(meals key: B = breakfast; L = lunch; D = dinner; S = snacks)
Day 1: Arrival in Chiang Rai
The first day of the tour is a day for arriving and meeting the rest of the group. If you fly in you will be met at the airport and transferred to our hotel. During the day you will meet by your tour leader and come evening we can gather to discuss the details of the tour and afterwards to head out for our first meal together
Day 2: Thaton
After breakfast, we need to take some time to assemble our own bikes ready for the tour or become acquainted with our rental bikes. Once the machines are prepared our exploration of northern Thailand will begin with a beautiful ride through the delightful countryside as we head north towards the little town of Thaton. Our ride will take us along lanes, trails and rural byways as we pass through rubber plantations and small villages with a backdrop of temples and forest. Come lunchtime the road peters out into narrow challenging and remote trails and at this stage we will take to the river to finish today’s journey in a classic Thai long-tail boat. The remainder of the day’s journey offers a unique view of northern Thailand as we pass rural villages and tropical vegetation en-route to the small town of Thaton where we can enjoy our hotel’s pool before evening drinks and a riverside dinner.
Day 3: Thaton
The beautiful Thaton valley was the initial inspiration for the North Thailand tour, and today we will find out why as we spend the morning following a quiet rural road winding past orchards of tangerine trees and fields of rice as we enjoy our first longish day’s cycling. The mood of the ride changes a little after lunch as we explore the wonderful unsealed tracks and trails that zigzag across the valley floor giving us an insight into the agricultural life of Northern Thailand.
The day's route is a circular ride that takes us back to the same hotel for a second night where, with no need to unpack our bags we will have more time to cool off in the pool and enjoying a post-ride beer, or the more energetic may wish to take ride the short steep climb to the town’s temple and enjoy the beautiful view over the valley.
Day 4: Mae Salong
Today we have a change of culture and riding conditions as we head to the Chinese town of Mae Salong. A clue as to the cycling challenge ahead lays waiting for us in the shape of some steep climbs as we leave the Thaton Valley behind us. After 30KMS we turn north and face one of the tour’s major challenges, the 13KM climb to Mae Salong. Some may conquer this climb under their own steam, whilst many will opt to use our support bus, but whichever way you make the climb the Chinese culture, food, and language of the mountain top village where we spend the night make a wonderful end to the day.
About Mae Salong.This village which runs along a hilltop ridgeis home to the descendants of Kuomintang warriors who fled China at the end of the civil war. For decades this area was off-limits even to Thais, with the consequence of Chinese culture and tea cultivation become predominant in the area. There are several small tea factories and tea shops where the local produce can be sampled. At around 1400 metres it also has a cooler climate.
Day 5: Doi Thung.
Leaving our resort in Mae Salong we first follow the undulating mountain ridge before turning south for a rural and dramatic descent through forests of eucalyptus, past a gleaming golden spire atop the white dome of a Buddhist stupa defended by white lions and head down down down through small villages and hillside farmland until reaching the wide well surfaced and relatively flat road of the valley floor. The tempo changes come afternoon as we follow rural roads through rice fields, tea plantations and pineapple fields to a lovely country resort where we can relax by the pool with pre-dinner drinks.
DAY 6: Chiang Saen
Today we head east across mostly flat farming land to the Mekong River. Our cross-country route is on small winding roads, mostly well-surfaced roads but with some unsealed stretches. We will lunch at the Golden Triangle where Thailand, Laos, and Burma all converge in the Mekong River. Following lunch, we have less than an hour's ride to our riverside resort where we will spend the next two nights.
DAY 7: Chiang Saen: Rest Day
The small town of Chiang Saen sits on the western bank of the Mekong River overlooking Laos and will host us for our rest day. Simply relaxing in our resort’s garden is an agreeable way to while away the hours, but for those who still have energy to burn and curiosity to satisfy Chiang Saen offers an interesting glimpse into small-town Thai life as well as an opportunity to explore the temples and ruins of the ancient Lanna Kingdom and promenade along the riverfront.
DAY 8: Chiang Kong
Today we become better acquainted with the mighty Mekong River as our rural ride tracks her twists and turns south. Rising and descend along a twisting country road we head to our second border town in little more than 24 hours. This border town has slightly less bustle though as sleepy Chiang Kong is more in tune with the needs of weary travels than cross-border traders and we can enjoy a relaxing evening overlooking the Mekong and lights of nearby Laos.
Day 9: Pu Chi Fa
Heading out of town we pass the newest of several cross Mekong bridges linking Thailand and Lao before joining a rural road with splendid views of the river. High-speed long tail boats and Laotian freight craft ply their trade as we cycle by, and after a while, the Mekong hands international border duties over to the mountain range at the top of which we will spend the night. With high daytime temperatures, a 16-kilometre climb, and gradients too steep to be amusing we make use of our support vehicles to transfer us to the top of this climb. Following lunch at a restaurant with magnificent views we resume cycling in a very different part of Thailand. At around 1300 metres the temperature is lower and we now follow a beautiful ridge that undulates through an area far more akin to Lao than to Thailand.
DAY 10: Thaon
For those willing to rise before dawn a treat awaits this morning. A stiff walk will take us to the highest viewpoint in Chiang Rai Province where, at 1500M, we can watch the sunrise through a sea of cloud below us as we look out over Laos.
Cycling out of Pu Chi Fa after breakfast another treat awaits in the form of what is arguably Thailand's most wonderful ride. For the next thirty-six kilometres, we follow a ridge that undulates through wonderful scenery with stunning views across softly textured valleys. The temperature rises and the vegetation changes from farmland to jungle as we slowly lose one thousand vertical metres of altitude cruising down to a lovely little riverside park where we can enjoy a picnic lunch. The afternoon’s ride is of an altogether different flavour as we wind through lowland villages and rural scenes to the town of Thaon at the end of a thoroughly delightful day.
DAY 11: Chiang Rai
Our final day on the road is a flat rural ride save for a rather challenging hill directly after our morning break. Rising 200 metres in just two kilometres this will be seen as an invigorating challenge by some, and a good reason to hop in the support vehicle by others. The afternoon involves a beautiful section of red gravel road leading us around a pleasant lake affording fine views and a fitting spot for our final tea break of the tour.
Meals: BL S
DAY 12: Finish
The tour officially finishes after breakfast. For those who are flying out today, we will provide transport to Chiang Rai International Airport.
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