We are 75 kilometres into our ride and the beautiful tarmac road descends sharply. We sweep around a bend and abruptly the road plunges into water. We brake hard and stop just in time. This could be bad news. The only road back to Chiang Mai is the way we came. That steep descent was fun on the way out but maybe not so enjoyable as a climb. Fortunately we are prepared. We have phoned and booked a ferry to come pick us up.
We’re ten minutes ahead of schedule and there is no boat yet but soon we see a dot in the distance that is gradually getting larger. He is on his way and soon we are loading our bikes aboard his rickety boat before posing for a group photo, a souvenir of our adventure.
We’re doing the Mae Kuang Ferry ride. Mae Kuang reservoir is some 30 kilometres north east of Chiang Mai but the only way to get to its northern shore is via a circuitous route that takes us about 15 kilometres to the north. We have an easy, flat and scenic start to our ride, heading north beside the banks of first the Ping river and then the Mae Jo irrigation canal.
After 35 kilometres we meet the road to Phrao. The road is now undulating (mostly upwards) and we can test our legs on a couple of short climbs as we head generally east. Finally, we turn south onto the road to Mae Kuang. This is a beautiful tree-lined road that leads to nowhere apart from the reservoir and a small village. The traffic is therefore extremely light and we can relish the lovely smooth tarmac as we swoop down to our rendezvous with the ferryman.
This is a very popular ride but posted infrequently because of the logistics involved in organising the ferry. There are a couple of phone numbers for bookings but you’ll want someone who speaks good Thai to make the call. It is possible to just turn up on spec (we did it that way the first time and got lucky) but the boat is usually moored on the other side of the reservoir so you could have a long wait or worse, if the boat is not running for some reason, a long trip home back the way you came.
The numbers for the ferry: (081 746 9749 or 081 993 4844)
We’ve had 12 bikes and riders on the boat. I wouldn’t want to try and squeeze in many more.
May 2016 we were charged 300 baht for 7 riders plus bikes.
There is neither shop nor shade at the ferry meeting point. If you are early, I suggest you stop in the small village about a kilometre before you get to the reservoir where shade and drinks should be available.
If water levels are low (as they have been for the last two years) you will have to follow a stoney path to get to the ferry landing point. The same applies getting to the road from the disembarkation point.
Click on the images below to see more photos from this ride.
Facts at a glance
- Distance: 102 kilometres
- Elevation Gain: 763 metres
- Terrain: Flat then rolling. Possibly choppy.
- Type: Loop
- Road surface: Maybe dirt road getting to and from the landing point, depending on water levels. Otherwise generally good.
- Traffic: Moderate to light.
- When: Posted about once a year on RoadRiders.