A Motorcycle Journey Across Northern Thailand – Phayao, Lampang & Surrounds (Part 3)

This is part 3 of my motorcycle journey through northern Thailand. Part 1 is here and part 2 is here.

After a chilly night under a thin sheet at our flop house, we set off for Chae Son National Park primarily to check out the waterfall. And what a waterfall it is. Six separate tiers and a hike and a half to the top, it was a great way to start the day. Even better, Susan got in for the Thai price of 20B whereas it cost me 100B — apparently 50% cheaper than it used to be. There’s also some hotsprings in the national park which are only marginally interesting and apparently a hotspring spa. I can imagine what it is like, so we didn’t bother checking it out. Besides, the sun was beating down hard by this stage and the last thing I wanted was a hot bath.Chae Son National Park Chae Son National Park Waterfall

From Chae Son National Park we headed down the mountain enroute to Wat Prajomklao Rachanusorn. Wat Prajomklao Rachanusorn is basically a spectacular temple at the top of a mountain about 60km north of Lampang. We got to the parking area, had lunch and waited for a Songthaew to take us to the “top” — 100B for a return trip and no additional entry fee. When we got to the “top”, we realised we were only about 3/4 of the way up and that there was a staircase for the rest of the way. Brutal. The views along the way, however, were excellent and once we reached the top, we were rewarded with this.Wat Prajomklao Rachanusorn View Wat Prajomklao Rachanusorn View 2

I reckon this is one of my favourite wats in Thailand so far. A wat’s a wat, right? Well, this time it was interesting to get a view as well and it really did feel special. Surprisingly there were a few other foreign tourists here as well, although most sounded like the expat types who either teach English or have a Thai wife. Anyway, this place is certainly worth a visit if you’re in the area.Wat Prajomklao Rachanusorn Wat Prajomklao Rachanusorn View 3

Next stop was Lampang and I gunned it down route 1035 all the way into town where I had planned to stay in a proper hotel rather than one of those guesthouses with thin walls. That turned out to be a good idea as Pin Hotel turned out to be good deal at 550B with AC, hot water and wifi.Lampang River View

I really like Lampang. It has a charm about it that is lacking in many places in Thailand, especially the bigger cities like Chiang Mai. I really loved the old shop houses, their idea of a traffic jam and the gentle pace of life along the river. While there’s not much to see and do in the town itself aside from the odd wat (and let’s face it, we’re all watted out by now), it’s an enjoyable place to stay with some good food options.Lampang White Wat

We tried Long Jim’s New York Pizza (quite decent), a good chicken rice place and a funky cafe (with attached hostel) called Homsook Homemade — great cakes!Home Made Lampang

Again, there were multiple ways of getting back to Chiang Mai and we chose the route which hugs the train line through the mountains. I highly recommend this road! It’s a narrow, quiet road which winds through the mountains, up to a national park and down into a valley on the other side. There’s a bunch of stuff to see and do if you’re not lazy like us — we skipped the train tunnel and mountain viewpoint, but I regret it now. In the valley, we stopped at an organic shop for a coffee — perhaps the first person to do so in about 15 years. And then it was a direct route straight back into Chiang Mai where we dropped off the bike.

All in all, a bloody fantastic roadtrip once again in northern Thailand. Can’t wait to do another one next year.


A Motorcycle Journey Across Northern Thailand – Phayao, Lampang & Surrounds (Part 2)

This is part 2 of my motorcycle journey through northern Thailand. Part 1 is here.

It wasn’t so much the taste of the noodle soup that put me off, but the colour. It was a pinky brown coloured broth which I suspect was made from blood. I’m no fan of blood in my soups and I only finished half before hitting the road. Today we were heading for some temples on a mountain and Chae Son National Park.

From Phayao there are basically two ways to get to Chae Son National Park. The first way was to backtrack for about 60km of the previous day’s ride up through the mountains. Whilst the road was great and the views magnificent, I’m not one for backtracking. So we decided to take the scenic route across the mountains as seen on google maps. As usual it turned out the be a good decision and a bad decision. The good part was that it was a totally remote part of the country with steep mountains and pristine valleys and the odd village. The bad part was that the road was dirt for about 50km.Northern Thailand View

The dirt started as it always does just after a random farming village. Up until this point it was concrete and there was the hope that it would be concrete the whole way. But we’ve done enough of these trips to know that if you go too remote, the road just stops. Last year in Mae Hong Son was truly terrifying as we spent 5 hours in the jungle on a foot track with a motorbike and we had to cross many rivers, climb inummerable muddy tracks and basically beat a path to the next town. The hope was that this time would be different. And it was.Northern Thailand Jungle

While the road was dirt, contained lots of incredibly steep hills and generally made the entire journey slow, it was manageable. I had no fear the motorbike was going to break down, run out of fuel or fail to get up some of the hills. Last year in Mae Hong Son I truly feared the bike was going to break, I almost ran out fuel and there so many dirt hills that the bike couldn’t physically get up with 2 people on board. Even with 1 person it struggled.Dirt Road Through Jungle

After a few hours in the jungle this time we came out into a village with a nice concrete road and a petrol station. I filled the front tyre with air as I had thought it was deflating, but perhaps it had always been that way — I’d just never noticed it. We promptly grabbed lunch at a random restaurant and set about finding a place to stay in or near Chae Son National Park.

We ended up getting a room at a random flop house on the side of the road on the mountain road on the way to the national park, route 1252. While the room was basic, it wasn’t bad. But if we had known what we know now, we would have rented a bungalow in Chae Son National Park itself. The National Park is fully equipped with a decent restaurant, lots of space for camping and some bungalows.

Distance travelled: 132km with about 50km of dirt.
7-11 toasted croissants consumed: 1
Adorable kittens encountered: 1

If you liked part 2, check out part 3 here!


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!


Grandparent’s Home, Ayutthaya

If you’re looking for a cheap yet comfortable place to stay in Ayutthaya, then look no further than Grandparent’s Home.

We arrived at Grandparent’s Home after waking around Ayutthaya for about an hour and a half and not having any luck at all. Everything was either full, too expensive or in a crappy area. But Grandparent’s Home actually was good in all aspects.

The location is within 100m of the main Ayutthaya temple complex, the rooms are spacious, comfortable and come with AC and the price is right — just 600B!

Of course, you can get cheaper in Ayutthaya. You can even get something for 250B. The problem is that the location will not be central, the room will be small, you will have to share a bathroom and you won’t have AC.Granparent's Home Ayutthaya

The rooms at Grandparent’s Home come with fast wifi, cable TV, big comfortable beds with quilt and colourful accents, icy cold AC and private hot water bathrooms.

The big question most people are going to ask is “do you need air-conditioning in Ayutthaya?” The answer is maybe. Ayutthaya can get extremely hot in the summer months (the low 40s or over 100F) and even in the cooler months it’s hot. We’re here in late December and the top temperatures are an energy sapping 35°C (95°F). You don’t have to have AC, but it is sure is nice and will only cost you a few bucks more. Up to you!

So there you have it. Our recommend for good cheap accommodation in Ayutthaya is Grandparent’s Home!

If you’re curious about current price, check the price on Agoda.