(written by Dave)
Our no-tell-motel was quiet overnight – I’d even go as far as to say that we were the only guests. Of course, if other guests were using the hourly features of the hotel, I’d expect that they would not announce themselves upon arrival. We used our sleeping bag liners on the bed, rather than the covers provided. As we retired for evening, Nancy mumbled her new saying used to register disapproval of our accommodation – “I wish Gretchen were here”. Try as we might, there are some parts of travelling in Asia that you just can’t describe by blogging for friends and family sitting back home in the US, Australia or even Europe. You just have to be here and see it for yourself. When Gretchen visited us last month in Malaysia, we had a number of “I wouldn’t do/use/eat that” moments. It’s not that Gretchen is precious, we certainly would have said the same thing when we arrived here but you sort of get used to it. Last night’s bed coverings fit more into the “ I won’t get used to that” bucket. [Editor’s note – I say it when I wish I had someone to sympathise with my plight, as Dave’s tolerance levels are perhaps a bit higher (or maybe lower is the right word) than mine and I know Gretchen would understand!].
In spite of the bed covers we had a nice morning at the resort. It was cooler overnight and we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast on the veranda. There was some fog about and as we are getting a little further north, it’s actually almost chilly in the mornings. We departed about 7:30 but had no need for jackets. Cooler by Thai standards is still well over 65/23 degrees.
Today’s ride took us through more rice paddies but the terrain changed. It got more hilly, even the supposedly flatter start of the ride was lumpy, with the paddies getting more and more terraced as we rode. It was about 18k on highway 1023 before we reached the junction with highway 11. At the junction we stopped for a coffee and comfort break. The toilets merit a mention as there is a third toilet type in Asia that we’ve not previously reported. I call this version the squatted throne and you can see it in the photo below. I personally think that this is the most difficult of all varieties as there is never anything to hold while trying to balance oneself 6 inches off the ground. There are times when I like not being a girl!
We had heard that there was a hard climb starting at Highway 11 and the reports turned out to be accurate. We had almost 8k of granny gear climbing. Being only 9AM we had some roadside shade mixed with sunshine and it was dang hot when riding in the sun. I had to take my glasses off due to excessive sweat – folks who’ve ridden with me will know that I don’t normally sweat, so it was a good climb. Actually, we both kind of enjoyed the challenge, having had mostly flat roads throughout Asia so far. It was probably the hardest climb we’ve done since early in the trip, back in NSW and the Oxley Highway.
There was no summit sign, or even a temple on the summit, only a small province boundary sign. Once we reached the top, we thought we had mostly downhill to Lampang. We did have a good initial 12k decent, but from there it was more lumpy, including a couple more good granny gear climbs on highway 11. For such a short day, we were both pretty happy to have reached Lampang just before noon. We were shooting for the Riverside Guesthouse and found it with only a couple consults with google maps. Even though we road straight here without much fuss, I do seem to remember a couple, “shouldn’t you check again” comments from my travelling companion [editor’s note – we did find it eventually but I am not convinced it was the most direct route]. Nothing like the mid-day Thailand sun to bring out the best in a relationship. Never fear, we made it without significant issue.
The guesthouse is as nice as we read about. It sits right on the river with a nice covered deck, including hammock (which Nancy used for a nap). We are booked into a hotel tomorrow in Chiang Mai, otherwise we would probably stay here another day. We come back through this way after Chiang Mai so we’ll probably see about a couple nights here and having a look around more at Lampang.
After getting cleaned up we headed out for a curry at a famous local joint called Pa Pawng. Pa Pawng is two short blocks from the guesthouse and on weekends they only do curry. It is family run and easy to spot. They have a big line of bubbling curry-filled earthenware pots sitting right on the street. Temperature of the curries ranges from 1 to 4 stars. We chose a 1 and a 3 and were not disappointed. In fact, Nancy enjoyed hers so much that it was half gone before I could even get the camera out. I’m not sure that there was a big difference in the 1 over the 3, but I can report both as very tasty.
After lunch we only made it as far as across the street where there was an old three-storey rowhouse. It was recently fully restored and today contains a coffee shop/art gallery. It was a short walk but we still managed to force down chocolate cake with our iced coffees. The shop had a full wall dedicated to the buildings and architecture of the street (Th Talat Kao). Many of the buildings are more than 100 years old and there’s an interesting mix of English, Chinese and Burmese architectural styles.
We headed back to the guesthouse to rest from the sun and to make sure that we got to try out the rattan hammock. I am happy to report that the hammock is very comfortable, though the report is only second-hand as I was unsuccessful in prying Nancy out of it once her and her Kindle joined up.
For dinner, we headed back out to Th Talat Kao where on Saturday and Sunday nights they close the street to cars. The street becomes a night market with an interesting mix of food stalls, souvenirs and handicrafts. We wandered the full length picking up single portions of pad thai, papaya salad, gyoza, mango sticky rice and fried ham sandwiches. And before you roll your nose up at the sandwiches, you should know that they were made of processed ham and wonder bread (ok, now roll your nose up). They were about 10 times better tasting than they sounded. Nancy took one bite of mine and offered to eat the rest (I declined).
So tomorrow we are off to Chiang Mai – it’s been a great ride from the south so far. Chiang Mai is the furthest north we will make it in Thailand. We are taking a few days off there, using my hotel points to stay in a swanky 5-star. I may have trouble pulling Nancy away when it comes time to leave…
PS: we’ve had no rain for 4 days – seems only fair that we should mention that after all the focus of rain in previous posts.