Part 2: The Noob’s Motorcycle Diaries – Mae Hong Son Loop

After our eventful first leg, the motorcycle adventure continues!

Day 2: Mae Sariang –> Mae Hong Son       (163 kms)

On the second leg of our journey, the surroundings started to become harsher. Landscapes converted from green to orange and dried leaves scattered the forest floors. Some parts of the forest were even on fire, causing the air to be thick with the scent of smoke. At one point, a burning tree fell in the middle of the road billowing a mass of grey smoke. As Arran skillfully weaved our motorcycle around the burning tree – I silently ticked off a bucket list item – rising from the flames like all those Hollywood movies, check.

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Summer’s heat pierced through the landscape

We arrived in Mae Hong Son with no accommodations booked, so we wandered around the town’s centre in hopes of finding the perfect lodging. Traveling without booking accommodation upfront was something new to the both of us. It was something I’ve been wanting to try for absolutely ages, but never had the guts to do – always clouded by worst case scenarios emerging in my head.

What if everything is fully booked?

Would we spend the night outdoors, by the roadside?

Yet, once I did try it, I was enthralled by how much flexibility it offers. You could literally walk up to any hotel/hostel/BnB, request to see the room beforehand, wander through the grounds – and still not obliged to take it. We must have surveyed at least 10 lodgings before we settled on a hostel overlooking the Mae Hong Son lake.

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Our private balcony overlooking the Mae Hong Son lake

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The ornate temple of Mae Hong Son was one of my favourite Thai temples

Day 3: Mae Hong Son –> Sappong (77.4 kms)

The next leg of our trip was slightly different, as we had a destination in mind. Before embarking on our roadtrip, we searched hi and lo for outdoor activity opportunities. And that was how we stumbled upon Cave Lodge.

Built and managed by John Spies, an Australian who’s lived and settled in Thailand for over 20 years, Cave Lodge is a perfectly hidden retreat nestled in a hill overlooking the Mae Lang river. Besides its obscure location, the tastefully decorated wooden lodge fitted with modern amenities also offers multiple adventure trips for nature enthusiasts to embark on.

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Perched on top of a hill, Cave Lodge is the nature lover’s perfect getaway

Day 4: Sappong – Adventure day!

Bright and early, we set off for an adventure-filled day accompanied by our local tour guide, Jaka from the Karen tribe. Together we caved through four limestone caves – one of which was flooded by muddy water and covered in paddy straws. The only way through the 2km cave was to swim in complete darkness. What an electrifying experience!

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A wealth of limestone caves to be explored around the Sappong area

In another cave we encountered a yellow cobra that was startled from our sudden appearance. I freaked out and wanted to flee immediately, but Jaka told us to keep still and let the cobra pass. Soon enough, the cobra slid away, leaving us in peace. Thankfully Jaka was experienced in detecting danger and kept us safe throughout the trip. Another reason to always, always,  go with a tour guide, especially in the tropic wilderness littered with dangerous, venomous animals.

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The hike through burnt paddy fields surrounding the Karen village

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Jaka introduced us to local fruits stumbled along the hike

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Buffaloes trying to keep cool in the midday sun

After a long day of exploring, Jaka took us to the Karen village of Pang Mapha, where he grew up and still lives in. We were introduced to his wife and two year-old daughter, exchanging smiles whilst sharing a home-cooked meal. Being able to witness the real lives of the Karen people allowed us to put some context into our journey. Not only did we walk through their land, we also shared a glimpse of their world.

Arran Karen Village

Jaka and his family outside their humble abode. Check out the little girl holding the smartphone – proof of modernisation prevailing even through the rural areas of Thailand

Day 5: Sappong –> Chiang Mai (201 kms)

The last and longest leg of our trip. This leg served more as a reflective period as it dawned upon me that our motorcycle adventure is soon reaching its end. It felt hard to believe that all of the excitement happened within a mere span of five days. Yet those five days were so fulfilling to my adventurous soul, it still puts a smile on my face as I write this one month later.

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