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As I mentioned in my birding post, we spent 30 days in Thailand. Well … I think it was 30 days … from 29 Nov to 29 December. That’s were we ran into a little problem with immigration on our exit … they counted from the 29th (including that day) … so … apparently … we stayed 31 days and our visa said 30 days. My mistake …

After we were in line for our exit stamp we received a little bit of a dressing down and lecture for staying “too long.” We had to go see the “big boss” but they kindly granted us a 1-day extension and allowed us to (sheepishly) depart. If only I had listened to Deb months earlier when she questioned my counting … haha. But back to biking!

When we entered Thailand from Laos I was coming down with a cold … and it jumped on me hard! I was down for the count for a couple of weeks. However, if you know me, I find it difficult to take the rest required to recover quickly. So we went on a couple of bike rides and I just kept prolonging my recovery. Regret it? Nope. I love biking, but it did keep us from doing some things the first 2 weeks in Thailand.

Our first riding was in Chiang Rai … see my previous post for that one! When we got to Chiang Mai we were in the Old Town at first but transferred out to The Opium Serviced Apartments for the final 26 days. The name is The Opium … it wasn’t “opium-serviced” … the apartment was serviced … hello. Haha.

We decided for the first week to try out the Apartment complex’s free bikes to see how they would work. Here’s a couple of photos of those wonderful contraptions.

I offered Deb the opportunity to take one bike and ride on the “back seat.” She said no.The basket came in very handy. One interesting note about these bikes … the brakes were set up UK-style … which means opposite of what I normally think — the right brake isn’t the rear … it’s the front. But, since these brakes didn’t really work, I was Ok!It only took a couple of times of nearly running into someone because I couldn’t stop for us to decide to find another biking solution. Let’s just say that we rode with them … and survived. Haha. We moved on to the bikes you can just rent with your phone. Here’s a couple of photos of those. Yeah … wasn’t really working for us either.

Obviously, these bikes are not built for tall people.

Not only were we finding it difficult to come up with a good bike solution, we were exploring the neighborhood and surrounding areas to find good riding locations. Where we were staying in the city was boxed in by the “Superhighway.” You couldn’t ride on it with your bike and there were only two places you could cross it … and those were extremely busy all the time. We eventually figured out you just had to go for it!

After about a week of this we decided we were ready for some mountain biking. So we signed up for a “Chiang Mai Mountain Biking company” tour.

What a great bunch of guys … the tour guides were excellent and good humored. Our MTB’ing trip was more a Downhill than a cross-country trip. They drove us up to 5,179 feet elevation, put us on hard tail bikes, and proceeded to lead us down the mountain. We climbed another 1,400 feet as well … so our total descent was about 5,100 feet … in about 15 miles … some of the grades were 20+% … rocks, roots, ruts, slick clay … let’s just say we kissed the ground when we made it to the bottom!

Here’s Deb descending one of the steep sections.I had to watch out for cross-bars … some of them were almost too low for me.We thoroughly enjoyed the scenery.We took the opportunity to stop and enjoy looking at the plantations.You can tell by Deb’s expression that this was a great section of trail. Haha.There’s our final destination down there … that lake!This was the sign at the top of the mountain.

We liked our guides and experience so much we decided to rent a couple of bikes from them for the next week. For $64 we obtained two hard-tail MTBs for our use for one week. Here’s a photo.

The shocks were shot, the gears kind of worked, and they were completely dirty … but at least we had new seats and new tires! They were such a step up from the other bikes that we felt like we were in bike heaven. We rode the heck out of those bikes … Three or four long rides out of the city really made for a great experience. There was a great bike trail to use … you just had to get to it. Here’s a video clip of us getting to the bike path. Waiting at traffic lights here is like 10 minutes of relaxing followed by 2 minutes of sheer terror … haha.

Once on the path, it was great riding outside the city.

The path on the left was one way … you rode back on the path on the right.Here’s the entrance to the main bike path.These elephants (and some pandas) were all along the trail.It was well marked and very smooth.Our bikes are taking a rest here.Here we are out in the country enjoying the weather.I’m sure this sign says “have fun” or something like that.The end of the trail! Haha. There was another path close by that we enjoyed as well.

We signed up for another ride for Christmas Day with this tour company … however, we decided to do the country ride. So they loaded us up again and drove us out to the country. It was only Deb and I signed up for this tour so we had a nice private tour through the countryside. Our guide was great, the scenery was awesome and the weather perfect. Wow.

The light green “grass” on the right is a rice plant nursery … this will be transplanted in the fields later.Our final stop on the ride was along the Ping river … very lovely.Here’s a view toward the mountains with a “rice hay” building on the left.Deb had an opportunity to feel up some coffee beans.The end of our trip to the country!Our tour guide “A” was quite the cut up … worked great with us.Another view of the rice nursery.Looking south down the Ping river.We rode along the top of a lake dam during this nice long ride.We even made it to “Mile Marker 0.”

We reluctantly rode our rental bikes back to the shop for drop off as our adventure was coming to an end in Thailand. We thoroughly enjoyed riding in the area … I know if I hadn’t been sick for a couple of weeks we would have explored a lot more. As it was we ended up with a couple hundred miles, several thousand feet and two huge smiles! Success.

Stumblingpiper

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We had another tour (this one of Chiang Mai and the surrounding area) scheduled for this, our last day with Audley Travels. We realized the night before that I was too sick to press on so we called the tour guide and cancelled the last day. We figured, since we were staying in Chiang Mai for the next month, we could see it on our own.

You could say we ran out of energy before we ran out of tours! Haha. It was a big trip … Audley Travels did a fantastic job of organizing this part of our adventure. We knew we didn’t have the energy to organize all of these activities … especially somewhere with 4 or 5 different languages and customs. We gave Audley our likes/dislikes and they tailored the trip perfectly. If we would change anything it might be to take another rest day in the middle … we only had one day off! Haha.

Our final hotel was an oasis in the Old Town … very quiet and it allowed me to rest for the next day and a half. Day 37 begins the second part of the adventure — where we go it alone! Thanks again, Audley, for a great trip …

Stumblingpiper

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We arrived late in the evening from our river cruise. We settled into our room and had dinner at the hotel–it was kind of funny … we decided to eat at the Italian Restaurant … and it was great! We really enjoyed our dinner.

On Day 34 we had a big bike ride … I was a little under the weather but we went anyway. We woke up early and did a little bird-watching in the morning before the tour guide picked us up.

Amon from Chiang Rai Bicycle Tours was fantastic! We were picked up in what I like to call the Prison Transfer Truck … the tour operators and drivers ride up front in air-conditioned comfort while the guests bounce around in the back. lol. We drove for what seemed like 30 minutes and arrived at the shop to be fitted on our bikes.

We had really nice bicycles (hardtails, I do miss the full-suspension!) After a couple of adjustments, off we rode! These were the best bikes (well-equipped, well-maintained) we’ve had on our tour. This family-owned business just celebrated 10 years in operation.

We were touring around the backroads (dirt and otherwise). It was just a pleasant ride around the countryside.

We saw several different plantations/farms. There were rubber trees galore — you can see them collecting the “latex” on this tree.

Here is a field of pineapple plants. You can see a pineapple in the lower right portion of the photo.We took some side trails, unpaved, and paved roads.

Actually, we had a set time to be somewhere (the elephant sanctuary … more on that below) and we asked Amon for extra mileage–so off we went! We were really riding hard and fast in some sections. I had a slight mishap along the way — fortunately, only my shirt and pride were injured! :0)

We were on our way to the first destination in the tour … the White Temple. When you see the photos of it you think: “Wow! This is amazing.”

Then, when you are there, you realize this is the biggest tourist attraction in Chiang Rai — the artist started building it in the 90’s and they are still adding to the complex. It was like Disney-Buddha-land … nothing serene and inviting about this temple. We were there with a thousand other tourists with megaphones … “Keep Moving.” We told our tour guide we didn’t have to walk through and no need to buy tickets — we’d just look at it from the outside and would love to continue riding. He didn’t understand but after some prompting said ok. Actually, it was quite the art display–if you are there, you might as well stop by and check it out.

There were several of these art displays on the property. We were on the “evil” side so many of the statues were creatures and demons. They even had a statue of the Alien from Alien. I should have taken a photo of that one. From this side, you are supposed to pass through to enlightenment … we were already there so we didn’t have to go through. Haha.

We stopped for a quick lunch and then took another short loop ride and showed up at the Elephant Sanctuary. We said goodbye to Amon (and our sweet bikes) and were escorted into the facility.

I’m not sure what to say about the Elephant Sanctuary … this place had 6 elephants. They are trying to take “domestic” elephants and teach them how to be in the wild again … but most of the elephants are there on loan … so if the owner wants them back, they just say “give me my elephant back.” They have tourists come and you can go into the area with the elephants. They don’t want you to get close or bother the elephants — you can just walk into the area with the guide. We said, Ok, we aren’t interested in going in with the elephants anyway. They were happy with this. We stayed around for about an hour and then requested a ride back to our hotel. They obliged us by ordering a taxi and off we went. I don’t know what we expected but at least we saw some elephants. It was still like going to a zoo … the place is about 40 acres. Oh well … cool. 🙂

It was nice to have our binoculars … they have come in useful on this trip even when we aren’t bird watching.The elephant is such a majestic creature … we did love seeing them.And then you realize the Western World has such an influence …This elephant had a rider because it was brand new to the facility … it needed the comfort of human interaction … they work hard on weaning them off human contact.

Back at the hotel … both of us feeling a little tired and I am down with a cold … we went for Italian again. Haha. On to the next day!

Stumblingpiper

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For as long as I can remember now I’ve been celebrating the month of October as “Jamestober.”  I see (on instagram) that other people had this same idea.  Since my birthday is smack dab in the middle of the month I figured why not celebrate all month long!  As part of the celebration, I’ve been posting picIMG_20181017_153203451tures to instagram everyday.  I will now start posting them here …  beginning with yesterday’s post.  I went for my first MTB ride as a 55-year-old.  It felt just like when I was 54.  haha.

 

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