Bikepacking through Thailand – preparations and the first day

2016-09-19-11-01-03This will be the first post in the bikepacking series of 6 posts, starting off with the preparations and the first day.

Last September we went on quite a big adventure – flying to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand and cycling a loop of over 600KM, from resort to resort, through the most beautiful sceneries I’ve ever seen.

It all started quite small, with the idea to just do a quick trip to Thailand and relax. Up to the point that we figured out that the one thing we are bad at, is sitting down for longer than a couple of hours. So the plan was to see something of Northern Thailand and dive on one of the Islands (more about that in another post!).

A couple of friends did some bikepacking through Europe before and that sounded like the perfect way to see a lot, avoid touristic hubs, while still traveling quite some distance – we ordered the necessary bikepacking bags (Apidura saddle packs– highly recommended!) and started to look for road bike rental options, weather, resorts, etcetera.

Then came the route. We knew Spiceroads did some organised tours and we could see some parts of the route but wanted to create our own adventure. Using Strava heatmaps and segments, Google Maps and Streetview we managed to get quite a decent route – I thought at least. Well, I had to think again when we went looking for places to stay… The route forced us to a 300+KM ride between locations, no way this was an option. So, back to the drawing board, now simultaneously looking up hotels/resorts with ±100KM between them and drawing the route while still checking the road on Streetview, ensuring it’s at least rideable by road bike. After a long evening with two bottles of wine,  it resulted in a quite ambitious 855KM route with a lot of altimeters.

We had 9 cycling days, so just under 100KM a day and a rest day in the middle- shouldn’t be a problem, right?

route
The route from Chiang Mai, clockwise to the North and in the last days taking on Doi Inthanon – Thailand’s highest mountain

So I came backBeers-in-Bangkok from a business trip in China and
Sandra already arrived in Bangkok in the morning, providing a warm welcome at the resort with a Chang beer after the flight and long taxi drive. We relaxed a bit and walked around the area of the hotel. We probably were quite lucky being outside of the real touristic season and having relatively few tourists in the area! Our flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was scheduled for departure at 08:05 the next morning, so we went to bed quite early after having a delicious Pad Thai, another beer and repacking of our bags in a way that we could get on the bike as quickly as possible!

The trip was really smooth, getting us at Spiceroads in Chiang Mai around 11:00. We prepared the bikes, all our gear that we had to take, changed our outfits and left almost everything locked up at the office there. Certainly for Sandra, picking only one set of clothing (for 10 days!), was quite a challenge 🙂

2016-09-17-11-34-50
Ready to go! (don’t worry, there was a second bike!)
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On the road

We were on the road around noon, set to ride about 80KM that day to arrive well before sunset at our first resort. The climate was something we really had to get used to – fortunately, the first day was a flat ride like we Dutch know very well 😉 After leaving Chiang Mai behind us, we were instantly surrounded by beautiful scenery and even some jungle. Moreover, when arriving at the resort we were overwhelmed by the beauty. I even got so overwhelmed that while riding from the reception to our cottage I had to brake for a small bump in the road… the bike being top-heavy with the bag, the road slippery green and, as I experienced, quite hard to fall on. Luckily it were just some scratches and bruises but this was not going to be the last fall this trip.

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