Farewell to friendly faces of Chiang Rai

Our time has come to depart the lovely chilled out city of Chiang Rai after 27 wonderful days in this province.

The people here have made our time so special and we look forward to seeing you again.

Kung the owner of Shim Coffee

Our morning routine of biking 5km parking our bikes up at Shim Coffee then going for a 30min run in the countryside, returning to Shim for a fab coffee then bike home. Awesome start to the day.

Kung was roasting the coffee today getting ready for another busy week
One of our favourite noodle soup shops for lunch with this lovely man
May and Polly our gorgeous reception girls at Baansiri Hotel have looked after us and we had many a laugh over English and Thai lessons
‘O’ our local 7/11 Manager. Always making sure Leo was cold for us and we could get our supplies
Final Chiang Rai Coffee. Saved the best for last with Too and Ice. The loveliest couple who even gave us some coffee to take with us to Vietnam. Thanks heaps guys, we will miss you.
We even made the photo wall of fame at their cafe.
Security outside the cafe. Not 100% sure if he was required but he looked important and was always friendly to us.
We aren’t the only ones that have a friend in Leo
Farewell Leo until next time, Hoi An tomorrow

Wow – Waking up this morning to the news the boys in the cave are alive.

Has been such an airy feeling biking past the military camp daily seeing the choppas coming and going. Last week biking past the road to the cave, following the 24/7 TV coverage in Thai language only. Seeing rescue volunteers staying here at our hotel. Then a miracle! Now the big job of getting them out.

Drenched in the Golden Triangle

Chiang Saen – Chiang Rai = 64km

Awoke to very heavy rain yet again so the wet season has well and truly arrived in the north of Thailand. Looking out from the hotel seeing the monsoon rain we still decided to hit the road.

So today became all about the destination. Belting out the 64km as fast as we could to return to Chiang Rai.

About to blaze through another check point where the police never seem worried about 2 kiwis on their bikes.

Turned out a fun day of riding as we weren’t cold and so pleased we cycled the loop to the Golden Triangle.

Arrived totally drenched back to our same hotel in Chiang Rai where we will stay for one more week before flying to Hoi An in Vietnam. (Not many pics today as too wet to get the phone out)

No positive outcome on the missing kids in the cave due to the monsoon rains and rising water inside the cave.

Same Same but Different

Mae Sai – Chiang Saen = 39km

Very heavy rain over night and this morning in Mae Sai so we had our brekkie and waited for the rain to ease.

This wet weather is also hampering the rescue efforts for the teens in the cave with the cave flooded………so as of writing this the kids have been in the cave for just over 3 days and no communication and a very frustrated rescue team and worried families.

Our neighbours last night also cycle tourists. Hitting the road this morning in different directions. She was a Thai girl and her partner from England. Definitely “same same” in cycling “but different” in attire!

The rain eased at 10am and we hit the road. Lovely road with very little traffic and perfect riding temps so we could finally wear the uniform again. The uniform isn’t the most breathable fabric!!!!

Stunning scenery through the rice fields surrounded by mountains.

Working the fields but a huge difference compared to Myanmar with a tractor on hand

Quite an airy feeling as we were rolling through the hills, misty weather, low cloud resting over the hill tops as we approached the Golden Triangle.

The Golden Triangle an area historically well known for its growing of opium. Where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet at the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong Rivers.

This hilly region is now the most touristic area in the North of Thailand. This was evident today with bus loads of Chinese, tacky souvenir shops and restaurants catering for the masses. Thankfully for us with it being the low season it was all very quiet.

We made it to the Golden Triangle……..so now time for a few touristy happy snaps.

Grunted Betty and Nancy up the steep narrow street to the spectacular viewpoint. All 3 countries in one happy snap!

Thailand bottom left, Myanmar large land mass in middle and Laos to the right

Across the river to Laos we saw at least half a dozen cranes and what appeared to be casinos in various stages of construction. After a bit of research this afternoon it looks like earlier this year the US Treasury Department slapped sanctions on a Hong Kong based gambling empire which is believed to be involved in drug, human and wildlife trafficking and child prostitution. This gambling empire has a 99 year lease controlling a 102sqkm special economic zone which occupies 7km of prime Mekong riverbank overlooking Thailand and Myanmar. The sanctions aim to destabilise the drug trade in the Mekong area at a time of growing Chinese influence in the region.

So there you have it in the pic below……….progress in Laos eh!

We cycled the 9km up the road with the mighty Mekong on our left and looking across to Laos. Arrived at the sleepy Chiang Saen and found ourselves some lunch.

Cycled around Chiang Saen and found our digs at the “Honey Hotel”. This is what NZ$27 gets us including brekkie tomorrow. No complaints from us!

A nice view to some ruins out the back of the hotel

And a cute little coffee shop across the road where I sit and write this now.

Think this will be where we find Leo later and have dinner. It is also the road we will be taking tomorrow morning to loop back to Chiang Rai.

And Happy 45th big sis, great chatting today

A town in shock……

Chiang Rai – Mae Sai = 65km + 12km exploring the town.

An odd feeling leaving our comfortable base and routine of Chiang Rai to visit Mae Sai, but we wanted to explore the Golden Triangle.

Departing the beautiful Chiang Rai

A stop at this coffee shop 40km down the road and once again awesome coffee and lovely owner.

Mae Sai is the Northern most district of Chiang Rai province in Northern Thailand and is a major border crossing with Myanmar. A very flat ride today straight north on a busy highway with a slight tail wind made for a crusiy ride. You can see on the map Myanmar to the North and Laos to the east where we will be meeting the Golden Triangle tomorrow (heading to the blue marker tomorrow).

Wet season in northern Thailand

The highway we were on today with a great shoulder.

Unfortunately on Saturday afternoon 12 teenage boys and their soccer coach ventured into a local cave 9km from here and are still trapped 55 hours later. 11 bicycles and one motorcycle were found outside the cave that they had ridden to after soccer practice. Due to the wet season it is believed a flood has come through and trapped the boys. Apparently this even made news in NZ today!

As we were biking today we were passed by numerous search and rescue and emergency vehicles travelling at break neck speed heading to the cave. 17 Thailand “Navy SEALS” entered the cave today for the rescue operation but no contact has been made with the kids.

This is near the turn off to the cave in the hills

Fingers crossed we will wake up tomorrow and hear a positive outcome as there is definitely an underlying sense of sadness in the town today. As we hear the rain come down outside it won’t be helping the rescue team.

Eventually found where we had booked at the Mae Sai Holic Lodge. Very modern and great value at NZ$23 inc brekkie

Explored the border town which was heaps bigger than we were expecting. Many Burmese people easy to pick out from the Thais with them chewing Betel, men dressed in their longyi skirts and thanaka (yellow paste) on their faces.

Border post to Myanmar

A great day in the north of Thailand with a lovely meal and our friend Leo who is always close by.

Ticking off the temples

Chiang Rai – White Temple – Singha Park. Loop = 40km

Betty and Nancy were getting temple withdrawals so it was time to go exploring again. This time to the white temple (Wat Rong Khun) one of the most recognisable temples in Thailand 13km out of Chiang Rai.

This temple is now privately owned and restored by one of Thailands most famous visual artists, who has invested almost NZ $2 million dollars into this ongoing project.

They were even giving away free pineapple at the temple! We have been informed the Thai farming economy is currently doing it tough with the price of pineapples, mangos and rice well down. An over supply of pineapples means they would rather give free to the temples than dump. The farmers this season are getting 1THB per kg which is nz .04cents.

From the white temple we biked through the lovely countryside with the mountains in the background to Singha Park. Owned by Singha who are famous for their beer this park is absolutley beautifully manicured with ponds and small tea plantations, walking tracks and picnic spots.

A bit of maintenance on Nancy in Singha Park.

More crazy bugs on the trees. Reckon these would be nasty if they got on your skin.

We were also told to explore Chiang Rai Beach…………

Hmmmmmm Chiang Rai River but called a “beach”.

Continuing to have a great time in Chiang Rai and weather permitting we are going to get on the bikes on Monday and ride to the Golden Triangle for a few days. This is where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar all meet.

Chilling in Chiang Rai

3 months on the road (92 days)

We have been here in Chiang Rai, Thailand for 10 days (after flying from Myanmar) and absolutley loving chilling out. It’s not until you leave countries like Myanmar or Cambodia that you appreciate the comforts of Thailand. The clean streets, the organised lifestyle, great accommodation, super tasty and fresh food and everything is just…… Oh so easy.

That being said both Myanmar and Cambodia were challenging but rewarding in so many ways and without a doubt will be the highlight of this adventue.

It has been great to sit back, relax and reflect on the last 3 months amazing adventure on the bikes. We have stayed in 42 different hotels/guesthouses of varied standard during this time so enjoying having a base for now.

Chiang Rai is a lovely city and Betty and Nancy have been having a great time riding around exploring the sights in between cafe visits. Chiang Rai has a huge coffee culture with the coffee beans grown in the surrounding Mountains and many local cafes roast their beans on site.

Just having a little Asian moment at one of our favourite cafes.

Time out after templed out

Exploring the city

As you can see the wet season has well and truly arrived. This is making us a little reluctant to hop on the bikes and keep touring as the roads are very mountainous and we have heard dangerous at the best of times. So we have put the running shoes on and running and gymming in the meantime.

Along with more coffee breaks while we decide what we will do for the next few months. Oh the stresses of a bike packer! Think we might need to find some more clothes though, so it might be off to Hoi An the clothes making capital of SE Asia!! Sorry about the same clothes in every pic but we are traveling super light.

A ride with Mr Pingpong

Had a good few days in Ban Bueng. This town reminded us of China with heaps of factories that the workers were bussed to and from daily. The town was quiet during the day but came alive in the evenings when the workers returned wearing their drab grey uniforms and living in high density apartments. The whole town seemed to revolve around industry and factory workers.

Bikes all serviced in Ban Bueng. The rugged Cambodian terrain took its toll on Betty and Nancy with them both requiring new chains. So they have had some TLC and ready for the next challenge.

This bike shop was incredible. So many expensive high end road bikes and accessories. Catering for the road bike trend that is capturing middle class Thais.

Andy was explaining that was the size of the wire found in Nancy – 4th piece to be pulled out but the flattie all sorted.

Short walk with the bike boxes back to our digs

Packaged Betty and Nancy up

The 2 hour journey to Bangkok yesterday with “Mr Pingpong” our driver. (Yep that was the name he introduced himself by). Traffic was chaotic in the car so we pulled stumps on the bikes at the right time not to mention most highways won’t allow bikes or scooters. All the same it was an entertaining trip with his English music playlist from Rod Stewart to The Eagles, which gave us a chance to fine tune our singing skills! So watch this space…….!

Mr Pingpong and a selfie before hitting the road.

Hanging in Bangkok. Always so much to see, great food and great fun. Everytime we return to this bustling city we are reminded of just how huge and busy it is……(compared to Nelson)

River houses in Bangkok
Love duck and rice!
The streets of Bangkok
Getting our temple mojo before Myanmar
Final coffee in Thailand for a while.
These nomadic bike packers not exactly slumming it in Bangkok for 2 nights. Last date night with Leo for a while, but we are sure he must have a few long lost relations in Myanmar we will need to track down.

Our next update will be from Myanmar, can’t wait! However we have read that Wi-Fi is slow and hit and miss so not sure when that will be.

Smashed out the Loop

Pluak Daeng – Ban Beung 43km

We were given the 5 star treatment at Pluak Daeng at the PP. Mansion. Seriously don’t think anyone ever stays there as everything was brand new and apparently the 84 room building is 2 years old. Didn’t see anyone else around the 6 storey complex!

Plastic still on the mattress and base as well as the head board.
The fridge brand new still sitting on its box and polystyrene

The room was serviced after one night stay sheets replaced and new towels in plastic again.

Incredible for NZ$25 inc Brekkie!

Then the 5 star treatment continued on departure this morning as we polished off the brekkie cooked just for us.

Egg, little sossies, toast and mango.

Then the departure gifts came out.

Sporting our very Thai looking caps, yep that’s a sequin cap!

Also were given some arm sun protectors and some potpouri…..the potpouri might have been a hint!

What a lovely stay at Pluak Daeng but time to hit the road for our final day of riding to Ban Bueng. Today was all about the destination and nothing to do with the journey as we bolted down the busy highway with a tail wind arriving in no time.

Quiet part of the highway going through factory after factory. We whizzed past Suzuki, Ford, MG, Bosch, LG.

Maps.me delivered the goods yet again and was bang on with an incredible bike store and great digs less than 400m apart.

Giving Betty and Nancy some loving and currently have them in for a service. We will package them up here before heading to Bangkok on Saturday.

So here we are sitting in a cafe in Ban Beung, which we will be seeing more of over the next couple of days.

Then the lovely Mr Teng joined us at the cafe and wanted to practise his English. He is a teacher from Korea been living here for 20 years married to a Thai lady.

Bangkok – Bangkok 1700km

Has been an incredible loop. Think we will have to celebrate with a Leo or 2 tonight and start getting excited about Myanmar on Monday.

Hansel and Gretel Country

Klaeng (Kevin Resort) Pluak Daeng = 70km

A great brekkie whipped up by Ebby the German owner of Kevin’s Resort before hitting the road. (We needed clarification as to why the resort had a random name then found out Kevin is his 14yr old son).

Departing the exceptional Kevin’s resort.

Once again we were keen to get off the busy highway and hoped that the Maps.me app “bike mode” would produce the goods and give us a good day in the saddle…………….and it didn’t disappoint.

We rode for 50km through rubber plantations on remote roads, repeatedly checking the app as it sent us even more remote deeper into the forest.

We had the road to ourselves except for the occasional house which of course had a minimum of 2 dogs that would get the adrenalin pumping as they chased us down the road.

The containers catching the sap/rubber from the trees
Felt like we riding through “Hansel and Gretel” country.
A day of undulating hills, with heaps to look at. Rural Thailand at its finest
Found the first drinks stop at 32km and a delivery man kindly gave us a bag of “shrimp chips”. Strapped them on the bike and off we went.
After 50km out in the whop whops we get to a junction and out of nowhere pops a coffee shop.
The owner of the coffee shop who made without a doubt our best cuppa in Thailand. The aircon was pretty dam good also. Despite it being overcast temps were mid 30s.
50km chilling out with 20km to go

Then the rain started coming down so we seeked some shelter and thought it was 1pm so let’s make it a lunch stop.

Only 7km to go back on the highway but didn’t want to get wet so chilled out at our lunch stop for a while.
Found the only digs right in the town centre and we weren’t expecting much but WOW fantastic digs. Spotlessly clean, towels even wrapped in plastic. Betty and Nancy allowed to stay with us also and apparently we get toast and coffee tomorrow for brekkie so no complaints from us for just under NZ$25.

So here we are in Pluak Daeng. A small town 145km from Bangkok. Possibly might make it a 2 nighter as we may only ride for one more day before pulling up stumps to get the bikes serviced, boxed up and get a taxi into Bangkok on Saturday. Still working through the logistics on that one but not bad if that is our only stress!

Then the hotel staff bring us 2 mangoes which were the best we have ever tasted.

That would have to be right up there as one of our most enjoyable days of riding in Thailand………….except the dogs. Maps.me bike mode and the navigators had a blinder!