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Old 01-23-2013, 03:57 PM   #1
TonyBKK OP
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Epic Northern Thailand Dirt Tour! 5 days and 1200km of offroad fun!

What a ride! We met up at Bangkok's main Hualomphong station last Wednesday evening to throw the bikes on the train. Kinda fun riding through the station in full gear; learned later we were supposed to walk the bikes....



You buy a passenger ticket first, then a ticket for your bike at this counter-


Loading the bikes-


The guys who load the bikes are cool (I can't believe they don't have a ramp?!). We tipped them 100 Baht/bike and they seemed pretty happy-


All aboard! This will be my seat / bed for the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai-
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Old 01-23-2013, 04:07 PM   #2
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The train rolled out of Bangkok on time but ever so slowly... You can drive Bangkok-CM in about ~6-7 hours going the speed limit, or 4-5 hours on a fast bike, but the train takes something like 14 hours... That's assuming it's on time. A few hours after we left Bangkok the locomotive shat itself somewhere near Ayuttaya... Oh well, so much for an on time arrival in Chiang Mai... Bored, we wandered to the "restaurant car" only to discover that it was in fact the party car!
Disco balls, flashing Christmas lights, funny staff, interesting patrons and a thumping sound system made for a wild night!












The place was packed! Standing room only and the party kept going until the wee hours. When they finally did close down we brought our drinks back to our "room" and partied on with some Frenchies who were in the same car. I don't know why, but for some reason I ended up wet and covered in potato chips...


Good night!!
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Old 01-23-2013, 04:08 PM   #3
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Epic! sounds great Im in.

I'm hoping to get up there on a KLR one day soon. How much were the tickets?
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Old 01-23-2013, 05:21 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ShaneBaby View Post
Epic! sounds great Im in.

I'm hoping to get up there on a KLR one day soon. How much were the tickets?

Tickets are cheap- about ~1200 baht (~US$40) for a 2nd class air con sleeper and about the same cost for the bike.

Having said that, if I were on a KLR I'd just ride all the way to Chiang Mai. The train is fun, but ridiculously slow...

Kills me that the KLR650 is manufactured right here in Thailand but not sold here...
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Old 01-23-2013, 05:30 PM   #5
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Good morning from the Bangkok-Chiang Mai night train!


Bit of a headache this morning, but I did manage to sleep some and after a hot coffee in the "disco car" and rice soup I'm starting to feel almost human again

Turns out with all the delays that we are running about 4 hours late... Hmmm, this is gonna mess with our schedule... We were hoping to hit the ground running and ride from Chiang Mai to Ban Wat Chan today but with our late arrival in Chiang Mai it's going to be tight to make it there before dark...

I told my riding and drinking buddy that IF we didn't get lost or suffer any mechanical problems we still ought to be able to make it... Famous last words, eh?

The bikes are in the very first car and we're almost at the end of the train. By the time we walk up to the front our mates have already unloaded the bikes- good on ya!


We quickly strapped our bags to the bikes, tried to shake off the cobwebs, and roared out of the station!
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Old 01-23-2013, 05:59 PM   #6
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We're off! Chiang Mai local Big Dave leads the way on his BMW F800GS and we begin our ride with the fantastic route 1269 from Hang Dong to the Samoeng turn off, encountering some pachyderms along the way!


Stop for a quick pic at the junction of 1269 and 1096 where we ride west to the small town of Samoeng-


From Samoeng we ride west and north on the 1349 through the small villages of Mae Sap, Mae Khan and up to Om Long. Trent notices a rattle on his brand new KLX (started this trip with about ~30km on the clock!) and discovers that his front fender is coming loose. One bolt gone, but three remaining, no worries, we tighten them up and continue on!


A bit past Om Long we finally reach the dirt!


Dave has a GPS but the Garmin map is useless on these small roads so we sometimes ask a local for directions and when there are no locals around we often just guess which way we should go. Fortunately we're armed with a Golden Triangle Riders map; GT Rider's Thailand and Laos guide maps (http://www.gt-rider.com/) and even when we don't know which way to go, at least the map has the names of all the small villages on it, so we only need to ask the locals which way to the next village and they almost always point us in the right direction



Great riding out here in the cool weather and fantastic scenery!


So far it's all dirt roads with occasional bits paved in concrete, so we make good time.


Dave is charging ahead in front of us but get's caught in a rut on a steep section and flops the Beemer, no damage to bike or rider-


Short vid-


Hard to get going again on this steep slippery hill, but with a little helpful push the Beemer got moving again-


Pics and vids don't show how steep some of these trails are- even the KLX needed a little push-


Daylight's a wastin' let's keep going!!
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Old 01-23-2013, 06:15 PM   #7
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West of Mae Muang Noi the dirt road becomes a dirt trail. I'm lovin' it!


A short vid of the KLX's-


And the F800GS-


Zoomin'!


The sun is getting low on the horizon but we're making good time- I think we can make it to Ban Wat Chan before dark...


We come to a fork in the road at a small village that isn't on the map. To me it looks like the main "road" goes right, but the villagers tell us that Ban Wat Chan is down the track to the left... Ok, left then, and we're soon on single track which I wasn't expecting... More forks in the road and we just guess which way to go. Turns out we are still headed in the right direction, but this "trail" is about to get a lot more challenging than I expected...
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Old 01-23-2013, 07:03 PM   #8
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The track descends down into a valley and gets wet and slippery and off camber as we go. Trent is giving me dirty looks and I'm chuckling in my helmet and thinking to myself, damn, if this trail is a dead end it's going to be interesting climbing back up this way...


We reach a small farm shack and I see rice paddies on the far side of the valley and think "uh oh" it's a dead end... Just then Dave rolls off his bike in spectacular fashion


We jump off our bikes to go help Dave-


Once we see that he's ok we're all rolling in laughter

The track continues over a small sketchy bridge and the fellas send me ahead to see if we can continue this way-


Getting across the bridge is easy, and the trail does continue on the other side, but it's steep and deeply rutted, easy for a KLX, not so easy for a big BMW GS... I ride up about maybe half a mile to where the trail finally levels off, park the KLX and then hike back down to help the other guys.

Dave goes first and makes it across the bridge with no problems and has some choice words for me on the other side-


Trent and Jake follow and make it across no problems-


Dave is climbing up the trail when his clutch goes


Jake took this pic from the rear- Trent is in front of him and Dave is just around the corner with a clutchless F800GS...


Oh dear, dead bike, we are miles from civilization and the sun is setting... This is gonna be interesting...


Dave is fiddling with the bike, seeing if he can adjust the clutch and get the bike moving again. Turns out, after doing a bit of reading later on, that it seems that the clutch on the F800GS is known to have problems. With the handlebars turned to the left the cable is stretched and allows the clutch to slip. This is exactly what happened to Dave's bike...

Kudos to my mates- everyone kept their cool and no one freaked out or lost their temper. All part of the adventure!


There's no way we're going to haul that big bike out of here by hand. Just moving it up the trail 10 feet and pushing it into the jungle is exhausting. We take Dave's bags and strap them onto the 3 remaining bikes and then Dave and I take turns walking and riding my bike in the direction of Ban Wat Chan. The GPS shows that we're about 9 miles from the nearest "road", and still many many miles from Ban Wat Chan. It's very slow going, and all up hill. Soon it's pitch dark and the stars are absolutely amazing!

I'm thinking we might have to sleep in the jungle, which would be ok, except that Trent and Jake have run out of water...


I still have water and half a bottle of Thai whiskey so I'm not too concerned, Dave has an air mattress, coffee and a jet boil, but the city boys are a bit freaked out about the possibility of sleeping in the jungle and Trent says there are animals creeping around in the bushes and that he sees eyeballs in the dark. No silly, those are fireflies!

We're taking a break on the trail in the dark when off in the distance we hear the sound of an approaching scooter! A couple of Hmong villagers rock up on a beat up old scooter with no headlight (the passenger is carrying a flashlight that they use to navigate the trail). They stink of booze but tell us they'll come back with another scooter for Dave, so we sit down and wait...

And wait...

And wait...
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Old 01-23-2013, 07:52 PM   #9
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After waiting some 30-40 minutes we conclude that the Hmong dudes aren't coming back for us so we start hiking / riding again in the direction of the dirt road on the GPS.

It's still all uphill and with the bikes loaded the way they we are ass-heavy and our headlights are useless, pointing up into the trees so that can't really see what's in front of us. This leads to a few flops and picking up the heavily loaded bikes is getting tiring.


Another flop-


I wedged a stick in between the headlight and the surround to force it down a bit. This helped, but still not easy to see what's right in front of your wheel and I too dropped my bike...


Finally we decide that the fellows who have run out of water should ride on ahead to civilization, re-hydrate and then, if possible, send help or at least some supplies for the two of us who might have the spend the night in the jungle.

So Jake and Trent ride off and Dave and I continue slowly on foot. My bike gets dropped and suddenly the throttle won't snap back which has me a bit concerned, but we're still moving forward when the Hmong dudes finally catch up with us! They've returned with an extra scooter which they give to Dave, and then they ride ahead of us, 2-up.

Pretty funny sight- Big Dave on that tiny scooter. He's looking for the starter button and I tell him he has to kick start it

The headlight on the scooter is pretty much useless so I follow him so that he has some light.


Eventually we reach the dirt road!


We are re-united with Trent and Jake who have flagged down a pick-up truck who offers to help us-


Big Dave compensates the Hmong scooter guys handsomely and transfers to the pick-up-


Big Dave gives us a nice "wave" from the back of the truck to signal that all is well


We follow the truck to the tiny village of Dong Sam Mun where we find water and snacks and villagers huddled around a small fire to stay warm-


The owner of the shop was super-gracious and offered to let us stay in his home and said he would cook food for us too. Amazing hospitality!

I'm game, but the city boys won't have it. They want a proper bed and a warm shower, so we negotiate with the pick-up driver to take us to Ban Wat Chan. What a terrible ride that was!!! Following the pickup on the rough dirt road it was getting very cold and extremely dusty. The road was very rough with deep erosion in spots that could swallow a bike whole. I have no mirrors but knew there was a light at my back, so just focused on following the pickup truck and not crashing.

Turns out we did lose someone along the way to Ban Wat Chan... I didn't have enough gas to go back and everything in Ban Wat Chan was closed up for the night... Our missing rider did eventually catch up, pissed cuz he got stuck in a hole, but hey, what ya gonna do??

There are homestays and guesthouses and restaurants in Ban Wat Chan but it was around midnight and everything was closed up for the night... Shit... The closest town then would be Pai, some 50km to the north. We were all running low on fuel, including the pick-up truck, so we had to wake up a gas station attendant to get some fuel-




A couple liters in the bikes and 500 baht of diesel in the pick-up truck and once again we're off! Fekkin FREEZING at this point but we must push on! We reached Pai around 1 in the morning, topped up at the PTT-


We rode around looking for accommodation. First couple places were full, but finally we found a little boutique guesthouse kind of place in the center of town that told us they had 5 rooms, but in fact only had 3... The lady running the place was thicker than thick and our patience was wearing thin. At least they had semi-off-street parking for the bikes-


Dave put the 3 Hmong dudes up in the big "honeymoon suite", he and I shared a room, Trent got a room and Jake ended up kicking the front desk lady out of the room she was in. Sorted!!

Shower and clean clothes and then out to find some grub! Dave and Trent took the hilltribe guys out for street food, Jake and I found a pretty good burger joint, but by the time we finished our meal all the bars on our street, that were hopping when we arrived, had already shut down. A few drinks in our room and it was finally time for bed.

Good night!!
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Old 01-23-2013, 08:43 PM   #10
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Good morning from Pai, Thailand!


The guesthouse had complimentary coffee and toast and fruit which we enjoyed out on the deck overlooking the street. It was still quite cold, by 8 am it had only warmed up to about 15 degrees Celsius. I'd seen a digital thermometer the night before that was showing 12 and it was certainly colder up in the mountains!

Dave negotiated a deal with the Hmong dudes to recruit some more villagers and extract his bike and have it transported to Chiang Mai for repairs.

I felt bad that his bike broke and that he couldn't continue with us, but at least no one got hurt and the bike would be rescued.

We bid Dave bon voyage and off he went, standing in the back of the truck because he banged his knee the day before which made sitting difficult.

He looked a bit like a rotund Napoleon standing in the back of the truck one hand tucked in his jacket, the other pointing the way forward

Jake was helping me troubleshoot my sticking throttle when we discovered that the throttle cable was about to go-


Yikes! That would have sucked had it snapped on the trail, and I must confess I was not carrying a spare...

Jake and Trent both needed to replace some missing bolts too.

Fortunately there was a very competent motorcycle shop in Pai that fabbed me a new cable in no time for the princely sum of 200 baht! I don't know the name of this shop, but they're on the main road through town near the market intersection-


Jake overseeing repairs on my KLX-


Judging from the collection of bikes and trophies in their shop they know how to ride too!


While the bike was being sorted we enjoyed some grilled chicken and sticky rice from a sidewalk restaurant just next to the mc shop. Finally the bikes are sorted and we are ready to roll!


Today we will ride the "Elephant Trail" from Ban Wat Chan to Mae Hong Song! The "Elephant Trail" is one of Thailand's oldest trade routes and was established in 1831 to connect Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Song. The trail was abandoned in the 1950's when roads were built along a different route.

Much of the original "Elephant Trail" has been paved, but the section between Ban Wat Chan and Mae Hong Song is still mostly dirt!

First we need to ride back to Ban Wat Chan, about 50km via the 1265-


Then the real fun begins!
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Old 01-23-2013, 10:19 PM   #11
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Pai to Ban Chan / Wat Chan is about 50km, then it's another ~80km from Ban Chan to Mae Hong Song via the Elephant Trail, so total distance on day two would be about ~130km, assuming we we don't get lost along the way

Easy to miss the turn off for the 1265 north to Ban Wat Chan. Look for these signs as there's no actual road sign marking this road:


The ride up to Wat Chan was good fun- bit of a road race up the 1265-


When you arrive at Wat Chan there is an unmarked 4-way intersection and a temple on your left. Turn left here to get to Ban Chan-


It's a bit of an oddity here that road numbers on the ground often do not match the road numbers shown on GPS, Google Maps or paper maps... When in doubt, ask a local!




From Wat Chan to Nong Chet Nuai is an "all weather" dirt road, in pretty good repair, and past Nong Chet Nuai begins the real trail which warranted a photo stop!


And a short vid-


Kickstand? I don't need to stinkin' kickstand! ;)


It's about 10km from the village of Nong Chet Nuai to Huai Tong. After Huai Tong the trail is a bit rougher, but still in pretty good shape. We encountered a few pick-up trucks along the way but only one other dirtbike, headed east. Reckon this trail could be done on a road bike without too much difficulty.

The trail is a wonderful mix of ridges and valleys, a lot of up and down, with picturesque farms and fields in most of the valleys and amazing views from the ridges-


The burning season hasn't really started yet so the air is pretty cleal and the views are amazing!!!




Looking down at fallow rice fields and livestock. This farm even had horses, which are somewhat rare in Thailand. Can't imagine what they are doing with horses in such a remote location?


Absolutely fantastic ride! Smiles all around! I'm bummed Dave isn't with us, he'd have had no problems on this trail with his F800GS...




Most junctions it's pretty easy to guess which way to go. Sometimes there are even signs in English-


Occasionally we'll encounter bits of road that have been paved in concrete. I reckon this is to help make them passable during the rainy season?


More amazing views! It's actually hard to make good time as you spend so much time just pottering along enjoying the scenery! When you come up on a view like this you just have to slow down and take it in-




Another photo-stop!




We did make a wrong turn at one unmarked junction and ended up in this village that I can't find on any map...


As always seems to happen here, soon a local came by to point us in the right direction-


I tried to lift that basket of firewood she was carrying and it had to weigh upwards of 60-80 pounds! These hill tribe folks are seriously tough!




A short back track and we were back on the correct road again, headed towards Nong Khao, Huai Hee, Nam Hu and Mae Hong Song!
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Old 01-23-2013, 10:45 PM   #12
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I'm already getting confused about where I took some of these vids. The place names are all so similar I mix them up.


West from Nong Khao there are ~4-5 km that have been paved in concrete, but then it's back to good old dirt

It's a fun rip on the small paved road, but have to be conscious of the blind corners and possibility of oncoming traffic. Your average 4 wheel vehicle will take up pretty much the whole road!


Dunno why the quality is such crap in some of these videos... They were recorded in HD, but have been seriously degraded on YouTube- a shame as this one is quite beautiful in HD:

Fortunately Jake stopped to take a picture here-


One more vid on the 3006, great road, crappy vid quality, sorry!


The 3006 reverts to dirt several times, which is just fine for me, and apparently for these buffalo too!




I'm not sure if Trent's method of buffalo dispersment is very prudent, and one of the buffaloes looked seriously annoyed, but we made it through ungored, so I guess all's well that ends well!
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Old 01-23-2013, 11:02 PM   #13
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Jake and I are hanging back, enjoying the scenery and stopping to take pics, while Trent is pinning his KLX and charging ahead...

This is by far the largest building we've seen since leaving Ban Wat Chan. All boarded up, no idea its function-


Eventually we catch up to Trent and the dummy has run out of gas


Once again I'm left speechless by the kindness and generosity of the locals. These kids on scooters stopped and offered Trent gas from their own tanks. They never asked for money, but of course Trent rewarded them handsomely.


They didn't have a bottle or a hose so one of them rode back to the nearest village and came back with a siphon hose and empty water bottle.

They took about a liter each out of two of the scooters which was enough to get rev-happy Trent to Mae Hong Song.

Jake and I were also running low on gas, but I guesstimated I could still make it to Mae Hong Song on my remaining fuel if I took it easy. It helped that it was almost all downhill from here, so I switched off the bike and coasted down in neutral, pretending the KLX was a big fat mountain bike- Passed the scooter guys at a lookout and gave them a wave
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Old 01-24-2013, 12:11 AM   #14
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Forgot to mention- around the time Trent ran out of gas Jake mentioned a vibration from his KLX and that's when we discovered that the frame bracket that holds the exhaust had snapped-

No dramas, while we were waiting for the guy to come back with hose and bottle to siphon fuel to Trent's bike we zip tied Jake's exhaust back in place, and while he meant to get the bracket welded back on, we never quite got around to it and those zip ties are still there today!

I continued coasting down the mountain road towards Mae Hong Song.





There are roadworks underway on a large portion of this road and I expect it will be paved soon. We reached the main road (108) and headed north towards Mae Hong Song. I reckon by bike was running on fumes at this point. As soon as I saw the gate that marks the entry to the town I knew I'd make it to the big PTT gas station that's on the main road through Mae Hong Song. Jake claims his bike dies just as he was coasting in to the station! Not sure why, but our total mileage for the day was well in excess of what I calculated on Google Maps... We did get lost once, but I'd estimate that was at most a 10-15km detour. If I remember correctly, Trent ran out of gas with about 130km on the clock, and we were still a good ~30km from Mae Hong Song at that point. Moral of the story- take mileage and travel time estimates given by Google Maps with a big grain of salt, especially when traveling on tracks and trails. I noticed a number of times during this trip that many roads that are shown on google maps don't actually exist, and other times there are roads, and in fact entire villages, that don't appear on Google Maps. In hind sight we should have topped up our tanks in Ban Wat Chan. We learned from this and during the rest of the tour we topped up much more frequently, just to be safe, and no one ran out of gas again

After filling up at the PTT it was time to find lodging. I wanted to try Piya which is a guesthouse with bungalows right off the lake in the middle of town, but they were full. Same story at the Romthai Guesthouse where I've stayed before, but fortunately the Palm Guesthouse right next to Romthai still had rooms. Nothing fancy, but hot showers, off street parking for the bikes, clean rooms, and a nice 2nd floor veranda where we could enjoy the cool air and nice views of the town-


2nd floor veranda at the Palm Guesthouse-


Trent had that new bike obsession of washing his bike at the end of every day... Jake and I said fook dat and we walked over to the Sunflower Restaurant on the lake and enjoyed a few beers, lovely waitresses and a beautiful sunset. A big cold beer Leo and the GT-Rider Mae Hong Song Map- what a fantastic day!!


We eventually wandered back to the guesthouse and caught up with Trent, had a few beers there, then headed out again in search of dinner. I can't remember what I ordered, but I do remember we stole most of Jake's pizza... Thanks Jake! I was pretty sore from two days on the KLX and was in the mood for a massage. Trent was going to join me but bugged out at the last moment. I enjoyed a wonderful one hour massage during which I fell sound asleep. I was well revived after that and caught up with the buys who were having beers at a little bar right next to the massage place.

Then we headed down to the Crossroads for more beers and another mediocre pizza. It was getting cold again-

Fortunately Trent and Jake were in an affectionate mood and kept each other warm! Bwahahaha!


Get a room you too!!
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Old 01-24-2013, 01:22 AM   #15
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Good Morning from Chilly Mae Hong Song, Thailand!

Cool and grey this morning, but the sun would soon burn off the fog and blue skies were on the menu once again

Consulting the GT Rider map at the Palm guesthouse before we head out-

So many trails, so many choices!

Those big BMW's belong to a couple that are on an around the world ride and recently returned from a ride through Myanmar- nice folks!


Breakfast at Salween is guaranteed to please!


Farang or Thai- their food rocks! Khao Soi for me, Trent had Khao Soi and a big western breakfast, and poor Jake was quite ill with stomach bug and something like the flu and his breakfast consisted of tea and drugs...


When I go to Nan I always crave Hot Bread for brekkie, when in Mae Hong Song, it's gotta be Salween!


Salween's got a pretty funny men's room sign-


Finally we're fed and drugged and ready to roll! It's about ~30km of tarmac blasting south on the 108 to reach the turn off for the dirt road that will take us to Mae Surin National Park. This road rocks on a sports bike and isn't half bad on a dirt bike either!





Highway 108 - One of the best sport bike roads in Thailand!


One more clip from the 108 riding south from Mae Hong Song-





It's about 36 km south on the 108 to reach Huai Pong where we stop to top off the tanks-


Another shot from across the road-


Some damn cute puppies hiding nearby-




The turn off up the mountain is about ~4km past Huai Pong and is marked by a sign for Mae Surin National Park-




Double checking the GT Rider map just to be sure-


It's a steep climb, the first bit is paved, but soon gives away to dirt-


Thumbs up all around!!
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2011 Kawasaki VERSYS!
2005 BMW K1200LT

TonyBKK screwed with this post 01-24-2013 at 05:29 AM
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