Thursday, February 2, 2012

Northern Thailand Winter Ride - Day 1

Following the immeasurable fun and success of the July Mekong trip of the infamous 8, I felt rather inspired to co-lead another ride with my buddy Chris on Jan 10-15. This time for a 240km loop around Chiang Mai with a huge entourage of 12. Dec to Feb is Winter with cool 15c mornings and although day temps are around 28-30c, its not humid which makes for very comfortable riding.

It was almost carnival like when we checked in at  Changi Airport T2, meeting some for the first time. Many who signed up were newbies to touring and their enthusiasm were infectious. We have had preparation evenings on how to pack etc so all the bicycles were neatly boxed and check-in ready.

At the last min, Simon cancelled out but Roland seized the opportunity to join us, and got his air ticket booked just the day before! Talk about dropping everything to go at the eleventh hour, that's true commitment.

Arriving at Chiang Mai airport a tad before noon, it was nice to see everyone working as a team, and 2 taxis and one Songtheaw later, we were comfortably settled at Na Inn in the old quarters.

Na Inn's location is excellent, it has comfortable and spacious rooms, a huge storage to keep our bike boxes and most importantly is very bike-friendly. It was good to see the ever cheerful Ms Maew, the manager again.

We met Matt and Andrea, a zesty and friendly couple, who flew in a day earlier and had a 3 meal advantage on us. Or was it 4?

What was to be a simple lunch of Thai beef noodles, got extended to al fresco Vietnamese followed by coffee and cake at Wawee Cafe. If I didn't know better, this was going to be more an eating rather than cycling trip! Which later proved true when many put on weight on this trip rather than lose, fancy that.

However, there were some who were too excited to assemble their foldies and left immediately after lunch. Chris and I were among the last to put our bikes together and I appreciated the patience of the Na Inn staff. Imagine the mayhem and clutter of having 12 bikes assembled together!

When word got around that there was a bike shop just 3 min ride away, all of them except us ride leaders who were lazing in our aircon room, invaded the little shop. It was exciting to be shown the spoils of their hunt later where we gave fatherly approvals.

Our evening ride was around Chiang Mai to see the many beautiful temples and sights. There are over 300 temples here!

It was a challenge to chaperon such a big group and we felt like sheep dogs. I was amazed and grateful for the courtesy extended to us by the Thai drivers!

Dinner was Chinese fare at the famous Jia Tong Heng where we gouged and went through too many dishes. It was specifically Teochew cuisine as many Thai Chinese migrated from that province and was delectable. We even had Oh-ni, a traditional sweet yam dessert!

This was followed immediately by more eating and joint-stretching Thai massage at the glitzy night market, which fascinates with all sorts of entertainment. A most undeserving reward after riding a mere 8 urban km!

With all that calories consumed, we slept soundly ready to burn it all the next day on our 80km ride to Chiang Dao. Thank God for that!

Pic credits - TU v much indeed:  CW - 1,5,12,16,22   KC - 18,25   Steven T - 10,17,25   Roland - 21  Andre - 15

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