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Just made a two-day exploratory run through the Mae Rim off-road tracks in National Parks/Open Space north of Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The weather in Late December is perfect in the Northern Thailand highlands - warm enough for mesh gear & t-shirts but without the brutal sweat-fest from Feb-Nov in SE Asia, and completely missing the SE Asian mainland monsoon season of ±May-July. Tee-shirts and flip-flops after a day of perfect riding, in mid-winter back home!

The deciduous mountain forests of the Golden Triangle (formed by the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos) are stellar - tall and dense with three layers of greenery from treetops to forest floor and alive with everything from butterflies to elephants. Dry leaves the size of small pizzas covered the single-track for miles at a stretch and soon we gained trust that they hid no large rocks or holes. Still, focus was kept at a high level as we picked our way through the understory and trees. I was distracted by memories of elephant, tiger, cobra and constrictor news stories from the region reminding me that we weren't the apex predator in this ecosystem. Stay together. Stop for a relief break and it gets quiet. As I ponder various leaves for latrine usability, I hear only insects, multitudinous bird song, and intermittent monkey alarm cries. Don't want to get separated too far from my mates, as trails are indistinct in some places, and many aren't marked. Guides and GPS are my friends. This isn't your friendly, local OHV park. If lost or stranded after dark, one is fair Game for dinner.

Though it was dry season riding, there were shallow water crossings and mucky bits interspersed, in addition to shallow sand, caliche powder, clayey mucks, meter-deep trenches, miles of marbles and loose rock inclines. We opted for moderate single-track and two-lane mountain roads to connect the dots - Name your dirt-riding poison and it can be served up. Our bikes of choice for this ride are Honda's trail goats - the CRF-250, bumped up to 300 cc's, piped and uncorked. With a nice bark and workable torque from just off-idle and no surprises, these bikes are surprisingly perfectly suited to the moderate tasks we aimed them at. Loose rocked uphills they bleated mild complaint, but climb they did. And one of our riders is 6'-2" and 250 pounds.

A note about Thai road riding - The road portions between trails entails riding on the left-hand side of the road, this in a region where roadway paint is used for decoration and perhaps as a loose guideline for mayhem reduction. You must not bring a Western lane-entitlement attitude to this Buddhist land of fluid give-and-take or else you will be inadvertent roadkill. Here, they follow racetrack rules - whoever is even vaguely in front of you must not be touched by your vehicle. Simple. Even if they just swerved into your path from a side road or adjacent lane. If you paid attention, you noted they telegraphed their swerve in advance by moving gently in the intended direction so as to give notice. They also use indicator/blinkers more consistently than Americans do, generally, and are more courteous. So rules there are, just different. Be advised.

At each mountain village we came upon, there were no gas stations, road-side restaurants, nor 7-11s. But there was was fantastic food, fuel and refreshment, all purveyed by Khun Yais - smiling grandmothers - and it was good! Thai noodle curry soup or BBQ chicken with sticky rice, local coffee or tea.. yes, please.

We are organizing an epic North Thailand-Laos- Northern Viet Nam-Cambodia-North Thailand dual-sport/dirt-focused run, tentatively set for late December 2020. If this is of interest to my fellow Ducati Listers, let me know.

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This is great stuff for me, I just eat up this kind of ride report! Is this a tour group or do you rent bike and hire a guide?
 
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It was truly great riding, nature experiencing and cultural intake. I refused to join a canned tour. We just planned the trip, then rented bikes and hired an experienced local guide since the trails we rode aren't vaguely marked.
 
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