The Mae Hong Son Loop is a fun and beautiful motorbike trip located in Northern Thailand. Known as one of Thailand’s most famous motorcycle trips, the Mae Hong Son Loop is an unforgettable experience to say the least. We’re here to give you the beginners guide to motorbiking the Mae Hong Son Loop in Thailand.
Mae Hong Son Loop Motorbike Travel Guide
What Is The Mae Hong Son Loop
If you’re looking to break away from the tourist scene, the motorbiking the Mae Hong Son Loop is for you. The Mae Hong Son Loop is multi-day loop, which consists of two main roads, the 108 and the 1095, that takes visitors through the Mae Hong Son region in northern Thailand.
From authentic Thai towns, to waterfalls and wilderness, the Mae Hong Son Loop with its 1,864 curves in the road is a road trip gem.
Best Time To Motorbike The Mae Hong Son Loop
You’ll want to plan accordingly as motorbiking the Mae Hong Son Loop during the rainy season wouldn’t be the best idea.
The best time to go on the Mae Hong Son Loop is November – February. The weather is cooler, and the days are rain free. We drove the loop in January, and it was perfect weather – bright, blue skies and warm temps.
If you can, try your best to avoid March and April as well as July – September. March – April are when the farmers burn their fields making the skies very smoky. As for July – September, we’ll these months are Northern Thailand’s rainy season.
How To Do The Mae Hong Son Loop
The most popular way to do the Mae Hong Son Loop is by motorbike/scooter. However, understanding that not all tourists come to Thailand knowing how to operate a drive a motorbike/scooter, hopping on the back of one can be a little scary.
For us, we went the motorbike rental route. However, there are a few other transportation options at your disposal to see the infamous Northern Thailand loop.
If you’re looking to do the Mae Hong Son Loop by car, lucky you, there are car rental companies in Chiang Mai that will gladly rent you a car.
Costing around 1000 baht a day, renting a car to experience the Mae Hong Son Loop will give you the freedom to stop where you like, when you like all while transporting your luggage with ease.
Cycling the Mae Hong Son Loop is not for the faint of heart or cycling novice. Experience and being extremely in shape is a must if you are wanting to cycle the loop.
From our understanding, by the time you are done cycling the Mae Hong Son Loop, you’ll have climbed Mount Everest one-and-a-half times. Yeah, you read that correctly.
It goes without saying that the hills you’ll climb on the Mae Hong Son Loop are long mountainous hills and having a high-preforming bike as well as gear is a must.
If you want to tour the Mae Hong Son Loop by bus, understand that there is no tourist bus tour that will take you on the Mae Hong Son Loop. Instead, you’ll have to book mini-bus tickets to each of the destinations on the Mae Hong Son Loop you want to visit.
Prempracha Transports is a mini-bus service that operates along the Mae Hong Son Loop. You can book your trip as a whole or bit-by-bit online.
Mae Hong Son Loop Tour
If doing the Mae Hong Son Loop by yourself isn’t your thing, no worries at all! There are a few tour agencies that offer guided tours of the Mae Hong Son Loop and its surrounding areas.
- 3-Day Mae Hong Son Loop Motorcycle Tour from Chiang Mai – Departing from Chiang Mai, experience 3 magical days on cruising the Mae Hong Son Loop with a professional tour guide.
- 5-Day Mae Hong Son Loop Tour – Another tour operating out of Chiang Mai takes visitors to some wonderful and magical places along the Mae Hong Son Loop but instead of three days, this tour is five.
- Mae Hong Son & Golden Triangle Guided Motorcycle Tour – If you’d like to not only experience the Mae Hong Son Loop, but the golden triangle as well, then this is your tour
Where Does The Loop Start
Most people start motorbiking the Mae Hong Son Loop from Chiang Mai and head out from there. From Chiang Mai, you can blaze the loop clockwise or counterclockwise, preference is completely up to you.
Mae Hong Son Loop Clockwise or Counterclockwise?
From Chiang Mai, starting the Mae Hong Son Loop in the clockwise direction tends to be the best way. Why? The road leading out of Chiang Mai to the southwest is perfect for folks that are getting used to driving a motorbike.
Whereas, heading out of Chiang Mai in the counterclockwise sends you in the direction of Pai. If you’re not familiar with the counterclockwise direction (the Pai direction), let us break it down for you.
This direction has more than 700 hair pin mountainous turns that make you say “shiiiiiit” as your heading up or down each.
Counterclockwise is not for a motorbike newbie unless you are yearning to know what road rash feels like ???? So, like we said above, most looper’s tend to do clockwise for two reasons:
- Reason #1: They want to get used to riding a motorbike
- Reason #2: They want to make Pai their last stop to spend the most time in
Our recommend? Save Pai for last and head clockwise towards Doi Inthanon National Park.
Mae Hong Son Loop Distance
Alright, so you’re seriously considering motorbiking the Mae Hong Son Loop, but you’re wondering “how long is the Mae Hong Son Loop?” Well, let us tell you.
The Mae Hong Son Loop is 600 kms (372 mi) in distance and that’s doing the complete loop – starting and finishing in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Mae Hong Son Loop Motorbike Rental
If you are in Asia, you know there are variations of motorbikes. For the Mae Hong Son Loop, we recommend your renting a 125cc Motorbike and no less.
Anything less will NOT have enough power to get you up and down all the curves and hills of the loop.
You can find plenty of 125cc bikes from the handful of rental companies in Chiang Mai. For us, we decided to rent motorbikes from Aya Services.
Head over to a rental company a day or two ahead of time to reserve the bike for the morning you want to leave. Negotiate the per day rate and then haggle for a better one 🙂
What To Do With Luggage When Motorbiking The Mae Hong Son Loop
Like we said above, in Chiang Mai, Thailand, we decided to rent our motorbikes for the Mae Hong Son Loop through Aya Services. Aya Services offered a luggage transport service that was really appealing to us.
Aya Services will take any luggage that did not fit on our motorbike to their offices in Pai, Thailand for free. Yes, for free, as long as we rented the motorbike from them.
This is a huge plus for couples (like us). Why? You can save money and only rent one motorbike instead of two. Plus, not schlepping luggage around is also a major plus.
The rental fee including luggage transfer was 180 baht / day and that 180 baht included motorbike insurance. For about $6 USD a day, we had a motorbike with insurance and our luggage taken care of.
If you want to risk the trip without motorbike insurance, you could do it for 140 baht / day, but paying the $2 extra dollars vs. buying a new motorbike if we crashed, was a no brainer for us.
How Many Days On The Mae Hong Son Loop
Depends on what you want to see and the time you want to can allocate to the open road of northern Thailand. Some folks have road the loop as quick as 3 days while others have taken 2 weeks.
From our experience, 7 days is a good amount of time to see the highlights of the Mae Hong Son Loop.
In all honesty, if you can’t allot at least 7 days, rushing to do the loop is not worth it. Take your time, enjoy the ride and take in beauty like this!
Mae Hong Son Loop Itinerary
We did a decent amount of research about the Mae Hong Son Loop to determine the best places to stop on the Mae Hong Son Loop. We originally went into Thailand thinking the below was going to be our Mae Hong Son Loop itinerary…
- Day 1: Chiang Mai to Mae Chaem
- Day 2: Mae Chaem to Mae Sariang
- Day 3: Mae Sariang to Soppong
- Day 4: Soppong to Pai
- Day 5: Pai
- Day 6: Pai to Chiang Mai
HOWEVER, after arriving into Chiang Mai we talked to a few ex-pats and rearranged our plans based on their suggestions. So, the below is our actual route we took, and we LOVED it!
- Day 1: Chiang Mai to Doi Inthanon National Park
- Day 2: Doi Inthanon National Park to Khun Yuam
- Day 3: Khun Yuam to Soppong
- Day 4: Soppong to Pai
- Day 5: Pai
- Day 6: Pai
- Day 7: Pai to Chiang Mai
FYI: Your Google Maps or Maps.Me will want to take you off 108 and 1095 at certain points to get you to your destination sooner. In our opinion, that is a mistake. Stick out the ride and enjoy the scenery.
Things To Do on The Mae Hong Son Loop
Understand that when deciding where you want to stop on the Mae Hong Son Loop, it’s complete personal preference. Do some research ahead of time to see what the towns along the loop have to offer.
From quaint villages to temples, caves and a bamboo bridge below are a list of the “Mae Hong Son Loop highlights” to help you plan an epic motorbike trip.
- Su Tong Pae Bamboo Bridge
- A bamboo bridge located in Pang Mu in the Mueang Mae Hong Son District
- Tham Lod Cave
- On your way out of Sop Pong as you are heading to Pai, make a pit stop to take a cave tour at the ever impressing Tham Lod Cave.
- Wachirathan Waterfall
- Chase waterfalls at Doi Inthanon National Park with a visit to Wachirathan Waterfall.
- Great Holy Relics Pagodas
- If you want to see beautiful views, head to the Great Holy Relics Pagodas that lie high up in Doi Inthanon National Park
- Ban Rak
- Ban Rak is a picturesque village, located on the shore of a lake, with an ancient tea tradition.
- Highest Spot in Thailand
- Get your picture at the highest spot in Thailand located within Doi Inthanon National Park
- Ban Ruam Thai
- Known as the Switzerland of Thailand, Ban Raum, grows some of the best coffee in Thailand
- Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu
- Located on a hilltop, this beautiful Burmese style temple offers epic views of the Mae Hong Son valley below
- Wat Chang Klang and Wat Chong Kham
- Twin Burmese styled temples situated on a lake are one of Mae Hong Son’s most popular attractions.
Is An International Driver’s License Needed?
If you are looking to rent a car or motorbike to venture the twist and turns of the Mae Hong Son loop, you might be wondering if you need an international driver’s license.
The short answer, no. You’re in Thailand. A valid passport is just fine.
When we rented our motorbikes, the only thing they asked us for was our passports. To be fair, we did have an international driver license on us just in case it was needed, but the rental agency did not ask for it.
Police on The Mae Hong Son Loop
While we ran into no issues with Police while motorbiking the Mae Hong Son Loop itself, we did run into an issue as we we’re leaving Chiang Mai.
Thai police target westerner’s in Chiang Mai and setup traffic stops around the square. If you don’t have an international driver’s license, that applies specifically to motorbikes, expect a ticket.
If you find yourself in this situation, do not argue. Remain calm and be kind. You don’t want the police officer to throw an additional fine on the ticket for “disrespect.”
What Should I Wear When Motorbiking The Loop?
If you are motorbiking, you’ll want to protect your body as much as possible. Long pants, closed toed shoes and a long sleeve shirt is a perfect riding outfit.
Separately, make sure you apply plenty of sunscreen as you’ll be out and about in that Thai sun all day. Oh, and pack those sunglasses too.
What Are The Roads Like on the Mae Hong Son Loop?
The roads on the Mae Hong Son Loop are actually well maintained. The roads are paved and for the most part not riddled with potholes. However, the roads are very curvy mountainous roads, so it’s mission critical to have a vehicle with enough power.
Finally, there is hardly any traffic on the loop, making it an enjoyable ride.
Is the Mae Hong Son Loop Dangerous?
It absolutely can be. With it’s 1,864 curves, one wrong turn can lead to a pretty scary accident. Which is why we can’t stress enough that if you are not comfortable with driving a scooter/motorbike, see the it by other modes of transportation or skip the loop all together.
If you are on a motorbike, PLEASE wear your helmet at all times. The company you rent your motorbike from should give you a helmet.
Make sure it fits your head and it still well intact prior to leaving the rental company.
Travel Insurance For The Mae Hong Son Loop
You never know what the open road is going to throw at you. During our one-week road trip on the Mae Hong Son loop, we wanted to make sure we were covered if the unexpected happend.
Which is why we purchased travel insurance World Nomads. Our travel insurance covered us if any harm happened to us, the moped or our gear. It seriously gave us the peace-of-mind knowing that whatever happens, we are taken care of.
Mae Hong Son Loop Certificate
Believe it or not, there is a certificate traveler’s can get for motorbiking and completing the Mae Hong Son Loop.
In the city of Mae Hong Son, visit the Mae Hong Son (MHS) Chamber of Commerce or Cafe Station. Here you can buy some Mae Hong Song stickers as well as an official certificate saying you completed one of the famous motorbike loops in Thailand.
Is The Mae Hong Son Loop Worth It?
Without a doubt, yes! Our week motorbiking the Mae Hong Son Loop was epic in every way. Each day was filled with so much fun and beautiful sights. We were able to get away from the crazy tourists scene in Pai and Chiang Mai and experience authentic northern Thailand.
If you have the time, we can’t recommend the Mae Hong Son Loop enough!
Day 1 (Chom Thong): Bansuan Inthanon is a quaint and quiet little road side accommodation that is perfect for a one night stay. It’s located very close to Thailand’s Doi Inthanon National Park which is an amazing must see in the area.
Day 2 (Ban Khun Yuam): Khunyuam Resort is an amazing little gem located away from the craziness of the road. It’s run by a sweet family and has unbelievable views of the area. It’s quite, clean and perfect.
Day 3 (Pang Mapha): Little Eden is nestled on the banks of a river. With cute little bungalows surrounding a pool and a on-site restaurant, this place is a gem after a long days ride.
Day 4 to 6 (Pai): Happy House Backpackers is your quintessential backpackers hostel in Southeast Asia. A fun atmosphere and centrally located, this is one fun place to stay at in Pai.
Day 7 (Chiang Mai): One of our favorite accommodations in Thailand is Stamps Backpackers. A social hostel that is clean, ultra friendly and close to hundreds of cafes and shops. This is a great pick for Chiang Mai.
For more places to stay in on the Mae Hong Son Loop, you can check out the latest places and prices here.
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