Ride of the week – Erawan Loop

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Nestled at the northern end of the Southern Hills are a number of tiny farming settlements. Until recently these were accessible by dirt track only. In its infinite wisdom the Thai highways department recently decided to convert these tracks into beautifully, smooth, tarmac roads. These new roads are so obscure that some of them are still not shown on the map and lead nowhere apart from these small communities. It is no surprise then that they see very little traffic indeed. Add to this the marvelously undulating terrain and the spectacular rural scenery and you have a recipe for a sumptuous cycling treat.

CIMG3997The loop is fifteen kilometres in length, is awesome ridden in either direction and can be accessed from four different points. Plus, there is a road cutting across the middle, making a kind of figure of eight possible. So, there are a plethora of different ways to ride it. Today though, we’ll do a basic counter-clockwise loop, keeping our overall distance to a bare minimum.

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We leave from underneath the bridge that takes Highway 121 over the river south of the city. Often we’ll simply follow the pleasant river road along the eastern bank, south to the small town of Pasang but today, for a change, we’ll cross to the western bank. The road drifts away from the river for a while and is not quite as scenic as on the other side but it is marginally more direct.

 

CIMG3933Pasang is a typical bustling Thai market town, famous amongst ex-pat cyclists for its large and chaotic bicycle shop and traffic can be moderately busy but not for long. We are soon turning off the main road to be confronted by a magnificent sight. Ahead of us is a one kilometre long road that slopes, straight as an arrow, up to the entrance of a charming Wat. Directly behind the Wat is a hill on top of which sits a second Wat, even more handsome than the first. The effect is striking. The higher of the temples is Wat Phra Phutthabat Tak Pah and will be the subject of a later post. Today we content ourselves with admiring it from a distance. In any event, we are distracted by the rustic fair that has been temporarily constructed either side of the road.

Now the riding starts to get seriously good. The next stretch of road is wide and seems to swoop and soar through stunning countryside. I’ve ridden this road many, many times now and yet I still get a feeling of joyous, unbridled freedom. Watching the reaction of the others in the group, I know I am not alone.

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Because we are keeping the distance to a minimum we take a scenic short cut to the start of the Erawan loop. This involves a 500 metre stretch of dirt and gravel running alongside a sadly depleted lake but is otherwise on good roads and it saves us four or five kilometres.

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And then we are on the loop. Going anti-clockwise the road starts to undulate generally upwards at first. There’s a short, moderately steep hill which sometimes causes the group to split, but it’s nothing too draconian. The marvelous views are more likely to take your breath away than the climb and the gradient soon settles into a steady and easy slope as the road winds its way through the trees before emerging to a spectacular view across the valley. The short but exhilarating descent provides a quandary. It is non-technical and easy to go full gas but you won’t want to miss out on the splendid landscape.

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We exit the loop at the south eastern extreme and join Highway 1184, the fabulous back road to Li, about which I’ll be blogging much more in due course. Today though, we only follow it for 4 or 5 kilometres before turning north and heading for home. There are a few bumps but the road is predominantly downhill now and we enjoy the thrill as the pace picks up. We’ll usually stop for refreshments in the village of Ban Seng, eschewing the 7/11 in favour of the local store next door whose owner brings out plastic chairs for us to sit on and gives us free ice for our bottles.

There are several ways home from here but we take an easterly route that takes us close to historic Lamphun before swinging back to the river just south of our original departure point.

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South Plus Erawan.jpgFacts at a glance

  • Distance: 122 kilometres (145 from the city)
  • Elevation Gain: 530 metres
  • Terrain: Flat then rolling.
  • Type: Loop
  • Road surface: One optional dirt section. Otherwise generally excellent.
  • Traffic: Moderate to almost none.
  • When: Posted occasionally on RoadRiders.

 

 

WARNING: Some of the roads on this route do not appear on OpenStreetMap and Strava is unable to build the route accurately. The linked route is not accurate.

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