24, 25 Nov 2014.

This may be my 20th time flying into Chiang Mai with a touring bicycle. We’re heading east out of Chiang Mai, destination Nan Province. Meaning also a mountain pass or 2 or 3 to climb over each day. Over 300 kms. Then heading south from Nan, via Phrae before circling north west through Lampang and Lamphun and back to the outskirts of Chiang Mai for it’s very first Bike Festival.

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 Landing in Chiang Mai. Always a treat.

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Checked into Watana’s. Along Bumrungburi Road, A quiet soi along the southern flanks of the city moat. Not that touristy, yet. Thb 800 a night which was OK for what we got. Newly renovated and eager to please. Such eager and pleasant Thai owners always on hand to help out in any way. Their front office has a couple of Chinese students manning the place, so when one of them started to blog about the guesthouse and the charms of Chiang Mai, all hell broke loose. This place and a sister establishment Wachira’s along Rachamankha sees an almost exclusive Chinese clientele. Only ten rooms but mostly full all the time.

Lots of no smoking (we WILL call the police and ‘eject’ you) as well as ‘Be Quiet’  and  ‘Don’t slam the door’ signs. Truth be told the neighbouring Thai restaurant and it’s 3 resident cockerels, were greater noise polluters. Just across the dividing fence, were sounds of  dishwashing at 5 am, as well as late dining and drinking till 1 am. Ear plugs to the rescue.

We store our 2 bike boxes under some stairs and told them we will be back in a couple of weeks.

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 Dinner bekons on the streets 5 minutes away

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Some enterprising teenage boys running this stall, competing with the other typical Thai cuisine. Looking at the crowd of foreigners and locals, they didn’t have that much competition. Good for them. I shall return ! (and I did of course)

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 Of late the town has seen a boom in tourists from China. Which part of the shrinking world hasn’t? How would the long departed  in Chiang Mai, Teresa Teng be a tourist attraction?  If you don’t like crowds, stay away from all the attractions listed above. It’s easy.

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 Ready to roll. On a spotless courtyard that is swept AND mopped every evening at 5 pm.

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 A famous stop that was under renovation. Drats !

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20 – 30 ks out of town was just a boring highway but with a nice shoulder. Rte 118 is the main artery between the Mai and the Rai. When it gets not boring, is when the climbs appear. Then it just gets unboringly streneous.

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Her thumb is UP !

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 Lunch stop for a delicious pad kra prow moo in a park like setting at Pang Faen. 60 kms done.

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 Bike touring bliss just off the main road.

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A recurring theme this trip. The dogs just love me….

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 We’re ahead of schedule, so shade stops and muscular realignment are aplenty.

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 Rolling rolling rolling
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It would be easy if not for the heat…..

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Signs like this, as well as a small temple nearby, usually signify the high point on the road. To be doubly sure I checked Google maps and Streetview. Exactly at the border of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces. 15 kms downhill on the other side.

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A drink break at Pong Nam Ron or Pong Hot Springs. Being a tourist spot the drinks cost 50% more, or rather she held back my change. A stern glare and my open palm did the trick.

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 Main activity at the hot springs

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It’s still here after 15 years. That’s a loooong work in progress, or someone hasn’t been paid enough. Quite the eyesore.

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 Isn’t this much better? Just across the road.

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 The sun is setting behind us. Always better than having it in front blinding us.

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 A well equipped local lady out on her evening ride.

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The weirdly named H2O Hotel. Pretty new and very comfy. Rear facing balcony. Bikes locked to the fence below. 3 floors and just 2 rooms on each. Even the stairwells were nicely decorated. Thb 600. Big mirrors ! First saw it on the GT Riders motorcycle touring forum. Located the town on Google earth and went down to look at Streetview. Viola, I saw a similar grey building under construction on it and memorized the location in town.

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 Dinner ! Miniscule after 90 kms but starting slow is always good.

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A simple wanton noodle soup outside a 7/11. They sort of compliment each other as both seem like the brightest place in ‘town’.  A common sight all over Thailand once the sun goes down.

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I grab a second meal to take away, in case I get hungry later on, and I know I will once the soupy noodles disappear. Thb 35. Khai Jeo Moo Sap, minced pork omelette over rice.

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Things pretty much shut down by 9 pm. On our way in this was a bustling market street with crawling traffic at 6 pm. We add about another 4 kms cycling to and from dinner as the temps dropped.  I call this a 110% successful day of touring. I can get very used to the next 2 weeks.

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