Updated: Nov 12, 2018
We hadn’t really decided where we were going until after breakfast this morning. And trying to sort out routes when the hotel’s WiFi was atrocious proved very frustrating. But we got a few stages sorted, thanks to some route maps Simon found on another biker’s site. First stage, up into the hills to visit Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. We could see it from our hotel window (although the haze was so strong when we got there that we couldn’t see our hotel) and we believed the route had good biking roads.
On the way out of Chiang Mai we got stopped at a police roadblock. We have been waved through so many that it was a surprise to be actually stopped. But they were stopping all bikes. Chiang Mai is a magnet for young people who all hire bikes & many do not have licenses, so it shouldn’t have been a shock. The policeman was very happy when I showed him both my NZ license & the international one we paid the AA $20 for, and waved it in the face of a tourist on a moped beside me, showing him what he should have got! Heading up into the hills we were in seventh heaven! Beautiful surfaces, winding roads & two lanes all the way up, so we could scoot past the incessant buses and taxis. The temple itself was up over 300 steps... Needless to say, we took our bike gear off first. It was a beautiful place, despite the crowds & interesting to see Buddhists praying & making offerings while the crowds milled around & in front of them, taking photos all the time. Buddhism is a very everyday religion & I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, I mean it is simply part of everyday life here. Nice to see.
On planning the first part of our route, we decided to continue up and over on the same road & join up on a southbound road the other side. Best laid plans! The roads got progressively worse as we went up, degrading quite quickly to a cross between a C-road and a track. We reached a small town & had to choose, several times, between a few small forks. Twice we got it wrong & backtracked! The main route actually went straight through the town but it looked like a pedestrian shopping walkway, as it was narrow, lined with shops & almost completely covered. Past there, there was a tourist destination - a waterfall & gardens - although the waterfall looked more like a storm drain outlet! (Dry season here.) It was through an archway where a young lad sat demanding $10 baht. However, the road we wanted was a small fork so he waved us through. This went from a narrow cement road, to a twin cement track road, to an earth track & then... we gave up! We simply weren’t equipped to climb mountains! So we backtracked (down the great mountain roads when we got there) down to the outskirts of the city.
A quick plan adjustment saw us heading westward again to join up with the road we intended to join anyway, just further south. We headed out towards the Mae Wan National Park & couldn’t resist stopping at an elephant sanctuary there. Watching two baby elephants playing with a couple of tourists in the river was just too funny. They did seem to be having a whale of a time (the elephants, I mean). It was a gorgeous site where you can take rafts down the river, play with the elephants, or just chill.
A bit further down the track was a signpost for a waterfall, so we diverted. At the end of that road, it said it was a 200m walk to the falls. Being dry season we weren’t expecting anything too fancy, but it was good to stretch our legs. This may be the appropriate time to point out the Thai kilometre seems about double a normal one (and the Cambodian kilometre is about x2.5 normal!). Well ,their metres are surely worked out on the same principle! It was an impressive sight when we arrived, or would be in full flow. We could walk over the entire riverbed & go right up to the falls, whereas in monsoon season it would undoubtedly be a raging torrent.
We rode on a bit further & found a cute little bar & restaurant, called “Poe Poe House & Ping Ping homestay fattening” where we decided to have an early meal & find a local place to stay, as Ping Ping was closed for homestayers. There we met a delightful couple from Canada who were staying next to the elephant sanctuary we had just visited. We chatted to Dan & Holly. She is a teacher of young kids & he, along with his brother, founded a regional brewery in Canada. So we had to buy him a beer! So I have to blame my next move on them, as I was not concentrating fully! Essentially, I found a good place on Booking.com & booked it. Only after I had done that, I discovered on the map that it wasn’t at all where I thought it was, but several hours back the road we had just travelled! No idea how I managed to do that. Apart from our completely innocent dinner companions, I blame booking.com because I searched for accommodation in the surrounding area. Well, it told me this place was an hour away. It wasn’t. We had just come down that rather treacherous road, witnessing one very recent truck roll down the hillside & it would have been more like 2 hours, but as it would have been dark we wouldn’t have done it anyway. So, score plonker 1 to me!
I was disgusted with myself, as was Simon, so I threw my phone down on the table & told him to book a place. He tried on his phone but couldn’t get anything to load, so I opened up the Booking.com app on my phone & passed it to him. A minute or so later, he said, “all booked”. Great! We carried on with our convivial dinner, and as Don had picked up some delicious local strawberries we had desert to wash down the pork fried rice.They left and as I was preparing a route map to get to our accommodation, I discovered that Simon had booked exactly the same place I had! As it had been open on the app when I handed it to him, he somehow assumed that it was pictures of a place I’d looked at earlier... So, score plonker 2 to Simon! But no, he thinks it was my fault... I’ll let you, gentle readers, decide that one for yourselves! :)
Having tried to cancel both bookings, I then found a place in a town on our route further south in a town called Inthanon. It’s called the Riverside & I have to say it’s fabulous. I haven’t seen the outside as it was dark when we arrived, but the accommodation is great - a separate bungalow & we are being brought breakfast tomorrow morning! Getting checked in was interesting though. It seems there is no one else here & there was no one on reception either. I think it took well over an hour after we arrived to get into our room, but they were all extremely nice, just not expecting any visitors. Just when is high season in rural Thailand anyway?
Tomorrow, we wind our way further south. Let’s hope it’s not tourist high season there either!
You’ll find all the images from my Rovings here:
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