Sunday 6th December
Today was supposed to be a day off the bikes but after a morning of wandering round Wats and there are a lot of them – it is almost like the Buddhists in this area were competing with each other to see who could build the biggest and grandest temple/wat. We decided to take a bike ride up a mountain to visit the Wat described as the one not to miss. It stood at 2,400ft, it attracted a lot of tourists and even had a vernacular staircase to reach the top. In our opinion it was OK but we preferred others that we have seen on route. The bike ride up was challenging and without our panniers Gary flew up it arriving a good 5 minutes ahead of me. I was proud of the fact that I had cycled up without stopping and over took cyclists on route. We had hoped for some spectacular views but they were a little disappointing, however you could make out the town clearly.
Chiang Mai was nothing like what I imagined it to be like, it was far more modern than I expected and a lot busier.
Monday 7th Dec
Chaing Mai to Chiang Dao
The ride out of the city was a typical busy city road, I do find the drivers are more cautious when e are fully laden than when we are on our bikes without the panniers. I took a wrong a turn out of Chiang Mai and we had to double back, it doesn’t happen often but with no other roads on my garmin only the route it can be difficult to pick the right road when you have a few choices.
We cycled the first 30 miles along route 107 which was pretty much like cycling on a dual carriageway in the UK with a hard shoulder to protect us but not much fun. After that the road became quieter and the scenery better to the extent that twe had forests to cycle through and mountain ranges. Ginette didn’t sleep well last night and had lost her mojo, she didn’t over take me on any of the his and at lunchtime whilst I had a nice rice dish she didn’t eat anything.
Ginette – I ate too much the previous night and had a bad tummy all night, I felt really lethargic and out of sorts all day. I think I may be wheat intolerant, the asian diet contains very little wheat so my body has been functioning brilliantly but last night I had spaghetti and lots of snacks in the room and my tummy really didn’t like it, I felt like it was going to pop, so uncomfortable. What is remarkable is I recall many an evening/day in the UK feeling just as crap and never doing anything about it.
Our accommodation was called the ‘Dreamhome’ guesthouse and it was really nice. It was tucked away down a dirk track with nothing else near by, fortunately we had internet access but only in the bar area. The bungalow we stayed in was set in a green pasture which was set by the side of a pond. Idyllic but a haven for mosquitos (lots of bites)
We spent the evening in the bar researching where we would spend Christmas, our preferred option was Mynamar but we ideally want to be by the coast so we can take a few days off. Although we were initially excited it soon became apparent that this was not really an option due to the costs that we would incur, not only visa costs but accommodation in Mynamar is much more expensive than Thailand. So after a lot of deliberation and beer we decided not to go to Mynamar or did we?
Tuesday 8th December
Chiang Doa to Hot Springs, Doi Pha Hom, Pok National Park
A beautiful mornings ride along route 107, climbing a 1000 ft but gradually along windy forest roads. After this we dropped to a high plateau are to a flat straight road which had mountains all around it. It was a stunning day with beautiful views.
Ginette – got my mojo back and overtook Gary going up one of the hills, unfortunately I was too far ahead to hear him shout he wanted to stop for a photo with a large buddha.
The ride in the forest section was much more rural and the house and the cafes had dirt tracks and drives which we hadn’t seen much of in Thailand. The high plateau was a busier with lots of shops on route.
Ginette it was almost like cycling in a different country the people and buildings were more reflective of Lao than Thailand.
The temples in this area seem to be in competition they are trying to out do each other in be-jangledness we took photos at one of the temples which was covered in mirrored tiles, it was shining in the sun and had ornate pictures on the window shutters. Each temple seems bigger and shinier than the last one.
We camped in a national park with some hot springs. We arrived just before dark so no time to really explore. We made friends with a 68 year old man who is travelling Asia on his 28 year old motorbike.
Ginette It cost approx £12 to enter the park but as we will be camping for a couple of nights it will be relatively cheap. The locals get into the park for free. There seems like quite a lot to do including climbing/cycling/taking a ride up Thailand’s 2nd highest mountain, Thai massage and as Gary mentioned hot springs and saunas. It is good to have a rest from the bikes as the next couple of days are going to very hilly
Wednesday 9th December
Doi Pha Hom, Pok National Park
We had a lovely restful day in the hot springs we treated ourselves to a thai massage (£3.00 each for an hour)
We met a young couple from America in the hot springs and traded travel stories and in the afternoon we boiled some eggs in the hot springs and had dinner by the tent.
Thursday 10th December
National Park to the middle of nowhere – Apache Guest House/Settlement
We packed the tent up early and went in search of food and internet access. Fortunately we found both within a couple of miles of the national park. It was a very cold start to the day, we even had to wear jumpers, it was 12c.
Once we’d uploaded some podcasts and agreed a route we set off on what was going to be a challenging day. We thought it would be challenging due to the hill climbing how wrong could we be.
At the 25 mile mark we stopped for a coffee and we happened to notice a big map on the wall, being a man Gary couldn’t resist looking at this, it was just as well as we had been aiming for the hill tribes and the route we had plotted would have missed them. Luck was on our side and we were able to look on line and re-plot our route, unfortunately we lost the internet connection before we could download the route to the garmin so had to make another stop 5 miles down the road. Gary was grateful for the stop break as he was suffering from a little coffee rush.
The new route meant we wouldn’t be climbing for 20 miles which should have been a good thing and that it would take 2 days to get to Chaing Rai, however this new route meant we would have 40 miles to do today but would to get to Chiang Rai a day earlier. We were soon to discover these would be off road miles, some of them on a single track, high on a ridge over looking a the River Kok.
It would have been a challenging ride on a good day but my body threw an additional spanner in the works and decided it was ‘period’ time. This meant I had no coordination at all and had terrible cramps. I completely lost all confidence and ended up pushing my bike up and down any lumpy sections. Poor Gary had to push my bike up some of the steeper sections as I would end up falling over with the bike, he even had to push it through a river as I struggled to walk through on my own without falling over let alone with a bike. I managed to fall off the bike at least 3 times on one occasion.
Gary, I loved this “short cut”, we turned off route 107 and the side road was in a poor condition, which continued to deteriorate until it was just dirt track which seemed to suddenly end until a local on a motorbike continued ahead down a single track mud path. This path followed the River Kok “Mai Kok” so had a lot of twist turns and ups and downs some of them very steep. we had bamboo bridges to cross and at the end of the path as we rejoined a dirt road we had to cross a fast running but shallow stream. during this ride we past several villages all of the hill tribes but no long neck ladies. Ginette did not enjoy this route, it seems that the Aliens have left her body for a few days.
Ginette; it was at the excitement of seeing a sign for a guest house, as I laid against a fence Gary said ‘what now’ and I simply pointed to the sign. As the sun was going down we were really happy to find accommodation, we hadn’t seen a shop or proper town for over 12 miles and there didn’t appear to be anything within miles. On the downside we had another 2km to do and the day was not over in this very short distance I fell off my bike again, dislocating my thumb and Gary got a puncture.
As we got to the top of this hill we could see a settlement ahead and hoped that this would contain our accommodation. There was a sign saying Apache Guest House but there were no solid houses in the enclosure, just bamboo buildings and yurts. We were greeted by a very friendly Thai lady, she helpfully carried one of my bags and showed us into the enclosure. There were several men sitting around the entrance and within the yard we could see chickens, lots of dogs (they have 15 rescue dogs), which had announced our arrival, 3 pigs, an emu, a cow with her new calf (only a day old) and 3 goats, Chickens, ducks, Rabbits and Tortoise. Needless to say it was a little noisy. I was a little apprehensive as I could see some of the units contained toilets and I really didn’t fancy sharing a toilet or having to get up in the middle of the night to go outside but fortunately our bamboo unit had an ensuite so I needn’t have worried. It was all very basic but somehow made for an enjoyable evening.
Once changed, I passed on the shower as there was no electricity (we had oil lamps for light), which meant cold water, the temperature outside had dropped with the sun so I opted for a quick wash instead. I was desperate for a drink and needed to take some more painkillers as my thumb and tum. As I approached the restaurant area I could see a French lady (we’d met on arrival) sitting by a fire so I joined her and she kindly ordered my beer for me. She explained she’d been at the reserve for 10 days and loved it, she’d been out on an elephant trek and was a little tired. We could hear the elephants in the jungle behind us very surreal.
We had a simple dinner and had another beer by the fire where we were introduced to the owners of the site Sophie and Moo. Sophie was French and could speak a little bit of English, she explained that the Karen People (the area we were in) spoke their own Thai dialect. We were both really tired so didn’t spend log by the fire, once everyone else retired we hit the sack. It was a really noisy night but we slept well on and off. We’re not sure if the reserve is advertised any where but if you’re ever in Thailand and you want a unique experience we would recommend Apache Guest House.
Gary; The Apache has its name as Sophie the French owner had thought her husband looked like an American Apache (He does as well). Moo is part of the Karen hill tribe as were the other staff that were also his relatives. This is the closest I think we will come to living with the Karen hill tribe.
In the morning while fixing the puncture I got to greet 2 large Elephants that had been eating in the jungle for the night and were being guided back to the enclosure by one young mahout riding on the 1st Elephant.
Friday 11th December
Apache Guest House to Chiang Rai
We had a restless night and we were up really early, which had some advantages for example we got to see the elephants being moved from the jungle into an enclosure on the sight. We also got to see all the animals being fed. I think their breakfast was slightly better than our fried egg and cold white rice. It was a lovely place to stay but we agreed to move onto Chiang Rai, which was just as well as it was quite expensive at £16 per night. Before we left we were given some hand made apache bracelets and posed for some photos apparently we were the first cyclists to stay at the resort.
The initial part of the route to Chiang Rai was a little challenging as my thumb was still very sore and it hurt to change gears or to brake fortunately it was not long before we were on a main road and the riding was a lot easier.
Gary; On route we past a herd of Elephants that were saddled up for taking people on jungle safaris, we were still following the Mai Kok River in fact we have been cycling next to Mai Kok for the last 2 days – guffaw guffaw. Ginette: We nearly booked a hotel in Rim Kok – seriously you couldn’t make up better place names.
We arrived in Chiang Rai at 11sh and stumbled on the registration point for the Ride For Dad event, so registered before booking into a hotel in the city centre (again expensive at £16 a night). We had plenty of time to have some lunch before we returned to the start of the race. It was scheduled to start at 3pm but we did not leave until 4.30 we’re not sure if the other group (doing the longer route 29km compared to our 10km) had been set off first or whether we were being contained to keep us out of the heat. To keep us entertained there was some music and the occasional call out for the king but by 4.30 everyone was restless and keen to get going. As with all mass races (there were at least 500 in our group) the first half of the race was very slow, so slow we got off and walked the first kilometre. Once the pack started to spread out we could ride our bikes with ease. It was an enjoyable ride, the streets were lined with people cheering everyone one and our fellow participants were all good natured and friendly. We’re pretty sure the route had been shortened because it definitely did not feel like 10km but we’d enjoyed it all the same. The highlight had been seeing all the people taking part and the various bikes that had been used to complete the event including one bike which was over 80 years old and several bikes which had been modified for disabled people. The downside had been the missed opportunity at the finish line, no party, no congratulations, nothing, people cycled over the line turned away and went home.
Saturday 12th December
Productive day in Chiang Rai
We managed to do a little sight seeing including the village tribe museum and the clock tower and bought several items including new computer for my bike as I had lost mine on one of my many falls, new inner tubes and patches, new shorts as mine are hanging on me and falling apart and a new torch for the tent.
It was a really relaxed and laid back day, we changed hotels to reduce the costs a little but ended up a little too far out of town, probably a false economy but hey ho you live and learn.
Went to the street walking market in the evening, it was OK but there was a lot of tat being sold we liked the food stalls and watching the people dancing in the central square. We didn’t stay long as it was Saturday night we went in search of a bar, we weren’t disappointed there were lots to choose from but being the light weights we are we were back at the hotel y 10.30pm.