I’d discovered the Samoeng Loop… you guessed it… from a blog! Given that my husband is a long time motorcyclist and that he had to sell his beloved bike before moving to Canada, I knew that motorbike trips needed to be part of our trip to Southeast Asia. We’re writing this particular post together, where I share the scenic details and David will chime in with biker tips!
The Samoeng Loop is a circuit that surrounds the mountain ranges to the west of Chiang Mai. We had a funny feeling that Google Maps may not be our friend on this trip (hello… no wifi?), so we went old-school and purchased a motorcyclist’s map from a biker friendly bar and restaurant named Rider’s Corner situated in the NE corner of the old town.
The next thing to arrange was some transport. We managed to book a scooter through the guest house we were staying at for the 24-hr rental price of 250 Baht ($10 CAD). Be aware they will take your passport as security so before you hand it over ensure you have alternate ID. With limited options, we settled for a 110cc Honda Scoopi which we were informed was “a very good motorbike and there are lots of these in China”. Sold… although we would have preferred more CC’s.
Biker Tip: Make sure you ask for and WEAR your helmets. Not everybody does, but given the terrain you’re on and the distance from medical care, safety first.
And off we went! We left fairly early in the morning, wanting to get as much out of the day and to avoid the crazy midday heat where possible. Leaving Chiang Mai was probably our biggest headache. The roads aren’t clearly marked and we had to stop for directions a number of times. Be prepared, some locals are friendly, but others just say “no”. Yeah… not helpful all the time.
Eventually we made our way onto the 1269 and the scenery was stunning! Luscious green trees canopied our drive. I was riding on the back, but I kept glancing into the mirrors and could see David grinning ear to ear. He was back on a bike! We’ve ridden together so rarely that you think I’d be nervous as the passenger, but not at all. I had a lot of faith in my husband, and compared to the Songthaews that we’d been riding in… I knew I was in good hands.
Biker Tip: Riding a bike in Thailand is different! People will overtake/undertake you, cut you off and force you to the left. Take a quick spin in your scooter/bike before heading off on your adventure, just to see what it feels like.
The plan was to stop at interesting spots along the way, so when we kept seeing signs for a “Valley Coffee” we thought, why not. I’ve never been more glad to have stopped on a road trip. This valley was absolutely stunning. Epic, in fact! It was as though we’d driven onto a private estate. Escaping the noise of the engine, the valley was calm and peaceful. The coffee shop was actually a little hut, situated alongside a bubbling stream. There were these hanging egg chairs that we naturally had to try out, but otherwise we simply soaked up the tranquility.
Our next stop was not signposted. As we were coming down a hill, I saw a giant gold Buddha perched up on the hill, sitting amongst what looked like porcelain lotus flowers. I needed to see this up close. The heat was rising and, sensing that this was a temple, I had to cover my shoulders which made the sweat situation even more sticky. Hiking up the steep hill, we passed trees that were wrapped in the orange fabric that the monks wear. Having visited the Elephant Nature Park, we knew that this was a sign that the trees were protected, warning people not to cut them down. Some trees even had old bottles tied to them, filled with oil and a wick, acting as the evening lighting system!
Biker Tip: Constantly use your mirrors and TURN YOUR head to look around you. You might be using your lights but it doesn’t mean that 2-tonne Songthaew coming up your rear has working headlights!
At the top of the hill the monks were doing some construction work and weren’t the slightest bit bothered by us checking out their magnificent Buddha.
We continued along the winding roads, sheltered mostly by trees. I was in pretty safe hands with David, so I attempted to take photos while riding! We stopped at a couple more little places for a soda or water, but for us the ride was about the scenery and the fresh air whipping against our skin – bliss! On the 1096 portion of the road there are a ton of attractions like the Elephant camp (note: these elephants are certainly NOT humanely treated, check out Elephant Nature Park for the real thing) and a snake farm – both of which we happily skipped.
Biker Tip: Need gas? Keep your eyes peeled for gas sold at tiny roadside stalls like the one below. We nearly missed it entirely!
Would I do it again? Absolutely. That said, if you’ve never driven a bike before… try it first in your home country. The last thing you want is to get scraped up far from home with a different primary language. Use your best judgement and I guarantee you’ll have way more fun.
Victoria tip? SUNSCREEN! We roasted on the way back stuck in construction and the beating sun.
Have you rented a motorbike or a scooter in another country? What are your tips for riding abroad?