I am thinking we are having more rest days than it is necessary. After a day and half spent in Thaton we left for a Chiang Rai bike ride on banks of Kok River. When I planed our route in Thailand an year ago I placed a pin to Chiang Rai but I had no idea how to include this city in our trip. Thanks to a biking couple called Riding Wild and Dasha’s enthusiasm of reading travel blogs we changed our original route and from Thaton we headed to South-West direction.
It was our third week in Thailand so we more or maybe MORE LESS knew what to wait from local roads. Followed Riding Wild‘s track we went through hilly terrain along Kok river to a tiny national park named Lam Nam Kok. There was a campground just next to a hot spring with water’s temperature of 56°C. The hot day, steep hills and dirt road made us tired so right after we setted our tent on a bamboo platform we cooked all five noodle portions from family package and ate them all. Then we talked a little about our journey and fell to sleep. Following morning we got wake up by a noice from neighbouring tents. Food in frying pans was sizzling and dishes were rattling. It was 6am. But our early morning start didn’t mean a long day. We had to bike only 25km into Chiang Rai.
One kilometer from the camp there was a village and thermal pools. We couldn’t resist! Because of our luck it was Monday and public pool for 30THB per person was closed due cleaning. Fortunatelly enough there were private pools for 10THB more per head. We took the chance and dipped our tired bodies into a hot sulphur bath. An half hour later we were boiled so we finally left for Chiang Rai. According our Gaia GPS mobile app and experience I was worried about a road profile. But I was very happy that I was wrong. The road was mainly flat and we reached the town by the midday. Afternoon was started with coffee at cat’s café called Cat ‘n’ a Cup and then we continued resting. Where else did you want to have a dinner than at Chiang Rai Night Bazar. Dasha read somewhere about thai Hot Pot, so we decided to try it. After a wee while we got a basket with fresh vegetable, a clay bucket with a hot charcoal and a pot with a broth. It was up to us to put all the veggies, mushrooms and egg into the boiling pot, flavored it and eat it. A whole entertinement cost us 70THB and if we weren’t in cycling mode we would feel full. The feast continued by deep fried vegetable and coconut icecream in a coconut shell with mango and sticky rice. The whole night bazar is divaded into two parts, first where you can get only food and second where you can get everything else. There were two podiums, one in each part of bazar and there were artists. In the food part there were tranvestits singing on playback and in the market there were musicians playing and singing traditional Thai music and songs.
While we were in Chiang Rai we couldn’t miss a visit of White Temple, Wat Rong Khun. It is rather an art gallery than classic temple. Fusion of a buddhism and art gives this complex a very unique look and attracts a lot of tourists. When we arrived on spot we were shocked. Hundreds of tourist were managed by a security guy with a megaphone: “Please don’t stop! No photographs inside! Please continue walking!” Without those prompts we could still be there. Hordes of tourists taking their selfies in front of the White Temple. What is so interresting about this place? The whole temple is designed by Thai artist who wasn’t affraid to put themes of our age like for example good and bad movie characters into mural paintings or place such sculptures into the temple surroundings. All the paintings are painted in modern realistic way. Even if the temple reminds more a circus than a peacefull place I would personally recomend to visit it. Everyone, art lover either buddhist laik will be enriched. Our rest in Chiang Rai ended by having a traditional Thai massage to reward our bodies. Because, how it would be to visit Thailand without having the Thai massage?
We got used to expecting unexpected but what happened when we arrived to our next accomodation in Mae Chan went over top. When we were booking our accomodation in a resort there was an option to sleep in a tent, so we took it. I couldn’t even dream about situation on our arrival. We, dirty and stinky with our bikes, and they, I would say 5 star resort, on a other side. When I entered a reception, a young and slick looking gentleman greeted me and showed me where we were going to stay. I was smiling a little. But when I saw a three people team building up our tent, carrying bed mattraces, pillows and blankets into our tent I was laughing. I was grounded a little when they showed us a cold shower next to a swimming pool and not so flash looking toilets, but it didn’t bother us. Even if it was a luxury place, not many staff spoke English. Only the receptionist and a owner. The owner had to translate our vegetarian order to a waitreses who almost all the time stood behind us and waited to refill our tiny cups with tea. With a good mood we went into our tent and happily fell into sleep.
Next stop, Golden Triangle! The place where Thailand meets Myanmar, Laos and also the place where a opium were smuggled. When we left Mae Chan we had to go on a highway, which took us a while but in the end of the day we were pleased by a nice dirt road going among pineapple fields. I felt happy as a kid. Joy of biking and discovering how pineapples grow. In Czech we can get pineapples only in particular season and we really don’t know how they grow. When we arrived in an intended accomodation my joy was terminated by a surprise. The place where you could stay in teepees, yurts or mud houses looked abandoned. No one was around, there were mess and dust all around, lights were still on even it was light outside. It looked like police ended a big drug party. Never mind, we turned around and continued right to the Golden Triangle. The town is alive only because of tourists passing through to North to Myanmar or to South to Laos. Even in here it looked sleepy like in opium delirium. Dasha dealed with a resort owner and we got discounted accomodation for 400THB instead of asked 500THB. We didn’t spent much time in town the next morning. We took few photograps, had a look over Mekong river and biked 10km further down the stream to Chiang Saen to have next day a little bit shorter.
From Chiang Saen it was last 50km to a border town Chiang Khong. It didn’t go into our minds that trip in Northen Thailand was almost over. We left for our last biking day in there and full of courage we headed to hills and forrests lying between Chiang Saen and Chiang Khong. When we biked first 20km a navigation led us to great unpaved roads through gum forrests. We enjoyed the ride and about a midday we decided to have a lunch. When we were about to leave our lunch spot the navigation couldn’t catch satelites and got lost. So I decided to go down to the nearest village from where I wanted to link back to our route. It was a chinesse village. We got passed by one car and its driver asked us where we were going. When he got to know our direction he replied, “There is no road.” and drove away turned into his garden. When we passed the garden the man invited us for a cup of chinese tea. I agreeded and waved to Dasha to come in. When we sat and talked another man joined us. He was drunk, but obviously knew what was going on in nearby hills and forrests. He said the route was not safe for us in late afternoon because of comunists and drug dealing parties there. We accepted the fact we had to go longer way on paved roads. From place where we were we had another 60km ahead, but it was still better than risking troubles in the hills. We said thank you to the man, took photograph together and left for the border town. We arrived tired and hungry to Chiang Khong. Anyway, it was time for celebration dinner. We got vegetarian burgers and french fries. What we could wish more! Next morning after a breakfast we changed Thai Baths into US Dollars and biked to the Thai-Laos Checkpoint. And how was our journey through Northern Thailand? A great trip if I don’t count small food portions.
Distance riden: 808,3km
Days on bikes: 24,5day including 8 rest days
Camping nights: 5
Rainy days: 0
Falls score: stil 2:2
Bike maintainance/brakedown service: 0