Highways and Byways
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.
We were on the road by around 8:45 and were soon on Highway 107 tackling a big hill with a 10% gradient. A little unexpected so early in the day. There was no convenient back route and we had around 20kms of highway cycling. Fortunately there was a wide shoulder and two lanes for much of the way but occasionally the shoulder would disappear and at one point there was only one lane and no shoulder. However, the traffic was not too bad and it moved around us without any issue. We had planned a coffee stop after about 10kms but it was not open though it did provide a convenient toilet stop.
From time to time we caught glimpses of the Ping River getting ever wider and deeper as we approached its mountain source. We passed through a checkpoint though it wasn't clear what they checking as most cars were just driving through. We were waved through and after another couple of kilometres were able to turn off the highway onto more scenic backroads. Simon and I stopped to take some photos whilst Georgia continued on ahead. As always Jonno was not to be seen, though we could track him via our phone.
We passed through a little village and I managed to head up the wrong way before Simon worked out that we needed to turn left. Turns out we all made the same mistake but it didn't matter as the route through the village looped back to the road we needed to take to Chiang Dao. The countryside was lovely and the surrounding mountains most impressive. After around 30 kilometres there was a sharp left on an unmarked road which led to the Makhampom Arts Centre which was our agreed meeting place. Jonno was there when we arrived but no Georgia. We ventured into the Centre in case she was there, but apart from some very impressive scarecrows, there were no other tourists.
We pulled out the maps to see which route she could possible have taken. She was ahead of Simon and I and had also passed Jonno when he stopped to take a photo. We thought that she may have missed the sharp left turn and if that was the case, the road she was on would soon run out. Jonno headed back to the road to see if he could see her and soon let us know that he had found her. She had indeed missed the turn and as a result had enjoyed some lovely bike riding before running out of road and turning around. We were very pleased to see her. As we are all travelling with a full set of maps, Georgia was able to work out where she was and how to get back on track.
Reunited, it was only a short ride into Chiang Dao and we headed straight for the Tuesday markets. Every Tuesday morning people from the surrounding areas come into Chiang Dao to sell their produce and other products. The markets were huge with lots of fruit, vegetables, dried fish and other food stuffs together with heaps of stalls selling footwear and factory clothing. It was not a market for souvenir shopping. We were keen to pick up some supplies for our long ride tomorrow which takes us well off main roads and has limited opportunities to buy food. We picked up some cut pineapple and some apples then headed down the road to the Chiang Dao Coffee Shop and Bakery. Yet again, we found that being a bakery doesn't mean that you actually have to bake anything, though there were some insubstantial looking biscuits that we decided against buying. The kids had iced cocoa as they are acquiring quite a liking for it. I ordered coffees for Simon and me, but forgot to specify "hot" so they arrived as iced coffees and were most refreshing.
I had already identified a restauarnt called Model Farms as a possible lunch spot and after a bit of research we agreed to give it a try. It uses produce from an organic farming project just outside Chiang Dao and we enjoyed a range of dishes. We also stocked up on salted banana chips, dried bananas, pumpkin chips and some wierd looking rice crackers in readiness for tomorrow. Next store was a Tesco Lotus so we bought up on water and a few more calorie- filled options just in case we couldn't find any eating options on our long ride. Of course, with a pannier full of carb-loading snacks, we probably will find plenty of options.
The ride to our accommodation at the Chiang Dao roundhouses was particularly scenic and we soon found ourselves near Chiang Dao Caves at the foot of Chiang Dao mountain which is over 2000 metres high. You can climb it, but need to allow two days to do so. The three roundhouses are made from rice husks, earth and straw each with a hot open air shower - only ours wasn't hot. Seems like the gas had run out. It was quickly fixed so Simon could have a hot shower. The kids had their own roundhouse just up behind ours.
After a quiet afternoon we ventured out to visit the area around Chiang Dao caves. Whilst you can visit the caves, by all accounts they are not very interesting but the temple gardens surrounding the caves were most picturesque. There were not too many local eating options but one sounded particularly appealing. Rim Nam was set on the banks of a little stream with bamboo salas overlooking the water. Run by Baboon, he recommended the whole steamed fish and pork salad which both sounded excellent. The kids fed the ducks and the fish whilst they waited. Dinner was as good as it sounded. The fish was in a sauce of lime, ginger and chilli and Simon expertly deboned it. Washed down with a beer and some soda water, dinner came to a total of $24 about the cost of us buying a whole fish from the shop in Eastwood. However, that was just our first dinner (cycling does make you hungry!) and we had passed a BBQ stall on our way to the restaurant. We stopped there for some BBQ chicken and pork, including pork sausage in banana leaf. The chicken was particularly good, the pork sausage not so much.
Back at the hotel, Simon and Jonno fixed a puncture whilst we had a cup of tea and enjoyed the peace and quiet until a nearby TV was turned up to full volume....