Monday, 28 June 2010

Doi Inthanon -- the highest point of Thailand

This section of the trip was the highlight in many ways; visiting the highest point in Thailand was just one of them ...

From Khun Yuam, now riding eastward after a great night's rest at Baan Farang, we were on the 'return' leg of the Mae Hong Son loop toward Chiang Mai. Up the hills we rode, marvelling at valleys that stretched seemingly forever. Sunlight catching a cute pastel church (yes, a church, not a temple) momentarily distracted me as I rode over a beautiful weir at Kum Sak.

Then there was Ban Gae where we stoped for tea amid the rich-brown-soiled fields. Despite the early hour, the farm workers were on an intense 'rehydration' program at the local coffee shop, giggling like teenaged schoolgirls. Hill tribe kids -- looking more Tibetan or Mongolian -- made their way to school. We enjoyed BBQ chicken skewers, fresh off the flames, for 10 baht a pop. Yummy but bony and crunch. I think they'd left the beak in there.

While enjoying our tea, the farmhands grew increasingly friendly and inquisitive. Who were we? Where were we from? Come, drink with us. No thanks - we've got some miles to cover yet. Besides, beer doesn't taste so good with corn flakes! Before we left, one of the guys had fallen off his stool twice. We left amid spirited calls of Chok Dee (good luck). It was going to be a long but profitable day for the inn-keeper at Ban Gae.

The prettiness of the traditional wooden villages of Mae Na Jon and Ban Hai Boing, nestled on the river, will remain in my memory for a long time. But moreso for Phil, another Aussie, who had to stop at the latter to change his tyre. The road along this section was more potholed than swiss cheese. Jing jing! Vans took lettuce and vegetables to market.

Have I mentioned the min-blowing combination of windy roads, the rice paddies and steep valleys yet? No. Well I'll mention them one more time then. You've gotta enjoy the windy roads, the rice paddies and steep valleys here, full of corn fields, bananas and gaudy temples.
Mae Chan was a surprise package with its ATMs, hospital, massive petrol station forecourt, and -- well it wouldn't be Thailand without it -- a 7-11.  We enjoyed a filling lunch of pork noodles.

Then it was up, up, up ... er, up, up, up ... and up, up, up some more in clouds, rain and dwindling visibility to Doi Inthanon, the highest point in Thailand at 2565 metres. (In the next day or so we would be getting to the northernmost point in Thailand, so make sure you check back for that blog.)

But first we had to survive this ordeal. We inched along in driving rain, visor fogging, icy water trickling down the inside of my wet weather gear. Gee, I love motorcycling somedays -- NOT!

So that was Doi Inthanon. We saw nothing. Just rivulets of rain on my visor. We were thankful to get off the mountain, and down too the highway 1009, which left us a straightforward 60 kilometre blam up the highway back through Chiang Mai.

Next stop, the mysterious and enigmatic The Golden Triangle ...

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