(meals key: B = breakfast; L = lunch; D = dinner; S = snacks)
Day 1: Arrival in Chiang Rai
If you fly into Chiang Rai Mai Fa Luang International Airport (IATA Code: CEI), you will be met at the airport and transferred to our joining 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 enjoy our first meal together.
Day 2: Thoeng
Our first day on the road is a flat rural ride save for a rather challenging hill directly after our morning break. A beautiful section of red gravel and bicycle paths lead us around a pleasant lake affording fine views. After lunch, we follow byways and tracks through rice fields towards our characterful guesthouse in the small town of Thoeng.
Day 3: Phu Chi Fa
having left town on a bigger road, we soon reach the minor byways and gravel roads that lead us to our morning break in a lovely little riverside park. From here, we begin the long, gently undulating climb that during the next 27 kilometres rises 800 meters to our simple lodging for the night. Set on the edge of a ridge, our guest house offers a stunning view to behold as we enjoy our sundowners.
Day 4: Chiang Kong
For those happy to rise before dawn, a treat awaits this morning. A stiff walk takes us to the highest viewpoint in Chiang Rai Province, where, at 1500M, we can watch the sunrise over Lao through a sea of cloud below hanging below us.
Back on the bikes, at one thousand metres above sea level, the first stage of our ride will be pleasantly cool this morning. After our first break, extra caution is called for as we lose a thousand vertical metres during a beautiful 10-kilometre descent.
The final third of today's ride leads us through villages and past temples to our beautiful resort in the border town of Chiang Kong, just across the Mekong River from Lao.
Day 5: Golden Triangle
Today's ride is an undulating amble following the bank of the Mekong River towards the border town of Chiang Saen and The Golden Triangle. Once infamous for the production of opium poppies, the area where the Laotian, Burmese, and Thai borders meet in the Mekong is now prosperous for another vice - gambling. So lucrative is the casino trade in Lao that the area across the river from our homestay is effectively a Chinese town, all high-rise apartments and flashy casinos. The Thai side, where we shall overnight, is still a sleepy little town where the biggest draw is the giant golden Buddha statue and the opium museum.
DAY 6: Mae Salong
A beautiful, mostly flat ride leads us cross-country along rural byways and tracks on an unforgettably pastoral ride. After fifty kilometres, we reach the point where each rider must decide whether to ride or transfer.
The climb to the hill-top town of Mae Salong begins gently, but as we ride, the gradient ramps up to a point where many cyclists will agree; this is only for the most ardent of climbers. You are, of course, welcome to ride in our AC support vehicle.
The history of Mae Halong is fascinating. Following defeat in the Chinese civil war, warriors of the Kuomintang army fled the wrath of the victorious Red Army, who were, vexed by the number of their comrades who had been wounded and killed. Many went to Taiwan, but for those in Yunnan Province, the cross-China journey was too hazardous, so they crossed into nearby Burma and on to Thailand. Doi Mae Salong became home to such people, and for decades the area was off-limits even to Thais. Consequently, the village developed a Chinese culture, with food and language from the motherland and tea cultivation as the major crop in the region. The descendants of these first settlers remain to this day, growing and producing tea. These tea producers have small tea shops throughout the village where the local wares can be sampled and purchased.
DAY 7: Thaton
Today, our destination is one thousand vertical metres lower than Mae Salong, so our ride is predominantly downhill despite one or two stiff climbs. Being just 45-kilometres away, we should reach our rest day resort in time for lunch.
DAY 8: Thaton - Rest Day
Our rest day for this tour is on the outskirts of Thaton, a small town close to the Burmese border. We lodge in a delightful riverside resort, an ideal spot to relax, perhaps enjoy a dip in the pool, and recharge ready for our journey ahead. The views across the river and along the valley are beautiful. Keen bird spotters will enjoy the array of species that can be observed here. A short walk or bike ride will take you to the town, where a brisk climb is rewarded with beautiful views from the temple that overlooks the valley.
The resort also offers such activities as cookery classes, guided walks, and kayaking. These activities are subject to availably and are not always available; there is also a fee.
Day 9: Chai Prakan
Rested and re-energises, we resume our journey today with a lovely rural ride on quiet roads and tracks, passing fruit orchards, crops of corn, and rice fields. It is a flat, relaxing ride that ends at a pleasant poolside resort.
DAY 10: Phrao
Again we ride on secluded rural roads, enjoying Northern Thailand scenery at its best as at times we pass jungle-clad karst rock formations. Our destination is the broad and secluded Phrao Valley, a charming and little-visited region. To access the valley, we have four kilometres of cheeky climbing, which, as always, can be enjoyed from the comfort of our mini-bus before remounting for the exhilarating descent to the valley floor.
DAY 11: Chiang Mai
Our final day leads us south, through the valley past orchards and the Mae Kuang lake.
Our destination is the historical capital of the ancient Lanna Kingdom, Chiang Mai. In the middle of the city, we stay in the characterful area within the town's square moat. Small lanes wind their way past peoples homes, cafés, restaurants, guesthouses and pubs. It is a perfect location to enjoy our final evening together, reflecting on a wonderful adventure.
DAY 12: Finish
The tour officially finishes after breakfast. We will provide transport to Chiang Mai International Airport (IATA Code: CNX) for those who are flying out today. For those with the time to stay on, Chiang Mai is the tourist centre of Northern Thailand and is worthy of a day or two to enjoy wandering the streets, enjoying the cafés, dining, and for those missing home, the Irish pup. The city is also the centre of a growing mountain bike scene, with several local operators offering day trips on the local trails.
The start point of our journey, Chiang Rai, is just 3-hours away by a comfortable bus for those wishing to return.
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