Mae Hong Son loop and beyond

Monday 30th October 2023 – Mae Sariang

The ride to Mae Sariang is, as usual, very beautiful, up and down passes and very tight steep bends. It’s good fun.

The morning is grey and looks like rain but eventually, the sky clears up a bit and we ride dry. We arrive in town mid afternoon. We find our guesthouse and we have a nice little bungalow. It’s simple, as usual, but this time the shower in not above the toilet and flooding the full bathroom after a shower. That’s nice!

Late afternoon we walk into town as the sun sets. The town is decorated with thousands of “Chinese lanterns “ type all over the streets, temples, bridge etc…

The day before, Sunday Big Buddha day, all was closed. It is called the also Buddhist lent day. A major religious holiday. Today, celebrations start.

The era hundreds of market stalls , temples, streets, official buildings, everything is decorated with lanterns and lights. We also see a couple of stages being finalised. We walk around but soon a huge storm arrives and we eventually get back, very wet, to our guesthouse.

Tuesday 31st October 2023 – Chiang Mai

The ride back to Chiang Mai starts dry. Up and down the mountains we cross plenty of streams flowing down for the huge storm last night. It also start raining and as we climb up it gets cold enough.

Eventually after 100km the road leaves the mountains and we get into a very busy 4 lanes road.

We keep having occasional rain as we get closer to town. After 200kms, we finally arrive at our destination.

We drop the bags into our hotel and then take the bikes to the shop. The scooters have been sturdy, good fun and reliable. Definitely worth renting.

One word of warning though. The Thai traffic is very tame, we were given plenty of space when being overtaken, but you don’t need a driving licence to rent a scooter in Thailand. As a result all tourists do that. Most have never been on a scooter ever and probably last time they rode a bicycle they were 5 year old. The result is rather predictable as we saw many (many!) tourists in bandages and / or limping. Anyone considering a ride, do yourself a favour and get a day training back home first.

In the evening we walk to the famous night Bazaar. The place is huge with several massive food and shopping halls as well as streets lined with vendors offering everything from clothes, watches, bags, food, tourist tat, art, etc… we spotted some nice paintings too.

We walk back to our hotel by the main road lined with all the big hotels. Funny enough it is also the red light district and the street is lined with bars filled with local women “dressed to impress”.

Weds. 1st of November 2023 – Chiang Mai

We have a day rest. We go for a long walk around the old town and in the evening we walk back to the night bazaar for a Turkish meal of falafels, humus and tabbouleh for a change.

Thursday 2d November 2023 – Chiang Rai

We get a “taxi” to the bus station and leave town around midday. Chiang Rai is not too far, about 170kms north of Chiang Mai, but it takes over 3h to get there.

We then walk to our backpacker guesthouse nearby.

Once settled and changed ( the aircon can be very cold in the coaches) we go to explore. We end up spending an hour having cake and coffee at a cat coffee house. It’s a coffee house, but with about 20 cats of various breeds. We can even buy treats for the cats. Good fun.

They even have a Sphinx

As we go back to our walk, looking where to rent a scooter for next day, we bump, once again, into the Swiss guy. Finally find out his name: Ralph (Tom for the locals who struggle to pronounce Ralph). After another good chat in to street we continue our quest and reserve a scooter for the next day.

We then find a local place to have a fried sea bass and crispy omelette. Most places offer burgers and beer. The local expat community must be essentially German?

I also found out that the expat community in Chiang Mai is between 20,00 to 30,000 people! Huge. But then life in Thailand is so cheap, safe and pleasant, I can see the attraction. Good place to retire if you have a small pension in the west.