My previous post was all about Pai, so this one would be all about getting to Pai from Chiangmai. Pai isn’t that far from Chiangmai at around 146 km away. But the trip there takes almost 2.5 to 3 hours as it involves driving through hundreds of twists and turns with sometimes steep gradients of up to 30°.
Route 1095 is part of the route known as the Mae Hong Son Loop. This is a circular route of around 612 km that starts from Chiangmai, goes through Pai, Mae Hong Son and Mae Sariang before ending back at Chiangmai. For this post, it will be just about getting from Chiangmai to Pai.
For myself, I rented a SUV as it was my first time going to Pai and I wasn’t sure about the road conditions. However, a normal sedan car would do just fine for the trip. Plenty of tourists also rent scooters and motorbikes for the trip. The road conditions are actually quite good with proper asphalt roads and lane markings. However, Thailand has the notorious reputation of having one of the world’s highest fatalities in traffic accidents (second place after South Africa). The main dangers would be motorists speeding/overtaking on the twisting roads and cutting head on into your lane when going round some of the hairpin turns.
If you don’t want to risk driving/riding by yourself, there are regular bus services that ply the route between Chiangmai and Pai. These bus services are actually minivans which squeeze as many passengers as they can and then speed through the numerous bends at vomit inducing speeds. If more than one passenger starts throwing up in the cramped confines of a packed minivan, its going to be pretty unbearable.
If looking at those turns on the map makes your stomach churn, then be warned there are 762 turns throughout the whole trip (Yeah, someone actually counted). You could fly to Pai from Chiangmai at one time, but the airport in Pai has been shutdown for years, so your only option is to go by land.
Besides the hundreds of twists and turns, there are a couple of interesting stops along this section of the Mae Hong Son Loop which makes the trip a bit more interesting.
The Witch Cafe
If you are a Halloween fan or like spooky stuff then this is the place for you. Its a coffee place and pit stop with a witch’s theme and decor.
This Witch Cafe sort of marks the halfway point where the curves in the road become more like hairpin turns and the start of the steep climb up the mountains. To me it was a good place to stop to rest and recharge my concentration for the drive ahead.
The Jet Plane Cafe
I came across this place by accident as I was doing a Google Map survey of the route to Pai. What is a jet plane doing in the middle of nowhere at a road intersection?
Its called the Air Diamond Café and its operating out of a decommissioned Thai Airways Airbus A330. You can find this place easily as its located at the intersection where you turn west from Highway 107 into Route 1095. It seems to be newly opened in 2021 and must have been popular then when nobody could travel and if you needed to scratch your travel itch, you could come here to relive the feel of air travel.
Although, this blog post only covers a small section of the Mae Hong Son Loop, the entire route is one of the road trips you should do if you have the time in Thailand. It should take you roughly a week to complete the loop, taking your time to enjoy the sights of each town along the route. Driving or riding slow and steady is the key here, and don’t rush.