Thailand Motorcycle Mountaineering and Hilltribes Guide
Upon my return from Myanmar, I walked down the border street going west about 100 meters past all the street vendors to the main strip of guest houses and restaurants, where I rented a small motorcycle for 150 baht per day, and then headed out of town to find a quiet hotel or resort.
Based on the directions of a friend, I found one near the base of the mountains, very quiet. It was empty except for me, possibly because their website map graphic was missing on how to get there. They had a bakery, too, but everything was shut down. And a nice swimming pool, but too cold for that!
After dumping my stuff, I headed for the Golden Triangle, as I still had several more hours of daylight left. In retrospect, I should have just taken my stuff to the Golden Triangle because it turns out there were a lot of nice guest houses in quiet places down the street from the triangle, and also internet there.
The Golden Triangle region is where a lot of opium was grown before, and lots of battles fought during the Vietnam War era over control of the money coming from there, and thereafter. It took decades of government efforts to replace opium with food crops before that ended for the most part. However, the established drug producing mafia just switched to laboratories in the region manufacturing amphetamines. They have museums about all that, but I'd read about it and seen countless photos in decades previous.
Many friends had gone to the Golden Triangle and said it was nice, but I'd always skipped it until I saw on the map that I was only about a half hour or so away. It was OK, but I didn't find much of interest there compared to what I planned to do the next day. You can look over the river into Laos and Myanmar. There are a few nice Buddha and other landmarks which have been constructed there. It was a good warmup for the next day's plans.
Northern Thailand is Cold!
It was quite cold, and despite wearing 3 shirts there was no way I could get back to my hotel without freezing, so I shopped for a jacket in the tourist market there. They are imports from China. Only one fit the bill, but its zipper seemed of poor quality, so I negotiated the price down. I usually don't negotiate much because I've known street vendors and how little money they make, but I didn't want to pay for a jacket whose zipper may fail later. The zipper lasted 2 days despite my carefulness, failing right after I had completed my motorcycle mountain tour the next day. Made in China, cheap.
Everyone up there wears a jacket at night. During the next day in the mountains, I the jacket plus a thick long sleeve shirt which I rarely could wear in Bangkok, plus a t-shirt. However, when night came the next day, even with a scarf added on and helmet with visor, I still froze in the early night return, my hands slow and my feet cold (only thick socks and sandals).
Both days, when riding down the highway in the countryside, I was literally struck by the number of bugs hitting me in the face and hands, quite a sting if you're going fast. Bugs are normal at night, which is why I try to get a helmet with a visor, but it was exceptionally bad there. In the headlights, in one place it looked like it was snowing for awhile -- snowing bugs. Eyeglasses alone are not enough, and some of these bugs are big enough to really hurt when they hit your face. Get a visor. Or else buy a helmet with one at Tesco Lotus where I saw them on sale for only 150 baht -- cheap helmet and visor. Cheap so little protection against an accident, but bugs are an accident. The Tesco Lotus is right next to the bus station for Mae Sai, but good luck finding a helmet for a foreigner's size of head (I didn't try them on).
In the countryside, it is common for people to ride with no helmet, but I got stopped by the police in Mae Sai. Not fined, just told to put it on, and they were doing the same with the Thais. I normally wear a helmet, but in the mountains riding with no traffic around, it's nice to just get comfortable and relax.
Anyway, the next morning, after a delay of a couple of hours due to a couple of customers calling me, I finally got off into the mountains ...
Motorcycling In The Mountains!
I started off just looking at the mountains and driving on a highway that headed thru them, based on the map, my location, and west as determined from opposite where the sun rose and the map.
Going up into the mountains, the natural beauty is magnificent!
Incredibly, I was almost the only vehicle on the highway.
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