The rutted and slippery dirt trail beneath you finally levels out and as you catch your breath and blink the sweat from your eyes, you enter a village where the hill tribe children come running and laughing. Avoiding chickens and hogs, you park your bike and buy a cold bottle of water (or coke), sit back, and as the adrenaline runs out of your veins, you realise how peaceful it is and remember that THIS is why you are an off-road adventure rider.
Although not obvious at first, off-road motorcycle riding has been in Thailand for longer than road-going big bikes. Back in the late 1970s and early 80s, you could see and hear dirt or dual-sport motorcycles navigating the narrow dirt paths of Northern Thailand’s remote mountains. These riders were either exploring for leisure or on missions to assist the hill tribe villages, many of which still stand today. Once in awhile, you’ll still catch a glimpse of a Honda AX-1 parked on the streets of Chiang Mai, worn but still turning, a call back to the old days.
Set the clock back to the present and off-road is going stronger than ever, with weekend warriors throwing themselves over the hills on garage-customized scooters, snarling race-ready motocross machines, and everything in between. Then, if you look closely, you’ll see that as groups of these loud dirt-ready bikes come blasting by, the locals barely bat an eyelid or turn to look. In many ways, off-road motorcycling is more deeply entrenched in society than road riding.
Riding off-road demands a certain level of skill. Ruts, roots, and obstacles are the name of the game here, and while you can link together easier trails to make a relatively undemanding route, you will still encounter sections that require experience to traverse, vertical lips or steep sections being two examples.
Hitting the Trails of Northern Thailand
For riders ready for the challenge, Northern Thailand has a plethora of trail choices to link together, creating a variety of custom routes that will extend your adventure for as long as you desire. Ace Tours is here and ready to design the off-road tour of your choice. Want a one-day jaunt through the mountains? No problem. Are you hankering for a week-long escape into the wilderness? We know just what to recommend.
It is no exaggeration to say that Northern Thailand is littered with off-road options and – just as with road tours – Chiang Mai is a perfect base. The go-to adventure land for most off-road enthusiasts here is the Pai/Mae Hong Son region.
Firstly, it is home to one of the few trails unique enough to earn a name, Rock Town, a route as technical and demanding as its moniker suggests. It is merely a quick ride on the roads out of Chiang Mai to reach this trail, but what some riders do is hit the hillside of Doi Suthep just west of Chiang Mai City first, descending over the far side and linking trails to eventually reach the relatively modern and developed Mon Cham area, before traversing Rock Town and choosing to go on to the lovely little town of Pai or elsewhere, such is the choice for off-roading within the Mae Hong Son area.
Further afield and further remote, you can pick your way north and/or east to places such as Fang, Chiang Rai, national parks such as Nanthaburi in the spectacular Nan Province, or wildlife reserves in places like Doi Pha Chang, or even trails running near the Thai-Laos border by Chiang Khong!
The land is your oyster when you ride off-road in Thailand. Hell, you can even ride dirt from the north to Bangkok. It’s up to you. Let us know what you have in mind and let’s put create a true adventure.