Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Riding around Chiang Rai and Doi Tung

We did our first multi-day trip last week. We joined up with a riding group in Chiang Rai, a small city about 3 hours north of here, for a 250 km loop through the fine countryside discovering yet another fantastic motorcycling road in the process. The 109 runs east-west between Fang and Mae Suai and is a biker's wet dream with abundant curves, smooth pavement, and superb views of the hills and farms below you when you dare to hazard a glance away from the road in front of you.  The only disadvantage to group rides is that we didn't want to stop to take pictures because we were traveling in a peloton of other motos and didn't want to hold up the whole group.  The unofficial leaders of the monthly rides are Marty and Woraphat Bullard of Chiang Rai Saddlebags. Their shop is a friendly gathering spot for like-minded folks, expats and Thais alike and offers reasonably priced motorcycle accessories and clothing in Chiang Rai town. (N19.90202 E99.81217)

Seeing as Chiang Rai is near another favorite destination, we stayed in town for a few extra days in order to return to the gardens at Doi Tung. We rode there on the next day with some new expat friends we met on the group ride, Bruce and Kathleen, from Boston.  We did stop to take photos on this ride. The rainy season has presented two unanticipated but welcome side-effects: cool temperatures and gorgeous clouds. I've posted other pictures of the gardens at Doi Tung and views from Route 1149, the road that hugs the hilly border between Myanmar and Thailand, but the fleecy clouds suspended over the rich green fields of Myanmar on this perfect day demanded a reprise. (See this earlier post  from 2010 for more.)

Views west toward Myanmar from Route 1149 (above and below)

Just before leaving the U.S. I read about and quickly purchased a polarizing filter for my Sony RX100 camera. One of the drawbacks of point & shoot cameras is that they have no way to add filters to the front of the lens. Unlike full size dSLRs, there are no screw threads in the lens mount. The Mag Filter comes with an adhesive ring that attaches to the front of the Sony's lens housing. This ring in turn holds the filter magnetically.  It's pretty cool, goes on and off the camera easily, and as you can see it does a wonderful job with clouds and skies. (Amazon: Mag Filter)

Nut and I at Doi Tung (N20.28714 E99.80961)
Nut has been wanting to see the famous Wat Rong Khun (วัดร่องขุ่น) aka the White Temple near Chiang Rai so on the way back we stopped in for a quick visit. It's a contemporary design by Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat built in 1997. Everything about this site is ornate, even the restrooms.

Wat Rong Khun - the White Temple

Public restrooms at Wat Rong Khun

Another place we both wanted to visit was the Boon Rawd Farm on Route 1211 just south of the city. Well, actually not the farm so much as its associated restaurant, Bhu Bhirom (N19.86236 E99.72982).  We chanced upon the farm on our trip to Chiang Rai last March.

The food was excellent although by the time we had tallied all and sundry, we had run the bill up to about $30 USD, a huge amount for a meal in Thailand. Of course, we had consumed three fancy drinks, a Crispy Tea Leaf Salad with Shrimp, their special Chicken Roasted with Garlic and, Nut's favorite farang food, a Grilled Pork Chop with all the trimmings. We also took home two bottles of their organic Mulberry Juice, a delicious blend of mulberry and lemon juices that for me was strongly reminiscent of a fine red wine.  We ordered too much food. We ended up taking almost the entire chicken home and eating it for supper. Is it any wonder Nut and I are together? Like most of my family, she always thinks ahead to the next meal even while eating the one in front of her. She fits right in.

Crispy Tea Leaf Salad at Bhu Bhirom

Garlic Chicken, Grilled Pork Chop at Bhu Bhirom

Below are links to GPX files that detail our travels for those interested.

Chiang Rai Riders Group ride of September 10, 2013

Doi Tung Loop

Click on the file link and select Download from beneath the cleverly hidden "More" menu (those three blue dots), at the top right of the resulting page, browse to a folder or your desktop where you want to place the file and click on the Save button. You can open them with Google Earth or any other application that can display GPX files.