Mae Sa Valley
Mae Sa Valley has challenging and winding roads that run up and then down the route 1096 to the Route 1269 intersection. Some Chiang Mai riders will complete a tour known as 'The Mae Sa Valley Loop,' which is to travel west via route 1096 to the 1269 junction, then head south-east on the 1269 to the route 108 before finally heading for home. Thus completing a long 'loop' around the western side of Chiang Mai. For this section the tour begins at the start of the route 1096 and finishes at the intersection with the route 1269 (see map below).
Mae Sa Valley - Start Point, Route 1096 West (1)
The first photo shows the start of the Mae Sa Valley route.
Mae Sa Valley - X Centre, Route 1096
The left turn ahead takes you to the 'X Centre'. Marketed for tourists, this is the place for bungy jumping, paint-balling, go-carting, riding off-road bikes and quad-bikes (ATVs). A bar is here and a restaurant.
Start of the Valley
Further up the road the valley begins and you'll start to climb the mountain road. I'm not one to preach road safety but try to take it easy from here on in. Mae Sa Valley has only a few straights for open throttle antics. This is no time for heroics and trying to set a trail-blazing record-time to Sa Moeng! The road is twisting, turning and out of nowhere tuk-tuks, minibuses and coaches can come flying around corners. All it takes is one wrong moment and a foolish corner at speed and you'll be worm-food. Warning over, lets get back to touring...
The first main attraction in Mae Sa Valley are the Mae Sa Waterfalls.
Moving Higher in the Valley
Riding the elephants always gets the tourists in and the Mae Sa Elephant Camp is no exception. If you're keen on it the camp is located 10 km up the route, but it's wise to head there by 9am before the shows finish. It's likely a big farang tourist attraction, which is possibly why Rider hasn't photographed it yet!
Not much traffic once you pass by the gardens now, but on your right as you ride they'll be numerous entranceways to bungalow resorts on the Mae Sa Valley (6). The bungalow image below was taken in the Mae Sa Valley but far south of the Route 1096 (off-road) so may differ slightly from the 'style' of the ones you'll pass.
Once you get to this point you'll be at a pretty high altitude, the valley road climbs higher than this though. Pong Yaeng elephant training camp is about 20 km from the start point and you'll be close to it by now. It's signposted at a left turn and some way down a trail deeper into the valley.
At this point on the route 1096 there are numerous little villages that lie in the heart of the valley. Small roads that descend away from the main road usually take you to them. The photo below shows the road heading westwards, but in the far-off distance there is a village road. The roll-over picture has a zoomed in view of the distant turn-off; The main road flows right but head straight on instead and it will take you to Baan Muang Kahm. More on this spectacular Thai village if you click on it.
After this part of the route the going is uphill pretty steeply before leveling out once you near the Ban Wang Reservoir. The route drops down then back up again for the final leg.
To The Valley Heights!
For the last stage of the route the potential for danger really begins. Sheer drops and ravines are evident on the right hand side of the road. Crash barriers are in place on some parts but its open on others so be wary.
After the view point the road bends around to the left and it's downhill from here on. The descent is sharper than the ascent and so are the turns that you made climbing the valley so be ready to rein in the power, lean that bike and stomp on the brakes for the tight and tenacious turns.
Once you reach the police check-point at the T-Junction it's either a right-turn to continue on towards Sa Moeng on the Route 1269 or a left turn to head south-east on the Route 1269. If you take a left the road will eventually bring you out south-west of Chiang Mai.
For this section, thats all for now folks. If you want to explore the sights and surroundings of the Mae Sa Valley further just click on the highlighted text or the maps and menus.
The routes to the destinations have already been photographed by Watch-Rider. They serve as a handy guide and future reference.
Photo-Route Guide: The photos doubled into 'roll-over' pictures; when you move the mouse over it the picture 'rolls-over.'
Listed on the map and below is a list of the destinations and highways around Chiang Mai. Clicking on one of them will bring up information about it and how to get there.
Where to Tour in Chiang Mai Province
Road Lore: Carry your Thai Driving Licence at all times.