The sounds of Anne splashing in the pool (“Swimming is the best way to get rid of Lactic Acid in the muscles”) and the tap of my keys is all I hear. We’re in Chiang Rai, Thailand now, enjoying another rest day after pounding out another 125 kilometers yesterday from Huay Xai, Laos to Chiang Rai.
But where we left off actually is Huay Xai, Laos after our last 100 kilometer plus ride. The name of the game was rest and relaxation (including $7, hour long massages!)
and of course, food…
As the golden sun began its descent towards the wide, muddy Mekong, Lisa and I wandered up to the golden Wat near our guesthouse. We timed it perfectly; one Buddhist monk, clad in the traditional bright orange robe, struck a bell to summon the other monks to evening service.
Lisa and I wandered about trying not to stare, watching the monks (who, after all, are mostly young boys) rough housing and trying not to stare at us. After lapping the ornate, gold, statue-infested Wat, the monks began to chat and we sat mesmerized on the steps, shoeless and staring at the stars.
Yesterday could’ve been an easy day — but obviously, none of us bike touring goobers necessarily likes it easy. Instead of breaking yesterday into two days of biking, we opted for an extra rest day in Chiang Rai and tortured ourselves and our general crotch/butt areas. We shoved off somewhat early, after taking over the same restaurant as the day before, mowing down on banana pancakes with Nutella and Laos coffee so strong it could probably arm wrestle you to death.
First stop (after a rolling, already sunny journey through the Xuay Xai outskirts): the Laotian border. The difference between this border crossing and the last was stark: we weren’t extorted, fanangled or stared at — although we did find out the jack wagons at the Vietnam-Laos border charged us for multi entry visas (we’ll be back to Laos in a few days) but gave us single entry visas. Thanks for nothing, guys.
Next stop: a large, short bus ride across the Friendship Bridge to Thailand, where we pulled our bikes from underneath the bus, reassembled them, exchanged some Laotian Kip for some Thai Baht, ate a bunch of food and started our big wheels rolling again.
Six hours and twenty minutes later, we had ridden 125 kilometers (including a piddly 350 meters of climbing), past Karst rock mountains, giant emerald Buddhas and impossibly ornate Wats. Of course, this excludes the usual eating and drinking stop in Phaya Mang Rai. We made sure to also get cracked out on creamy, sugary red Thai tea and strong, creamy Thai coffee. Some of us had emerg-i-poos from the combination of heat, food and caffeine but hey, it’s like Kate said, “If it doesn’t kill you, it’ll just make you really sick.” Or you’ll pee out the butt. Whatevs.
Speaking of eating, we stopped for another generous snack break on the flat, greenery-lined roads outside Chiang Rai. Why? Because Anne suddenly bonked and needed a snack.
“Do you know like when you lose all feeling in your whole body?” Anne said, shoving hand-roasted peanuts in her mouth.
We all burst into laughter. Not a single one of us had experienced this. I turned to Lisa.
“Are you exhausted, too?” I said, shoving three Jack & Jill sandwich cookies (which singlehandedly got us through Laos) into my mouth at once.
“I have bananas,” Lisa said.
“What?” I said and we all started giggling again, somewhat deliriously. We really needed to get off our bikes…
After an indeterminable amount of time wandering the busy streets of expansive Chiang Rai, we arrived at eclectic Ben Guesthouse. The sunset off the clean, blue pool imbibed just a little life back into my spent limbs.
Kate and Anne weren’t long for the world; after showers and arrangements for a taxi to the downtown Night Bazaar (f*ck riding or walking), Lisa, Tyler and I found ourselves in the pleasant night air with 1,000 of our closest friends. Clothing stalls lined the narrow corridor of the Night Bazaar. Zigzagging strings of lights crossed the starry sky as we searched the sprawling, crowded market for signs of food like tigers in the jungle.
Aha! Smoothies! Following my personal dictate of having a smoothie a day until the end of the tour, I ordered a guava and coconut masterpiece which I slammed like a professional basket ball player with a rainbow mohawk. The sugar made my stomach (as empty as Donald Trump’s good karma stores) feel funny as we traversed rows of tempura friend everything, uncooked kebabs with squid, shrimp and fish, stalls with fragrant, spicy Tom Yum soup, seafood or meat hotpot soup, pad thai, cashew chicken noodles and on and on…
We settled on a Tom Yum with chicken, cashew chicken noodle, cold mango salad and fried spring rolls, shrimp and tiny fish filled with tiny, white bubbles that tasted like cheese but (due to the lack of dairy in these parts) was most likely roe. Armed with chopsticks as starving ninjas with peaceful nunchucks, we destroyed the aforementioned like an angry toddler in front of a Lego tower. And then we promptly did some light shopping for new flip flops for Lisa, and visited the nicest convenience store we’d seen in weeks: the 711. And then went to bed and slept like permanent narcoleptics.
On the next episode: Tyler and his Harem (plus bikes, which makes us a family of 25) rents not one but two chartered boats for a ride on the Nam Kok. Stay tuned!