This section from Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao is the thirty-fifth instalment of my bicycle loop through South-East Asia from Yunnan – if all goes according to plan. Titled “Slap the Belgian!”, it is simultaneously published on Crazyguyonabike.com, where you’ll find a map with the itinerary and many other bicycle diaries by me and others. I hope you’ll enjoy.

I leave my tiny room in Chiang Mai which I’d rented for 200 baht and go for breakfast at a place called Bon Ca Va. As this is probably my last chance at proper Western food before reaching Kunming, I decide to get a continental breakfast: Coffee, juice, eggs, sausages, bacon, spam-ham, lettuce, toast with butter and jam and french fries. It’s excellent, especially the fries. I just there were more than seven of them.

Can't beat those 7-elevens for their clean toilets and sinks
Can’t beat those 7-elevens for their clean toilets and sinks

I still haven’t decided where I’ll go (the choices are Pai to the north-west and Mae Salong to the north). That’s not a problem because I won’t have to make that decision for another 30 km, when I reach the junction. Leaving Chiang Mai is boring. There’s a fair amount of traffic with which I have to share the dusty and flat four-lane highway 107. Fortunately, traffic gets sparser each time I pass a junction. After 40-50 km, it’s pretty bearable.

The ride remains relatively uneventful until I meet Kung, a Thai cyclists in his early fifties whose family have begged him to stop doing business and to relax more. So he spends his days biking from place to place and taking holidays. Sweet life if you ask me! We ride the last 30 km together towards Chiang Dao where he wanted to check some information about a wildlife sanctuary.

Riding towards the cave finally produces some pretty views
Riding towards the cave finally produces some pretty views

The road has now become narrower and leads through a beautiful stretch of jungle, with lush bamboo forests and banana trees and those really long ones that reach for sunlight amidst the green mess.

We talk a bit and I learn that a real affordable way of travelling in Thailand is bringing your own tent. Many places, including roadworks camps, gas stations with convenience stores and wildlife sanctuaries, as well as national parks, will allow you to put up your tent on their grounds at no or very limited charge. They also provide free access to showers, toilets and sometimes even coffee. In the sanctuaries and parks, you can often even rent tents for as little as 100-150 baht.

Mountains Chiang Dao

Unfortunately, I really don’t enjoy camping while riding so much, but with shower and toilet access it may actually be fun. Before getting to Chiang Dao, we stop at a 7-eleven for cold drinks and he treats me to a large ice tea.

At Chiang Dao, there’s a little turnoff with loads of guesthouses that takes us through a beautiful protected area with different levels of green, backgrounded by an looming chunk of mountain. It’s almost unreal, that’s how pretty it is. We ride up to the cave which seems to be the main attraction around here, but I’m really not that interested in walking around in holes in the ground, however pretty some formations are.

Hobby Hut, my bungalow for the night
Hobby Hut, my bungalow for the night

We also ride to the sanctuary, a massively steep hill of perhaps 30% so when I miss a curve, there’s no way that I can get enough speed to hoist myself into the saddle, so I have to get off and push.

We then go looking for an apparently very elusive guesthouse called Hobby Hut, which I’ve read about in another blog on crazyguyonabike.com. Only when a Thai man recognises my companion from the last time he was here, he’s able to guide us to the guesthouse, which lies on the east side of the 107, not the west.

Evening
Evening!

The bungalows are beautiful and provide a spectacular view of the dark mountain while the sun lights the farming plots on the other side. Inside, they’re pretty if a bit basic. For hygienic matters, you have to go to the common bathroom outside.

As the sun starts setting, I decide it’s time to get some food. After all, I’ve missed lunch and I’m starving. The guesthouse’s chef is in Bangkok so I head to the market of the town, following the example of Tutin. I find some ready-made food: minced pork in a spicy tomato sauce with cucumber, kale and aubergines with rice, a bag of fried pork rind, some seaweed-wrapped fried cookies and then two beers from 7-eleven.

Just wish I had more time to relax here. It's so pretty.
Just wish I had more time to relax here. It’s so pretty.

Not wanting to eat it all at my bungalow, where it’s a bit too quiet to my liking, I ask if it’s OK to eat at another food stall, where a lady is selling soy milk with pieces of fried dough and a bright green pudding which I understand is also made of soy milk. Without the funky green addition (which tastes delicious) and the grains and jelly floating around in the milk, it’s quite reminiscent of the doujiang 豆浆 with youtiao 油条 so popular in China.

It’s already dark when I reach the bungalow and there’s really nothing I can do around here. Besides I feel quite tired so I write this piece and hit the sack.

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