Mae Sot to Chiang Mai
After a rest day in Mae Sot, where we got Sera's bicycle repaired and enjoyed the delicious Thai food, we set off for Chiang Mai. At first the road took us along the Myanmar border and police check points were frequent. However, instead of interrogating us, some of the officers invited us for coffee and whisky in exchange for a selfie.
On the second day of cycling the road changed from easy up and down to very steep, as we headed off into the mountains. The inclination literally got us out of our seats as we crawled uphill with the top speed of 5 km/h. The forested hills were beautiful and as we cycled higher the temperature became more bearable.
Two French cyclists were also fighting their way up the mountain and together we started looking for a place to sleep. Guesthouses or hotels are scarce along this route, but the locals are extremely friendly and welcoming. After filling our bellies at a small roadside food stall, we were invited to pitch our tent in front of a young couple’s house. Even though their four Chihuahuas were not so fond of us in the beginning, we spent a lovely evening together.
The next day was hard again, but the scenery was worth it. As it is dry season now, the landscape is often brown and many trees lose their leaves. It feels a bit like autumn, but the high temperature gives it an unusual twist. The predominant tree species along this route is teak. I'm guessing they are mainly planted. Teak grows quickly and is one of the only tropical tree species that can be planted in plantations.
After 70 kilometers we arrived in Mae Sariang, where we could have had the easy option of checking into a guesthouse with comfortable beds and a warm shower. But after a short stop at a 7eleven, we decided to push on the 15km further to the Mae Umlok Luang hot springs where we could pitch our tent. Little did we know in that moment, that the road leading there was once again extremely steep and this time partially unpaved. We arrived at the hot springs just at nightfall, were warmly welcomed by the family maintaining the hot spring baths, ate rice with omelet and enjoyed the warm water in a bath we had all to ourselves.
We woke up the next morning to the roosters calling (ahem, at 6 o’clock in the morning) and a short sunrise. Today would be the hardest day yet, as we had to climb to 1200m up steep roads. It may not seem like much, but the road doesn't continuously rise, it’s more a steep up and down where it is impossible to find a rhythm. At 5 o'clock and after only 50km we were exhausted and desperately looking for a place to sleep. Once again luck was on our side. The place we had stopped in front of was an arboretum with some office buildings and two employees who welcomed us to pitch the tent and relax. The place was full of orchids, unfortunately most not in bloom though. But it felt great to be sleeping in our tent once again in the mountains, mainly surrounded by forest and listening to the birds and insects.
Now we were only two days of cycling and 130km away from Chiang Mai, but it also meant leaving the higher and slightly cooler elevation and driving down to the Ping River valley. We slept one more night in the little and bustling town of Chom Thong, where we found a great market with numerous new foods to indulge on. When we finally arrived in Chiang Mai, we were quite exhausted from cycling five tough days through the mountains. The next day would be a half rest day, as we only needed to get to our actual destination here, 30 km away from Chiang Mai, the climbing spot crazy horse near Mae On!