10 Hours of Riding: When The Villagers Give You The Runaround
*Update!* : Have the actual route map now at the bottom of the page 😀
Sunday 5th March 2017 – I broke a golden rule:
Yes, that sounds quite cynical and probably quite rude, but believe me I have good reason (and so should you if you don’t want to have issues down the line).
Before anyone tries to skin me alive for stereotyping I do of course have intelligent and sensible Thai friends, and of course there are “village idiots” the world over. I’m just talking generalizations here.
Like it or not, un-pc as it is, it is TRUE!
Seriously though, I have been given bad advice not only from the humble village person but right up to qualified doctors. Given that I have had my health messed about on several occasions makes me (normally) cynical about all advice given to me.
Anyway..onto the story.
Being adventurous without a clue means I will at times try something without deep research or the best equipment. Shame on me..but hey, that’s half the adventure (as long as nothing goes bad).
Which brings up what happened on Sunday.
Samoeng region (where i planned to ride) is on the doorstep of Chiang Mai, where I live. That fact plus the desperate itch to ride, made me throw caution to the wind and head off in search of a dirt road that cuts through the Samoeng forest down into Mae Wang. Roughly 150km..something like that..ish.
Setting off in good spirits and thinking I am going to have tons of time to play with I stopped off for a coffee at Valley Coffee Lanna Resort. As a non-certified caffeine addict the caffeine fix always ensures i don’t get mid morning grouch attacks. An advisable safe-guard for anyone who chooses to ride with me, including myself.
Following the coffee break I set off towards Samoeng town. I cut through the main town, headed left, crossed over the Mae Khan river and headed up into the Hill Tribe Village areas. Which is where it became sketchy.
Thinking I could rely upon my phone GPS (I can almost hear you Garmin users guffawing just now..) I felt fairly confident about keeping on track. However, the deeper into the forest and villages I got, the less reliable my GPS became. So much so it became unusable. Ho hum.
Ok, so, village directions it is then (or VPS as a member of a riders group I belonged to called it. “Villager Positioning System”. Haha.)
Oh what fun the villagers must have had, at my expense, as they set me off on a track only to have me returning through their village again, perplexed at meeting a dead end area. Betel nut grins all round.
Each attempt at a new track (via a new given direction) let me nowhere.
It started to feel like the Twilight Zone or Hotel California. Except it wasn’t a lovely place..it was a rubbish tip, full of buffalo shit, snarling dogs and mangled chickens.
Definitely more twilight zone..
Later on a couple of young guys on a Honda Wave (with no helmets and flip-flops, which is the national dress of riders in Thailand) said they know the trail and would lead me to it. Fantastic! What a relief!
They shot off through the dirt and gravel like a buffalo was on their tail (which could literally have happened at any given point). I confess they rode faster than my comfort level on this terrain and I struggled to keep up. Me in full gear and bigger bike. How embarrassing. None-the-less after what seemed an eternity of riding at the speed of light we came to the junction where they said the trail was. Only for it to be the same bloody trail I tried right at the very beginning! F*ck! #@#!
By this point it was around 4:30pm and I had already been riding for around 6 hours.
I had had enough. I was now at the patience level of tearing out a new one of the next villager that gave me bad directions.
Safer for all if i quit.
BUT I wasn’t enjoying the defeated feeling. I was determined to ride out the last of the daylight hours, of which I had about 2 hours left, (as it gets dark around 6:30pm in Thailand). First I needed food in me. I had not eaten yet. Stupid me. I knew a bite to eat would make things clearer. I headed back to Samoeng village and ate at the four star resort there.
I ended up going through various villages, with each village person seemingly having less and less teeth. Interestingly enough vocab skills seemed to match the teeth percentage. No idea if coincidence or a correlation. Such is the wonders of life.
At one village there were some cute kids, maybe around 9 years old. Ahead was a road split. They waved shyly to me and I asked them where the roads would take me to. (By this point my phone battery was out, so no GPS. Remember what I said about being ill-prepared..) They said the right would take me to Samoeng and the left to some Hot Springs. Hmm….Hot Springs sounded pretty good. So I headed left.
..and onto the next gauntlet, for I was told at the next village to look out for a Temple and the Hot Springs was just after that. It seems the villagers had forgot (..or didn’t know) that the route passes around 400,000,000 temples!! At one point I turned down into a dirt track which wasn’t the right way and then struggled to do a U-Turn in a narrow bumpy area. I was hot and tired and worn out and getting grumpy. I felt like dropping my bike and kicking it. Had a weak moment where I thought I might cry and mentally chastised myself for being a baby. U-Turn eventually completed I headed back on the road determined to find the hot springs. It somehow became my mission. If I found the springs I would feel redeemed. At least it would be ONE destination goal completed that day.
Miracles upon miracles, like an Oasis in the desert, the Hot Springs came into view.
Yeh, but only to find it shuts at 5:30pm and it was already 5:45pm! NOOO WTF !!
Hiking my big girl pants up I strode up with my big clunking boots to a lady brushing the ground. I said that I had been riding all day and asked if there was any chance of using the hot spring. She smiled and said yes, and that I could use it until 7pm. What an angel! 🙂
When I went to the ticket booth the lady there said it was 150 baht to enter, but being able to read Thai (barely) I saw the adult Thai price was 80 baht. Not that I have a problem paying 150 for something, but I don’t really like the two-tiered rate system, especially if it is obvious you aren’t a tourist. I teased her about it and she conceded and let me use the spring for 100 baht instead.
*Tip*..seriously, do everything with some charm and a smile here, it goes a long long way. Aggressiveness and rudeness will pretty much get you nowhere.
I paid the 100 and entered the hot spring, which is actually quite lovely.
Pong Kwao Hot Spring (google map link)
They provide you with a costume to wear, but I already had a bikini packed in case I found a nice resort with a cool pool when I got to Mae Wang (haha…*sigh*). The springs have private cubicles and two public spring pools (and also a Japanese Onsen). You could just go commando in the private pools I suppose, but i choose the public pool, so wore my bikini. (I would have worn the more modest costume they provided if the public pool was occupied).
I enjoyed the spa for around an hour give or take, then got dressed and headed back to my bike. By now it was dark and I was riding the dirt sections and narrow roads in the pitch black for around 30 km until i got back on the main Samoeng road.
I was hungry again so headed to Pansawan Restaurant, a firm favorite of mine for scenic value, gastro value and price value. I had some bank notes stuffed in my jacket pocket from the change I received at the spa, so used them (instead of checking for my purse, to my folly). Belly full I headed home. It was 10pm.
..but the story doesn’t end here.
Among my most honed skills, is the skill of clumsiness. This “skill” is innate. Something I believe I was born with but have perfected over the years. This means that if there is something to trip over or lose or break, it will happen. I consider myself the luckiest unlucky person I know. Thus on Monday morning, when readying to go out and making sure I have my essentials “Keys, check. Phone, check. Brain, check. Purse, .. … purse..? er… purse..?? $&#^%!!! Oh what the hell….. ??!”. Oh yes, purse missing. Bloody typical.
So I rush to the bank to cancel my card, get cash and arrange for a new ATM card, phone the Hot Springs and the Samoeng Police Station, but nothing found. I go to the Police Station and make a report so the BIB (Boys in Brown – Thai Traffic Police) wont fine me on the spot for having no license. I go to the DVLA with the police report and all my paperwork for a replacement license, only to be told of new rules which require a Residency Certificate from my consulate (in Bangkok!) or a department at immigration (which is always packed these days). Oh happy days..zzz.
I wait a day, gearing up for the whole paperwork process and dreading it.
I make an invisible prayer (I am not religious but I lean towards Buddhism).. I said “Look, I know i shouldn’t bargain about ‘things’, but if you could possibly get my purse back to me I promise in return to make a donation to charity”.
The next morning I decide to try phoning the hot springs one more time. Whaddaya know, purse found! Apparently they tried calling some numbers that were in my purse but didn’t get through. Well never mind, I am happy. I tell them I will be there to pick it up the next day.
So the next day I ride out again to the hot springs. I decide to ride via Mae Chaem, which has some great viewpoints and was surprisingly clear given that this is burning season. There was little in the way of haze. I rode on and it was very quiet on the roads. So much so I felt annoyed at the sound of my own bike disturbing the tranquility (looking forward to when decent electric bikes are mainstream, reliable and cost effective).
I found the hot springs easily, although initially the entrance was somewhat blocked..
Thankfully was able to go in via the “out” route. I didn’t fancy disturbing those big brutes.
When I got to the counter the girl recognised me right away. She handed me the purse and all contents intact. I presented a thank you cash reward and she refused. I insisted. She refused. I felt embarrassed. I told her I will give it to the temple instead on her behalf. She smiled.
It is honesty like this that always helps restore faith in humanity. When it happens to you it is important to pay it forward. Try to do kind deeds in life. It will earn you current life Karma. Jing-jing. 😉
I decided to yet again take a dip in the hot spring and yet again she gave me the 100 baht rate. Having no swimsuit, this time I donned the costume. Fashionable eh?!
Given how hot it was (around 36°C/96°F) I was surprised to find people using the private cabins. I didn’t want a cabin anyway and used the public one, which again was empty.
Soaked for a bit then dried off and headed back home via the more direct route. Passed a sign that entertained me far more than it should have really.
Images of a ferocious rabid man-eating peacock running out and chasing vehicles came to mind. Shouldn’t it be “Caution; Peacock”, rather than “Beware of Peacock”?
Anyway, made me chuckle.
When I got home I felt great having retrieved the purse. Which is a good thing too, because a short while later I was attending the first ever multi-nationality Lady Motorcycle Thailand meet up. Which helped end the day in positive spirits. 🙂
I edited a LOT of footage of the 10 hour ride down to 3 minutes. It’s pretty funny I think, but wasn’t at the time! Hope you enjoy it.
Nice views all over this area, even though dry.
The first multi-national Lady Motorcycle Riders Thailand meetup. 80 members nationwide so far. 11 members turned up for the Chiang Mai meet. Growing in strength and numbers 🙂 More on that down the line.
*UPDATE* Thanks to Ally Taylor, who contacted me after seeing my video on the misadventure, I now finally have the route map from Samoeng to Mae Wang.
She did the route some time ago (after having difficulty finding the route herself!).
Here is her link with images and the route map. http://www.allytaylor.com/mae-win-to-samoeng-wat-luung-khun-win/
Now need to try it out at some point.