The best gyms are found outdoors

Chuam Jai Bridge in Chiang Mai’s Doi Saket district may not yet be a familiar name but for sure it soon will. Over the past months, although not fully completed, this 166m-long suspension bridge has been drawing scores of visitors to Mae Kuang Udom Thara dam where it is located. During my recent visit to the northern province, I couldn’t help it. I had to add this new attraction to my itinerary.

Chuam Jai Bridge stands on the east section of the dam’s reservoir, providing a quicker access to the village of Ban Pa Sak Ngam on the other side, which previously could be reached either via a ferry or via Road 1001 (the road to Phrao) further north. The latter is still the only option for cars and larger vehicles since the new bridge, which is 3m wide, is open only to pedestrians, motorcycle riders and cyclists.

After taking enough photos of the site I took refuge from the afternoon heat at a nearby small coffee shop. The lady at the shop told me that I was lucky I came on a weekday because there were just a few other people on the bridge, mostly local students coming for selfies. On the weekend, especially long weekends, the place can be crowded and the dirt road to the bridge very dusty due to busy traffic.

After a few peaceful minutes enjoying a refreshing glass of iced coffee and the scenery I set off again to explore other parts of the dam, which is usually called Khuen Mae Kuang.

Irrigating water to a number of districts in Chiang Mai and Lamphun, Khuen Mae Kuang is made up of three dams. Each of them can be reached via bicycle so they are great for both leisurely riders and training cyclists. The view from these dams is nice. Apart from the artificial lake, which is surrounded by tree-covered hills, at many points you can spot the Chuam Jai Bridge from afar. The main dam (the one in the middle) also gives you a vista of the lush lowland downstream. And it seemed to be popular among the locals. That evening I saw many there. Who needs to pay for membership to an air-conditioned gym when you have such a wonderful place to exercise outdoors?

Too bad that day I didn’t have enough time to venture across the bridge to Ban Pa Sak Ngam where I heard there are caves, a waterfall, a temple and an interesting resort with many tree houses. If you get to visit Mae Kuang Dam, make sure you don’t miss it like I did.

Well, see you here again soon. Until then, if you have questions, news or biking insights you wish to share, please feel free to send an email to [email protected] or go to Freewheel Bangkok community page on Facebook.

  • GPS coordinates (bridge site): 18°57’05.97″ N 99°08’12.24″ E Trail condition: Paved and unpaved roads.
  • Distance: Within the dam area, it’s just a couple of kilometres but some people ride all the way from Chiang Mai city.
  • Getting there: Mae Kuang Dam is about 30km northeast of Chiang Mai city. One easy way to reach it is to take Road 118 to Doi Saket. The access road to the dam is just a short drive further up the highway from Doi Saket Hospital but on the opposite side.
  • Parking: There’s lots of space in the dam area.
  • Food & drinks: At the site of the suspension bridge, there are a few makeshift food shops, plus a modest coffee shop.
  • What your family can enjoy while waiting: Taking photos and soaking in the view.
  • Accommodation: There are a couple of resorts at Ban Pa Sak Ngam. Of course, numerous more choices are available in Chiang Mai as well as along the way between the city and the dam.

Pongpet Mekloy is the Bangkok Post‘s travel editor and a mountain bike freak.