3 Day Mt. Bike Adventure. Part 3: Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai.

Had an incredible day of delightful single track through the forest and miles of dirt roads through remote countryside. It was topped off with the Chiang Dao Cave  and ruins exploration and by my best meal yet here in Thailand at a local open air restaurant near the cave. The tumeric chicken dish on the right was an outstanding flavor feast!

 

After our afternoon ride, we closed the day in comfort and beautiful surroundings at the rustic mt. biker’s haven, Padeng Lodge.

 

Back on the bikes at 8 am the next morning with more wonderful single track and back roads to explore. I had to make a pit stop along the way and that’s when we discovered this delightful coffee shop/ vineyard/farm – something you might expect to see in New Zealand.

Midday, we stopped for lunch in bustling Fang at a Muslim noodle shop.

 

While I have a thing for the name Fang, I wasn’t crazy about it. Of course, this dose of civilization was a bit of a shock to my system after all the remote countryside we’d traversed by bike and following my Karen Hill Tribe trek earlier in the week. Thankfully,  it was only a matter of minutes before we were on back roads again, passing scenic mango, garlic, eggplant and rice plantations along the way.

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After roasting on the bike for the better part of the day, I was quite happy to roll into Thaton, a small riverside village with lots of charm where’d I’d staying the night on a hotel with AC. To be continued…

Bangkok: Wat Pho, Grand Palace, Wat Arun

Not a city girl so only 1 day in Bangkok before I take off for the mountains of Chang Mai. My day’s agenda in Bangkok is Wat Pho, The Grand Palace and Wat Arun. After a not so refreshing 5 hours of sleep and a buffet breakfast at my hotel, I hit pavement for the 5k stroll to Wat Pho.

While walking provides great perspective of the area, I quickly learned that it does not provide the best experience here.

Impressions:

It’s SWELTERING here! 96 degrees plus “big league” humidity. (The pool at my hotel is bath temperature.)

The sidewalks are crowded minefields of obstacles, uneven pavement and unpredictable curb heights. Must be very alert, which is tough when you’re sleep deprived. The air quality is poor  – heavy with vehicle exhaust, industrial and cooking fumes.

It was fascinating to be up with the locals, getting a glimpse into their morning routines as they opened up their storefronts, walked to school in their blue skirts and pigtails, or to their jobs in various work attire. (Strange, just realized schoolgirls present, but no school boys.) There are thin feral cats running amok, experts at dodging the traffic and darting here and there.

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A typical storefront and living quarters as well…

Wat Pho is one of the oldest, largest temples in Bangkok and also one of the most significant temples. Best known for its 51 yard long Reclining Buddha which is composed of a brick core, plaster covering and gold leaf finish. The buildings are spectacular as well with their ornate, detail of typical Thai temple architecture.

 

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Having read all about the various tourist scams in Thailand, I wasn’t entirely surprised when a helpful, friendly Thai man struck up a convo and told my travel buddy and I that the palace wouldn’t be open until 1:30 PM due to Songkran, the New Year Holiday underway and a special Buddhist ceremony. It seemed plausible though. It was a holiday. He took out a map and described other attractions where his friend could take us instead. (Typical scenario where a tourist gets hijacked and financially extorted for the day.) There were many religious groups dressed in black around, which supported his story and he had no trouble looking us in the eyes as he pitched us. The palace compound is surrounded by a high wall  so it’s difficult to ascertain what is going on unless you walk around the perimeter, which we did. Guess what? It was open. So we dodged our first scam bullet.  The Grand Palace was a bit of a mob scene. Too hot and crowded for this semi-agoraphobic so I made a quick escape and headed for Wat Arun instead.

 

Next we picked up a Chao Phraya Tourist Boat Day Pass and headed to Wat Arun. As reported by others, the Tourist Boat is a great way to see the area. It’s only about $5 and you can hop on and hop off as many as 13 stops in different districts. Plus you get a little breeze on the boat. Tip: The boat runs every half hour, but you must stand on the dock and wave it in if it is not dropping passengers. Lesson learned. (They don’t mention it when you buy your ticket.

The iconic Khmer style tower of Wat Arun (temple of dawn)was under construction, but it was still worth a stop as you can see. The 76 meters high tower is decorated by thousands of tiny seashells and porcelain, I’ve added some pics from the boat ride and various other stops, including the a flower market. i don’t think it’s the famous one (Pak Klong Tald), but it was spectacular in it’s own right.

 

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After 6 hours of walking around on 5 hours a sleep, I saluted the day with an early margie. Returned to the hotel, solved some tech issues with the blog and got a quick gym workout in. (Bike & some weight.) With plans to bike and trek in Chang Mai, I need to make sure I can workout in these conditions. The gym was minimally air conditioned at best so it simulated real conditions…