Doi Suthep's dizzying delights

To me Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai has always been synonymous with downhill mountain-biking, and nothing else. Of course, every time I was on the truck that shuttled me and my bike up to the trailhead high on the mountain, I saw many cyclists spinning their way up to the top. I wished I could do that too but I knew full well I would drop dead even before I finished the first kilometre. However, on my recent visit to the northern city, my view was changed.

Nope, I didn't ride up Doi Suthep. Long climbs will never be my kind of fun. But I found a cross-country trail which made that trip to Chiang Mai fulfilling, even though I didn't get to do even a single DH run.

It was a perfect XC trail for me _ technical, shaded and not too long. As a matter of fact, it was so much fun I could spend the whole day riding it repeatedly.

This particular trail runs through the woodland on the eastern boundary of Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, connecting the back of the 700th Anniversary (Chet Roi Pee) Sports Complex to the famous Huay Tueng Thao Park.

To get to the trail you have to first ride to the southwestern corner of the sports complex. There you'll see the gate of the Chiang Mai Irrigation Project. Just give the guards a friendly smile and ride through.

The next minute you'll be greeted by a short yet pretty steep climb as the asphalt road goes uphill. This will be your only real climb of the day, so enjoy it.

As you reach the top, hopefully without interference from the dogs in the area, you'll see the road veering right onto a dam. Continue along the ridge of the dam, enjoying the scenic view of the reservoir and the mountain to the left and that of the sports complex below on the other side.

At the other end of the dam, you'll find a maze of bike tracks frequented by local mountain-bikers. If you are in no rush I recommend that you just follow any trail you wish. They are interconnected and have a variety of challenging obstacles you can enjoy.

However, if you have limited time as I did, just look for the trail that goes north, in the direction of Huay Tueng Thao. If you don't know which way is north, just keep the mountain to your left.

The trail goes up and down moderate slopes which allow you to ride virtually effortlessly if you can maintain a good speed and use the proper gear. Obstacles include deep ruts and loose surfaces that range from dust to rocks. There is also a long descent where you can zoom down a series of banked curves (seven, I think) at high speed, enjoying a similar adrenaline rush as when you're riding a real DH trail.

Unless you hang around at that super flowy section to ride it time and time again like I did, you should reach Huay Tueng Thao within an hour.

At the park you can either continue to ride a few more kilometres on the road that runs around the lake or drop by at any of the waterside restaurants in the area and celebrate the end of your little adventure with a big meal.

Well, see you here again next Thursday. Until then, if you have questions, news or biking insights you wish to share, please feel free to send an email to pongpetm@bangkokpost.co.th or go to "Freewheel Bangkok" community page on Facebook.

Pongpet Mekloy is the Life travel editor and a mountain bike freak.

CHET ROI PEE SPORTS COMPLEX - HUAY TUENG THAO

GPS info: N 18 50.134E 98 57.242

Trail condition: Single and double tracks.

Distance: Less than 3km, excluding the loop around Huay Tueng Thao Lake.

Getting there: From the Chiang Mai Phu Kham intersection where Huay Kaew and Khan Khlong roads cross, follow the latter north for about 1.5km and you'll see the sports complex on the left-hand side. Huay Tueng Thao is further up the same road.

Parking: Plenty.

Food & drinks: There are a couple of snack stalls at the sports complex and lots of restaurants at Huay Tueng Thao.

What your family can enjoy while waiting: They can either drive to Huay Tueng Thao and chill out there until you arrive, or head back to Huay Kaew or the nearby Nimmanhemin roads where there are many coffee shops and massage places.

Accommodation: Chiang Mai is a major tourism destination with thousands of rooms available at hotels, resorts and guesthouses. Still, during long holidays, it is wise to book well in advance.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Pongpet Mekloy
Position: Travel Editor