Road Trip to Nan in Northern Thailand ...

Pick a road, any road, and you are on your way to adventure, if you are visiting Nan, a remote town in the north of Thailand.  We drove through Nan on our way home last year and I liked the roads enough I wanted to return and collect a few more this year.  So that is what we did.

The wife had been feeling guilty, I guess, and suggested we take a little trip.  Overlapping funerals and village activities had kept her busy since I got back.  That left me alone at home taking care of Cookie and the house much of the time.  Best not to leave the house empty when the entire village is off at a funeral.  You may come home to an empty house.

It looked like there might be a couple of days with nothing pressing, providing a small window of opportunity to take a short trip together.  Soon the harvest will start and there will be no one to watch the house and take care of Cookie.  Actually we returned from our trip to find the harvesters in full swing and several fields done.  Maps were perused and plans made, just to be informed the night before we left there had been another death in the village, the sixth in two months.  This gentleman's wife had passed only a couple of weeks before and I guess he decided there wasn’t much left to live for.  In the end we decided to go anyway.  One of those now or never scenarios.

From our home in Phaya Mengrai the difference in mileage to Chiang Mai or to Nan is not enough to bother mentioning.  It does take a bit longer to get to Nan, because of the roads, but then again the roads are a major draw to the area.  Some say they are the best motorcycle roads in Thailand.

With my wife’s driving continuing to improve but needing practice, we agreed that she should start off the drive to Nan, to get more experience on the open roads.  In the end she drove all the way there, 220 km.  Perhaps I could have gotten us there in a more timely manner but time was not an issue on the day.

Arriving in time for lunch, we found a place right across the street from Hot Bread, a place some bikers swear to as the best breakfast stop.  We ate at a Thai place opposite, which unfortunately wasn’t great.  Then again it could have been that we ordered the wrong dishes.  From there we walked around a nearby temple, bought a painting, gathered information and maps from the tourist information booth and took some pictures.
A hot breakfast spot.

A late lunch.


Buying a painting.



We settled on the Dhevaraj for our hotel and after a shower and a nap we walked through the street vendors down to the river for some dinner.  This weekend Nan is having its annual boat races so there were dozens of boats practicing on the river.  We arrived a little late for any good photos as the sun had already set but we snapped away regardless.  Again the food was not great but the atmosphere was electric with the teams in pitched battles and their rhythmic chanting serenading our meal as they sought to synchronize their strokes and increase their cadence.
Returning to the start point.

Practice for Nan Boat Race.

On our arrival at the hotel parking lot, I had noticed a group of five Kawasaki motorcycles that I took for rentals.  Later on the river and again at breakfast I noticed a mixed group of farang couples, individuals and a Thai girl.  The numbers didn’t add up but I was sure they were connected to those bikes.  It ended up being a motorcycle tour with one couple riding two up on a Versys, the others on ER-6n’s and a support vehicle driven by the farang guide’s girlfriend or wife.  They left before us but we crossed paths several more times during the day.
Motorbike tour group.
Bo Kluea.

Making salt.

To increase our flexibility we checked out of our hotel before leaving, even though we were planning a two night trip.  After filling up the tank we crossed over the bridge and headed north on the 1169 and 1081 toward Bo Kluea.  Alternately one can take the 1168 to Mae Charim and follow on to the 1225, 1257 and the 1081.  Leaving town the roads are narrow with houses built right up to the road, leaving barely enough room to park a bike and no room at all for a car or truck.  Before long things open up and you are driving twisty, tree lined, sun dappled roads headed for the mountains where the roads really open up.
Nan roads, a biker's dream.

Nan curves.

On a particularly mountainous section between Bo Kluea and Pua there were warning signs that the road was washed out but it didn’t say impassable, so we continued.  You know those floods they are experiencing down in Bangkok and the central plains, well the water had to come from somewhere.  On our drive we saw plenty of evidence that a good portion of that water had fallen in these mountains during the exceptionally wet rainy season that we experienced up north.
That sinking feeling. 

Road damage.

Coming down out of the mountains we saw signs advertising a restaurant several kilometers ahead so kept an eye open hoping to stop for a late lunch.  Pretty much in the middle of nowhere but it was by far the best meal we had on our short trip.  Weighing the options of returning to Nan and spending another night doing the same things we did the night before or returning home to sleep in our own bed and being with Cookie, home won out.  I wouldn’t want to drive the 1148 at night but we made it through that beautiful drive with a lovely afternoon light, making it home just as it got dark.  It made for a long day of driving but we were both glad to get home, feeling that two days had been enough of a break.

After this familiarization trip, I am feeling more confident about my plans for a solo ride on the Ninja after it gets a little cooler.  For more photos from this trip go to Nan Trip Nov. 2011 on my Google+ page.
Route Map on Google

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