Sunday, February 26, 2012

Northern Thailand Winter Ride - Day 5, Back to Chiang Mai

We got up to a rainy morning. It poured the whole night and it was just as well that this was to be a no riding day. Our short hike for a congee breakfast was a cold and wet one. However, the piping hot bowl with raw egg inside was worth the trouble and we literally emptied the big pot with our numerous orders.

Despite the persistent rain, we tracked to our fav Chiang Rai bike shop, Fat Free Bikes. It was a quiet 9am and they were just opened. With the rain and all, the lone salesperson thought it was going to be another quiet morning.

But with 12 of us locusts arriving with an insatiable appetite for bike parts, he had to call for re-enforcements. A rough estimate was the 12 of us spent a total of US$1000 and Christmas came early for them. I was amused to see everyone like kids in a candy shop, all excited and so awed by the prices of stuff. Compared to Spore, some parts were 50% cheaper, thanks to the high S$ and low rental in Chiang Rai compared to Orchard Rd!

At precisely 11am, 2 huge Toyota LWB Hiace vans came. The drivers were skeptical that we could fit 12 bikes (10 foldies) and 12 pax, plus 24 panniers into their vehicles.

However, I've done this before and slowly but surely, we fitted everything inside, much to their amazement. Our team also were equally astounded but this is where our foldies come to its fullest element.

It was mandatory for us to stop at the famous white temple of Wat Rong Kun, about 20km away. This is truly an architectural beauty with its intricate design and graphic depictions of morality or the lack off.

There were 2 that caught my attention - the perils of smoking and drinking. When CW showed me the gold plated toilets, that was pristine to an operating theatre standard, I couldn't believe my eyes.

The eating feast continued at a nearby Thai Chicken Rice restaurant and I felt a bit embarrassed when they started counting the number of plates we have ordered. But truth be told, the portions were rather small, even for me.

The drive back to Na Inn put all of us into an uncomfortable trance. This was because the road back was hilly and some parts were full of curves. It was a good thing we didn't cycle back, and the wet weather made us so glad we were in the aircon comfort of the spacious Hiace.

It was great to be back at Na Inn and we wasted no time unloading our bikes and gear. Unfortunately, Uncle Teo's expensive Bell helmet with a Go Pro mount was left behind and that was a shame. Fortunately, it was found by the driver and duly returned to Na Inn a few days later 200km all the way from Chiang Rai. A great testament to the honesty and integrity of VIP Travel Service Company. We cannot recommended them enough!

Although I sense a tinge of sadness that our fabulous trip was coming to a close, there were still a few surprises in store for the flock. We had dinner at a lovely Cafe de Siam Thai restaurant and Roland, Uncle Teo and Bro Mike sat outside to keep watch on the bikes.

That was such a kind deed. We then proceeded for the Chiang Mai Night Market cum Zoo (judging from the crazy crowds). I'm not sure being jostled to and fro from all directions was fun but I enjoyed picking up wonderful bargains. There was certainly a carnival like air among the vendors and this was not just about cold commerce, but a real night out of people having a good time.

We ended the night with supper at Mike's Burgers, whose mission is unashamedly to convert vegetarians. This American owned joint has several outlets in Chiang Mai and their food is to die for, with a slew of witty signs everywhere. All of us who went felt truly satisfied with our greasy but tasty burgers, topped with bacon and cheese plus crispy fries, washed down with leaded Coke. Not the most healthy of diets but heh, we earned it after all those miles looping Northern Thailand.

While the team slowly fell into dream land, CW and I were wondering whether to climb Doi Suthep or join the Chiang Mai Sunday riders on the last day's morning. We couldn't go wrong with either choice and were happy to see how things panned out when we got up.

Pic credits:  CW & Roland

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