Thailand Tour: Chiang Rai to Thaton - switchbacks, security, scares and scenery to die for

Today was to be our shortest km wise, but jam packed with lovely stops. Tour leader Scott indicated a possible border checkpoint with passport checks and a few very tight switchbacks were on the cards between the two checkpoints as we skimmed the border.

I don't think any of us were prepared for what came next on our most challenging ride yet.

three girls

The day started with a fairly flat start, getting out of town.

town Chiang Rai traffic

Before long we were amongst the most beautiful villages and flat curvy terrain.

countryside bridge village road

It was fairly quickly apparent that the dogs here don't seem quite as smart in these parts, based on the injuries.


The breeds also changed a little. Most were in the villages but the occasional dog in the middle of nowhere reminded you to be ever vigilant.

 Before long we were at our first temple. Views did not disappoint and the sounds of morning prayer were strong. Today we wore our Steel Sisters tees.

6 girls and view

On our third day of riding, what I'm realising is that this trip is as much about the food and culture as it is the riding. Its hard to please everyone, but Bike Tour Asia do a stirling job of balancing this. Today's morning tea stop was a tranquil cafe overlooking ponds, surrounded by greenery. 

cafe view lake lake coffee stop lake cafe

We continued on with a belly full of local coffee, heading to the Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet. The imposing Mekong river dividing each. A short climb on the bikes and we were presented with a beautiful view across the lands.

golden triangle 

golden triangle 

We then headed to the Opium Museum for a look. Not really expecting much, this comprehensive stop didn't disappoint, and blended nicely with the smell of weed that occasionally wafted across the villages as we rode past. 

opium poppies

A skip across the road (ok more like a hot flash), and we hotfooted it onto a boat for a ferry ride down and up the Meekong. This is a mix of haves and have nots, with opulence on one side and shanty's on the other.

boat ride to LaosAfter a while we switched countries for a while, docking at the pier in Laos... for a Thai ice cream of all things, before heading back to the bikes.

By this time, it was hoooot and everyone was keen to get back on the boat, for some airflow. 5 baht for a quick loo stop and some soap and water, and we hit the road. It didn't take long before we were in the mountains, our next stop, the border!!!

Here's where it all got interesting.

Beautiful moss covered tropical jungle encroached on either side of the windy road up to the check point, where army vehicles and several serious looking guards stood aside the boom gate.

As we rolled up and came to a slow stop, I was both excited and nervous. We quickly realised they meant business as Scott ushered for us to pull out our passports. 

I pulled out my passport, and held it up to my face. In a flurry I realised I had failed to remove my helmet hahaha I'm not sure how much I looked like me but he nodded, gave me a salute and walked on!

The rest of the group arrived and, knowing they were with us, waved us all through. as I rode off I'm laughing at the passport vs helmet image he must have had in his head. What an adventure today was turning out to be!!!

As we climbed up to the very top of the range, the terrain very quickly became overgrown and less inhabited. The roads up here were not the quality roads we have been used to on the first three days riding. I quickly realised we were in switchback territory.


This section took all the skills I had. A lot of self talk and a constant check on which gear I was in. These switchbacks were steep and tight, with absolutely no room for error should another vehicle come the opposite way,


I had comms with Andy, who was ahead of me. With not much stamina or ability left in the tank, I asked were there any more. His reply "I'm riding one now". It was then I realised I needed to suck it up and focus.


As I climbed the last few smaller curves to the top, my thoughts immediately went to the riders behind me, who had not yet made their way to meet us. 

After a while, Scott retraced his steps to make sure all was ok.

Thankfully no one had fallen, but Fi had slightly misjudged the second switch  back and, after an almost failed attempt at the first, was not keen to progress without help. There is nowhere to stop on these roads, so the others took a bit to get back and re-adjust. the bike and rider.


I breathed a huge sigh of relief when they and the van and riders arrived, giving Fi a huge hug as the tears of relief flowed. The magnitude of what happened sunk in at this time and although I felt a huge personal achievement, I was super impressed with my female friends who had ridden, or attempted the same track. This would be the hardest challenge for me in my few years on the bike.

More passport checks at the next checkpoint Doi Chang Moob, a former military outpost. although former, this check point feels ready to rock and roll if needed.

This location and time now to drink in the most spectacular view before heading back down through some of the most amazing twisties and roads, to our lunch destination.

We hopped off the bikes and something happened. A guy has walked up to Andy, who was in the middle of the pack and had taken his helmet off. He politely asked for a selfie took it, and walked away looking very smug. Now, this is the second time this has happened, so the search is on to find out who they think Andy is! Clearly he is famous!

We stopped at the most amazing Choui Fong Tea Plantation, but with 1hr 20 still to ride and the late of day looming, we pressed on. But what beautiful grounds and a view to die for.

tea plantation

tea plantation

The sun was low now, making riding challenging. Thai locals were in a hurry, turning into their houses and pottering across the roads from from one location to another. Add distracting smells and we had pretty much all 5 senses going for the final hours ride.

sun set on motorcycle

As I rounded a bend, ready to overtake a car on a lovely stretch of straight road, a ute pulled from the left, leaving me nowhere to go. I added a sixth sense to the day, having to clean out my undies when we got to our destination.

We arrived just on dusk at the Maekok River Village resort. in Thaton. We stopped for a quick debrief over a beer from the van.

I indulged in a much needed massage, then cruised into the bbq dinner feeling super relaxed. What a beautiful place.

BBQ dinner at the accommodation was amazing but my stomach was starting to ache and churn, so I heading to bed fairly early in the hop of some sleep.  

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  • Kylie R 12:37 PM

    This definitely was an epic day. Still laughing about the passport check

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