June 1, 2006 - Thursday
Chiang Mai, TH to Chiang Rai, TH

To find a scenic way to get to Chiang Rai - that is the goal. Chiang Rai is about 160 kilometers north-northeast of Chiang Mai. With fast, direct roads connecting the two, this trek could readily take only 2 hours - certainly less than three. I have all day.

I took road 1001 north out of Chiang Mai and then turned west. 1001 was busy for the first half hour - "traffic" getting out of the Chiang Mai area. Eventually the traffic went away and I was left alone to ride along in the valley. Highway 107 that I took yesterday - off to my left at the base of the hills to the left - had more twists and turns and I was thinking the "highway" route might have been nicer than this.

Before long the road started to roll up and around the growing hills. This gave some twists as well as views over the valley. Just south of Luang it hopped over a hill - winding up one side and twisting down the other. Up at Phrao, 1001 would end with 1150 running east to west. The direct way would be to turn right, so I took a left. 1150 went up and over another hill and led to some fun running with steep switchbacks and nice sweepers. The valley views on the western slope had steep slopes that were a mix of trees and bare rock.

Popping out at 107 I turned north. 107 - wow - being a larger class two lane I wouldn't expect it to twist and turn as much as it did. For more than 20 miles / 30 kilometers there were long sections of turn-turn-turn. The traffic was heavy and passing options were limited but I didn't get stuck behind any behemoths for long. Many of the drivers are courteous. The drivers 1) use their mirrors and are aware of what's behind them and the 2) use their turn signals - both to indicate their intention of turning as well as to indicate to a following vehicle if it's safe to pass or not. Many, seeing me riding behind would simply shift left onto the shoulder / motorbike lane to give me space between them and the centerline to pass - regardless if oncoming traffic was there or not. Very courteous. I always waved thanks after I went by.

A comment on this bike - it has "sport bike" looks but is mostly a miniature version - both in engine size and physical size. I can sit in a mostly vertical position and still reach the handlebars - not being leaned forward to reach them. BUT - when coming down a steep grade, getting on the brakes, I can feel the weight of my torso pushing on my hands. My hands do get a bit tired when coming down the side of a mountain.

South of Fang 107 heads east towards Chiang Rai. I took the 1089 and headed through Fang and to side roads beyond. My thought was to take some lesser roads up to Mae Sai on the border with Myanmar (Burma). From there I'd roll east along the border and then come back down to Chiang Rai from the northeast. Depending upon time I could "extend" the northeast segment as there were several road choices.

Between Fang and Mae Sai I would encounter military guys on horseback - the only horses I've seen in Thailand, another hill hop, two large Buddha's poking out of a tree covered hillside - one reclining and one sitting, a snack brake to avoid some rain showers, and a gorge in the hills to my left.

These military guys had typical camouflage uniforms and rifles. Rifles are also somewhat visible at the checkpoints. Each checkpoint probably has more than one but they're often out of sight in the sandbagged "hut". Occasionally an officer will be out with rifle in hand (I travel through two to maybe five checkpoints per day). As for the military guys on horses - we're close to the Myanmar border - perhaps people are border hopping into Thailand?

The hill hop was different as there was a long section on the downslope that was "under construction". I put that in quotes as it seemed it had been this way for a long time. It seemed like they oiled and sanded the roadway - but it had been this way for so long that old branches and such were laying about in the "unusable" areas that had heavy oil. This was cautions going with rocks and sand in the corners.

Down from that it was more flatlands with hills to the sides. I could see a rain shower to my front left and it looked to be headed where I would be heading so I took a break. I found a shelter that was nearby the two Buddha's. Taking some shots of them I settled in and had a snack. No rain concerns where I was at through the wait. Done waiting I headed out - good timing. I was running in roads that had been rained on but were now mostly dry. That lasted for maybe 10 minutes or so. I was happy with the outcome. It was divided four lane up to Mae Sai until I saw the gorge.

The gorge was a deep-V cut in the hillside. Behind the V was another hill (with the ridge of that probably being the Thailand / Myanmar border). The clouds were low so the hill extended up into the clouds. I took several photos of the gorge from the roadway before deciding that there might be a road into or through the gorge. Off I go.

Taking the next left turn I wound my way around to as near as I could get. There would be no paved road through and I would only get so close. I went up a rocky road that stopped at some farm fields. I parked the bike and walked the two track a short bit. Seeing a farmer walking the other way I commented on the beauty of the area and he responded with a smile and a thumbs up. The sun would occasionally light up one of the faces of the gorge.

Memory jogs recorded I pointed the bike north. Mae Sai - a border town and perhaps the farthest north in Thailand I'll get. The town seemed nice enough. It had a large border gate but aside from that there was not much interest from me so I clicked just a couple photos and started the trek east.

Rolling through the countryside - afternoon sun - mostly blue skies with nice cloud formations I had a thought: Given the choice - no rain and clear blue sky or some rain and good clouds - I'd take the clouds and put up with the rain. The rain here is a bit different than at home. Rain showers are more localized. You can see the whole shower as they're small. Weather reports show high probability of showers but they don't say that the showers will only hit only a small percentage of the forecast area. June 1 - a coincidence that I write this. June is the start of the rainy season (though many have said that the rains started early this year). I wonder, for later in the rainy season, if the coverage of the showers would increase?

Anyway, heading east I had the chance to photograph one of the rice field harvesting machines. Much like a combine at home except this is a bit smaller, is on tractor tracks, and is often "painted up" much like the colorful buses and trucks.

Also along this route would be the "Hall of Opium". Poppy farming was large in this area. The "Hall of Opium" was large too - and nice looking - like there was a bit of money behind it, fitting.

Shortly after that passed-by attraction came the tourist town of "Golden Triangle". Triangle, I assume, comes from the border of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos. No idea where "Golden" comes from. One website, www.gt-rider.com, details some good roads to travel when in the area.

While taking some pix of clouds and scenery I kept looking towards my destination of Chiang Rai - and the dark clouds over in that area. Those dark clouds were now dropping rain and I was wondering if I would be able to get to town, find a hotel, and get under cover before they arrived. I could stop at any of the covered bus stops and wait out the showers and at one point I did stop at one to decide if I should stay or not. Noticing the direction of the clouds I thought I could make it. Some rain did get me but not enough to consider stopping nor enough to get out the rain suit.

Down into town the sky was getting dark at the north end. Some lightning cracking across as well. I was thumbing through the LP book in search of a good hotel reference. Number 26 - Moon & Sun Hotel is the choice and I know where on the map it is - but where am I? I route about the city for ten minutes before seeing another hotel - Wiang Inn. It is referenced in the book so I now know where I'm at and where to go - north to the end of the street and take a right.

Hotel in sight I check in. 400 Baht ($10.67 US) for an old room or 500 Baht ($13.33 US) for a new room. I'll take the new room. This hotel is nice - perhaps the BEST value so far. The prior best value was the guest house Chantabury. The nicest room was the one in Bangkok.). While I'm inside showering it's raining outside - great timing!

The GPS threw me a curve ball today which is why the first portion of the tracklog is different - missing. I deviated from my standard process of downloading the tracklog to the laptop, saving it, and clearing the GPS. This time I uploaded a portion of the prior days track back to the GPS so that I could use it as a bit of a map about the city. This apparently changed the tracklog recording method to OFF instead of retaining the usual setting of FILL. I didn't notice the issue and turn it on until mid-day.

MPG, 5 MB, 1 min 12 sec

The video shows the "tire cleaners" that are on some trucks, the two dogs getting exercise chasing their white pickup (they would later get a ride), a long tail boat working up the river, two poodles on the back of a motorbike, one of the farm "utility" trucks.

Rolling north on 1001

Getting up on the hill to see across the valley.

Taking a short break on 107

The odd construction area. One lane is tarred and various bits of branches are in it - making it look like it's been sitting in that condition for a bit.

So aside from the unusual road - the scenery was nice!

I'm thinking this is a visitor on a local styled bike. He was moving fast and was dressed with more protection - unlike the locals.

The reclining and sitting Buddha's - poking out of the tree covered hillside.

I was waiting for the rain showers to move out. The hillside outline is visible to the left and to the right - but not in the center.

Kicking back at a roadside rest spot. Cement tile roof. Wood timbers for some support. Bamboo floor and roof members. It's a "suspended floor" as what I'm sitting on is about the height that a chair seat would be at.

The gorge that kept grabbing my eye.

A nice backdrop for a school

The school's name plate.

The dogs finally get to ride the rest of the way

The pickup made better time than I did...

I clicked images from several spots - most of them made the cut.

Look at that - no red fuel can. Not needing it anymore I asked Andrew and Rob if either of them would want it - Andrew tossed it over and took it thinking he might see how far his bike goes on a tank. Rob thought that it would be wiser to do that test when closer to home - should the bike have issues after going dry.

So, Andrew, how many kilometers does your DL-1000 travel on a tank? What type of riding? Where the side bags on? Contact page

At some points the sun would shine through the clouds.

Mae Sai - the border.

...and end of the road for me. From here I'll backtrack partway through town and find the road that heads east.

A harvesting / combine.

So now you know what to look for, in Thai, for the "Hall of Opium"

Looks like some rain in the center of that mountain set.

Coming into Golden Triangle

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