Last Friday, about ten members showed up for our weekly ride. It was a pretty small group compared to the couple of dozen that appeared last week. I’m not sure if people were busy or if they were still recovering from the challenging roads we faced during our previous jaunt! This time we headed into the mountains northeast of the city. The group meets every Friday morning at the Shell station on the west side of the moat and heads out at 9:30am sharp.
We rolled up Huay Kaew Road and then took a right turn onto Highway 11 (aka Superhighway) at the Maya shopping center. Veering left onto the frontage road at Home Mart, we then turned left onto Highway 118 at the Central Festival shopping centre. This road eventually takes you past Doi Saket, and if you stay on it a few more hours, Chiang Rai. It doesn’t take long before the city is left behind and you begin to enter rolling hills with the large mountains visible in the distance. The traffic can be busy but safe enough if you stay to the left and follow normal common sense. It seems in Thailand, everyone loves to cross the centre line on curves so that is one thing that always needs to be watched when there is no median. It really does not become a big problem until you get onto the smaller secondary roads in the mountains.
At about 37km out of town we stopped at Coffee Terminal, a great little coffee shop where all the fancy stuff can be purchased along with a few bites to eat. The owner has an interesting collection of cars and bikes scattered around the property, some of which were accessible to visit, others not. It is a great place to stop for a break if you are traveling along route 118. There is lots of outdoor seating looking out onto a beautiful garden area along with comfy indoor accommodation. The only bad part is that you need to pass it and make a U turn back towards Chiangmai since it is on the wrong side of the road as you head northeast.
We carried on towards Chiang Rai about 24 kms and then turned right onto R1252. This road has many magnificent views and we passed through many small villages. Again, the road surface varied from good to atrocious. There were spots with potholes large enough to swallow a wheel and a 2km stretch of hard stoned dirt. Fortunately, there were long stretches of good pavement and no rainfall to turn the dirt into mud.
As he was turning the corner into one of the mountain villages, one of our members took a tumble and suffered some decent road rash as a result, Fortunately, the town just so happened to have a small medical clinic. To make a long story short, the doctor and nurses were very helpful, and managed to bandage him up and organize transportation to the nearest hospital in Doi Saket. I have no idea what else was going on, but the little clinic was bustling with people. Maybe it’s the social center of the village!
After regrouping, we wound our way back to Chiangmai on R1317. The roads through the hills around Chiangmai can be pretty challenging, especially during the rainy season. For those who are confident on a scooter or motorcycle, there are many short circular routes that can easily be accomplished in one day. As our little Honda PCX150 has demonstrated on several occasions now, it is not really necessary to have a large bike to take on these roads but just be prepared to inch your way up the steeper inclines if you are on a scooter. Once again, we slowed down to 40 km/h a few times along the way!