I had heard nothing but great things about Chiang Mai ever since I got to Thailand. When I was in the states every one was going to Phuket, Koh Phi Phi and Koh Samui. But ever since I have been in Bangkok everyone has a special place in their heart for Chiang Mai.
So my wife surprised me with a trip for our Anniversary, yes, I am a very lucky man. We left our baby with his nanny and flew up to the jungle. Next thing I know I am riding up the mountain with a local Thai man who is going to take me on my first mountain bike ride ever.
The mountain is Doi Puy where the King’s Palace is. I had a great guide from name Mit from Trailhead who gave me direction and helped me figure it out. He spoke English very well and he had only been studying it for 9 months!
He took me to a coffee farm and we drank coffee at their wooden cafe on a cliff overlooking the coffee fields. That’s when I found out that my guide Mit is a true badass.
He had just won 1st place in a 5K race with 3,000 people. Then he started telling me about the king cobras that live in the area than can stand up and look at you 5 feet tall right in the eyes. He showed my pictures of him holding one in his hands posing with other cyclists like me right next to him! Aaah! I am ophidiophobic to the max. I told him that if he sees one while we are riding please don’t tell me.
Mit did not know that I was a beginner and he had set me up to go down a tough trail called Smoke On The Water which has no trail and weaves through trees down steep and rocky mountain terrain. Luckily the beginning of the trail is fairly simple and he found out that I was a beginner. It was pretty easy to tell since my tires would skid out on the dirt every time I braked. So he suggested an easier trail.
We stopped a little later at a Hmong village. They speak a completely different language and have their own culture. They grow coffee as well. The picture above is me smelling the coffee beans that are drying in the sun. By the way, Thai coffee is delicious. So, here is a bit of history for you.
All Thai people do not speak Thai. In fact, my guide mostly spoke Lanna. Lanna is similar to Thai but has some different words and a different accent. They are related in the same way that British English and American English are related. Anyone reading this please correct me if I am wrong. Chiang Mai is the home of the Lanna people. As recent as 100 years ago Thailand was a few different kingdoms with their own culture, it is only recently that they have been unified into one label as Thai.
The Hmong people are much more removed from mainstream Thai culture. My guide Mit didn’t speak Hmong and they seem to be a people who have a distinct and separate culture but still trade with the Lanna and Thai people.
I was definitely scared of the mountain bike at first. I was skidding down the hill and couldn’t control my speed. The trick was to get use to the grip of the breaks and use the front and back break correctly. I was having trouble going up hill as well. If it got too steep I had to get off and walk it up. Then I watched the guide and realized that there was a second gear switch and I could put it in a lower gear. Problem fixed. After an hour I felt in control of the bike and I could travel faster down the hill.
Mit was great about stopping and taking pictures. He had a GoPro on his helmet. I ended up having so much photos and video of the trip. Him taking video and pictures is what set the experience over the top for me. It’s so nice to be able to go somewhere and enjoy it without having to take pictures, but still be able to have pictures at the end!
A great experience. I recommend it to anyone going to Thailand.