Discovering the world on $20 per day ......................

Post 358: Chaing Mai

The festival of Song Kran was over and the people were drifting back to work. Unfortunately that meant Nongnoo travelling South and back to her work in Lak Si … but I had plans in a different direction. I was heading North to Chiang Mai and Nongnoo was a little miffed that she couldn’t join me. Bad news for her but even worse news for me. The only bus ticket available from Phitsanulok to Chiang Mai was 3rd class ….. mai pen rai kap
After seven hours of non-airconditioned hell, I arrived in Chiang Mai and made my way to ‘Rider’s Corner’, a small Inn and Restaurant located on the North East corner of the moat and a haven for overland travellers. ‘Rider’s Corner’ is run by Englishman Phil Gibbins and his Thai wife Som and they’re also responsible for ‘RideAsia.Net’, the internet travel forum specializing in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. Folks say that Myanmar is impossible to enter on a motorbike, but that’s not strictly true. Anybody interested should talk with Phil at ’Ride Asia‘. 400 Baht for a room and some of the best food that I’ve ever tasted in Thailand. Down in the restaurant, where you park your bikes, I recognise two bikes and riders; 8 year veteran travellers Simon and Lisa Thomas. It really is a very small world and for some strange reason, the rest of that evening seems to have vanished in a mist of alcohol and story telling…. mai pen rai kap
Chiang Mai is said to have the finest paved roads and mountain tracks in all of Thailand and I decided to enjoy them all. I should’ve stuck with the Poor Circulation theme and rented a scooter for 150 Baht per day, but I didn’t. I decided to treat myself and as ‘Mr Mechanic’ opened for business, I pushed out the financial boat and invested 700 Baht per day in Kawasaki KLR 250.
The first thing that I’d noticed was that the little KLR was actually a really fine motorbike, far better than the sum of it’s parts. The second thing I noticed was that the map I’d purchased from GT Riders was just a little bit useless. For some strange reason they’d chosen to print the entire map in dark green, deep red and black. Impossible to read in sunlight and thus the mystery tour began.

The roads were really good. Nice tarmac and no straight lines, but the unpaved tracks were even better. The little Kawasaki was an absolute hoot. Nowhere was out of bounds for the little dual-sport and it just seemed to take everything in its stride. At a place that possibly appeared on my unreadable map, I came across a statue of Buddha being constructed high on a hillside and decided to investigate.

The three resident monks informed me that this was Wat Ban Thamisan and invited me to join them for tea. I don’t drink tea, so I handed them a sachet of Nescafe ’3 in 1’ and they smiled. A few minutes later a steaming mug of tea was placed in my hand. They’d performed a small miracle and turned coffee into tea .. Amazing!! …. mai pen rai kap
Heading back towards where I thought Chiang Mai would be, I decided to take a short cut across the tallest mountain. The route wasn’t very short but fortunately the mountain wasn’t very tall and I enjoyed one of the most fun days that I’d ever had on a motorcycle