by Adam Corney
I rode 27.7kms today on a half day bike tour out of Chiang Mai city and into the surrounding towns and suburbs.
It’s amazing how much my view of Chiang Mai is coloured by the experiences we as travellers are forced into, whether we want to be or not.
For example, Chiang Mai has its tourist side – the markets, the bars, the restaurants, the tours and treks. All of this occupies our time while we’re in a location, and satisfies our needs – but it doesn’t really open up the city for exploration. When a well-worn path is in front of you, it’s difficult to avoid walking down it.
I took the fervent advice of a friend at Intrepid Travel in Bangkok to take the half-day bicycle tour, and I’m very glad he pushed me into it.
I’m not a cyclist. The last time I rode a bike I was in Melbourne, and it was one of those trendy fixed-gear bikes that all the hipsters love. So I’m not exactly your role model bike rider.
Rit was my guide on the half day bike tour, which was delivered by Click and Travel. He made the trip fun, relaxed, and most of all comfortable – riding at a pace I could handle, and knowing exactly where to go and how to get there.
Rit came fom a family that couldn’t pay for secondary education, so he voluntarily chose to be a monk and receive his education through temple. He lived and studied as a monk for 7 years.
When the time came to leave the monkhood and return to society, he found it incredilby difficult. As a monk, the only skills you’re taught are how to pray and meditate, so you have no translatable skills. He’s studying now for his tour guide certificate and has been a bicycle guide with the company for two years.
What really struck me about the bike tour (aside from my incredibly sore butt afterward) was how different Thai life was once you leave the tourist side. It’s a crime to call their life simple. These people’s lives are not simple – they’re as complicated with relationships, dreams, and desires as ours are. We’re all human beings.
The word I’m looking for is solitude. Compared to the hustle and bustle of tuktuks, taxis, songthaews, and utes, this almost felt like a quiet paradise. It’s exactly the same as our own suburbs – they’re the places you live, not the places you work.
We visited Rit’s home temple; a former Leper colony with a rich history about a US missionary doctor in the early 20th century; and Wiang Kum Kam, an original settlement that predates Chiang Mai.
But the point of the ride wasn’t the destinations – it was the ride itself, and being exposed to the other side of life.
I really appreciated the chance to see what life was like outside of Chiang Mai city – it’s not often you get the chance to escape the well-worn path, even if only for a little while.
Plus it helped me burn off some calories that I knew I was going to be gaining the next day, when I went to do my Thai Cooking Class…