Thursday, February 23, 2012

Northern Thailand Winter Ride - Day 2 Chiang Dao

Good ole Maggie running tirelessly...

It was impressive that everyone was up bright and early at 0730, all ready to head off for breakfast #2 - Kao Tom or congee. Na Inn's complimentary breakfast was just toast and jam, with coffee, which is a nice enough starter. The 12 of us rode through the cool morning air in the thick Chiang Mai traffic and we reached the make shift stall in an easy 10 mins. Some of the team members went berserk when they saw blood pudding and they merrily tucked into it with piping hot congee and chinese donuts. CW and I watched in amusement as repeat orders came fast and furious. It was that good but we were not used to seeing so much food consumed before a longish 80+km ride before us. We stopped at 2 bowls!

A quick hop back to Na Inn to mount our panniers, and we skipped off in the highest spirits. Taking the back lanes, we were soon out in the country and on highway 107. I had a close shave when my skinny front 1.35 tire got caught in a metal drain cover but thank God I recovered quickly. Fatter tires are definitely more suitable for touring. The impressively wide road shoulder for cyclists on the highway made it very safe for 12 of us to cruise our way to Mae Malai, some 50km away.

Though the sun was out, humidity was low and at 26-28c, it was pleasant enough. The ride was flattish and the long bike train started thinning out with different riding speeds among the team. As the sweeper, I found myself needing to go to the front of the pack sometimes and then hang back. It was then that I really appreciated the agility and speed of my Pocket Sport.

Our lunch stop was the famous multi-colourful red, yellow, green corner restaurant that we usually frequent and for good reasons. They sell lovely rice and noodle dishes, along with some dim sum if you are early enough. But what makes this place great is its bike friendly. Plenty of safe and secured parking at the back of the eatery, and free ice top-up for our water bottles.

Half way through lunch, we were delighted to get a text message from Kimi who just landed at the airport and was on her way to Chiang Dao in a chartered taxi. Those who over-ate paid the ultimate price as the next 30km to Chiang Dao was no longer "flattish". The first serious climb began and many got winded. The climbs were not killers but on a bloated stomach, it just wasn't going to work.

It was thus with squealing delight that a silver Toyota pulled in front of us and out popped Kimi. We were glad to see her but even more glad that we could unload our heavy panniers into her taxi and could  ride unencumbered. Those who were far ahead missed this opportunity but I guess life has a way of ironing things out.

With hills accompany great views and I was not disappointed. We passed the Elephant Camp and rode along a beautiful stretch where the road hugged the river.  If ever there was a place to separate the men from the boys, hill climbs would probably be it. KC, our oldest and fastest rider, unleashed his huge twin pistons and disappeared in no time. I could only follow him but for a short while. It was great fun whizzing the downhills at his tail, carving those lovely bends.

Then, there were some who "preferred" to push up the hills which meant that re-group stops had to be more often and waits were longer. But, this was not a race and we had all the time in the world. It was also encouraging to see people improving their cycling techniques on the fly.

Poor Roland on a shiny maroon Birdy suffered a leaking rear tire and that dragged him down. It was a start of more dramas for him but everyone was impressed with his fortitude and determination.

Just 5km before Chiang Dao, we came across a scruffy stray dog who I named Maggie. She somehow took a liking for our pack and just ran along with us all the way to our hotel, Mongkiangdao. It was unfortunate that they stuffed up our booking and we were one room short. CW, Mike and I were relegated to the old quarters and experienced male bonding to the fullest. We were grateful for the wonderful give and take spirit of the team and that made for a really wonderful time together.

Male bonding - Pic borrowed fm CW

What charms in this resort is the spectacular sunsets of the mountain ranges. A quick shower and some coffee saw us ready for a sunset ride into town for dinner.

The restaurant we went to was absolutely thrilled to see 12 ravenous cyclists descend upon them. We ordered and drank lots as usual. There were at least 16 dishes and we left feeling very satiated.

That was until we chanced upon a lonely Soya Bean stall along the road back. No matter how filled we are, there always seems to be room for dessert. The pretty young lass was overwhelmed at our 2 dozen orders and we were even more overwhelmed at being charged a grand total of $5!

It had been a great day of riding and falling asleep was easy. For many, this was their first overseas day of touring and I was very glad to see the bright smiles amidst tired bodies and hanging laundry.

1 comment:

Taiwoon said...

wonderful memories with friends and foldies! this is why we like cycling so much... it really bring people together. See u soon Bro Al!