Thursday, 26 January 2012

Loei to Uttaradit to Nan to Chiang Rai!

I looked at the calendar and realised I should probably get a move on so I can get back down to Cambodia when my 30 days are up, so I powered through a couple of days of riding to get to Chiang Rai!

Firstly... Loei to Uttaradit.

I hardly stopped that day. The scenery improved with more hills, better roads, minimal traffic and animals. It's very very dry up this end of the country at the moment so all the hills are brown and there's a bit of smoke haze in places from fires.

Riding through scenery like this

My bike, parked infront of the scenery so you can't see it.


Baby rice.

The only photo I took in Uttaradit.
 So once I got to Uttaradit I had nowhere really planned to stay. I noted a few places down so I could look for there once in town but I had no maps of the town or any other info to go on as the Lonely Planet guide seems to skip this province entirely. I attempted one big hotel, but at 800baht/night that was a bit much (500 is my limit). Then as this is not a very touristy town there are rarely any english signs so I rode around for a bit just trying to find something that looked hotelish. I eventually found a nearby hotel on google maps, but I couldn't find where on the street it was. I was sat there for a good 10 minutes (sidenote: the mobile network is slooowww) before I realised I was sitting almost exactly where the arrow was but all around me were just closed shop fronts. I just happened to be sitting next to a little driveway where I wandered down and found a huge hotel with a room for 490baht/night. I was sitting right under the sign for it but it was all in Thai! For future reference, the place I can be found down a driveway just before the traffic lights, when heading west from the bus station. When at the bus station, get near to the traffic lights (maybe 200meters), then walk back along the south side of the road looking down driveways. If it's business hours then the furniture shop is right where the driveway is.

Speaking of finding places, there's a site called gt-rider and they list accommodation and restaurants for towns in this region with lots of descriptions and photos and GPS coordinates. Unfortunately translating that to the real world is a bit difficult. There are hardly any street signs in most towns, and because I don't know the language asking around can be a problem. I settled on finding the New York Restaurant   which was apparently "between the bus station and Tesco Lotus"... OK, I knew where the bus station was but not Tesco Lotus. They gave the street name for this place, but no signs of course, and when I attempted to use the GPS coordinates they were in the wrong format to work in google maps (does anything just "work" these days). If you're at the bus station, head north through one of those roads to the other big east-west road, if you're lucky you walked up the road with the restaurant on, if not, there will be a sign in front of the street on this major road. You've no idea how long it took me to find that, and Tesco Lotus is actually just past the traffic lights near the hotel, so nowhere near "halfway between"... Now you're at the New York Restaurant they have proper bratwurst and knackwurst, enjoy :D

So other than that, Uttaradit is pretty nondescript. There are a few expats there and apparently a number of expat resturants to match (the New York was the only one I could find) but it's mostly a bland Thai town, nothing to really take photos of.

Next day, Uttaradit to Nan!

It seems I didn't stop while riding that day. I just set my GPS to go to Nan (after tricking it to go to an optical store in Nan, because the name of every city in Thailand is actually named Ampoe Muaeng) and followed the roads. It was much the same as the day before, but reminded me a lot of the hills in the Yarra valley and gippsland, but lots of dogs, everywhere. The dogs all seem to know to look both ways before crossing instead of the Australian dog way of just darting onto the road, I guess they don't survive here otherwise.

Nan is a much nicer looking town than some of the others I've been to in Thailand. It's so clean and shiny, so I stayed two nights there. I had planned to end up at Phai Luang guesthouse, which was mentioned on gt-rider and this time with the directions given and the lonely planet guide I was able to find it easily (go to Nan Guesthouse, WAIT! before you go down that alley, it's right there on the corner). The guesthouse was good, and clean, but thin walls so I woke up to my neighbor coughing and sneezing one morning and pooping the next, but it was only 350baht/night and some people pay a lot more to hear pooping.

Nan has a lot of temples and is famous for it's longboat races on the river in July. It doesn't seem like it's been spoiled because of tourism yet as there are only a few places that really cater to foreigners. Most of the shops/restaurants in town seem to cater to locals and there's very little English text in places. There are coffee/noodle/milk shops opening up everywhere and this is apparently the favored hangout of the Nan teenager.

The Nan river.

The famous Wat Phumin (I'm not sure why) under scaffolding.

Bicycle wheel pulley system

I really noticed the wires here, maybe it's because the street is so clean.

Long boat is looonnnnnnnggg

Long boat looks short here.

More split toned madness.

The stupa at Wat Hua Khuang

Wat Hua Khuang

The old wall, mostly replaced.

The older old wall, with some new work done to it.

New/old work on the old wall.

Stupa at Wat Phra That Chang Kham

Wat Phra That Chang Kham
And then, it was time to leave Nan. I went to Hot Bread for breakfast (again) and had a long conversation with the Usa who worked there about what I'm doing where I'm going etc. Everyone there spoke excellent English too and that was very odd to hear, I suddenly realised how bad my English am.

Next stop. Chiang Rai.

This time I deviated from the mostly direct route and took the more scenic 1148 road and it paid off. I spent the day on nice quality roads, lots of mountains, quick 400 meter climbs and then back down again just as fast, and I almost had the road to myself. This is what Laos should have been like, if only they'd fix their major roads.

In some places only one lane was open.

There weren't a lot of clear places to take photos though as there was lots of tall grass/trees next to the road. I found one rest area where I took these however:

It was at this point I was getting worried about fuel, I was up to 250km and I usually hit reserve then and don't have much left after that. And there were no big towns nearby to get fuel. Once I started seeing fuel around I tried to see how far I could get. 280km before going into reserve is the answer! Luckily it was only another 13km before I could fill up, and with only 1.4L to spare...

And now I'm in Chiang Rai!
Clock tower and functioning roundabout/traffic-circle
I'll stay here for a while to see the sites, and replace my shoes that are almost worn through, and possibly acquire that cheap 60D I saw earlier...

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