Sinn Tail and Wendy flying down the Jpn Memorial Bridge, Pai!
7-11's best customers - The Chens!
We had arranged for a nice bacon and egg Western breakfast at The Road View to fuel us up and they did such a splendid job that the boys had seconds. The morning was a cool 15c and many woke up early to enjoy the beautiful grounds of the resort where colourful flowers abound everywhere. There was even a strawberry patch!
Today's ride was rather straightforward. 27km of climbs to the peak at Huai Nam Dang National Park, followed by 25km of downhill straight into Pai along 1095. In my exuberance, I took off first but turned right instead of turning left. I was heading the wrong direction until I saw some familiar landmarks. Gee! Anyway, a good warm up and extra 3km to my credit.
Our first stop was at the Coffee We or Witch House which served a wicked brew I was told. However it was an easy flattish downhill 8 km ride and we arrived there in no time. It was special to be flying down together and we really felt top of the world.
It was tempting to stop for a cuppa but truly, we didn't deserve it as we were only 20 mins on the saddle. So we spend the time just clowning around with the Halloween props and had fun. I think there is certainly a need to put up a Heaven/Angel Cafe to counter the "dark" side.
Playtime was definitely over as we started off as the climbs began immediately after this stop. The ascends were certainly quite manageable and actually enjoyable. Perhaps this being Day 3, we all got stronger. It was obvious that we were gaining height as the views got more and more spectacular.
As usual, Lance was powering up like there was no tomorrow and I enjoyed going up with Wayne at a much slower and manageable pace. We even had time to take a selfie together at one of our breaks.
Riding up, we came across a herd of water buffaloes which looked rather out of place up in the highlands. KC, Sinn Tail, Wayne and I all pulled over to admire these fine animals and I wondered why they were here and not down in the valleys? Guess farm animals too need a vacation every now and then.
Today was probably the first time I felt so happy to be climbing and the theory that we get stronger on the 3rd day is forever proven in my eyes. We reached our first coffee stop at Ban Mae Sae Checkpoint in no time.
Here was the perfect place for a break as there were quite a few eateries and we settled on one as the owner was inviting and calling out to us. She was very nice and friendly and I ordered a lovely glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Feeling a bit peckish, I got some Pad Si-Eu or Thai fried noodles to share and that was absolutely delicious. In Thailand, food is never a problem.
Feeling recharged, we continued our climb and we were surprised at how nice a pace we settled into. Traffic was surprisingly light but I guess this was a weekday. Lots of hairpins really made the climb challenging but we could cycle up and very rarely pushed. Soon, we arrived at a famous scenic spot where we stopped to catch our breath and took lots of photos.
From here, we were not far from the peak but the gradient seem steeper. Perhaps we were feeling a bit worn out but having been this route a few times, I knew the end was near and that kept me going. It was such a relief to finally see this road sign.
But like all peaks, the final 1 km was tough and we all had to push - slowly and painfully. But like a full marathon, climbing hills is largely a mental exercise where we develop fortitude and grit. It is certainly not everyone's cup of tea but it has certainly helped me grow as a person in strength of character.
I was the last to arrive at the peak but I like to encourage and perhaps comfort myself with the wise words of the Good Book that in God's Kingdom, the last shall be first. This entrance to the National Park is unmistakable and one day, I must go in and even camp there. But for now, the pure pleasure of a 20km + downhill ride into Pai was our well earned reward.
Mothership was there waiting for us at a safe clearing and we took this time to rest, water and eat some energy bars. It is always so reassuring to know that she is often in front or behind us to guide and provide for us cyclists and I am very grateful to the MS Team for their patience and care.
At this stage, we all donned our lights, our windbreakers and our buffs for the spectacular downhill finale into Pai. If you like descending, this is heaven as the inclines and hairpins make for a challenging experience.
No photos for this stage as we were all busy flying down at top speed with full concentration. With the help of gravity, we were at times faster than some motorised vehicles with full on adrenaline. At one stage, I even managed to overtake the Mothership. However, our no.1 priority was a safe descend and I had to remind myself to slow down. Once again, the assurance of disc brakes made all the difference for a controlled descend and this 20km was over in about 30 mins!
A police check point towards the end was timely to signal the end of the race circuit and we all slowed down and behaved ourselves.
When we finally entered the fringes of Pai town, I made the deliberate effort to stop and capture this moment and admire the beautiful surroundings of open plains and rice fields. Pai lies in a beautiful valley and has been described as the Switzerland of the East, and for good reason.
We had all planned to meet at the Japanese Memorial Bridge where "Jack Sparrow", a renown local photographer hangs out. He takes amazing action photos and we were hoping he would take an animated group pic of us. He is a national celebrity, featured often on Thai TV but alas, he was nowhere to be seen.
Nevertheless, we had fun taking photos ourselves at the Bridge and these are the results of our efforts.
Pai has become a bit touristy since I first came here 10 years ago but I still love the Bohemian atmosphere although now, they hail more from China than in Europe. We stopped at a famous coffee place Coffee in Love and behold, a couple from China were taking wedding photos.
Beautiful views but very average food
After hanging around for too long, we forced ourselves back on our steeds and rode 5 km to Bannamhoo Bungalows. This was my 3rd time there and the owners have become my friends. Though they are about 3 km from the walking street, their resort is absolutely beautiful, set in the hills among rice fields. Their most important person there that I missed so much was Ben the Golden Retriever.
We had 3 chalets while YC, Lance and the boys got a spacious family unit. What impressed with BNH are the little details that make the place so warm and inviting. Beautiful earth colours and natural materials, with lots of cushions on the gazebos all add to give this place a truly relaxing ambience. Our small but quaint chalet had a mosquito net which made sure we slept unmolested.
We all took this opportunity to do our laundry, have a good hot shower, had some rest and got ready for dinner. It is nice in times like this to have the Mothership so we didnt need to cycle out for dinner in the dark.
All 10 of us piled into MS and I felt like I was driving a bunch of Hmong refugees, but it was so fun. We were recommended to eat where the locals go before having dinner part 2 in the magnificent night market.
We went to Nong Beer for dessert and it was nice to be recognised by the owner, a lovely full sized and friendly lady. My first visit here was in 2008 and this is probably my 6th or 7th time here in beautiful Pai.
KC and I managed to get a much needed Thai Traditional Massage and that was so so good. 200B per hour, this is unbeatable value. Our other team mates went for a walkabout in search of more food and truly, there is so much to see and do in the thriving night market.
We got back to BNH at about 11 plus feeling very happy but tired. I proposed going to see the sunrise at 0630am the next day and wondered if there were going to be any takers as we were all bone tired after such a long and full day.
After all, it was ok to sleep in as the next day was to be a rest day but I knew I needed to see the magic of a brand new day. Will I wake up on time? I didnt wait for an answer as I fell quickly into slumber, feeling so delighted and tremendously grateful to Abba Father for the privilege to be here in Pai once again.
No better place to be in love than Pai...
Pics - KC, ST n AL