A New Kind of Uphill - This Time Tomorrow - CycleBlaze

January 25, 2017

A New Kind of Uphill

Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao

Dear little friends,

It was a beautiful day to blow town. Our week in Chiang Mai had been fun and restful and we love it there. Important repairs were made to the bikes. Important meals restored the bicyclists. And best of all, the weather was perfect and every day we gave thanks for the bright blue skies and pleasant breezes.

We had to get away from Chiang Mai before we blew all of our money on the breakfast place next door to the guesthouse, where the fantastic bread and omelets with a gorgeous salad on the side tempted us a little too often. But we had one last plate before heading northeast out of Chiang Mai.

Once again Pocket Earth came up with a fantastic cycling route. Quiet roads passed rice fields just emerging from the water, potatoes being harvested, several houses we wouldn’t mind buying, far-flung coffee places, and flowery enticing lanes. There is not enough time in this life to take every flowery enticing lane you see and while that is regrettable, I am very thankful that they are out there in their enticing-ness. What a grim chore it would be to follow each one until all were ticked off. The mystery of the road not taken is almost as vivid as the roads we actually do take.

Doi Suthep (mountain) is on the left.
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Harvested jicama.
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The air was crystal clear and we had tremendous views of the mountains of the north, covered in jungle. At some point we knew we would be leaving our pleasant valley farm roads and joining the highway that took us through the mountains to Chiang Dao.

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This lovely homestead has a patio topped with an farmer's hat-shaped roof.
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Pocket Earth has been so helpful to us that I hesitate to point out its shortcomings but point I must. There are no altitude profiles on Pocket Earth and I really wish there were. They also make the breathtaking assumption that our average speed is 17.4 miles per hour and we can get to Chiang Dao in 2.5 hours which of course we know is bollocks so why even make that sort of claim? Maybe the lycra-clad and masked Thai Lances flinging by are going that fast but certainly not your average long distance tourer. And we are much slower than the average tourer.

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In any case, we were a bit concerned about this highway section to Chiang Dao and were happy to see a wide shoulder and smooth pavement. Then the first hill presented itself and we chugged along to the top, even beating out an old truck whose driver jumped out and placed rocks behind the back wheels. We definitely were inspired to get ourselves uphill of that!

Okay, first hill behind us, we can do this. Into the jungle-fuzzy hills we entered and, uh, went downhill. Oh no, don’t make us make up this elevation again! Drat! Jungle jungle, elephant camp, swoop of downhill, shoulder narrows, cars whiz by too close, now no shoulder. But we are still going downhill.

Burmese influenced style temple on the way to Chiang Dao.
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We stopped to photograph a pomelo OTOP, where every stand has the same product, the valuable mammoth grapefruit things that are placed on shrines and in front of Buddhas in temples and sometimes even eaten. All pomelos, all the time. We were still going downhill and I had an ominous sense that at the end of the day when we were the most tired would come our karmic uphill climb out of this jungle highway maw of down.

Pomelo OTOP stop. OTOP is an acronym for "One Tambon (district), One Product", a marketing program in Thailand for regional products.
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It’s too bad Pocket Earth didn’t tell us this beforehand so I could have enjoyed it more instead of anticipating a hell that did not exist. It was all downhill. There was no “pay-yer-dues” uphill. Well, there was a tiny roller or two as we rode into Chiang Dao feeling stupid for having wasted the enjoyment of a free 15 mile downhill.

We see these buildings with tall skinny chimneys quite often. They are where bodies are burned. They are usually located out in the country probably away from towns where the winds can carry the smoke away. Normally they are not on temple grounds.
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Chiang Dao, Thailand
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Chiang Dao didn’t look too promising, to be honest. Gorgeous hills were nearby, and there are caves and climbs and such to do and have and it really is spectacular. We stopped at a most unpromising looking guesthouse and the owner quoted us 400 baht for a fan room. The curtains of each room were closed and filthy looking, and a girl who may or may not have business dealings there hopped off her motorbike the same time a car with two sleazy looking guys pulled up and they marched on inside. Ew. We didn’t even look at a room and we look at all rooms, everywhere.

Old teak building in the center of Chiang Dao town.
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On up the road toward Chiang Dao Cave there are plenty of resorts but they looked expensive and they were, and full, too. A friendly guesthouse owner told us that the bungalows up on the right side were full as well but his buddy in town had this brand new hostel, he would call them for us, yes they had a room, etc. We thanked him but continued up the road anyway and stopped at the “full” bungalows and magically we had a brand new immaculate little dollhouse for 300 baht. Birds sang amongst the lychee and mango orchard. Yay!

Doi Chiang Dao
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That’s always a savored treat when we can find a really nice place for not much money. To think we had almost gone for the Shady Grave BrokedownHotel in town! As it was, we were out in the country and had to return to town to eat and broke our cardinal rule of eating in a deserted restaurant where the girl was far more interested in curating her Youtube playlist than serving us. The mosquitoes bit fiercely as we ate our doleful meal and wondered why we hadn’t stopped at the cheery family noodle place instead. That’s a trip for you. One moment you’re jubilant about your bed for the night, the next you are making faces at each other over the table each time yet another K-pop introductory drum roll starts.

But it’s just a meal, and meals are soon over. We paid the dj girl and got on our bikes and rode off into the evening, up a short hill on a country road of friendly looking houses and farms to our sweet little bungalow and slept the sleep of people who have had a day full of unexpected gifts, besides dinner.

Today's ride: 50 miles (80 km)
Total: 1,670 miles (2,688 km)

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