November 10, 2017 – Bike Tour of Northern Thailand – The Road Less Traveled -Phrao to Fang

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The bigimportantcityoffang.

I’m sitting in a bar/restaurant (mostly bar) writing on my iPhone while sipping a Singha beer and waiting for my dinner to come.  After checking in to the Sleeping Tree Hotel in Fang,  I took an hour-long rest before heading out on a mission.  The mission was find a beer and food.  Harder than I thought.  Turns out this town has many restaurants that have food and no beer, and many bars with with dodgy food or no food at all.  I ended up choosing the latter of course.  I’m now at the “Mahanakornfang” which roughly translates as  “BigimportantcityofFang”.  The place is just beginning to fill up, my guess it’s pretty popular on Friday night.  I’ll be in bed by the time things heat up here.  But back to the start…

This morning I was up by 7:00 and saddled up by 7:30.  No breakfast here.  So I headed north towards the town of Phrao.  Turns out the Phrao Basin is not really flat.  A 1 km hill greeted me almost immediately. Not steep, but it still worked as good as coffee to wake me up and get me in a lather.  I arrived in Phrao about 45 min later.

Pad grapow moo

Phrao is a really small town, which surprised me a little because it is an amphoe – the equivalent to a county seat in the USA.  Basically it’s a one block town.  I made the complete circuit and found an empty restaurant that was just opening.  I fueled up on my go-to dish of Pad Grabow Moo (spicy fried pork with chilies and basil).  If I am ever executed, this would be my request for my last meal.

I rode west – oh my food has come! … Now I’m back in the Sleeping Tree – I better finish this soon because I am knackered good.  Where was I?  I rode west of out of town through the rolling hills covered with fruit orchids.  As I approached the western range front, I had a choice to make – take the main road west through the mountains, or take the road less travelled which goes over the mountains to the north.  I chose the north.

Google street view showed a reasonably paved road winding its way north, but what it didn’t show was all the up and downs, nor how steep the climbs were.  Two 1 km hills went straight up; I had no choice but to dismount and push my bike.  The first of these was so steep I could barely get my bike up it.

Although this route was brutally mountainous, I was amply rewarded with views like this.

I finally emerged from the mountains by about 2 pm and joined the main Chiang Mai to Fang highway.  Unlike Phrao, the Fang Basin is a pancake –  with the additional benefit of a constant stream of traffic whooshing by me and providing a nice draft.  However the ride was far from pleasant.  About 30 km south of Fang, the route turns into a Thai version of one of those endless strips of busy roads that lead into so many towns in the US. I rode through 30 km of roadside markets, car dealers, factories, 18 wheelers, and endless road construction.  However civilization has it perks. I stopped at a huge gas station plaza and bought myself a well deserved Coke Zero.  I also proved the common adage that “hunger makes the best spice” by having a DELICIOUS meal from Five Star Chicken, Thailand’s version of KFC in a push cart.

I arrived finally at my hotel in Fang.  An excellent workout today. This town is a bustling place with lots of dusty traffic.  I’m not sure what is driving their economy, but it seems to be somewhat of a boom town.

You know what happened from here already – so now it’s time for a nice long sleep.  Talk to you from my next stop.

November 9, 2017 – Bike Tour of Northern Thailand – Chiang Mai to Phrao

As I was getting ready to set out on my 2 week adventure, and while I was going through my checklist and locking up the house, I had this short conversation with myself:

Myself: What the fuck are you doing?  We have a nice climate-controlled house with a luxurious bed. You have all your favorite foods nearby and your friends are here.  Now you’re telling me that we are going to spend several hours a day over the next 2 weeks, alone, all bent over, sweating profusely, with a 3 inch wide seat crammed up our crotch?

Me: (meekly) Well….ah….yea….

Myself: Have you heard that every 20 minutes someone is killed on the roads in Thailand?  Are you TRYING to get us killed?

Me: Well most people die in bed you know….

Myself: Yes but they die of OLD AGE you doofus – we’re going to get run over by a minivan, I know it.

Me:  We’ll be wearing a helmet, and I will keep left….

Myself: Let’s just forget this nonsense…put that bike away, take off those silly pants with the padded crotch, and lets just go back to bed.  We can get up at 11 and go play golf.

Me:  Oh just shut up.

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Ready to go!

I forgot about this conversation as soon as I pedaled down my soi.  I felt free.  I could hear the road calling me.  The weather was nearly ideal – high clouds to block the sun, temperature in the upper 70s, and only a gentle wind in my face.  Life is good!

My route today took me northward along the banks of the Mae Ping River over lightly travelled, narrow, but smoothly paved roads.  The first 30 km followed my usually training route, winding through rice paddies and small villages, never straying far from the river on my right.   I know every temple and pothole along these roads.  The terrain was Kansas flat and I made good time averaging around 22-23 km/hour.  A little over an hour out, I made my first rest stop at my usual spot, a small crematorium set beside a lovely oxbow lake.

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A lovely oxbow lake on the floodplain of the Mae Ping – my first rest stop.

The rice is ready to harvest.

Finally I turned to the northeast, left the friendly river behind, and climbed up the winding road through the mountains that separate the Chiang Mai Basin from the Phrao Basin.  I stopped for lunch at a small village market near the high point in the mountains.  One of the nice things about Thailand is that you can get food almost anywhere.  After lunch it was mostly a fast downhill into the Phrao Valley – I pulled up to the Klaidoi Resort just after 2 pm and 83 km.  An easy first day.

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My very own Bungalow at the Klaidoi Resort

The Klaidoi Resort is in the village of Pradoo – which is nothing more than a few scattered homes and business.  My quarters are a small bungalow in a very nondescript “resort”.  Thais use the term resort rather loosely.  But the price was right, 600 baht or about $18. No restaurant here, but the resort owner, Noi, called up the local restaurant (they use the term restaurant loosely too) and the restaurant’s owner came and opened up just for me.  I suspect she closed right after I left.  The restaurant was a 5 minute walk down the very dark road.  No sidewalk here to roll up.  The food was good though and the beer was cold.

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A quiet but tasty dinner.

Tomorrow it is up and over some more mountains to the bright lights of Fang.  Talk to you then.

Some photos from day 1….