After spending a week in Bangkok on a bit of a vacation from the vacation, I still had a 10 days or so before I could enter Myanmar. The border crossing (near the town of Mae Sot) is just 6 hours northwest of Bangkok so getting there would only take one of those days. Hence, the only reasonable thing was to head up to northern Thailand to get a bit of a vacation from the bustling city of Bangkok.
Updating the blog from Mae Kampong
So here I am, in the mountains just outside Chiang Mai, enjoying the slow pace of the Thai countryside as well as some of the most spectacular roads in Southeast Asia. To the extent that I am now actually heading out on a completely pointless (from a making progress perspective) but supposedly gorgeous 4 day loop around the Mea Hong Son province before coming back here to Chiang Mai on Monday.
The loop I am taking the next 3-4 days: Chiang Mai to Chiang Mai
But anyway, since leaving Bangkok I have managed to do a thing or two worth writing down.
Day 54 – exploring temples and ruins in Ayutthaya: After making the incredibly questionable decision the day before to leave Bangkok around 5pm on a Friday (mainly because I lost track of weekdays long ago) and consequently being stuck in the very rushest of rush hours for an eternity I decided to stay the whole day in Ayutthaya just to recover.
Ayutthaya was the capital of Thailand (or Siam, as it was called back then) from the 14th to the 18th century and still has many buildings and ruins remaining of various palaces and temples from that time. So I got up in the morning, put on my walking shoes and went out to explore as much as I could squeeze into a day.
Walking through Ayutthaya
And checking out some old temples
Day 55 & 56 – making my way to Chiang Mai: Now this will sound much stupider than it is… Or actually. That’s not right. It is probably exactly as stupid as it sounds: I had no idea Thailand would be so hot!? Going through the lowlands in central Thailand the temperature hit 40 degrees every day (which is just not nice, at all). So instead of torturing myself with blasting the 6-7 hours up from Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai in one day I took it easy over two days to avoid the hottest hours of the day as best as I could.
Day 57 – leaving Chiang Mai for the mountains: After spending one night in Chiang Mai itself to get organised, it was time to head out into the mountains to just relax in the cool and fresh mountain climate for a couple of days. And because I have amazing friends in Thailand to help me organise things (thanks Siriphan and Nong!) I was going to stay at a homestay with a Thai family in Mae Kampong, some 50km east of the city.
As I was packing the bike outside the hotel in Chiang Mai, I met this really nice couple who were staying at the same hotel and were also exploring Chiang Mai and the surroundings on a motorbike. After talking for a while about my trip we exchange phone numbers and agree to try and go for a ride together later in the week (which was really exciting because riding together with other people is surprisingly social even though you cannot really talk to each other whilst riding).
Anyway, I eventually got out of Chiang Mai and made it to Mae Kampong and for the first time in weeks I got to enjoy some spectacular mountain roads. And as a bonus, climbing from around 300m above sea level to almost 1,300m took the temperature down from close to 40 degrees to a delightful 23-24 degrees.
Riding up the mountain roads towards Mae Kampong
Day 58 – relaxing in the mountains: Mae Kampong turned out to be gorgeous, and the climate was so pleasant after more than a week in 35+ degrees. I haven’t slept so well in weeks! After finally making it out of bed I went out for a stroll in the village and a little hike up to a nearby waterfall, although with very frequent stops for coffee and fresh fruit.
Walking around in downtown Mae Kampong
And checking out the local waterfall
I ended the day just relaxing on the balcony, starting to write this blog post and organising my remaining days in Thailand.
Day 59 – going for a ride and making friends: As I was cruising around Mae Kampong, I also managed to keep in touch with Ed (fellow biker I met in Chiang Mai). He had another friend who lives in Chiang Mai and they had planned to get together for a ride on the day I was leaving Mae Kampong and asked if I wanted to join. Naturally, I did!
We met up in the morning just west of Chiang Mai and then had an amazing day riding around Chiang Mai, stopping here and there to check out waterfalls, have lunch, check out the Chiang Mai dam and finally have a few well deserved beers in the evening. It was really nice to meet some fellow bikers (which might sound a bit odd given the roads have been full of motorbikes all through Asia, but there is a huge difference when you meet people who are passionate and ride for fun on big bikes) and ride some fantastic roads together.
Enjoying the ride!
Stopping for lunch somewhere on the road
Checking out the Chiang Mai dam