The Ride from Chiang Mai to Pai is Biker Heaven
A road with 762 corners. Lush forest and sweeping valley views. Biking from Chiang Mai to Pai is an experience like no other!
Chiang Mai is a great city. You can spend days immersed in the cafes, museums, temples and shops. After a while the wanderlust will kick in though, and it’s time for a road trip! Pai is the natural choice for a trip out of the city. Set high on a plateau to the north west, its cooler climate and relaxed pace of life are a real winner.
By far the best way to get to Pai is by motorbike. The road is a triumph of long, sweeping curves with stunning views across the hills and riding it on your own two wheels will give you a feeling like no other. Here’s a few tips to get you burning up the tarmac like James Dean!
Prep for the Trip
First things first- check your bike. We wrote a guide on renting bikes in Thailand for those of you that haven’t gone through that yet. Yes, this is a trip on paved roads, but it’s Thailand so anything can happen! Make sure your tires are in good condition and the brakes are working well. Cows and water buffalo can appear from any direction so you need to be able to stop pretty quickly! Next, grab your documentation. Stick your passport in with your motorbike license or international driving permit and you’ll have no problems.
Don’t worry about packing food for the trip as you’ll pass tons of roadside cafes on the way and trying the local food is part of the fun. Taking a couple of drinks is a good idea as the first section of road can be pretty hot and dusty; other than that, check your helmet fits well, sling a few clothes in a backpack and off you go!
The trip starts with a long, straight ride north out of Chiang Mai on route 107. Sit tight, watch out for other vehicles and dogs and head for the junction with route 1095. You’ll be there after about 45 minutes and should take some time to take a break, stretch your legs and fill up the tank at the gas station opposite. From here onwards you’ll be traveling up, up, up!
Turn west onto route 1095 and feel the road start to rise beneath your tires. As the hills steepen, the corners become more pronounced and you’ll find yourself leaning into turn after turn. Feel like you’re riding a slalom race on the bike? It’s not surprising, the road has 762 corners! Take it steady and enjoy the views that start to appear through the trees.
It will take about 2 hours to get to the summit of the climb, or a bit more if you stop for frequent photos. When the road levels out and you start to wind down the back side of the hills then you know you’re getting close to Pai. Watch out for the speedy little tourist minibuses that ply this route, and within another 20 minutes you’ll be entering the outskirts of town. You made it!
Services Along the Way
We’ve already mentioned the gas station at the junction of route 107- use it, because the bottles of gas sold along the side of the road are twice the price! There are small cafes scattered throughout the area and any of them will whip you up a super pad thai or a bargain kra praw. If you fancy a meal with a view then pull in at one of the official rest stops – Green Coffee is highly recommended.
If you need a mechanic to help you pimp (or fix) your ride then there are a bunch of these along the route. A bit of mime will go a long way if you’re not a Thai speaker and there’s always someone around to help.
The Trip of a Lifetime
With all those corners to negotiate this isn’t the easiest ride in the world, but it’s a whole heap of fun. Sweeping round those hairpin bends on your way to hang out in super-cool Pai is a rite of passage in the north and no trip to Chiang Mai is complete without it. Biking around Pai itself is a treat as well, make sure to hit up all the hot spots. Grab some friends for your bike gang and get riding!