Day 1 : March 8
- Chiang Mai — Mae Kuang Dam
- 50 km
Read blog post 1 for details.
Day 2 : March 9
- Mae Kuang Dam — Maejo
- 15 km
I woke up in the morning after my wild first day. I hadn’t slept much, as expected, and my phone was still dead. I decided that finding the major road and hoping that I was heading North was a good start! So I got on my bike and pedaled hard for an hour or two until I saw the Thai version of a strip mall. I asked them if they sold phone chargers for iphones. They gave me a funny look and a Thai woman turned around and got in her car. “Rude..” I thought to myself, distressed and not up for anymore setbacks. She returned 5 minutes later with a brand new charger and handed it over. “Gift” she said. I charged my phone for a bit and realized I was going the wrong way and that I was nearly back in Chiang Mai. “Oh, Nicole..” I stopped in Maejo for the night after seeking out a bike shop to check over my bike after my mini crash a day ago. The people there were insanely lovely. They gave me some water, sodas and electrolytes AND a giant bushel of bananas. They get me.
Day 3 March 10
- Maejo — Past Mae Taeng
- ~50 km
In the morning, I woke up early and packed my things. I was feeling a really let down from the past two days but I put on Zoe’s playlist that she made for my trip and ended up riding two hours past my destination!! I was on a total high. SUCCESS!!! Nothing of consequence really happened that day. Beautiful landscapes and pushing my boundaries were the theme. I rested well that night in a motel on the side of the road.
Day 4 : March 11
- Past Mae Taeng – Chiang Dao
- ~ 40 km
Because I had over shot my destination the night prior, I got to Chiang Dao pretty quickly. I was there in the early afternoon and checked into the Chiang Dao Country Retreat. It was a sanctuary. I put my things in my personal bungalow and wrapped myself in a eucalyptus infused towel after a hot shower. For less than 10 USD, I was in heaven and was finally able to process the first three days of my journey. Other than stuffing my face with delicious Thai food, the day was mostly relaxed. I did some laundry (much needed) and tried out my camping stove. The stove spit gasoline and black smoke billowed.. I decided to try it again another time.
Day 5 : March 12
REST DAY CHIANG DAO
How could I leave?! The nature was so peaceful and my poor body wasn’t sure how it felt about sitting on a bike and pedaling. So I rested. I rested real hard. When I think about to my day in Chiang Dao, I think the only energy that I exerted, was to get up and eat.. A rest day properly spent.
Day 6 : March 13
- Chiang Dao — Fang
- ~ 111 km
What a day this was! I had two options for the day: Follow the 107 to Fang, shaving off km and miles and the option of getting lost, or heading a bit North West to the Burmese border and then looping my way back East to Fang. I chose the latter. This route took me through tiny Thai, Burmese and Chinese villages. The landscapes changed and the elevation grew. The earth turned bright clay red. At some point, I became aware that my pace was too slow. I was worried I wouldn’t make it to Fang before nightfall. So, I stuck out my thumb and within minutes a white pickup truck, driven by a 19 year-old Thai boy and his mother, pulled over. They happily helped me load my bike into their car and drove me to their village, which was on the way to Fang. We tried so hard to communicate but ended up just laughing at ourselves and our silly hand gestures in the end. They left me in their town, and I rode for 3 more hours, getting into the city just before dark. Tired doesn’t even begin to describe my state of being. Think, too tired to eat noodles… something is very wrong with that.
Day 7 : March 14
- Fang — Tha Ton (73 km) — Chiang Rai 53.9 km
- Total 126 km
“This was supposed to be my easy day!” I Thought to myself one hour outside of Tha Ton, the town that was meant to be my stopping point for the day. Yet, there I was, pedalling in the heat of the day, watching a blip of a person riding off ahead of me. “How is he so fit…?” I met Jeroen inside a coffee shop in Tha Ton after completing an easy, flat, morning ride. I spotted a bike with bags on the bag and went inside to have a coffee and investigate. After mustering some courage I decided to approach him and see where he was going and within 15 minutes, we were headed towards Chiang Rai together. Would I have agreed, knowing that the entire day would be ups and downs? Honestly, yes. Riding with Jeroen was such a gift. As he glided and I trudged my way up hills, he’d be waiting patiently at the top with encouraging words. After a few hours of riding and a small hitchhike, we ended up in Chiang Rai. We dove into the backpacker life, staying in a hostel called Sook Jai, swinging in hammocks, and partying the night away– beer was well-deserved!
Day 8 : March 15
Chiang Rai — Waterfalls
On our rest day we rented scooters and swam in waterfalls. Bliss.
Day 9 : March 16
Chiang Rai — pool day
This day was luxury. We went to see the famous blue temple in the morning and spent the rest of the day at a resort. We had asked to use their pool and for a few USD we were granted permission. We had the whole place to ourselves. I felt incredibly spoiled and ready to ride again the next day.
Day 10 : March 17
- Chiang Rai – Chiang Khong
- 111 km
Jeroen and I parted ways in the mornings. I put in my headphones and headed for the border of Thailand and Laos. It was a big day with only 1 break for noodle soup. The landscape was pretty flat and uninteresting, which allowed me to push a lot of kilometers and just zone into my music. I stayed at the Hub Funk Box Hostel for the night and slept like an angel.
Day 11 : March 18
- Chiang Khong – Huay Xai
- 24.4 km
I woke up early and did the immigration run-around. It was about 12 km to the border, then a bus to cross the friendship bridge, and then cycling another 12 km to Huay Xai. I got my first taste of Lao hills… oof…. I’m in for a journey. In Huay Xai I stayed in Little Hostel and rested.
Points of Unlearning
‘”In our culture,” teaches Dr. Brené Brown, ‘we associate vulnerability with emotions we want to avoid such as fear, shame, and uncertainty. Yet we too often lose sight of the fact that vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity, authenticity, and love.'”
In Thailand, I unlearned that vulnerability is a negative state of being. The myth, is that the world is bad and scary and people are not to be trusted. It’s that being alone in the world, especially as a woman, will bring you trouble and threat. My experience, which is not to be generalized to everyone, of course, has showed me the opposite. It has given me rich and deep connections to the land and the people i’ve crossed paths with.
In Thailand, I set off alone. Everything went wrong. I fell, lost my ability to search my maps or communicate with people, got lost, became exhausted and felt immensely scared and alone. This all happened on the road, exposed to the world, and in response, the world showed up for me.
In the stories that I have shared above, the overall takeaway was that amidst the loneliness and fear and wrong-goings, there was always someone to give me bananas, hand me a bottle of water, cycle along side me or even give me a lift.
Vulnerability is a gift and a power. It’s given me the opportunity to share myself authentically and to be seen. I have been able to see human nature at its finest. It’s given people the opportunity to be compassionate, and its given me the sense of community and belonging in a foreign country.