Monday, December 01, 2014

Golden colours

We headed out on our motorcycle from Chiang Mai (Thailand) on November 30th to do what is referred to as the Mae Hong Son loop, a picturesque mountain drive to the west skirting the Myanmar border. As we ascended in altitude, there was a noticeable drop in temperature, especially under the shade of the canopied trees and in the shadow of the hills.

Not expecting such cold weather, we brought only light clothes, so by the time we arrived, we were both very chilled. We found a delightful bungalow where a hot shower quickly took the chill away!

Once that part of the body was satisfied, we had to address another part: the growling stomachs. We walked down the hill to the pretty little lake in town passing the side by side Wat Chong Kham and Wat Chong Klang Temples on the way. The first has pillars gilded in gold flakes and it houses a huge Buddha with a lap width of almost 5 metres. One end of the lake had busy food and craft vendors and sidewalk eateries. After a bite and some evening shots, it was time to turn in.

Nightly reflections

The next morning, locked and loaded, we wound our way up to the top of a hill for an aerial view photo op of Mae Hong Son below and to see the hilltop temple called Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu Temple - who comes up with these names!

A Wat with a lake view

Before leaving town, we decided to buy windbreaker jackets to protect us from future wind chills that the flying motorcycle gave and to get from the Chamber of Commerce a novelty award certificate stating we successfully drove the road of 1,864 curves!

We backtracked south 60 km from Mae Hong Son to the turn off, then another 25 km past hill and dale speckled with humble agricultural villages, and through some of the most beautiful back country to see the Bua Tong Fields (wild "sunflowers"). We fortunately came at the right time because these flowers only bloom during November and December. They average about 7.5 cm (3 inches) across in size and are more like a big yellow daisy.

Blooming duo

The effort was well worth it upon arrival! The fields painted in yellow were magnificent and stretched over a wide expanse.

Like a yellow carpet

After studying our map we intended a northern route, but we were discovering that the map had many errors and misinformation. The towns were often misplaced and the road conditions and posted signs, as rare as they were, didn't coincide.

Upon reaching a crossroad and conferring with a helpful local, we were left with 2 choices: 1 - taking a dirt/gravel road which we were assured was in very poor shape, or 2 - continuing south and back around to Chiang Mai where we had been 2 days ago. In the waning hours of the day, we realized either way we would be driving at dark so we wisely chose the latter of a less rugged road.

One bonus was it would be mostly on a road we had not yet travelled. This route gave us the most twisty, climbing, narrow road to date. At 1 point after gearing down for a turn, we heard a crash and looked back to see our rear hard-shelled luggage had come off the rack and was sliding down the road!!

Evidently the shaking and bouncing was too much for the plastic latch. We retrieved it in 1 piece albeit scraped and cracked a little, bungied it on as a temporary fix, and got back on the horse and journey.

Once again, as the sun fell, the temperature dropped. But this time, we were cozy in our windbreaker jackets. It was well past dark of the long day by the time we found a motel still a ways south of Chiang Mai.

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