Top 10 places to visit around Chiang Mai, on a motorbike

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Road to Pai

One of the joys of visiting Chiang Mai is travelling around on a scooter or motorbike (as long as you have a license) as you explore the countryside. By doing so you’ll get to take in the natural wonders and local culture that northern Thailand has to offer. The main roads are mostly excellent.

But do be advised that there are dangerous consequences for those not capable on two wheels, or without a proper motorbike license. With windy roads, rain, mountain slopes, as well as other drivers, serious injury is a constant threat. So while beginners are not recommended to hire a motorbike, experienced riders will be at ease.

1. Doi Suthep and Doi Pui

In northern Thailand Doi is the local word for mountain. Standing ever-present in Chiang Mai is Doi Suthep, the city’s most famous mountain. Seen from everywhere in the city, this mountain is topped by the iconic temple, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, one of Thailand’s holiest Buddhist sites.

On your climb up to the temple you will pass waterfalls, food stalls and scenic viewpoints overlooking the city. Once you have reached the temple, you can travel further ahead to reach Doi Pui.

Doi Pui is famous for its Hmong tribal village/market that lies just 17 minutes passed Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. There you will get an insight into one of the culture of the Hmong people, one of the local hill tribes of northern Thailand.

2. Pai

Pai is the second most famous backpacker destination in northern Thailand after Chiang Mai. It is a small village surrounded by low mountains, pastures and farms. In Pai you will get an eclectic mix of international backpacker culture and a hippy, island-esque local culture.

Sunrise in Pai – Photo: Nom Adasaurus

In addition to the great selection of food Pai has to offer, the surrounding areas have a great selection of natural activities: waterfalls, hot springs, fresh springs, the Pai canyon, as well as the big white Buddha.

As enjoyable as Pai is, so is the ride there. It’s possibly the best drive in northern Thailand, or at least the most popular. Along the way make sure to stop at the massive Mong Fa waterfall.

3. Doi Inthanon National Park

Here are some of the many reasons to visit Doi Inthanon National Park.
● It’s the highest peak in all of Thailand and sacred to all Thais
● There are numerous waterfalls
● There are amazing views
● The local hill tribe culture
● The gorgeous nature trails

The highest peak in Thailand, Doi Inthanon rises to a height of 2565 metres above sea level. This altitude means that temperatures on Doi Inthanon are refreshingly brisk year round and regularly dip below freezing during the cool season (October to February).

The national park covers 482 square kilometres and contains Sanpatong District, Chomthong District, Mae Chaem District, Mae Wang District, and the Toi Lor Sub district of Chiang Mai Province.

The park has been adapted to accommodate the growing tourist trade and there are some eating and drinking areas, as well as accommodation these days. The rugged terrain is now crisscrossed with pathways and roads to make it more accessible to visitors. But the development is being tightly controlled and every effort is being made to preserve the natural beauty of the environment.

4. Mae Wang

The #1 reason to visit Mae Wang is for the bamboo rafting. Find yourself far away from the city. Have the sense that you truly are traveling somewhere exotic.

Depending on how strong the water is that day, you can either steer your own raft or a guide will have to do it for you. In either case, you’ll slowly pass along a small stream with the jungle on either side of you. It truly is a magnificent experience.

Photo by Karen Eco Lodge

5. Chiang Dao

Chiang Dao is home to one of the most stunning mountains in all of northern Thailand. In addition to the mountain, this quiet city is known for its Buddhist temple found in a cave, Wat Tham Chiang Dao. Typically one night will be enough to enjoy Chiang Dao.

Although it’s close enough to take a day trip from Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai, it’s an amazing place for a weekend getaway trip. It has the perfect atmosphere to unwind but you may quickly get swept up into other things to do in Chiang Dao.

Chiang Dao has absolutely stunning views of the towering mountain, Doi Luang Chiang Dao (ดอยหลวงเชียงดาว), and of the nearby valleys and rolling hills.

6. Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai is more of a proper city than Chiang Mai. While Chiang Rai is world famous for its White Temple (which is not even a real temple), it is the Blue Temple that you should really see. The Blue Temple is such a unique piece of art, both externally and on the inside as well.

Visit Site

Photo by Kuoni

7. Sticky Waterfalls and Mae Ngat Dam

The Sticky Waterfalls (Bua Tong Waterfalls) provide the most unique water experience around Chiang Mai. As the name implies, the rocks of Bua Tong Waterfalls are quite grippy. Kids can easily scale the not-so-steep waterfall – that’s how non-slippery the rocks are.

Along the way to the Sticky Waterfalls, just 25 minutes prior to arriving, you’ll pass the Mae Ngat Dam. Within the dam’s lake are floating houses where you can sleep or just chill for the day. Order a bite to eat, something to drink, go for a swim or a stroll on a kayak. These two attractions and the roundway trip will take up most of your day.

8. Mae Sa

Just north of Chiang Mai city is the beautifully natural sub-district called Mae Sa. This area’s most frequented-road is a must-visit for lovers of the outdoors. Queen Sirikit’s Botanic Gardens, Mae Sa Waterfall, off-road ATV riding, elephant sanctuaries and zip-lining.

Make sure to avoid the animal attractions such as elephant riding camps or shows, Tiger Kingdom or the monkey shows. Whilst still popular with some tourist demographics there is a trend now away from supporting these shows.

9. Mon Cham

From Mae Sa you can continue your trip to Mon Cham, that is just further away in the same direction. Mon Cham is the most popular camping destination amongst local tourists here in the north. If you want to sleep in a tent and grill your own food, do make a visit to Mon Cham.

Mon Cham sits on top of a small mountain no more than 45 minutes northwest away from the Old City. You probably wouldn’t have guessed that there’s a farming community in its neighborring hills, but there it is.

Photo by Remote Lands

10. Wat Chaloem

Saving the least well known for last we have Wat Chaloem in Lampang (a neighbouring province from Chiang Mai). While Lampang and the ride there has lots to offer, I believe a look at Wat Chaloem is enough to explain why you should visit.

The white pagodas perched high in the cliff side near Lampang, known as Chaloem Phra Kiat Temple, are not super well-known on the tourist trail. Not only are they breathtaking, but you can enjoy the view without being surrounded with selfie sticks that you find in popular tourist spots.

By Ryan Astaphan from Panumart Tattoo                                                            Source: The Thaiger / The Nation

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