After traveling all the way to Thailand to spend three weeks with my brother, we wanted to see every side of this beautiful country. Unfortunately this meant only a few days spent in each place. By the time we got to Chiang Mai, we wanted to spend a whole day physically challenging ourselves with amazing views of the Mae Sa Valley to keep us going – who doesn’t right?
The Mae Sa Valley Hike and Bike Experience
We were staying at the D Condo Campus just outside of the city in Chiang Mai as we wanted to be close to Tom and Anna. Pick up times started from 8.30am but varied depending on where you were staying. We were promptly picked up at 9am and transported to our starting point for the hike which took just under an hour. During the transfer, our guide Todd introduced himself and briefed us on the plan for the day, and we mixed with the others in our intimate group of 6.
The First Half of The Day: The Hike with Active Thailand
When we arrived at the starting point of the hike in the Mae Sa Valley, it was around 10am. The first thing we were advised to do is cover ourselves in Mosquito spray and we were given a bottle of water to start the 2.5 hour hike. The first part of the hike involved very steep terrain as we ascended the mountain. The scenery quickly changed from the outskirts of a village to unspoiled jungle as we walked along a bumpy clay path.
For the hike I would say you needed a good level of fitness as we were walking at quite a brisk pace. With that being said though, I was able to do it with an injured foot. I really had to push myself but it is doable! Once we reached the top of the mountain, we walked off path through the rugged jungle. Make sure you try to take in your surroundings instead of looking at your feet like I did. You will see towering trees, hear the deafening sound of cicadas and even spot some snakes or tarantulas!
Although the hike has been tough, it was a really cool and interesting. The surroundings were beautiful with the forest provided some much needed shade while our guide Todd continuously narrated the walk, teaching us about everything that we saw. We even had our own stray dog that walked the whole tour with us! After a brief stop for some water, we were provided with some traditional Thai snacks to keep us going.
Who knew a chocolate wafer bar and some pineapple jam biscuits could give you the strength to soldier on! Toward the end of the hike, forest trails became country roads as we walked past cabbage and chilli farms and through the hill tribe villages. Again, Todd shared his expert knowledge on the customs of village life as he talked to the locals going about their daily tasks.
Our Lunch Stop
After leaving the villages, we took a very short drive to the spot where we were to have lunch. Here, we were given a little red food bag each and we chose our drink, which we carried to a beautiful spot facing a waterfall. As soon as we sat down, everyone opened their food and devoured it. It was a really flavourful (and still warm!) chicken and rice dish with a delicious mix of vegetables. They also provided vegetarian dishes that people requested the day before. Although this dish definitely filled a hole, my favourite part was the mouth-wateringly fresh mango that we had to finish.
Everyone silently feasted on their food and enjoyed a well deserved rest. The scenery made this rest all the more relaxing with the sound of water falling and the smell of fresh air. Todd explained that the water is normally clear but with the recent rain, the water had turned bright orange which was a special sight to see.
Read: What to Eat in Thailand
When we were all sufficiently full and rested, we were assigned our bike and helmet and given a very useful summary of how to use the bike and what to expect from the trail. One thing I will say is to prepare yourself for hills! Both bike tours that I have been on, the guide has insisted there wasn’t really any. Lets just say that Westerners have a different idea of what a hill actually are.
Active Thailand Cycling Gear
This might sound really geeky, but when we were given our gear, I might have let out a little squeal of excitement. The equipment was in perfect condition to the point where they looked brand new! The gear was also well fitted. The bikes had been altered to our specific height and weight, and you could alter the helmets to fit perfectly which I loved. Throughout the whole day I wasn’t once uncomfortable. One thing that might be worth mentioning though is that a guy in our group was 6’2″ and he complained that the bikes wasn’t the most comfortable for taller people.
The Second Half of The Day: The Bike
Full from lunch, we swapped the jungle trail for 2.5 hours of rural, off-road cycling. Again, for this you need an average level of fitness but maybe above average leg strength for the hills! The first part of the cycling adventure was country paths where you are mostly descending the mountain and using your momentum to ascend the small hills. However, you do get to one monster hill after about 30 minutes into the journey which starts off extremely steep. Tip, don’t go into a low gear too early! I found the first part very hard just because I didn’t have strength in my foot but I was able to do it. If you really don’t like hills, there is a support car following you so you can hitch a ride whenever you want!
Just when I thought I couldn’t carry on, we stopped at a perfect location with stunning views of rice fields and distant mountains. With a much-needed swig of water and some time to catch our breath, we took a few moments to appreciate our surroundings and take some pictures. That view alone made the whole day worth it. A fun fact about Thailand is that it is so diverse. It has lush fields, valleys, beaches and more.
The rest of the cycling involved the most idyllic views. Turning off the main road we road through village alleyways, spring onion fields, bumpy rice fields and rural roads before finishing the trip on the main road to get to our end point. This half of the cycling was by far my favourite just because of the stunning range of landscapes that we rode through. Again, we regularly stopped for Todd to point out interesting sights such as local workers or to smell the unusual fauna that we would have otherwise missed if he wasn’t with us.
The Mae Sa Valley Hike and Bike: Full Plan and Cost
For the package we did (approximately 9 hours), the cost was 1900 Thai Baht per person (as of 2016) but make sure to check out the Active Thailand website for more up to date information and group discounts. For the full package, the following is included:
- Pick up from Hotel/Hostel
- Transport to starting point, and lunch spot
- Experienced English speaking tour guide and licensed driver
- Water and snacks throughout the day
- One Thai picnic lunch
- Quality TREK brand Mountain-Bikes with 24 gears and front suspension (models 3900 and 4300 in different frame size) and cycling helmets
- A support vehicle during the afternoon of cycling
- Transport back to Hotel/Hostel
For more information about this tour or their other cycling tours and packages, check out their webpage below
Overall Hike and Bike Experience
The whole experience was quite challenging but really fun and the best way to experience all of what the Mae Sa Valley has to offer. What made the day even more amazing was our guide Todd. He was so interesting and you could tell he absolutely loved adventure and sharing it with us. If you want to explore the lush green and mountainous side to Chiang Mai then this particular activity is perfect. A special shout out to Active Thailand for providing us with a very well organised and exciting multi-adventure day!
Please note that despite receiving some complimentary services from Active Thailand, all opinions are ours and remain completely unbiased.
Looking for Other Things to Do While in Thailand? Check out these articles:
- 10 Crazy Extreme Adventures to Do in Thailand
- Best Scuba Diving in Thailand: Dive Sites You Just Can’t Miss
- Trekking in Chiang Mai Thailand
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