Take a Motorbike Day Trip Around the Samoeng Loop – Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is a wonderful town located in northern Thailand. The Old Town is filled with temples, great local restaurants and shops. However, after spending a day or two wandering around the centre, you might feel like getting out of the city to explore the nearby areas. After all Chiang Mai area is famous for its nature, beautiful hills, valleys and green scenery. The best way to experience it all is by driving a 100 km loop that’s called the Samoeng Looop. It starts and finishes in Chiang Mai and takes 4 to 5 hours to complete. You might also want to take it slow, as on the way you will want to stop multiple times to admire the fantastic views. The Samoeng Loop of Chiang Mai is definitely a full part of the experience and worth your while, read on to learn everything about it.
- Samoeng Loop & a Good Bike
- Start your Journey on the Loop
- Meet Elephants on the Way
- Samoeng Forest Viewpoint
- Who can drive Samoeng Loop?
- When is the best time to go?
- Can I drive in rain season?
- What about gasoline?
- What to bring?
- Our Samoeng Loop Map
The Samoeng Loop is considered by many to be one of the finest drives in Thailand. 100 kms of quiet mountain road, that guide you around the Doi Suthep mountain, through the Mae Sa Valley and towards the town of Samoeng.
There are two way to approach the loop: clockwise and anticlockwise. We did it clockwise and suggest you to do the same for one simple reason. There are many great, local places to eat on the first part of road 1269. We started the day by visiting the most famous temple in Chiang Mai, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. By the time we reached this part of the road, it was time for an early lunch. ?
Renting a motorbike
The day trip around the Samoeng Loop starts of course by renting a good motorbike or scooter in Chiang Mai. We rented our scooter with Annas Car Rental and were very happy with it. The bike was new, fast and very comfortable for 2 people. It costs 200 THB (6EUR) to rent a scooter for 1 day. Make sure to get also fitting helmets. Martyna’s helmet was too big and she had to wrap a scarf around her head 2 times before putting on the helmet, so it wouldn’t slide off ?
Make sure to have International Driving Permit while driving in Chiang Mai and the area. There are spots on the road (we saw one on the way to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep) where police puts a blockage and stops every tourists on motorbikes. They fine everybody who doesn’t have the International Driving Permit.
Start your Journey on the Samoeng Loop
As mentioned above, we suggest you to start the trip early by visiting Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, one of the most important Buddhist shrines in Thailand. After that head down the same road you arrived from, but turn right at the crossing with 121.
You will drive through the city for a while, before turning right on the road leading to Wat Phra That Doi Kham, home of a 17 metres gold Buddha Statue. The temple is beautiful and was almost empty when we got there.
Continue back on that same road and turn right on the roundabout. Then, a final turn on your right will make you join the 1269 road. That road will lead you for most of the trip.
Stop for lunch at one of many great local places located on both sides of the road like The Doi Restaurant or Tha Chang Hill Coffee. Be aware that after that, you will not see another restaurant for at least 40 km. We enjoyed a break (and fried rice) at Tha Chang Hill Coffee.
Back on the road and just a few kilometres later we hit the breaks hard as we saw (for the first time in Chiang Mai) ELEPHANTS just on the side of the road. The camp looked peaceful, the elephants were not wearing saddles and were free to roam around. We played with the elephant baby for a while (it really liked to chew Hamilton’s hand ?). The caretakers didn’t ask for any money. We just stayed for 30 minutes admiring the elephants.
↬ Read : Visit the Wonderful & Ethical Elephant Nature Park
The Sad Truth
We took pictures of the mahouts (elephant carers) shirts where the name of the camp was written and promised to do a research about it. And we are very sad to say that we DO NOT recommend anyone to stop or visit this property. Patara Elephant Farm, Chiang Mai is an elephant breeding farm which offers rides. The babies are bred to be kept in captivity. We learned that after researches and finding their name on the wrong side of the Responsible Travel support list: as a place they do NOT support…
Continue the road straight and enjoy the fresh air and beautiful views. Make sure to turn right at Tourist Information Center on to the 1096 road.
Alternatively, you can continue straight to Samoeng and visit the Tham Luang Mae Caves and Wat PA Kluai.
↬ Read: How we Spent an Incredible & Ethical Day with Elephants in Chiang Mai
Samoeng Forest Viewpoint
Samoeng Forest Viewpoint is the most popular stop of the loop. Back on the 1096 road, you will see some of the best views of your day trip of the canopy and mountain ranges. Stop at Samoeng Forest to sink in the amazing views.
Continuing the road, you can stop at Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden and the Canopy Walkway just next to it.
Just a bit further there is Baan Tong Luang Eco-agricultural Village. We didn’t visit it as we decided not to visit any local tribe villages.
We encourage you to read our blog post “Why we decided not to visit Karen Village” to understand the real situation those tribes are in!
However, as you are not part of a tour, if you want to support the locals you can do so by purchasing their goods. Stay to talk to them about their life’s and story, not only to take pictures, we think that it might be open minding and enriching experience.
Stop at Mae Sa Waterfall. The paths are in good conditions and the waterfalls are relatively easy to get to. It’s a great hike to stretch your legs after a long motorbike drive. There is an entrance fee of 100 THB (3EUR).
The waterfalls are the last stop of your day trip on the Samoeng Loop before Chiang Mai! Back on the road continue straight then turn right onto the road 107. Soon, you will reach a bit of traffic approaching Chiang Mai city.
Many Samoeng Loop guides include one more stop after Mae Sa Waterfalls: The Tiger Kingdom. We ask every single one of you NOT TO VISIT this place. Tigers are not pets to be kept in closed cages as attraction to tourists. Those animals live in terrible conditions, are maltreated and so drugged they cannot even move and thus not harm people who want a picture with a tiger…
What you need to know
Who can drive Samoeng Loop?
Everyone! You don’t have to be experienced motorbike driver to do this trip, but you should be comfortable on the bike. There is not a lot of traffic on this road, few trucks that struggled to go uphill might slow you down but that’s about it.
When is the best time to go?
Ideally, it’s best to take the Samoeng Loop during the dry season from November to March, when it’s dry but not too hot. However, we drove in August and it was raining a lot the night before. We even encountered some rain during the trip. Hamilton always adjusts the driving to the road conditions, therefore at no point it was dangerous.
↬ Read : 15 Days in Thailand – the Complete Guide Covering the Country’s Highlights
Can I drive in rain season?
Yes! As long as you are comfortable driving, pack rain coats and take care on the road, it’s fine to do it in small rain. But we would not recommend driving Samoeng Loop on a very rainy day.
What about gasoline?
If you make a full tank in Chiang Mai, you should not have any problems making your day trip around the Samoeng Loop and back, on the same tank. But just in case, there are a few gas stations on the way. Some of them are just 1 or 2 distributors on the side of a small shop. We made gas somewhere around here, we cannot locate the exact place of the gas station. But do not worry: even if google doesn’t show that it’s there- it exists.
What to bring?
- First of all pack your driving license and International Driving Permit.
- Take a rain coat as the weather can change quickly even in dry season.
- Wear comfortable shoes and long pants to avoid scratches and burns. Take gloves its easier to drive with them.
- Pack sunblock, hat, some snacks and water in reusable water bottle. You can also take a bottle that filtrates water like this you will avoid buying plastic. We have a Grayl and are super happy with it.
- Make sure to bring a camera and extra battery.
- Take your phone to check directions. It’s useful to buy a sim card at the airport on your arrival. We used Buddy (AIS) and had perfect 4G connection throughout the whole trip in Thailand.
- Make sure to have cash for some lunch on the way and entrance fees to attractions.
↬ Read : Simple hack to be eco friendly while traveling
Our Samoeng Loop Map
Here’s a google map link to our Loop with all the stops on the way as you can see right below.
Samoeng Loop is just one of Chiang Mai ‘s attractions. Make sure to find out what’s best to do in North Thailand’s capital.
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