Back Roads of Chiang Mai

(45 Km)

Sunday, 13 Jan, 2019

Chiang Mai

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.

The morning was cool and pleasant for cycling whilst the roads were very quiet. We planned to cycle close to the Ping River but detoured to visit the historic settlement of Wiang Kum Kam, briefly the capital of the Lanna Empire over 800 years ago. We found a sign pointing us in the right direction and then another sign advising of an information centre. As we followed this sign we passed some interesting looking ruins, rather like rectangular brick footings. We continued on but did not find the information centre and a little later worked out that we had passed Wiang Kum Kam. Rather than backtrack we decided we could visit it on the way home (if we really wanted to).

The Ping River

The Ping River

We followed little streets that meandered past houses, shops, wats and lots of dogs that watched disinterestedly as we passed. We could hear monks chanting which added to the atmosphere. These back roads opened out along the side of the river and we cut through a dirt track between some houses to pick up the route to the McKean Rehabilitation Centre, formerly an old leper colony. Here we met up with a tour group, hardly surprising since we had found our route by trawling half day Chiang Mai cycle tours on the internet.

Quiet back roads

I think this is the way

A chapel at the old leper colony

We thought about following them for a bit but they headed a different direction so we continued on. After a while we stopped for a toilet break and got chatting to some Americans on folding bikes. Jonno was adamant that we should stick with our bikes - better for hills.

The scenery became much more rural and we passed rice paddies and stopped briefly to watch some women planting rice.

Rice paddies

Planting rice

After about 25kms we reached the wood carving village of Baan Tawai. Many shops lined the sidewalk selling a vast array of wooden products and furniture, none of which would be remotely possible to carry on a bike.

A shop in Baan Tawai

The Baan Tawai straw elephant

We stopped for coffee and smoothies. Behind the counter hung masses of medals which the owner advised that he had won from distance running. However, his fastest half marathon time was seven minutes slower than Jonno's and he seemed most impressed with Jonno's time.

Very fancy coffee

Mango Shake

It was a quick ride back to the house and Jonno took off at speed, arriving back a good 20 minutes before us. After quick showers we headed out to the Khao Soi Islam restaurant recommended by Anny from our Airbnb. It was Simon's first experience of the famous Chiang Mai Khao Soi and we all agreed it was better than the one we had yesterday.

Chiang Mai Khao Soi

We made a quick visit to a pharmacy to pick up some cough medicine for Georgia who is still coughing at night and occasionally during the day but otherwise feeling fine. We then returned home for a restful afternoon before hitting the Sunday night walking market.

The Sunday night walking market is supposed go be a highlight on any trip to Chiang Mai and by all accounts is exceptionally busy. It was about a 15 minute walk to its starting point at the Tha Phrae gate at the edge of the old city. As we entered the crowds didn't seem too bad. Stalls lined both sides of the road which was closed to traffic. There were musicians playing in the middle of the street, many of them vision impaired, and their music added to the carnival atmosphere.

We meandered along with the crowd which gradually increased. Travelling on a bike limits your shopping options. Your purchases either have to be very small and light or you have to really, really want to buy it and then carry it with you for the next 550 Kms. As it turned out, I bought a pair of earrings and Jonno bought four little glass animals. We were only half way along the shopping street when the kids decided they had had enough. By this stage it was so crowded it was hard to move and we were seeing the same products repeatedly.

Whilst there were some food stalls along the street, most were in the grounds of the temples. Jonno had researched his preferred temple and dinner options and led us straight to them. He had to try two gyoza stalls before he found the right ones. We gave the kids 100 baht each so they could buy what they wanted to eat. Jonno filled up on chicken and pork skewers and gyozas whilst Georgia and Simon had pad Thai, gyozas, skewers and some of my green mango salad. Simon and I both had fruit shakes as well.All up we spent about $13. We had hoped to buy some more coconut ice cream on our way home but the store was closed.

Pork skewers for Jonno

Banana Sticky Rice