And our journey ends in Chiang Rai
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.
Wheels rolling by 9:30, we made quick time to our first meeting point some 25kms along. We had started on the highway then navigated through some back roads which were much more pleasant. There were no convenient coffee places so we made do with a biscuit and tried the pineapple but it hadn't survived a second day. There was a grocery store so we could buy some drinks and they kindly let me use their toilet.
We planned our next meeting point for 40 Kms which was the other side of the steep hill we knew we had to climb when we chose this route. Going this way meant a total distance of 64kms compared to 80kms via the highway or an alternative route which would have been a similar distance though flatter. So we went for the shortest route knowing it would be painful.
The first indication of how steep it would be was the sign at the bottom which stated "High Slope. Please be careful". It was a steep, steep climb with 200 metres elevation gain over 1.5kms. Jonno managed to ride the whole way but the rest of us had to get off and push.
Close to the peak there was a Buddha and shrine in a park area that you could see from the bottom and we were most relieved to reach it and enjoy the amazing views across the valley to the ridge we had traversed yesterday.
The road down was quick. We passed a massive rock and took some further back roads before turning into a main road where we met up with Jonno. He had found a noodle place for lunch that had reviews saying the food was fast and good. It lived up to its reputation and we finished with some Cornetto ice creams from the supermarket next door.
Back on the bikes it was hard going along the highway in the heat of the afternoon, with big B-double trucks trundling past. They gave us plenty of room but the shoulder was quite narrow. We stopped 10kms further down the road at a picturesque lake and had an iced cocoa. By the time we finished Jonno messaged to say he had checked in to the hotel and the three of us still had 15kms to go.
The iced cocoa boosted our energy levels and the road seemed a little quieter. We made good time then turned off to follow some quieter roads, at one stage cycling along a dirt track with rice fields on either side. All too soon we were back on the highway for a final sprint into Chiang Rai. We were pleased to arrive at the Baan Jaru Guesthouse and shower and rest before dinner.
Jonno had already done some exploring in search of pad Thai for a second lunch after his arrival. He was disappointed that it all seemed very touristy - a reflection of how much time we had spent off the well trodden tourist track. On check in, we had been given some advice as to where to find authentic Thai food and we made our way there via the landmark Clock Tower, stopping to watch the 7pm light display.
Dinner was pork and noodle soup in a little shop full of Thai diners so Jonno was happy. We also had some satay chicken skewers from the street cart outside the restaurant. Dessert was banana crepes from the adjacent street cart.
Satisfied, we headed off to the Night Bazaar in search of souvenirs and coconut ice cream. It was much less crowded than the Chiang Mai night bazaar and we enjoyed browsing the stalls followed by a generous serve of coconut ice cream each.