The Ban Mae Kampong Loop is a beautiful motorbike ride through the verdant mountains east of Chiang Mai into Lampang and the true epicenter of Northern Thai culture. The loop can be completed perhaps quickly in one day, but the best way to go would be two to three nights. It is a great escape from hectic Chiang Mai and can be done on either a big bike or scooter.
In Chiang Mai, I rented out a simple Fino scooter for 200 bhat per day, packed my backpack, and went up to Ban Mae Kampong planning to spend two nights in a rural homestay followed by a third night in Lampang before returning to Chiang Mai. The drive to Ban Mae Kampong was very easy even with just a scooter – excellent paved roads all the way. Click here to read about my time in Ban Mae Kampong and to learn about the best homestay options.
After two nights in Ban Mae Kampong, I went to further up the road to Kew Fin View Point – a nice place to take in the view and rest. This viewpoint is just a few minutes drive from Ban Mae Kampong and also marks the border and highest point between Chiang Mai and Lampang province. From there it is all downhill passing through several villages with relaxing coffee shops and homestay accommodations. The road is a little sketchy coming down as it is actually one step below a rural highway, but I was able to manage on a scooter. Just be careful.
Further into Lampang, I came across Chae Son National Park. I had already visited this several times before so I continued on, but this is a great place to stop and relax for a few hours. In Chae Son there are waterfalls, hiking options, and most importantly hot springs. Many are too hot for swimming, but just hot enough to boil eggs – something Thai people become frantically obsessed over. I think it’s actually more fun to watch Thai people boil eggs than it is to boil eggs myself. Some of the hot springs flow into a bathhouse area where it is possible to bathe in the water. There are also several ladies doing massages. Read more about my trip to Chae Son here.
After Chae Son on the way to Lampang’s capital, I went to Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat – a hidden gem of Lampang tucked away in the mountains. Hardly anyone knows about this temple, but it is completely worth visiting. Read about my visit here.
Upon finishing my temple visit, I continued the drive down to Lampang’s provincial capital. I am partially biased to Lampang because I lived here for a year, but it is one of my favorite cities in Thailand. It’s just big enough that it is easy to get to and has some tourist accommodation, but also small enough that you can get a true authentic Thai experience. This is where you come to see how real northern Thais live. Click here to read about the best things to do in Lampang.
After Lampang, I drove back to Chiang Mai along Highway 11. There are many options on the way back from a stop at the Lampang Elephant Conservation Center to a visit to Doi Khun Tan National Park.
On this particular trip, I stopped at the Villager Agricultural Market – an authentic Thai jungle market along the road to Lamphun. Be warned – don’t come to this market on a full stomach. You will see some insane stuff for sale from live bugs to fried frogs. It’s a cool place to visit, but I could only handle so much of it before I had to get out.
After visiting the market, I drove into downtown Lamphun to take a look at Wat Phra Haripunchai – the main temple attraction in Lamphun. After seeing so many temples, they all start to look the same, but Lamphun is a nice city worth checking out. On Friday nights there is a large market in front of this temple. Lamphun is a nice city to spend a night or two in away from the hustle and bustle of Chiang Mai.
As far as I know, I am the first person to map out this loop and write about it. Hopefully I inspire others to take this little traveled route. If you end up using my guide, please let me know in the comments below!