Biking Doi Inthanon is a breeze

It was one of the hottest weeks, with temperatures reaching 40C in many parts of the Kingdom. And our plan was to ride on Doi Inthanon, Thailand's tallest mountain. Starting time was after lunch, when the sun was at its strongest.

With no luxury of time to pick a better time, my friend Nat and I braced for an arduous ride. Lucky for us, our worries were unfounded.

As we reached our starting point, the Doi Pha Tang Forest Protection Unit of Doi Inthanon National Park, we were greeted by refreshing winds. As a matter of fact, it was pretty cool for me, so much so that I began to cough. At almost 2,000m above mean sea level, the temperature up there, especially in the shade, was several degrees lower than that on lowlands. The weather was just perfect for biking!

My buddy Nat is a local cyclist, a downhiller turned roadie. He also has an XC bike and readily agreed to join me when I called to tell him about my intention to ride from Doi Pha Tang, a lesser known attraction of the park, to Mae Ya waterfall.

To my surprise, he had never ridden this route before.

A short way from our starting point, we arrived at a three-way junction where the road to the left, the one we would be taking, has a sign that warns: "Use of chains prohibited! Violators are subject to a 1,000 baht fine."

Of course, the chain mentioned on the wooden sign did not refer to that on a bike's drivetrain but tyre chains used by some 4X4 enthusiasts to gain extra grip on slippery, muddy terrain. But the message implied what kind of trail condition was awaiting us. The mud we could forget since it was the dry season. It was going to be fun!

We followed the dirt road that after a while descended to a hilltribe village where we stopped to ask for directions to Doi Pha Tang, the mountaintop which the forest protection unit where we started our ride was named after, only to be told that we had to climb back up and take a side road to get there.

To cut a long story short, we made it to Doi Pha Tang, known for the group of tall boulders that crown its top and beautiful view of the nearby Doi Hua Sua which resembles the head of a tiger. From there we continued on the narrow dirt trail passing many sites with nice scenery, a coffee plantation and a couple of hill tribe villages, all the way to the point where the off-road trail finally meets with the well-paved access road to the famous Mae Ya waterfall.

Most of our ride was downhill and that reminded Nat, a former DH racer, of the adrenaline-rushing joy of riding into the pull of gravity. Too bad his hardtail bike didn't allow him to go down those bumpy slopes at full speed.

There many more fire roads to explore around Doi Inthanon and Nat said he would definitely get a full-suspension trail bike ready next time I come.

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 Bangkok Post's travel editor and a mountain bike freak.

Doi Pha Tang - Mae Ya waterfall

GPS coordinates: N 18 31.106E 98 31.520

Trail condition: Unpaved mountain road with great view. There are lots of fast descents and few but demanding climbs.

Distance: Around 12km.

Getting there: From Chom Thong, which is 58km or so south of downtown Chiang Mai, take Highway 1009 towards the park's headquarters. A very short drive further from there you'll find a side road on your left, with a sign saying Doi Pha Tang Forest Protection Unit is 8km that way.

Parking: There are so many places on the mountain you can park your car. But it's best to have a driver so you don't have to come back up for the vehicle after the ride.

Food & drinks: Bring your own supply.

What your family can enjoy while waiting: If they drive for you, they can explore the park's many attractions after dropping you off. In case they don't, convince them to stay home.

Accommodation: A few resorts are available in Chom Thong district. But you can find a lot more in Chiang Mai city.

Local contact: Nat Pramuankul, tel 081-882-2513.

Related search: Chiang Mai

About the author

columnist
Writer: Pongpet Mekloy
Position: Travel Editor