A Motorcycle Journey Across Northern Thailand – Phayao, Lampang & Surrounds (Part 1)

There’s something about motorcycle journeys. Sweeping from one corner to another, stopping off for a coffee to soothe aches and hitting the road once again to destinations unknown.

Susan and I recently hit the roads of northern Thailand much like we did last year. This time instead of heading west to Mae Hong Son and Pai, we decided to head east to Phayao and Lampang with detours along the way to some of the region’s little known attractions. We had originally planned to head all the way east to Nan, but because were only planning to be on the road for three nights, it seemed a bit rushed to get all the way to Nan only to have to immediately high tail it back to Chiang Mai.

On day one we raced straight up route 118 out of Chiang Mai, a massive 4 lane highway which allowed us to get the bike to top speed for large sections — top speed being about 85km/h. This part of the journey was the least interesting and in previous journeys to and from Chiang Mai, getting in and out of the city has always been the least interesting part.

After a while, the traffic thinned out a bit and we started winding up into the mountains. Because it was still early morning, it was really cold on the motorbike and I had three layers on top and a pair of long pants on the bottom and I was still cold. After a couple of hours we stopped at an awesome place for coffee with fantastic views. If you’re planning on heading this way, stop at this place for a coffee. Highly recommended.

Soon after the coffee stop, we turned right onto route 120 and made a beeline for Phayao. Of course, because of aching body parts, we needed to stop for another coffee in yet another wonderful spot. This time it was a viewpoint about 40km out of Phayao. From this point, it was all downhill and the sweeping curves as we cruised out of the mountains were so enjoyable to burn around. At a few points I thought I was going really fast only to be overtaken at phenomenal speeds by big motorbikes some of which I reckon were getting close to 200km/h.Phayao TempleWe arrived in Phayao in late afternoon and made our way to Win Hotel. It was a pretty crappy hotel, but was cheap and had hot water and air-conditioning. Check price on Agoda. After this we decided to check a couple of the towns “attractions”. A wat and the lake.Phayao LakeThe lake was photogenic at sunset, but to be honest the town really does lack in attractions. It’s sort of the place you come to on the way to somewhere else.Phayao Lake SunsetThe food situation in Phayao is pretty ordinary in my view. We grabbed some OK khao soi for lunch and some pretty good pizza for dinner at Forno — fast wifi, good pizza, cute cat.

For breakfast the next morning we found some basic noodle joint and headed off towards Chae Son National Park via “the scenic route” aka getting lost in the jungle.

Distance covered: 155km
Coffee breaks: 2
Bum rest stops: countless

If you liked part 1, check out part 2 here!

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