Touring Thailand

 

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)

Mae Sa Valley Road

The first photo shows the start of the Mae Sa Valley route.
Strictly speaking it's not anywhere near the valley, it's actually the start of the Route 1096 from Mae Rim. However, it doesn't take long after setting off on this route that you get to the Mae Sa Valley itself. The second photo shows a typical view of the valley once you get into the mountains. Pretty impressive eh?
Like the other sections of On The Road Thailand, as the road goes further into the valley I'll have flip-over pictures to show what the surroundings are. This way it's not just the road you're always looking at.

Mae Sa Valley road

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.
Rider tells me he's not had a proper look at the X Centre so can't comment on what it's like. He's not the tourist-type-of-guy so I'll probably end up going in to satisfy my curiousity (Feel free but it's coming out of your pocket! - Ed) . More on this when I update this section!
Just up ahead and on the right is an antiques goods place and an Orchid and Butterfly & Snake Farm, again no hard research on these as yet.

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...

Mae Sa Falls road and entrance

The first main attraction in Mae Sa Valley are the Mae Sa Waterfalls.
They are a pretty group of waterfalls off the Route 1096. Just hang a left-turn where the bend in the road is (Heading West Photo 3) and it'll take you to the entrance. I won't go into great detail as clicking here (or on the menu bar to the left) brings it all up in greater depth. The roll-over photo shows the main entrance to the falls. You can just make out a farang in a tuk-tuk on the right on the image, don't worry, it wasn't that crowded at all when Rider visited, not a farang in sight.

Rider says: Dual pricing is in operation at Mae Sa Waterfalls, so either play the thai language like you're a resident in Thailand or flash your thai driving licence.

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!
You'll be climbing a pretty tight set of turns now and when you head around a hard-left you'll have Queen Sirikit's Botanical Gardens entrance on your left. This place is really popular with the Thai and other Asian tourists and is argued to be the biggest attraction in the valley. The big tour-buses seem to be on an endless mission of drop-offs and pick-ups here so watch out for them pulling out on you as you pass. Photos (4 & 5) of the road leading up to and including the gardens are below. In this area is also a number of flower orchids, but unless the current macho-trend thats set here radically changes, orchids are not going to be covered!

Mae Sa Valley road

Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens

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.

Mae Sa Valley Road

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.

Road Lore: Watch your speed and get that helmet on! A thai police house with a potential check-point is here on the right (Photo 7)! Instead of paying into the kareoke fund for the cops ease back your throttle and glide on past, give them a wave instead of your baht!

Mae Sa Valley Police

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.

Mae Sa Valley mountains

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.
Watch your corners and turns here, if you overcook the speed and mess up on your turn you'll find out the hard-way what it's like to go free-falling down a ravine!

Mae Sa Valley heights


Once you reach the viewpoint vantage spot you can take a break and reflect on the journey. There's a shelter to rest in and plenty of space to park your bike. A sign on the a floor stone reads 'Sa Moeng' however you've still got some way to go before you reach any civilisation! As the main vantage-point in Mae Sa Valley, it's an excellent photo opportunity for decent northern views of the valleys and mountain ranges. I've got them all here for you to glance at. Best times for photography are usually mid-day when the sun-glare is a bit easier for cameras to cope with. All these images are watermarked I'm afraid as many websites are ripping off images these days. However, use them as some friendly encouragement to go forth and expore Mae Sa Valley for yourself!

Mae Sa Valley Sign Sa Moeng

Mae Sa Valley Views

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.

Chiang Mai Province Lamphun Mae Wang Ban Thi Hang Dong Saraphi San Kamphaeng Saraphi San Kamphaeng Doi Saket Doi Saket Mae Rim Phu Ping Palace Doi Suthep Doi Suthep Phu Ping Palace Sa Moeng Mae Sa Valley Chiang Mai City Chiang Rai Route 1001 Chiang Mai Province Route 1001 Chiang Mai Route 107 Chiang Mai Province Route 107 Chiang Mai Province Mae Sa Valley Route 1096 Route 1269 Chiang Mai Province Route 121 East/West Chiang Mai Route 121 Route 121 South Chiang Mai Province Highway 11 Chiang Mai Provice Route 1006 Chiang Mai Province Route 118 Chiang Mai Province Route 1004 Chiang Mai Province Route 118 Chiang Mai Mae Rim Sa Moeng Route 108 Bikes The Hill Tribes Route 107 Chiang Mai Highway 11 Chiang Mai Province

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.'
The photographs will have some text at the very top telling you which direction you're looking towards for easy orientation. Also, if you hover the mouse over the picture in question, it will have some hints and additional info about both pictures. Finally there is always the map to refer to. If you're still stuck just fire off an email to us via the contact page.

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.
Apart from the obvious, it'll also get you thai-price discounts on many entrance -fees at attractions around Chiang Mai.
Wear a light jacket for when you climb further up into the Mae Sa Valley, it gets suprisingly cold, especially in the cold season (October to April).

 

 

 

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