Mae Hong Son Loop, Thailand: Everything you Need to Know

Wondering what it is like to ride the Mae Hong Son Loop in Thailand? In this article, I’m going to walk you through our top tips to do so.

After a week of partying in Chiang Mai for the Songkran Water Festival, my friend asked “so what are your plans now?” Luckily, when I was divulging my plans-or the lack of them rather, I met someone who said, “Man if you like motorbikes don’t miss riding the Mae Hong Son loop”. 

I quickly learned that the Mae Hong Son loop in Thailand, was a 3 to 4 day loop (you can even stretch it out for a week!), that went from Chiang Mai through the Mae Hong Son province. This epic 600km journey brings you through cascading waterfalls, awesome lime stone formations, and villages that are untouched by tourism.

Whilst you can do this journey on a car or through an organized tour, there and then, I decided to rent a motorbike from Chiang Mai, convinced that the next few days was going to be awesome.
Pai thailand fields

Mae Hong Son Loop by Car or Motorcycle?

You can travel the Mae Hong Son Loop by either an organized tour, renting a car, or a motorcycle. To those of you who have read a few of our articles, you would know that exploring by motorcycle is our top choice for seeing a place.

This article has information on the routes that we took but regardless if you’re doing it by motorcycle or car, the routes still apply.

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How to Select the Right Motorcycle for the Mae Hong Son Loop

Motorcycle Rental Information and Prices in Thailand

There will be hundreds of motorcycle rental shops ready to offer you a bike for the trip. You don’t need a motorcycle license but will need to present your passport. Some might even ask to keep your passport as a deposit. Before you go anywhere near the shops, decide on what kind of bike you want to rent. Here are a few tips when renting a bike:

  • Don’t leave your passport. Instead, try to leave a photocopy or a deposit of it if you can. (Larger shops will require you to do so which is understandable if you are planning on renting a larger bike.)
  • If you are renting the bike for a couple of days, haggle for a cheaper price!
  • Don’t forget to check the bike condition-take photos of it to be sure. Thai people are sticklers on their motorcycle damages.

Read: Incredibly Useful Tips when Renting a Motorcycle in ThailandA man and woman on a parked motorbike

First timer/ Beginner Rider

Opt for a 125cc automatic scooter. A simple twist and go bike will be easy for you to learn and get used to. It will also do the job and is likely to take you around the Mae Hong Soon loop without any mechanic problems.

Price Range: 200-300 baht per day

Amateur Rider

Rode a bike a few times – Opt for a semi-automatic bike. A bit more power and control over the automatic scooter. Also more fun as you get to change gears and take the corners faster.

Price Range: Around 600 baht per day

Experienced Rider

Opt for a 200-600cc Manual Motorcycle. This choice will mainly come down to your budget. The bigger the engine, the higher the cost and it goes up quickly. I don’t have to tell you that this option will bring you the most fun. If you are an experienced rider, suck up the extra cost and go for it. You won’t regret it!

Price Range: Around 800-2,500 baht per day, depending on the model (200cc)

My Motorcycle Choice for the Mae Hong Son Loop

Since moving to Chiang Mai, we’ve scoured the place for the best rental options and one company that stood out was Tony’s Big Bikes. This shop was professionally run by two British expats who are riders themselves. Their love for riding the awesome trails here in Thailand is what brought them to the country in the first place! We recently rented a big motorcycle from them (Honda CB300F Street Bike) and was more than happy zooming along all the curves on the road up to Pai.

Their bikes were well maintained and were in tip top condition. We were also able to rent air flow armored mesh jackets which was a big plus for us since renting a big bike.

For more info on Tony’s Big Bikes, you can check out: Website | Contact mae hong son loop bike

When I first did the loop, I rode a semi-automatic but wished I had gone for at least a 200cc. With that being said, the semi-automatic did its job and stayed with me for around a week. It had no problems and I managed to take my backpack on the back with me as well. The second time I did the loop, I rented a larger bike and had the time of my life! Cruising down those roads on a big bike was awesome!

Read: Thailand Packing List

Mae Hong Son Loop Route Options

For the Mae Hong Son Loop, you have a few options. You can either do it in a counter-clockwise direction taking route 107 north heading to Pai. This trip can be a bit tricky as the road from Chiang Mai to Pai alone has 762 turns. For less experienced riders, you can build your confidence riding counter clockwise towards route 108 and heading to Mae Sariang first.

There are loads of side trips to take, depending on how much time you have. We recommend doing Chiang Mai towards Mae Sariang as after a few days of non-stop riding, you will want to chill out and relax in Pai for a couple of days.

Chiang Mai – Doi Inthanon – Mae Sariang – Mae Hong Son – Pai – Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai – Pai – Mae Hong Son – Mae Sariang – Doi Inthanon – Chiang Mairoad to mae hon song loop

My Mae Hong Son Loop Experience

To date, I have done the Mae Hong Son Loop twice now, trying out the two routes I’ve outlined. The first time I did it, I rented a bike in Pai and returned it to the sister shop in Chiang Mai a couple of days after.

The second time I did it, we rented a large bike and drove from Chiang Mai around the loop in four days. You can opt to extend this trip by however long you want as there are always loads of things to do in each of the towns you end up going to. Our recommendation is to block off at least 3-4 days.

Chiang Mai to Mae Sariang

It took us around 3 hours to reach the sleepy village of Mae Sariang. If you are in no rush, there is meant to be fantastic trekking and rafting in the area. We stayed in a small guesthouse and woke up to a beautiful riverside view.

The town itself is rather small with one interesting night market which is in full swing during Sundays. The night market offers lots of local dishes and interesting street food.

Inside Tip: Take the time to see Doi Inthanon, which is the highest mountain in Thailand. You can ride all the way to the top allowing you to see a spectacular view of Thailand. We recently spent a weekend camping there and the views along was highly worth it! 

The Giew Mae Pan Nature Trail is also something we recommend doing as the views are absolutely incredible. You can read more about our camping experience as well as all the necessary park fees to enter Doi Inthanon. doi inthanon pagoda

Things to do in Mae Sariang:

  • Visit Wat Chomchaeng Temple – take the winding stairs up to the temple for views of the town but remember to dress appropriately (cover your knees and shoulders).
  • Stroll Around the Markets – You may come across daily markets or specific celebrations while you are there.
  • Visit the Karen Lahwi tribe near the border of Myanmar – admire the culture of the long-neck women of the tribe who use their form of dress as their identity.
  • If you have time, go trekking in the Salawin National Park, rafting alongside the river, and seeing some Karen tribes. The treks here are beautiful, remote, and spending a few days relaxing by the riverside isn’t too bad as well.
  • Grab a drink in Ching Ching Cafe, one of the coolest bars we’ve seen! The owner is super lovely and the whole vibe and atmosphere of the place makes it a good place to grab a cold beer before calling it a night.

Where to Stay in Mae Sariang:

Budget: Good View Guesthouse 

Midrange: Tamarind Grand Resort Mae Sariang  Booking.com 

Splurge: River House Resort  Booking.com mae sariang

Mae Sariang to Mae Hong Son

This day consisted of straight fast roads which allowed us to get to our next stop Mae Sariang faster than expected. Here, there is the option to visit the long-neck Karen tribe near the border of Myanmar.

Mae Hong Son is a much larger town than expected. From Mae Sariang, it was around a 3-hour drive coupled with stunning mountainous roads. The roads are in perfect conditions, making them highly enjoyable and easy to navigate.

Things to do in Mae Hong Son

  • Drive or trek up Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu – the oldest landmark in the Mae Hog Son province, this temple atop Kong Mu Hill has amazing views of the entire valley. This spot is particularly popular during sunset. There is also a coffee shop located at the top with stunning views of the mountains around you.
  • Wat Chong Kham and Wat Chong Klang – Twin Burmese-style temples located in front of a beautiful lake and are conveniently close to the city center.
  • Lake Jong Kum – A perfect place to seek shade, this small lake is completely surrounded by a pristine public park. The lake is surrounded by a food market alongside with little tables where you can enjoy your freshly cooked meal. We recommend eating by one of the lakeside vendors as you watch the temple’s reflection light up the lake.

Where to Stay in Mae Hong Son:

Budget: Boondee House Booking.com 

Midrange: Sang Tong Huts Booking.com 

Ban Phumon Talang Resort Booking.com 

Splurge: Fern Resort Mae Hong Son Booking.com  mae hong son town

Mae Hong Son to Pai

This for me was one of the best parts of the trip as the mountains leaving Mae Hong Son are absolutely stunning. On your way to Pai, you can also visit the Lod Cave which is a cave which you can explore on a bamboo raft as it had a stream running through it. We recently visited the Lod caves and it was AMAZING! The whole place was absolutely beautiful so a trip there is well worth your time.

Side Trip to Ban Rak Thai: Another side trip you can do taking you off the regular loop path is a visit to Ban Rak Thai, a small Chinese village near the Thai-Burmese border. The roads are beautiful and very rural, making it an ideal side stop for lunch. You can eat at the restaurants by the reservoir which all serve fantastic Chinese food! The views are pretty beautiful and a side trip here will add another hour or so until you reach Pai.

As soon as you get to Pai, you get a bungalow by the river, grab a cold beer, and relax in a hammock. Trust me, it’s the best things to do!

Things to do in Pai

Watch the sunset in the Pai Grand Canyon- Head up towards the Pai canyon where you can watch the sunset along with other travelers as it sets amidst this stunning canyon. The stillness of your surroundings, the quiet chatter of the people around you, and the treacherous 100ft drops of the canyon.

Go Visit the Waterfalls- The Mor Paeng Waterfall is one of the most popular destinations in Pai. It is often busy with both locals and tourists. If you want to avoid the crowds, head there early or hike a bit further to the bottom of the waterfalls. To those that are looking for a more adventurous hike, head on over to the Mae Yen Watterfalls which is a pretty long hike through the jungles of Pai

For more information on what to do, check out our: Pai Travel Guide 

Where to Stay in Pai:

Budget: Baan Kati Sod Booking.com 

Mid-Range: Soi One Boutique Bedrooms  Booking.com 

Splurge: Puri Pai Villas: Booking.com

For more information on where to stay in Pai: Check out our full post Where to Stay in Pai.pai rice fields

Pai to Chiang Mai

After spending a couple of days in Pai (and trust me, you would want to stay forever, it’s time to make your way back to Chiang Mai. Here, you will encounter the famous curved roads with exactly 762 turns. The roads are beautiful but just be wary of the minivans and buses along the way.

Things to do/see in Chiang Mai

  • Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – one of the most picturesque temples in the Chiang Mai region, atop the Doi Suthep mountain.
  • Sunday Night Walking Street or Saturday Night Markets – Wander the huge maze of market stalls sampling different food and enjoying live music.
  • Cliff diving – head to the Hang Dong Rock Quarry to jump into a turquoise green lagoon from heights up to 12 metres!
  • Watch a Muay Thai match – if you’re in the area when there is a match on you might consider heading to the Kawila Boxing Stadium or Thapae Boxing Stadium to watch the spectacle.
  • X-Centre – for adventure and extreme sports, you should definitely check this place out!

To read the full article on what to do in Chiang Mai, read: 10 Awesome Things to do in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Where to Stay in Chiang Mai:

Budget: The Grace House Booking.com 

Midrange: The Peaberry Booking.com 

Splurge: Anantara  Booking.com

For more information on where to stay, you can read our full article: Where to Stay in Chaing Mai Upwards view of a golden buddha and temple

Overall Mae Hong Son Loop Review

Overall, riding the Mae Hong Son loop was great. I would definitely recommend riding for at least 4 days If you’re a more experienced rider with more time on your hands, just get a map and ride inland. There is loads to see and do!

The first time I did it we didn’t cover a massive distance due to our bikes and the fact that we underestimated the distance that we had to cover (that is my lack of planning showing). However, I am glad I got to do it again, spending more time exploring the towns in between, enjoying the beautiful scenery, friendly locals, and stunning temples along the way.


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Tom Rogers

Chief of Adventure

Tom is the co-founder of this blog and has been traveling the world for th e last 9 years. Wherever he is around the world, he can be found riding motorbikes, jumping off cliffs, and navigating his way through mountains and jungles keeping his mum perpetually worried with every adventure he goes on.

24 thoughts on “Mae Hong Son Loop, Thailand: Everything you Need to Know”

  1. This is by far the best experience we’ve had so far! We took our time and did the whole loop in 10 days, could have been a bit shorter, but overall loved it. Everyone suggested renting a scooter when we went looking around, be we thought it wouldn’y have enough power. In the end we decided on a Yamaha Versys 650cc and that was perfect. We rented our bike at Popcar in Chiang Mai and got 3 suitcases, 2 jackets and 2 helmets included in the price. I tought the drive from Mae Sariang to Mae Hong Son was the best part, because of the nice and softly winding roads.

    Reply
    • Awesome!! @rienekeelzerman:disqus SOOOO glad you found the time to do it. 10 days is a good amount of time. We would have stretched out trip to and done some hiking while in Mae Sariang. I loved the Mae Hong Son to Pai because of the valleys! Was it smokey in northern THailand when you were there?

      Reply
      • No, not at all. We were there in Januari, some fog in the morning and a bit chilley. But when the sun came out it was clear blue skies all around. I don’t believe I’ve seen that kind of blue skies for so many days in a row!

        Reply
  2. Sounds like a wonderful trip!
    I’ve been wondering if this trip is safe for solo females?
    Quite a few recent posts states that there’re “police officers” flagging tourists to fine them…

    Reply
  3. Thanks for the information! I’m just wondering what your itinerary for a 4 day trip (as you recommended) would look like? Do you just mean chilling out in Pai for the end of the 3rd day, and then catching the bus to Chiang Mai the 4th day? Thanks in advance 🙂

    Reply
  4. Nice post!I really never heard of that loop in Thailand but it sounds great. I did the two loops in Pakse and Thakhek in Laos and they were stunning, did you try those already? Will definitely try that one and go to Pai next time in Thailand – thank a lot for the inspiration!

    Reply
  5. Sounds like a great adventure – thanks for the tips on picking out a motorcycle. Mental note to take physcial photocopies of my passport with me – i would feel really uncomfortable leaving it with someone for four days. It’s awesome that you don’t need a license to rent one; we were in Easter Island recently and you even needed a license to ride the quad bikes!!!

    Reply
  6. The last photo is beautiful. Coming from Singapore (we’re pretty strict with rules), its a real change to know you don’t need a licence! I can imagine how fun it must be riding with the wind in your hair, a thrilling way to explore Asia.

    Reply
  7. Ahh riding a scooter is the best way to explore many places in SE-Asia – I’ve ridden one in Laos, Bali and Thailand – each time I discovered things I otherwise wouldn’t have and bumped into people that were great to chat to! Didn’t make it to Pai when I was in Thailand the last time! But there is always another time in Thailand! It’s a country I would go back to over and over again!

    Reply
  8. Hey I always dreamed of exploring places in a scooter. Well, I have once with a friend but in Ubud, I tried to rent one on my own. I have a lot to learn. I know they say its easy, but for me , I just didn’t feel confident. It’s always been something on my resolution though : Learn how to ride a motorbike.

    Reply
  9. Gorgeous pictures! I love exploring places on a scooter and have done this a lot in Southeast Asia. Great advice about the different motorbike options, that’s not something everybody pays attention to while it is rather important;-).

    Reply
  10. Wow, looks like a great adventure! I’d somehow never even think of doing a tour like this by motorbike but then again, why not?

    Reply
  11. Most of Thailand is getting more and more touristy (I mean, hey, it is pretty much heaven on Earth, right!?) We’ve been three times and never rented a scooter, but we can’t wait to go up North (Have always been in the South) and it looks like a bike might be a great idea. These are EXCELLENT tips that I’ll have to save!

    Reply

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