Thirty nine days in Thailand

Thailand | Mae Sariang - Hot - Chaing Mai - Phayao - Chiang Khong | 9th July ’15 to 18th July ’15 | 10958km

With no other choice than to rest Flo’s knee for a few days we found a quiet (totally empty in fact) wooden riverside hotel that fit the bill.  Faded photographs depicted a visit from the King of Finland in former, more glorious years. Recuperation meant me faffing with anything that needed faffing with, reading, playing cards, lots of eating and updating this. Nice to eat at the same place and buy pineapple from the same lady for a few days in a row. Not taking well to the anti inflammatory, antibiotic and pain killer combo Flo didn’t really leave her bed for 48hours. Eventually I got itchy feet as we need to keep moving, a deadline to make in China at the back of our minds, and so began a series of leap frog journeys. Flo felt well enough to hobble onto a minibus bound for Chiang Mai, the bicycle doubling the cost of the ticket, and I caught up over a couple of days on the bike. Odd to ride alone so rode until just before dark, clearing the north western mountains and eventually asking a grumpy monk if I could kip the night in his temple. Strung up the mozzie net and used my shoes to weigh the head end down, terrible mistake as they smelt so bad it kept me awake. The monk did give me a candle.

In Chiang Mai we saw a doc who pulled Flo’s leg in all directions, confirming some slight meniscus damage and an unrelated stomach infection, explaining why she was quite so out of it a few days earlier. Told to leave the stitches in a while longer and not to put too much pressure on the knee for six weeks... After a rough week, Flo did perk up when we found a pizza place, we haven’t had pizza for so long!

The next leapfrog was north easterly to Chiang Khong, on the border with Laos. Six hours on a bus for Flora and back to back 175km days in the saddle for Luke. No monks were available that night so a no nonsense road side motel did the job. It had mirrors on the ceiling and each side of the bed, perhaps aimed at fans of optical illusion? Owner lady was up at 6.30am as I was leaving and gave me some bananas. That day, with 125km in the legs, plus the long day before, I made the unforeseeably poor decision to try and hop over that ridge to get onto the road I should have taken instead of this one. Rather like an optical illusion, the road dipped sharply and I was confronted with a wall of tarmac that the photo below does little justice to. With thoughts of Hardknott having an angrier steeper Thai brother I was in trouble at the halfway point, succumbing to putting a foot down and spluttering into a tiny patch of shade, a first of the tour. If I could have lay in the foetal position I would have but my bike would have careered down the hill into oblivion. After pushing for another hot and exposed 250m (another first) and eating the afore mentioned bananas, the emergency biscuits were sought, but turned to flour in my mouth - out of water and over heating there was only one option, sit and wait. After a couple of scooters crawled past with sympathetic glances, a truck finally inched around the corner. The first summit was only 500m metres further up and the truck chugged to the top, me lying spread eagle in the back. In the tiny sleepy village everyone was hiding from the sun and one small hut seemed to be doing food. Noodles were agreed upon and I essentially put my face into the bowl and slurped. They were cold and fishy. The grub did wonders though and the final km or so to the real top wasn’t anywhere near as steep.  The final tour first of the day was hitting 85.8kph on the suitably sketchy barrier-less descent, brakes being rigorously feathered and buttocks clenched.

Reunited with Flora in Chiang Khong where she’d found a guesthouse and removed her own stitches, we went in search of an alleged ‘bicycle museum’. We found it above the Hub Pub, run by a scouse chap called Alan, a handy professional road cyclist and holder of the record for faster circumnavigation of the world. The tour stage was soon on the TV and we were discussing the best and worst North West road race circuits with a cold Chang. Guinness World Records stipulate a minimum of 29,000km, passing through at least two antipodal points, for the round the world record - Alan's stands at 106 days, 10hours and 33mins. Bonkers. A crash had almost ended his record attempt at one point, but his worst crash he told us was descending off an incredibly steep hill not 40km from town, over cooking a corner with no barriers…

Tomorrow we cross the Mekong and enter Laos, our 9th country, so ending thirty nine days in Thailand. They do baguettes in Laos apparently!

Days - 39

Longest day - 176.5km

Distance ridden - 2009 Kilometres

Free nights - Eleven

Max temp ridden in - 42.5°c

Punctures - Eight for the trip, which is pretty good.

Gets downs - Flo well and truly ahead on that front!