived cost disparity in the ticket and the value was there instantly. The waterfalls were really impressive and offered hiking trails both up and down them.

Mae Klang Waterfall

Most tourists tended to congregate around the base of the falls, but for the awesome views away from throngs of selfie sticks and other BS, both of the hiking trails offer much more and don't take particularly long to hike - so I'd 100% recommend investigating them!

The next stop was only a few more kilometers up the road and was Sirithan Waterfall. This waterfall has a rickety base viewing platform, but also a pretty well hidden hiking path down to the base of the waterfall. This trail is pretty dangerous, it's very slippery, steep and narrow, with sheer drops on the waterfall facing side, it requires some climbing effort and decent shoes. If you can make it down, it's totally worth it as you have access to the falls themselves and can experience them in a way that most other tourists don't get to from the viewing platform.

Sirithan waterfalls

waterfall gif

As the day was progress pretty quickly (it was already past 12pm by this point) we decided to make a push on to the summit. As we pressed on, the roads started to get steeper and much colder. We rose up and through the clouds, where visibility was pretty poor.

Cloud riding

After the previous ride to Burma on the same bike, the noise I convinced my self was the chain in the end (it wasn't - it was definitely the gearbox/transmission, maybe a worn pinion gear) returned, it's pretty concerning when you hear the continuous groan and knocking noise but still, you just gotta get on with it.

A few kms past into the clouds, we emerged into bright sunlight above them. The infinite blue sky was instantly warming and a huge relief. Even though my bike sounded like it was about to imminently explode and my friend's bike was beyond low on fuel, it was a good moment.

blue sky

We soon passed a cool looking temple on the left - not remembering what it was called. The entrance was an additional 40 baht, and as we were a bit low on time decided to pass. We pushed to the summit, which is pretty much a carpark outside a radar station, it felt like one of the maps from the James Bond games - pretty cool. And cool literally, it was super cold, around 12c up here.

radar station

To get to the summit, you have to take a small trail which leads you to the summit sign:

Summit

Also there's a cafe up here selling coffee, as well as cakes, pot noodles and some local foods - I bought a box of Tamarind with sugar and chilli for 10baht! I'd never had Taramind before, it was pretty strange to me. It reminded me of a natural version of the Haribo Tangfastics, crossed with a french pea pod. It's a soft kind sticky fruit on the outside with the 'peas' which are in-edible hard stones in the middle. The Haribo element comes in with the sourness combined with the sugar. It's pretty awesome.

Tamarind

A short walk from the summit is the nature trail loop - a wooden platform which loops around under the canopy providing a bit of education about the natural eco-system and just something cool to do. The foliage was surprisingly boggy underneath the boards, but still it was cool!

It was time to come down, so we began our decent - which pretty much involved being rolled off the throttle the whole time to save fuel and to give my shredded gearbox a rest. The immediate decent was pretty warm until we headed into the clouds..

Descending Descending again Descending into the clouds Riding into the clouds

It gets pretty slippery - the roads become damp and tyres became cold - making sure you take the nice line is pretty important as it could easily be the different between dropping your bike and not in those conditions.

We took a quick stop around halfway down at Ban Khun Khlang - it's a local market on the road selling mainly the same stuff of every stand. We picked up a bag of roasted Taro/Yam for 20baht - 10/10 would recommend.

The market

They also have a self-serve petrol station called Red Oil, although my mate still had 1/8th of a tank which was probably enough to make it down the mountain whilst making it exciting, so we continued to push on!

Bike under pegoda

And really, the rest of the way down and back was pretty uneventful - there was some insane displays of terrible driving as drivers pulled out without looking, or some superbikers made reckless overtakes of cars - but all was fine.

Summary

This ride was fun, with great nature! It's cold, the national park ticket is expensive but I would 100% recommend it!

Phil Hudson

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