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open mind, empty stomach

travel, food, and fun

The plan had been to spend my last 2 weeks in SE Asia traveling around Northern Thailand before heading back to BKK for my flight to ATH. I had no clue what those two weeks would entail, then I heard about the Mae Hong Son Loop. The loop begins (and ends) in Chiang Mai and goes through Mae Hong Son province for about 400 km. You can do the Loop by bus, minivan, or motorbike. It is regarded as one of the premier motorbike trails in the world and motorbike is the preferred mode of transportation. The road itself has a few thousand bends in it and goes up, down, and around mountains. I had never driven a motorbike and the MHS Loop seemed like a perfect place to give it a shot.
I rented a bike through Tony’s Big Bikes in Chiang Mai. The other popular option is Mr. Mechanic. I went there first and was not impressed by the service or the price. A 10 day rental with insurance on a Honda Wave-X 125 was $40 with Tony and I went with that. I had a very difficult time starting the bike and stalled several times leaving the parking lot as well as on the main road. I quickly got the hang of it and was on my way! I decided to do the loop clockwise and headed southwest.
About one hour outside of the city I saw a giant reclining Buddha on a mountain and went to investigate. It was part of a temple and there was no one there; no monks, no visitors, nobody. It was really neat having such a place to myself. A couple hours later, I left the main road to check out a waterfall. It was about 20km down a very, very rustic road. The waterfall was actually a series of waterfalls with a tourist infrastructure set up. There was an information kiosk, restrooms, a restaurant, and well-defined paths with railings, but like the temple, not another person there. It was really bizarre, but totally awesome. You drive through a small village on the way to the falls and as I was driving back there was some traffic coming in the opposite direction. I got a little distracted looking at the village people and didn’t notice the giant pothole in front of me. We all got a good laugh when I dropped the bike and fell. Luckily, I was going extremely slow and the worst injury was a tear to my beloved Vibram Five Fingers. The giant lump I got on my left hip isn’t painful at all.
Two hours later I made it to Mae Sareang, where I spent the night. There isn’t much going on in the sleepy little village and there were plenty of guesthouses to choose from. I got a room with a view of the river at Riverside Guesthouse and had dinner next door at Sawaddee Restaurant. The food was good and they had wifi that reached my room at Riverside.
The following day I made it to Mae Hong Son in about 5 hours. The drive was more curvy and scenic, but I didn’t do any excursions to check out waterfalls or temples. The Loop was off to a great start and, despite the little accident, I was comfortable on the bike.

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