Life is a carnival. Some play it safe on a merry-go-round while others go for the thrills on a roller coaster. Intensive planning prior to travelling may limit our imagination by stifling it with too much of what we think we already know.
My ideal of travel is moving from place to place in a relaxing pace and immersing myself amongst the locals to truly explore their culture.
Some friends told me about the Thai festival of lights or “Loy Krathong” in Chiangmai which coincidentally is celebrated around the same time as Cambodian Water Festival in November every year. The Loy Krathong festival is to thank the Water Goddess for a year’s worth of her abundant supply. That said, I was really intrigued. I made up my mind to go to Chiangmai.
Cycling has always been my passion. So why not long distance travel on a pair of wheels? Just to remind readers of this column, I recovered from the trauma of a cycling accident not too long ago and had only been training for about two months up to this point of time. My friends tried to discourage me, of course with all good reasons and concern over my well-being. But I wanted to challenge myself to overcome my self-doubt and fear of uncertainties after the accident. At the end of the day, it was my free will that prevailed – the choice to be positive to overcome all my inherent fears of getting back on the saddle again.
I started researching online about bicycle touring and swiftly buckled myself up with basic technical knowledge. In fact, travel abroad with a bicycle is very easy. The majority of airlines accept a properly packed bicycle that can be checked in as oversized baggage without extra handling cost. I borrowed a travel bike-case which offers better protection during transportation. However, my first attempt to dismantle a bicycle for packing took five long hours!
My luggage weighed a total of 22kg and tyres must be deflated when you’re checking in your bicycle as oversized baggage. Upon arrival in Chiangmai, I was picked up by the homestay owner and he installed my bicycle in 15 minutes. Then I realised I forgot to bring a tyre pump! The beauty of roadbike is that it can be so conveniently transported by a car whenever it’s necessary. After a quick visit to the nearest bicycle shop, my adventure began.
It takes some time to adapt to local traffic conditions when cycling in a new city. Motorised vehicles were battling for their space on the road but I was delighted with their tolerance for cyclists. It was indeed heartening to note that everyone obeys traffic rules at busy junctions.
Chiangmai means “New City” and was founded around 1296. It has over 300 Buddhist temples and the most famous is Wat Phra That on Doi Suthep mountain.
Doi Suthep is 15km away from Chiangmai’s city center and the peak is 1676-metres in elevation across 13km from the bottom. Admittedly I underestimated its steepness but I wasn’t competing with time. The same route after Wat Phra That is extended to Bhubing Palace which is opened until 3pm daily. If you cycle an additional 5km uphill, you would be able to reach Doi Pui where some jungle trekking trails will take you to two very remote Hmong villages up in the highlands.
The Sunday Night Market is a must visit in the city. Bicycles are parked and locked along the roadside. In this cycling trip I visited more than 20 places of interest which are commonly accessible by cycling. Please visit my Facebook page to enjoy the pictures which are fondly etched in my memory.
After four days of solo riding in Chiangmai, I began my first cross-province bike-packing to Chiangrai.
No road is too far if we are willing to make the first step. No dream is too big if you believe in yourself.
I was rhyming this tune with my own lyrics during this ride:
“Roll Roll Roll a Bike, Bring me to Coffee,
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, Cycling down the street.”
RasAngela was Miss Malaysia Asia Pacific 2004. She is now a rising female cycling name in South East Asia and offers great motivations and inspirations through her writings alongside with her intriguing cycling stories. RasAngela also represents many cycling related brands as well as actively promoting sport events in the region. Follow her blog at www.rasangela.com and Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/rasangelawong