Rider Review: 4-day Self Guided Motorcycle Tour from Chiang Mai
Scott Stoodley | October Ride
As a regular working visitor to Bangkok I had often heard about how much different the landscape and lifestyle was in the northern mountain regions of the “land of smiles” so back in 2018 when I had some time clear from work duties I headed to Chang Mai to plan some exploring.
Motorcycle is always my preferred mode of transport when checking out new places and after some google searching and many positive trip advisor reviews, I contacted Daniel at Bike Tour Asia.
Customising My Tour
The team at BTA was all about designing the most suitable experience by asking lots of questions:
• How is your riding experience?
• How many days do you want to take?
• What size bike is most comfortable for you?
• Do you want a guide to go with you or prefer ‘self-guided’ with our help?
• Want to try local food?
• Any particular places or sightseeing you want to visit?
The resources and experience that BTA have built up allowed me to tailor my trip around all of these things.
In my case, this time around, I was happy to travel alone, but as I had only 4 days free I preferred to have a basic route and accommodation pre-planned to avoid wasting time on boring roads and trying to find suitable lodgings at the end of each day.
No problems! – They told me “Tomorrow we’ll pick you up from your Chang Mai hotel and bring you to BTA service centre. Your BMW F800GS will be ready to roll out after a briefing of your route and GPS system”.
And so it was, I was presented with a detailed map (mine to keep), a booklet with printouts of daily distances, optional stops and of course that night’s accommodation. All of that info was also loaded into the bikes GPS.
Safety was also made clear prior to departure, with plenty of contact numbers for emergency services, tourist police and BTA staff. The bike pannier contained tools for tyre repair, jump start and other basics just in case. (thankfully in my case none of it was needed but it’s always good to have a plan ‘B’ !!).
Now it was time to ride and after running with the busy traffic out from Chang Mai for half-hour or so I took a right-hand turn off the main road and headed north into Doi Inthanon National Park. This was certainly the change of scenery I had been promised.
It is hard to believe the quality of the twisting roads through this mountainous region…. You are literally in the jungle but on mostly smooth, grippy, and well-marked sweeping roads. Explained to me that these roads were constructed and are maintained by the military to provide quick access to all of Thailands northern borders if ever there may be conflict… All I can say to the Thai army is thank you very much!
To change it up from time to time the BTA guys had added in some detours off these roads to take me through more remote village areas, plantations and so on. It was great to drop the riding pace for a while and really take in the green landscapes and peaceful feeling these rural areas provide.
The accommodations that were pre-booked for me would be near impossible to find on your own. They are mostly what I would describe as jungle resorts, providing high quality, clean & comfortable rooms while blending into the environment. Add to that the genuine Thai hospitality from your arrival welcoming, to cold beers served at the pool and an endless choice of Thai cuisine. A big thumbs up!
The cultural side…….
During the days there were lots of options to stop and enjoy some unique places..
Elephant camps, waterfalls, high altitude lookouts, tea plantations, lakefront restaurants… even an opium museum from the old days of the Golden Triangle trade.
I could please myself as to where or how long I stopped or even deviate from the formal route to investigate other roads and use the GPS to easily get back on track.
A promise to come back……..
4 days was a great introduction to a new region and style of motorcycle touring. I’m now looking forward to getting back to do more and dragging a few mates along to show them what I have been talking up since returning home from this trip.