Showing posts with label Pictures. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pictures. Show all posts

Bike Repairs and Some Trail Shots…

So there I was, contemplating a ride after several days off, and with my wife back in school for the weekend.  While prepping the bike I noticed a ping or click emanating from somewhere.  There are only so many moving parts and joints that could be making a metal on metal sound and I quickly eliminated everything but the chain and rear gear mechanism.  With my limited experience I couldn’t tell it something was on the verge of breaking or not, so I planned a trip to Northern Bike the next day when the car would be free.  No weekend ride for me.

Peak was visiting with a friend back in his work area as I rolled the bike in.  I marveled as he had a quick listen for the sound, before proceeding to remove the back wheel and disassemble the gear set, or whatever it is called.  Nothing broken but apparently I have been over cleaning a bit and things had dried up inside where the gears fit over a ratcheting spindle of sorts.  A quick cleaning and greasing of the mechanism and it was silent running once again.  All of this without a break in the conversation.

If I were to purchase an additional tool or two, I could probably do it myself, after watching what Peak did.  As it is we need to go into town fairly often so it isn’t a big deal to stop off at Northern Bike on the way.  If either of us is too busy, it is easy to drop it off and come back later.  It is always fun to rummage around the shop to see what they have in stock, so maybe I am not quite ready to become a full time do-it-yourselfer, just yet.

While I was there I asked Peak to weigh the bike to see what I had ended up with after all the upgrades.  It was roughly 11.5 kilos or a little over 25 pounds.  Apparently from what I found in a quick search, that is not too bad for a hardtail with disc brakes.  Anyway I am very happy with the bike right now and had another great ride yesterday, after a night of rain.  It was too wet in the morning but by two in the afternoon things had dried out enough to ride without getting too messy.  It was still overcast so the temperature was good for riding as well.

I love finding new trails and new ways to connect old trails.  It creates in me a sense of adventure and discovery, which distracts me from focussing too much on the physical effort.  The camera plays a part as well, urging me to pay closer attention to my surroundings, instead of simply passing through.  The other day I managed to trade 15 km of road for roughly 18 km of dirt.  That 43 km route now has only a 5 km road section at the beginning, which is repeated at the end, and a few village lanes which are rough concrete.  Everything else is dirt or gravel of various kinds.

I had something else in mind to include in this post but perhaps this is long enough.  Besides I do have a few pictures I would like to share.  At least I already know what I want to write about in my next post.
View on a new section of trail.

View on a new section of trail.

Came across this Phaya Mengrai water control area by entering town from a different trail.

Sluice gates.

One last angle before leaving.

Taking a break on the new trail.

This was much better than riding on the road.

Riding through a rubber plantation.

Forest trail of hard packed clay.

A fork in the trail.

Reflections and shadows. 

Hilltop temple compound.

Pulling fish from his pockets.

Do You Miss Your Ninja 650, Dear? …

When my wife asked that question of me, on a recent drive to town, there was little hesitation before my answer.  I had been mulling over a similar question of why I didn’t seem to miss the Ninja at all, so was ready with a reply.  She was a little surprised, I think, when I quickly answered “no” to her query.  As a supportive and caring wife, I believe she was just checking to see if I was still okay with the decision I had made.  At least that was my take on her question, as she really didn’t seem to like riding two-up, so had no personal investment in the bike.

I like to think I don’t make impulsive decisions.  I may appear to pull the trigger and move on, but by the time it gets to that point, I have thoroughly vetted my options and made a choice.  I prefer to look forward, and don’t as a rule, spend time missing things from the past.  One exception might be that I miss being able to walk to a high-end health club and enjoy all their wonderful facilities.  I would no doubt be in better shape than I am presently, if that could somehow be combined with my rural lifestyle.

So my three year biker experiment appears to have run its course.  I went to bike shows, bike shops, road in groups and with a partner for a while, but mostly I preferred solo rides.  Northern Thailand has some really great roads for riding and I have covered them all, as both a cager and a biker.  Along the way I discovered some things about myself.  I don’t posses the rough edges and careless abandon that seem to be a biker prerequisite.  I like to be comfortable and clean, indulging my love of nature in perfect conditions.

I couldn’t get behind the whole live to ride and ride to live thing.  For me transportation takes me somewhere.  Armored up in my riding gear, I found it awkward at best, to get off the bike for a hike or a little photography.  Long rides were fatiguing but hardly a form of healthy, beneficial exercise.  I found that four wheel drive not only took me to places the bike could not, it delivered me in comfort and with toys and accessories to better enjoy the destination.

Though I did not so much as drop my bike in all my outings, that is not to say there were not a number of close calls, on Thailand’s notoriously dangerous roads.  I was helped by the fact that most of my driving experience was derived on Thai roads.  What others complain about as being unusual, unreasonable and unacceptable, I see as simply normal and expected.  Reacting early definitely helps.

With all the accidents I have witnessed and all the wounded road warriors I have met, it became clear that it was simply a matter of time before I was injured or perhaps worse.  For me the idea of living the rest of my life physically impaired was just not very appetizing and I am not yet willing to leave my wife alone.  I know people who have seemingly adjusted to their situation but I question my own ability to do so.

Then of course there is the Mt. Bike which takes me to remote locations while bestowing important health benefits.  Usually I ride from home but in combination with the SUV the options are nearly limitless.  The Trek can pretty much go anywhere I can hike to and covers much more ground in the same amount of time.

To bring you up to date on my Trek upgrades, I finally replaced my seat post which was the last remaining original part.  I had seen Thompson Elite posts online, and they came highly recommended by Lloyd, one of my longtime readers.  Enquiring as to what was available in my local bike shop, Northern Bike, Peak’s wife started digging about on the lower shelf where they keep some of the high-end stuff which is not on display.  Sure enough they had one Thompson that was the right size for my bike.  Comparing it to other brands on offer it seemed much lighter in weight.

Due to extremely hot weather my bike was on the trainer again so I fitted the new Thompson Elite and played with the adjustments.  I was really impressed with how light it was, and minus teeth or grooves, it was infinitely more adjustable.  It felt good on the stand but yesterday was my first chance to get out to test it on the trails and roads.  Rain the night before made for improved riding conditions, in the low 30s instead of the high 30s.  It was amazing how much better the position felt throughout the entire 40 km ride.

The only remaining upgrades that need to be made, are to me.  Fitness and weight are the only things holding me back from being a better climber over the rough bits.  I continue to learn more about riding and more importantly continue to find it enjoyable.  Riding takes me places that recharge my soul, provides me with photographic opportunities and gives me great exercise at the same time.  At some point I may need to try riding with others to get a read on where I am and where I might be able to improve, but I have yet to reach a wall that I can’t get past on my own, thought that day may come sooner than I think.

Recent Photos of Village Life...

On the way home from town yesterday we took a detour to the top of a mountain overlooking Happy City Golf Course and the fertile plains of Chiang Rai in the Wiang Chai area.

The day before there was a small village parade.  Moo 13 was showing off their rocket and collecting contributions from the households they passed.

The day before that we had a storm which took our biggest tree, just barely missing our house.  I returned from a bike ride not long before the storm hit and had no idea what was coming.

Life is always interesting living in a Thai Village.

Khun Korn Waterfall

We have a relatively new Farang in our family, stepfather to my wife's nephew.  He arrived in Chiang Rai for the first time yesterday, to pickup his stepson after an extended Songkran visit, so we took him and two kids to our tallest waterfall here in Chiang Rai, Khun Korn Waterfall.  It is a bit of a walk so I was surprised to see so many people on the trail and at the falls.  It wasn't even a weekend or holiday, but it was very hot so maybe that explains it.

By the way, I sold my Ninja 650 in the morning before we headed to the waterfall.  It was a busy morning.

Speculation In Chiang Rai…

There is talk and speculation everywhere, as to what the future holds for Chiang Rai.  People seem to hold strong opinions on what will be built, when, where, by whom and what effect it will have on the future of Chiang Rai.  There are reports of the Chinese buying up land and driving up prices.  Our newest golf course, Happy City, was apparently developed by Koreans. 

Chiang Mai is still the primary destination for Thais escaping Bangkok but Chiang Rai is coming into its own.  Several Thai celebrities have properties in the area and we even have a few royals from Europe who spend at least part of the year on their own private estates, with one of them sponsoring football in the area.  We are slowly becoming a destination, not just a day trip or a stopover, on the way from Chiang Mai to Laos.

The new bridge over the Mekong near Chiang Khong is supposed to bring big changes.  There is talk of a rail line or two being built, from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai and perhaps more likely from Chiang Khong to Denchai, but that talk has been with us for a longtime.  No doubt it will happen one day but I think it is still far in the future.  All this talk and speculation has got me looking back, not forward.  It started me thinking about how much has changed in the relatively short time we have been living in Chiang Rai, or Phaya Mengrai to be more precise.

Other than the bridge over the Mekong there have been two new bridges opened over the Kok River to facilitate traffic flow.  The bypass road which extends from the airport has opened two sections and it looks like a third is getting near completion.  I have heard another bypass road, on the other side of town, has begun construction but we don’t often get over that way, so I have not seen it myself.

Closer to home they have been widening the 1020 road from Chiang Khong to Thoeng and there is talk of another, yet to be built, road that may pass to the east of our village.  Landfill and roadwork seems to be constant and the roads to town are marked by the slow progress of heavily laden trucks hauling gravel from the quarries and dirt excavated from the hills.

The opening of Chiang Rai’s Central Plaza shopping mall has changed the shopping landscape and spurred other retailers to renovate and upgrade in order to keep pace.  New schools and restaurants have been added.  New housing developments are everywhere and now there is flurry of condo building.  I am not a football fan but I hear there are a couple of new stadiums in the area.  When we began our house they were still in the process of installing telephone lines, so the adsl high-speed internet I depend on, didn’t arrive until around the time our house was finished.

Living to the east of Chiang Rai we have perhaps been spared the most negative effects of development.  We enjoy the modernization in town but live far enough away, we only see it when we want to.  Close to us the biggest development has been the purchase of some 8000 rai of land between our village and the Ing River which has been planted with rubber trees.  Some rice land was lost but much of the purchase was scrub and prone to flooding, so the trees are a marked improvement.  Riding my mountain bike in the area, before, was a struggle and limited to the dry season.  Now the trees are getting bigger, there are trails everywhere and there is an interesting new embankment I rode on recently that helps to keep the river at bay.  The trees are tall enough to block views of landmarks, leaving me wondering where I am part of the time but with the trees boasting fresh young leaves it is a joy to ride through the plantation on the way home and I see real potential as a recreation area.

I have no idea how much of the new development and speculation will prove profitable for the investors.  Some think there will be increased traffic from China, while others think it will only be cargo trucks passing through as they head south, thus providing little benefit to the local economy.  I still stumble upon the ruins of old dreams from time to time on my rides.  Great ideas sometime lead to great folly and make for an eerie view of the gap between what could have been and what is.  I love riding through these resorts turned ghost-town but I am sure they represent a very painful chapter in the lives of others.

Since I began this post a while back, the smoke has become overwhelming and I have stopped all outdoor exercise until it clears.  My post about the burning from last year was republished by, with more people reading the post this year than last. 

I moved the mountain bike indoors and mounted it on the training stand.  Besides getting a little exercise while watching TV, I am playing with adjustments, trying to find the most comfortable and efficient riding position.  Now I know what I want for my next upgrade.  Here are a few pictures from my last couple of rides before things got bad.
Kok River near Chiang Rai.

Flowering tree spotted from the trail.
Ing River near the rubber plantation.

Nice road through the rubber trees.

Flood prevention embankment between the river and the trees.

One of the lesser used trails in the plantation.
With all the holes, not sure how long this embankment will last.

Road Trip Part 4, Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park …

To be honest, after my horrible choice of roads to begin the trip, I let my wife do most of the navigating and searching out of destinations and accommodation, while I held forth as the driver extraordinaire.  After wrapping up family obligations in Nong Wua So, she decided on a route to our next destination, a national park I had never heard of.  With the midday temperature rising and the scenery becoming less interesting by the mile, I began to wonder about this place we were headed to.

Suddenly we began to climb out of the heat, into the cool lush mountains.  The road was wonderful and only surpassed by the ever improving view as we climbed onward and upward.  Near the bottom of the mountain was the park entrance.  The sign clearly said foreigners were to pay 200 baht but I gave my driver’s license to my wife to obtain what is usually a 50% discount.  She returned having paid 110 baht, (30 for the car and 40 each for two adults).  Whether they didn’t see me or didn’t care, I don’t know but it did work in my favor.

By the time we reached the top I was in heaven.  It was beautiful, there was a chill in the air and there was renewed vigor in my step.  Stopping at the Visitor Center we enquired about activities and accommodation.  The official on duty was fun and charming, so we took his recommendation of a lovely villa on the edge of the housing area and he offered us a 30% discount off the published rate of 1000 baht.  It was a huge room, well worth the price, rustically appointed with a high lofted ceiling and four single beds pushed together to make two large beds.  The beds were rock hard but I still slept amazingly well.

Not wanting to waste the remaining daylight we set out to explore as much as we could before the sun set.  We stopped for a few pictures at what used to be a reeducation school after the communists were defeated in the area.  From there we drove up to one of the several mountain tops, Phu Hin Rong Kla, at around 1600 meters above sea level.  Phu Phangma, Phu Lomlo, and Phu Man Khao are a few of the other peaks in the area, reaching as high as 1800 meters.

It was approaching six o'clock when we pulled into Lan Hin Pum parking area and we wondered if the hike was doable before dark.  A returning family said it took them one hour to make the loop and at that pace we had our doubts about setting out on a rough, unfamiliar trail without flashlights and the distinct chance of ending our walk in the dark.  In the parking lot we were approached by a young Thai couple in their late twenties.  They were eager to make the hike, but were afraid to do it on their own, so asked if they could tag along with us.

We told them they could join us but that we wouldn’t be waiting around for them.  It would up to them to catch up with us on the trail.  I have to admit to having my doubts as to whether they would follow or not.  After all, they weren’t the most rugged outdoor looking people we have ever encountered.  We hoped to at least get to a view point before the sun set, in order to get some photographs so didn’t waist any time hitting the trail. 

Our timing was perfect in the end.  Our new friends caught up with us and everyone got some photos to mark the occasion.  After watching the sunset, no one wanted to turn back so we picked up the pace once again and finished the loop just as it was beginning to get really dark.  It took us maybe 40 minutes to complete the loop, even with all the time we spent watching and photographing the sunset.

We talked our new friends into staying in the park that night, instead of going back down the mountain as they had planned, and we all had dinner together at the local restaurant.  We ate and talked until the staff began turning off the lights, in a not so subtle gesture, signifying their desire to go home even though our conversation was in full flow.  It was getting late and cold so their timing was appreciated, with us feeling grateful in the end for a hot shower and a warm bed.

We went for breakfast on our own in the morning where I struck up a conversation with another couple who I had noticed camping only a hundred meters or so from our villa.  They had a Chonburi license on their truck so we discussed where they had been and I admired his Canon 60D camera.  Soon it was time to take one more short hike before heading home. 

Lan Hin Taek is not a long hike but it is not for the clumsy or accident prone.  The terrain is broken and the gaping crevasses are spanned in strategic places by the flimsiest of wooden bridges, with no railings.  Still it was a wonderful way to say goodbye to the mountain before heading home.

While my only interest was in the beauty of the place, their is a great deal of military history to this park, as well.  Google, Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park, for more information.  It was a communist stronghold from 1968 to 1972 and it wasn’t until after they were defeated that the park was founded in 1984, as the 48th national park in Thailand.

The drive home was around 500 km of pleasant and comfortable driving in our new Fortuner, which got us home just as it was getting dark.  As usual it really felt good to get home.  After a few days rest at home my wife is now down in Bangkok for a visit with a friend from Hawaii and some time with her Bangkok friends.  All to soon she will be back to her classwork so it is important to make as much of this break as possible.
Fall colors in the forest.
Visitor Center
Road up the mountain.
Road up to 1600 meters.

Excellent dirt road to the top.
View of the parking area from the top.

View from 1600 meters.

Reeducation school area with a few Maple leaves left for our enjoyment.
Beginning our sunset hike.

On the trail.

Lending a little support.

Enjoying the view.

Sunset at Lan Hin Pum.

Sunset photo op with new friends.
The trail to the lookout.

Parking by the front door.

View from the front door.

Our accommodation for the night.

Camping area.


Lan Hin Taek trail

Finding our way.

Amazing rocks and crevasses.

More unusual rock formations.

A view for Lan Hin Taek.
The memorial at the beginning of the trail.