Cowboy KC, privilege parking available..
Pic MK Wheelosopher
We left Pai in style - with 2 newish Toyota Hilux pick-up trucks arriving 0800 at Baan Pai Riverside. It was to be a long 90+km ride to Mae Malai, at the end of Route 1095 and the first 30km are killer hills. Under the advice of Chris, we decided on this option and negotiated these "Hueys" 2 nights ago for US$60 total. They proved to be the best decision for the day as we snaked/climbed/hairpin our way out of the valley effortlessly thanks to 3.0 turbo diesels. Each vehicle carried 4 of us with ample space for our foldies and panniers, in supreme comfort to Huai Nam Dang National Park. As our bonnet pointed skywards during the journey at many moments, we were so glad to be inside the ute.
The ride ended too soon after about an hour and we found ourselves at 4600ft peak where we were dropped off. It would have taken us 4 exhausting hours to end up here. We said goodbye to our Pilots and prepared our bikes for the downhill extravaganza. To enter the National Park required quite a hefty fee especially for foreigners so we skipped that and made our way down. Flying down on small wheels was simply pure joy and the milestones just zipped by so easily. We regrouped 10km later and saw ourselves surrounded by a gang of big touring motorcycles from Malaysia. They were astonished that we actually travelled by our steam up and down all those climbs (well almost all). We wished each other well and off they went with their twin engines throbbing away.
This rest area offered beautiful views and we played the tourist, snapping lots of pictures. The cherry blossoms were still in bloom and were so pretty in pink. With the temperature at a cool 18c and plenty of morning sun, this was a good day to be alive and on a bicycle going downhill. Somehow, my heart felt a deep sense of God’s goodness and I uttered a prayer of thanksgiving and praise to Him.
The downhills continued and we all descended at our own pace. KC chose to barrel down at warp speeds while I preferred to enjoy the scenery, feeding my hungry camera. The sharp hairpins were unbelievable and it was a blast to carve through them. I met the Howards after exiting one and Anne decided she had had enough and contemplated a quicker descend. Ian fortunately managed to knock some sense into her.
We regrouped again and that marked the end of our fun as it was cranking time once again. It was easy to get used to gliding downhill but not the other way round. Still knowing that the terrain was more downhill than uphill gave us the motivation and we were all getting stronger since leaving Mae Hong Son.
Our aim was to hit Coffee Hill at the 32km, a well known stop that boasts the best coffee on 1095. What surprised me was the many other highway cafes that have sprouted up since I last visited here and one that really impressed me was a European style Viennese Hotel that was just 5km before Coffee Hill. Le Vintage looked really beautifully out of place in this part of Thailand and we wondered if we should have our coffee here but their menu was not as good as Coffee Hill.
It was a big struggle to reach Coffee Hill as the hills seemed rather demanding but when we all finally got there, we felt a great sense of relief as we really needed replenishment. We had a lovely Thai lunch that was artistically presented, especially my stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts.
One thing that really impresses about Coffee Hill 32 besides the excellent food and coffee are the rest rooms. Truly, this must be the best ones in the whole of Northern Thailand. It is clean and offers a splendid view. Never before relieving oneself has been so enjoyable!
It was hard to get back the cycling rhythm after such a nice rest and full meal so we just plodded along and took our time. Some of us apparently got a bit restless and started showing their true skills and colors! The things you can do on a Bike Friday...
Thailand is renown for artists and places that caught our attention were theme shops/cafe. We had fun with this romance place that offered a wedding seat for love birds. It was great to take our "wedding" pictures again and re-live 20-30 years of romance!
Our next stop was a place called Art Gamongta. It is a Cafe, home stay and art studio all wrapped in one and we had a lot of fun chatting with the very talented owner. They served very ice cold drinks as well as coffees and we nearly decided to spend the night in this intriguing place. Those who want to explore their artistic and creative talents will do well to spend a few days here.
It was hard to leave Art Gamonga but we had to as it was still another 30km or so to Mae Malai and the sun was soon setting down. For some reason, we all found our 2nd wind and were moving along at a very impressive clip especially our dear Papa Mike. With him ahead and punching the wind for all of us, we arrived at Mae Malai in no time.
Our abode was the Mae Malai Mansions and there was nothing mansion-ly about this. It was more an overnight stop for travelling salesmen but with big clean rooms with ice cold aircon and at A$12 each, we were not complaining. Dinner was simple noodles at this very small town and all the good restaurants were disappointingly closed. But like the travelling salesmen, we were just here for the night and even the loud karaoke didn't bother us too much as we drifted into a deep sleep, hard mattress notwithstanding.