27 years ago my parents brought me into the world, and I promise you that they never expected me to spend any of my birthdays in Thailand!! I wish that I could celebrate every new year of life with my entire family, throwing a big birthday cake, ice cream and presents party like my niece Reagan had recently. But I suppose we all grow out of that phase where everyone wants to watch us eat cake and open presents (much less give us presents!!). Instead I have found myself making birthday wishes for new experiences. I like to go places and see things with the people I love. This time, I wanted to go somewhere I had never been before. So that’s what we did. Nik took me on a trip away from the city, and we rode our motorbike to see places we had never seen before.
The route: 200km (125mi) Hwy 107N, Hwy 1260E, Hwy 1001N, Hwy1150W, Hwy 107S.
On Thursday morning, we left Chiang Mai around 10:30 with the intention of driving towards Phrao to find accommodation by nightfall. We knew it was about 100km, but we had no clue what the roads would offer. For all we knew, they might be dirt or gravel the entire way…so we gave ourselves plenty of time. It turned out that the roads were nicely paved 2-lane highways. There were a few places that went over and through the mountains, but we were in valleys for the most part. The roads were gentle and fun to drive on. Perfect for our first big outing.
Also, the weather cooperated handsomely. The outside temperature was probably 75-80ºF, partly sunny and dry!!! No rain the entire drive, even though we saw several storm clouds in the distance.
Leaving Chiang Mai...at that gate, the adventure begins!!
we kept left
I tried to photo this woman who was riding with at least 6 huge bags of vegetables, but I was too slow. Luckily I was able to catch the back of her motorbike with a couple typical roadside buildings.
ultra green rice fields
Nik eating corn.
I love blue skies!!
Beautiful white gate marking a temple which was out of sight.
We reached Phrao just before lunch time, and found a pleasant restaurant on the corner where we could watch the activity of the daily market across the street. We had fried rice while the owner nicely spoke to us in Thai. Nik understood a few things, but I didn’t understand anything so I just smiled and nodded.
Our lunch spot.
After lunch we had iced coffees near an irrigation ditch which happened to be across from a longanberry orchard. I wish we could have had longanberry desert!
Since it took us just a couple hours to reach Phrao, we decided to finish the loop and try to make it home by sunset. The first part of the drive home was similar to the trip there, beautiful mountains and farmland for as far as the eye could see.
Hay bail stacks near the rice fields. Photo by Nik.
Corn fields and rice fields and banana trees and lime orchards!!
Those are storm clouds...pretty ominous, huh?!
Then there were more blue skies!
Then about 40km outside of the city, we got on the busy Highway 107 that travels between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Driving was more stressful, our butts hurt, the scenery wasn’t nearly as nice, and it looked like rain.
Luckily, we made it back just in time to sit down for dinner at the outdoor market under an umbrella as the sky dropped. The rain was fast and hard, so when we finished eating 30 minutes later it was clear and dry for our short ride home.
It is hard to find birthday cake in Thailand. They don’t have bakeries on every corner, and the bakeries don’t sell cakes. So we were pleasantly surprised when the French couple that lives on our floor had slipped a note under our door asking us to join the for dessert that evening. They knew of a great ice cream parlor, iberry, about 5 minutes away on Nimanhemin Road, so off we went to have ice cream!! Unfortunately I didn’t take my camera. Iberry is a great little dessert shop owned by a famous Thai artist. The interior atmosphere was creative and trendy. There were great sculptures and light fixtures made out of everyday thai objects that I will have to go back and photograph. In addition to the great space, they had great ice cream, but they also had CAKE!!!!! Nik and I both ordered a slice while our friends did the ice cream/cake combo. I wish I had thought of that! We chatted for an hour or so before I became so sleepy that I could hardly keep my eyes open. It was time for my day to be finished.
Birthday 2008 is one for the record books. I was able to talk to my family on Skype, see places I had never seen before and eat birthday cake with new friends. I am a lucky girl.
Nik’s blog: Day Tripping, Toe Jams, Confused Pizza Boy