Monday, September 17, 2007

Cycling along

After Lampang if was off East. I had a look at my map and deciding that Phrae was a long way away I would split the ride and stop at a hotel indicated. So I set off on starting with a climb out of Lampang. The destination a small town with the rather odd name of Long. After another big climb (and walking and pushing uphill) I got to the summit of the hill and whizzed down the other side. Stopping off for a quick snack and drink at a roadside stall, I turned left to complete the ride on fairly flat ground. After asking lots of people I found the hotel and had a nice little bungalow for the night. I headed out for a look around stopping off at a restaurant for a late lunch at Sunflower restaurant. It was a family run place and was invited for more food/fruit but I was stuffed. I had a look around town in the afternoon, then tried to flag down a songthaew to return, but they were having none of it, and I had to walk back. I went back to the same restaurant for dinner where I ordered a glass of beer, but got a pitcher, oh well such is life :)
Next morning up early to head on over to Phrae. More hills! But not such a long ride and got into town in time for a late breakfast of Pad Thai wrapped in an omelette. Phrae is another quiet town, I had a few days rest here as my leg was still feeling not quite right. Lots of old wooden houses, apparently it is famous for the teak growing here, and on the ride out the road was lined with furniture shops. Not quite sure how they all stay in business, seemed to be loads of shops and no customers, but I guess one order is a lot of money. The ride down to Denchai was straightforward. Back on a main highway, so a bit more traffic, but a short flat ride no problems. Found a guesthouse eventually tucked into the back of the town. Finally get the shower working after nothing coming out of the tap. Later on I asked somebody in a shop if there was an internet cafe around and ended up getting driven around town on the back of his motorbike. First place was shut, second place only had games - no internet, third place somebody had died and there was a wake on, but fourth time lucky I found a place to check how many goals Scotland had sunk France by, just the one :)
Late afternoon because it was just a short ride this morning, I went for a leisurely whizz along the path between the paddy fields in the back of town. Even saw another foreigner in his Hawian shirt, must be a resident or very lost. Next day not quite off as early as planned, but should be an easy ride, but... Somebody put hills in the way again, I though it would be a flat ride and the railway runs down this way, but they diverge a bit and the road takes the "scenic route". But I find a turn off for Uttaradit and head down the marked 7kms. I arrive at a small fountain in the middle of a crossroad. Hmm, I thought this place would of been a bit bigger, but I find a nice hotel. That night I have a stroll around and find out the centre of town is a couple of km's away. I happen across some sort of event where I buy my twenty baht entrance ticket to see whats inside. Like a fairground event with some Thai bands and lots of food. I have a cup of sweetcorn with butter, mayonnaise and a spoonful of sugar. Hmmm. I think I prefer it savioury. Also try some rice which is a sweet. Sticky & chewy, but not bad. After that I head for the large tent with the pumping dance music and within they have... dodgems! Not quite sure people were understanding the concept, people would sometimes apologise when your rammed them, haha! I then had a go at knocking down the tins to win something, hmmm, these tins are sturdy, wouldn't dare suggest they are filled with sand!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

On yer bike!

I am back on the old bicycle. I thought I would take a looping trip over to Samoeng for starters. Probably not the greatest idea to start a cycling trip as getting there is really hard! I set off early, easy enough. Roll on past Huay Thung Tao reservoir and then the road links up to the main road to Mae Rim, not much traffic in the very early morning. At this point I decided I wanted a bungy rope to more securely fasten my luggage. So after hunting around and a bit of gesturing I managed to get one and tie up my bag onto the rack of the bike in a better fashion. Then after Mae Rim the hills start, big long high hills at that! I slowly climbed up past the snake farm and the orchid farm, up past the waterfall and elephant camps and up to the top of Mae Sa Valley, and then roll down into Erawan Valley, overtaken by some guy standing on the seat of his motorbike for unknown reasons! But soon it was back to where the climbing begins again.

I wanted a seat for a rest, but none was to be found, nothing about here. Everything is green and lush except the road. Very little around here, no shops or restaurant of farms, just forest. Nowhere to stop, oh well just sit and the side of the road and eat my cashews nuts and replenish with some warm water from the water bottle. Lots of bike pushing, not much riding by now. Arrrgh the sun is getting hot. I hope round every corner for the summit, but the road keeps climbing. But eventually it does get there and I am rewarded with a little fruit store where I get a drink of some less than sparkling water poured into a bowl. I buy some green fruit, like a large apple, nice and refreshing. Round the next corner I stop and rest at a great viewpoint where the scenery stretches away down into the distance, rolling valleys of greenness!

And what a downhill it was around 12km, tempered by the knowledge that I would have to climb back up out of Samoeng valley. I ended up at Samoeng resort 2/3km from town proper. Quiet place, restaurant shuts at 6pm! After walking for a mile or so I managed to find a restaurant which was still open for some noodles (a previous place claimed they had no food left!) I had a rest day here and a rather excruciating leg massage. The next day it was time to leave, with the alarm set for 5:40 to ensure an early start. Not much cycling, "No power" as they say. Lots of pushing the bike for a long way back up this time round the other side of the mountain towards Hang Dong. Again the same as on the way here, when I did get to the top I whizzed down hitting speeds upto 65km/hr (which seems very fast on a bike) and straight past a little town sat in the basin of the valley, there went my chance for food! I clambered back up another really steep hill, by this time the sweat was pouring off my t-shirt onto my shorts, always a stylish look. One final crazy steep climb and I got to the summit and then it was coasting back down hill. Stopped off at a little restaurant, but nobody there. Continuing on I found a welcome village with a handful of places to eat. Some pork fried rice for breakfast! Continuing (mostly) down hill, I got back to a place I recognised and decided to push on to Lamphun. I tried to take a short cut on the minor roads, but probably ended up longer and the road hugs the river which winds and meanders South eventually reaching Lamphun where I ask around for a hotel. Find one opposite a Wat and collapse after a quick shower.

The next day another early start as I want to head over to Lampang nearly 80km away. I've cycled a fair portion in the other direction of this road so knew a little what to expect. I remember a big hill about half way with lots of shrines and a classic motorway services point. I set off feeling okay, but within an hour my legs were feeling heavy. I reached the uphill and got off and pushed. I thought it would take an hour, but the summit was closer than I remembered and then it was another nice downhill stopping off for some grub at the service station. Finally with just 10km left the sun decided to burn through the clouds and heat things up, grrrr :(

Anyway I reached Lampang and now have a few rest days, my arms are a bit red and legs stiff so a few days off the bike should fit in nicely. I picked up a tourist brochure and the first thing said Lampang has "Widely Acceptable Coal", so should be an exciting few days :)