It seems our first few cloudy days were unseasonably cool. The forecast now is for bright sunshine and for the days to be hotter. We are therefore back to days of old of getting up early and setting off at dawn to maximise the cool part of the day. Although the alarm always seems cruel, it is always worth getting going early – there is something glorious about a cool morning, watching the sunrise and little traffic. Our legs were also rested from our day off so we pedaled away from our guesthouse in good spirits.
Our route continued to closely follow the river Ping. This time the ‘quiet side’ (ie away from highway 1) was truly quiet. We had a great morning’s ride along a pleasant road with a good surface through villages and verdant countryside. The views were more interesting as we ventured away from the central plain and passed hills and even spied bigger misty mountains in the distance. We even had a few minor undulations – a relief to test our legs slightly after pancake flat for the first week (although a total of about 200m climbing for the day is still pretty minimal).
We ate up the kms and pressed on to the town of Tak. As we entered the town we joined Highway 1 for a short while – a grim line of concrete and aseptic shops along the busy highway. As soon as we turned off the change was instant with the place morphing into a pleasant riverside town. We found good coffee to give us a zizz for the final section and soon we were back on quiet, country roads hugging the river again. It was much hotter but a breeze kept the heat at bay – although we were aware that the sun had been beating down on us for hours (thank goodness for factor 50 suncream – we never cycle without it).
The road bent away from the river for a short distance and on this stretch we saw some touring cyclists coming towards us up the hill towards us. They were a couple of young, male Thai touring cyclists and were on their way south. They were well kitted out with ortleib panniers, brooks saddles and surly long haul trucker touring bikes – in fact our exact set up before we switched to trikes. Their English and our Thai was minimal so we just did ‘bike talk’ with pointing, took some pictures, said good luck and on our way again. They were closely followed by two further cyclists – clearly part of the same group.
Soon after we reached the pretty little town of Ban Tak. We hadn’t booked a hotel as there had been so few tourists so far so we were mildly shocked to find our first two choices were both full. We had not clocked that it was the weekend and so the hotels fill up. One was pretty upmarket and was hosting a wedding so it was not surprising they didn’t have room for a couple of scruffy, English cyclists. The receptionist was very apologetic but who knows if she was mentally relieved to be able to say No.
It is so easy to find hotels (or anything else come to that) with google maps. There is no need to ask anyone for directions for the way to a hotel in broken Thai, or to misunderstand the response. Now all the hotels in Ban Tak (and elsewhere) just show up on our phones; we press the symbol and can see pictures (most are in Thai script rather than roman script so we have no idea what they are called so recognising the picture really helps to let you know when to stop!). Soon we were at a pleasant motel style place with large rooms, hot water and pristine clean of course (so different from some of the grim motels we stayed in in the US!). It was a real relief to get out of the sun and to revive with a cup of tea! We did not quite break to 100km marker but got near enough to feel pretty pleased with ourselves.