Thailand - North: Lanna cycling holidays banner image

Thailand - North: Lanna

Exploring The Ancient Kingdom of Thailand’s Beautiful North

This is a much-revised version of our original North Thailand tour. This new, improved tour runs in the opposite direction to the original route, over-nights in 4-new destinations and boasts a much-improved route, with even more minor byways and tracks. Many of the resorts and hotels we use are upgraded, and the rest-day location has changed. 

North Thailand is a region for which we have a strong passion, to say the very least. This tour is one of PaintedRoads' original's, and during the time of Covid, it has been juggled and improved to the point of verging on new. The sections repeated from the initial trip are revised to make the climbing less challenging and the route even more enjoyable, whilst the latter part of the route is all new. 

Join us for a cycling adventure in a region of mountains and broad fertile valleys, populated by laid-back, friendly people wholly deserving the nation's tourist brochure tagline, "the land of smiles". 

Following rural byways, gravel roads and dirt lanes, our journey will take us between two modern cities, via hill-tribe villages, along the banks of the mighty Mekong river, past tea plantations and via a village of Chinese warrior descendants as we explore the ancient Lanna Kingdom. 

At a Glance


Total Days: 12

Cycling Days: 9

Difficulty: 6/10

Daily Average: 73km

Off-Road: ~10%

Max. Alt.: 1200m


2021: 19 Dec - 30 Dec: $2600.00


POST-COVID REBOOT

The Covid situation in Thailand continues to improve, with daily infection rates falling and a vaccination program moving at great speed.

Thailand presently offers the Sandbox quarantine program, whereby vaccinated tourists can quarantine on the island of Phuket for 7-days, free to travel at will throughout the island. After one week and testing negative for Covid-19, one is then free to travel throughout Thailand. Quarantine-free tourism is opening up to a limited number of nations from Nov-1; this list is likely to grow quickly. If you wish to join this trip, please sign up obligation free, and we will be in touch with you ASAP. We will not ask for any deposit until we are confident the trip will go ahead. 

For those looking forward to a longer adventure, this trip can combine with our Thailand Gravel tour beginning on Dec 18.

Overview

A wonderful cycling holiday that begins and ends in the provincial capital of Chiang Rai. Our journey explores a route that includes the border with Burma and Laos and the mighty Mekong River.

At 1500 metres, Pu Chi Fa's viewpoint offers stunning sunrise views across Lao, and the wide fertile valley leading east from Fang boasts a network of hard-packed unsealed tracks and trails that in themselves are a wonderful cycling adventure.

The challenging climb to a Chinese town populated by the descendants of Kuomintang soldiers is a cycling highlight, whilst the town itself is a pleasure to overnight in. 

Ethnically the region is diverse - Chinese, Burmese, Karen, Akha, Yao and Lahu are just some of the peoples of the hills and valleys that we will meet along the way.

As with all PaintedRoads' Thailand tours, this adventure will slowly unveil, from the seat of a bicycle, the land and its people far from the madding hordes.

Overview

A wonderful cycling holiday that begins and ends in the provincial capital of Chiang Rai. Our journey explores a route that includes the border with Burma and Laos and the mighty Mekong River.

At 1500 metres, Pu Chi Fa's viewpoint offers stunning sunrise views across Lao, and the wide fertile valley leading east from Fang boasts a network of hard-packed unsealed tracks and trails that in themselves are a wonderful cycling adventure.

The challenging climb to a Chinese town populated by the descendants of Kuomintang soldiers is a cycling highlight, whilst the town itself is a pleasure to overnight in. 

Ethnically the region is diverse - Chinese, Burmese, Karen, Akha, Yao and Lahu are just some of the peoples of the hills and valleys that we will meet along the way.

As with all PaintedRoads' Thailand tours, this adventure will slowly unveil, from the seat of a bicycle, the land and its people far from the madding hordes.

 

Included in this tour

 

  • Eleven nights accommodation. 
  • Three meals per day, snacks & drinking water on cycling days 
  • Support vehicles (one or two depending on group size). 
  • Local cycling guide. 
  • Transport to and from the local airport on the first and last day of the tour. 
  • As with all PaintedRoads, founder David will be along for the ride.
  • If you are in any doubt about anything, please ask.

 

Difficulty

The shortest day is 45 kilometres and the longest 100 kilometres. There are some off-road sections but nothing technical simply, unsealed tracks and trails that can be avoided with alternative ways should the weather turn wet. Although much of this tour is easy-riding, there are sections with steep climbs, and our support vehicles will always be on hand for those who prefer to make a more leisurely ascent.

 

This was my second tour with Painted Roads and I was certainly not disappointed. Having come to expect a real focus on delighting the customer, Walks and his crew went out of their way to ensure our every desire was catered for. From the pre-tour communications to the on-tour briefings and support by David and the local guide Nat, nothing was left to chance, and we could just immerse ourselves in the local culture and scenery while riding. While this tour is long and hot, there were plenty of stops for refreshments and the cold beer at the end of the day made the whole ride worth it. I would definitely recommend this tour to anyone who enjoys good company, good food and accommodation and of course some great cycling. Well done David Walker. See you on another tour soon.

David Dowling

 

Joining instructions

The tour starts: in Chiang Rai, which is 800 kilometres north of Bangkok. 

Chiang Rai has a small international airport, Mai Fa Luang International (IATA Code: CEI), with many flights throughout the region. 

Air Asia, Bangkok Airways, Viet Jet, Thai Smile, and Thai Airways are among the airlines operating. 

There are also many buses and coaches of all classes linking the city with the rest of Thailand. 

The tour ends: in Chiang Mai, which is around three hours by bus from Chiang Rai.  

Chiang Mai airport, Chiang Mai International (IATA Code: CNX), is the country's third busiest and offer flights throughout the region.

Chiang Mai has a train station with both sleeper trains and day trains to Bangkok. 

If you arrive/leave on the first/last day of the tour, transport to and from the local airport is included. 

Typically the group meets at around six in the evening on the first day of the tour for a drink and tour briefing, although in practice, your tour leader or guide will usually track you down soon after you arrive at our joining hotel.

We will provide full joining instructions before the tour.

 

Weather

Our Autumn tour runs at the end of the rainy season, ensuring beautiful lush green landscapes and a blue sky with some cloud. It also means rain is possible.

Our Spring tour is well into the dry season; rain is highly unlikely, and whilst there will be rice and other crops growing, it will be dryer, dustier and less green than autumn. Daytime temperatures will be hot, and nighttime temperatures can turn chilly. As with many parts of the world, Thai weather has become unpredictable. Prolonged dry spells in the wet season and days of rain in the dry season are not unheard of; therefore, it is recommended you bring a raincoat and a fleece jacket or similar along at all times of the year.

Please be aware that we have a good knowledge of the many roads, tracks and trails of the region, and in the event of rain, we have alternative route option that we may decide to use.

 

For those who are looking for an experience that is a bit different, and in a truly wild and wonderful setting, the Mongolia tour is hard to beat. The scenery is stunning and changes day by day throughout the route. To come over the brow of a hill and see huge herds of yaks, wild horses, flocks of mountain sheep flowing across the landscape makes for some just indescribable moments. Although entirely off-road, the tour is not that difficult in terms of terrain and the distances each day are far from demanding – any reasonably fit and competent cyclist will enjoy the daily challenges. As ever, the leadership and support team were just great, making a great tour a truly special one.

Nigel Fielden - Manchester

 

Bicycle Advice

Suitable Bicycle. MTB, Touring Bike, Cyclocross/Gravel bike.

The roads on this tour are a mix of surfaces, from pristine tarmac to concrete, some gravel, and a little hardpacked dirt. The tour has been designed as a regular touring route and requires no specialised technical skills or equipment.

At PaintedRoads, we hold firmly to the opinion that using your own bike, the bike on which you feel at home and comfortable, is the most pleasing way to enjoy a cycling holiday.

Most kinds of bicycle, except lightweight racing bikes, are suitable for this tour: touring bikes, mountain bikes, hybrids or cyclocross bikes are all fine. With road conditions varying from asphalt to gravel and possibly some hard-packed dirt tracks. Tyres from 35mm in width upwards will be fine; we recommend 40mm or more for comfort.

If bringing your own bike, please bring along a selection of tools and spares specific for your bike, such as a few spare spokes, brake pads, and a couple of tubes, etc. If in doubt, please ask at your local bike shop.

Southeast Asia is generally a warm place, so the ability to carry one or two water bottles is essential (either on your bike or in a backpack). 

Our backup vehicle has water and tools onboard, although for those competent with tools bringing your own pump, puncture kit, and multi-tool is recommended to speed up repairs and minor adjustments. 

A means of carrying your camera, sunblock etc., is also practical – either an on-bike bag, handlebar or saddlebag, such as a lightweight day-pack.

ESSENTIAL! Please be sure that your bicycle is in perfect condition before you leave home. Again, if in doubt, please consult your local bike shop.

Rental Bikes: If you wish to hire a bicycle, we can arrange good quality cycles from our in-country agent.

Rental Bicycle Recommendation. Although our hire bikes come equipped with a saddle, if you have a saddle you use and are happy with, it is strongly recommended that you use it on tour. If you use SPD type clipless shoes, please bring your own matching pedals. We are happy to fit these for you. 

 

The Tri-nations tour exceeded my expectations in all areas. The scenery was specular, like something out of a movie. As we moved from country to country through some very remote villages the locals and children all gave us a wave with a smile on their faces. I feel I have seen the country, not just the tourist hotspots. This trip was my first experience cycling mountains and I was apprehensive at first and fully prepared to use the support vehicle. I gave it my best shot and with the encouragement of David and his team I have come away with a sense of achievement, tackling far more mountain passes than I ever expected to on the trip. David is an excellent tour leader and uses excellent local guides and drivers who make you feel welcome in their country and help to give an insight to the local culture and cuisine. Excellent food, splendid company and awesome riding.

Caroline Gameson

Print Itinerary

Itinerary Key

(meals key: B = breakfast; L = lunch; D = dinner; S = snacks)

 

Day 1: Arrival in Chiang Rai

If you fly into Chiang Rai Mai Fa Luang International Airport (IATA Code: CEI), you will be met at the airport and transferred to our joining hotel. During the day, you will meet by your tour leader, and come evening, we can gather to discuss the details of the tour and enjoy our first meal together.

Cycling: 0KMS.

Meals: D

 

Day 2: Thoeng

Our first day on the road is a flat rural ride save for a rather challenging hill directly after our morning break. A beautiful section of red gravel and bicycle paths lead us around a pleasant lake affording fine views. After lunch, we follow byways and tracks through rice fields towards our characterful guesthouse in the small town of Thoeng. 

Cycling: 85KMS.

Meals: BLDS

Day 3: Phu Chi Fa

having left town on a bigger road, we soon reach the minor byways and gravel roads that lead us to our morning break in a lovely little riverside park. From here, we begin the long, gently undulating climb that during the next 27 kilometres rises 800 meters to our simple lodging for the night. Set on the edge of a ridge, our guest house offers a stunning view to behold as we enjoy our sundowners. 

Cycling: 60KMS.

Meals: BLDS

Day 4: Chiang Kong

For those happy to rise before dawn, a treat awaits this morning. A stiff walk takes us to the highest viewpoint in Chiang Rai Province, where, at 1500M, we can watch the sunrise over Lao through a sea of cloud below hanging below us. 

Back on the bikes, at one thousand metres above sea level, the first stage of our ride will be pleasantly cool this morning. After our first break, extra caution is called for as we lose a thousand vertical metres during a beautiful 10-kilometre descent.

The final third of today's ride leads us through villages and past temples to our beautiful resort in the border town of Chiang Kong, just across the Mekong River from Lao.

Cycling: 90KMS.

Meals: BLDS

 

Day 5: Golden Triangle

Today's ride is an undulating amble following the east bank of the Mekong River towards the border town of Chiang Saen and The Golden Triangle. Once infamous for the production of opium poppies, the area where the Laotian, Burmese, and Thai borders meet in the Mekong is now prosperous for another vice - gambling. So lucrative is the casino trade in Lao that the area across the river from our homestay is effectively a Chinese town, all high-rise apartments and flashy casinos. The Thai side, where we shall overnight, is still a sleepy little town where the biggest draw is the giant golden Buddha statue and the opium museum.

Cycling: 80KMS.

Meals: BLDS

 DAY 6: Mae Salong

A beautiful, mostly flat ride leads us cross-country along rural byways and tracks on an unforgettably pastoral ride. After fifty kilometres, we reach the point where each rider must decide whether to ride or transfer. 

The climb to the hill-top town of Mae Salong begins gently, but as we ride, the gradient ramps up to a point where many cyclists will agree; this is only for the most ardent of climbers. You are, of course, welcome to ride in our AC support vehicle.

The history of Mae Halong is fascinating. Following defeat in the Chinese civil war, warriors of the Kuomintang army fled the wrath of the victorious Red Army, who were, vexed by the number of their comrades who had been wounded and killed. Many went to Taiwan, but for those in Yunnan Province, the cross-China journey was too hazardous, so they crossed into nearby Burma and on to Thailand. Doi Mae Salong became home to such people, and for decades the area was off-limits even to Thais. Consequently, the village developed a Chinese culture, with food and language from the motherland and tea cultivation as the major crop in the region. The descendants of these first settlers remain to this day, growing and producing tea. These tea producers have small tea shops throughout the village where the local wares can be sampled and purchased. 

Cycling: 75KMS.

Meals: BLDS

DAY 7: Thaton

Today, our destination is one thousand vertical metres lower than Mae Salong, so our ride is predominantly downhill despite one or two stiff climbs. Being just 45-kilometres away, we should reach our rest day resort in time for lunch. 

 

Cycling: 45KMS.

Meals: BLDS

DAY 8: Thaton - Rest Day

Our rest day for this tour is on the outskirts of Thaton, a small town close to the Burmese border. We lodge in a delightful riverside resort, an ideal spot to relax, perhaps enjoy a dip in the pool, and recharge ready for our journey ahead. The views across the river and along the valley are beautiful. Keen bird spotters will enjoy the array of species that can be observed here. A short walk or bike ride will take you to the town, where a brisk climb is rewarded with beautiful views from the temple that overlooks the valley. 

The resort also offers such activities as cookery classes, guided walks, and kayaking. These activities are subject to availably and are not always available; there is also a fee.

Cycling: 0KMS

Meals: B

 

Day 9: Chai Prakan 

Rested and re-energises, we resume our journey today with a lovely rural ride on quiet roads and tracks, passing fruit orchards, crops of corn, and rice fields. It is a flat, relaxing ride that ends at a pleasant poolside resort. 

 

Cycling: 65KMS

Meals: BLDS

DAY 10: Phrao 

Again we ride on secluded rural roads, enjoying Northern Thailand scenery at its best as at times we pass jungle-clad karst rock formations. Our destination is the broad and secluded Phrao Valley, a charming and little-visited region. To access the valley, we have four kilometres of cheeky climbing, which, as always, can be enjoyed from the comfort of our mini-bus before remounting for the exhilarating descent to the valley floor. 

Cycling: 55KMS.

Meals: BLDS

DAY 11: Chiang Mai

Our final day leads us south, through the valley past orchards and the Mae Kuang lake.

Our destination is the historical capital of the ancient Lanna Kingdom, Chiang Mai. In the middle of the city, we stay in the characterful area within the town's square moat. Small lanes wind their way past peoples homes, cafés, restaurants, guesthouses and pubs. It is a perfect location to enjoy our final evening together, reflecting on a wonderful adventure. 

Cycling: 100KMS.

Meals: BLDS

DAY 12: Finish

The tour officially finishes after breakfast. We will provide transport to Chiang Mai International Airport (IATA Code: CNX) for those who are flying out today. For those with the time to stay on, Chiang Mai is the tourist centre of Northern Thailand and is worthy of a day or two to enjoy wandering the streets, enjoying the cafés, dining, and for those missing home, the Irish pup. The city is also the centre of a growing mountain bike scene, with several local operators offering day trips on the local trails. 

The start point of our journey, Chiang Rai, is just 3-hours away by a comfortable bus for those wishing to return.

Meals: B

Key

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    Check trip dates and availablility below. Click the Book This Date button to go ahead and make a booking, alternatively you can make a no-obligation request for us to keep you informed about the status of a trip or changes to a trip by clicking the Register Interest button against a date.

    £ Pound Sterling Payment Option

    Our prices are all in US dollars but we can offer you the option of paying in GBP (£) based on the exchange rate at the time of booking. You can choose on the booking form, adjusted prices will be shown there.

    Dates Price Availability

    2021: 19 Dec - 30 Dec

    $2600.00
    *Single Suppl.: $400.00

    Spaces

    Book This Date

    Register Interest

    *Single Supplement.

    The prices quoted above are for a twin room share basis. If you are travelling alone you will be paired up with another lone traveler of the same gender to share with. Single room occupancy can be arranged, the single supplement rate shown is per person.

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