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Thread: My Mae Hong Son Loop experience...

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    Senior Member WarProfiteer's Avatar
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    My Mae Hong Son Loop experience...

    Just wanted to share a few of my misadventures. As I am now in the process of looking for work, it means I'll be leaving again soon. I'm starting to realize that my time here is indeed a special opportunity that not many guys my age get. It's a unique time and place in my life... a place that's brought me back from a pretty dark headspace... somehow I've now forgotten about the warzone years... and let go of the anger and the ugliness. The she-wok has much to do with this. But so does my own new-found wandering... if you're continually curious about what's over the next horizon, it's hard to hang on to old pain.

    If you're human I can promise ya this though... eventually, somewhere, at some time, there will be pain. No one escapes it. And the best one can do is distract themselves. I've done that with a lot of negative things, but lately it's been with riding and exploring this fascinating little corner of the world I'm in... which I'd file under "positive"... and right now, this moment, it's the Mae Hong Son Loop...



    Today we set out on our metal steeds, just me and a friend, to wander up through the mountain passes and eventually hit the border with Burma near Mae Hong Son. That's day 1... roughly 1000 turns of varying degrees, up to and including multiple hairpins back-to-back, on sharply rising and falling roads. Gotta admit, the Honda CB500X's have been the perfect bike for this trip...



    Some of the places we stopped quickly to snap a pic...





    Rice fields... lots and lots of rice field villages in the mountains....



    Honestly... no explanation can touch the real sense of wandering up through these mountains, seeing these things, interacting with these people who are fascinated at my white skin, my height, my size... village children waving... "we'll just stop for water" we agree, but within 5 minutes the village children are crowding around and staring at the big bikes and big westerners, unsure how to engage us, but very curious. Honestly, it's been years since I felt this alive... when on the bike and doing my best through the tough twisty roads... when struggling to communicate with locals who only mostly only speak Karen... who the fcuk knows what it all means, but I know it brings me a peace and a feeling I've seen and done something most never will.

    Thailand can mean madness and carnal chaos at all hours, but it can also mean unequaled beauty and total tranquility and much needed healing.

    I dont lie to myself about all of this though... this a crest... something not meant to last... but goddamn does it feel amazing while I'm up here...

    Last edited by WarProfiteer; 30th May 2013 at 07:01.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member WarProfiteer's Avatar
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    Finally made it to Mae Hong Son and chose our place of lodging... it's not The Hilton, but it has western toilets, hot water in the shower and aircon, so it checks all the boxes. Reasonably priced at 800 baht/night.



    After a quick shower and snacks, my friend wanted to explore some of the small roads that supposedly lead up to the Burmese border... sure, why not?

    Well, for one, they dont stay paved for long... and for another, they often have streams that run right across the goddamn road. They can be difficult to cross.

    Notice; this is the proper way...



    These streams have been here for years, and the algea has grown and settled across the bottom... it's slicker than wet ice + WD40... so when taking a motorcycle across it is important to never (1) brake, (2) accelerate, (3) change direction or (4) change any damn thing! If you try, you are quite likely to end up like this...



    Oh well, if one is going to have an accident and drop the bike, it's far better to do it at 5 mph than 50. Nothing hurt and I even had the quick wits to shout to my friend "hey man, take a picture of this shit!!!"

    The locals found it all quite amusing. I'm sure I will be the subject of many a villager's laughter up in the wild hills tonight. Fine. So be it. Call it my brand of diplomacy. There were 2 locals behind us, a young guy and his 'long neck' girlfriend, then another 2 guys in front of us on a single 125CC bike. To their credit, everyone stopped and wanted to know if I was OK... when I gave the big thumbs up and waited for my buddy to snap the pic, laughter was the universal sign that we all understood each other... top notch experience, in my book!

    Anyway, we wandered up through the hill tribe village, waved as people smiled and stared. Kids enthusiastically kept repeating the only english word they knew... "heeeelllllooooo!"... we eventually left the houses and people behind, looking for some marker or sign that said we'd made it out of Thailand and into Burma along an unmanned route... didn't happen of course, but after a while we started thinking "we gotta fekkin be in Burma by now!"... this is my 'I dont know what country I'm in' pose...



    Eventually we stopped at some pseudo-structure we sagely decided was an obvious Burmese military border post... it just lacked walls or any military markings. But this was definitely a Burmese structure. We felt sure that modern science could prove it easily. Some truths are self evident. And besides, the dirt roads were starting to become too tough to navigate with my unseasoned abilities. One drop in a day is more than enough, eh?

    So this is as far as we went... the Burmese military building that time forgot...



    Tomorrow's ride is a long one... from here down to Mae Sot. We're changing the usual route. We're going all the way south to the refugee camps... home to 50K people who've fled Burma over the last few years. Should be a unique experience indeed. Then we'll probably cut over east to stay the night in Tak. Stay tuned...
    Last edited by WarProfiteer; 30th May 2013 at 07:06.
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    Senior Member slampay's Avatar
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    Very cool. Thanks for sharing.

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    Senior Member Loop's Avatar
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    Geez you gone and turned bike nut on us 555

    The road to Mae Sot has been said to be a bit "iffy" and might but not be much fun if it`s been wet too.

    enjoy

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    Senior Member soupdragon's Avatar
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    Kev thinks "Keep your feet up or they will get wet, Oh bugger"

    Sorry to have a giggle at your expense, but, no choice.

    Soupy thinks "One day I have to that". The riding bit, not the crash course.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Loop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loop View Post
    The road to Mae Sot has been said to be a bit "iffy" and might but not be much fun if it`s been wet too.

    enjoy
    Hopefully not too much of this and not wet...


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    Senior Member WarProfiteer's Avatar
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    About 20 kilometers worth of no pavement. Had I known, I probably wouldnt have done it, despite being on a semi adventure-tourer... many great stretches of perfect tarmac, but 2 or 3 times you're down to 30 or 40 kph for up to 30 minutes at a time. I wanted to see the big main camps at Mae Sot, but the few we stopped at along the way were depressing. One too many peg legged refugees that had obviously stepped on a land mine... told my friend I didnt want to see any more. Instead we went to the border bridge to Burma, but it too was a bit depressing as it was just a huge line of sad looking Burmese waiting in the heat to try to get into Thailand.

    Turned around and made for Tak for the night... got in about 6pm... pix to come later...

  8. #8
    Senior Member Loop's Avatar
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    400 k`s or somewhere near it? plenty in a days ride at slowish pace.

    I think that road,105, will be a good one when finished.

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    Senior Member WarProfiteer's Avatar
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    So today was the long day... first Mae Hong Son to Mae Sariang, then down south running parallel along the border to Mae Sot, where the main refugee camps are. It was about 9 total hours of travel time, but we took breaks about every 90 minutes (ok, so it was every 60 minutes by the end of it)... and as we saw no attractive hotels in the border town, we decided to head inland an hour to the bigger-ish city of Tak.



    The road was absolutely fantastic in some parts...



    And it was non-existent in others... unfortunately we were too busy holding on and trying not to mame ourselves to take any pix on the worst sections... this was the "good" part of the 'no road' drive today... all the loose sand had me pretty nervous after yesterday's tumble... pucker factor was about a +7...



    Anyway, we did the usual thing... drive along through the snaking roads up, down, around and over the mountains... some made for incredible riding and others were so overgrown it was like it was down to one lane...



    Still, what a joy to just be out riding and exploring...



    Note; that's the road winding along the left hand side of this pic...


  10. #10
    Senior Member WarProfiteer's Avatar
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    We eventually hit a few refugee camps... smaller ones along the route, not the big one in Mae Sot. I found it a depressing experience, although the kids were much like kids anywhere, smiling, waving and taking joy in anything they could... these little ones seemed to be very proud of their teddy bear (sleeping on the blanket) and brightly colored toy car. Probably given to them by some NGO... the little girl's shirt was absolute irony.



    The camps themselves really arent all that different than the houses one might expect to find in the poorer rice farming parts of this country (Isaan), with the exception that they are tightly packed. Just basic bamboo & thatch places built by hand, no power or running water, little paths and steps leading up between all the little huts. I wondered for a minute what it must be like to endure daily life there, but shuddered and decided not to sour my own mood by dwelling on it. Hell, just walking over that mountain (background) between the countries must've been brutal...



    After witnessing a stump-legged old lady hobbling along in front of me, the obvious victim of the many land mines, I decided I really didn't want to see the big refugee camp after all. So instead we just hit the official border crossing at Mae Sot, which was, of course, packed solely with Burmese standing in line, in the heat, for hours and hours, trying to get into Thailand. They're fenced in and monitored until they are called to talk with an immigration official. Makes what I go through with Chiang Mai Immigration look like cake. Once again, I found this all very disheartening and decided I didnt want to spend too much time in such a negative place... theirs is a harder life than any of us will ever know.



    So it was back to the open road... over to Tak... a high speed, but very twisty road with only a few construction spots & police stops to slow us down... and of course, a few scenic spots to pull over and snap a quick pic...



    Can you imagine a life spent in this village? Working the hillsides and never knowing things like the internet, movies, air conditioning, hot showers, etc?



    Finally, one last stop at a scenic place with cold drinks & a lookout deck... then onward to Tak, the hotel, a warm (kinda) shower, hot food from the street vendors outside, beer from 7-11 and soon... a much deserved sleep.



    Tomorrow's ride will take us back to Mae Sariang via a different route, but from there we will then ride back to Chiang Mai, thus earning the honor of having ridden the Mae Hong Son Loop... plus an extra side trip. I plan on buying a Mae Hong Son Loop shirt at Rider's Corner in Chiang Mai to celebrate...
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  11. #11
    Senior Member Lightemup's Avatar
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    Motorcycling is a great stress reliever.
    You can't afford to think about anything else when you ride a bike.
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  12. #12
    Senior Member WarProfiteer's Avatar
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    Cant thank you enough for the Airflow jacket, Keld... took several stops, but eventually I found someone willing to work on that material. Took all the excess out around the stomach and now it fits perfectly. I owe you a few beers (at the very least) next rotation when you're back... deep serious gratitude, man!

  13. #13
    Senior Member Lightemup's Avatar
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    Glad you like it.

    I'm in Cambo right now with Sef.
    Will be back in a weeks time or so

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    Senior Member WarProfiteer's Avatar
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    Sounds great, I want to do the Somoeng Loop on a CB500F (naked version)... you game?

    Or perhaps even a day ride somewhere else?

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    Senior Member Lightemup's Avatar
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    Sure, talk when I get back.

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    Senior Member WarProfiteer's Avatar
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    An easy ride home today... just up the 1 to Thoen, then up the 106 to CM... even with a few stops it took just 4 hours. Only a few fun parts to road... mostly just high speed, straight stuff with some traffic. I may go out at some point and ride south to Mae Sariang along the 108, just to say I did it. Anyone know what that particular road is like? (possible day ride, Keld?)

    As for the bike, I can honestly say that the CB500X is a very comfortable bike for multi-day trips. We averaged about 60 mpg, despite the advertised mileage being 70+. Sorry, I converted that and I'm too lazy to work the numbers backwards. Top speed we could get was about 164kph... I only got mine to 157... guess the extra weight has an effect. I also didnt peg it and hold it for long, I just got it up where the numbers were climbing veeeerrrryyy sloooowwwwly... so I backed off and figured that was about all it had. Still, honestly, you never even remotely NEED to go that fast anywhere in Thailand. It cruises just fine at 100-120, which is probably about what ya should be doing usually.

    I'll take it back in the morning and work out the damage charge... probably looking at one slider and one brake lever. He could probably just bang the slider back into place as it's barely off, but it's a pretty new bike so I'll understand if he wants a new slider. We bent back the brake lever and it's totally usable, but it's obvious that it's been bent... def didnt come from the factory looking like that. My guess right now is 1500 baht for everything, thus making my algae slide a $50 spill. Oh well, these are the ways in which one learns...
    Last edited by WarProfiteer; 31st May 2013 at 14:20.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Loop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WarProfiteer View Post
    I may go out at some point and ride south to Mae Sariang along the 108, just to say I did it. Anyone know what that particular road is like? (possible day ride, Keld?)
    I started to do that exact ride week before last when i realised my bike was a little off song and turned around and came back home.

    I was heading down along the Ping and then was going to join the 108 at Chom Thong and onto to overnight it in Mae Sariang and return via Doi Tao and the lovely 1103 then the 106 back home.

    108 Chom Thong>Mae Sariang has a lot of new sections and is good by all reports.

    Might be interested in a couple of weeks time.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Loop's Avatar
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    Last edited by Loop; 31st May 2013 at 21:13.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WarProfiteer View Post
    As for the bike, I can honestly say that the CB500X is a very comfortable bike for multi-day trips.
    ...
    It cruises just fine at 100-120, which is probably about what ya should be doing usually.
    You don't need a big bike then, my scooter can do that (almost), 555

    I have never tried a real bike, how is it to ride long distances? It looks much more uncomfortable than riding a scooter.

  20. #20
    Senior Member WarProfiteer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greatdane View Post
    You don't need a big bike then, my scooter can do that (almost), 555

    I have never tried a real bike, how is it to ride long distances? It looks much more uncomfortable than riding a scooter.
    Comfort level isnt even close for long ride... big bike means you dont feel all the bumps in the road. It also means it doesnt take you 1.5 kilometers to reach cruising speed. I know people who've done long rides on scoots, but it's far, far more comfortable on a big bike. Your going to feel every little bump in the road on a little bike. Also, it will take you much, much longer on a scoot... on long, straight stretches, cruising at 120 kph or more is no problem on a real bike... I know few scoots that'll reach that speed easily, much less hold it for an hour or two.

    Just no comparison really... still, a PCX 150 will probably do if you have no desire at all to attempt a larger bike. You can use bungee cords to strap a backpack to seat behind ya like I did. One could have quite an adventure if one were so inclined...

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