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.

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.