The place we stayed last night – where we were the only guests – is not on any maps. In contrast Lamphun is a major city, 26km South of Chang Mai and a place with its own history, sights and tourist industry – and we have traveled about 100km due north to Lamphun for anyone trying to follow us on a map. We opted for a “hostel” in Lamphun on the grounds we might meet other like minded folk but found that we were the only visitors staying at the Pick Baan Hostel. There is either a dearth of independent tourists in Thailand this year or we have to do something about our personal hygiene. Given the fact that one of the major delights of any cycling day is a long, hot shower on arrival, we suspect it is the former.
You may have noticed that the distance today started with a “1”; yes we broke the barrier for cycling over 100km a day on the trikes for the first time. We felt pretty good about passing that meaningless milestone – we have done it lots of times on the bikes but this is the first time on three wheels. The last 20km were flat and we were going along at about 18/19km per hour. So, although the trikes are heavier and slower uphill, overall things balance out across a cycling day.
Today’s route was “mixed”. It was mostly undulating – hence over 500m of climbing but no big hills. Our route followed the line of the national route 106, but this is a major road and we were keen to avoid it when we could. The first 20km were off the 106, along tiny roads with loads of small villages. Villages are full of people – who wave at us – and dogs – who bark incessantly at us. This stretch was cut short when we reached a stretch of dirt track (which the map indicated only lasted 1km) a woman caught us up on a motorbike and gesticulated that we could not go on. Tempted though we were to try it it, she was adamant and she carefully guided us through a wiggly route back to the 106 – no doubt wondering how we could have got so lost. It was very good hearted and we said our thanks.
Then we had a period on the 106 – busy but with the advantage of stopping for wonderful “to die for” coffee mid morning. Then we played mix and match – sometimes on the main road and sometimes on near parallel side roads. The 106 was busy, and particularly challenging where there were roadworks, a smaller carriage way and our first exposure to lorry drivers who regard cycles as something like skittles in ten pin bowling. The side roads were wonderful, quiet and there were large numbers of really interesting – architect designed – houses with colourful gardens. This is an area of some affluence and it was lovely to glide by on our trikes. But whereever there are people, there are dogs.
It is probably time to say something about dogs – the perennial worry of long distance cyclists. Bernie and I are dog lovers and dog owners. But regular readers of this blog will appreciate that, as a cyclist, I (this is David writing) have a particular sensitivity to dogs. Three months of last year was consumed in pain as a result of the attentions of our canine friends. Dogs vary the world over, but the division between “wild” and “domesticated” dogs is somewhat fluid in many parts of the world. The worst place we have experienced (apart from genuinely feral beasts in the desert in the USA) was Greece. Every village appeared to have pack of dogs whose main aim in life was to attack cyclists. By comparison, the dogs in Thailand are amateurs. But there are lots of them – and they appear to be genuinely pets of someone – for the most part. Some are in gardens but, in the villages, the majority run free. Now these dogs don’t raise a canine eyebrow to a motorbike (however rickety the exhaust is), cars, lorries or even locals who are cycling. But when we arrive on our trikes there is a near-pavlovian impulse to bark, chase and protect their territory. They appear to instinctively understand that we don’t belong to their environment and so need to be chased off to protect their territory.
Thus, as we go through a village, we set off a series of barking, mobile dogs who chase us away. Our experience to date is the dogs have been 100% successful in scaring us off their ground – as (from the canine perspective) we always run away. We have hooters on our trikes and some get put off by the sound of the hooter. We also invested in “dog scarers” – a device like a TV remote control that is supposed to send out a high pitched noise that upset them. This worked very well to begin with but has been less effective in recent days – probably need to change the batteries.
But – and it is a big but – Thai dogs may make lots of noise but they are total wuzzes compared to their Hellenic cousins. However loudly they bark, no dog has come close to the trikes or tried to bite us. My dear friend David England suggested we carry a large ham bone for attacking them – good idea but we may not have got it through customs (along with the etrike batteries). But, the ham bone would not be needed because none of the Thai dogs have come within striking distance – yet of course.
So the mythical ham bone has not been needed to date and we remain dog lovers.
At one shady rest stop in the early afternoon we booked our hotel for the evening. We like to do this because 1) it (usually) means the hotel exists, 2) It (usually) means it is open and 3) we can go straight there when we arrive – nothing worse than trailing round a town at the end of the day trying to find somewhere to stay. As we nearly reached the 100k mark we stopped to set up google maps for the final directions into the town to the hotel. We were somewhat dismayed when the directions said it was 82km to the hotel. Bernie had booked a hotel in the wrong town – Lampang rather than Lamphun! She felt duly chastened but alls well that ends well as we easily found our way to our own personalised hostel for the night (no problem sharing a bathroom if no one else is there!).