After a second breakfast at a small place where a cheerful lady sang along with radio as she cooked, we climbed to a pass at m ( ft). We broke the slow granny-gear ascent with a few shady stops for liquid refreshments. As we descended, I hit an all time speed record of kmh, albeit only for a very brief moment. We had crossed from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai province at the summit, and were descending into Khun Chae National Park, where a highlight is Mae Kha Chan Hotsprings … “The highest hotsprings in Thailand.”
I had been looking forward to soaking my entire aching body in sulfurous water, but despite various signs announcing “spa,” we could only see the water channeled into special streams that allow one to sit demurely bathing one’s feet. Perhaps my feet could have benefited, since my lumpy little toes are suffering in unforgiving cycling shoes. The extensive market of souvenirs, even if some were OTOP products (one tambon -community, one product) didn’t hold much appeal for us, and we didn’t really need eggs boiled in a basket in the geyser by a hill tribe woman. We pressed on looking for accommodation.
After a few queries, we saw a sign saying “room for rent”, and met Oum (her nickname), a woman in her forties who was just opening a tiny hostel. We were her second ever customers and her first foreigners, so various neighbours dropped by to say wat-dee and inspect us. Oum’s mother prepared a fried rice supper and we had an early night in a big bed with cartoon character sheets and ruffled pillows.
In the morning, we had and early and substantial breakfast prepared by Oum’s mother, and watched television cartoons that provide Buddhist instruction (with English subtitles) for kids. We had a round of photos with Oum and her mother, and left a Vancouver postcard as a thank you. After pedalling the first few hundred metres, we went back realizing that the fond farewells may have meant we hadn’t paid for breakfast. Oum just said “My mother want take care you.”
2009/01/23:to Chiang Rai km
It was misty as we set out, and Chris took quite a few rice paddy photos. He also stopped to take photos of a brigade of girls in blue hats who were armed with brooms and a few mattocks. We thought they were Girl Guides or something similar, because Scouting seems to be tied in with school system here. The teacher/leader (on a bike) invited us to follow the group to its destination, which we did.
They were a group of hill tribe girls (Akha?) who lived at a kind of residential school, since there are no schools in their villages. They were walking from their school to their dormitory grounds to do a cleanup. Their dorm reminded me of a very large Alpine Club hut. The teacher told me the project was “funded by foreigners”, that the students were “Christian”, and that they return to their villages every two weeks. We moved on, buying plantains (thinking they were bananas) from local vendors who spoke a dialect.
Further on, Chris stopped to photograph a modern wat, and we listened to a group playing various folk instruments. One of the players came over to pour Chris a shot of the home brew they were drinking, and announced happily that Chris was “lucky” as he poured it. He has learned we were Canadian. As we moved on, Chris shook his head and agreed fervently that he “bloody well was.”
We are about to book two days’ boat trip from Chiang Khong to Luang Prabang, Laos, for Tuesday and Wednesday. We think we’ll rent motor scooter to go to the Golden Triangle and the Opium Museum tomorrow. We’ll cycle to Chiang Khong on Monday. Today we need to tape Chris’s handlebars and clean our chains.