Mae Hong Son Loop – Nov 5 thru 8, 2012
I just returned from a four day trip by car to see for myself what everyone is talking about. Most people recommend taking the loop in a counter-clockwise direction, beginning in Chiang Mai, then up the 107 to rt. 1095, heading West to Pai, then on to Mae Hong Son, then South on rt. 108 to Mae Sariang, continuing on rt. 108 West all the way back to Chiang Mai.
I decided to do the loop in the opposite direction. It just felt right that way. Bear in mind that my main objective was to get some good photographs, and to familiarize myself with more of the country while I’m at it.
So here’s my report, at least from my point of view;
The drive South on rt. 108 left much to be desired. There was a lot of road construction going on, poor roads and nothing to make me reach for my camera. It wasn’t until I was about 30 km from Mae Sariang until the scenery started getting better.
The area around Mae Sariang, which was where I spent the night, was nice. Especially South of town on rt. 105.
Heading North on rt. 108 again was uninspiring. If there was any nice scenery, it was hidden by all the trees and brush along the roadsides.
Not too far up the road, I came to rt. 1266 and decided to try that while I was there. About the first 20 km was beautiful, with many worthwhile photo ops. One of my favorite was a group of water buffalo soaking in a mud-hole. After going another 10 km and not seeing much, I turned around and backtracked.
Back on rt. 108 heading North, it was once again a very disappointing road. Long sections of it were in very bad shape with pot-holes everywhere.
A bit over half way up to Mae Hong Son, I came to rt. 1263, which I also decided to explore. I didn’t go very far until I saw a sign pointing to a Wild Sunflower Preserve. Since the Sunflowers are a big attraction in this area, I had to check it out. It was about 19 km to the park over the usual steep and curvy mountain roads. It was nice, but I have to say that a mountain-side full of Sunflowers is impressive, but it didn’t do much for me. I prefer the groups of Sunflowers found along the roadsides to add a nice foreground to other scenes.
I didn’t get much further on rt. 1263 as it was getting late and I wanted to spend the night in Mae Hong Son.
I didn’t find much interesting around Mae Hong Son. This is where rt. 1095 begins.
The 1095 is extremely curvy throughout it’s whole length. There were just a few places to pull over where there were some nice views. Not the views I would go out of my way for though. It wasn’t until just before I got into Pai that there were some rice-fields that were quite nice.
Pai was a pretty area, but other than those rice-fields, it didn’t do anything for me.
The last leg of my trip from Pai back to Chiang Mai was just tiring, with just a couple more ho-hum scenic views.
The drive on rt. 1095 is not something I ever want to do again. There’s about 180 km of steep and very curvy roads with no passing lanes. Most of the traffic on this road is just trying to get to their destination as quickly as they can. They’ll gamble with their lives that they can get around a car before someone else comes speeding around a curve toward them.
Bottom Line: It’s probably a great getaway trip for motorcyclists looking for an adventure through scenic areas. Or, if you think you’ve seen everything that’s worthwhile in the Chiang Mai area, then this would be a good choice for a drive.
If you want to make the trip, then this is probably the best time of the year to go. The Sunflowers are in bloom and many of the rice-fields are at their peak of beauty. However, some of the fields have already been harvested and it appears that others have recently been replanted. So, even if you miss a scene that you’ve either heard about, or seen photos of, there will be different opportunities to take advantage of no matter when you go.
You can view the photos from my trip in my "Mae Hong Son" Gallery which you can find in the “Road Trips” category. Besides my favorites, I’ve included many other photos representing the areas that I found worthwhile. The very first stop I made had already been harvested, but I included a photo since it could possibly be one of the prettiest locations if you can catch it at the right time.