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Thread: Mae Hong Son Loop vs Isaan drive near Loei

  1. #1
    Senior Member marc26's Avatar
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    Mae Hong Son Loop vs Isaan drive near Loei

    As most know, i am planning a drive and you guys have been great with the advice on Isaan drive

    Now looking to see people's opinion on what they think is the better 6-7 day drive
    Mae Hong Son Loop or Isaan drive
    I really am looking for mountain type/hiking scenery, going in late March

    MHS Loop-looks exactly what i am looking for scenery/activity wise but worried it may be a bit too touristy? Or maybe it is just touristy enough where i will enjoy myself more at night at the places we stop?

    Isaan-for me, the best part of the trip is it is less touristy


    So any thoughts? Sorry for so many questions

  2. #2
    Yes
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    I have done both the Phu Ruea/loei drive and Mae hong Son several times,and my personal preference would be MHS for scenery.

    I think a major thing to consider is late March will be burning season all over the North of Thailand,It can get very bad around there.
    Some years are better than others,last year was not too bad, the year before very bad.That factor alone would put me off.
    This affects everything from about Lampang north, CM, CR,etc they burn in Myanmar and Laos also.

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    Senior Member kaptainrob's Avatar
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    Lucky to see beyond road markers in March, some days better than others, but not ideal for scenic tours. North Isaan just as bad as CM - was 6 trips through Phetchabun before we ever saw the magnificent scenery, just south of Loei.

    MHS I've only done part of, up to Pai and Pang Mapha [caves], probably more to do. Smoke haze can be a problem even in November, as per this pic >

    Cheers, Rob.

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    Senior Member WarProfiteer's Avatar
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    I personally dont think the MHS loop is overly touristy. Out of the 3 stops on it, only Pai seems touristy in the least- and it's not bad... no McDonalds or street hawkers or Starbucks. Lots of good trekking and hiking in that area too.

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    Senior Member marc26's Avatar
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    really don't like going to LOS at this time of year, really limits what you can do with the heat and now haze
    unfortunately, we need to be there for my stepson to pick him up

    so maybe i won't consider either trip, that is a shame, was looking forward to it
    maybe just rent a car and do Kanchanaburi and around there, there are other places a little Northwest of there also

    if it were like Rob's picture above, i'd be happy but i don't think would be anyway near as good in Late March

    thanks guys

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    Senior Member Geespot's Avatar
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    TBH think I would rather be right on a beach getting a breeze and being able to jump in the water

    Further south you go at that time of year the less extreme the heat is.....maybe 34-36c instead of 38-42 in the north
    PadMC likes this.

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    Super Moderator LivinLOS's Avatar
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    Agree with Gee.. It is sadly the worst time to be in the north.. Even Kanchanaburi is dry and looks brown compared to the lush greens after wet season.

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    Senior Member marc26's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geespot View Post
    TBH think I would rather be right on a beach getting a breeze and being able to jump in the water

    Further south you go at that time of year the less extreme the heat is.....maybe 34-36c instead of 38-42 in the north
    we are ending up in Samui for the last week
    so i may just rent a car in BKK and drop it off in Surat Thani and makes stops/stay along the way

    man i really wanted to see the North and scenic mountains, but next time

    i appreciate everyone's help with my threads

    will Soi Eric be open by then? 555

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    Marc,
    The trip I did last year and posted posted on PI:
    North Thailand, from East to West.

    Finally some time and intend to give short trip report with some pics from my trip from Nong Khai, via Chiang Khan, Loei, Sukhothai, Chiang Mai, Pa ito Mae Hong Son and back.

    Day 1:
    Left Belgium around noon for a day flight to Bangkok, arriving early in the morning,, pass immigration, get luggage, go to domestic and check in for a flight to Udon Thani. Arrived at the airport of Udon Thani where my travel companion/driver was waiting for me with her car.
    After a one hour trip we arrived at the Royal Nakhara hotel in Nong Khai where I had booked for the night. Seems the Royal Nakhara with a large parking is stop for many busses travelling to/from Laos.
    After a short nap to the Mekong riverside for lunch and eye shopping on the adjacent market.
    One of the goals of my companion was buying t-shirts from all places we went so as to show in her village that she had been there.
    No pics of that afternoon as I forgot my camera.
    Late afternoon relaxing till time for a drink on the hotel terrace. My partner is always game for a beer so no objections were heard.
    After a few beers we saw it was 9 o’clock so we decided to eat where we sat outside the hotel (a one person band was making good music) and continue with a few more beers till bedtime.

    Day 2:
    We left the hotel around 1000 for a trip along the Mekong on road 211 to Chiang Kan. I was a bit disappointed, as I had expected better views of the river.
    Just before Chiang Khan we stopped for some photos of the Mekong and lunch near the Kaeng Kut Ku rapids.
    While I stayed with BBQ chicken the lady went for som tam (of course) with another noise making plate. When the plate covering the contents of the meal was lifted I discovered that it were live prawns, and the noise I heard was their jumping trying to escape.
    After lunch we continued on 201 to Loei where I had booked the Loei Palace hotel.
    Shower in the hotel and… a few beers before dinner. After dinner we had place for a few more.

    Day 2:
    We left the hotel around 1000 for a trip along the Mekong on road 211 to Chiang Kan. I was a bit disappointed, as I had expected better views of the river.
    Just before Chiang Khan we stopped for some photos of the Mekong and lunch near the Kaeng Kut Ku rapids.
    While I stayed with BBQ chicken the lady went for som tam (of course) with another noise making plate. When the plate covering the contents of the meal was lifted I discovered that it were live prawns, and the noise I heard was their jumping trying to escape.
    After lunch we continued on 201 to Loei where I had booked the Loei Palace hotel.
    Shower in the hotel and… a few beers before dinner. After dinner we had place for a few more.

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    Day 3:
    After breakfast we left the hotel around 9 for the trip to Sukhothai, starting on the 203.
    The first part of the trip was the best. The road to Dansai was good, scenic views and we stopped in Phu Rua National Park.
    My companion was excited as she always wanted to go there, it was not far from the village near Chumpae, but seems it Park is in high esteem by the Thais who want to experience the cold around New Year there. Seems that around that time all hotels are fully booked.
    It is a mountainous road which after Phu Rua passes through Dansai (should also pass that “topwine” estate Chateau de Loei, but never saw it) and thenstill on the 203 we joined the 12 in Lom Sak to drive to Sukhothai.
    It took us quite a long time to finish the 199 km trip, about 7 hours, included a 1 hour stop in Phu Rua (t-shirts buying included).
    I had booked the Ruen Thai hotel in Sukhothai and must say this was about the worst hotel I ever booked in Thailand. It had good critics, but for me the price/quality was below everything.
    After shower, there was of course… time for a few beers while reading the newspaper on my iPad (while a massage for the driver), following by a few beers before meal with a few beers and sleep.

    Day 4 & 5:
    After breakfast time for a visit to the old capital Sukhothai.
    Then through 101to Sri Satchanalai and furthet to road 11 to Chiang Mai.
    The road 11 is marked as a highway but it is a time consuming road which only turns in a highway around Lampang. We had noodle soup on the highway near Lampang and continued to Chiang Mai where I had booked a hotel neat the night market.
    First jobs in Chiang Mai were giving laundry to a laundry shop and beauty salon for the lady. I spent some time relaxing near the swimming pool.
    The evening was spent with a few beers, followed by a visit to my favourite Chiang Mai restaurant in the inner town: Huen Phen. I love the Northern Thai food, included sausages and sticky rice.
    After that, strolling around the night market and a few more beers before returning to bed.
    The next day was spent relaxing near the pool for me, companion went to Big C, massage, picking up laundry etc.
    Evening was again Huen Phen and night market, including some beers.

    Day 6:
    It would take us from Chiang Mai to Pai. I considered Pai a stop on the way to Mae Hong Son, which I visited some 18 years before. It turned out otherwise, as some BM’s told me Pai is a lot more interesting than Mae Hong Son.
    We left Chiang Mai on the 107. At Mae Rim we left the road for a visit of “Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden”. This is located on the road to Samoeng. After a visit of the garden on the return way to Mae Rim I wanted to see Mae Sa waterfall. I walked all the way to the top waterfall, I think no 10, but was disappointed by the small amount of water. Being the end of the rainy season I had expected to see a lot more. My companion left me half way up, “to hot and tiring” and was happy that she didn’t go all the way to the top.
    Back in Mae Rim we continued our way on the 107 till Mae Taeng where we turned on the 1095 to Pai.
    The view became better and better while driving up the hills. Got quite a few photos taken there.
    In Pai we went straight to “The Quarter” hotel. Small, friendly and quiet. Free bikes were available so we took one each and after a visit to the ATM my travel mate said she wanted to eat somewhere she had seen in the small town. It turned out to be a small house serving… som tam and barbequed porc and chicken. Was something like 30 Bath for each dish, and with a botlle of Leo each we were satisfied, it was actually a fine meal for little money. Then back to the most important street in Pai where we had two big Heinekens each at 70 Baht a bottle. It was fun watching the people walk in the street, some young ones, a few old hippies on the way back from Katmandu, even Jack Sparrow. Afterwards back to the hotel for a shower and an evening town visit
    The town of Pai is car free from around 6 in the evening as there is an evening market in the streets, so we left the bikes at the hotel and walked the short distance. I loved the evening market. We had some food ad the different food stalls, she bought her t-shirts, and again a few Heinekens in the “Pai Country” bar. Close to it was the Thai version of Jack Sparrow selling postcards of himself. He looked like the real one and certainly made good money of everyone wanting to get on the photo with him.
    At about 10 everything closed in Pai, so we walked back to the hotel for a good night.

  11. #11
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    Day 7:
    After breakfast we continued our way to Mae Hong Son. Again driving on the mountain road with a lot of curbs and later descending into the valley in Mae Hong Son. Checked in in the Imperial Mae Hong Son and then to the town for a late lunch. We ended in the Fern restaurant and the food was quite good. Afterwards we visited Mae Hong Son, where (I think) the most worthwile in town is the temple.
    Late afternoon I had to do some e-mailing and afterwards back to town for a visit to the evening market and dinner. Dinner near the pond adjacent to the temple was horrible so that we filled our stomach with buying small things at the stalls on the market.
    Of course, several t-shirts were bought, afterwards a few beer and back to the hotel.

    Picks of the road to Mae Hong Son and the town.

    Day 8:
    The return to Pai was followed by some relaxing at the hotel’s pool before the usual drinks in town, followed by dinner, some drinks and a visit to the evening market.

    More pics of the road between MHS and Pai, my hotel room seen from around the pool, and Pai.

    Day 9:
    The return trip to Chiang Mai was uneventful along the same way we came. Uneventful does not mean boring, on the contrary, I love those winding roads through the hills.
    After checking in in Chiang Mai for me it was time to relax with a few beers around the hotel pool, while the lady went for laundry, beauty salon and shopping. In the late afternoon we did our usual drinking in the Red Lion pub, close to our hotel. With free wifi it is a good place to have a beer while reading the downloaded newspaper while she checked her facebook to contact the family and proudly post all the pics taken by both of us. The late afternoon drinks became a tradition, and in Chiang Mai it was always in that pub.
    After shower time for a few more drinks before going to the night market where we had dinner before visiting Jaffa’s bar. Jaffa was not in so after two drinks back to the hotel for a nightcap and a good sleep.

    Pics from the road between Pai and Chiang Mai.

    Day 10:
    Last day in Chiang Mai. We did a morning stroll and took some pics . Relaxing at the pool, and later the tradition of Red Lion drinks, shower followed by a last visit to the Huen Phen restaurant. Then back to the nightmarket where my companion bought a lot of that fried porc skin plus spicey dipsauce, a present for the family home.

    Some pics from Chiang Mai

    Day 11 & 12:
    Return to Khon Kaen with an overnight in Phitsanulok. Nothing much to say, we took the highway and in Phitsanulok after checking in lunch and a visit to Wat Mahathat, the 2nd most important temple in Thailand.
    Afterwards a quiet afternoon and evening with some drinks and dinner.

    Pics of Wat Phra That Sri Mahathat



    Sorry, the pics were not included.

  12. #12
    Senior Member marc26's Avatar
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    awesome Cap!
    i am not going to make this trip thanks to everyone's input but i for sure want to do it next time so your TR is very welcomed

    Thanks

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    Quote Originally Posted by Captain View Post
    Day 2:
    We left the hotel around 1000 for a trip along the Mekong on road 211 to Chiang Kan. I was a bit disappointed, as I had expected better views of the river.
    Bummer. I heard that the route along the Mekong from Nong Khai to Chiang Kan should be very scenic so I planned it to be part of my route (driving a scooter) in a couple of weeks. That is, if the flooding in southern Isaan is gone by that time.

  14. #14
    Yes
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    Here is a couple of pics of the Mekong between Nong khai and Chang khan.
    Dense vegetation on the road side blocks some of the view,and the road is narrow,
    I found it hard to stop in a car and get pics,should be better on a bike.
    Attached Images Attached Images
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  15. #15
    Yes
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    Here is some pics to whet Marc's appetite for another time.
    The first three pics are south of MHS
    The lat two are Pai
    Attached Images Attached Images

  16. #16
    Senior Member marc26's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yes View Post
    Here is some pics to whet Marc's appetite for another time.
    The first three pics are south of MHS
    The lat two are Pai
    incredible! EXACTLY what i was looking for
    so when is the best time to do this trip?

    it will be on my agenda

  17. #17
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    These were taken in December,I guess Oct to Dec would be the best time,its also high season and busy.
    Mostly it was Pai that was busy,a lot of people only do Pai so MHS was much quieter,but Pai has some night life

  18. #18
    Super Moderator LivinLOS's Avatar
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    Oct (maybe still wet) and Nov into Dec at the start of winter you will see it at its lushest greenest and best.. That lasts through until Jan / Feb as it drys out into hot season.. In around October MHS area blooms with sunflowers all over the hillsides too which is quite a sight.

    Doi Mae Salong, Fang, Phu Chi Fa, all around the northern hills can look spectacular..

    I am getting all my bikes, fully serviced and prepped up for ride season. Not going to waste it this year.

  19. #19
    Senior Member WarProfiteer's Avatar
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    I know it makes the hillsides green and the flowers bloom, but I for one will be glad when the rainy season is done. Tired of being pissed on every time I take a ride right now.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Geespot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WarProfiteer View Post
    I know it makes the hillsides green and the flowers bloom, but I for one will be glad when the rainy season is done. Tired of being pissed on every time I take a ride right now.
    I agree for the months of Dec & Jan but its fkin horrendous mid Feb onwards when there is no rain to cool things off in 40c+ temperatures. I absolutely love the cool nights and misty mornings

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