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.

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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).

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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:

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

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