March 5, 2010
Curves. Bends. Turns. Switchbacks. Whatever name you give them, they call out to me as a bike traveler. Nothing on a map shouts adventure louder than a thin, squiggly line.
I once asked a local in Tennessee what the road was like up ahead. His answer? "That's the wiggliest damn road you ever saw."
If you like curves ... and hills ... do I have a route for you.
The Mae Hong Son Loop is a 600 kilometer circular route beginning in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The photo above is a sign on the route congratulating you for negotiating 1,548 curves on the road. You'll have another 2,000 curves or so to wind your way back to Chiang Mai.
One section of the loop has so many tight switchbacks, that the buses won't (can't), travel it. Instead, mini vans run the route and vomit bags are standard issue.
On a bike, you won't run the risk of motion sickness, but bring your lowest granny gear. Northern Thailand has some of the steepest roads I've encountered on the planet.
Where is the wiggliest road you've ever pedaled?
Photo by Willie Weir
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS is posted every other Friday. Willie Weir is a columnist for Adventure Cyclist magazine. His books, Travels with Willie and Spokesongs, will inspire you to hit the road, and might change the way you approach bicycle travel. He lives in Seattle with his wife Kat. You can read about their adventures at http://yellowtentadventures.com.
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Definitely a lovely ride. I have done it a few times. In May, very hot! and in December, cold! Don't forget to cycle up Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand (around 2500 metres) Accomodation is readily available so you can travel light which is a good thing for there are indeed some pretty steep hills in Northern Thailand.