8th Dec 2014
I last climbed Doi Suthep 11 years ago in 2004. Sure it’s manly to ride up all 18 kms to this point below the temple, but since we’re on a vacation of sorts and I had the numbers ie .2 more cyclists, it made more sense to get onto a red taxi or songtheaw and at Thb 300 less rich, we can start sweat free, three quarters up and across the mountain, and back down to Huay Tung Tao, the town’s largest lake.
From there on an easy 8 kms ride back into the city, in time for dinner or so I thought…
D was not too happy about the 4 km climb through the forest lined road from where we dropped off to Phu Ping Palace where the royal family has what else, a palace. She has done this before, but would like to head straight for a second breakfast. Haha.
There are also food and souvenir stalls and a parking lot for the hordes to linger in, as entry into the palace grounds and botanical gardens is limited. We avoided all these and plonked down to another snack of fried chicken and tete a tete, again. Time was on our side so we did not rush. I mean how long could a downhill off road ride of 20 kms take?
Dire warnings as the place is popular with all manner of vehicles and help is far away…..
This is the town’s most prosperous hill tribe village, because of tourism. It’s another 3 kms down from here and the road is congested with minivans. It’s only Monday. I suspect some residents head down the mountain to spend time in their weekend condos in the city.
At 1100 m the air is refreshingly cool and cold when the wind hits our sweat soaked tops. It’s a beautiful 4 km of rolling road, mostly rolling down. Do watch out though, it’s still a 2 way road, which should never be widened.
There’s a camping ground at the park headquarters and the end point for yesterday’s ride which we did not do. I can’t imagine 500 people and their bikes here.
Further down the road there’s a coffee plantation, so guess what beverage is sold here? There used to be even a few cabins if you fancied staying the night, but sadly they’ve been left to rot. The banana wrapped rice snack was courtesy of breakfast at Wattana’s.
Downhill glorious downhills runs through a shady forest, that go on for 15 kms. Unfortunately for me, 3 successive punctures or rather valve blow outs on the front tyre, had me walking for at least 8 kms, while the girls slowly made their way down at crawling speed…….
Views of the city in the evening light were amazing.
Flap flap flap. Never did such sounds sound so irritatingly depressing. I made the fatal mistake of using a presta valved tube in a rim with a schrader hole. Apparently, the skinny valve would start to creep sideways in the wider hole till it could move no more, resulting in the hole practically slicing the base of the valve off. Then all air inside would just leave the tube in double quick time. Kinda dangerous if I was going fast at that point. So I destroyed my existing tube and 2 more prestas in under an hour.
Ironically, I had purchased a schrader tube from Chaithawat on the very first day in CM, but left it in the room today.
Even more astounding was in well over 800 kms the past 2 weeks, over across and down mountain roads at high speed, the valve did not creep one bit. The devil must be working overtime this Monday.
I tried to be positive, but at times sucked it in and walked and walked, occasionally breaking out into a slow jog. To catch up with the girls. Things could have gotten worse, like an injury. Needed to count my blessings first. Top most worry was darkness and not having enough time to go to a nice fancy dinner as it was our last night. That’s just me. Least of my worries was which bike to use the next time I’m here….and I will be back.
When I had given up all hope of even riding slowly once the road levelled, I saw the girls at a junction, and D was talking to a pick up driver. He was heading out and seeing our, mostly my silly situation, nodded, smiled and motioned us to load up our bikes for the ride out. What a stroke of luck! There was at least another 5 kms out to the main road, on broken concrete that would surely destroy my relatively new shoes and strain my calves even more. They ached for the next 3 days. Legs are meant for cycling, not walking a bike on a dirt trail.
Unfortunately there was only space for 2 of us and 2 bikes, so D graciously told us to go and she would ride out alone in the fading light. She still had at least 30 kms to go before reaching home. It was too quick a goodbye and I felt really bad to leave her in the lurch, but she said not to worry and she’ll be back in Singapore next month, for more eats and gossip.
It was not that easy to locate a bike shop in these parts. There’s a lake and food stalls here, And a posh housing estate. Most bike shops were back in town. Dropping us along the 108, I tried to tip the driver, but he would have none of it. Another angel sent to help us out in the most dire of moments. He was on his way to a doctor in Sansai and I just noticed that he has a set of crutches on the back seat!
We finally found a motorcycle shop and viola he had the last 2 mountain bike tubes in a cabinet. I installed one in a flash, pumped the tyre and we left just as fast. Now my tummy was rumbling so we popped into a 7/11 and I downed 500 ml of fresh milk to Coleen’s amazement. Liquid food for an angry cyclist I said….
Getting back to Wattana’s was all a very fast blur of overtaking evening traffic and a fat air filled 55 psi front tyre that hummed so beautifully, I could cry. What a day it has been ever since the first damn flat.
I thought back to other major bike malfunctions and consoled myself that the last one was in Bali in 1998. A $300 Machine Tech rear hub that failed, again on another downhill ride. I guess it could be worse if we were going uphill for 30 kms.
I should be so lucky.
After a nice long bath, our final dinner in Thailand beckoned. I wanted somewhere posh, as in a mall even. A promise to Coleen, but it has to be for for another trip.
5 minutes walk from Wattana’s there was mookata, a Thai kind of steamboat.
Crocodile was on the menu.