Monday, November 15, 2010

On the road to Nan

Wildflower - Rte 1339
The trip to Nan was splendid. We went via a different  route from the one we took last spring, the "back way" that is actually more direct, a short cut in fact, over Route 1339. It runs north out of Nam Pat and crosses the Sirikit Reservoir -- actually the Nan River -- at the little fishing village of Pak Nai on a primitive ferry. DC and Al have driven this route and told me it was beautiful and a great ride. We encountered a short stretch of gravel road just outside of Nam Pat, rough and dusty, but it lasted for only a half dozen or so miles. After that the 1339 became one of those classic Thailand roads, twisty and smooth with no traffic to speak of, and hilly with some wild country slightly  reminiscent of Alaska thrown into the mix. A simply gorgeous highway, and perfect for motorcycling.
First view of the Sirikit Reservoir from Rte 1339

We arrived at the ferry landing on the south side of the Sirikit Reservoir after about an hour and a half of breathtaking views along The 1339. 

There was no activity thereabouts to speak of so Nut inquired of a fellow lounging nearby about the ferry schedule. No problem, he replied, I'll call one for you. Pretty soon our "ferry" arrived. It was a battered aluminum double hulled barge with rough cut hardwood plank flooring. And it was being towed by a long-tail boat powered by what could only have been a lawn-mower engine. At first I couldn't believe that this tiny boat was actually going to pull us across that lake but once again the Thai's well developed ability to get along with less was amply demonstrated and before I knew it I had driven the Phantom up the rickety ramp and we were off, the tiny engine blatting loudly for all it was worth, moving us slowly but steadily across the lake.

The "ferry" that would take us across the Sirikit Reservoir
On the ferry to Pak Nai
Lakeside home - Sirikit Reservoir
Floating homes - Pak Nai Village

After an expensive lunch at a floating restaurant we took off for the final push to Nan. The restaurant charged us 30 baht for ice, 120 baht a plate for some fish that was good but not great, 20 baht a plate for rice, and 10 baht each for 3 bottles of water for a total of 320 baht, well over $10! We were a captive audience and we were half wealthy falang into the bargain. They took a large amount of money off us.
Pak Nai menu, falangs beware

We drove the rest of the way into Nan at a leisurely pace but the special scenery ended when we got off Rte 1339 and onto Rte 101. It was still nice driving but this road, the major approach to Nan from the south, was much busier and noisier. We checked into our hotel and Nut fell immediately into bed for a 2 hour snooze. Riding a moto from where she sits isn't nearly as much fun as driving one. Frankly, I think the trip is wearing on her. I warned her that sitting on a bike for 4-6 hours a day as a passenger might not all that much fun.  But then the bike trip is almost over. We go next to Phayao for a few days and then back to Chiang Mai where the motorcycling part of this visit will end.

Route 1339 scene

Farms along Rte 1339
A section of new road on Rte 1339 - perfect for motorcycling
 Our hotel in Nan, the Eurngkum Guesthouse, is a steal at 350 baht per night (about $12 USD). We're staying in a brand new building (it was under construction when I was here with the boys last spring) and it's a super good deal. Spotless, with squeaky clean ceramic tile everywhere, huge main room and bathroom, a lovely covered deck, gorgeous flowers and plants everywhere -- we even have a plant in our bathroom, another first for Thailand. Highly recommended!

Flower - Eurngkum Guesthouse
 I'm planning to put up an album on Picasaweb and/or Facebook titled "Flowers of Thailand". I don't know the names of any of these plants but it almost doesn't matter. They're beautiful and they're everywhere, lining the highways, in people's yards, in public parks. Nut knows most of them but transliterating the Thai names into English is tricky so I haven't taken the trouble. The beauty shown above she calls "Leelah Wadee". 

Stats for the trip: 4:27 time moving, 6:08 total for 98.4 miles (158 km).

Tomorrow we're off to Phayao. Why? Because it's there and Nut has heard great things about it and wants to go there for a visit. Sure, why not? I'll write more when I can. Be well.