Saturday, January 20, 2018

MHS Day 8 - MHS to Khun Yuam. 72km


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Breakfast is the most important meal for cyclists and we asked Khun Jum to help us supplement her breakfast with ham, sausages and eggs which we bought from 711. It was very kind of her to help us cook them.

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I finally got to assemble Celia's BF Pocket which took me only 15 mins out of the Samsonite. Practise makes perfect they say... Hers was to be the only foldy on our team and it is a very good climber except it was shod with road tires, which though is fast, will be a challenge on broken roads on some small sections. The highways are usually excellent but you never know.

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Today was to be a much easier ride looking at the terrain map - just 3 small climbs to Khun Yuam and a relatively flat ride of 65km. By now we were used to monster climbs and this looked relatively mild.

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Our departure however was delayed as Prof was kept busy with 2 patients, Lance who needed a change of dressing (healing very well) and a French tourist who had an infected hand. He was not shy to ask for help and we were glad we could help him out.

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It was comfortable to stay at Baan Mai Guesthouse and we enjoyed ourselves very much but it was time to go, except for Loh who opted to stay for one more day before he took a bus back to Chiang Mai. We took a group photo with Khun Jum and hubby before saying our farewells.

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The ride out of MHS was cool and pleasant, with Highway 1095 offering wide shoulders. We were spinning at a very good pace and it was a cool 18c. Everyone was in the highest spirits and it was wonderful to be back on the saddle.

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Wayne was busy the night before looking at his GPS map and suggested doing a detour to avoid a mountain pass and we agreed. This was about 18km down the road and when we took that detour, we realised it was largely off road.

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Not only that, it had to cross some streams and that proved a bit too much for us.  Lance in fact dropped his mobile phone here but good thing we managed to recover it! Here he is pretending to look devastated.

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So it was back to 1095 and the steep climb began. When the road is painted red, it meant that drivers are to beware of steep and sharp hairpins, and to slow down when coming downhill. What it meant for us was a hard slog up especially for Celia as it was her first day while we had a week's conditioning.

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Fortunately, there was a lovely cafe and breathtaking view point which we all stopped to have a chat and a drink. Mothership met us there and it was great to see the crew. It was there that I realised we forgot to apply for the MHS Loop Certificates which can be gotten from the Tourist Office in town. A WhatsAp contact with Loh got that sorted and I was very pleased at his kindness.

For some reason I felt hungry and ordered a lovely Khao Phad with egg and a freshly squeezed glass of orange juice at the cafe. That was so delicious.

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I have been to this spot 10 years ago and besides being a good place to take a break, it offered a bird's eye view of the mountains. It made me reflect upon the years gone by so quickly and though many things in life have changed, the mountains remained as it were for centuries gone by.

That reminded me of a beautiful verse in Psalm 121:1-2 (GNT)

I look to the mountains where will my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.

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We continued on, heading south this time on 108 towards Khun Yuam and met with beautiful rolling hills. I reckon this must be the best part of the MHS Loop to cycle as we were all flying at 25-28km/h and 40km/h down the slopes. At this time we spotted the Mothership ahead of us and we stopped to swap riders.

George who was recovering nicely from head injury could not help himself and wanted to give it a go. All these driving 300km or so got him raring to be on a bicycle and this was the perfect road for him to get his cycling legs back. So he swapped with Celia and was on her BF Pocket.

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We all told him to take it easy and we could all see the joy that radiated from his face!  I was at first very concern for him but off he went like he was born for this, and he is! It was magic to cruise downhill with George and the team, and we were really flying as there were more downhills than up as we rolled along. We all escorted President George like VIP Outriders as we wanted to make sure he was ok.

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George spun for about 30 mins and finished the ride with a biggest grin ever. More than just a bicycle ride, that short experience for him boosted his confidence and well being greatly. It was George's first ride on a Pocket and he was impressed that despite the smaller wheels, it tracked downhill as steady as an arrow.

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We continued for a bit more before stopping for lunch. Somehow none of us took photos of this very ordinary stop perhaps because we all were too busy eating. All I recalled was the ice cold water served in metal mugs! We were clearly out of the tourist belt as there were no fancy cafes or themed restaurants, being so far from Chiang Mai.

Pressing on, we didn't have much distance to Khun Yuam and the instruction was for Mothership to find a nice cafe in town and meet us there. So we all took off and I was sweeping the rear with Celia. At one climb we did, a group of 3 motorcycles passed us and stopped. They looked a bit like Police motorcycles with their boxes and all and I wondered why. Lo and behold, it was our good friend from Muar Malaysia Inchik Acid Mustafa! I asked him, "Was I speeding?"

They were on a N Thailand tour spanning 6000km.  It was amazing to meet a friend so unexpectedly on the road like this and though we chatted only for 5-10 mins, it was so good to see him and his 2 friends. They were camping in Mae Kampong when the cold wave hit them and they frozed at 4c!

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The last 6-7km to Khun Yuam was probably the fastest ride as it was a slight downhill with straight, excellent roads and we all enjoyed this stretch. The below 50 group was no where to be seen! But touring is not just about speed, it is about enjoying the journey especially for my missus and I where we had plenty of beautiful alone time together on our wheels.

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As we rolled into Khun Yuam, we spotted KC waiting for us at the gates of an early Night Market, looking so relaxed and happy. We told him that the meeting point was just 1km up as informed by our group Whats App and we scurried away there. This cafe is just by the Japanese War Museum - a place that is certainly worth a visit and I wrote an article about this 10 years ago.  What intrigue are local Thai accounts of how kind and helpful the Japanese Army were to the farmers as they retreated from their failed Burma Campaign. There were even marriages!

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At the beautiful and cosy cafe - Doi Khun Coffee, Celia wasted no time to order a very tempting ice cream tower that was most appreciated. With free wife, cold drinks, coffee, comfy chairs and nice music, all of us planted ourselves longer than usual and it was hard to leave.

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The beautiful Khun Yuam Resort was chosen because it was nestled among rice fields some 4km away from town. It was an easy downhill ride to the resort and we enjoyed the ride there immensely with the sun coming down. Somehow, today was such an easy cycling day!

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I did promise Celia that tonight's accommodation would be impressive and I was holding my breath as my marriage was on the line! What you see in photos are often not what you get. The owner greeted us and showed us to our rooms. YC's family and us took the larger rooms while the rest took the normal ones.

The good Lord had mercy on me as our room was absolutely amazing!  I will let the photos speak for themselves. For 1500B, they were worth every cent!

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The missus was pleased and you know the saying, a happy wife is a happy life. All was well and all was forgiven as the only sounds we should hear tonight were the soothing rhythms of crickets and night birds. So we thought...  

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Here is an excellent video of the resort which captures pretty much the beauty and special-ness of this place...



For dinner, we all piled onto the Mothership and drove to town in the dark. We found a nice local restaurant that served delicious Thai fare. What surprised was that away from the touristy centers, prices really came down and we had 10 dishes including fish, tom yam soup and so many of our favourites. The bill came to less than S$4 per person.  

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If you are ever in the vicinity and want good value and high quality Thai fare, please give this place a go.  At night Khun Yuam is pretty dead and we are grateful to this beacon of hope and nutrition.

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ธน โภชนาขุนยวม
284/2 ม .2 ขุนยวม Chang Wat Mae Hong Son 58140, Thailand
+66 87 186 4548

We retired happy for this relatively easy day to Khun Yuam and being in this magnificent resort really made for a happy close to an amazing day. But we had one more fun activity left in our sleeve and that is the launching of hot air lanterns. 

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Mark and Wayne drew all the different bicycles we used on this trip on the lanterns and I was amazed at the little details they noticed. With the lanterns all filled up with hot air, we released it in the dark, quiet, cold night and enjoyed seeing them soar upwards into the stars.

A fitting end indeed!

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Pics YC, KC, Sinn Tail n AL

Thursday, January 18, 2018

MHS Day 7 - Playing with mud and relaxing in MHS

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MHS and its surroundings have so much to offer and it will be a waste if we are to just move on. With the privilege of having our own transport, we were poised to do some exploring, giving our bicycles a much needed rest. Kun Jum was up early to make sure we were ok and we appreciated her hospitality.

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Breakfast was a bit different today - we went to the famous HK Congee near the Toyota Dealership. Loh who loves China was delighted and so were we as I have been here a few times and it's nearly as good as being in HK. I had the Century Egg porridge which was soooo aroy mak mak.

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Our next stop was to see the famous Wat Phrathat Doi Kongmu which is perched high on top of a beautiful hill overlooking MHS town. 

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We have cycled up here before and it gives a new meaning to the expression "Take our breath away" as it is super steep. But onboard the Mothership, our breath was taken away by the sheer beauty of what we saw.

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My fav - Fridays, the bicycle that is!

Many of us were happily taking photos of portraits, scenery, temple etc and were amazed at how blue the sky was from up here. 

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As this view point overlooked the airport, Wayne alerted us to a morning flight that was arriving soon and we waited to see that. I have always loved planes and to see a ATR 72 twin prop plane land is a very special experience. When we heard the faint sound of engines in the air, we got excited and it was great of Sinn Tail to take this video for all to share in our joy.  Celia was coming in at 5pm this way!


Our next destination was to Ban Rak Thai, one of the many KMT Army remnant mountain base camps turned villages just at the border of Myanmar. As mentioned earlier, the one in Pai has been very commercialised and this one less so. It was about 45km away and is an easy drive through the mountains along Hway 108. We passed by the Phu Klon Country Club where we stopped to make bookings for our mud spa.

The journey took us through some very steep climbs and twisties and we were glad we were not cycling. We stopped at a beautiful waterfall for a short break.

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I felt very worried for those in the rear of the pick up truck as we squealed through the many hairpins but they seemed to be having a ball! Although the distance wasn't too far, it seemed like eternity as we crunched through 1st and 2nd gear many a times to overcome some sections. To think that our friend Mallika was going to cycle up here blows our mind. Nu from Triple Cats told me that he took 4-5 hrs to cover the 25km of climbs! There is a good reason for this and it is Pang Ung Lake. This is probably one of the most beautiful lakes in Thailand and ideal for camping. It is also a photographer's paradise. Unfortunately, we didnt have time to visit on this trip.

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A huge gateway greeted us as soon as we entered Ban Rak Thai which means "House love Thailand". So do we! The Thai government has given the KTM permission and citizenship in exchange for them to protect the Thai borders during the war against Mao's Army and it is good to see them settled in so well. Many were in fact given the opportunity to return to Taiwan, but they chose to stay.

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Ban Tak Thai is a village that is blessed with a beautiful lake and most shops/guesthouses and residences are located around it. We have stayed here before on our scooter tour and enjoyed the tranquility of this beautiful and remote mountain top village. 

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The Lee family, descendents of a powerful General I believe, run a huge restaurant there and offered delicious Yunnanese food. At 1600B or S$64 for 10 pax set meal it was very good value indeed.

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Loh struck gold as it was authentic Chinese fare - two times in a row for him! I particularly enjoyed the buns with stewed pork among other amazing dishes. A lovely change from the spicy-ness of Thai food.  We all ate heartily and truly, this was most enjoyable. And to have such a grand meal with the view of the lake is priceless. It is certainly a big highlight!

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It was pure joy to see Mark polish off every morsel off the bones of the fish and we were all amazed at his skill. Truly a food connoisseur he is!

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Beside the restaurant is a beautiful cafe and wine bar which offers splendid views of the lake, especially from the upper deck. Obviously the  enterprising owners have traveled extensively and are very discerning.  I reckon Ban Rak Thai truly deserves an overnight stay and I shall be back.

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Pete told me about his visit to the Burmese border the last time and I missed it. So I brought the troop there. It is not far from the lake, perhaps 1km or so through unsealed roads. We were not sure if the guards would welcome our visit but one young soldier appeared to be very friendly and warm. He kindly allowed us to take a group photo and I hope he doesn't get into any trouble. We saw several local motorcycles going through the border gates without passports etc and that got me curious. I wonder if we could do that too? But then again, I wasn't prepared to spend a night or more in jail!

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It was only 25km back to Phu Klon Country Club where we were going to have our mud spa. But a short detour to the King's Botanic Garden was a must do. It was a pity that time was running out and we could only do a photo stop. 

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At the Spa, we opted for the whole body mud package and I truly enjoy this treatment. Basically, we are called to undress, get painted on with special mud and wait patiently in the sun for the mud to dry. This seems to have a tightening effect on our skin which make it taut and rejuvenated. It was good that we were here at 330pm, the hottest part of the day as the winds were still very cool.

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But more than that, we had a huge laugh as we saw ourselves transformed into savage natives and it is through moments like these that make our LTF trips so fun, special and memorable. 

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I shall always be grateful to KC for asking us to do an impromptu sun dance and here is the delightful video of our unrehearsed performance. 


It was time to wash and scrub off the mud and the attendants did a brilliant job getting rid of our road dirt accumulated all the way from Chiang Mai. After the bath, skin lotions were applied as well as other treatments and truly, we were so spoiled. Worth every of the 700B we paid.

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It was then off to the airport to pick Celia up. She was touching down at about 5pm from CM/Singapore. We were a little late and she was waiting for us, looking pleased as punch. Unlike all of us who brought full size bikes, she brought along her trusty Bike Friday Pocket which traveled in a discrete and anonymous Samsonite 29" suitcase. This truly makes for easy travel on a small light aircraft as well as the back of our Mothership.

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We celebrated the end of our Phase 1 of the MHS Loop with style at Fern Restaurant where we welcomed Celia to the team and farewell Loh who was going to take a bus back to CM. The prices here are about 30% higher than normal but it more than makes up with its cosy ambience, great food and wonderful live music.

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After such a huge dinner, it was a stroll to the night markets where we had soya curds and milk for dessert. Many of us took this opportunity to buy souvenirs at the myriad of stalls all bustling and alive.

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We were also very blessed this time to be able to get a slot for a Thai Massage and that really prepared us for bed. I reckoned everyone should have one regularly and it is no wonder the Thais are so bright and cheerful as Thai Massage is part of their weekly routine for most locals.

As cosy and warm Ban Mai Guesthouse is, it was quite a challenge to have a good night's sleep if you are a light sleeper as the wooden walls are not sound proof. If you happened to have neighbours, who no fault of theirs, are naturally recruited into the night rhythm orchestra, it can be a very long and trying twilight zone. Fortunately we had ear plugs and that helped greatly. 

The missus wasn't too impressed understandably but I did promised her that tomorrow's hotel will be better, much much better and with that, we said farewell to an absolutely gorgeous day in MHS with gratitude to the Lord in our hearts. 

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Pics - KC ST n AL