Since 1999, the Santa Cruz Team MIA has had this great tradition - leaving the cold French winter and travelling to an exotic destination to celebrate the end of the season. This year they have decided to explore the Kingdom of Thailand off the beaten path. After few days in Shenzhen, Maurin and Maxime leave China on December the 1st, a long journey to Northern Thailand which starts in a stifling atmosphere (compare to the cold cold French winter), with an hour taxi drive between the airport and the bus terminal where they board a night bus to reach Chiang Mai, 800km up north. After 10 hours the bus reaches the Rose of The North.
Max shredding the Thai bushes.
Go big or go home!
It’s time to build their bikes while waiting for the rest of the crew. Antonin Pergod aka OQAMY (our video maker & photographer) flying directly from France and Thiromana Yin aka Romana (founder of Adventure We Like) who managed all the logistics for this expedition. Romana has been working in the MTB industry in Europe for a while before moving back to Asia a few years ago. He’s been exploring the area extensively with his MTB (from Thailand to Indonesia) and shares his experience with fellow travellers eager to ride some of the most exotic destinations. His local partner in Thailand is Damian Mulligan who left Australia for Chiang Mai something like fifteen years ago. The man knows that part of the world very well and offers his mountain bike guide services through Mojo Adventures. Together they have been planning the trips for months and will take the two riders Maurin and Maxime to the most beautiful trails of Northern Thailand.
Let's get the bikes ready.
Time to go shredding the local trails!
Pick up your ride.
If you are into proper mountain biking, the trails in Chiang Mai are amazing. From mild to wild, some as long as 14kms of DH, yes you read that right! The trails are all natural trails since they are all in a national forest so nothing is man-made and the conditions of the track changes after a heavy pour down of rain. The trails are through some dense jungle, bamboo forest, rock gardens, and some fire roads.
Max and Maurin can virtually ride anything!
Maurin between light and darkness.
Don't mess with the locals.
Some of the trails can be tough and more suitable for those with downhill experience but no worries there is always someone 'sweeping' behind. You will find all you could ask for, steep techy sections, rock gardens, flowy sections, drops etc... The locals usually have three runs a day which add to 20.000 ft of descent a day! You won't be disappointed with the trails.
Our favorite trail goes by the name of Bamboo trail. It’s only about 10km but it's by far the smoothest run, imagine more than 10 km of trail with some natural jumps on the very first part and then a long flowy trail through a bamboo forest.
Dusty like crazy.
Maxime and Maurin had to ride until late to make our photographer happy.
The second favorite trail is Ghee’s house, located on another face of the same mountain. 16km down across dense forest, typical village, coffee culture and red chilli pepper plantation, usually a one hour ride. We stop at one of those orchards and got the opportunity to taste them … raw ! Not a really good idea, thank you, Damian!
Would you dare to eat some raw chilli?
Another day, another spot
Fresh fruit anyone ?
Once we were done with all the trails in Doi Suthep we went to a different location, about one hour drive from Chiang Mai where races are organised every year, the track was handmade and features nice berms, a few big jumps, some steep sections and rock gardens.
Maurin getting some air on one of the local downhill tracks.
Max and Maurin shredding every inch of the trail.
A very decent three to four minute run through bamboo forest, with a few table jumps at the bottom, where the local kiddos are riding wearing flip flops and a pretty old bicycle.Off The Beaten Path
Romana and Damian kept the best for the end of the trip by taking us to the top of Doi Inthanon, 2279m high, the second highest peak of Thailand.
Damian leading the way to Doi Inthanon crest.
On our way to the highest point in northern Thailand.
We had to hike/pedal/carry during a three to four hour walk up the 800m elevation with our bikes, cameras, and video equipment.
After a few hours climb, we are getting closer and closer to the top of Doi Inthanon.
[PI=13341859 size=l0 align=c]This is how dense the forest can be in Northern Thailand[./PI]
The reward after a long climb, riding down Doi Inthanon (2100m above sea level).
The reward is a wonderful unobstructed crest, 5km long through ferns and lush forest! This area was spotted by Damian few months before, and very little people get the opportunity to come here with a bike, what a chance for us to finish this trip in this extraordinary place.
One of the highlights of this expedition in Northern Thailand, the hospitality of the Bak Kon Yaw tribe.
Explore like a local
Max and Maurin enjoying their last meal in Ban Wang Tao.
Traveling with a knowledgeable guide is the opportunity to uncover and explore a destination through the eyes of a local. Damian and Romana took us to some places we wouldn’t have gone, far from the crowd and mass tourism, the highlight was the four faces Buddha temple in the middle of the jungle or the local restaurants where you can eat big portions of local food for few hundred baht only, what a bargain.
In Thailand, most of the Wat (Pagodas) are built on a hill.
Let the sun set.
A special thanks to our driver who had to keep up with our f... jokes all day long and a big shout to everyone involved in this trip.
Test driving a strange kart.
Maxime meditating on his trip.
Written by Maurin #maurin_is_here, Maxime @maximepeythieu
and Romana @yinro
Credits: Adventure We Like
/ Mojo Adventures
/ Oqamy Visuel
/ Race Company / Team Santa Cruz MIA.