Bad Coffee and Worse Coffee and a Great Resort - This Time Tomorrow - CycleBlaze

January 27, 2017

Bad Coffee and Worse Coffee and a Great Resort

Chiang Dao to Na Wai

Dear little friends,

We don’t plan much, no surprise here. We look at maps of the general direction we are heading, see if we can scope out at least one accommodation and if they seem scarce we keep that in mind. That is how our day ended up being pretty short, because there didn’t seem to be many places to stay to the north of Chiang Dao.

Another beautiful morning dawned at our candy-colored guesthouse and we lingered on our little porch a bit over our powdered coffee and free cookies. A couple of bicyclists that had arrived the night before came over.

Our colorful bungalow.
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Morning coffee at our bungalow.
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“I took a photo of your bikes this morning,” the man said. He and his wife are from Singapore and would also be heading toward Arunothai after breakfast at a nearby restaurant. They have traveled extensively in Thailand and neighboring countries. They were both so fit looking we figured they would probably lap us on the way there. His name was Chris, and his wife’s name Coleen, and it wasn’t until later it dawned on me that this was Chris Wee, I’ve read all of his Crazy Guy journals but he hasn’t posted any in a few years. Oh, so these folks would definitely lap us.

There was a sweet shortcut to the highway that was so beautiful, with the tunnel-effect of trees and bamboo that we love so much.

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Beautiful cutoff road when we were just leaving Chiang Dao.
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Cutoff road when leaving Chiang Dao.
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The highway itself was in good shape and we were glad of that, knowing that there were some for-real hills ahead, unlike the continuous downhill the other day. Yep, real hills, and for the first time in quite awhile I had to get off of my bike and push.

Doi Chiang Dao
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Looking behind us. Doi Chiang Dao.
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Definitely the year of the Rooster.
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Chiang Dao Privacy?
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The queen of Thailand has been involved in an agriculture project up in these parts, introducing strawberry cultivation. We saw many of those fields and have seen extremely underripe strawberries in markets lately, which we would no sooner buy than we buy fresh tomatoes in January. In the states, that is. If we had a place to cook we would definitely buy tomatoes over here.

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Oddest spirit house we've ever seen. It's made from leftover tile pieces.
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Along the Strawberry OTOP highway was a huge cardboard iced coffee sign, woot! We pulled into the fancy coffee place hoping for the best and besides, we both had to pee. Pretty flowers in pots, check, natural wooden building with tables and couches and slick lifestyle magazines, check. A few listless teenagers slouching over their phones, check. And one more listless teenager behind the counter with the demeanor of a zombie and no eye contact.

My hopes for good coffee are lifted.
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The toilets were very nice. The gardens were beautiful. The coffee? The worst we had had in Thailand and that is something seeing as how we drank powdered coffee just that morning. But that was free and this was expensive. It was watery, and bitter, and so were we.

My hopes for good coffee are dashed.
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Dok Fai tree in bloom. I think these trees must have been around with the dinosaurs.
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We also wondered if Chris and Coleen had passed us while we were lounging waiting for our terrible coffee. Probably. They look like real bicyclists and we look like bums.

The town we wanted to end up at is right up at the Burma border and is populated mostly by Yunnanese Chinese who had opposed Mao and had to settle outside of China, mostly in Taiwan but also in small pockets here and there in Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. The next day was Chinese New Year and traffic was picking up even though we seemed to be in the middle of nowhere on a road going to more nowhere. We were a bit concerned that the one guesthouse in Arunothai was going to be full.

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Blackened billboards of the deceased king are a common sight.
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So when a beautiful hillside resort appeared very shortly after a national park we decided to give it a peek. It looked way out of our price range, but the very kind proprietor and her friend who were lingering over beer at a table with a million dollar valley view gave each other a look and then she gave us a much lower rate. What could we say? I was already in love with the place and so we splurged and took it. It was by far the nicest place we have stayed or will stay on this trip.

We went into the tiny village nearby and had a look around. This was definitely hill tribe country, and the schoolkids were out at recess in their very cute Friday uniforms of cotton traditional clothing. We looked at one of the starkest little temples we’d ever seen in SE Asia, it was pretty interesting. And then we found a dirt floor restaurant with very kind owners and had a bowl of noodles. Across the highway we spotted a clinic that had been donated by the USA, and I felt a rush of pride that my country does do very good things for people in the world. Several young women carrying babies came and went from the clinic, which made me even happier.

The strangest temple design we've ever seen. Part Shan and part Tai Dam or Tai Lu maybe. Na Wai, Thailand.
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Back at the resort the ladies were deep in a conversation but the owner had some work to do so I sat down and carried on with her friend, who lives in the village, speaks nearly perfect English, runs a tribal textile business, and had some personal issues with an ex-boyfriend that she wanted to talk about. I’m no counselor but I felt it was important to spend a bit of time with her, to listen and give her some ideas for coping with what seemed to be a very difficult situation. A cute cat came up and slept on my lap as we hashed things out. Bruce wandered around taking photos of our beautiful setting.

View from Baan Famui Bungalows
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Baan Famui Bungalows in Na Wai, Thailand.
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Baan Famui Bungalows.
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View from our bungalow.
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The view from the indoor dining area.
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Listening session.
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Toward sundown we looked down at the highway and there were Chris and Coleen riding along it! The friend jumped on her motorbike and dashed down to offer them a room and they decided to come up and stay there too. It was only nine more miles to Arunothai but it was getting late and who could resist this gorgeous place?

A Danish couple arrived a bit later, they had booked two entire weeks at the resort, and I felt a pang of jealousy for that. We had a lovely dinner there and some more chatting outside but then we all retired to our beautiful bungalows, we hadn’t stayed in such a posh place since my daughter’s wedding in Kauai a year ago. The night was richly silent except for crickets and night birds, and then from very far away, the first firecrackers of the Year of the Rooster. We snuggled into our crisp cotton sheets as if we were born to live this way. The real roosters would be crowing soon enough.

When we returned to our room from having dinner we were greeted by this incredibly huge walking stick. It was easily a foot across.
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Today's ride: 20 miles (32 km)
Total: 1,698 miles (2,733 km)

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