Chasing down Wang Chin: Effortless fun following the Yom River... and there were fireflies! - Taking my life for a ride - CycleBlaze

August 13, 2015

Chasing down Wang Chin: Effortless fun following the Yom River... and there were fireflies!

I'm sitting here in my hotel room in Wang Chin trying to figure out exactly what happened and trying to remember and record it all here. I covered so much ground, so quickly and loved every minute of it. It's hard to process this when it happens so quickly and effortlessly. And there were fireflies!!

I started out the day in Sukhothai, with a fairly early for me start at 0700. From the old city I took a minor road, the 1113, heading north. It was fairly busy in parts, but I had my .5 of a metre shoulder and traffic that respected my small footprint on the road, so it was pretty stress free riding. And I managed to keep my pace up, averaging about 20 kmph, which is pretty fast for me. At some point I decided to let Google pick me a walking track and went off piste through the rice paddies again. There was a fair amount of rain overnight, so I had to vary the path a bit and stick to paved roads when I could. It slowed my average down, but the fun and scenery more than compensated for that. I was aiming for the Si Satchanalai Historic Park, Sukhothai's sister temple complex. I popped out on road that parallels the hiway and the Yom River. I had a fantastic reception as I came in from a back road and right into the middle of this village gathering completely surprising everyone. All of them simultaneously shouted hellos. It's a hoot when you get about 30 or so people laughingly shouting hellos and greetings at you all at the same time. It had me laughing out loud and responding in kind to the lot of them.

This place is getting to me... in the nicest of ways.

It was mid day by the time I got to Si Satchanalai. It's my first visit here and I have to say I much preferred it to Sukhothai. There were only a handful of tourists wandering about and the site is large enough to absorb a fair number of visitors without it feeling crowded... and the thing is, there just aren't that many people coming here, they all go to Sukhothai and call it quits. A couple of bus loads of school kids and tourists quickly came and went, but apart from them, I had the place mostly to myself.

They are doing a bare minimum of restoration here and letting the temples slowly decay. I prefer it this way. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

Temple complex, Si Satchanalai Historic Park
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Temple complex, Si Satchanalai Historic Park
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Toy Soldiers and candlewax, steps of buddha statue Si Satchanalai Historic Park
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Si Satchanalai Historic Park: the entire complex is slowly being overtaken by forest and all of the temple ruins are surrounded by trees.
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That's me, lurking in the shadows: Si Satchanalai Historic Park
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From Si Satchanalai, I really felt like I could and should do some more km before calling it quits for the day. So off I went, nose down and pedalling. After I hit about 80 km, I thought I'd start looking for accommodation. That was the plan, but there was one small flaw. There was nothing. After a while I realised that I'd probably have to ride the additional 50 km to the town of Wang Chin, where I knew there would be accommodation. I stopped at a small village and tried to buy some bottled water at a shop, they were out and instead let me fill up my bottles from their own supply. Up the road a few metres further, I rode into the middle of a group of women selling raw cuts of pork and cooked sweet corn. I had a good idea that I wouldn't find food between there and Wang Chin, so I stocked up on sweet corn. Raw pork, I didn't need. The ladies and I had a good time and we laughed through the entire transaction.

By then, I was of course out of the flats and into the hills. If you're following a river upstream, sooner or later you have to start climbing. Luckily it was mostly gentle climbing and descending and I only had to get off and push a couple of times. I knew I'd probably be riding the last hour in the dark, so I had to put the wiggle on and tap out as many km as my body would let me. The 100 km mark came and went without too much difficulty. That's my first metric century in quite a while, and I knew I still had quite a few km in reserve. I started calculating how far it was to my destination and realised I'd be pushing 140 km by the time I finished. I was almost hoping for the magic 160 - the imperial century. It would have been great to knock off both in one day. But I couldn't see myself riding around in circles for another hour after arriving in Wang Chin. 140 would have to do - a new personal best for me.

The ride through the agricultural scenery in the fading light, with the jungle and tropical storm clouds was stunning. And as the evening wore on, the little traffic that there was dwindled to almost nothing. I just kept shaking my head in disbelief as every km got better and better. As darkness descended I noticed twinkling lights ahead. I originally thought it was reflected light from the eyes of some night critters, but got blown away when I realised it was fireflies. Maybe seeing fireflies are a run of the mill nightly event for you and the gloss went off of it before you got to your teens. Not me. For me, fireflies are a rare and magical event - something I've only seen once or twice before. I react like a small kid - it really gets to me. Everywhere, fireflies: in the forest, hovering above the rice paddies and right there in the road floating along in front of me as I rode along. Yes! And for a backdrop, there was a nice thunderstorm display in the distance. Instead of being a hard slog, the finish of the ride was pure bliss. It couldn't have been a better day.

140 km in mixed terrain and riding conditions in 8 hours from Sukhothai to Wang Chin - maybe the best days riding ever.

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