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Bike Touring Thailand – Koh Lanta to Chiang Mai

Having cycled 500 miles in 7 days from Koh Lanta to the Amphawa Floating Market I took a break and stayed in town to relax and catch up on work. After a day of lounging my legs were antsy to get back on the road. Unfortunately my bike may not have felt the same and by mid morning I was changing my second flat tire of the tour.

I used my last spare tube and had no patch kit so I searched Google maps for a bike store. I turned northwest and spun into a large town but found the bike store closed. As I sat on the sidewalk scouring the map for another shop within a day’s ride the owner opened the door and sold me 2 new tubes and 2 patch kits. That might have been overkill, but I figured you can never be too prepared!

Bike Touring Thailand Spare Tires

I spent the rest of the day following Google walking directions through rural areas, ending up in several people’s backyards and being turned away from a few locked fences by heavily armed guards. I later realized Google was trying to take me through a military base. I finished day 9 covering 133 km (82 miles) and it felt good to be back in the saddle.

Bike Lane - Share The Road

Day 10 started with a 60 mile ride along a canal dodging millions of dragonflies. It was a good way to cover big distance, but also a bit monotonous. Eventually my route left the canal and passed through farms and pastures until I reached my intended destination.

I arrived in mid afternoon and still felt fresh so decided to continue on. By evening I’d covered my second century of the tour (104 miles) and reached a major city off the side of a busy freeway. After 2 days spinning through rural Thailand it was nice to see the amenities of a truck stop town again.

Corn In Thailand

Day 11 started slow due to a morning torrential downpour that delayed my departure. I don’t mind cycling in the rain, but it’s easier to manage when I’m already on the bike vs. setting out in a storm. I followed the highway route but stuck to side roads, winding along the contours of a river and spinning through farm villages and small towns.

By evening I coasted into a city with a beautiful university campus and checked into a hotel room on the bank of a large river. I ate dinner across the street and sat watching sunset over the water thinking about silly goals.

Reflections In Thailand Bike Tour

I’d already covered 100 km, then 100 miles (160 km), so I figured the next logical step would be to try for a 200 km (124 mile) day. I was getting closer to Chiang Mai and the Northern Thailand mountains and if I wanted to try it day 12 would be my last chance. My bike didn’t seem as excited and I came downstairs in the morning to find a flat tire before I even started. At least this time it was on the front.

Flat Tire in Thailand

Once on the road I set my sights north and stuck to the freeway. I kept an efficient schedule, minimizing my time off the bike for bathroom breaks and buying snacks from gas stations. By mid afternoon I was at the turn for a hotel an hour off the highway that would put me just over the 200 km mark, but I still felt good and had a few more hours of sunlight. Google Maps showed no more hotels or towns until Lampang, which was considerably further than 200 km, but ahhhhh, what the heck.

Big Bicycle Thailand Bike Tour

I pushed ahead into the unknown toward Lampang. Around 100 km from town I realized that my front tire had a slow leak. I considered changing it, but with the sunlight fading and impending thunderstorms I fell into a rhythm of hopping off the bike every half hour to inflate the tire and keep moving forward.

I rolled into town after dark on a busy highway with my tiny lights flashing in the pouring rain and a quickly deflating tire. When I came to a stop at a downtown hotel I’d covered a grand total of 251 km (156 miles) in 12 hours. I changed clothes and walked to McDonald’s at the mall to eat a supersized dinner before falling into bed for some much needed sleep.

Longest Day In Thailand

I woke on day 13, fixed the flat tire and loaded my bike for the last time of the tour. Lampang was just 100km from Chiang Mai, and even though I knew there were mountains looming between me and my destination, I was confident that I’d arrive that day.

While spinning along the freeway I found a Hilux badge laying on the pavement. Living in a Toyota Tacoma and salivating over kitted out Toyota Hilux trucks around the world I turned around, picked up the badge and attached it to my bike with a few zip ties. I still love my home on wheels in Terk the Tacoma, but for now I was adventuring in Thailand on Hilux the Bike!

Hilux the Bike

After several hours persistently pedaling up and over the pass I sped down and along the highway into Chaing Mai. I navigated the busy streets and found a hotel where I secured a room for a month and a place to park Hilux the Bike. I’d arrived several days before my intended goal, so I had some time to relax and recover before the Loy Krathon Festival.

Arriving in Chiang Mai

Loy Krathong is an annual festival of lights when people give thanks to the spirit of the river by crafting beautiful boats out of banana leaves and colorful flowers, light a candle, and float them downstream. It coincides with Yee Peng, when floating sky lanterns fueled by candles are set aloft, sending wishes for a bright future into the night sky.

Additionally, the city and temples are completely covered with colorful Lanna Lanterns, adorned with names and prayers and hung on every corner. The crowds were smaller due to the global pandemic, but the festival was still stunning and I’m glad I made the trip north to experience it.

Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai

In 13 days of cycling, with 1 day off, I’d covered 990 miles. Since I rode into towns a few nights for food I call it 1,000 miles. I fixed 5 flat tires, survived one crash, lost all the feeling in the palms of my hands, earned some pretty serious tan lines from my Luna Sandals, and ate from more 7-Elevens than I’d like to admit.

Thailand Bike Tour Map

For the next few weeks I settled into my home in Chaing Mai, caught up on work, explored the city on foot and by bike, got Hilux tuned up at a local shop, and spent time with friends who came up from Koh Lanta. I still had more than a month before I needed to return south to visit immigration and update my visa, so after relaxing in Chiang Mai I set out on another silly goal, to bicycle tour the Mae Hong Son Loop.

Bike Touring Thailand 2020 Film

Day 1 – 100 km (62 miles)
Day 2 – 104 km (64 miles)
Day 3 – 113 km (70 miles)
Day 4 – 115 km (71 miles)
Day 5 – 173 km (108 miles)
Day 6 – 108 km (67 miles)
Day 7 – 100 km (62 miles)
Day 8 – 0
Day 9 – 133 km (82 miles)
Day 10 – 168 km (104 miles)
Day 11 – 127 km (79 miles)
Day 12 – 251 km (156 miles)
Day 13 – 105 km (65 miles)

TOTAL = 990 Miles

Week 1 Blog Post

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