Cycling around Chiang Rai (“Just one gear on my fixie bike”)

1 Sep

Yesterday we hired two bikes from our hostel at 50Baht each (1 pound roughly). Slightly too small frames and with fixed gears we set off in search of a cave we read about in our guide. Crossing a bridge and ending up in the suburbs we cycled past an arc by the river, apparently this full size building was a church…

After a 3km cycle through some nice flat countryside we reached the first cave. Down a track with abandoned huts down one side, the atmosphere was pretty spooky. A monk greeted us with no English and signed that we could go up this worn looking stair case. With Clare in front it felt as if this was some old spooky temple (which it half was) and we were about to steal some precious jewel after dodging a few ancient traps and shooting bats. And yes, there were actually bats in the cave way above where my touch beam could reach into the darkness of the main cavern.

After running out the cave screaming with a flock of bats in pursuit… well not really, we carried out towards another “Buddha Image Cave”. This cave was some how less impressive and felt more like a hollow in a rock wall. The resident monk in this place was pretty nice and obviously didn’t get many visitors. He took us through every ritual and got us to pose for a picture in front of one of the statues.

We decided that even though we had seen what we come to see the countryside alone was much more worth the time. With this in mind we continued up the road steadily getting deeper into the countryside. The views were pretty incredible and a light warm rain kept us going. We happened upon a sign saying there was a hot-spring 12km away, with no other real aims we decided this must be where we needed to go (after a small disagreement of “You REALLY want to go to a tourist elephant village along the main highway?”). This route lead us across a huge swelling river, up through mountain villages, over red mud slide covered roads and past smiling/waving villagers.

After a distance that felt way over 12km (I swear it took us about 5 minutes to do 3km then 2 hours to do 1km, according to the signs) we arrived at the hot-spring. The bubbling 87degC water, smelling of eggs, with pipes running into a pool… that was closed.

It was now around 4:30pm and it would be getting dark soon. From what we could tell it was about 20km+ back to Chiang Rai. We needed to cover some serious ground back as we had no lights and our map was pretty much useless out this far. 8km later we were exhausted with some huge hills still to go (remember we had no gears) things were looking a little sketchy. Its worth pointing out at this point pretty much the only vehicles we saw on the road (which only seemed to be every 30 mins or so anyway) were motorbikes or 4×4’s. Behind us I heard the deep rumbling of a vehicle, looking round I saw heaven… a pickup truck. Madly flailing my thumb out and waving frantically the vehicle stopped on the side. I pointed down the road and simply said “Chiang Rai?” hoping that would be obvious. He pointed and gave the thumbs up, we chucked our bikes in the back and pretty much flopped into the back with them.

At last, now we would get somewhere, even if it was not all the way. But after only 5 mins of traveling we stopped in a village I really didn’t remember passing. The driver and his passenger got out to a road side ‘shop’, pointing at a bottle of something and then motioning to us we realised he wanted us to drink with him. They paid for a shot of this white clear rum(?) topped off with a fruity/cherry/red stuff mixer. It was actually pretty nice and wouldn’t accept me paying for any of the drinks at all. In the end they did drop us on the outskirts of Chiang Rai and it was only a short cycle to our hostel. It really is true about the kindness of strangers out in the rural parts.

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4 Responses to “Cycling around Chiang Rai (“Just one gear on my fixie bike”)”

  1. Jane Eve September 1, 2011 at 6:05 pm #

    How lovely x

  2. Nick September 1, 2011 at 10:12 pm #

    sounds fab to me !!!! Just helps to remind you there are good folk out there huh!!!!

  3. Joan Hudson September 2, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    Really sounds great the way you were given a lift like that! Talk about a spontaneous day!

  4. Omid September 2, 2011 at 11:31 pm #

    Clare, post some picture 🙂

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