Northern Thailand motorbike trip - Golden Triangle
Tambon Wiang, Thailand
Day eight: Pai - Chiang Dao.
Fuelled up, packed and ready to hit the road for the next part of our Northern Thailand trip.
Our first stop was for breakfast at a roadside eatery not far outside of Pai. Whilst eating our obligatory noodle soup, I saw something slither from out of the corner of my eye, we then heard the manic flapping of wings. Amelia and I looked over and saw a bird narrowly escaping, what surely would've been certain death from a fairly large snake!
Noodle soup and adrenalin kick later, I was definitely now fully alert and ready to tackle the mountainous bends that lay ahead of us.
'Rhonda the reliable Honda' (my uninspired nickname for our motorbike) was performing as well as ever. Even with the luggage and her knobbly off-road tyres she handled like a dream through the bends, which kept coming and coming - according to souvenir t-shirts in Pai, there are 762 and I was loving every single one! We stopped just the once, for a quick stretch of the legs and pee break and then back to Rhonda for some more fun on the open roads. I must say, overall the roads were in very good condition - possibly the best roads we've been on in SEA.
Once we'd left the mountainous roads behind we had to join the main road going north. Going from hairpin bends and sweeping racetrack curves to long mundane stretches of road with nothing but dusty towns to view was a bit of a come down, but there didn't seem to be any other way.
When we arrived in Chiang Dao Amelia navigated us to a very quiet area out in the sticks. A lot of the places we stopped by seemed closed. Being low season, we were surprised that none of them were willing to barter. We rode from place to place with no luck, it was now after midday and we were flagging so we stopped by the side of the road to eat some Khao Soi. Our persistence finally paid off when we found a place called 'Phusada', owned by a very old and kind man who looked a little like Mr Miyagi (karate kid). He spoke very little English, but we managed to convey enough to get him to show us to the room. The room was perfect - clean, spacious, hot shower, cable TV and a steal at just 300 baht!
Having Rhonda meant we could go and explore the local area with ease. We found the main town's market and purchased some fruit (mangosteen and mango) for snacks and dessert later. Just next to the market was a stall selling clothes at bargain prices. We're forever getting bitten by pesky mosquitoes so I decided to buy a long sleeve light weight jumper for the evenings. It may of been second hand but it was only 20 baht (under 50p) so I snapped it up and gave it a hand wash when we returned to the room.
We'd found out (through our usual sources) that there was a great vantage point for sunset up by a mountain top temple ('Wat Tham Pha Plong'). However, the clouds weren't looking too promising so we decided to wait and see if they passed. Whilst we waited, we sat at a very nice place called 'Nest Resort and Restaurant'. It was a place we'd noticed earlier on (during our search for accommodation). We sat under cover in their garden area, enjoying a locally produced coffee, whilst the clouds grew darker and darker. It didn't take long before the rain started. Amelia and I sat sipping away, whilst the thunder reverberated through us and flashes of lightening illuminated the gloomy sky.
The storm lingered, so we decided to postpone our trip up the mountain. Feeling peckish we went for dinner at a newly opened establishment opposite our accommodation. They were a very friendly family who'd literally just opened for business, we were one of their very first customers! We were tempted into ordering quite a feast of spicy pig innards soup, barbecued pork chop, salad, homemade chilli dip and sticky rice. 'A Leo' (Thai Beer) or two later we were ready to go back for a shower and bed.
Day nine: Chiang Dao - Tha Ton.
We awoke to see a nice clear blue sky. So after breakfast at a nearby roadside eatery, we packed our bags and headed to Wat Tham Pha Plong.
Unfortunately we weren't able to ride the whole way to the top - as five hundred steps were in the way.
We reached the top drenched (but not from rain this time) and took the time to read the numerous Buddhist teachings dotted around (in both Thai and English). This quote in particular stuck in my mind: "Even if things don't unfold the way you expected, don't be disheartened or give up. One who continues to advance will win in the end".
A humble temple stood in amongst the forest near the top of the mountain, with a modest stupa a few steps above. Being almost the only people there, it was a very peaceful and tranquil experience. We stood for a few minutes by the stupa listening to the wind chimes and taking in the astonishing view.
Chiang Dao cave complex (located just five minutes down the road) is home to more than twelve kilometres of tunnels, some you can explore on your own, others need a guide with a lantern.
We chose to explore the more complex unlit tunnels which required a guide. The sweet little lady took us through some quiet, claustrophobic-inducing tunnels with only the noises of her gas filled lantern roaring away and bats for company. For me, navigating through some of the very low tunnels was quite difficult, but I managed without sustaining concussion!
After getting back from our guided exploration of 'Horse Cave', we felt the need to go further and explore another cave, called 'Sleeping Buddha Cave'. It wasn't as exciting - the tunnels were much larger, lit with electric ceiling lamps and the majority of our time was stuck behind a group tour.
After struggling but eventually succeeding in finding some much needed fuel, we thought we should grab a bite to eat before the next stint. Using our noses as a guide, we scented out a roadside bbq. They were cooking up what looked like big marinated chicken wings. Feeling quite hungry, and being only ten baht each, we ordered three of them. It turned out they were pretty much just chewy bits of chicken skin and bones. Not exactly what we had in mind, but one way or another, it was enough to take the edge off our hunger.
The main roads between Chiang Dao and Tha Ton were far from exhilarating. Our only brief stop, along the two and half hour long tedious stretch of flat dusty roads and through concrete grey towns, was at a 7-Eleven for an iced coffee and coconut biscuits.
Only the last twenty-odd kilometres to Tha Ton provided decent scenery. But we were glad to stop. Unlike Chiang Dao we managed to find a place to rest within ten minutes! We stayed at a place called 'Apples Resort'. The room was nothing special, to be honest it looked like a glorified shed, but would do the job for one night.
Tha Ton is a sleepy town situated next to the Kok River and Thaton Hill.
Our first attraction in Tha Ton was a temple at level eight of nine in a temple complex on Thaton hill. The striking temple was a considerable size and we were permitted to go inside. The temple had three floors, at the top we were able to go out on to a balcony and take in the amazing views over Tha Ton. The temple complex contains four huge statues of Buddha. Before leaving the hill for dinner, we took a ride over to the 'Standing Buddha' on level nine which overlooked the local area.
For dinner we ate at 'Sunshine Cafe', a low straw roofed restaurant with a very friendly owner. Whilst eating dinner we noticed there were birds nests in the lamp shades. We were even close enough to watch one of the birds regurgitating food into the chicks beaks!
Before going back to our shed for the night, we bought some fresh fruit for dessert from a local shop. We carefully selected a sweet golden mango, along with some juicy rambutan (similar to lychee).
Day ten: Tha Ton - Mae Sai.
Back to Sunrise Cafe for breakfast. The very friendly elderly lady (who taught us some more Thai phrases) had a breakfast deal not to be missed - noodle soup, local coffee and fresh pineapple juice, all for just 60 baht!
Before leaving Tha Ton we decided to visit the other levels of the temple complex. By coincidence we managed to arrive at 'feeding time' for the huge amount of monks. It was funny seeing them all queue up for their dessert of whipped ice cream. We also saw the 'White Buddha' and 'Golden Buddha' situated on different levels.
Back on Rhonda and on the road towards our next destination. The riding was much more to my liking, we even managed to have some fun off-road towards another Long Neck Karen hill tribe. Unfortunately this one was very much catered towards tourists, they even wanted 250 baht each to enter! We both agreed that it was way too much and didn't want to take part in funding this human zoo, so jumped back on Rhonda. Fortunately, on our way out of the village we caught a glimpse of one of the long neck women perched on the back of a motorbike heading back home. She was dressed in her tribal clothing and had a full set of brass coils around her neck, it was quite incredible to see it really does give the impression of an elongated neck!
Back on the asphalt we continued heading north until I saw another sign post taking us 'off course'. This one displayed something like 'scenic route'. We soon found ourselves off-road again and in amongst a huge tea plantation. The views were breathtaking, and not something we'd seen before, rows and rows of dark green tea trees planted all along this hidden valley we'd stumbled across. Apart from the plantation workers plucking the leaves, we were the only ones there! After receiving some enquiring looks from the workers and not sure if we were trespassing, we decided not to stay too long!
As midday passed we decided to make a stop to stretch our legs in a place called 'Mae Salong'. It was very similar to Ban Rak Thai (Mae Hong Son loop), it too had plenty of tea shops with a Chinese feel. We stopped by one shop with a great view to take advantage of the free tea tasting. Whilst tasting the huge variety of different teas, we got speaking with a Thai man on holiday from Bangkok. He was a medical teacher who spoke very good English. It turned out very useful getting to know him as he was able to translate information about the different teas and useful advice about the local area (including being wary of trespassing). He also gave us detailed directions to a place for lunch called 'Inn Porchana'.
The eatery was tucked away, without the instructions we surely would've missed it. We also took his recommendation to try 'Kah Moo Mun Toh' which is a slow cooked pork leg with a Chinese flavour. To soak up the juices they served it with a large steamed white dumpling. We both loved it, it was a nice change.
Back on the road, feeling very full, we rode on continuing north, just stopping briefly on the way out of Mae Salong to view another tea plantation - set off the side of the main road.
As the day went on, we started to realise that we weren't covering as much distance as we'd anticipated - due to the condition of the roads and amount of bends! We arrived at a what was meant to be a stopping point in our 'itineray' called 'Mae Fah Luang Garden and Royal Villa', but unfortunately as it was starting to get late we had to carry on. The roads were great fun to ride, but as we approached the Myanmar border they were starting to get steeper and steeper. The views from a road running parallel with Myanmar were incredible, mainly a lot of mountains covered in jungle but there were also some inroads down some windy off road tracks which were crying out to me (and Rhonda)! If we hadn't ridden past a heavily armed Burmese military base I would've been very tempted to take a quick detour!
Mae Sai is the most northern town in Thailand, it is mainly used as a stepping stone to Myanmar. Amelia navigated me through the backstreets and through an undercover market before eventually finding a reasonably priced room for the night, it only took us an hour! The room was an old bamboo hut sat next to the Ruak River. On the otherside of the 10m wide river was Myanmar!
For dinner, we ate along the main road running through the town connecting to Myanmar. And after a nice cheap meal (with a couple of beers), we sat and had quite possibly the most painful massage we've ever experienced! We asked for a head, neck, shoulder Thai massage and paid 80 baht for the 'massage' which was more like a form of torture! They literally kneaded our muscles to the point we felt the need to say "ahh" but this just seemed to spur them on! We both stuck it out, hoping it would do some good for our tight neck and shoulder muscles. Feeling very bruised, we went to bed to recover after our ordeal.
Day eleven: Mae Sai - Chiang Sean.
Not an ideal start to the day but we decided to backtrack our way along the Myanmar/Thailand border road to return to Mae Fah Luang Garden and Royal Villa. Along the way we stopped by a view point which looked out towards Myanmar, it was full of bunkers and trenches, which we presumed the Thai military use on occasion.
The Doi Tung royal villa, former residence of the Princess mother (mother of the present king) is located high up on the hill. Thanks to the Princess mother's interest and encouragement the hills were reforested. She was also instrumental in fighting against the opium trade, as a result the local hill tribes stopped growing poppies and began to grow other crops (like tea).
The royal villa was originally built as a summer residence for the Princess Mother and now houses a museum, displaying her work to improve the life quality of local tribal people.
The Mae Fah Luang gardens are a botanical park located on the slopes below the royal villa. Flowers and plants from all over the world grow among rock formations.
Along the roadside many tribal women were selling fruits, nuts, vegetables and souvenirs, and feeling a little peckish we bought a bowl of small plums, eaten with a chilli and sugar mixture. We found a bench to plonk ourselves on inside the gardens to munch our way through some of the plums. The gardens were split into sections, from colourful, extremely well kept and landscaped flower gardens, to a small maze. We spent some time meandering our way around the tranquil gardens and finding some very comical flowers - Amelia thought they looked like trolls.
With the royal villa closed for house keeping until 12.30pm, we decided to take a look around the 'Hall of Inspiration'. It told the story of the Princess mother, of how she came from rags to riches, marrying into royalty. Sadly her husband died at a young age, leaving her to raise three children. She had strong morals and came across as a very talented and caring person. She never stopped giving and was always trying to help others make better lives for themselves, which was her main inspiration for starting up the Mae Fah Luang foundation.
We stopped by the cafeteria for a quick bite to eat, where it seemed all the workers ate their lunch as it was reasonably priced for the location. Then we returned to the royal villa. Amelia was given a denim shirt to put on to cover her shoulders as a scarf was not acceptable in this instance. We also had to remove our shoes and carry them with us in a plastic bag, and no photographs were allowed.
We listened to an audio guide headset which led us in a systematic way around parts of the villa. A lot of it was closed off to the public as it is still used by the royal family at certain times of the year.
The villa is a beautiful wooden structure, with a Swiss mountain chalet feel, apparently Switzerland was her late, well traveled, husband's favourite place. Decorated with vast amounts of intricate detail and carvings. It looks over spectacular views of the mountains and towards the Myanmar border.
Back on the road, we wound our way down the mountains and headed along the country roads East, towards the golden triangle, where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos all meet.
We happened to stumble across the 'Hall of Opium' en route. The museum educates its visitors on the impact of this powerful drug through an entertaining exhibition, which traces opium’s history. From its first use 5,000 years ago, to current issues of drug abuse and addiction. This centre was also founded by the Princess mother to help others understand her hard work over many years, resulting in the trade in opium gradually being eliminated in Thailand. She encouraged the local people to stop cultivating poppies and switch to cold-climate plantation. Orchards replaced the opium fields and poppy farming became a thing of the past.
We spent nearly two hours reading and taking in a lot of information, and it was now nearly 6pm. We weren't far from the golden triangle, so we quickly jumped back on Rhonda and followed the road around. Amelia directed us to a viewpoint marked on the map. Unfortunately it seemed as though they were in the midst of building a platform, so although we could see the three countries (Thailand, Myanmar and Laos), also the mountains of China in the far distance, the setting was not so great. So we decided to carry on along the Mekong to one of 'official' markers of the golden triangle. The sign was set along side the river where boats waving their Laotian flags were racing up and down. Of course we had to take some photos, but it was a bit of an anticlimax.
Hungry and tired from a very long day site seeing, learning a lot of new information, and of course riding, we carried on to the nearest town, Chiang Saen.
It didn't take us too long to find a cheap room at 'Kalae'. An elderly lady, not understanding or speaking a word of English, and could barely walk, handed us a pot full of keys for the rooms, for us to have a look around ourselves. We picked key number five and stuck with that room for the night. We were a little worried that we might have visitors at some point, as we spotted a fair few mouse droppings around the room, I'm not sure if it was just coincidence but the wifi password contained the word 'mouse' too!
As we took the bike towards the main strip, we noticed cart after cart of street food vendors with mats and low tables set out alongside the river. With its pleasant setting it was very inviting, so we found a spot on the floor and ordered some spicy (fresh out of the Mekong) fish, spicy pork, and spicy papaya salad! With our noses running, mouths burning and eyes watering we managed to find our way back to the room and to bed, with the hope of not waking up to the noise of vermin!
Day twelve: Chiang Saen - Phu Chi Fa.
It turned out we actually had a great night sleep with no interruptions! Not seeing much to do in Chiang Saen we packed and strapped our bags on Rhonda and left the guesthouse. We've never had a bad experience with our staple breakfast of noodle soup up until this point. Normally noodle soup has a punch of flavours which can be 'tuned' to your liking with the table condiments of dried chilli, fish sauce, chilli vinegar and sugar. But this one was beyond help, it was basically an abysmal bowl of greasy bland hot water, rice noodles and a meat that I hope was pork! We didn't exactly feel content setting off, but we did anyway.
It was a long morning of riding, which included having to take a detour due to roadworks. Our first pit stop was at a restaurant called 'The View'. It definitely lived up to the name - most of the seating area was jutting out thirty or so meters over the mighty Mekong River. It has to be said that some of the best views they had were from their spotless toilets!
We passed through another border town called 'Chiang Khong' which is connected with 'Houayxay' in Laos, before making what was another steep incline of never ending hairpin roads to 'Doi Pha Tang' viewpoint.
We parked Rhonda, bought some snacks and climbed the five hundred or so metres to the peak. Amelia and I sat eating the snacks (cherry sized plums and honey roasted almonds) whilst listening to the grumbles of thunder and watching the clouds roll in around us. It wasn't long before we abandoned the viewpoint to seek shelter.
After the rain fizzled out, we got back on Rhonda and made our way to Phu Chi Fa, which wasn't a place we'd heard of until we met a couple of guys back in Mae Sai. One of them had an unusual upbringing starting in Cambodia, then Thailand and finally France, so we presume he had some 'insider' knowledge!
We arrived, after riding through a biblical storm, near the top of Phu Chi Fa and found the only open restaurant selling lunch. Lunch was great and much needed after a disappointing breakfast! The only downside was we had to sit in silence as there was what seemed like a local tribe 'neighbourhood watch' meeting being held. It was a bizarre situation, at some points it seemed like it was getting a little heated!
To get to the peak of Phu Chi Fa we took Rhonda up some very steep roads (I even had to change down to first gear for some) to a carpark area. From the carpark it was a ten minute hike to the top. The views were fantastic, well worth the time and effort! Whilst we were taking in the views, I was able to connect to the Internet on my phone in an attempt to search for accommodation - I'd had enough riding for one day and we'd heard that sunrise at the peak was amazing. After a failed search result for accommodation we decided to carry on.
Not far down the road we found the main Phu Chi Fa town. As with the area we'd just come from, it seemed most places were closed for low season. Eventually, after almost exhausting every possible option, we found a place that looked half-open. No one was around but some doors were open and there was some food out in the restaurant area, so we found their telephone number and gave them a call. Fifteen minutes later a seventeen year old girl and nine year old little sister arrived in a brand new pick up truck carrying their food shopping.
The older sister showed us to our room which we managed to whittle down to just 300 baht and we settled in for the night...or so Amelia thought. I was keen to explore more of the peak of Phu Chi Fa, we knew of another walking trail close by. So we hopped back on Rhonda and up another extremely steep road to another carpark and took another trail to another peak on Phu Chi Fa. We sat for a while, the only two on the mountain, watching an uninspiring sunset whilst eating crisps and having a beer.
On our way back to the room we stopped by a local eatery for some delicious local Thai food at a very reasonable cost (given its remote location).
Day thirteen: Phu Chi Fa - Chiang Rai.
04:45 we awoke, out of choice too, to see the sunrise at the peak of Phu Chi Fa. According to local people and a handful reviews (we'd managed to dig up online), it is definitely worthwhile.
We made it to a view point in almost pitch black, with only our iPhone torches lighting the way. We were the only ones there, at first. We sat shivering on a piece of polythene watching huge clouds literally tumble past us whilst the sky was slowly changing colour, from midnight blues to dark oranges and bright yellows. In front and above us in the distance was the shear cliff face of Phu Chi Fa, and just below was an ocean of clouds. To our right, through a gap in the clouds we could see a small Laotian town and the tops of other mountains. It really was breathtaking.
Once the sun had risen, day trippers (mainly Thai holidaymakers) from Chiang Rai started to make an appearance. But they'd missed what we thought was the best part.
Before leaving the peak of Phu Chi Fa we were graced with the presence of some local tribal children singing for us. Some of which expected money, but others seemed to be doing it for the appreciation from 'foreigners'.
Before embarking for a morning of riding down the mountain, we made sure to revisit the great eatery we had stumbled across for a tasty bowl of hot, full flavoured, noodle soup.
The road down the mountain was great fun to ride, although some of the valleys up and out were definitely in need of more power. Rhonda was definitely struggling at times! Much to Amelia's annoyance I pretty much rode solidly for the 100+ kilometres to Chiang Rai, only stopping for fuel.
It was a bit of shock to the system when we arrived in the bustling town of Chiang Rai, as I actually had to look out for traffic lights and other vehicular activity! Amelia's navigation was spot on as always, she directed us straight to one of the cheapest options for accommodation which for once was pretty much perfect. So we parked up and made ourselves at home, taking the opportunity to use some much needed wifi before heading back out (on foot).
Not feeling too exhausted after our early start, we decided to use our time productively and do the main sights in and around Chiang Rai. The first one being a bling golden clock tower in the middle of a roundabout. Just past the clock tower was a great little find called 'Barrab Restaurant' where we ate the best food we've eaten in northern Thailand and arguably the best we've eaten in the whole of Thailand. Amelia had their signature dish 'Barrab' - minced pork with spring onions, coriander, chilli and lime leaves served with a salad and rice. I had another recommended dish called 'Hung Lay' - a mild curry with ginger. We washed it down with one of their recommended mango shakes - a huge smoothie with big chunks of mango sat on top.
Wat Phra Kaew was next on the agenda, by which time the effects of a very strong cheap coffee from Tesco Lotus had taken affect. We both felt absolutely awful - very nauseas and shaky! Luckily the symptoms didn't last too long so we went back to the 'Buan Bua Guesthouse' to pick up Rhonda and head to black house.
'Baandam Museum' aka 'The Black House' felt like a very morbid place full of lots of animal skeletons, skins, teeth and horns. It is actually the proud work of local artist ('Thawan Duchanee'), who has developed a style of work representing the darkness in humanity. We spent a short while wandering around the house and grounds outside, before being ushered towards the exit as it was closing time.
That evening we went to a nearby night market for a look around the stalls and for a potential dinner spot. Not finding much (or perhaps not wanting to), we decided to head back to 'Barrab Restaurant' for dinner. I think it's one of the only times we've eaten at the same establishments twice in one day - that's how good it was! Amelia had a very flavoursome stir fry and I had their amazing 'Special Pad Thai' (as it was called in the menu), with a secret ingredient in their sauce which really did make it extra special!
Day fourteen: Chiang Rai - Chiang Mai.
Wanting to beat the tour groups to a temple just over ten kilometres away, we set our alarms to make sure we'd be on the road by 8am. This gave us chance to grab some breakfast on our way, which ended up being at a busy buffet style eatery, where we both chose a safe bet - Pad Ka Prao with a fried egg on top of the steamed rice.
It was roughly 15km along the main highway, South out of Chiang Rai, to reach 'Wat Rong Khun', aka 'The White Temple'. Although this road was fast and therefore allowing us to arrive promptly, it wasn't very nice to ride, having to ride with my eyes on stalks, continuously checking ahead for traffic pulling out and weaving in and out of each other.
We didn't expect to see the temple from the main road, which was hard to miss as it glistened in the sunlight. It was an astonishing, dazzling white, contemporary temple.
The main building at the white temple, the ubosot, is reached by crossing a bridge over a small lake. In front of the bridge are hundreds of outreaching hands that are there to symbolise unrestrained desire. Next to the lake stand two very elegant Kinnaree, half-human, half-bird creatures from Buddhist mythology. The ubosot is an all-white building with fragments of mirrored glass embedded in the building's exterior. We took off our shoes before entering the ubosot. Expecting to see the usual temple interior, we were taken aback to see fiery and bewildering murals. The murals depict swirling orange flames and demon faces, interspersed with Western idols such as Michael Jackson, images of nuclear warfare, terrorist attacks, and plenty of cartoon/fiction characters such as the Minions, Harry Potter, Superman and Hello Kitty. A little confused we left feeling like this temple was a bit of a joke, but an impressive beautiful one.
It was only after our visit that we understood that the White Temple is in fact a privately owned art exhibition, in the style of a temple. The funds were not available to help rebuild the original temple which was in a bad state by the end of the 20th century. A local artist from Chiang Rai decided to take on the temple as a project, with which he completely rebuilt and funded it all himself, spending 40million baht (nearly £800,000). The compound in which the White Temple sits will eventually house nine buildings. One of which is home to some very royal looking toilets!
The crowds moved in as we were leaving and hit the road for our long journey (180km), completing our motorbike trip, and taking us back to Chiang Mai. If there is one thing we learnt in this trip, it was to stop as regularly as we could. This didn't necessarily happen as it is not always that easy to stop, however for this long stint we decided on no longer than one hour sections.
It wasn't an exciting journey along straight and flat main roads, taking us through towns and countryside so stopping frequently helped break it up.
Our first stop was timed perfectly with a mango sticky rice cafe. Astounded by the price of their mango sticky rice, we opted for the cheaper frozen mango, which turned out to come with rice and coconut milk anyway, but for half the price. For our second stop I chose a crocodile farm! We stopped for a coffee and had the chance to see some crocs being fed.
It was only right that as our trip came to an end, the heavens opened! One last poncho change, but not surprisingly we got absolutely soaked through! We had to go careful as the rain was flooding the roads and obstructing my vision. But we eventually, after over three hours of riding, and a slight detour around the maze of one way roads in Chiang Mai, arrived to the train station, with the sun beaming down us. We made a whirlwind decision to purchase tickets for the night train that same evening to Ayutthaya. Which left us with a few hours to eat, hand the bike back, grab my bags, and make our way back to the station.
We returned to a favourite chicken satay restaurant we had visited before, but due to it being Buddha day, a lot of places were closed, including this restaurant. So we ended up next door, which wasn't a bad thing as we had a delicious duck Tom Yum soup, and cooled down our mouths with some coconut ice cream.
There were no problems dropping the bike back, apart from the massive downside of having to carry our bags again! We set off down the road with our bags strapped to our back, sweating away, back to the old ways.
Spotting a nice cafe alongside the river, and having some spare time before we needed to be at the station, we sipped away at a delicious berry smoothie.
Having lost track of time, we jumped in a tuk tuk to take us the few kilometres remaining to the station. Searching for a street vendor cooking up food, a random traveller spotted us and was quick to point us in the direction of a lady he had just eaten from, recommending her cooking. We ordered a Pad Thai, chicken fried rice, and papaya salad to take-away, which we would eat later on the train for dinner. We also paid a quick visit to ensure we were stocked up with snacks and water for the long night ahead on the night train.
On the train, we gave ourselves the opportunity to switch off and reflect on the two week, 2000km adventure we'd successfully completed all on our own! North Thailand truly surpassed our expectations and blew our minds with its beauty..