December 6, 2017 – Cycling Tour of Northern Thailand – A Final Look Back by the Numbers

Doi Pha Klong National Park east of Phrae

I have been back home now for nearly two weeks.  With a bit of perspective, I would like to take one last look back at my cycling adventure “by the numbers”:

1,079 – Give or take a few this is how many kilometers I road on my tour.  Add another 25 km to that to account for a day trip I took to the White Temple in Chiang Rai.  That works out to an average of 98.1 km per day.

11 – Days of riding.  That is not counting the short day ride I took in Chiang Rai.  An additional 2 days were spent on a golf course in Chiang Rai, and one true rest (and laundry) day in Nan.

10 – Number of mountain ranges crossed.  On two separate days, from Chiang Muan to Nan, and Phrae to Lampang, I had to cross 2 ranges.  For 3 days, from Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong to Thoen to Phayao, I rode on the mostly flat terrain of the basins.

2 – the number of times I had to get off my bike and push it up a steep section of road.  Both of these were on the same day, between Phrao and Fang.

1 – the number of other touring cyclists I saw during my trip – it was a European woman I saw in Chiang Rai with a bike so laden that I am pretty sure she was riding back to Europe.  I don’t count the locals pedaling their cruisers around the many small villages and farms – these were too many to count.

2 – The number of times I crashed my bike.  I already wrote about the first time here.  The second time was even more embarrassing than the first, but two weeks on and I can now write about it without blushing too much.  I was coasting to a traffic light on the outskirts of Lamphun on my very last day of the trip.  I was looking at google maps on my iPhone which was mounted on my handlebars trying to find a pleasant route through the Chiang Mai basin.  I was not looking at the road.  I ran smack into the rear end of an empty trailer being pulled by a motor scooter being driven by a grimy construction worker.  Fortunately I was going slow enough that I didn’t fall over.  Smashed up one finger bloody good (literally), with only a small scratch on a break lever, and no damage to the very sturdy trailer.  A huge gash to my ego.  The only person more startled than I was the driver of the scooter his look needed no translator, it cried out W.T.F.!!!, are you $#@&^ing blind?!!! I tried laugh it off which was difficult with blood dripping down my arm.  I finally got to pull out my carefully equipped first aid kit, and I was back on the road again in 10 minutes.  I put my phone away for the duration.

398 – Number of dead snakes seen on the road.   Ok, I didn’t really count them, but there were a lot, as I discussed here.

1 – The number of live snakes I saw.  A 4-5 footer curled up on the shoulder.  I just missed running over it at 25 km/hour.  By the time I realized that it was a snake I was far enough down the road that I didn’t bother to go back and take a picture.  Now I wished I had….

0 – This is the most amazing number.  This is the number of flat tires I had.  I reckon this is because I was so well prepared with patch kits, tire irons, and spare tubes.  I never even put air in the tires.  This must be a testament to the quality of the tires that come stock on my bike, the Marin Gestalt 2.

-1 – My weight change from the day before leaving to the day after returning.  Thats right, negative 1.  I actually gained one pound.  I would like to think it is because muscle weighs more than fat, but I now the truth: No day’s ride, no matter how long or over how many hills, can make up for the prodigious amount of food I ate and beer I drank while on this trip.  I am talking 3 Thai food dishes with a plate of rice washed down with a large Singha beer, and chased by 2-3 Kit Kat and Snickers candy bars.  That is just an example of one of my 3-4 daily meals.  It was sure fun while it lasted; now I am struggling to eat only 20% of that amount and can still feel my paunch growing.

My cycling tour already seems like ancient history.  I am back in my usual routine of pleasant retirement.  But the itch is still there, this week I booked my next adventure, a 21 day trek to the base of Mount Everest.  Stay tuned!



November 28, 2017 – Cycling Tour of Northern Thailand, Epilogue and final Thoughts

I have now been back home 5 days already, and it seems like forever.  It seems like I never left.  While I was on the ride, it seemed like the never-ending-tour.  It seemed like I had been riding my whole life, and still had a long way to go.  While on the tour, life became very simple.  Eat, ride, eat, drink, check-in hotel, write, eat, ride, etc. etc.  I had no appointments to keep, no problems to solve, no one to worry about but myself, and no deadlines other than the setting sun.  On my return, I awoke to dead batteries in my car and iPhone, and spent the day replacing both.  I now have appointments to keep, golf tee times to wake up for (I know, I have a tough life), and the everyday nuisances of normal life.  A part of me misses the simplicity of the road (but not the sweat).

A misty early morning near Fang – one of the many memorably scenes along my route.

Would I do this trip again.  The short answer is no, but I would do a trip similar to this in a new place.  Would I recommend this trip to others.  Yes, if they were prepared to cycle in the relative heat, adapt to the culture of the Thai roads, and wanted a prolonged experience of Thai culture.  Here are some final thoughts that I hope will be of use to anyone considering a trip like this one:

  1. I chose the perfect time of year to go.  November is relatively cool (nothing over 90 F), with relatively low humidity.  I had one 60 minute rainstorm, the rest of the trip was dry with mostly sunny skies.  Winds are light enough to me a non-issue.  Hotels were empty as were many of the roads.  Any other time of year would have meant dealing with higher or lower temperatures, abundant rain, and/or intense heat.  The forests were still green from the rain season, and it was harvest time for the rice, but they had not yet started to burn the fields (which will turn the air foul by February or March).  This tour is certainly doable any time of year November is nearly ideal.
  2. I had the perfect bike for this ride.  The Marin Gestalt 2 is moderately priced, relatively rugged (without being heavy), and easy to fix and maintain.  I am sure better bikes are out there, but probably not for the price.  I added a rack, kick-stand (an absolute necessity!), and fenders which helped keep me and the bike clean.  I do admit though, that an even lower “grandpa gear” would have been nice.
  3. I travelled light.  No rain gear – I figured I would be wet from sweat anyway, and in November, if it is cold, it will usually be sunny.  I carried only a couple of changes of clothing, and was able to do laundry along the way (although this will usually mean  a rest day because clothes must be line-dried).  I carried only a small cache of emergency snacks – food was easy to find almost everywhere.  I stayed in hotels, so no camping gear was needed.  Bottled water is everywhere and cheap.
  4. If I could re-plan this trip, I would avoid the heavily travelled road between Lampang and Chiang Mai, and perhaps take a quieter route from Phrae to Lampang, or skipped that area altogether.  The rest of the route was on lovely quiet roads with only short sections (near towns) of heavy traffic.  I would have like more time spent cycling along the Mekong – this was the most memorable part of the trip.
  5. I had a Cat’s Eye wireless odometer that I can only give a mixed review.  It on occasion just quit working – most likely because the sensor – pick-up gap was too large.  Unfortunately the design of the Gestalt’s front forks made adjusting this gap difficult to impossible.  The real winner was the iPhone mount teamed with the Cyclometer Elite app for OSX.   It gave me all the stats I needed with a very easily read display.  The only downside was the large battery drain on my iPhone, but the back-up battery in my iPhone case more than compensated.

This and my soon-to-come “by the numbers” post will be my last post specifically about this tour.  If anyone is thinking about a ride like this, I am happy to answer your questions.  Reach me at I do not no where this Blog will go from here.  I am sure I will find something to say.  Stay tuned!

November 23, 2017 – Northern Thailand Cycling Tour – Homecoming – Lampang to Chiang Mai

I knew the first half of today’s ride was not going to be fun.  There is only a single route from Lampang to Chiang Mai.  Route 11 is the closest thing in northern Thailand to a freeway.

6:30 am and only 93 km to go!

While not being limited access, Route 11 nonetheless consists of 4-6 lanes of high speed traffic.  It connects Chiang Mai to all points to the south, including Bangkok, so the traffic is heavy. Between Lampang and Chiang Mai it crosses the southern extent of the Khun Tan Mountains – topping out at about 650 m elevation.  I had no choice but to go this route unless I was willing to ride far out of my way and spend one or more nights away from home.  I new that this last day on this route would be a grind; I was counting on the call of home to get me through.  It worked.

Route 11 headed east-northeast out of Lampang and I took advantage of the very early 6 am start, relatively light traffic, and a fairly flat track to arrive at the base of the mountains in less than 2 hours.  The ride up to the pass was not difficult because of the grade, which was gentle by Thai standards, but because of a narrow shoulder, and heavy traffic, including diesel-smoke belching 18 wheelers going just a tad faster than me.  The noise, could air and danger made this the most unpleasant segment of my tour.

When I arrived at the pass, I was astounded at the vast number of spirit houses jammed into the narrow space between the jungly hillside and highway.  As the video above shows, their must be over 1000 spirit houses – each presumable representing a fatality along this highway.  Thais, unfortunately are rather fatalistic about accidents (and life in general), and the carnage continues without any concrete measuring being taken to stop it.

From the mountain pass, it was a fast coast down into Lamphun, where I exited the four-lane highway and cycled northward through the Chiang Mai basin on lesser travelled local roads.  Initially my route paralleled the railroad coming from the south, but after stopping for a bowl of duck noodles, I veered onto the old tree-lined Lamphun-Chiang Mai road.

Delicious duck noodles for $1.22

I was now in familiar territory.  From central Chiang Mai, I followed the familiar river road northward to my home.  As I approached home, I felt myself slowing down.  When I finally reach my street, I stopped pedaling entirely, and slowly coasted up the lane.  I wanted to savor this moment for as long as possible.

After (left) and before.

For me, traveling, especially to new or exotic places, makes time slow down.  Long ago, during week 6 of a 14 week backpacking trip through Africa, I remember feeling like I had been traveling my whole life, and yet we seemingly had an infinite time left to be filled with new sights, smells and experiences.  This cycling tour gave me a similar feeling.  I felt, as I cruised up my lane, that I had been sitting on my bicycle forever.  Yet now, as I sit at my computer typing these words, it seems like the time went by so fast its like I never left.  Except for the priceless memories which will always remind me of the true duration.  This dilation of time for me is one of the greatest reasons for traveling – it is a simple way to extend your life.  It seems the more you can experience, the longer you will live.

I survived!

I will have more to say about my adventure in the coming days, for now, I need a good nights sleep, and time to digest the experience.  I will be back on this blog soon.  Thanks for reading.

November 22, 2017 – Northern Thailand Cycling Tour – Fighting Traffic – Phrae to Lampang

I thought today would be one of the hardest days of the trip. It wasn’t particularly easy, but now that I’m comfortable here in Lampang, it doesn’t seem so bad. I guess after two weeks on the road my body is getting used to cycling 100+ km in a day.

I left Phrae just after 6 AM. My hotel had a breakfast buffet that was supposed begin at 6 AM, but by 6:05, it showed no sign of openning, so I hit the road without breakfast. I headed west out of town, and within a few kilometers I was winding and climbing into the mountains. The cool morning air and the intense green of the jungle brought back youthful memories of hiking in the Cascade Mountains near Seattle. I paused to admire a misty cloud hovering over a peaceful lake. If only I was riding on a dedicated bike path, just me and the jungle and the lake and the morning sounds of the jungle, instead of this narrow twisting kamikaze racetrack, with a 60 cm shoulder and all manner of vehicles, from motorcycles to 18-wheelers, whooshing impatiently by me. I’m glad to have survived.

Early morning mist west of Phrae
A rock garden of granite boulders west of Phrae

Once past the mountains, the road leveled out, the shoulder widened, and the ride became much less stressful. I had a fast stretch here of about 30 km, broken up by a stop at a roadside cafe where I had a delicious chocolate cake washed down with a proper cup of coffee. Finally, I had my breakfast.

Halfway through my ride, I reached the base of the day’s crux, a steep climb of about 400 m (vertical) over a stretch of about 6.5 km. An extra climbing lane on the highway gave me a little bit of a cushion. I put my head down and cranked – in less than an hour I was at the top, where a village of colorful spirit houses mingled with the jungle. From there, it was a fast and fun 10 km-long coast to the base of the western side of the range, where I stopped for lunch at a roadside noodle shop. From there it was less than two hours into Lampang , over rolling cropland on quiet rural roads.

Spirit houses in various states of repair sit at the crest of the high ridge south of Lampang

Tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day in the USA, I will cycle the last 105 km to Chiang Mai. I will be very thankful to be home.

Bonus Post – Northern Thailand Cycling Tour – Road Kill

I want to share some of my thoughts about a topic about which I now consider myself somewhat of an expert: Thai roadkill. Why are there no small mammals included in the population of animals that have been flattened by traffic along the roads of Thailand? Where are all the squashed mice, rats, squirrels, and rabbits? Could it be that all the mammalian roadkill is consumed by the large number of semi-feral dogs that populate the Thai countryside?

Maybe the solution to this mystery lies in what you do see in the roadkill. Snakes. Millions of them. I would conservatively estimate that I saw at least one thoroughly flattened snake per kilometer of road. I did see one live one that I managed to dodge on a particularly fast stretch of highway. I’m pretty sure he’s about an eighth of an inch thick now.

This one is fresher than most.

So maybe the snakes eat the small mammals before they ever have a chance to be run over by traffic. Or maybe the mammals here, having to deal with all the snakes, are particularly intelligent , and have learned how to avoid being run over. This is the sort of shit I think about along the more lonely stretches of highway.

November 21, 2017 -Northern Thailand Cycling Tour – Heading Home – Nan to Phrae

A tough 119 km today. I was on the bike at first light, about 6:15 am. I cycled south through the Nan Basin under a low overcast that turned to fog as the morning aged. Brown, harvested rice paddies loomed through the mist. A smooth road coupled with the flat basin enabled a fast get away.

The early morning fog cast an eerie light on the harvested rice paddies north of Nan.

At the South end of the basin I turned right towards Phrae and the ride took a turn for the unpleasant. Apparently this was the year to make the entire route through the mountains between Nan and Phrae into a four lane road. Next year this will be a fun, smooth ride. Uneven, rough pavement, bulldozers and graders, flag men, and dust, oh the dust! made me want to forget this crossing. On the plus side, the climb was only a couple of hundred meters vertical, and given my early start, I was at the pass, and half way to Phrae by 10:00 am. After another hour or so of winding through the hills with more construction detours, I arrived in the Phrae Basin and had a very smooth and fast run into the town of Phrae, a bustling provincial capital. I was checked into my hotel by early afternoon.

I have no idea why, but Phrae is the capital of broom-making in Thailand.  Roadside stands like these selling the famous Phrae brooms and other similar products line the road north of Phrae.

I did have one troubling mechanical problem today….unfortunately my bicycle is just fine, but my left knee isn’t so fine. Strangely enough, it started yesterday afternoon after lying about resting all day. It was sore for about half the ride today, but by the end of the ride it was feeling sort of ok. I’m icing the hell out of it and hopefully it won’t slow me down. Just two more days!

Slight mechanical problem today, hopefully some ice and NSAIDs will see me through.

Tomorrow may be the toughest day yet. In order to get to my next stop, Lampang, another provincial capital, I have to climb over two passes, and cycle between 104 and 113 km, depending on the route I choose. I hope I choose the one free of construction. Talk to you tomorrow from Lampang.

Great view from my 6th floor hotel room, overlooking the town of Phrae and the mountains to the east of the Phrae Basin.
At 6pm I was the first customer at this restaurant/bar near my hotel.  Hour later, I was still the only customer.  But the food was good and the beer was cold!

November 19, 2017 – Northern Thailand Cycling Tour – Summit Day!

Graph shows distance versus elevation. Ugh!

Wow, that was a lot harder than I thought! My plan for the day called for a ride of just 68 km, by far my shortest ride of the entire tour. What I did not realize at the planning stage, was that this route climbed over two mountain ridges and numerous other smaller ups and downs, resulting in a total of 998 vertical meters – doubling the climb of my next hardest day.  The result is that today actually felt like my toughest day, rather than what I though would be my easiest day.  Even though I got an early start of 7:45, I still arrived in late afternoon.  But I made it!  By reaching Nan, I have reached the ultimate goal of this tour.  For me, Nan has always had the aura of an isolated and remote province.  I initially though I would drive here.  But when knee surgery last year forced my to quit running, I bought a bike, started cycling around Chiang Mai, then decided to cycle to Nan.  My plans became increasing ambitious, resulting in this tour.  I feel like the mountaineer who has reached a long sought summit: bone-tired, a little let down, and apprehensive about the decent – in my case the ride from here back to Chiang Mai.  More on that below.

The ride out of the very quiet Chiang Muan valley began almost immediately, climbing to the first ridge in just over 12 kilometers. Just after reaching the crest of the ridge the road plummeted down to the The Baan Luang Valley.  There I paused for a late morning cup of coffee, and stocked up on my water supply.

Then up I went again, this time very steeply, over a ridge covered in lush jungle.  When I finally reached the ridge crest, it was mid-afternoon already, and quite hot.  The way down to Nan from there was a series of roller-coaster hills where You go up 10 meters for every 15 You lose.  To make matters a little more interesting, one of the steepest downhill sections was being reconstructed and I had to inch down through the mud made by a dust mitigating water truck.  The mud caked between my tires and fenders bringing my rear wheel to a wheezing stop.  Another 30 minutes was spend scrapping out the gooey mud so that my tire would spin again.

I finally arrived in Nan about 3:30 pm, some 3 hours later than expected.  After checking in to the Baan Nan Hotel, I brought my bike to the Nan Cycling shop, and left it for them to clean up, and adjust the gears.  They did a great job for only 250 baht.

I don’t have much to say about Nan.  The idea of the place far surpassed the reality.  Nui, the proprietor of Nan Cycling, was hard pressed to think of anything to see in Nan besides one museum and some temples.  Perhaps interesting sites lie outside of  town, but those will have to wait until I come back in a car.

Every mountaineer, when he or she reaches the summit of a remote, difficult and/or strenuous peak, knows well that the descent will be even more strenuous and difficult than the ascent, and potentially more hazardous.  I am apprehensive about the final 3-day ride back home, my “descent”.  Each day of the three is over 100 km in length and involves crossing at least one mountain range.  I will spend tomorrow – well actually today as I write this – eating, getting laundry done, resting, eating and hydrating.  Hopefully, I will be able to escape my “summit” very early Tuesday morning, bound for Phrae.

November 18, 2017 – Cycling Tour of Northern Thailand – Small Town Thailand – Phayao to Chiang Muan

Chiang Muan doesn’t even have a traffic light. Lying half way between Phayao and Nan, tucked neatly in a basin surrounded by mountains, this small district within the Phayao Province has a population of just over 19,000 widely scattered over 723 square kilometers. The entire district consists of 3 small villages, with most of the population living in the surrounding rural areas.

Downtown Chiang Muan at sunset on a Saturday night.

I am staying in the largest of these villages which fortunately sports two small hotels.  My first choice had a for sale sign hung on the office door, and no one was around.  My second choice did not have a for sale sign, but also was deserted.  Fortunately, the phone number on the sign worked and rustled up a gap-toothed local guy in a beat up pickup truck.  He took my money and gave me a key, no passport, no sign in, no credit card.  I love these small villages!  The hotel (not sure it qualifies as a hotel with only 4 rooms) was actually very nice with a decent sized, clean room with a/c, hot water, twin beds, and a small refrigerator all for the princely sum of 500 baht (just over $15).

A deserted road – just how I like it.

Todays ride took me over one of the many branches of the Phi Pan Nam Mountains. Here the range is not particularly high, my high point for the day topped out at just under 700 m.  All but the steepest slopes were covered with corn fields turned to the their post-harvest brown.  The ride over the mountains was very peaceful, no traffic, no villages, and only the occasional farmer tending their fields and waving at the crazy man huffing and puffing up the hills.

Tomorrow I will reach the “summit” of my trip.  I have always looked at Nan as being my ultimate destination.  A shortish ride over another range of hills should get me there by early afternoon.  Talk to you from there.

November 17, 2017 – Cycling Tour of Northern Thailand – Down to the Lake – Thoeng to Phayao

Today I cruised down 87 km southwestward to the provincial capital of Phayao, which lies on the shore of Kwan Phayao (Kwan = lake in Thai).  Kwan Phayao is one of the few fresh water lake in Thailand, and one could argue that it is the remnant of a system of lakes that occupied the basins of northern Thailand 15 million years ago.  During the last few million years, uplift affected all of northern Thailand, essentially draining the lakes as through-going, southward-flowing rivers developed in response to the uplift.  It would have been a fantastic cycling trip in those ancient times, riding along lakes, up over mountains, and down to more lakes, with all kinds of weird Miocene mammals around like camels and small horses to chase instead of the semi-feral dogs of the Holocene.

Phayao is a pleasant, clean town but with a vastly underutilized lake front.  They do have a small promenade, with a fountain and small park, but with such a fantastic view across the lake to the distant mountains, one would expect them to leverage this into a popular tourist attraction.  However, the lake-front pubs and restaurants seem to be mainly populated with locals.  I get the impression that Thais see so much water their whole lives that they can’t quite wrap their heads around why us westerners like to look out over water.

The ride today was uneventful.  No spills or thrills, just a fast ride on smooth roads through lovely heartland. I will let the pictures do most of the talking:

Corn er.. I mean rice silos are a common site in north-central Thailand
Young teak trees (at least that’s what I think they are).
Even the weeds are nice.
Never tired of the golden rice paddies.
Stopped to pee and I had a captive audience!
Phayao Lake
A peaceful end to the day.

Tomorrow begins the final 2-day push over the mountains to Nan.

November 15, 2017 – Bike Tour of Northern Thailand – On the Road Again – Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong

Nearly 6 pm now and I am sitting in the “Bike and Drink” bar in Chiang Khong on the banks of the mighty Mekong River. That is bike as in bicycle – so of course I had to stop. Good decision. They have good American style pale ale (albeit from New Zealand) and they are playing Hotel California!

Chiang Khong long stood as the gateway to Laos from this part of Thailand – just a ferry ride across the Mekong. However, not too long ago the opening of a new “Friendship” bridge across the Mekong a few kilometers south of town caused an economic slow down. Still it’s a pleasant one-road town. Backpacker’s hostels, restaurants, and bars line the main drag, and the town sports the friendly ambiance of a town far, far from Bangkok. Enough about Chiang Khong though, let’s catch up.

My rest day in Chiang Rai turned into 3 rest days. I gained one day when I pushed through to Chiang Rai without stopping at Mae Chan. I gained a second rest day when my friends, who drove up from Chiang Mai to play golf and celebrate a birthday, talked me into staying another day to play golf and celebrate a second night. At first I said no, but then I remembered. I am retired, I can do whatever I want. So I stayed. On the first rest day I did cycle 14 km out to Wat Rong Kuhn aka the White Temple.

Wat Rong Khun

While the structure is impressive, the site is a tourist trap with hundreds of Chinese tourists milling about. I had a smoothie and a coffee and cycled back. It was however good to warm up my slightly sore legs after the long day coming from Fang.

I won’t say much about my stay in Chiang Rai – to borrow a phrase, what happens in Chiang Rai stays in Chiang Rai. Suffice it to say that my stay involved a lot of eating and a lot of drinking. Chiang Rai is the poor man’s Las Vegas for us – not because it in anyway resembles the real LV, but because it is not Chiang Mai, our home town where we (mostly) try to behave ourselves. By the time I saddled up my bike this morning, I was feeling quite sluggish and bloated.

I was up early though, and hit the road a little after 7 am – no breakfast, but I still felt full so that was just fine with me. The ride out of town followed the Mae Kok River to the northwest. Although into a slight headwind, the route was flat and fairly fast. A bit further northeast, the route abandoned the river and meandered through

Rice fields with rubber plantations in the distance.

golden plains of ripe rice paddies and low hills covered with lush rubber plantations. Finally, 45 km and 2 hours out of town, I was hungry. Just in time, I came upon that ubiquitous institution that is as much a part of Thailand as red and gold

White sap gets collected from these rubber trees and is processed into black rubber.

temples and fiery papaya salad: a 7-eleven. If you have never been to Thailand, you would never believe how many 7-elevens are here. In cities there can be 3 or 4 of them in the same block. I have seen two of them across the street from each other. Some are the size of a small suburban kitchen, others are USA-sized. They are everywhere. Until you go up country. For a village in Thailand, I suspect getting a 7-eleven ranks just behind running water and electricity in the measure of progress. The branch I encountered looked brand-spanking new, with shelves fully stocked with everything that will make the Thais just as fat as Americans. I had my gourmet brunch of nuked ham and cheese croissants and cookies, washed down with a coke while sitting on their front step.

My breakfast stop today.

I continued cycling northwestward until I reached the Mekong River. The main road to Chiang Khong diverges from the river and crosses the Phi Pan Nam mountains, a more direct route. I chose to follow the Mekong on a smaller road where the river wraps northward, eventually cutting directly through the mountains as an antecedent stream (nerd alert).

The Mekong

The Mekong existed before the uplift the mountains, and as uplift proceeded, the erosive power of the river out-paced the rising mountains such that the river now cuts east-west through the north-south ridges of the Phi Pan Nam range. Unfortunately, the road did not stay down along the river, but rather rose and fell, constantly hugging the shoulder of the mountains to the south.

Finally about 100 km out from Chiang Rai, I rounded the bend in the river for what I hoped was a smooth run into Chiang Khong. No such luck. The last 20 km wound over even high ridges, and to make it worse, the road was being widened, resulting in several kilometers of cycling up and down steep grades on what amounted to a dusty dirt road. By the time I cruised into town, I was sunburned, dehydrated, and just plain beat. I stopped at the first hotel I saw – a very small room spartanly furnished, but it cost only 400 baht (just over $12). Good enough, and after a shower I was sound a sleep. Woke up an hour later, and here I am sipping my second beer and munching on Lays. Off to find a proper dinner somewhere. Talk to you tomorrow from my next stop, Thoeng.