On Saturday morning I woke up, ate some bacon, and decided to ride 100km.
I wanted to challenge myself.
So over breakfast, I watched a youtube video on how to change an inner tube, mapped out a route, and headed into the hills of Northern Thailand 🙂
Not being an experienced cyclist it turned out to be a terrible idea! 100km is a Really. Long. Way. And the route was largely uphill, making it a grueling experience. But oh what an adventure! I found elephants, got bitten by potentially dengue-fueled mosquitos, and had to hitchhike in a truck after getting lost in the dark.
My favourite moment was finding these elephants by the side of the road:
Took a photo:
And then got scared:
In any case – and elephants aside! – I rode 100km … and few things taste sweeter than achieving something to which you set your mind. A grand day all round!
Riding the Samoeng Loop
I set off from Chiang Mai to ride the 88km Samoeng Loop which is a very steep, but incredibly beautiful circuit through the foothills of Chiang Mai. See Bikemap.net for details. I added an extra loop through the old town of Chaing Mai and out to the airport to make up my 100kms.
With this profile it wasn’t an easy ride:
But it turned out to be pretty special: cool, fresh air gave me goosebumps as I rode through Thai hills, complete silence calmed my soul when there were no cars for kilometres, and locals came out into the street to wave as I rode by.
Thailand… you’re not a bad Saturday date…
The first 10km were along the highway and I crossed my fingers hoping no crazy driver would mow me down. Gradually the route became rural and wild. Most of the road looked like this: just me, some trees and a road:
I rode through this village:
Past this service station:
And past this sign. Wait, what?!
Then I rode 20km up to this view point:
Where I stopped for a rest in this little shack.
Then I battled my way uphill… and after riding straight up for an hour, I found what I decided was the summit.
This meant, there was only one thing to do. Keep going … down !
Going down was actually easier said than done, as the ‘downs’ were incredibly steep and involved negotiating difficult hairpin bends!! A more experienced rider would probably have loved it – I found it thrilling and a little scary. I was desperately hoping that no one would come screaming around the corner in the opposite direction and take me out … or that I would lose control and fall off the edge of the cliff.
Towards the end of the day, I experienced the highlight of the ride. The most beautiful, stunning sunset over the hills of Chiang Mai:
It took my breath away!
After riding through the sunset with my jaw at my ankles (it was truly, a stunningly beautiful moment): I decided the safest thing would be to hitch a lift through the darkest patch of the ride, and continue riding back in town where there were streetlights. I was lucky enough to flag down this lovely lady, and she let me jump into the back of her truck, and sit in the tray as she drove down the hill towards Chiang Mai. I then had to make up the km’s in town, but it was safer than riding in the dark hills alone.
All in all, it was an incredible day.
I feel satisfied to have achieved my goal of riding 100km alone.
Admittedly, it wasn’t an altogether out of the blue decision to step out of my comfort zone. It’s been a year of challenging myself – I temporarily paused my legal/human rights career, decided to do a triathlon, won silver at the Hua Hin International Triathlon, and made plans to move to Indonesia to become a Dive Master. All these activities are new challenges and have resulted in unexpected adventures. And besides. I had my good friend Brad on Watsapp – I updated him as I rode to make sure someone knew I was safe and asked his advice along the way – he rode the same loop in 2014.
All in all, I highly recommend riding the Samoeng Loop – maybe allow more time than I did (5 hours). There were many viewpoints and lookouts and it would have been fun to explore off the main route. Next time I’ll start earlier. Yep, I think I’ll do it again! 🙂
Thanks for the good times Thailand 🙂 You’re a killer date 🙂