Chiang Rai on the Bike

Stephen Bretherton, Retired, Thailand
01 August 2016
Helping my Korean girlfriend with looking after four of her small nephew is no easy task. They are here for three months doing schooling in English, my nerves are getting a work over and its about time for me to hit the road on my bike with the Big boys.


Chiang Rai with the boys

It was a late start in the morning on the bikes as I wanted to attend the 6:30 Cross-fit training class before leaving, I didn’t want to lose my momentum of doing five days straight in preparations of my big 5 month walk in New Zealand.
Four of us on an overnight ride to Chiang Rai. Three experience riders and one not so with a smaller bike. Brian and I have crf250’s and George with his white surf ski (Forza 300) and John with his 150PCX rental
George met me at my condo and the two of us started from there with the plan to meet the other two at Wat Phra That near Doi Saket (which is about 15km from Chiang Mai). However, I didn’t get the last message with a change of plan to meet the other two riders just down the road from a large shopping Mall called Central Festival on the 118 road . We got to the Doi Saket point, I rode right pass the garage, our meeting point, and with only 200 metres past, we did a U turn and rode back Thai style, against the traffic, George took off and had no problems, I did a sharp turn around and dropped the bike in the middle of the road! How embarrassing, fortunately only a few cars witnessing my poor handling ability. A little damage to the ends of the rubble handle bar grips, I quickly jumped back on my bike and pretend not to have any concerns before racing off to follow George.
As we just finished our coffee the other two riders arrived, as in no hurry we sat and talked for another half an hour. Our plan was, take it easy heading north to Chiang Rai, with a couple of coffee breaks and lunch along the way, which should take us to 3pm arrival.

Thaweesin Chiang Rai Hot Springs

Just before getting to our first stop at the Hot Springs, we passed through the national park area where, if there is going to be any rain, it’s going to be there. Three of us continued on knowing that just another kilometer or so, we would be out the other side of the rain clouds and in no time at all, we would be dry again. Got to the Hot Springs and had lunch and if you wanted, you can boil eggs in a small basket in the thermal pools.
There are springs or on both sides of the road and for what I understand, the ones on the right as you are heading north have a little river with swimming pool for children. There’s a couple of coffee shops where you can soak your feet in the warm water while relaxing which we have done in the past which is located just another 50 metres or so up the road before passing the gray temple, but not this time as we didn’t stop for coffee.
No rain at all at the hot Springs, but our fourth member of the group, with the smallest bike riding in sandals, shorts and T-shirt, was still up in the clouds getting wet as he decided to pull over and wait it out, he just didn’t believe us that all he needed to do was travel another 10 minutes, if that, and he would be in dry land.

Thaweesin Chiang Rai Hot Springs
Rest stop
Finally John caught up and we travelled another hour until we decided to stop for coffee, which is just passed the mango rest stop on your left, you can’t miss the mango rest stop due to the signage every 500 metres a couple of Kms before getting there. Great place if you want mango sticky rice and great coffee, went there last time and loved it. But for a change we stopped at Doi Chaang coffee shop which was only another 500 metres up the road or so, a little expensive with its prices approaching what you would expect to pay back home in the west but it was worth it.


From my last visit

Doi Chaang Coffee Break

Great setup, nice water feature in the front and the seating arrangements with Wifi makes it a great place for a well-deserved rest. Out the back I could see, just past the garden, an open area the size of about two/three football fields which is obviously for drying the coffee beans during harvest season along with the large warehouse next door to supply coffee for their other Doi Chaang shops around Thailand. The garden was well maintained at the back and there were fruits on the trees that I had never seen before and it would have been handy if either I could speak Thai or the staff speak English and tell me more about the place, but obviously it looked like a major distribution center for their coffee, maybe it’s their head office for Thailand. An hour had passed, with a coffee, cake and a herbal tea finished it’s time to move on.


Chiang Rai

We arrived into Chiang Rai mid afternoon and booked into our favorite guest house “Boonbundan”, The place isn’t anything special but at a price of 200 baht that supplies clean sheets, towels, soap, hot and cold shower and Wi-Fi, with a short walk to where the night life is, it’s an ideal place for us.

There are a few bars and plenty of places to eat. Brian always refers to the market food stalls as yellow food which is probably due to the many fried foods available there, which I wouldn’t personally touch. But there’s some traditional northern food done in clay pots which on my last visit was a real treat along with the live Thai performance on stage.
Did the typical tourist thing and waited for the tower clock chime on the hour and change colors, always worth a visit and to watch out for the coo,coo to come out. Surprisingly, many people come out to view the “show” .



Chiang Rai Clock Tower
On the hour
Next morning was a slow start, three of us were up and we found a coffee shop not far were we were staying. Brian was the last to get up this morning, we left him last night at 1am and he wasn’t sure what time he finally got home.
We decided to head north then west then back home to Chiang Mai and our first stop was Baan Dam -Black House Museum (Black temple), been there before and it’s worth a visit but it’s hard to find the turn off from the main road due to the poor signage. Very creative artwork and I loved the eagle oil paintings which I don’t think are up for sale.
Getting close to the Myanmar boarder was interesting with rice fields and windy roads that took away the boredom and there the couple of police road blocks along the way where they showed no interest in us at all.
We separated again with John stopping every five minutes to take photos, we continued ahead with the plan to meet up for lunch later down the road.


Phra Chedi Kaeo

We did a side trip to Phra Chedi Kaeo where there are five temples at regular interval as you ride to the top of the hill. The top temple is the grandest of course. We pulled over for lunch further down the road with the bikes packed out the front, showing our slow rider where we were. We didn’t see him, later he told us that he had thought he saw our bikes but decided to push on to get ahead of the dark clouds that were coming our way. Sure enough, we got wet not long after we got back on our bikes, but in keeping with our tradition, we just kept riding on until we got to May Rim, where George lives at the resort, to relax with a few beers and snake food.

Photo from previous visit on hire bike