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Cycling Thailand – from Doi Tao to Chiang Mai

posted by Tim December 9, 2019 2 Comments

Tough mountains due to “terrible” grades

Waking up in the city called Hot I had to get on my trousers and vest for breakfast outside – for the first time on my trip, it was actually pretty cold!

Thai breakfast with soup – chicken stock with rice, pork, egg, veggies and spices. Good for cycling!

From here I would cycle into the mountains to Doi Inthanon: the highest mountain of Thailand. I told this to my Thai neighbor who said “You are going up there with your bicycle? Terrible!”

I have cycled in the hills and mountains before – in Germany, France, Morocco, and the U.S. I had also already cycled a few hills in Thailand. Usually people just don’t get how cycling long distances and climbing mountains could be fun. But this time, my neighbor turned out to be quite right.

After the first 40 km from Hot (which were fine) the grades started to hit 15-20%. That’s extremely steep. And it wasn’t for just one or two inclines. It would last over the next 40 km to my campsite! After a few steep climbs my legs became exhausted. On the next ones I had to push my bike up. I was sweating and huffing and puffing most of the day. After a distance of 80 km and 1600 m of climbing, I survived the toughest cycling of all my bike trips so far.

View of Doi Suthep from a “normal” road

An impression of the steepness of many of the roads. Still hard to see it on a picture.

When I reached the campsite in Mae Chaem, the French host Laurent told me “Welcome and congratulations, you’re the second cyclist who made it up here.” I said “Thanks, so there’s another cyclist here?”. Laurent replied “No, you’re the second one in the 5 years I’ve been running this campsite!”

My first night in a tent in Thailand. I rented it.

To Chiang Mai

I still had to climb another 1200 m to the Doi Suthep pass, but I woke up with heavy legs. To be honest, I didn’t think I could make it without completely exhausting myself, pushing my bike up for the most part, so I caught a ride with a pick up truck to the top. Seeing another 25 km of maximally steep inclines from the car seat, while the car climbed up in first gear also reaching its limits, I was relieved not to be cycling and pushing. From the top it was mostly coasting down to Chiang Mai. There were only a few small climbs left, and damn, I even felt my legs doing those. Like you’re going to the gym, and doing another maximum chest workout the day after you already did one.

It was Sunday, and many Thai were going up the mountain (with cars or motorbikes of course) to experience this special thing here called “the cold”. In the morning, it was about 5 degrees Celsius at the top, and it had even touched freezing temperatures in the night.

After 70 km I made it to my hotel – well, I thought I did. I made it to the location stated by, but there were shops and no hotel. A friendly lady was so kind to help me out, called the hotel, and explained to me (without using English) that somebody would come and pick me up. 45 minutes later, after a second call, a lady from the hotel did come. She apologized, and I followed her car another 7 km to the hotel. The actual location was much better, in a quiet, green area in the West of Chiang Mai, and I had a nice little cottage to myself. I got a big and delicious dinner at the hotel – a dish with rice and seafood, a very spicy soup with shrimps and mushrooms, and an omelet with even more seafood. I ate for two. I think the hosts tried to make up for the wrong location and me waiting so long. Well, I was satisfied!

View from my cottage

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Sebastiaan December 9, 2019 at 09:09

Wat een awesome verhalen weer, Tim! Brings back memories, too. 😉

Tim February 17, 2020 at 18:39

Haha I know what you mean


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