Day 4, 2nd March. Pai to Soppong. A short ride up and down a hill.

Bye bye Pai. Today, we’re on our way to the next town on our list — Soppong aka Pang Mapha. It would be the shortest stretch yet but, as we found out, not exactly the easiest. Although Soppong was only about 45 km away, we had no choice but to stay the night there instead of riding the extra 65 km or so all the way to Mae Hong Son … possible but it would have been an absolute killer. It would turn out to be one sweet ride, especially the loooong downhill. Check out the elevation here and you’ll see what I mean.

But first, breakfast ...

This time, breakfast was something more familiar to us -- rice porridge, or what we call 'choke' in Chinese. This particular stall that we patronised is apparently quite well-known. It's located at the junction leading to the Pai morning market.

Rice porridge mixed with a raw egg, complemented by century-egg, and soya milk with ..

... Thai-style 'yau char kwai', or Chinese crullers ... delicious when dipped in soya milk.

Enjoying our porridge on the opposite side of the road in the 'yau char kwai' and soya milk shop. We needed all the carbo and protein we could get.

The going was easy at first, gently rolling upwards … but we knew the fun would begin very soon. About 9km later, the switchbacks were back with a vengeance. …

Both sides of the road were quite arid. It was dehydrating just looking at the parched and droughty scenery. There were many charred spots as well....my guess is, it's the work of careless irresponsible smokers throwing ciggy butts out the window of a moving vehicle. All it takes is one tiny spark ...

The roads starts winding ...

... and I start whining.

A rare photo of me (that's my riding-uphill-on-a-loaded-bike face) on the road ... one advantage of group tours with many cameras clicking away.

Then Mo, who saw the pics I asked Philip to take of me as I ascended a steep switchback, wanted the same dramatic shots for his own collection, so I obliged him. Look carefully at the set of photos below …

Mo starting his ascent ...

ok, time to stand up for that dramatic shot...

...then finish it off strongly. But wait a minute, this is right-hand drive country, which means .... :p

Soon we crested the mountain we were climbing, peaking at almost 1,500m high. We had ascended about 1000m! As we rolled onto the peak, we spied a signboard that made us smile — Fresh Coffee. In this part of the world, when they say it’s fresh coffee, they really mean it. Inside the little hut, I spied a Saeco coffee machine. Impressive! I ordered an espresso and waited for the boy to get to it.

But he seemed a little hesitant … obviously, he wasn’t the resident barista. Then he made a sign that he’d go get someone. I waved him down and told him ‘no, no …never mind, I’ll make it myself.’ Actually, I had also seen the pathetic amount of ground coffee he was putting into the pod and I was alarmed. There was no way a decent brew would come out of that. I piled on the grounds myself, tamped it and proceeded to brew a cup of single espresso. It wasn’t the best beans they were using, likely some cheap robusta, but it was drinkable. Like Mo, I needed my fix ….

The customary group shot at the peak of the climb

Then, it was time to let gravity take over. I already knew that it was going to be a long descent, so I rigged up the camera on the bike to capture the downhill action.

Check out the video below … a little patience will reward you with some adrenaline-pumping action 🙂

It was a real blast, with speeds of up to 60kph and the hot afternoon wind in our faces. The bottom came too soon and a little while later, we rolled into Soppong …

... a dusty, one-street town that would mark the end of the 3rd day of riding.

After checking out another very rustic place called Jungle House, we decided to go back to the first GH that we saw -- Little Eden. Shang was the first to breathe a sigh of relief.

At green Little Eden, we took up residence in 3 A-huts at 400B each for me, Philip and Roland and Terence who shared one.

My 'bungalow', as Ai, the Thai brunette staff called these A-huts. Lovely...

It wasn't too bad actually. The beatifully kept garden outside my hut, complete with a (freezing cold) swimming pool was a rather soothing place to while away an hour or so.

Meanwhile, Shang was ecstatic when he found out about the other real bungalow, one that was perched over the river. For only 1500B, and with air-con to boot, Shang had to have it when he found out it had glorious air-con. There and then, we decided that he would henceforth be called Princess instead of Man.

The honeymoon suite with a splendid view of sunset over the river.

Princess Shang luxuriating on his bed. Mo who shared the place with him was allowed to sleep on the sofa bed nearby.

With accommodation sorted out, Roland, Philip and I headed to town on foot to look for some local eats. There were no decent looking restaurants to be found.  Finally we wandered into the market, saw this nice lady at her unpretentious little stall and proceeded to order a bowl each of … whatever. We were not disappointed.

It was one of the most delicious bowl of whatever-curryish-noodle-soup. Simple fare but so flavourful And at only 20B, with a glass of iced-water, it was ridiculously cheap.

That night, however, we weren’t so lucky. We didn’t have too many alternatives for fancy dining in town, so we had to settle for Little Eden’s not-so-heavenly food, cooked by the Thai lady boss (who’s married to a German by the way). It was pretty salty stuff…

Unhappy diners ... Philip looked like he wasn't going to pay up, even though his plate was empty.

They used nice plates though ...

Tomorrow morning, I was determined to visit the nice lady at the market again and enjoy another bowl of whatever-noodle-soup. She would easily trump Little Eden’s food with her ambrosial peasant fare.

……………………………………………………………………..

Distance today: 45k
Distance to date:

Play back today’s ride at everytrail.com (if you didn’t click on the link in the beginning)

Tomorrow, we head for Mae Hong Son. Also the last ride of the trip.. or so we thought …until Roland the Robot aka Universal Soldier decided that he hadn’t had enough.

Stay tuned…

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10 thoughts on “Day 4, 2nd March. Pai to Soppong. A short ride up and down a hill.

  1. Mike, I think the curry noodles you had must be ‘khao soi’ a northern Thai speciality, almost like Malaysian curry mee or Spore laksa, but richly flavoured with coconut milk. There are beef and chicken versions as well as tofu for vegetarians, plus a side dish of raw garlic or small onions. The popular Khao Soi stalls in Chiang Mai have waiting times of up to an hour. Gila.

  2. Mike,

    I really had a huge kick watching you smoothen those downhill curves. You are the man with the huge B_LLS la (pls pardon the lingo)! Wow, makes me want to go there tomorrow.

    How did you mount your camera?

    Cant wait for your next installment!

    Al 🙂

  3. Haha Al, you’re really itching to hit the road again, aren’t you? Make your year-end Laos tour happen la…

    BTW, the camera was mounted on the handlebar using a nifty mini tripod that compacts into one pc and lets you to bind it using the attached velcro. It belongs to Roland, one of the cyclists.

  4. Matt, that was shot using the LX3, but I recently got myself a VIO POV (http://vio-pov.com/). Waterproof, shockproof and it even has a loop and save feature, which allows me to save whatever that was interesting that just happened, instead of recording everything 🙂

    • That look like a kick ass POV camera. I have never seen it b4. Most of us here uses the GoPro which serve its purpose but Batt life isnt that fantastic! Hope to have a change to see it in action in Dec!:)

  5. I have booked Little Eden for Jan 10 2014, and going there with 8 folks including the renown Uncle KC and Papa Mike! We will be leaving from MHS. Your downhill video is worrying as we are going the other way but whats 16km or steep uphills give and take a few switchbacks? 🙂

    • It’s all in the mind la, Al haha. Anyway, just think of the fun you’ll have rolling downhill for 16 glorious kms… ending in the lovely town of Pai. That’s sweet.

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