Monthly Archives: November 2012

Tha Ton to Chiang Khong, the long way!

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Tha Ton is a sleepy little village right next to the border with Burma.  I was invited up for lunch with a nice group of Thai women who were on holiday from Bangkok, staying in the local temple complex. Napa and her ‘city’ friends had come up for a week of yoga and getting up at 3am with the monks for praying (only I encountered them the previous night on a night off getting hammered at the local bar!)  It turns out anyone can stay in temple accommodation – all that is needed is a donation to the temple at the end of your stay.

The ferry down to Chiang Rai from Tha Ton is quite the experience – even for an adrenaline junkie like me.

Wee boat with HUGE engine.

Half a dozen of us were making the trip that day, trusting our lives with the driver who was weaving in and out of the rocks and rapids, all the while at a fair old lick.

Once in Chiang Rai, I quickly found a bed for the night, and started wandering the streets to stumble into a….pre-teen beauty pageant where girls as young as 6 were dolled up and put on the back of floats/rickshaws.  It was all very strange I have to say.  It was made even more strange by the fact that it was absolutely tipping it down with rain and those who didn’t have umbrellas just continued to sit there soaked to the skin smiling away and waving at the crowd as the spectators cowered in shop fronts.

The next day I headed  north with a view to catching a ferry to Laos & Luang Probang.  I ended up missing a turning and almost ended up in  Burma, so tracked the road down past the Golden Triangle, where Laos, Thailand and  Burma meet. I finally made it to Chiang Khong after 145km in one day.  Epic.

The number at the bottom is how far I have cycled to date.

Finally, for those of you who have been following my blog, but have not yet donated to my charity, please do so.  I know how many people read my blog and it’s about time you paid for it!!  Any amount is good, so long as it’s got a zero after it! 😉

http://www.justgiving.com/JohnnyMcManmon

Blowing Raspberries at dogs.

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I stayed in Malee’s nature bungalows near Chiang Dao last night.  While there, I visited a temple close by which involved walking up over 500 steps through the forest.  Every hundred yards or so there was a saying nailed to a tree which very cleverly gave you something to think about as you puffed up the next set of steps which meandered through an awesome forest.  At the top you entered a shallow cave which had become a bit of a shrine to a monk who had died.  A very peaceful place deep in the forest.

The next morning I set off at the crack of dawn,  (I know it’s an early start when I catch the monks doing their rounds offering prayers in exchange for money – door to door) as I knew I had another big day.  Thankfully it turned out to be one of the coolest days I have seen so far.  Having started so early, I was on the lookout for somewhere to get a coffee, when 2 pretty aggressive dogs took chase down the road – no need for a coffee after that I can tell you!  I don’t think the dogs here are used to seeing pushbikes, which are obviously silent.   The answer was  to make motorbike noises as I approached other dogs which the they seemed to understand, though I got a couple of strange looks from the locals.   I made it to Tha Ton right up north by the Burmese border by about 1pm – I had just missed the ferry down to Chiang Rai so am staying here tonight.

Finally, I couldn’t help but notice how this road sign I saw today is similar to one we have in the UK, though it is subtly different.  Thailand’s good education system has even made it onto road signs – the children actually carry books!

Back to Chiang Mai. Time to be a tourist for the day.

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I enjoyed a day on the bike which had, for the first time, absolutely no hills.  It showed in my average speed – every day so far I had averaged 12 or 13km/hr.  The ride on the flat up to Chiang Mai averaged at over 20km/hr.  I made a huge difference being able to stay cool by having the wind in my face as I cycled.

I had a really good coffee at a random little coffee shack, who it turns out the owner of which is an avid cyclist.  So, only asking for a coffee, I was given a coffee, a cup of tea as well as an ice milk tea which payment was refused for – much appreciated.

Each one with a light bulb in it

Arriving in Chiang Mai had it’s own challenge though, which was finding a bed for the night.  Loy Krathong (click here), a light festival which attracts thousands of tourists had filled up many of the guesthouses.  it took 8 requests for a room before I found one.

This combined with the weekly Sunday street market made for quite the event.

Filling candles in Doi Suthep temple

I hired a scooter for the day (awesome fun) and went up to Doi Suthep temple, which I have included a few pictures of.

I intend to head north tomorrow towards Fang, Chiang Rai and eventually Laos.

Andy – saw this, thought of you 🙂

The only begging I have seen since arrival to Chiang Mai.

Great street food.

Mae Sarieng to Hot – Hot by name, hot by nature.

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  • For the second day in a row I have cycled over 100km – today included a 20km climb which took almost 3 hours, mostly in bottom gear all before breakfast.  I ended up having a 4 egg omelette on rice at the top of the hill. There was also a 20km descent towards the end of the day which I really appreciated.  I would have stopped earlier though there wasn’t anywhere to stop along the way as it is quite  a remote region.  A cabbage growing region by all accounts, as I must have been passed by at least 50 pickups overflowing with them.  More than once I had to serve to avoid one that had escaped from the pickup and had fallen off,  onto the road.

Much of the day was spent thinking of ice cream – the past week or so I have been accustomed to seeing ‘Walls ice cream’ bunting above every village store, though the past couple of days have been in a much less touristy areas.

Tonight I’m in quite a cheap (250bhat), but perfectly clean guesthouse on the outskirts of Hot, and boy is it hot.  As I’m back down in valley floor it’s about 28 degrees at night time.

Tomorrow I’ll be heading north back to Chiang Mai, where I’ll try and formulate a plan for getting into Northern Laos (as well as have a rest day).

Johnny the travelling pharmacy

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I had to take a couple of days out in Mae Hong Son due to a couple of infected mosquito bites.  I ended up taking myself to the hospital as I knew I was after antibiotics and I wouldn’t be able to get them from a chemist (one of my legs had started swelling up).  The health service is something here is something quite remarkable – I was seen in less than 10 minutes and the whole process cost less than a pint in my local pub.  OK, the doctor was a bit keen and prescribed me 2 types of antibiotics, antihistamine tablets, calamine lotion as well as paracetamol but I’m certainly not complaining!  He also said I should not do any exercise until the infection clears up, but Mae Hong Son is not such a bad place so I stayed there a couple of days.

I now seem to have quite the collection of creams, pills & lotions – certainly not what I was expecting, but thank god for modern medicine as we would be lost without it.  I’ve got paracetamol, ibuprofen, co-codamol, antihistamine, amoxicillin, metronidazole (last 2 antibiotics), anti-malaria tablets if a malaria carrying mozzy bites me, deet spray to prevent mozzy bites in the first place, bite cream for after I get them anyway and calamine lotion for when they get itchy.  Oh and chamios cream for my cycling shorts, athlete’s foot cream and sun cream.  Quite simply ridiculous!

Part of the temple looking over Mae Hong Son with rapidly approaching thunder storm.

I made it down to Khun Yuam today from Mae Hong Son which is a comparatively easy 65km, though mostly gently uphill.  I seem to be off the tourist trail now as more locals are taking an interest in me as they pass on the road.  I had a bit of a moment on the road today when I thought I almost cycled over a snake in the middle of the road, thinking I was in the middle of nowhere immersed in nature.   It was a computer USB cable.  Perhaps all those drugs are getting to me!

Pics

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Typical early morning view

Breakfast. About 40 pence.

Everyone kept wanting to take a picture of the crazy cyclist at the top of the mountain, so I got one back…

Yum!! 

 

Temple above Mae Hong Son.