A record of cycling the Mae Hong Son Loop: part two
Thursday 17th December
We had one big mountain to climb today, and that was all.
We set off from Pai at 7.30 and got back into the rolling countryside.
The hilly, hazy, sun-shot scenery was so beautiful that I felt like I was cycling (uphill) through a fairytale land. Now that we’re away from Pai, the roads are much quieter too, which is nice.
We rose from about 500 metres to just under 1500 metres. Despite a few steep moments, the mountain was not as tough as we had dreaded, and we were pulling up at the top by 10.30. Time for some pictures.
Rolling down the mountain with my camera poised and ready.
We had a room booked in The Little Eden at Soppong, where we have a very cute little hut.
Another picture for the bug files today – a praying mantis (it’s a shame that my camera can’t handle close-up shots).
An extended brown out led to us having dinner by candlelight. Here’s Eric getting romantic… with his banana split.
When the lights came on we got chatting to another cyclist who is doing the Mae Hong Son Loop in the other direction to us. He told us that we can expect a very tough day tomorrow. He has a racing bike and only carries 6KGs of luggage. This does not bode well.
Friday 18th December
We had 6 inclines to cycle today. The good thing was that we started with the biggest.
After a few flat kilometres out of Soppong we began climb number one. Oh boy was it steep. We rose from roughly 550 to 800 metres over 3 kilometres. The hill was absolutely merciless.
The steep ascent through the mist.
Nearing the top.
It took us about an hour to reach the top, where there was a very beautiful view – rugged mountains with low clouds – it was all a bit Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The pictures don’t really capture the epic-ness.
On the way down.
Then more incline (painful), then right down again into a beautiful valley.
… and up another soul-crusher.
We had a routine going. One hill = one banana. We ate a lot of bananas.
It was the steepness that made today hard. I took a picture of this hairpin to demonstrate, though this was by no means the steepest we encountered!
At midday we had done 5/6, and stopped for lunch overlooking another beautiful valley.
Today was tough, but absolutely worth it. Beautiful scenery, lots of waves and thumbs up from the people we passed and a great physical challenge that felt like an achievement once we had done it. Plus, views are never so good as when you’ve put in work to get there, and the harder the uphill, the better the downhill feels!
Saturday 19th December
A rest day in Mae Hong Son.
Mae Hong Son still has a few tourists, but it is much more like a regular Thai town than Pai.
Here’s the sights from today. Wat Chong Kham, by the lake.
And Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu – the temple on top of the hillside.
These are Burmese-style temples. We are very close to the Myanmar border at the moment, and a lot of people in this area are ethnically Burmese. When we’ve been cycling in between the big towns I think that I’ve heard a language/languages other than Thai being spoken, but whether that language was of Thai hill tribe origin or was Burmese I don’t know.
Speaking of Myanmar, we went to a place called the Salween River Restaurant that served Burmese food, and it was so good! Beautiful fresh vegetables with an Indian influence, if you ever go to Mae Hong Son I’d recommend eating there.
Views from the night market (a bit blurry as my camera can’t seem to focus in the dark).
In the evening I got talking to some other people at the guesthouse where we’re staying: two girls, two guys, all lone travellers, all with plans to travel for time periods in between 5 months and 3 years! I guess a nice as Mae Hong Son is, you don’t pop over here if you’ve got two weeks in Thailand.
One more thing… Eric has a new favourite drink.