Podcast: 1483km by motorbike in North Thailand

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Last week I completed a long 1483Km motorbike trip with my sister Laura through the mountains of North and North West Thailand, you can listen to the podcast we made along the way by clicking above.

The road between Mae Sot and Umphang

Setting off from Chiang Mai, we headed North East through the mountains to Mae Hong Son (via Pai), before heading South to Mae Sot and about 650KM along the Thailand/Burma border to our final destination – Umphang. Surrounded by national parks and wildlife reserves (and classified as a UNESCO World heritage site), Umphang is one of the most beautiful, but least accessible districts in Thailand. Nevertheless, it has one major tourist attraction, Thi Lo Su Waterfall, the largest waterfall in Thailand – 200 metres high and 400 metres wide.

Remarkably, Laura had only learned to ride a motorbike two weeks prior to the trip – she drove a 125 CC Honda Dream Scooter and I drove my 200CC Honda Phantom. In total, the trip took seven days of actual driving, with two days ‘resting’ in Mae Sot and Umphang.

This podcast features a lot of the sounds we heard along the way, from the jungle sounds of cicadas & birds of paradise, to frogs, Lisu musicians, a Thai kick boxing match, rafting near Umphang, and an interview with Tasanee at Safe Haven Orphanage.

You can view photos of the trip by visiting our Flickr account.

Route information

Click here for the motorbike trip route mapThe route we took was Chiang Mai – Pai – Mae Hong Son – Mae Sariang – Khun Yuam Sunflower fields – Mae Sariang – Mae Sot – Umphang – Mae Sot – Chiang Mai. (See the map on the right courtesy of Travelfish.org)

The approximate distances are below.

Chiang Mai to Pai – 135KM
Pai to Mae Hong Son – 139KM
Man Hong Son to Mae Sariang (via the sunflower fields) – 250KM
Mae Sariang to Mae Sot – 242KM
Mae Sot to Umphang – 176KM
Umphang to Mae Sot – 176KM
Mae Sot to Chiang Mai – 365 KM
Total: 1483KM

Video: Wild Sunflower fields at Doi Mae U-Kho

The wild sunflowers of Doi Mae U-Kho in Northern Thailand (Mae Hong Son province) bloom during November and early December, painting the entire mountain of Doi Mae U-kho in gold. The flowers are also known as Bua tong in Thai or Golden lotus and are actually Mexican sunflowers.

The area that the sunflowers cover is more than 1,000 rai (400 Acres). The Bua Tong Forest Park is located on the mountain of Doi Mae U-Kho, 1,600 meters above sea level. Imagine entire mountain sides and valleys in bright colors of yellow, blue, green and occasionally pink. It is a divine sight.

In November you are almost guaranteed stunning blue skies and pleasant temperatures for your drive. You won’t have the sunflower fields to yourself as they’re just too beautiful to keep people away, but it’s hard to blame anyone for wanting to experience such a surreal and beautiful setting. You’ll find that most of the tourists at the sunflower fields are Thai since most guidebooks doesn’t mention this spectacular sight.

Along the way as you get closer to Khun Yuam, you’ll see the farmers bringing in the rice harvest and threshing by hand, and increasing quantities of naturally blooming sunflowers bursting from the road side.

Getting there

From Mae Hong Son, take 108 highway South to Khun Yuam, before turning off and following the signs for the last 30 KM to the sunflowers. You should allow 2-3 hours from Mae Hong Son to Khun Yuam, and about 45 minutes from the turn-off to get to Doi Mae U-Kho.

From Chiang Mai, the fastest route is highway 108 via Mae Sariang where you turn North towards Mae Hong Son. You should allow about 5 hours from Chiang Mai to Khun Yuam by car, and longer by motorbike. We’d recommend staying the night in Khun Yuam (as we did) and viewing the sunflowers at sunset and early morning.