Bicycle Northern Thailand
A 20 day, 550 km, cycle tour around Northern Thailand up near the Laos and Myanmar boarders.
From Bangkok we take the overnight train to Chiang Mai. We then cycle up to Tha Ton, across to Chiang Saen and Chiang Knong. Then we head down to Chiang Rai via the heights of Doi Pha Tang and Phu Chi Fa.
Cycling completed we fly back to Bangkok from Chian Rai
It is always with great relief that the taxi arrives. After the taxi failed to arrive for our Korean trip, we now allow plenty of time just in case we have to revert to plan B and catch the train. As a result we arrived at the airport almost three hours before departure. The new Qantas kiosk check-in was most impressive but we weren't sure what to do with our bicycles and had to seek help. Good thing we did as Georgia's name was not spelt correctly on her ticket so the whole check-in was done by a very helpful Qantas person.....
The air conditioning worked very effectively and we all slept pretty well. Occasionally, when a boat passed at speed down the river you could hear the swell as the water moved under the hotel. It really was built out over the water.
We returned to the little terrace for breakfast which we had ordered the night before. Jonno had pork with sticky rice whilst the rest of us had some form of eggs. This was accompanied by excellent coffee which was sourced from northern Thailand. We also tried some of their delicious home made passionfruit jam on toast....
Despite the bright lights of the carriage , we all slept reasonably well, though Georgia woke a few times with a persistent cough. We had picked up some cough medicine at the airport but it seemed to wear off quite quickly.
Round 6am there was an announcement that we needed to get up so our beds could be out away. The attendant performed this task with much efficiency and dexterity and moved through the carriage at great speed....
Jonno and I had found a driver on our way home from buying the SIM cards. Santi spoke reasonable English and was proud of his "new" car (which we decided meant that it was new for him as it had already done 120,000 km). He met us as arranged at 7am so that we could visit Doi Suthep ahead of the reputed Saturday crowds.
The roads were reasonably quiet as we drove out of Chiang Mai. I had asked to stop first at Wat Pha Lat. Santi pulled over beside a shrine and we all got out. I was a bit confused as I couldn't see any wat....
It was time to get some cycling practice in readiness for the start of our tour tomorrow.
Once again we were up at 6am which is pretty easy given that the neighbouring rooster starts crowing from around 3am. It took a while to find all our bits for the bikes which were scattered around the house. After a quick breakfast of muesli and toast we were wheeling the bikes out the gate by around 7:30....
We knew we had 50 km to cover today with check in at 2pm at Phutuwan Pundao. We were on the road just before 8am and merged into the peak hour Chiang Mai traffic at the end of our little street. It soon became apparent that bicycles were subject to the same rules as motorbikes. We weren't meant to queue behind the cars but rather make our way down the "bike" lane, a space made available to the left of the cars.
We had a very peaceful night's sleep as there were no roosters in residence right under our window. You could hear them in the distance but they didn't disturb our sleep. Breakfast was at 8am and by then we were all packed and bikes loaded. The view from the restaurant was lovely in the morning light and we enjoyed a substantial breakfast of flat rice noodles, sticky banana rice and the most delicious papaya as well as some yummy little jam biscuits. There was toast as well but no butter. Actually there were no diary products at all so we drank our tea black.
After a quiet night in our cosy roundhouses, we were ready for breakfast promptly at 8am as agreed the night before. However, apart from some sugary cereals, there was no breakfast to be seen. We emptied the small cereal supplies and turned on the coffee. Soon some fruit arrived and then some jams. About 20 minutes later we were served some croissants and lightly toasted bread, with a second batch following some 10 minutes later. It was certainly a leisurely breakfast and in other circumstances we might have enjoyed it more. With a 72 km cycle ahead of us we were keen to get moving. It was probably not the best breakfast for a long cycle.
We had arranged for breakfast at 7:30 and were up and pretty well packed by then. We were very much looking forward to a decent breakfast and were not disappointed. There was a massive tray of fried rice, 8 fried eggs, a platter of cucumber and another of papaya. We made the most of it - Jonno demolishing three plates of fried rice on the basis that he was making up for our lack of decent food the day before. I was a bit disappointed to arrive at breakfast and see nescafe on offer but was soon offered fresh coffee which I happily accepted. It was so strong that one cup was all we needed for the day!
It was spitting rain a little when we got up at 7am but it was clearly only a shower as shown by the magnificent sunrise across the valley.
As the restaurant had been closed the night before, we weren't sure what would be available for breakfast. All our accommodation except for the Airbnb in Chiang Mai and this place had included breakfast. In the end we decided to head into Thaton as we needed to buy some water and get money from an ATM.
There were some weird noises in the night and we weren't quite sure what strange local animal was generating such a sound. Georgia thought it was a dying chook but if so, it suffered a long and painful death. We were all so tired anyway that we slept well enough despite the background noise and rock hard beds.
We were at breakfast at 8am with a reasonable choice of options though no fresh coffee. Simon and I had omelettes whilst the kids had fried rice. We knew it was an easy, flat ride to Chiang Saen though I had found an alternative back route that we decided might be worth trying.
Despite being in the most peaceful location, the owners' old dog spent a couple of hours crying till around 11pm. Not sure what was wrong but in the end resorted to ear plugs to dull the noise.
We were at breakfast at 8am and enjoyed freshly baked bread, homemade strawberry jam, fresh orange juice, real coffee and a choice of western or Thai breakfast. I went for the bacon and poached eggs whilst the others had rice porridge and declared it to be the ideal cycling food.
I woke at around 1:30am with stomach cramps and had to take some neurofen before I could get back to sleep. I felt no better when I awoke again at 6:30. Simon was feeling fine but when he went to wake the kids, Georgia had been up vomiting in the night. Jonno wasn't feeling to good either. We suspected food poisoning from dinner. Happy birthday, Simon!
We met in the kids' bungalow to give Simon a card and a little painted elephant rock that I had picked up the day before after our massage. The kids stayed in bed.
It was a leisurely start as we enjoyed a 9am buffet breakfast beside the Mekong. We were all feeling better and having a wide range of breakfast options was ideal. The coffee was pretty bad but the fried rice and noodles were good. The pineapple and papaya were delicious. Thai papaya is so much better than any we get at home. I had even brought along the vegemite should anyone feel like white bread Vegemite toast.
After breakfast Georgia, Simon and I went for a walk along the river path whilst Jonno sorted out his university enrolment.
The beds were rock hard and the pillows were pretty useless so when the alarm went off at 5am, getting up wasn't as hard as it could have been.
It was dark when we cycled out of the hotel for our 2km climb to the Doi Pha Tang car park, and still dark as we made our way up the ridge to a suitable look out spot. Even in the dark you could see the fog covering the Mekong Valley which makes this place so renowned for Thai tourists.
We were woken briefly by the Japanese tourists leaving at 4:45 to see the sunrise at Phu Chi Fa. We rolled over and went back to sleep having already had our own sunrise experience.
We were ready for breakfast at 8am and started with the strawberries we had purchased the day before. They had travelled surprisingly well. Georgia had pork fried rice for breakfast, whilst Simon had a Thai omelette with pork and I had bacon and eggs. Jonno had muesli, yoghurt and a massive serving of fruit followed by the biggest banana pancake we had ever seen. Plenty of carbs to keep him going.
We could have cycled to the White Temple but the kids decided they had done enough cycling so today we hired a songthaew from the bus station to take us to the White Temple and the Blue Temple. We negotiated a price of 500 baht and hopped in the back.
We knew that the White Temple could get incredibly busy so we made that our first stop. We had met for breakfast at 7:30 and it was around 9:30 by the time we were buying our tickets. The crowd wasn't too bad and we could move round easily and enjoy the breathtaking beauty of this dazzling white structure.
It was a lazy start to our last day in Chiang Rai as the songthaew was due at 11:30am. We met for a leisurely breakfast at 9am then relaxed till it arrived.
It was a squeeze getting all the bikes in but we managed and squeezed ourselves in as well. The flight left pretty well on time and arrived 15 minutes early. The bags and bikes were through quickly and there was a man with a sign waiting for us.