Finally rolling! Chiang Mai - Chiang Dao - Frankie goes to.....the North of Thailand (2019) - CycleBlaze

October 26, 2019

Finally rolling! Chiang Mai - Chiang Dao

A swift look back to the minor problems with the bike I was facing after putting it together again. Still don´t have any idea how my Brooks saddle could possibly break but it was quickly replaced with another Brooks, the Cambium C 17 this time. I purchased it at the excellent Triple Cats Touring Bikes shop where Nu, the very friendly owner, was more or less closing down the shop on his way to Bangkok. That´s why I had to take the saddle he had in stock, even if the funny colour was certainly not my first choice.

When I did my first corridor test ride in the hotel afterwards I noticed the pads of my Magura HS 33 were permanently grinding on the front rim. Nothing I could fix with my own very limited mechanic skills so another "Please help me" mail to my friend Ma, owner of the outstanding Bok Bok Bike shop in Bangkok. Palm´s Bicycle Shop a few km out of Chiang Mai was his suggestion this time. And a good one it was! Palm immediately squeezed me into his tight schedule and the professional service on front and rear brakes was done within 20 minutes for just 200 Baht (6 €). Rest assured you will be helped by great people when you face problems while cycling in Thailand! All shops are to be found on google maps by the way.

And now - finally! - the first words on actual cycling! When making enquiries about leaving Chiang Mai you may read about a route along the river Ping. I have done it myself while coming down from the Mae Hong Son Loop a few years ago. Given this was the same route the other cyclists were talking about I didn´t find it overly exciting and the fact of using a new saddle I have never sat on made me go for the most obvious route: All the way up to Chiang Dao on the 107. The last thing you want when braking in a new saddle is a bumpy road and the major Thai Highways are usually in excellent condition. So 2 cm of Vaseline applied to the bum plus the cycle pants with the thickest padding on. Felt like the good old days when you had to put some grease on the leather paddings. Never done that?  Sitting on a jellyfish is the best way to describe it I guess....

The 107 is a very busy Thai Highway but has a decent shoulder when you need it most, in the initial dense traffic. And that dense, dusty and noisy traffic continues for a long way. Anything about cycling in Chiang Mai so far is related to "not nice" to me. I am sure there are fellow cyclist who will disagree with my statement but the aggression against and the poor infrastructure for cyclists is actually surprising to somebody who´s been all over the country. 

Things were progressively changing to the better after the Pai turnoff and once through the town of Mae Ping. Mind you the terrain becomes more undulating and the shoulder tended to be rather narrow for the last 30 km into Chiang Dao. Nothing too difficult or too concerning, the traffic was very well behaved towards me. And there was quite a lot on that Saturday afternoon. If you do have the choice, go on a weekday without the weekend traffic.

When I got into Chiang Dao I found a typical small, dusty country town and decided to go for a room near the mountains and the famous cave. I am very happy with the Chiang Dao Hut Resort about 5 km out of town. A simple but sufficient traveller bungalow comes at 400 Baht, small breakfast included. Shared showers and toilets with the standard bungalows but both very clean. Plus they run there on acceptable restaurant on the other side of the street.

Good first day! Apart from the All Blacks losing their Rugby World Cup semi final....

Very likely my route for the first 10 days or so. Nothing too adventurous but as I already mentioned a few times now this ride is a combination of checking out my current capabilities, the need to be back in Chiang Mai on Nov 1 to attend a Thai wedding and then roll down towards Bangkok through the centre. A lot of it should actually be new territory to me, the approach of Bangkok right through the middle in particular.
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The ideal piece of breakfast equipment for a coffee addict like me. Basically any accommodation will provide hot water in the morning but the Nescafe or 3 in 1 powders with it is not my cup of tea. Or coffee to be more precise. To me this Bodum plunger and a packet of the real stuff is well worth the extra space it requires.
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Some more sightseeing while walking to my favourite rice porridge restaurant before departure: The Three-Kings-Statue in front of the Municipal Art Gallery.
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You had to look at the bike while in my room and in the corridors, now you have to see it in the lobby too. Farewell Royal Panerai, see you again in a week....
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They were indeed members of some Thai national team. Giving me thumbs up for my effort, very encouraging!
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The Kawasaki dirt bike boys out for a weekend in Pai
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The donation trees on the way to the temple. Can be up to 10000 Baht on one
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Rice paddies and mountains. I guess I will have a lot of more of that over the next week
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One advantage of being on a larger highway is the variety of handcraft businesses along it
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The very shaky swing bridge over to the Chiang Dao Elephant Training Center
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They are such nice animals! I understand the modern eco tourism trend is no-more-elephant-riding. I certainly prefer any animal in the wilderness too but why would riding be more of a problem to an elephant than to a horse? I was there after the normal opening hours and they seemed to be treated very gently. I am afraid they would not survive anymore without the help of the tourism. Sad but true
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The 107 just before Chiang Dao. Nice but with hardly any shoulder
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In Chiang Dao
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The reception of the Chiang Dao Hut Resort already looks like a botanical garden and so does the whole compound
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Chris WeeVery nice place with quaint gardens. Stayed more than a few times.
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2 weeks ago
My small bungalow at 400 Baht. They do have ensuite ones for 900 Baht too
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Today's ride: 78 km (48 miles)
Total: 98 km (61 miles)

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Comment on this entry Comment 4
Karen BrownGood to see you on the road again Frankie!
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2 weeks ago
Frank RoettgenTo Karen BrownThank you, Karen. Feels good too!
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2 weeks ago
Bruce LellmanJust by looking at your photos, Frankie, I can see how much you love Thailand. I share your love for the amazing place and its people. Also, reading your journal has me longing for Thailand. I can't wait to cross over from Myanmar although I'm also looking forward to our adventure here first. Then we will really be ready for Thailand's luxuries.
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2 weeks ago
Frank RoettgenThank you Bruce! I guess you will be crossing over into Mae Sot, and then? Up North along the Mae Hong Son Loop? However, you will have the legs to do it after your weeks in Myanmar. I look forward to my few rest days at the end of the week and read through your first days. Enjoy Myanmar - I havenĀ“t done the North on my bike yet but my recent visit to Mandalays, Bagan, Innwa and Sagaing was just breathtaking
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2 weeks ago