Day 7, March 5. Back to Chiang Mai, and home.

They bolted off like a couple of Tour de France riders pumped up to the gills with EPO the moment we rode past the welcome arch at the edge of town … and I was left all alone to amble along at my own pace.

So much for pre-ride agreements.

As for me, my pistons needed a longer warm-up period, but it was alright, I was enjoying the ride in the cool of the morning to care about chasing them. Traffic was sparse save for a few students scootering their way to school.

I would not see Shang until Soppong..he was that far ahead. As for Mo, I caught up to him just after he stopped to shoot some pics at the intersection that marked the start of the long climb to the peak, 20km from MHS. Without panniers, and knowing that it was really the last ride of the trip, I decided I might as well have some fun.

I overhauled Mo soon enough and after that, we never saw each other again except during a brief downhill section when he caught up to me. The next time I saw him would be at Soppong.

I met Mo here, and decided to play Tour de France in the mountains 🙂

It seemed to me riding this section in reverse is a lot harder, as the climbs were longer. I’d also learned one very important lesson doing this climb — never switch off your climbing mode even after cresting the peak.

I did, and I paid for it.

3km of dizzying downhill later, it started to climb again, not steep but just enough to remind you of the lactic still buzzing in your tired quads. This would go on for about 2 km where it would then tease you with a teeny downhill, which added to the torture of another 2 km of steep climb.

It was not a pretty sight (and sound), as I rode and cursed and swore loudly.

In all, it took me 4 hrs and 39 min of non-stop riding to cover the hilly 64kms. Shang had already checked in to Soppong River Inn’s coffee shack by the roadside by then and was already enjoying his iced-coffee long before I arrived. Mo ambled in later, about 25 mins after I arrived.

I was also the beneficiary of the trip's 2nd puncture -- amazingly, just 10m from Soppong River Inn where the guys and the pickup were waiting. And I wasn't even pedalling ... just coasting to a slow stop when I felt the front going mushy on me. I could only offer a prayer of thanks ... 🙂

Cooling down with iced coffee

After some food washed down with the most delicious iced-coffee ever, we rearranged all 5 bikes, including 5 pairs of panniers, helmets and handlebar bags. It was a tight squeeze but we managed to get it all in. I wondered if Robot’s bike would have made it 6 if he had been around…. probably not, and just as well. Even 5 was too many, especially with the likes of Mo and Shang.  In the end, 4 luckless backseat passengers had to execute contortionist-like positions just to fit in. Shang being born with longer than normal legs, of course, claimed the front seat.

Loading up the bikes onto the Triton ...

5 bikes full... and panniers

The truck’s aircon wasn’t up to it as well, even at full blast, so we had to wind down the windows a bit for some fresh air, but we made it in one piece to Chiang Mai, including revisiting the fish-restaurant in Pai for lunch.

By the time we arrived at Na Inn in Chiang Mai’s old town (with the help of my GPS), Roland had already checked in. He had started from Pai at 6am that morning and took him only 8hrs, including an hour or so goofing off at 32 Coffee Hill, and even patronising the classy toilets we were all so enamoured with.  At the hotel, he even had time to walk to the bike shop nearby to collect the 6 bike boxes (in 3 installments) for us which Ms Maew from the hotel had so kindly arranged for us earlier.

We only had one extra day in Chiang Mai, so we decided to go shopping, hitting the biggest shopping mall in the city. It was nothing like Bangkok’s swanky Siam Paragon; in fact, it looked like it was a couple of decades behind time, but it made up for it in the delectable array of Thai food in the basement food court.

The Chiang Mai version of KL's Sg Wang ...

but with a better food court

and endless variety.

One last (free) coffee before we head out to the airport

A very versatile tuk-tuk ...

6 bikes in boxes, all our baggage plus 6 passengers...2 standing on the railing.

Well, it was the end of another ‘tour’, and not exactly a strenuous one at that, too, with only 5 days of riding and plenty of rest in between. The MHS loop is certainly good for a revisit. But I’d probably do the roadie thing if I ever come again…the 1,864 bends are just begging to be ridden on an anorexic, all-carbon bike with equally undernourished wheels. It’s all about speed, speed, speed …. and I’d definitely do the full loop of 600 plus kms instead, through Mae Sariang.

Till then … Sawadee Kap (or is it Sawadee Krap?… I can never remember 🙂

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5 thoughts on “Day 7, March 5. Back to Chiang Mai, and home.

    • Thanks Tom. It’d be better if we actually did one togther in the not too distant future….for old times sake 😉

      Sent from my iPhone

  1. What a trip Mike! Enjoyed savouring each word and pic. Best bicycle write up I’ve read for years… Thanks for sharing. So where to next my friend? 🙂

    • Thanks Al, or is it Barnabas? 😉

      My next tour? I’m thinking of one that’s a bit more caffeinated — maybe Java, maybe the Bolaven Plateau that you were talking about? Laos in all its backwardness and relatively unspoilt state is still quite a draw for me.

      cheers mike

  2. hi mike

    Glad you enjoy the Rt1095, try Rt 211 NONG KHAI, you will be cycling beside the Mekong on your right untiL Chiang Khan. Than switch to Rt 201 to LOEI, than Rt203 to PHU RUEA, than Rt2013 , HW12 to Phitsanulok . From here you can get a train to BKK, than to Hatyai or fly back.

    I have done this in 2007 10 days, nice scenery and hilly, especially LOEI & PHU RUEA sector. And NKhai to Chiang Khan you have the Mekong to make you forget the terrain.

    I managed to Dansai. And has to travel back by coach to BKK than by Rail bak to Hatyai. Got to get back to work I believe your group will be able to make it to Phitsanulok.

    Go in Nov or December, cool weather. I bet you will enjoy this Route.

    cheers
    lim

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