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A bright and early morning example of a gated community home 15 kms out of Chiang Mai. Just an example, it’s not D’s place. There are bigger properties than this one also. One even has a scale model railway track running around it’s perimeter.

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Out beyond the gates is development. I don’t necessarily look forward to urban sprawl but with increasing incomes and wealth in and around Chiang Mai, there’s also increasing numbers of establishments dealing in ‘artisinal coffee’ and ‘bespoke bicycles’

Thus I approve, especially Toong’s coffee. It was right up there. Imported coffee beans are taxed 95% and other dubious shops mix local and imported beans to save on costs or increase profits. Toong’s assured me that they don’t stoop to such a level.

This junction at the southern exit point of the hilly 70 km ‘Samoeng Loop’ is popular with cyclists, hence the increasing numbers of coffee places and bike shops. This end of the Loop is also where the canal road intersects, hence it’s dual, dual ie. 4 lanes, carriage way. All were built in the last 3 years.

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The Cannondale shop is also brand new, they’re sill getting their act together inside. A very friendly and barefooted elder French mechanic lurks within. Their workshop space is as big as the showroom. 2 units.

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 Dedication to roasting and road cycling. I am impressed !

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 Breakfast was decidedly non Thai in a pet cafe. We need the change.

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 Here comes trouble !

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Someone told me the measure of a town’s wealth is when people actually go out to buy pricey food and toys for their pets.

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We cyclists on the other hand are treated to a place that D haunts. A local cyclist who imports ‘race clothing’ from dubious sources in China. It’s the only ones that practical cycling fans can afford without paying $200 for a jersey and shorts. I found one that even had ‘Made in Italy’ printed inside. Do buy the ones you’ve tried on as the letters S, M or L do not mean a thing in China.

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We move on to Baan Tawai, the local source for northern Thai furniture and homey decorative stuff. Streets upon streets of furniture stores to set up your dream Thai home. Of late there’s been a slump hence the quiet desperation from the looks of the stall holders. People are just buying trinkets and smaller items. Wholesale enquiries from Europe and the US have trickled to slightly above nothing, so says D.

P1210788When a slump hit’s the smarter businesses start dealing in food and drink. Everyone has a tummy and everyone needs to fill them up. Make the place cosy and appealing, don’t gouge your customers too much and you’re set. Use mom or dad’s shop front so that rent is non existent. Humour customers with easy on the eyes staff and wifi even. ;-)

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Catching up with D is hard work, there’s lots to gossip, er talk going on, so she brings us to a noodle joint which does not have too heavy meals. This is like our 4th drinking/dining option before 1 pm.

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We drop in on the Chiang Mai Bike Festival, really just an excuse to look and buy cycling related stuff. That took up most of the afternoon of a Friday.

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Having D around was a godsend. We never knew the suburbs could be so interesting. Here’s how the locals almost live without having to enter the congested city proper, which I’ve been doing all these years. And we also avoid the tourist hordes downtown. Having been a resident here, and alternating with Singapore, D avoids downtown like the plague. As a tourist and possible future resident, I reciprocated with some downtown gems (what else coffee and food) that D would never discover while driving around it’s congested streets. One would need a humble bicycle for that.

More importantly I’ve plotted all the important places in my database between the ears for future sojourns. For back up, I do have paper maps.  I’ve also noticed some nice and very new looking hotels, that line the canal road and just cannot believe the prices they’re advertising on their huge banners. Thb 400 – Thb 600 a night, much less for longer stays. I’m guessing there’s a glut, lots of competition or both. No such luck getting those prices in the old town where the hordes are.

Every place I’ve been to before has changed hands or almost doubled their prices without so much as a 1% increase in quality or service. This has also led to a rash of dormitory style hostels charging quite a bit for just a bed. Backpackers don’t know any better. 6 Thb 200 beds to a small room = Thb 1200 in still a small featureless room. 3 kms away, an almost 4 star room plus breakfast can be had for Thb 500. Sure it’s out of town, but with a bike any radius of 50 kms is so very easy to reach.

D says one of the hotels even caters for the ‘Bangkok crowd of cyclists’ who come for the weekend to ride outside of town. Bikes in rooms are welcome or they’ll open up a large store room for 50 bikes if there’s a larger crowd.

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In one last surprise, D drives us to what is loosely translated as ‘an imaginary jungle’ themed restaurant. As we are already stuffed, we visit some very jungly bathrooms and toilets and takeaway a pricey Thb 95 brownie. We’ve come a really long way since…………Phayao, by the lake.

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The morning fog greets us or is it the other way around?  Even though I wasn’t that tired, seeing that we were busing the last 2 days, last night’s sleep was deep and the sort I just cannot get back home when REM kicks in around 5 am and screws up the rest I usually get a few hours before. Over here, it’s like good sleep is in abundance, so much so that it’s a joy to wake up to birdsong, crowing roosters and if really unlucky, quarrelling neighbours.

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Plern home in its morning glory. It was really dark last night, but hey it’s a new day and I have a 4 legged tour guide who is rearing to go.

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I was asked at what time we would like breakfast, last night. Perhaps 7 was too early. That was my timing.  Someone had hers lukewarm and was not too happy.

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I guess this is what everyone comes to Mae Win for. Not us.

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 As I am early, I go rustle up the surrounding wildlife. Some are nice some have loads of attitude. The predominant colour also seems to be ‘honey brown’

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 This one is just waiting to play tour guide. My name is Cookie. C’mon move it people !

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We head into a dirt road away from Plern’s. It dead ended after 4 kms. What kind of guide are you Cookie?

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Chanced upon an elephant camp where all is calm before the minivans from Chiang Mai arrive.

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 The scenery was gorgeous for both eyes and camera.

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We turned back at this spot after which the dirt road turned into a foot path. Apparently it leads to a Karen hill tribe village. Ah, next time then…

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Beyond the horizon lies a spider web of dirt roads and one good one that will torture cyclists for 60 kms before reaching Doi Ithanon. It is on my list of Thai Rural Roads to cycle.

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Most eating places will have a mutt or two. Here we get one to guard our bikes as I have one of the best pad kra prow moos in my entire life.

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 The part of 1013 that leads to Doi Ithanon. Next time.

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A few days into our trip while we were in Phayao (that seems ages ago) I get a message from an ol but not old acquaintance to come visit her at her mansion outside Chiang Mai. Sure, I was planning to do that, the last 10 years! but never quite got around to doing it.

D was also a neighbour who had upped and left for Chiang Mai. D, myself and a few others also went on a mountain bike trip to Bali in 2000. Most importantly D had shipped her fleet of delectable mountain bikes also to Chiang Mai, so I was visiting not one but 5 friends at at one go.

We agreed to meet at Plern at 12 noon, but I could only do so, after our morning jaunt and lunch at 12.30 hrs. Mai pen rai, I spotted a green Kawasaki scrambler and D hiding in the shade. She had lunch at another Plern property, a much newer and flashier one along the main road 1013. Somehow we missed that in last night’s total darkness ride.

This would be the much flashier  ‘Plern Malee Resort’ incorporating also ‘Plern Malee Coffee’ After packing the 3 of us made a beeline for it.

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The Plern conglomerate is very well to do. One of the co owners or sisters had worked in the San Francisco bay area for 16 years before deciding to come home  and ‘help out’ in her parent’s new venture. I wondered if the Jeep was shipped back too. It looks badass! To delay our departure from Plern 2, I realised that I left my gloves and cap at Plern 1. Did i want to cycle back 6 kms or ride D’s bike to get it? I would, cos those were price items. Ms Lada at Plern 2 came to the rescue. One phone call and a few minutes later the caretaker from old Plern 1, came by on her moped with my gear. Bless their souls!

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After a lengthy lunch catching up and taking Ds offer to host us for a few days, Coleen and I hit the road with a green Kawasaki in front. It soon disappeared cos it has an engine ! But we sort of knew the way to D’s estate. Make a left along 121 aka the Canal Road.

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Crafty Coleen slows D for 3 minutes by offering her a coconut at the Mae Wang market. We always take care of our guides.

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The Kawa disappears again and we are left on our own along the Canal Road. It is rightly named Canal as there is a real canal under the middle portions. After 25 kms of highway we turn into a gated community where land is sold and you build your own mansion. It was huge and welcoming. D’s husband, also a D, works in the IndoChina region and is ‘home’ not frequently, leaving D all the time in the world to go cycling or Kawasaki-ing.

D had actually ridden the 1013 to old Plern the day before, so that she would not get lost today. Talk about planning!

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 Inside the D mansion.

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Inside Ali Baba’s cave of high end mountain bikes

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We treated D and ourselves to Korean BBQ. Of course we finished every last bit. Didn’t matter if we could not walk after this. D drove her Honda Civic !

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Our Ratsada ‘residence’ in the morning. It filled up quickly last night, and the same people checked out quite early too. I guess the ease of parking makes it popular with the local driving crowd and roving sales people, and not so with the backpacking traveller. As for cyclists like us it created quite a stir among the lone grandpa manning the reception, telling us that we could park our bikes under a nearby tree. His body language seemed to say that the bicycles resembled the AIDs virus and thus should not be brought indoors. I get that he can see the bikes from his frosted reception windows, if he doesn’t have his legs up or dozing off. We get the same treatment from building security back home.

Aha ! but I am trained and used to ‘bicycle paranoia’ and silly fear from such people. I willingly park and lock our bikes in the day time, but come nightfall, it’s another ball game…and I always win. Tap the entry card. Wife holds the door and I carry both bikes in, into the room. If there’s any protest or resistance, I turn instantly deaf and dumb. There will be no reply. Not even a thank you. Easy. (we didn’t have any problem last night, grandpa was too tired from the day and didn’t even look up as we walked in, with our bikes)

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The early morning ruckus from across the road was actually a donation drive of sorts. If you’re donating bicycles instead of lottery tickets, that can be a good thing. People in as many trucks were converging into the residential grounds of Lampang’s Governor and unloading fridges, washing machines, clothing and bikes.

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As this was my 4th time in town, I knew where to get breakfast. Cross the pre war Ratsada Bridge into a quieter neighbourhood of leafy lanes and palatial houses and viola, it’s Granny’s beef noodles right opposite the Akhamsri Guest House. Google that and you’re there. Did we partake, because on a previous trip, she was closed and the disappointment after cycling 120 kms from Chiang Mai was just unbearable. I now have her home and mobile number, just in case, ‘she’s not there’ again.

Granny’s secret lies in her condiments pictured below as well as her homemade chill sauces. Then there are the noodles, a myriad of choices. Then there’s the beef. I suspected that the beef balls were outsourced as they didn’t taste as good as the first time and I was right. They came in a plastic bag with some commercial prints on it. Then again her soup broth made up for it. The 2 of us had 3 bowls.

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 Granny’s mutt provided some entertainment

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We did the usual rounds to check out familiar places like the riverbank promenade that lines the Wang river for quite a distance on both sides.

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It’s a quaint old town that still has horse drawn carriages and a bygone era bridge that’s just right for 2 wheelers. In fact there are about 7 or 8 bridges across the Wang that can be traversed back and forth if time permits. We had an appointment at the town bus station, at around noon. It was like a repeat of yesterday. Bike, bus and bike again.

This midday bus thing gives one a leisurely morning, an afternoon rest in cool surroundings whilst still moving, and an evening ride into the sunset. It was so much more meaningful as the cycling option was going to be a flat, noisy highway, another mountain pass, culminating with lots of traffic into Lamphun just 30 kms south and shy of Chiang Mai.

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Before all that action we came by a bike friendly coffee place and had to stop for caffeine and something light, well almost…

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Although this looks bad, it isn’t. The contact points are the right grips and the saddle. Once I close the door, the wheels were snug and shut tight. No scratches on the frame and/or seatpost as the photo would tend to suggest. Bike 1, bus 0.

Initially the lady selling the bus tickets said ‘No bicycles on bus’ She was quite vehement. I got Coleen to buy the tickets and she wasn’t too pleased at my ‘changing of ticket buyers’ Still the nice teenage girl in a school uniform sold the tickets. She spoke passable English and I think it was after school work for her. You do get quite a few English speaking tourists at bus stations. I figured angry bus station lady to be in a supervisory position of sorts, thus the attitude….

Here’s where ‘mai pen rai’ comes into play. Or just let it slide, nevermind is more common. We were saved by the bus driver and conductor who also got a small lashing from dragon lady. Seeing our bikes, the bus driver said OK, No problem ! So I loaded the bikes. He got a conductor (presumably from the same bus company) to issue Thb 100 baht of paper tickets for the bikes and I paid up. Problem solved. So it wasn’t a space for the bikes thing but one of M-O-N-E-Y. and money that goes to the company and not the driver’s pockets…..It was definitely not a safety violation thing…..Whateva….

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The bus was on a direct route to Chiang Mai, but clever me asked to be stopped in Lamphun. A few others also alighted. From 10 kms out of Lamphun we made a beeline for Sanpatong a southern suburb of Chiang Mai and then on to rural road 1013 to our destination, Mae Win, a ride of about 45 kms with the last 10 or so being hilly.

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 Outside an air con bus, it is freaking hot !

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 Just lovely, another road being widened. The 1013 that leads all the way to Doi Ithanon. That’s Thailand’s highest mountain, albeit the quiet non touristy way. Another back road to explore. Many a local expat have been doing this on motorcycles as the back route does not have a National Park entrance ticket counter, or rather bypasses the official touristy one down the road. Well guess what? They’ve moved the ticket counter further up the road. Would they take pity on some cyclists who’ve just ridden a 60 km mostly uphill route to get there, and not charge them the foreigner rate of Thb 400? I guess not.

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 A first. Cycling into sunset with a million sandflies. I think I swallowed 2 or 3…

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The hilly part that soon got very dark and to make things interesting, Coleen dropped her rear blinker along that dusty road outside Mae Wang. My rear blinker is bright enough for both of us.

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 I light up the way with 200 lumens which wasn’t enough…

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Safe and sound at Plern Home in Mae Win village. It was old but well kept. Thb 500. Thick bedding suggests cold nights, but I still had the AC on. The caretaker was nice enough to ask if we needed dinner. Of course we do. As she did not have a stocked kitchen, she got into her car and drove off, returning with some fried rice and 2 cold bottles of water. We had it on a very cosy porch outside the room. Beyond anything 5 metres away, was total darkness. Sleep came easy. And the wifi was blazingly fast. OK delay sleep a bit….

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It was great to take our time checking out of Rong Kwang as we only had about 30 kms to ride to Phrae, yesterday’s destination. As we did not make it to Phrae, we would really have to double up just getting to Lampang and Phrae before that. This is when I need to execute Plan B. Sure there’s some cycling to do, but somewhere at midday when the sun is at it’s highest, we should be shrouded in air conditioned comfort, as the bikes can rest as well, in the unglamorous hold of a public bus as it makes small work of the mountain roads that lie in between Phrae and Lampang, all 111 kms of it.

Upon reaching Lampang’s bus terminus we still have to ride to our guesthouse, maybe all 4 kms of it. Oh my.

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The busy streets of Rong Kwang are perfect for cycling.

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 The mountains of Laos are on our left on a sunless morning.

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Coffee and biscuits and wifi enroute, as we are in no hurry.

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This is either a toilet and snack stop or both. I think there was ice cream on the cards too.

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Cute sign at a Phrae night club

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Rest well dear friend. Thai buses have huge holds. A tandem would fit in easily with some deft loading. As I am careful, the only contact points here are the tyres, the left handlebar grip and the left side SPD pedal that I bought in Santa Cruz, California in July 2001, for US$15.00 for both the left and right sides.

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 Our speedy bus overtakes another bus on an incline. Route 11. If we were cycling on that shoulder at this very moment, it could have been very dicey as you can see the slower bus, or for that matter any traffic would have squeezed anything on that shoulder.

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We got to Lampang and found, wheat else, a brand new apartment block or ‘residence’ as they are now called, since long term stays are available. Thb 590 for tourists and probably 1/3 the rate if staying a month. That is mega cheap !

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Mid sized fridge and ‘dining’ area’ It is ALL NEW.

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Lampang’s latest and newest bike shop, chance upon accidentally on the way to dinner.

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Night market stalls at the railway station. This one is huge. There are a few all over town.

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 This is my third time eating in this town. Funnily enough, also my third time eating at this stall, ordering the same pork chop set, for the third time. That’s the one with the puny toast. Madame has ordered the grilled chicken, or something that looks like it. The stall is always crowded at they charge only Thb 60 for a pseudo western meal. It also tasted good and a hint of romance is included with the heart shaped chill and tomato ‘saucers’

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A hipster bike cafe with appropriate bike parking, and damn good coffee ends the night for us in Lampang.

2nd Dec 2014

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The mornings are getting warmer without any fog. Makes for different clear and coloured skies.

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We go to a famous local institution. A stone’s throw from the hotel. Hot Bread for breakfast. Home made bread after umpteenth meals of noodles and rice. But we order the local stuff which has little bread in them. What gives? I call it a Lonely Planet mistake.

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The pork is kinda wrong. It has to be processed like a sausage or ham. Maybe this is the real deal ?

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Madame’s Khao Soi is perfect for her. It is modified with sen lek or skinny rice noodles instead of the usual yellow ones. Hot Bread also uses a coconut less gravy which is not filling and with higher than normal prices we are treated to a small but full leg of chicken. Hmmm. Featured in Looney Planet that’s why…see how I make amends with dinner tonight.

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The road out of town got foggy. Yay ! Hwy 101 a straight shot deal to Phrae, or so I thought.

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We follow the Nan river for a few kms, which has many bridges across it as well as a few dams. None too exciting during the cool dry season…

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….well until grandma showed up ringing her bell non stop, chuckling merrily on her slicked tyred Jamis MTB. Makes my bike look like an old tired Toyota. ;-)

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A fine example of your grandfather’s road…..

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The 101 is supposed to be flanked by tall teak forests on both sides. I guess that was an accurate assesment in Lonely Planet’s 1970 Thailand guide.

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Thank You, Thai armed forces. A nice rest stop with a few shops and lots of soldiers cooking their lunch. We were kindly invited too, but all we needed were drinks.

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If you’re cycling to Nan from Phrae, it will be a long hard climb in some places, we were riding away from this sign. Clever no?

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A much need sala stop to stretch my back and doze off for 10 minutes. You can literally feel yourself slipping away into sleep, sweaty body nothwithstanding.

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Slow down, we’re in the shade.

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A late lunch at 4 pm. Check out the sewing machine table legs and OK the Thai lasses.

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A water truck came by to spray the road. It gave the girls scooter a good wash too. I am slightly more kiasu.

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Spicy pork noodles, a first, as this was what they had left at 4 pm. Surprisingly good. We asked if there was a hotel nearby in Rong Kwang. To locate it, the noodle lady brought out her bank passbook. It was shocking pink. Oh I see… Turn right when I see a pink bank in town. I had seen, posters for this hotel lining the road every km or so. Good advertising and her directions were just to reconfirm it’s place.

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Again, quite new and luxurious, Thb 590 or was it 490? That’s a $4.00 difference, baby ! Someone has her leg up already, and playing with her phone.

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Slide open the door and there’s our rides on the ground floor. Locked of course. I like it when reception doesn’t bat an eyelid when we roll in 2 bikes through the lobby to our rooms.

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I’ll get the name when I view the relevant photos. It was a long one. Some parts of the parking lot were just cemented. It’s that new.

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The revenge dinner. A stir fry stall set up for dinner outside someone’s house. It’s good to keep an eye out, for such stalls, as I did while cycling by earlier.

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A chicken dish for madame

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An eggy porky dish for moi. Can you say khai jio moo sap? They could be related. Chicken and egg.

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Round 2 since we rode 95 kms and did not reach the intended destination of Phrae, another 30 kms on…we will get there tomorrow.

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Underwhelming but it was finished also. Onto a 7/11 for other snacks and TV tidbits.

1st Dec 2014

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I won’t profess to be a Thai temple aficionado because I am not. Thai temples have been a source for great photography, especially in the cool season when skies are a deep blue. They also are hiding grounds for all manner of stray dogs, who take refuge in their grounds, from abusers, from traffic and generally human selfishness. Most are abandoned in the dead of night. Thai temple ground are also providers of great shade from the scorching sun, and sometimes a clean toilet for those bowel emergencies. In the larger towns like Chiang Mai, food vendors set up stalls in the temple grounds during Walking Street. A smart way of keeping food stalls off the street.

Nan temples have upped their game. They have secure bicycle parking.

I have now opened a book of mine. A Guide to Northern Thailand and the Ancient Kingdom of Lanna, by Michael Freeman. $24.95

It has a section on the Nan Valley at page 176. I will plagarise some sections so that you will be sufficiently informed, if you want to visit Nan and revel in it’s temples, like I did. Or you could buy the book in Thailand, it costs much less than $25.

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The whitewashed exterior of Wat Hua Kuang are a start contrast to the deep blue skies. It is old as major renovations took place in 1860. Same age as Wat Phumin somewhere in the 1600’s

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Gilded golden nagas. If ever I get tattooed here’s an idea

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A boisterous bunch of ladies on a temple tour. We kept seeing them on this bus as well we were also doing our rounds on our bike, only faster. They were pretty noisy even inside the temples, but just look at the fun they were having. I have a video  somewhere…

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Wat Pra That  Chang Kham Vora. It’s chedi has 24 ‘fore elephants’ 6 on each side of the square base representing Mount Meru and is supposedly a very Sri Lankan influence, that arrived in the Kingdom via Sri Satchanalai, a town that I visited in 2010.

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In another time, this was main street Nan

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Wat Phumin 1596, is said to be the city’s finest. It’s 4 sided with 4 entrances flanked by massive naga (dragon) balustrades. I did not enter because I plain forgot, missing the famous whispering murals that is on every painting and t shirt in town. Ahh next time.

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It’s hellish inside !

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I hope I don’t dream of you guys tonight !

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Another fantastic find, the Nan Lanna Hotel. Brand new at Thb 600

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A rare instance where shower and pooping areas are separated. The designers passed their exams and the owners were not stingy. We shall return.

30th Nov

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 The stair climber hotel where wifi almost reaches the penthouse floor

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Jok brought to another level at opposite the Nan Municipal Market. You can’t miss it, follow the traffic jam or the crowds. It was a chore cycling and finding parking there, so we did the unthinkable. We walked. Stall owner in blue spoke Singapore Singlish! having worked there in the past. The jok was out of this world.

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Diamonds in the gruel. Add on your own mushrooms and gunpowder. People were waiting for you to finish and grab your table, but with much patience and no animosity. Shared seating is a given and lone diners or breakfasteers will usually join another loner if a bigger party, say a family or 4 needs that table. Country courtesy seldom seen in the city.

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A long late lunch again. We did do some cycling you know….like 20 kms

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I am a tofu addict and thus my upkeep is simple and inexpensive until I see an XTR component…

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 http://www.booking.com/hotel/th/huan-gum-gin.en-gb.html  Highly recommended if you want AC and good food. Rooms above are traditional teakwood but as it is an old building, bathrooms are shared.

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 Really, no business can survive without the middle sticker. Might as well have no running water…

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Bicycles are revered at Nan’s temples. The city has 5 parking stations along a designated cycling route. We are at number 2

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We finally get to cross the Nan River as our side of town had too many distractions. A few bridges span this river more know for it’s dragon boat races after each rainy sean when the water is much higher. In the distance 60 kms away is the town of Pua and mountains of Laos. I thought we could do a day ride to Pua but that seemed ambitious, plus I’d rather sleep a night in Pua. I heard there’s really nothing to do there. Perfect.

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 Here’s something to do. Play in the river.

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In distant Nan, and across the river, I bet this cost the price of a miniscule public housing apartment back home

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 A local dude who likes pink and baby wheels

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It’s good to separate the two, as far as possible even…

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I guess the Nan river floods. Hence the reason to keep the sewerage plant out of town, as well as have a high concrete embankment built in lower areas of the river bank. Here I am not lying on the ground but this mangy but oh so friendly mutt is on top one of the levees, smiling and wagging his tail. Do I smell of food? Probably…

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Soon 3 of his other friends arrive and I just have a field day while Coleen watches from afar, sanitizer in one hand. All 3 were ‘patable’ except for brownie in front. He has an attitude problem or maybe he’s not hungry or on a diet or acting tough.

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Since it’s Sunday, I presume this to be the Sunday night market being set up near the town plaza and museum. We see some familiar vendors from yesterday and decided not to repeat our dining choices.

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 Free seating

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 I wouldn’t argue with him/her

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Waiting their turn

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 It got nice and cool after sunset, but not the single digit temps that I was expecting. That came a month later dammit. 8 deg C under a palm tree…..

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 Small takeaways cos we really did not cycle that much.

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 This set of pics below are from Saturday, a day before as I thought the previous Sat post was ‘too image heavy’

As I am wrong, this present Sunday post is set to look also image heavy, but since I had a field day taking 4000 images in 16 days, this post might actually look ‘image light?’

And I’ve yet to load the Nan temples page…

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Stand up and be still for the National Anthem.

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It’s not very smart to still have your motorcycle shop still open, as no 2 wheels can even get into the Walking Street, but those are some delicious, if not blinding looking rims.

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We did move out of Fah Place to a very nice find, the Nan Lanna Hotel, a split level building with 8 rooms.It’s about a month old.  How do they even make a profit?  Ans: The owner has other businesses to subsidise this one.

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 Spot the bicycles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nan

Posted: April 14, 2015 in Mountain Bike Touring North Thailand 2014
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30th Nov, 1st Dec 2014

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Getting up early to greet the morning fog. I thought this was a rest day?

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Getting up early to greet the morning cocks. Collector enthusiast in purple has as many birds as I have bikes and parts !

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The quiet streets of Nan are lined with some nice retro buildings. Change is a coming but at a snail’s pace. That is good. There are no major tourist attractions in town save for a few Tai Liu / Lao inspired temples scattered among the more palatial town center and museum. Nothing has changed much a a few centuries. The temples deserve another post. The ARE many.

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Brunch had Issan spicy sausage  and deep fried pork skin in it ! Life is good.

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I have a knack for finding bike shops. This belongs to an ex employee of a Trek distributorship across the road. Actually it’s his mother’s former book shop. There are still shelves of Manga comics and old magazines as well as a snack stall in front. I was eyeing a nice and reasonable priced Thb 600 Louis Garneau mountain biking shorts. Alas size S was not going to make it for me. Sobs.

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I read that the town’s airport was newly renovated. So we rode 10 kms to find it. The toilets were spanking new too and the Police invited us to park our bicycles outside this hall, next to a fruit vendor. Try that in other worldly airports. ;-)

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Can you guess what’s coming? Discovered on the way to the airport …

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120 minutes of muscular relief at a very nice spa. Unbelievably only Thb 200 which could be Thb1000 in Bangkok or $200 back home. Madame has set her eyes here on the next visit. There are some 3 luxurious rooms on the property at Thb 1500 a night, so that you’ll never be late for an appointment or 2 or 3 ….

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Finally a sit down in nice surroundings, Issan style lunch. It took almost 2 hours cos the ‘wireless’ was fast. There was even air conditioning !

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A massive Thai spicy beef salad

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Another find for another trip. http://www.nanhotels.com/index.html

A newish boutique hotel that had deluxe rooms for just Thb 1200. Appeals more to the senior crowd that drove up from Bangkok. Next to the very quaint Nan Provincial Prison. Find the prison and you’re there! I asked why it was full and the response was ‘Walking Street’ the weekly Saturday night market, where walking is necessary. No cars, not even space for bicycles. Just humanity eating and shopping on the move. That deserves another post.

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We were quite surprised to see newly minted bike lanes. We saw old faded ones yesterday, but this was in the birthing stages. Damn these cyclists. Even when they’re not there, they’re causing a jam on the other side, or was it the traffic lights or a policeman standing nearby surfing his FB ?

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Near our hotel, the main street was setting up for the Walking Street. We rode tight into the stalls till we could no more. Backtracked and I could sense the urgency in setting up one’s stalls. It looked like a first come first served situation. People were literally sprinting to set up their chair and tables! We were almost caught and surrounded by the mayhem. Ducked into a side lane and retraced our steps back to Fah Place…it is after all the tallest building for miles around…

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One of the benefits of a higher room and balcony is easily dried laundry. Walking up and down 5 flights isn’t. I do carry detergent in a container,  a nylon laundry line AND plastic clothes pegs, for those with eagle eyes  ;-) Heck I even wash clothing for 2 persons, each and every night, mainly because our washing machine is back home, where I don’t do any laundry. Thanks WM.

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Life is slow in Nan, so are low blood pressures, I presume….

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Nice clunker, even nicer basket

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The joy of getting a new bicycle, even though it’s pink

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A newly cleaned pic of our room, just not OUR room which is unrecognisable after the pannier/s explosion.

29 Nov 2014

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The bikes had a cold night outside and were wet even under that shelter.

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It was sliently damp everywhere.

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The older buildings of the P & P Resort are built ‘love motel style’ Portable cloth screens to ‘hide’ your vehicle from prying eyes. Now if some nosey parker like your spouse were to casually pop into the ‘resort’ and recognise your license plates, you’d have to wonder, hmm what is he/she doing here too? These very convenient rooms are all over the country, even in the big cities, but those are too urbanised. I must add that not all clients are adulterous. People in relationships, even those married or rekindling marriages come to such ‘resorts’ for privacy from larger families, as well as comfort.

Here surrounded by 1 village lane and rice fields on 3 sides, it is quite the paradise also for the fatigued cyclist, assuming I am tired. I have a ton of laundry waiting.

Things pretty much shut down after 7 pm. We have 400 channels of cable TV. Most importantly, blazingly fast ‘wireless’ as it is known here.  Forget about paranoia high season online bookings, and having to search for your hotel via Google Maps when you reach your destination. Love hotels or ’24s’ are common in the countryside. More so along major highways. Here rooms are Thb 350 to Thb 500. or half the rates if  used for just 2 hours. Get your baht’s worth. Ride a loaded bike, and stay the night.

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Before leaving CM proper we amble along it’s side streets and temple in really cool temps of about 14 deg C.

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Lots of huge teak homes dot the ‘suburbs’  These are from originally felled teak before a total ban was imposed on logging teak. Smaller homes and those newly constructed are more often than not, from recycled teak from other sources.

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Breakfast was in the same place as dinner, but thankfully from a different stall. I need rice and I got rice. Phew!

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We got the deluxe plate Thb 40 or 45. Who cares, I am hungry. Money faced portly chef !

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We’re still in dino land

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The climbs and heat started too soon, or did we start too late. Late, it was 11 am here, just 10 kms out of town.

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Inclines were brutal

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Round each bend was another and another

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This was a long straight (looking back) that led to another bend that climbed even higher, but the skies were a treat for the camera, not so much our exposed skin. My water soaked Buff around my face is almost dry.

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Chiang Muan maybe 600 m below. We got our rest and shade at this rest area which would make the perfect camping spot too. Views almost all around.

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Like most summits, there’s a lone soldier who lives here. He was in his hammock and didn’t budge one bit. After using his relatively clean toilet, I took a photo of his kitchen under a big tree.

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Round that bend is a 15 km downhill to Ban Luang

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXBZQiQmanQ

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It was a gorgeous downhill ride

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On the outskirts of Ban Luang. Does a hamlet really need such wide roads? Are they ever going to be gridlocked? Enough width for the Space Shuttle to land. It just encourages speeding.

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One of 2 places to stay in Ban Luang. Just behind a gas station and some food stalls. Starting our day here would have been ideal. Only 40 hill kms to Nan.

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We gave up at this point and waited for a proper vehicle. Farmers pick ups would be the best. We are choosy. The nice new ones usually with a covered bed, or those with red registration plates usually belong to some government organisation or say Telecoms provider. These never stop as they’re on official duty and would be breaking their company’s rules to pick up hitch hikers. In 30 minutes or actually during the whole of today’s ride we did not see any form of public transport. We did see some overnight long distance buses, in town well, last night. Our salvation finally came in the form of a Hilux that stopped hesitantly and then I saw it’s reverse lights. They were headed right into Nan, delivering some office supplies. It was 3 pm ish and with 40 rolling kms we were not going to make it to Nan before dark. As usual the 2 young gentleman would not accept even a small tip for their kind gesture. It would nullify any karma points they’ve earned.

P1200208Nan seems to have a forward thinking local government. We like. 4 pm and the sun is till high. We chanced upon an old Shell gas station that had a nice cafe in a corner and settle down to a very late lunch and iced coffee, watching rush hour traffic along Nan’s main street. Had heard so much about this quaint provincial capital that was laid back and stress free. Another spot where true blue city dwellers would be bored stiff. Well if one really must, they’ve fortunately put a Tesco Lotus a few kms out of town along Hwy 101. I’ll be mountain biking all over the province, instead of languishing in a KFC.

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Just in time for another glorious sunset across the mountains we could have cycled over.

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The Fah Place Hotel in Nan, also the tallest structure in town after some transmission towers. Hit the jackpot again at Thb 350 a night. Nothing was lacking except an elevator to the 5th floor. As if we need more leg exercise. Apparently lower floor rooms are Thb 400 and with better wifi connectivity. Ours kept cutting out. There’s a fleet of mamachari’s and teak furniture on the ground floor. 2 night’s here before we found and moved to a boutique guest house in the old city. That was a gem in a small neighbourhood easily located while cycling.

Did I mention that a mountain bike or 10, is a damn good thing to have?

28 Nov 2014

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Our room was at the top left corner of this building. While the front of the Win Hotel faces a quiet car park, the rear which I assumed to be quieter has a morning market that wakes up at oh, only 4 am. Being tired, our sleep is deep, so noise wasn’t a big deal. Light sleepers, as I mentioned before should have earplugs by the bedside.

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 Agreeable hotel lobby decor

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 Knives are quite common sale items in an agricultural province. We’ve seen whole pick up loads of them.

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The hunt for breakfast and snacks begins. The professional here will buy just one item from each stall and make a taste bud assessment, after which any winning stall will see a return visit !

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 From the aroma and people hanging around, I assess this to be a yummy breakfast. Good ole morning JOK.

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 A dash of grounded red peppers makes all the difference. Devour slowly. Thb 30

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 Winter fashionistas are out. 20 deg C.

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Good to see the humble bicycle out and about. Although this one is pretty racy. An Italian with a Taiwanese parentage.

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 I’m suspecting that driving to get your supplies would suck big time at this market.

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 Spanking new Chevy folding bike perfect for more petite riders.

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 Doing the tourist thing by the lake, which in the distance is still fogged up. We start quite late at 10 am, delayed by that very interesting morning market in Chinatown.

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Highway 1 connects Thailand’s northernmost borders to Bangkok. 800 kms of tarmac and traffic in parts.  Uurrgghhh, but we have to do about 4 kms of it, outside Phayao to connect with the 1251 which leads to Chiang Muan.  Not many Thais have been to CM much less heard of it. On Google maps it’s just another small village. For the touring cyclist who has done thorough research, it’s a rest stop, which turned out to be one of the nicest on this trip. Mainly because there’s nothing here that a city dweller would fancy. Very fine by us.

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 Time for feeding after 25 kms.

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Oh yeah, carbs and chicken at Thb 35 each. You just can’t lose in Thailand….

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 Once off the main roads, we have the road to ourselves.

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Heading south east, I spot these ranges. I suspect we have to cross them later in the day, and hoping too that the road finds the lowest of passes to do so.

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If the iron buffalo can make it, so can we. The mountain road 1251 to Chiang Muan turned out to be not that steep, or are we getting stronger with each passing day ?

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Angels watch over us from above and even at this village drink stop. I pay for the big bottle of water and Nescafe. The smaller bottle and ice are on the house ;-)

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At the top of the not too difficult climb, pilates is in progress. The dark shadows meant a fast setting sun and very cool temps in the shade.

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But we are making good time as usual, aided very much by a long downhill section into Chiang Muan in the distance. Beyond CM are even more ridges to ride over to Nan tomorrow. Ah well…. bring it on !

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 We have enough time to do another fancy coffee stop. Why not, even the jerseys are fancy today.

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 Thai public toilets do take the cake sometimes, even in rural CM.

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The P & P Resort in CM is highly recommended by touring cyclists. I did find it among some Thai road cyclist’s blog. We took the most expensive and family sized cabin for a princely sum of Thb 500. It was huge and well appointed, even with the polished and mismatched floor tiles. Most importantly, among all the the gaudiness, it was extremely clean. Rested a while before putting on or lights and getting dinner. ‘Downtown’ ie a few rows of shops at a T junction was about 2 kms away.

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 Sunset from our porch.

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Noodle soup…. again. Just different noodles. No full blown restaurants in this village. No fear, we head to the brightest building here, a larger sized 7/11. From afar it seemed like the twinkling lights of las Vegas.

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 I have dinner # 2, Thai/Italian, some munchies, as well as a puny breakfast, just in case.

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