Day 2: Chiang Mai to Lampang 135km

Started my day at 6:30 because I wanted to head off to the Immigration office before starting the cycle trip. I went for some breakfast, check the obligatory Facebook, then packed my bags into the Spice Roads bus and headed off to the immigration office.

Immigration opened at 8am, so I figured if I arrived at 7:45am I would be early enough to get into the queue. The immigration office was exactly like South Africa, dunno why I thought it would be different. I decided to skip the visa extension and pay the fine. Fuck that, too much effort, I don’t care anymore.

I asked the the tour driver to take me back to the group so we could start the tour. I arrived around 8:15am and we set off shortly there after for our first serious day of riding. We had 130km ahead of us, one climb and would end in a city called Lampang.

We rode through Chiang Mai in much the same route as the first day when we did our warm up ride. We headed out towards the farm lands. People were getting to know each other and chatting. I seemed to get along with the Danish guy Svening really well, he was a kayaker who had been kayaking the world circuit in his younger years, pretty fit guy.

I stopped along the road a few times to take shots of the local farm lands. I saw a dam with a guy floating on it picking something, Woody (guide) said that he was picking morning glory. We had been eating the veggie in a number of dishes during the course of the holiday. We also saw long beans, bananas, Thai eggplant, rice paddies and some fish farms which were interesting to see.

Our first pit stop was at a Buddhist temple along the way. The pace was fairly easy going until this point because we were not on straight roads and had to stick together. After refueling and snapping a bunch of pics we headed off.

Our next stop was another temple, this temple was much older and Woody explained a number of interesting facts about the Buddhist temples. We spent quite a bit of time at this temple, prayed to Buddha and donated some money to the temple.

The next stretch was set to be straight road and the guides allowed me to head off on my own. I decided to put foot and seriously push some high speeds. The one old dude Allan decided it to try give it a go with me, we were pushing 40km per hour when he dropped, I kept going until I hit a cross roads. Wow it felt good to be pushing the speed on a road bike. I had forgotten what was like to ride like this, surprisingly I was feeling super strong even though I had not trained on a bike in 4 weeks.

I hit an intersection and waited for the others. Mr Tee joined me and I decided to test his it riding skills. I pumped it even harder than before to check his break point or how strong he was. We were riding through such beautiful landscape, I saw so many things I had questions about and asked him a few questions. He got annoyed with me because I was speaking while we were riding so hard, his words were “no talk when fast ride”. I chuckled and pushed on. He sucked my wheel and didn’t do much work on the front. Either way I was loving the riding.

We had a pit stop, much fruit, food and drank plenty fluids. The temperature was slowly rising, we were feeling the heat, but the great thing was it wasn’t humid, thank goodness! I kept pushing hard, but not top speed this time, some other people joined us and we stayed together. I basically sat on the front doing most of the work, which was fun actually.

The old dude Allan decided to attack us, the game was on, next Mr Tee attacked, we kept attacking and going for it until we hit a highway. Next was the climb we were told about in briefing. Mr Tee and I dropped the other pretty quickly, then next thing I looked back and he was 50m behind me. I was hurting a bit, considering we still had the rest of the climb and another 45km before we got home I decided to ease off.

After we got to the top of hill it was pit stop time again. The first person behind me was Svenning, I was amazed at this guys stamina and strength. Then came Lesley the Alaskan woman and after that the rest of the peeps hit the top in drips and drabs. Allan who was 72 and had been attacking hit the wall, he was dehydrated and feeling the heat badly.

After refueling a bit we headed down the mountain to the elephant sanctuary and rehabilitation clinic. We had lunch there and afterwards went to feed the elephants. Snapped a million pics of the baby elephant and mummy elephant. Aaaaaah sweet, happiness.

We were quite far behind schedule and the guides were concerned we wouldn’t make the hotel by dark in Lampang. We pushed on to Lampang, the sun started setting but we decided we were close enough to just just make the hotel before complete darkness fell on us.

We arrived at the hotel at 6:40pm in pretty much darkness. The guides said we would have dinner at 8pm and we would travel to the on horse drawn carts. Lampang is known as the cowboy town. he horse drawn carts were a real novelty.

Dinner was next to a river again and we had a live band playing cover songs. It was hilarious listening to the cover songs. We had a fabulous dinner, the food was yummy. We stayed at the restaurant for a couple till 10pm.

On the way home I asked the guides to drop me at the market. I bought myself an AngryBirds tshirt cause I been playing tons of Angry Birds this holiday, I was very happy with my purchase. I headed back to the hotel we were staying in, on the way back I made a stop at 7eleven to pick up red bull for my vodka drinks. I bought a Chang for the walk back…. Mmmmmm… Chang o’clock at 10:30pm.

On the last stretch I stopped off at Kem Tattoo and had a phat chat session with some local Thai peeps. Really funny guys, they were listening to Slipknot and pouring me large SangSom drinks. I proceeded to get really drunk with the guys. I taught the guys how to say “Aweh”! I love Thai people, so friendly and easy going.

After getting fairly motherless with the Thais I really did head home and got to sleep sometime after midnight.

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Day 1: Spice Roads cycle trip starts with a warm up ride

I woke up at my friend Jonathon Beedham’s condo this morning know that Barbara was safely on her flight back to South Africa. I felt like I could face this day with full power. After the day before’s chaos travelling I knew today would be better.

I woke up fairly early and didn’t want to disturb Jonathon and his girlfriend, so I took the oppertunity to plan some work for my LightSpeed team back home. Felt good to plan some work.

Once Jonathon woke up, he came down stairs and we sat catching up for a while. He is in the US Airforce and had been working in Chiang Mai for about 28 months. In this time he had learnt fluent Thai which is extremely impressive to me.

His Thai girlfriend came downstairs and joined us. I had asked them the night before if they could help me construct a Thai phrase for my tattoo I want on my calf muscle. The phrase I gave them was “Leave only footprints and take only memories”. There is evidently a similar Thai phrase or saying that the Thai people use, so we researched it and found the letters. Jonathon printed it and his girlfriend said the phrase while I recorded her voice on my phone.

Jonathon said he could drop me off at the Imperial Mai Ping Hotel where I would be staying for the first night of the cycle tour. He also helped me find a place to have my legs waxed, he left me at the waxing place and we said our goodbyes. What a big help Jonathon had been, without his help I would have struggled!

After a painful full leg waxing I headed back to the Imperial Mai Ping hotel for a cycle tour briefing. Mr Tee and Woody were our tour guides., they explained roughly what would be happening each day for the next 11 days along with a host of warnings and our they gave us tshirts.

We started our warm up ride at 2:30 and headed out to a nearby area called Baan Wai that was known for its wood furniture. The day was set to be about 45 km, I was not quite sure what to expect. Most of the people who were on the tour were 50 plus except for one couple who had not really done a lot of cycling.

I was a bit worried I would be bored with the pace, but Mr Tee said to me that he raced road biking and would make sure I was able to go fast when I wanted. We slowly meandered out of Chiang Mai at a leisurely pace, which was fine seeing it was just a warm up ride.

We stopped for pictures along the way whenever needed. We quickly moved out of the city and into the more rural areas with rice paddies. I am very interested in farming Thailand, the floods, general life so I asked lots of questions. the guides were very informative and I got a good feeling about the coming days.

The idea was that we would stop every 30km for snacks, drinks and a breather. Seeing it was a short day we only had one pit stop. We stopped at a wholesale furniture place with spectacular furniture. I specifically noticed a swing chair that we first saw at Klong Proa on Koh Chang, the price was amazingly cheap for such incredible workmanship and quality. To ship this home would be near impossible and costly.

After some tasty snacks and much needed drinks we continued with the ride and back to our hotel. We arrived back at the hotel around 6:10pm and were told that dinner would at a restaurant in Chiang Mai. We left at 7:30pm for the restaurant in a mini-bus. The dinner was fabulous, we were next to a river and the setting was just magic.

It was good to engage my fellow tour members, there were some interesting people on the tour. I was very happy and looking forward to the rest of the tour. We headed back to the hotel around 10pm.

Once back at the hotel I immediately headed out to the Chiang Mai night bazaar. I got a little shopping done, the market was fairly large so I knew it would take a while get through it all. I was done by 11pm and headed back to the hotel. On the way back I got a foot and leg massage in for 200 baht / 1 hour, so cheap it’s hard to believe.

Hit the hay at just past midnight.

Thailand Honeymoon Trip October 2009

Its long overdue that I post this blog post. In October 2009 my wife and I went on our honeymoon almost 3 years after getting married.

We used the Lonely Planet Thailand – August 2009 Edition and Phangan.info Booklet – Issue 18 September to November 2009 with Phangan Map and guide to plan the most of the trip. The timezones we moved through relative to GMT were South Africa +2, Hong Kong +5, Thailand +6.

On the 1st October we woke up at 3:30am, our Cape Town flight took off at approximately 7am and landed in JHB at 9am. Went to duty free and bought 2 x 1 litre whiskey bottles – 1 x Famous Grouse & 1 x Talisker 10 year – and 1 x dual pack wine from boschendal Next flight from JHB to Hong Kong left at 1pm 2nd Arrive in Hong Kong 7am checked through arrivals and customs – had to fill in forms declaring we didnt feel sick or have flu-like symptoms… quite a few people wearing face masks, mostly Chinese – only saw 1 european guy wearing a face mask. Caught a train from the Hong Kong airport to Hong Kong Island via Kowloon Mainland Hong Kong Climate extremely humid, Went for a mission around the streets of Hong Kong island looking for interesting sites and our hotel booked for 1 night on the way back. Walked up and down and around, sweating like crazy and feeling completely disorientated. Strange being in another country, unfamiliar culture, climate and city… Jetlag added to strange feeling – felt awake but totally exhausted. Around 4.30pm we flew from Hong Kong to our destination Thailand Picked up at the airport by a driver organised by our hotel – good idea not to have to arrange a taxi when we felt so exhausted. Really impressed with Bangkok airport – interesting architecture and very well organised. Taken to the Viengtai Hotel in Ratburri street running parallel to the famous Khoa San road in the old Bamglamfu part of Bangkok Arrived in our hotel, switched on the aircon, showered and poured a stiff talisker Called a school friend Guy van der Walt who had been living in Bangkok for quite some time, met with him for a Chang beer and then some dinner Hit Khoa San road for a few drinks and some shopping Barbara went to bed, jet lag finally got the better of her Ashley continued to party with Guy and ended the day at 3am the next morning with some Pad Thai munchies

3rd Got woken up by cleaning service cleaning rooms around us at 6am, a bit unimpressed at first but what can you do Breakfast at 8am , both feeling rather groggy from jetlag Went back to bed till 11am, got up, had a swim in the hotel pool, then checked out Organised an airport shuttle ticket each caught a taxi to the Chatachuk Saturday Market (4000 stalls), had a snack and a chang beer, hit the stalls, daunting task, only had 30min to visit stalls, but managed to buy a pair of full metal jacket oakleys which certainly look and feel like the real thing… in any case, got them for a bargain. headed back to the hotel to grab bags After fetching bags, caught an airport shuttle as per the advice of the lonely planet – a big rain storm hit Bangkok just as we got on the road to the aiport and we had a very very scary trip – the driver didnt slow down for much and although we were in a hurry, we had a couple of moments where we thought we wouldnt make it Checked in for our flight to Chiang Mai – we flew Thai Air. We laughed a lot about the snack we were served – both of us opened the little lunch boxes, had a look at the contents and promptly closed them again – weird ass sandwiches! To our dismay, no alcohol was served on the flight – oh well Arrived safely in Chiang Mai, the Rux Thai guest house where we were staying sent a driver to fetch us Checked into our guest house the room was very disappointing but we consoled ourselves with the fact that we were only staying for 1 night before leaving for our 3-day hilltribe trek. Met Miriam Krause and Eric Mascal friends, from Munich now living and working in Shanghai, for dinner at a lovely little place called lemongrass and some Chang Beer, great dinner, so affordable, we are feeling the holiday spirit After dinner we took a walk along the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, Hotel close to night bazaar, easy walk

4th October – Early start at 7.30am to sign relevant paper work for the 3 day Trek we were about to start, Had breakfast and left on trek with Miriam and Eric Guide name was Taksin and his helper was called Party Visited a temple in a national park near Chiang Mai Walked 8-9km of hiking – quite tricky and bloody hot, really feeling the humidity Ended in a Karen Hill Tribe Village where we stayed the night. Tribe elder gave us his home to sleep in – rock hard floors and death pillows, but all part of the experience. It rained like hell during the night – thought we were going to be washed away! Everything so intense and extreme, making us completely forget everything else in our lives. Brite moon, almost full

5th October – 15-16km hike in the mountains, with lunch at a Karen hill tribe village Ended the second day at a Karen Hill Tribe Village where we stayed the night in Party house We stayed in Party hut – much comfier beds with little mattresses – still had death pillows but getting used to them now. Amazing dinner, a case of chang later and we were all merry Full moon was not visible due to cloud

6th October – Party stayed in his village and did not join us for the hike or further trekking as he needed to attend to his farm After an amazing breakfast we started an 8-9km hike , ended in the Shan village The hike ended in a Shan hill tribe village, we were going to do an elephant ride first, but the elephants were busy, so instead we had lunch at a local small restuarant After lunch we went to the elephant place to have a ride on the elephant We got the feeling that the elephant place was quite commercial, every time the elephant stopped at a little hut we were offered banana and sugar cane to buy so that we could feed the elephant, this was fun, but the guide seemed rather disinterested in the whole tour, not very settling The route we were on came to an end, but our elephant decided to do another round, the useless guide ignored the fact that the elephant walked off without him We started to worry somewhat as the guide was nowhere to be seen The elephant choose its own route and started walking off into the bush, now we were worried, so we called for help, but still the guides in the distance did nothing to help The elephant was now spooked and started to run, barbara fell off as the protective bar came off, ashley held on for dear life and the elephant ran rough up into the mountain The guides finally realized they should actually intervene, a little too late, ashley was thrown off and landed on his head and back, scrapes and bruises Barbara was trying to see what was happening to ashley, in the process she sprained her ankle badly The guides thought this whole experience was quite funny and were laughing at us, barbara could hardly walk and was badly freaked out as was ashley One of the guides had the forethought to piggy back barbara to where we could load her onto a scooter, then she was taken back to a very worried taksin and or german friends Miriam and Eric We all decided it was best to skip the river trip that was scheduled next and take barbara to the hospital to be xrayed The rural hospital was quite helpful and organised, so we managed to get barbara looked at quite promptly, the doctor and xrays revealed that it was only a bad sprain and not a fracture, what a relief The owner of the elephant farm arrived at the hospital to check up on us, too little too late in our opinion The nurse checked out ashley, cleaned scrapes and cuts, he was in a bit of pain, but nothing serious What a scare for barbara and ashley! Taksin was great, he looked after us so well, everyone was somewhat freaked out. Our driver now drove back to Chiang Mai and off loaded Miriam and Eric at their hotel, then us at our guest house We were given another room at Rux Thai, this time the room was much better, more pleasant inside After a shower, stiff Talisker and some relaxation we called Miriam and Eric about meeting for dinner We had dinner at a restuarant called The Whole Earth, indian and thai cuisine, great service and even better food, the girls drank wine and the guys drank chang On the way back we walked up the night bazaar, it was decided that we had all had an intense day and we would go back to our respective hotel and guest house, barbara was in some pain due to her ankle Ashley decided he couldnt sleep, so at about 10:30pm he went back to the night bazaar to price gifts, after a solid amount of pricing he went back to the guest house around 12:30pm and to bed

7th October – Barbara and Ashley went out for some shopping and exploring, despite barbara ankle she was determined to not let it get us down. The Lonely Planet recommended a restuarant called the Jerusalem Falafel, on the way there we found a tailor called Robin from Tibet, we priced a suit for Ashley and outfit for Barabara, but were not sure After eating at the Jerusalem Falafel we decided to go back and get measurements taken for the new outfits we wanted made, Robin was a great guy and we felt that we were in excellent hands! We paid the deposit at the tailor and headed out for our next mission to find a Spa, the Lonely Planet recommeded an affordable place, after walking around looking for it we found the place, affordable my arse, they suggested another branch that really was a lot more affordable Barbara annd Ashley booked in for 3hr 30min luxrious treament – body scrub, full body massage, facial – both of us fell asleep repeatadily throughout the treatments After that amazing session headed back to Rux Thai guest house and relaxed until We went for the first fitting at the tailor for our new outfits Before heading to the tailor we went to draw some money and stupidly left Ashley credit card in the machine, we only realised this much later before we met up with Miriam and Eric for dinner Again we enjoyed a great dinner despite the credit card incident, this time a vegitarian place that served healthy meal and some chang beers all around Ashley had been in Chiang Mai 4 years prior to that and gone out clubbing at Bubbles, we all tried to go there again, but it would seem that the club was dead quiet Miriam and Eric were leaving for Bangkok in the morning, so we had a final Chang beer each together at a crappy rasta club and then parted ways

8th October – We got up early to do the temple walk in the old part of Chiang Mai city, many of these temples Ashley visited in 2005 At the Wat Chedi Lang temple Barbara and Ashley lit some candles and incense, we prayed to Buddah to watch over us for the rest of our trip in Thailand, both of us felt great after doing this and that our luck would turn After working up a major appetite walking through temples we went for a vegitarian buffet lunch at Khun Charm We decided to treat ourselves to another spa treatment, this time at a place called the miracle spa – herbal sauna, body scrub and a full body oil massage, both of us felt amazing We caught a tuktuk to the Central Plaza after getting back to the Rux Thai guest house, Ashley needed a pair of shoes for his new suit, we found the perfect pair of Dr Martins shoes We went for a final fitting at the tailor, both of us looked amazing, some final adjustments were needed and we were set to return at 10:30pm Off to the Night Bazaar to do some actual shopping this time, so far all the trips consisted of costing and browsing, we bought a host of goodies and then headed off for our last fitting at the tailor The tailor had done an amazing job, both of us looked stunning! We had a chang beer with the tailor, wrote him a recommendation and headed back to Rux Thai for some sleep after a very busy day

9th October – Early start, we need to head to the Chiang Mai airport for our flight to Ko Phangan Met Italian couple Carlotta Croci and Allesandro at the Chiang Mai airport, they sat next to us on the plane to Ko Samui We decided to team up for a few days as we had plans that worked well for them After arranging a boat ticket to Ko Phangan at the airport, we caught a taxi to the pier and grabbed some lunch at a restuarant next to the pier The boat arrived as we were served our food, so we all guzzled our changs and shoved down the food, then rush up the pier and onto the boat The boat ride was approximately 30min and we arrived in Hat Rin, full moon party zone, not what we were particularly interested in We arranged a taxi to our accommodation spot called the Lighthouse, after being dropped off we realised that the walk was approximately 500m along the beach and then along a wooden walkway The wooden walkway was shocking as all we could see were remanents of the full moon party the week before, garabage everywhere, the beach, the coves, everywhere…. mmmm… not what we were expecting The Lighthouse was where Ashley had met friends 4 years earlier, but somehow the place seemed a lot more run down that when he last visited We booked in for our accommodation, the cottages had their own bathroom and looked ok, nothing spectacular except for the amazing view, our deck overlooked some incredible sea and ko samui We decided to dump our baggage and head off to the beach for our first swim in the sea, most welcome swim indeed, suprise surprise, we found a bar and bought some chang beer On the beach we found our first of many island dogs, what a cool mutt After swimming and lounging on the beach ofr some time we decided to head back to our rooms for a shower and freshen up before having dinner in the quaint little restuarant, dinner was awesome, food was delicious We decided to walk off the dinner by strolling along the beach to see what was happening, not much, but the walk was well worth it after eating a fair amount of food Off to bed for all after a great walk, the mattrass was killer hard and extremely uncomfortable

10th October – We decided not to stay on at the Lighthouse and instead move on to Coco Gardens a day early Everyone had a yummy breakfast, we were visited by the resident dog who hung around throughout the meal We checked out of our rooms reasonably early and were on the road again, Ashley took a run into town and tracked down a friendly taxi driver (rare), who then went back to fetch the others We were driven to our next destination called Coco Gardens (recommended by the Lonely Planet), on arrival we could see that the place was well kept and that we would be very happy After checking in we saw our room, luxury compared to the previous room we stayed in and the mattrass was supper comfortable, the team were happy campers After all were settled in we decided to take a swim in the sea and drink a chang Ashley headed out for a explorative run to suss out where everything was, he soon realised that the lonely planet got the location wrong and we were technically just outside of ban tai and just before thong sala the main port of Ko Phangan While the others relaxed Ashley spent about the next 2 hours exploring, he located all the important shops like 7eleven, local super market, night bazaar, main roads in thong sala and even ran back to close to ban tai looking for the Half Moon Party, but didnt find the destination for the party Ashley headed back to the others to report on findings and show them the buckets he had purchased for cocktails Lunch was at Coco Gardens Dinner was at buffet seafood place for Bt99, but we didnt realise that we had to cook our own food …. mmmm…. scary shit Alle got plastered somehow, we headed home after dinner and all went to bed relatively early Barbara, Ashley and Carlotta had one more drink at the Coco Gardens bar, while the rain poured down

11th October – We got up early and had awesome coco gardens breakfasts Hired 2 scooters Drove to to do some exploration, found a beeeeg hike to the highest peak on the island called Khoa Ra 4 hour hike, 2 hours up with 30min rest and 2 hours down, Barbara was a star considering she had a badly sprained ankle Got to the bottom and dealt with a mini nightmare, Ashley had locked his ignition and was unable to open the ignition, he had to drive back to the coco gardens and found out it was simple to unlock Drove back to the rest of the groups

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22nd back in SA