Getting Started in Chiang Mai - Summer Thaime - CycleBlaze

July 13, 2018

Getting Started in Chiang Mai

For the past several weeks I had been relaxing in Bangkok and Pattaya after having finished a semester of teaching in China.  My buddy was with me at the beginning and after awhile Pattaya was beginning to get tiresome so we came up with an idea to fly out of there and try Chiang Mai instead.  I had the Montague bicycle with me as always and that added to the adventure.

In the middle of all the rushing to leave Pattaya, I left the front wheel of my bicycle behind. Argh!  Easily fixed in Chiang Mai though. We were disappointed on arrival for quite a few reasons.  Mainly, the sheer number of western travelers and Chinese package tourists. Every year the place gets more and more flooded, even in low season such as now. It was a letdown especially when encountering the more sour attitude of the locals whose culture has been ruined by tourism mania. The friend I'm traveling with isn't a cycle tourist, but his style of travel is totally unique as is my own.  We just don't do the typical package tour thing that most everyone else does here.  Nonetheless we try to make the most of the Thailand realities and part of that is the Chinese package tour mania.  You can run but you can't hide from the masses.

My downfall was eating tons of food and hitting the clubs for weeks on end.  That offset months of hard work at a fitness studio back in Shanghai and quickly ruined my great figure.  I was pissed, but that was my own fault and the cycling would hopefully get me back in shape.  So I also got my bike fixed and we had plenty of chill time. 

Home for the first week
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Central Plaza shopping mall
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Today was an ad hoc adventure of a bike ride up Doi Sutep which overlooks the city of Chiang Mai. My friend decided to rent a scooter and so off we went. Turns out I would be at least an hour behind because the road was very steep and tough to cycle on.  I got about 5km up the mountain road and stopped for water.  A young woman appeared out of nowhere on the road and asked me where the temple was. I hadn't a clue what she was talking about or where she had come from. Turns out Cassandra was looking for a famous temple but had gotten misleading information from some local dimwits at the bottom of the mountain. 

I said, "I really wish I could help you but I'm not sure what this temple is you're talking about." She said, "It's famous for tourists and I got curious to take a look. Now I don't even know why I'm doing this." I said, "Yeah well, I don't know why I'm doing this biking shit and slogging up a mountain" 

We tried to flag down a couple of sawngtaews but these nitwits refused to stop and then a motorbike driver eventually did.  She explained the puzzle to him. Cassandra said, "There is this temple that is about 300 steps to walk up and that's what I was told." The driver just said he didn't know and took off.  I said to her, "Well you've walked a lot more than 300 steps from the bottom from my reckoning.  Let's google this and figure it out."

She said, "You have internet?"  I said, "Yes." Apparently her smartphone data had disconnected in this region. The results came up and she pounced on an image that she had apparently recognized earlier, then we looked up the directions and it said 7km ahead. "How far is that?" she asked. I replied, "About 4 miles. I think your best bet is to get one of these sawngaews to stop, and if they don't know, then get a sawngtaew going down the mountain instead." At that point I wish I was riding a scooter, it would have been more convenient than this bicycle to help her out and just get her to the temple directly.  Turns out this was her last day in Chiang Mai anyway and taking off to a new destination, so I hoped for her sake she'd find this temple and make the most of the misadventure.

Great views at the top
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I took off and continued to sweat up the mountain. Realizing this was taking forever, I asked my friend who was already at the mountain peak, "Is it worth continuing or should I just say screw it and go down?" He said he was already up for an hour and investigating some weed farms and fake diamond factories. Not worth it. OK then, so we agreed to meet at a temple instead at about 3km from the actual mountain peak. This temple was about 300 steps up from the road and offered stunning city views.

Behold the temple
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Finally I figured it out, that THIS was the temple that Cassandra had been looking for.   My best guess is that she asked a driver at the bottom of the mountain or thereabouts and they didn't understand, then she started walking up the entire mountain.  If that was the case, these Thai drivers should be ashamed of themselves, surely they if anyone would actually know that a temple exists at the top of this Doi.

Today's ride: 56 km (35 miles)
Total: 56 km (35 miles)

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