Northern Thailand short-ride.

4 days in ride-heaven (Part 1)

A 4 article series by: Tom Stenshavn

A short 4 day ride with my Norwegian friend, Dag and his girlfriend, Lek

Article 1: Day 1

We knew that this was a gamble, as we set out in the tropical rainy season. Little did we know, that it was going to be every weather except rain on most of this tour.

Started in Chiang Mai city centre on the 16. July, 2020 with the R1001 to Phrao for our first stop. Lost Dag in traffic out of the city, but soon found him again, and after the first transport leg on 90 km. I decided to test Dag a bit on his riding skills, as it is only his second MC tour in Thailand, and I saw that he felled back a bit when I speeded up. I soon found the pace that we both where comfortable with and decided to stretch him all the way to Phrao for our first break and gasoline.

We took a long break at Amazon coffee shop at the big PTT gas station in Phrao and it was HOT!!


Dag already started enjoying the ride, even little did he know that this was actually not going to be an experience compared to what we had in front of us. I said nothing…

The R1001 is a good northern route against both Mae Sai or Chiang Rai, as the R118, who is the shortest one has a lot of construction going on. It has more than 60km of detours with gravel and sand, and is not nice to ride at all yet. I guess still about 2 years until it is done.

Are you going to Chiang Rai, the R1150 over east over the mountain from Phrao is a good alternative. But we were not going to Chiang Rai today, so we headed west on R1150, R1346, R107 and then R1089 further north to our first scenic route, a small detour to Doi Ang Khang on R1249 and on the Myanmar border. A great scenic stop that was actually closed due to the covid19, but we sneaked in and took some photos anyway.  Doi Ankhang is about 90km north of the first stop, so we are on total 180 km so far today.

Situated in a remote valley a stone’s throw from the Thailand-Myanmar border, Doi Ang Khang is surprisingly filled with beauty.

In late afternoon, strong sunlight drives everyone to hide under shade, seeking a mountain breeze to cool down the daytime heat. However, after sunset, the temperature begins to drop sharply. Local people wrap themselves in thick coats, resembling fat bears from a distance.

At an elevation of 1,500 metres above sea level and with a deep valley landscape, Doi Ang Khang, in Fang district is well known for its extreme weather, particularly the coldness. And that is a magnet that attracts people from other parts of the country to experience the temperate climate. When we were here it dropped from 38 degrees in the lowland to about 22 degrees on the top. But this was in the daytime and it can drop to under 0 in the nights some parts of the year.

Established in 1969, Doi Ang Khang is the first research centre of the Royal Project. In an effort to reduce opium plantation, the research centre focuses on promoting fruit plantations for nine villages of hill-tribers and Kuomingtang Chinese.

A temperate climate enables various colourful flowers to grow happily in Doi Ang Khang valley. The research centre itself is made flowers such as rhododendron, lavender, camellia, poppy and lady slipper orchid. So, if you plan to visit the centre, you can easily spend a few hours here. “The temperate weather made Doi Ang Khang a haven for opium growers. We tried hard to educate local people to grow new cash crops such as plum, ume and persimmon,” said Anat Charoenphong, packing chief at Doi Ang Khang Royal Agricultural Station. “It was quite difficult to change their lifestyle and prove that these new plants could generate more money than opium. However, it is quite successful today. The people around here are wealthier and enjoy a better life.”

It is quite impressive to learn that, in a matter of decades, Doi Ang Khang gradually transformed from dangerous drug trade area into high-yielding, lush plantation.


After our visit on the stunning viewpoint in Doi Ankhang, we rode back to the really beautiful riding roads we have been enjoying since our stop in Phrao and head for Doi Mae Salong, our first overnight in the highlands about 1500 meter above sea level. You can access Doi Mae Salong mountain via R1089 and to R1130.  The stunning mountains and viewpoints of Doi Mae Salong with farmland and tea farms is a must-see when you are riding in the Northern part on your way to Mae Sai, the northern point of Thailand and border crossing to Myanmar.

Doi Mae Salong is Thailand’s major tea plantation area, which is also widely known to produce tea of the best quality in the country. Currently, there are almost 100 tea farmers for over 20,000 rai of tea plantation, of which around 10,000 rai is for growing organic tea.

We were unbelievably lucky with the weather as there was blue sky all day, and extreme heat of up to 38 degrees. A bit cooler in the mountain passes. It was time for a beer and some rest at the great new hotel named Hongfu Boutique resort. The total from Chiang Mai to our hotel in the beginning of Doi Mae Salong is 290km.

Day 2 of this trip is coming in the next article.

Tom Stenshavn