Taking The Thai Road

By Jane Mountain | March 12, 2014

The post below is part of an epic series documenting the 19 amazing months we spent cycling through 22 countries. So if you want to know more about cycling to the White Temple from Chiang Rai, read on!

If you’re planning to visit Thailand and stop in at the Instagram-famous White Temple (aka Wat Rong Khun) read our separate post to plan your trip to Wat Rong Khun.

Day 352 on our bicycles.
11,163 km so far.

Stephen And Jane Go To White Temple

Our dedication to being up before dawn continues, with both of us actually waking up before the 6am alarm today. As we adjust to this new routine, we are getting less and less zombie-like in the morning.

Stephen’s note: We are? Grr. Argh.

Today, we managed to get out of the hotel within an hour, probably because Stephen knew our first stop would be the coffee shop on the corner.

There's only one thing that can motivate Stephen in the morning.

There’s only one thing that can motivate Stephen in the morning.

Doi Chaang brews specialty coffee made from beans grown in the hills we’ll ride into today. Apparently, their coffee is available all over Western Canada (including The Slice of Life Cafe in Duncan, Dad), so you can get a taste of Thailand even in Canada.

Like White On Rice

Our early start meant we arrived at Wat Rong Khun before the onslaught of backpackers and tourists who swamp the place in the afternoon.

Kids and ladies in sun hats were the only people at The White Temple this early.

Kids and ladies in sun hats were the only people at The White Temple this early.

Also known as “The White Temple”, Wat Rong Khun is the brainchild of a Thai artist named Chalermchai Kositpipat; it’s literally his life’s work, as construction began in 1996 and isn’t expected to be completed ’til 2070, when he’ll be 115 years old.
– quote from this article on Thrillist

From the pictures I’d seen, I’d expected the temple to be gaudy, but it was actually quite beautiful, if a little bizarre.

wat rong khun the white temple

Don’t miss The White Temple on your northern Thailand itinerary.

Not only is there a statue of Predator rising out of the lawn, but inside the temple…

…a brilliantly detailed mural depicts the horrors of human existence and features movie icons such as Superman, Spiderman, the creepy dude from Saw, and even Neo from The Matrix — although if you’re talking human horrors, probably The Matrix III.
– quote from this article on Thrillist

Very odd indeed.

wat rong khun the white temple

White Dragon. When does Game Of Thrones start again?

Everything Is New Again

So far, the rides we’ve done in Thailand haven’t been that awe-inspiring. That includes today, but there were a few things that jumped out at us as being new and different.

The speed of the traffic.

It seems that Thai drivers pay attention to traffic lights, lanes, and which side of the road they’re driving on. Plus, I haven’t heard a single horn honk since we got here. Most of the vehicles on the road are pick-up trucks driven by young men, going twice as fast as anyone in China, Vietnam, or Laos ever did. They have far less respect for their slower two-wheeled friends.

I already miss the controlled chaos of the more lawless, but more courteous, driving in the countries we’ve just left.

The middle class.

We rode by so many suburban houses today that wouldn’t seem out of place in rural BC or Ontario, or in central Vancouver for that matter.

That doesn’t mean everyone is rich. There are still plenty of bamboo huts on stilts, and modest dwellings all around. It’s just that, unlike in Laos and Vietnam, there are also signs of a booming middle class.

Ornamental flowers.

Today, I began developing The Special Economic Theory of Flowers.

Marigolds at a home in Thailand.

Marigolds at a home in Thailand.

It uses a measure of square feet of land dedicated to purely ornamental flowers to estimate a country’s wealth. We haven’t seen any cultivated flowers since we left Germany, but today there were plenty of cosmos, daffodils, and marigolds greeting us from houses along our route.

The scent.

Over the last few months, we’ve gotten used to some seriously foul-smelling air. Smog, factories, goose farms, Pig-Pen trucks, rancid oil, roasting dog, stinky tofu… there seemed to be no end to the things that could assault our nostrils on a daily basis.

The views have been a bit meh so far in Thailand, but where our eyes have been underwhelmed, our noses have been inundated with lovely scents.

I find myself sniffing deeply and frequently, because it just smells so damn good here!

Today, as we were winding our way through the dips and turns of our road, the scent was nagging at my brain. I knew I knew that smell from somewhere. What was it? In reality, it was the grasses and plants along the roadside baking in the morning sun.

It took me a good hour of sniffing and wandering down alleys and blind corners in my mind until I could find the scent in my memory banks. The countryside here smells like cotton candy, hot buttered popcorn, and fresh straw – just like the hot summer evenings of my childhood, when we visited the Grande Prairie Stompede!

Waiter, There’s No Fruit in My Fruit Shake

When you eat breakfast at 6:30am, lunch time seems very long in coming. So it was that we were forced to stop for elevenses. In Thailand, I was expecting to be able to get a fruit smoothie on every corner. Instead, there are “fruit” shakes.

First, you grind some ice.

ice crushing machine thailand

Ice machine for Thai Sno-Cones.

Then you add some sugar syrup.

Sugar on ice, what could be better?

Sugar on ice, what could be better?

Pour on the fruit flavouring.

drink flavours thailand

So many fake flavours to choose from.

Et voila, fruit shake.

It was much more like a Sno-Cone, but refreshing nonetheless.

Last Resort

We were hoping to find a cozy guesthouse in the town of Mae Suai, where we planned to stop for the day. Sadly, the town was bereft of guesthouses. It didn’t have much else to attract us either, except for a snack stall we had to try.

First, you roll out the dough.

Rolling dough for a tasty treat.

Rolling dough for a tasty treat.

Then you drop it on the hot griddle.

Dough on the griddle, Mae Suai market.

Dough on the griddle, Mae Suai market.

Add an egg and fold.

Egg in a pouch, Mae Suai.

Egg in a pouch, Mae Suai.

Douse liberally with condensed milk, roll up, and enjoy!

After our snack, we headed to the one place we knew would be able to take us: Balcony Hill Resort.

We were loathe to pay the $50 plus room rate, but we really didn’t have much choice. Fortunately, a hefty fee comes with a few perks, like a gorgeous, comfortable room with a balcony, and a swimming pool to laze beside.

The great thing about getting up at dawn is that it leaves plenty of time to while away the afternoon by the pool.

resort pool thailand

Kids at the pool, Balcony Hill Resort.

So that’s just what we did.

Soundtrack: The Smiths, Meat Is Murder  

Want to do your own bike tour from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai? Grasshopper Adventures takes the stress out of bike touring so you can focus on seeing the sights, looking around, and slowing down, knowing your hotel is booked, your luggage is waiting there for you, and dinner suggestions are already in the Grasshopper app on your phone. Find out more now!

Want to see the route map? View it on Ride With GPS.

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