I’ll start this story from its end. By the end of our time in Chiang Mai, we did not want to leave. We were hooked. After three days of downhill mountain biking down the mountain trails surrounding Chiang Mai, we were dreading our departure.
Our trip was the result of hearing numerous rave reviews of Chiang Mai’s biking scene from friends and other riders; many of them making the pilgrimage to Chiang Mai’s trails more than once a year.
Chiang Mai is Northern Thailand’s capital city and one of the regions’s most significant cultural capitals. Founded in 1296 as capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom; remnants of the old civilization still remains. Hundreds of years old monuments co-exist seamlessly with the cosmopolitan and thriving city of present day. The city is practically encircled by lush mountains, the highest peak being Doi Inthanon at 2,565m above sea level.
We had booked our trip for the shoulder season of early October, hoping to avoid crowds of the peak winter season and more extreme dry heat and heavy rains of the different seasons. Through word of mouth, Mad Monkey CNX was our mountain bike guide of choice.
Mad Monkey’s main man and our guide for the week, Note was already waiting at the airport upon our arrival. A little tired from a big week and the flight, we were relieved to have our airport transfer sorted and a short uneventful ride to our hotel.
Note and our shuttle driver Boat pick us up the next morning, shortly after breakfast. The Mad Monkey logo is proudly emblazoned on the side of Note’s ute, modified into the ideal shuttle machine, similar to many others like it in Thailand. We drove through the one- way streets of the old city, to the city outskirts and into the mountains of Doi Suthep-Pui National Park.
The downhill trails in Chiang Mai start from high up in the mountain range down to the city’s elevation. The highest point on the range, Doi Suthep peak; stands at around 1700m above sea level with the city at 376m above sea level.
The drive to our shuttle drop off point takes about forty minutes from the bottom of the mountain. Enroute; we pass the crowds at the famous Do Suthep temple, the BuPhing palace, drove under lush forest canopy and waved furiously at the many road riders out a mission.
With our bikes ready; we pedal fifteen minutes or so on a mix of bitumen and dirt to reach one of the Hmong villages. Drinking freshly brewed local coffee at the village coffee shop, watching the antics of the village kids; was definitely an above the average start to a downhill ride.
Our guide Note summed up the trails of Chiang Mai best, describing it as “more mountain than you can ride”. The numerous gravity-oriented trails have various start points but many run from this one Hmong village. Trail lengths vary from 8km up to 14km. The trail variety we experienced over the three days was very impressive.
From the flowy and loamy trails through bamboo forests of the aptly named Bamboo trail; to the rocky, rough and steep long runs on the ATV trail. Scout’s Camp trail sling shotted us out of the forest, on to white rock and under the blue sky; making me feel like I was transported to the trails of Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Come back in a different season and prepare for more variety.
There are enough reasons to visit (Chiang Mai) without having to get on your bike, although the mountain biking is definitely our top reason. We barely scratched the surface of what the city and region had to offer. Delicious affordable fresh food, a rich history and natural wonders; we could not get enough.
See you again soon, Chiang Mai!
Thank you Note from Mad Monkey , the loveliest guide with the smoothest lines and the most encouraging high fives.
Thank you Boat our friendly shuttle driver who definitely lifts!
Thank you Pip for joining our little group and clearing all the spiders!
Thank you Mei for joining us on our last day and making us shop at the best smallest mountain bike shop in the region, Mojo Bikes!
- We flew Air Asia direct from Kuala Lumpur to Chiang Mai. Better deals can be found during the shoulder season like we did. Bikes are an add on under sports equipment when purchasing your flight
- Accommodation is relatively cheap, reliable, bike-friendly and aplenty in Chiang Mai. We stayed close to the city night market, across the road from the city’s halal quarter. We paid 800baht a night for our room with air conditioning, free wifi and breakfast.
- Don’t forget a good massage session. We must have indulged every single day.
- There are plenty of ways to get around; get on a tuk tuk or scooter and bicycle Chiang Mai traffic is quite tame if you’re familiar with the road conditions in neighbouring cities like Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta. We hired a scooter for the day to explore on our day off from riding.
- With the passing of the much loved King Bhumibol on October 13th 2016; Thailand will be in a year long mourning period. Our travels were not directly affected by his death, nor did we witness much outward expression of grief; our Thai friends were truly in mourning. Self awarenes and treating the event with respect is important.
Our day off the bike in Chiang Mai HERE
Enter the trail