Photo: Almost Maldivian at Ao Noi, Ko Kut.

Thailand forum

another Mae Hong Son Loop query

Posted by ano_1 on 4/1/2010 at 12:10


A question for anyone who may have driven the Mae Hong Son loop or part thereof in the recent past. Generally, is the conditon of road(s) suitable for your run of the mill 4 cylinder car or is something more rugged required.

Many thanks for taking the time to assist.


#1 ano_1 has been a member since 9/9/2009. Posts: 20

Posted by khunwilko on 4/1/2010 at 14:08

It's OK - but you won't be able to get off down any diversions etc and you might wish you had more ground clearance at roadworks

#2 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560

Agoda coupon: Get an extra 7% off selected properties with the coupon code

Posted by khunwilko on 4/1/2010 at 14:10

....also it is steep so a small car with 4 passengers would not be a good idea. I personally would prefer a manual gearbox too. I think it's not good to rely just on your brakes, engine braking is a useful extra and takes the strain off the pads.

#3 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560

Posted by AbgAcid on 4/1/2010 at 17:51

I just did the loop last week, coming from the west into Pai, Mae Hong Song, Khun Yuam, Mae Chaem and back to Chiang Mai. We took 4D3N to do it in a slow manner. But i did it on a 150cc motorcycle. I saw many 4-cylinder sedan cars of about 1500 cc onwards travelling the roads. Vans are plenty too. So, I presume it shouldnt be a problem with any car with good clutch conditions. A mannual gear transmission is a better deal. Coming from the West, there more steeper downhills, and from the east its vice versa. But no doubt there are plenty of steep inclines from whcih ever directions, and the curves are pretty tight.

Road surfaces are generally good, smooth,,, and at certain times it is too smooth for comfort with traces of oil on top. No potholes though. There are palces you may stop your car for spectacular views of the mountains. I just love it, and travelling on motorcycles we can stop at almost anywhere we wanted to. On cars, you may need to find a safe and larger area, but nevertheless there are viewpoints areas, and these are gnenerally packed with cars too.

And when you are in Mae hOng Son, do stop at the office where they sell stickers and certificate tthat you have crossed the 1864 curves for a small fee. The office is opposite of the post office. GPS coordinates N19* 17.973' E097* 57.932'


#4 AbgAcid has been a member since 28/11/2009. Location: Malaysia. Posts: 162
 Send AbgAcid a private message 

Posted by Dutchgirl on 5/1/2010 at 02:26

I wondered the same as you, Ano, so I asked NorthWheels in Chiang Mai, who we want to rent our car from. Their answer: a sedan car with 1.6 or 1.8 engine would be sufficient for 2 persons for the MHS loop.

We have a little mountain experience in the Alps, so based on that we already decided on manual gear. Because I think better safe than sorry, I choose a Ford Ranger Pick up 3.0.
(to be honest, I've always wanted to drive a pickup...)

#5 Dutchgirl has been a member since 20/12/2009. Location: Netherlands. Posts: 52

Posted by khunwilko on 5/1/2010 at 06:51

I would say their advice is about right - BUT.....

I have done most of this loop and more with 2 people in a 4wd 4dr pick up and found several advantages over a "family" saloon

With a manual g/box you have good engine breaking and in general more overall control.
(do you know how to "double de-clutch" - ???).

The higher driving position is great for views and visibility on corners etc.

some of the tracks we diverted onto would have proved quite difficult for a sedan/saloon car.

If you REALLY need it there are always the options of 4WD and low ratio. I successfully backed mine into a hole visiting the Karen people - without 4WD I would have needed towing out.

Diesel engines are great for torque at low revs and love climbing hills.

In Australia I was plagued by over heating on my large petrol Station wagon every time we hit mountainous roads...and brake fade! - I experienced none of this with the pick up truck.

My fuel consumption was about 10 km to the litre - in a newer vehicle I'd expect better.

It has a locking tonneau cover so we could carry a large amount of luggage in the back.

I have to say that a large percentage of the folks driving on those roads don't appear to know the first thing about driving in those conditions; even simple things like what line to take on a corner.

Most pickups have the same interior standards as the sedans - power steering, electric windows, central remote locking, CD/Radio air etc etc..

#6 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560

Posted by khunwilko on 5/1/2010 at 07:14

BTW - make sure you know what to expect with regards to insurance - who pays what - 3rd party claims, hospital fees for you and other road users, any excess, and especially damage you inflict on your own vehicle!

insist on what documents are required FOR INSURANCE - e.g. is you home licence sufficient?

In many cases rental companies will hire a vehicle on production of virtually any document but insurance cover (even when extra is paid for) may turn out to be invalid if the driver does not have an IDP - international Drivers Permit.

TAKE PHOTOS of the vehicle before you set off - that way any "unnoticed" damage that is "noticed" when you return can be verified. inspect the interior too.

Many of the vehicles offered for rent can be 5 or even 10 years old - this is not necessarily a problem in itself but a good look round is called for, just in case.

rather than a pickup, you might want to go for a pickup based SUV - e.g. Isuzu Adventurer, Toyota Fortuner (the best) or a Mitsubishi G-Wagon (oldish) or Pajero Sport (new model) or Ford Everest.

#7 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560

Posted by Dutchgirl on 6/1/2010 at 02:41

Thanks Khunwilco, for your advice. Maybe we decide on an SUV, but for now I found them a little over budget. We're all prepared with IDP and have our camera ready for photo's and maybe even film of the car before hiring.

Don't have a clue what you mean by double de-clutch?

#8 Dutchgirl has been a member since 20/12/2009. Location: Netherlands. Posts: 52

Posted by khunwilko on 6/1/2010 at 09:55

If the SUV is too dear, go for the 4 dr pick up - mechanically they are just the same as the SUVs but with an open rear tray.
how many in your party? - the 4 dr pick ups can take 4 adults but with luggage etc it's best with just 2.

OK - quick driving lesson!

Double de-clutch is a way of changing down smoothly from one gear ratio to a lower one without suddenly loosing speed and throwing the handling of the vehicle off balance.

originally it was used with gearboxes without synchromesh.

THe idea is to increase the engine's RPM so that the change down from a higher ratio isn't so "jerky".

The original method is as follows......when you intend to gear down - e.g. for a corner or steep incline......

1 - press clutch pedal and shift to neutral
2 - release the clutch and rev the engine a bit - this gets the gearbox and engine more or less "in sync".
3 - press the clutch pedal again...and
4 - shift into the lower gear ratio.

this results in a much smoother drive and less strain on engine and g/box, it also improves handing and cornering.

HOWEVER - as 99% of vehicles today have synchromesh it is not really necessary to re-engeg the clutch whilst in neutral, just give the engine a quick rev between the gears. (i.e. - combine 2 and 3 into one quick increase of engine revs).

You will find that hills are easier to climb and corners much simpler to get round - you may even notice a saving on fuel!

#9 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560

Posted by Dutchgirl on 7/1/2010 at 03:54

Thanks for the lesson, Khunwilco! Must say you made it a lot clearer than the sites I did some research on.
I also told my husband what I'd learned today and he knew what it was too. And I just thought I could teach hím! I should have known, he's a few years older and drove some old trucks in the army back in the seventies. And his father was owner of a garage, so he knows a little about cars.

He agreed with you almost on everything, except for the fuelsaving. He says, increase of engine revs costs fuel and synchromesh was for one reason designed to save fuel. Well, I'm just a girl who knows only the least of cars (though love to drive them), so I don't take sides on this one ;)

The pickup I booked at NorthWheels has 4 doors and we're with two, so I guess we're just fine.

thanks again Khunwilco! We'll probably think about you and the double de-clutch when we're in that Thai mountains!

#10 Dutchgirl has been a member since 20/12/2009. Location: Netherlands. Posts: 52

Posted by khunwilko on 7/1/2010 at 08:07

(I used to drive trucks and tractors too)

As for the fuel - i doubt if it would be easily measured but repeated it may have some significance - however on a point of interest let me try to explain - when you gear down without revving the vehicle will suddenly slow as if braking - this is dissipating energy (momentum or inertia if you like) already in the vehicle (this is why brakes heat up when you slow down - energy loss through friction).

So this sudden slowing is a loss of energy from the vehicle mass this has been put into the vehicle by burning fuel as yo drive. - this loss is considerably more than the energy (fuel) required to rev the engine whilst changing gear- remember the engine at this point is not connected to the vehicle so only using a minimum amount of power (energy)

#11 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560

Posted by khunwilko on 7/1/2010 at 08:10

BTW - my pick up on this trip showed a 15 to 20% improvement in fuel consumption compared to when commuting to work on the motorway (45km e/w).

this was largely due to a lower cruising speed, but vehicles tend to respond to longer journeys with less stopping a starting as in commuter traffic.

#12 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560

Posted by ano_1 on 8/1/2010 at 05:37

thanks everyone for your help.


#13 ano_1 has been a member since 9/9/2009. Posts: 20

Posted by Captain_Bob on 30/3/2011 at 16:38

Shows photo and location of the MHS Chamber of Commerce where you can pick up the above-mentioned certificate.


#14 Captain_Bob has been a member since 27/5/2006. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,951

Please login to add a reply

You need to be a Travelfish member to be able to add a reply to this post. Please use the button below to log in. After logging in you'll be returned to this page automatically to add your post. Not a member? Join up here.