The 1095 road from Chiang Mai to Pai makes up part of the famed “Mae Hong Son Loop” motorbike route. Featuring 762 hairpin bends and breathtaking scenery, the road to Pai is an adventure not to be missed.

Riding a motorbike to Pai instead of taking the bus or plane can add a whole other experience to your time in Northern Thailand, and it’s relatively cheap too.

Small bike rentals (110-150cc automatic scooters) start at just 150-250baht per day, and fuel from Chiang Mai to Pai will set you back just 200b. Bigger bikes cost from 500-1,000baht per day and up.

Taking the bus to Pai is still cheaper, but riding yourself is far more exciting.

What are the road conditions like?

The 1095 road to Pai is a notorious road. Accidents are common and in years gone by the road conditions were for only the most experienced riders.

However, over the past few years, a number of improvements have been made to increase safety on the road.

The entire road has recently been rebuilt offering smooth asphalt from end-to-end, rivalling any western road. As of 2019, safety barriers have also been added along the most difficult sections.

Where to rent motorbikes

If you plan on driving to Pai & back again yourself, you can rent from any of the dozens of motorbike rental shops in Chiang Mai. There are so many to choose from there’s no point me giving you a list.

If you plan on driving only one way to Pai, then taking a bus or plane back to Chiangmai, you can rent a one-way bike from Aya Service.

Aya Service have a big rental shop on the Walking Street in Pai where you can drop the bike when you arrive.

Renting one-way will cost you more (an extra 300baht) as you’ll need to pay a fee for the bike to be delivered back to Chiang Mai.

The route

In an age where everyone has maps built into their phones, giving you a specific route map is pointless. But you needn’t worry, the route to Pai is very simple.

There are only two roads you need to remeber. From Chiang Mai, first make your way to the 107 road (aka Canal Road). Head north down the 107 for around 45 minutes until you reach a left turn for the 1095 road. Turn left onto the 1095 road and go straight for another 2-3 hours.

The journey takes around 2.5-3.5 hours of straight driving. There are plentiful shops and cafes to stop at on the way, though there are several remote areas so make sure you fill up the tank.

Pros & cons of riding

  • Pro: It’s great fun
  • Pro: It’s cheap, and it means you’ll have a bike to use when you’re in Pai
  • Pro: You’re in control and not relying on a minibus driver
  • Pro: Two people can fit on one bike, halving your transport cost
  • Pro: You can stop whenever you want
  • Con: If it rains, it can be a pretty miserable experience
  • Con: You risk accident & injury if you crash
  • Con: After 3 hours, those little bikes are not very comfortable
  • Con: It’s a dangerous road for beginners

Motorbike riding tips

Here’s some quick tips for when you’re riding a bike to Pai:

  1. Don’t ride like you’re Valentino Rossi. Speeding along will only save you 10-15 minutes on journey time and it’ll increase the chance of an accident. Go slow, enjoy the views and stop frequently to rest your butt.
  2. Don’t pull your front brake when riding around corners. If you pull your front brake around a corner and the tire catches gravel/grit, the bike will wipe out under you.
  3. Wear a helmet. For obvious reasons.
  4. Wear sunglasses if you don’t have a visor. Hitting a large bug or bee at 60km/hour will take your eye out.
  5. Cover up and wear suntan lotion. It can get cold in the mountains, and the sun is deceptively strong.
  6. Yield to traffic, don’t try to race them. Local drivers on the Pai road will take very dangerous risks to try and overtake you. Instead of driving like you own the road, pull in so cars and trucks can get past you. For your safety, not theirs.
  7. If it rains, drive very slowly, even if you feel safe driving faster. Rental bikes typically don’t have the best tires, and the rain washes up dried oil from the road so it’s like driving on ice.
  8. Don’t ride in flip-flops, wear sturdy shoes instead. If you need to plant your foot on the ground for any reason whilst driving, your foot will be shredded to pieces if you’re wearing flip-flops.

Flat tires & fuel stops

There are several long stretches on the 1095 road where you’re far from help and where there is no phone signal. If you have an accident, or get a flat tire, your best option is to flag down a local who can help you out.

I have seen and helped with several accidents on the Pai road, and local people are often very willing to help take broken down bikes in the back of their trucks.

Regarding fuel: The last main gas stations are at the Chiang Mai side of the 1095 road. Make sure you fill up the tank before leaving Chiang Mai.

If you start running low on fuel, when you pass through the mountain villages, lookout for shelves of whiskey bottles lined up outside people’s homes. These whiskey bottles are filled with fuel and are available for sale.

Luggage Delivery

If you don’t want to ride to Pai with luggage strapped to your back, you can drop your luggage at the Aya Service office or with Prempracha at Arcade Bus Station in Chiang Mai and have it delivered to Pai for a small fee.

Police & Military checkpoints 

You may get stopped by the police on the 107 road in Chiang Mai. If you’re not wearing a helmet or you don’t have an International Driving Permit, you’ll be fined 200b. This “fine” is paid on the spot and you can go on your way.

Military Checkpoints

There are two military checkpoints on the 1095 road. You have nothing to worry about at these checkpoints.

These military checkpoints check vehicles for drugs and illegal immigrants. Pai is very close to the Myanmar border and so many illegal immigrants use this route to pass into Thailand.

Likewise, the route is also used by drug smugglers.

As a foreigner, you’ll most likely be waved through the checkpoint. Just make sure you’ve no weed in your pocket in case the sniffer dogs are about.