A bike tour in northern Thailand for a long weekend from Chiang Rai. Approx. 100 km per day on small roads with little traffic. On the 2nd day 1200 meters altitude difference. Best time to travel: November and December. September and October as well as January and February also possible.
“I couldn’t stand it at home anymore. After I was not allowed to travel for months because of Corona, I had to get out. Hot season? Never mind. Then I’ll just leave early in the morning.”
So I thought in bed in the evening. The next morning I packed a few things and my computer and off I went. Roughly I had an idea. First I should go to the lake in Huay Sak, where I wanted to swim a bit. Whether I wanted to go to Phan or Thoeng afterwards, I did not know at the start.
Bike tour day 1 from Chiang Rai to Thoeng
93 km, 640 height meters
I prefer to drive on smaller side roads instead of being on busy main roads next to hundreds of cars and trucks. So I didn’t choose the direct connection along the road no. 1020, but chose the way around the Nong Luang. This is a larger, shallow lake with a winding bike path on one side. Attention: there might be a cow on the way.
“Ang Geb Nam” means reservoir. “Huay Sak” is a common place name. After the rainy season, from September until winter, the water is deep enough to swim in. The greenish water tastes neutral. Please take care not to disturb the fishermen.
In winter the Chiang Rai International Triathlon takes place here again.
The Buddhist meditation center “Rai Chern Thawan” is located on the 15 km long, beautifully undulating road around the lake. A very respected monk teaches here. The complex is very beautiful and ideal for a stopover. In the airy café you can also enjoy a delicious cappuccino.
Back on the 1020 I decided to try a road a friend of mine had told me about. There was a steep incline to overcome here, if you come from Thoeng. I came from the other direction and found the view phenomenal. After the really steep gradient with beautiful curves, the road continued flat over rice fields and through small villages to Thoeng.
On the way is Cocoa Land, a cocoa plantation with a café where you can see how the raw material for chocolate is grown and processed. Attention: The access road is not paved, so not really suitable for racing bikes.
Accommodation in Thoeng
I recommend the Teak-Villa. The rooms are nicely furnished and offer everything I need with AirCon, refrigerator and obligatory TV. Who likes more luxury should book the Lanna Thai Villa a little bit outside.
Bike tour day 2 from Thoeng to Chiang Khong
102 km, 1440 height meters.
I left early to avoid driving too long in the midday heat. The route is really easy to find and if necessary well signposted.
First we pass through small villages flat into the valley between the Phu Chi Fah (actually this is only a peak on this ridge) and the opposite ridge. The higher you get the steeper the road gets. At the turn-off to the right to the famous Phu Chi Fah you have reached the highest point. The real mountain racers turn right at the Challenge, which takes place once a year, in order to overcome another 750 meters of altitude difference, some of them steep. There are also places to stay overnight up there, but with luggage it will be difficult.
For me it goes on to the left. I know this road, because I have driven on it before from the other direction. So I know that I cannot relax yet. Because there are still the steepest parts on this stage to come. Short but with up to 19% quite challenging.
Up here live the Hmong, an ethnic minority who immigrated from China a few hundred years ago. This Hilltribe, like the others in Thailand, has its own culture, language and religion.
Only from the further turn right to the Phu Chi Fah (here I already struggled up once) it goes only downhill except for a few small waves.
A very beautiful section of this tour starts at kilometer 82 and leads directly along the Mekong, which here looks almost like the Rhine at Loreley, Germany. The rocks in the river should be blown up once to make a continuous navigation possible. Because many goods are transported from China on the Mekong to Chiang Saen in Thailand and back. This project probably failed more because of the feasibility than because of the protests of environmental activists.
Across from a View Point, the Frenchwoman Warin Stephane opened a Homestay at the end of 2019. An artist from Chiang Rai placed his unusual buildings right next to it.
Chiang Khong seemed strange to me. For the first time I did not see a single farang in the city. Due to its location, Chiang Khong is a highly frequented transit point to Laos. Here the 2-day river trips to Luang Prabang start. Even outside the high season, long-term travelers can find a large number of hostels, guesthouses and hotels. All small restaurants were closed and I bought some chicken and spring rolls at a market stall.
Accommodation in Chiang Khong
I chose the Nam Khong with pool, which is praised for its value for money. I was the only guest that I could enjoy the peace and quiet. If you want to have it more comfortable, the Day Waterfront or even the Teak Garden Waterfront is a better choice.
I recorded this tour on RideWithGPS.
Bike tour day 3 back to Chiang Rai
Ca. 100 km, 760 height meters.
I chose a small side road out of town, which leads to the more busy road to Paya Mengrai. After turning off towards Wiang Chiang Rung, the road becomes hilly for a few kilometers, but also beautiful.
Back in Chiang Rai I will lead you on small roads coming from the airport past the beautiful, just renovated Wat Fang Min and Blue Temple to the bike store of Fat Free Bike. I chose this store at the bridge over the Kok River because you get great help with your problems and you can easily get from here to your hotel, guesthouse or hostel.
Accommodation in Chiang Rai
You can find more tips about Chiang Rai including accomodation tips on my page „Chiang Rai Guide“
Apart from the already mentioned possibility to drive up to the Phu Chi Fah, the first two days can of course be supplemented with further stages and thus extend the tour endlessly. Chiang Saen – Mae Sai – Doi Tung – Mae Chan – Thaton – Chiang Dao – Chiang Mai could be further stages.