Made it to Thoeng - a sleepy little town about 65km east of Chiang Rai. On the road at 0900 and rolled into my hosts' place at 1500. The first 40km was undulating, then mainly flat. Mountains flanked the road on either side and was very scenic. Took the back roads all the way and was nice and quiet again (road 1021) I was greeted by Thomas and his wife along with two of his expat mates Frank and Raymond. We chit chatted and went through the usual formalities. After about 10 minutes I hear a hissing sound and my rear tyre just deflated! First puncture on the rear since I left Australia! I was lucky it didn't happen on the road. I just left it to repair later on. Eventually I unpacked and patched up the tube. Turns out the hole was on the rim side, not the tyre side. The rim tape has moved a little and I assume it was cutting into the tube so I moved it back to its proper position ( I need to keep the tyre inflated above 50psi otherwise the rear end starts squirming around from the weight and obviously causes the rim tape to move about) The tyre looking good - only saw 2 small cuts in the tread. Just relaxed for the rest of the day.

04/03/12 - Busy day today. Caught the local bus at 0900 into Chiang Rai. Arrived around 1030 and hired a motorbike to explore the Golden Triangle. Blasted up highway 1 north to Mae Sai (thai/burmese border) massive street bazaar here, then returned to Chiang Rai via the mountain roads to the west (roads 1149, 1130, 1234) via Thoet Thai, Mae Salong Nok and Mae Chan. Wow, these roads were superb - s bend after s bend, slow and fast corners, steep up and down sections! Was an absolute hoot on the motorbike, passing through hill tribe villages, magic scenery. Unfortunately I missed the last 1800 bus back to Thoeng by less than 10 minutes, so I got a local tuk tuk back to base. Quite an experience in itself. 65km flat out at 50kph on the flat, crawling up hills at less than half that - although my chubby local driver didn't help. He was very happy though as he had just earned his monthly wage in a single 3hr return trip! Arrived at 2000 and hit the sack soon after but not before Thomas' wife served up a nice western roast dinner.

At Phayao now. Got on the road at 0830 again and rolled into town just before 1400. Another tough day riding through the mountains but spectacular twisting road and scenery with very little traffic. Followed road 120 - no other option, 1x1 with 0.5-1m shoulder all the way. Very few services along the way but just enough to keep you going (15km mark town with plenty of supplies; roadside waterfall around 30km mark with cold drinks and snacks; then nothing till about 15km from town) Heavily undulating, mainly up then a solid 10km climb up to just under 1000m altitude, followed by a nice 10km downhil - cracked 70kph with panniers! and lightly undulating mainly downhill into town. At 40km mark I had reached the top of the mountain and was now pretty much downhill. Road 120 turned onto highway 1 for the final 10km into town (2x2 with 2m shoulder and more traffic) Nice and little known town this one situated by a swamp - better than it sounds. Looks like I've left the mountains behind  now, so should be an easier day tomorrow to Thoeng - middle of nowhere town where I've managed to organise a homestay with another  expat.

Made it to Lamphun. Was a tough day as I wasn't feeling 100% for some reason. Got on the road at 0900, although it was 1000 by the time I had breakfast and got out of town. Arrived 1430. Lightly undulating road at around 4% grades with one mountain pass crossed (4-10% grade up for 6km, then gradual down the other side) Another hot day although very smoggy - could only see about 1km ahead. Rode on highway 11 all the way - no other options here (2x2 lane with 2m shoulder - constant flow of traffic, not too heavy, passing trucks pulling me along in their wake). Found accomodation relatively easily, ate and went for stroll around town. Back to good old street food and night markets here. No tourists. Got an easy day tomorrow (only about 15km) I've organised some accomodation with a local german expat cyclist. He's place is about 10km south of Chiang Mai and I'm meeting him around lunchtime tomorrow.

Made it to Mae Chedi - middle of nowhere Thailand again. You know when you're out in the sticks here when the hotel owner doesn't recognise the words "internet" or "wifi". Got on the road at 0830 and rolled into town around 1500. First 20km was flat then the hills started with the following 35km heavily undulating, mostly uphill to mountain pass at just over 1000m altitude. The final 25 odd km was lightly undulating, mostly downhill into town at an elavation of around 600m. Followed road 118 all the way - no other options, was the usual 2x2 with 2m shoulder for most of the way. Traffic was light, with plenty of passing tour buses and trucks. Small stretched out town this one with green pastures and surrounded by mountains. I'm now at internet cafe, will grab some dinner at night markets and have an early night. Should be a similar day tomorrow into Phayao.

Made it to Lampang. A very long and tough day today with over 1000m of climbing and descending combined with big distance, heat and headwinds - the flat roads had to come to an end eventually. On the road at 0800 and arrived just before 1800. First 85km was on undulating backroads, most under 8% grades winding between the quiet hills of the green countryside. I then turned onto the main road for the final 45 odd kms into town and was confronted with a mountain range I needed to cross. It was 1400 so had some lunch before continueing. 6km straight up at average 8% with some steep 12% sections. Managed to ride all the way with 4 rest stops to take on fluids. An hour later I was at the top and freewheeling down the otherside. The road continued, winding and undulating through the hills. Last 20km was starting to flake - crawling uphill and building up speed and freewheeling down to make the most of my weight, momentum and the smooth bitumen. I was glad to see the 10km marker, albeit I could see another mountain range ahead that I needed to cross before I was home free. Luckily this one was only about 2km long with a constant 8% grade so made it up non stop. The final 7 odd km into town was mostly coasting and downhill at 4%, a nice reward after the days climbing. I had put the co-ords of my accomodation into the GPS earlier in the day, so pretty much rolled all the way to the entrance - which was great, after such a long day didn't want to search blindly for an hour for a place to stay - just wanted to have a shower, grab some dinner and hit the sack - which is what I did. Stumbled across a simple western style buffet, so did my best Homer Simpson and had 3 stacked plate fulls of a mixture of fried chicken, fish, grilled pork, pasta and salad all for 99B - really hit the spot. I was impresed with this town for the brief 10 minute stroll to the restaraunt. Old school street lights, horse drawn carriages, clock tower - looked like a european streetscape. Looking forward to having a rest and wandering around town tomorrow. Goodnight.

23/02/12 - Wandered around town, nice shady tree lined riverside, nice, well maintained parks, not many tourists, laid back old town area. Friendly people here. Food seems to be double, even triple the price here to what I've been paying so far - I don't know why? Although I did have the best grilled chicken and papaya salad here to date. Not many street stalls or big night markets here either.

Made it to Saraphi - about 10km south of Chiang Mai. This will be my base for exploring the Chiang Mai area over the coming days. I met up with my german expat cycling host Robert. He's put me up in a very nice teak wooden guesthouse for my stay. Also staying here by coincidence is Ernst - a german world cyclist! They have gone out now to meet up with some friends so I'm just unpacking, cleaning up  and relaxing at the moment. Will head out to stock up on some food and meet the boys back here late in the afternoon.

25/02/12 - Rode into Chiang Mai today - about 15km on road 106 (nice 1x1 with big trees on roadside) Checked out a few wats then rode up to Wat Sutnep (about 1100m above sea level) no views from smog unfortunately but on a clear day you can see the whole town. Tough climb, about 12km long but rewarded by a nice twisiting clear road on the way back down. The wat was very golden and very crowded. Visited the zoo and aquarium - which is at the base of the mountain (half a day is plenty to walk around both) and finished up by doing a lap of the old town which is surrounded by a canal and the remains of the old town brick walls and gates. On the way back to base a section of road 106 was closed for a night market - which was a surprise, so had dinner here.

26/02/12 - Left Saraphi at 0700 for 0800 meeting with local cyclists at Thapae gate for a group ride. They had organised a ride around the city for the school kids, so we attended a starting ceremony at the monument for 3 kings. We eventually got going around 0900. Slow pace but good to see so many people on bikes. Rode out to Wat Nam Bor Luang, which was hosting a ceremony for its opening. We were treated to a free feed! Met alot of expats here who were escaping the winter back home - namely america and england for 4 months+. We then divided up into 2 groups and headed different ways back to Chiang Mai. I took the scenic route along the river with a belgian expat and his wife, while the others went via the super highway. Got back to the city around 1530, had a bite to eat and then went about finding some lodgings nearby, as my host needs my room empty for some overseas business associates tomorow. After visiting about half a dozen places I found one close to Thapae gate, paid a deposit and headed back to base.

27/02/12 - Rode into Chiang Mai, left 1000, arrived 1130. Unpacked my stuff in new accomodations, relaxed, wandered around town.

28/02/12 - Rode Golden Triangle Loop today. Setoff late at 1130 and got back just before 1800. Very tough ride, with over 1500m of climbing and descending - my muscles were sore at the end. Went north to mae Rim then west towards Samoeng. Nice mountain scenery and villages. Lots of sights along the way too like snake farm, croc farm, insect & butterfly farms, etc. I stopped at Botanic Gardens and did a loop around - it's on a mountainside so was tough going. Alot easier on a motorbike - all tourists I saw were on mopeds. Great winding road around mountain ridges - reminded me of Nepal, except here there are no oil slicks so I could really go for it - hit 67kph! Steep uphills rewarded by equally steep downhills.

29/02/12 - Easy day today recovering from yesterdays epic and preparing to move on tomorrow. Wander around town, ran some errands - bought chinese phrasebook as I was told by the germans that communication will be difficult, and also picked up a couple more chains for the bike as I won't be passing any proper bike shops for a while now.

Quite a big place Chiang Mai with all the usual facilities for tourists, but somehow manages to retain a small town feel. Easy to find peace and quiet in backstreets. Alot of smoke around - this is normal here as they burn off undergrowth in the surrounding forests and fields to control fire and promote growth of crops.

At Si Satchanalai - middle of nowhere, outskirts of small town. Got on the road at 0830 and arrived here at 1530. First 55km was on road 101 (1x1 with 2m shoulder) nice and quiet as usual. Stopped at Si Satchanalai Historic Park at 1130 and explored/rode around wat and stupa ruins here. Better collection here than at Sukhothai and very few tourists. 1400 continued on the backroads the rest of the way which passed through the usual endless flat, green countyside and untouched villages. At 75km mark got my second puncture of the trip again on the front tyre. I was able to limp it to a nearby servo up ahead.  Was the same spot where I placed a patch last time, so I put a larger patch over the top as well as one on the inside of the tyre where there is a permanent hole in the tread. Noticed a couple of large cracks in the tube around the valve stem so I placed a couple of patches there as well. This tyre is definately starting to show its age - it has about half a dozen cuts in the tread and is starting to develop cracks in the tread and sidewalls from the weight and heat. Still has about 40% tread left though so will try to use it for as long as possible. Haven't had a good look at the rear one yet as this one, amazingly still remains puncture free! A good 40 minutes and I was rolling again - I'll buy a couple more tubes somewhere as I only have 2 burried deep inside my panniers. Found basic food and accomodation  here as well as internet cafe. Resting now for big day tomorrow to Lampang with some climbing ahead I think. 

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