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.
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.
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.
Dedication to roasting and road cycling. I am impressed !
Breakfast was decidedly non Thai in a pet cafe. We need the change.
Here comes trouble !
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.
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.
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.
When 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. ;-)
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.
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.
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.
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.