Motorbiking in Phayao and Nan

Motorbiking in Phayao and Nan

We continue our motorbiking trip in Northern Thailand as we ventured from the Golden Triangle to the little known National Park of Doi Phu Kha in Nan province, a 293km journey taking approximately 7 hours. Did you miss something? Catch up with Day 1 here and Day 2 here.

Day 3: Motorbiking in Phayao and Nan – Golden Triangle to Doi Phu Kha National Park

Map of Day 3

Despite our intentions of camping every night we ended up staying in quite a nice hotel in the Golden Triangle since there were no camping facilities around that we could see, this was not such a bad thing as we had a decent sleep and best of all, a hot shower. After a grim breakfast consisting of plastic sausages and 7-11 bread we set off for one of the longest legs of the trip, a 293km ride from Chiang Rai, through Phayao and eventually into Nan province. I was excited about this leg, not only because it was my first trip into Phayao and Nan but also various bikers had said that the roads were incredible – they were not wrong.

The first couple of hours were boring though as we had to stick to main roads along flat terrain but once we got into Phayao the riding conditions got better and better as we rode through the hills just below Phu Sang National Park. We stopped for a quick coffee overlooking some stunning karst rock formations in the valley below before continuing along quiet, smooth roads with endless twists and turns passing through stunning scenery. We would go over an hour without seeing another car, the only traffic was fellow motorbikers passing through. This continued all the way into Nan and despite the mountains not being as dramatic as Chiang Mai it was more enjoyable for riding mainly because of the road surface being so good and for there being such little traffic. Motorbiking in Phayao and Nan on day 3 was the best we experienced so far.


Eventually we passed through the mountains and headed into the more urbanized part of Nan, eventually joining the 101 highway which leads all the way from Phrae in the South to Laos in the North. We could see our final destination here, Doi Phu Kha National Park and a huge mountain looming ominously in the distance. After stopping off a Tesco to stock up on supplies for the evening we set off on the last 30km journey into the park and to the campsite. This section was also fantastic for riding, and despite more traffic from day trippers from Nan it was a joy to motorbike along. We eventually came to a National Park booth whose staff soured our experience somewhat by refusing to accept our work permits for a reduced ticket price and demanded 400THB for the entrance. This however was not even needed because you can ride higher up the mountain and stay in one of two other campsites so we moved along to check them out.

By now it was getting quite late in the evening so after a couple of quick photos at the highest pass we chose to stay in the campsite slightly lower down the hill since it had better views and more facilities. We arrived just as sun was setting and so quickly set up the camp and prepared dinner. The rangers here were much nicer and we booked the tent space, BBQ and other fees for half the price of the official ticket booth. They did not provide charcoal so we had to collect wood and burn it in the BBQ pot since no fires on the ground were allowed. There were enough sticks lying around for a decent fire though which made for a nice change to just looking at charcoal embers.

Doi Phu Kha National Park

Top Tip: If you are camping buy food and firelighting equipment before you head up to the National Park, there is a Tesco Lotus at the highway intersection. You can pick up any food for cooking here too. Don’t stay in the first camp site you arrive, its more scenic and cheaper further up the mountain.