Advice For Doing the Mae Hong Son Loop

We have now successfully completed the Mae Hong Son Loop. It was a lot of fun. We met some interesting people, saw some beautiful scenery, rode some great roads and generally had a good time. Based on our experience I have some advice for anyone else who is planning on doing it.

Carry water Thailand is hot virtually all year. Although there are some cooler places up in the mountains its still pretty warm during the middle of the day. That means you will sweat a lot so you need to drink plenty of non-alcoholic liquid throughout the day. You will pass through lots of little towns and villages where you can buy bottles of water or extremely sweet soft drinks so there's really no excuse for not carrying something to drink. You'll appreciate it when you pull over at that fantastic view point far from anywhere.

Learn a few words of Thai (then use it in some tiny towns) Most places you're likely to go there will be people there who speak enough English to get by. It's still polite to make a bit of an effort to meet them halfway and use the language of the country you are in. Plus, it can help avoid misunderstandings. Being able to confirm food and drink orders using the Thai numbers, one of this, two of that, is incredibly handy.

Once you have a little Thai under your belt make sure to stop in some of the tiny towns you'll pass through. With a few words of Thai and some pointing and smiling you'll be able to get something to eat and drink. The locals will be pleasantly surprised that you stopped and these encounters will likely be some of your strongest memories of the whole trip.

Remember that not all traffic hazards will be signed In many countries even the most trivial obstacle on the road will be marked out with witches hats and flashing signs. Not in Thailand. As you come around a corner you're liable to be confronted with obstacles including sealed road suddenly turning into dirt, a pothole covering the whole width of the road, gravel, surprisingly slippery leaves the size of dinner plates and herds of buffalo. Go easy unless you have a clear view of the road ahead.

Wear safety gear Given that it is hot almost all the time and the locals typically ride in a t-shirt and flip flops it can be tempting to abandon your safety gear. If you're coming from a cold climate you will certainly need to modify your gear for local conditions but you should still wear gear. The traffic is chaotic, the road surface is really varied and you will be spending a lot of time a long long way from the nearest hospital. There are always plenty of Thais around who are remarkably adept at dealing with the aftermath of motorcycle accidents but if you can avoid being tossed into the back of a truck or lashed to the back of a scooter to be transported to hospital that would be ideal.

Let other vehicles pass You will encounter a lot of cars, buses and utes/pickups that drive extremely fast. That means you will get passed. They will frequently pass as soon as they reach you regardless of the situation. If you are half way around a blind corner they will still immediately move into the opposite lane and pass. If something appears going the other way they will throw their vehicle back into your lane forcing you to perform some sort of ninja evasive maneuver. To avoid this keep an eye on your mirrors. If you see a vehicle approaching, when you get to a section where you can see the road ahead, slow down and allow them to pass there. They may be legally at fault in any accident but that's poor consolation for the people at your funeral. And that's pretty much it. The Mae Hong Son Loop is great fun. It's a great trip that takes you through areas most visitors to Thailand never see. That those places are connected by incredibly fun roads is an added bonus. Have fun, stay safe.

6 comments

  1. JPix Photography 5 June, 2012 at 15:19 Reply

    Some great advice there – I did some driving in that part of Thailand back in ’05 and have some great memories from the area.

    Looking to head back at the end of this year and do some more touring around

    • Andrew 5 June, 2012 at 15:46 Reply

      Thanks πŸ™‚ Good luck with your trip. I’d say you’ll see an awful lot of changes in the place.

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