Saturday, January 20, 2018

MHS Day 8 - MHS to Khun Yuam. 72km

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Breakfast is the most important meal for cyclists and we asked Khun Jum to help us supplement her breakfast with ham, sausages and eggs which we bought from 711. It was very kind of her to help us cook them.

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I finally got to assemble Celia's BF Pocket which took me only 15 mins out of the Samsonite. Practise makes perfect but not after many hours of fumbling and finally learning the tricks. Hers was to be the only foldy on our team and it is a very good climber except it was shod with road tires, which though is fast, will be a challenge on broken roads on some small sections. The Thai highways are usually excellent but you never know.

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Today was to be a much easier ride looking at the terrain map - just 3 small climbs to Khun Yuam and a relatively flat ride of 65km. By now we were used to monster climbs and this looked relatively mild.

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Our departure however was delayed as Prof was kept busy with 2 patients, Lance who needed a change of dressing (healing very well) and a French tourist who had an infected hand. He was not shy to ask for help and we were glad we could help him out.

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It was comfortable to stay at Baan Mai Guesthouse and we enjoyed ourselves very much but it was time to go, except for Loh who opted to stay for one more day before he took a bus back to Chiang Mai. We took a group photo with Khun Jum and hubby before saying our farewells.

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The ride out of MHS was cool and pleasant, with Highway 1095 offering wide shoulders. We were spinning at a very good pace and it was a cool 18c. Everyone was in the highest spirits and it was wonderful to be back on the saddle.

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Wayne was busy the night before looking at his GPS map and suggested doing a detour to avoid a mountain pass and we agreed. This was about 18km down the road and when we took that detour, we realised it was largely off road.

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Not only that, it had to cross some streams and that proved a bit too much for us.  Lance in fact dropped his mobile phone here but good thing we managed to recover it! Here he is pretending to look devastated.

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So it was back to 1095 and the steep climb began. When the road is painted red, it meant that drivers are to beware of steep and sharp hairpins, and to slow down when coming downhill. What it meant for us was a hard slog up especially for Celia as it was her first day while we had a week's conditioning.

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Fortunately, there was a lovely cafe and breathtaking view point which we all stopped to have a chat and a drink. Mothership met us there and it was great to see the crew. It was there that I realised we forgot to apply for the MHS Loop Certificates which can be gotten from the Tourist Office in town. A WhatsAp contact with Loh got that sorted and I was very touched by his kindness.

For some reason I felt hungry and ordered a lovely Khao Phad with egg and a freshly squeezed glass of orange juice at the cafe. That was so delicious.

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I have been to this spot 10 years ago and besides being a good place to take a break, it offered a bird's eye view of the mountains. It made me reflect upon the years gone by so quickly and though many things in life have changed, the mountains remained as it were for centuries gone by. Very much like God's faithfulness to us.

That reminded me of a beautiful verse in Psalm 121:1-2 (GNT)

I look to the mountains where will my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.

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We continued on, heading south this time on 108 towards Khun Yuam and met with beautiful rolling hills. I reckon this must be the best part of the MHS Loop to cycle as we were all flying at 25-28km/h and 40km/h down the slopes. At this time we spotted the Mothership ahead of us and we stopped to swap riders.

George who was recovering nicely from head injury could not help himself and wanted to give it a go. All these driving 300km or so got him raring to be on a bicycle and this was the perfect road for him to get his cycling legs back. So he swapped with Celia and was on her BF Pocket.

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We all told him to take it easy and we could all see the joy that radiated from his face!  I was at first very concern for him but off he went like he was born for this, and he is! It was magic to cruise downhill with George and the team, and we were really flying as there were more downhills than up as we rolled along. We all escorted President George like VIP Outriders as we wanted to make sure he was ok. Sinn Tail, particularly tailed George closely like a very caring younger sister and special thanks goes out to her for taking such good care of him.

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George spun for about 30 mins and finished the ride with a biggest grin ever. More than just a bicycle ride, that short experience for him boosted his confidence and well being greatly. It was George's first ride on a Pocket and he was impressed that despite the smaller wheels, it tracked downhill as steady as an arrow.

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We continued for a bit more before stopping for lunch. Somehow none of us took photos of this very ordinary stop perhaps because we all were too busy eating. All I recalled was the ice cold water served in metal mugs! We were clearly out of the tourist belt as there were no fancy cafes or themed restaurants, being so far from Chiang Mai.

Pressing on, we didn't have much distance to Khun Yuam and the instruction was for Mothership to find a nice cafe in town and meet us there. So we all took off and I was sweeping the rear with Celia. At one climb we did, a group of 3 motorcycles passed us and stopped. They looked a bit like Police motorcycles with their boxes and all and I wondered why. Lo and behold, it was our good friend from Muar Malaysia Inchik Acid Mustafa! I asked him, "Was I speeding?"

They were on a N Thailand tour spanning 6000km.  It was amazing to meet a friend so unexpectedly on the road like this and though we chatted only for 5-10 mins, it was so good to see him and his 2 friends. They were camping in Mae Kampong when the cold wave hit them and they frozed at 4c!

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The last 6-7km to Khun Yuam was probably the fastest ride as it was a slight downhill with straight, excellent roads and we all enjoyed this stretch. The below 50 group was no where to be seen! But touring is not just about speed, it is about enjoying the journey especially for my missus and I where we had plenty of beautiful alone time together on our wheels.

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As we rolled into Khun Yuam, we spotted KC waiting for us at the gates of an early Night Market, looking so relaxed and happy. We told him that the meeting point was just 1km up as informed by our group Whats App and we scurried away there. This cafe is just by the Japanese War Museum - a place that is certainly worth a visit and I wrote an article about this 10 years ago.  What intrigue are local Thai accounts of how kind and helpful the Japanese Army were to the farmers as they retreated from their failed Burma Campaign. There were even marriages!

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At the beautiful and cosy cafe - Doi Khun Coffee, Celia wasted no time to order a very tempting ice cream tower that was eaten with the greatest delight. With free wife, cold drinks, coffee, comfy chairs and nice music, all of us planted ourselves longer than usual and it was hard to leave.

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The beautiful Khun Yuam Resort was chosen because it was nestled among rice fields some 4km away from town. It was an easy downhill ride to the resort and we enjoyed the ride there immensely with the sun coming down. Somehow, today was such an easy cycling day!

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I did promise Celia that tonight's accommodation would be impressive and I was holding my breath as my marriage was on the line! What you see in photos are often not what you get. The owner greeted us and showed us to our rooms. YC's family and us took the larger rooms while the rest took the normal ones.

The good Lord had mercy on me as our room was absolutely amazing!  I will let the photos speak for themselves. For 1500B, they were worth every baht!

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The missus was pleased and you know the saying, a happy wife is a happy life. All was well and all was forgiven as the only sounds we should hear tonight were the soothing rhythms of crickets and night birds. So we thought...  

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Here is an excellent video of the resort which captures pretty much the beauty and special-ness of this place...

For dinner, we all piled onto the Mothership and drove to town in the dark. We found a nice local restaurant that served delicious Thai fare. What surprised was that away from the touristy centers, prices really came down and we had 10 dishes including fish, tom yam soup and so many of our favourites. The bill came to less than S$4 per person.  

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If you are ever in the vicinity and want good value and high quality Thai fare, please give this place a go.  At night Khun Yuam is pretty dead and we are grateful to this beacon of hope and nutrition.

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ธน โภชนาขุนยวม
284/2 ม .2 ขุนยวม Chang Wat Mae Hong Son 58140, Thailand
+66 87 186 4548

We retired happy for this relatively easy day to Khun Yuam and being in this magnificent resort really made for a grand close. But we had one more fun activity left in our sleeve and that is the launching of hot air lanterns. 

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Mark and Wayne drew all the different bicycles we used on this trip on the lanterns and I was amazed at the little details they noticed. With the lanterns all filled up with hot air, we released it in the dark, quiet, cold night and enjoyed seeing them soar upwards into the stars.

A fitting end indeed!

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Pics YC, KC, Sinn Tail n AL

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