Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Chiang Mai : Riding Up To Doi Inthanon, The Highest Point In Thailand With A Beautiful Monster (Ducati)

Two things I remember deeply about this trip was:

#1 It was HOT.
#2 It was fun, but it was also VERY HOT.

Visiting Thailand 4 times in the past 5 months, you can be sure I ain't getting enough of that beautiful country.

When my friends told me that Thailand's weather is currently very hot, I was like "Yeah I know, Bangkok's always pretty hot and humid during this time of the year. Chiang Mai should be better, especially on higher grounds".

Well, I was wrong.
You'll find out how hot it really was later on.

So for the first day, I took a 2 hour flight from Singapore to Bangkok to meet up with Thailand's lifestyle-based motorcycle magazine, Rubbers.

Didn't understand a single word of Thai in the magazine but boy, I love the whole theme and mood of it!

Credits to Rubbers Magazine
The densely-filled magazine embraces the rebellion culture of being wild and free, while being fit at fashion.

Credits to Rubbers Magazine
From Enduro adventures, to lifestyle-themed pictorials,

Credits to Rubbers Magazine
to motosports racing news, getting in on what's heating up on the tracks,

Credits to Rubbers Magazine
and not forgetting eye-candelicious babes, also known as the Rubber Girls, the magazine's contemporary styles gives them a defining edge towards motorcycling. Oh, and I think it helps that all their pictures are like so VSCOcam-instagram-worthy.

Tried to look fresh despite the sweltering heat for a shoot and interview session with the Rubbers team! I guess a cheerful smile could help my melting make-up? Haha.

Thank you Rubbers Magazine for having me. Can't wait to receive a copy of it when it's out.

From left: Dala, me, Anniie
A sweet friendship refreshes the soul!

The beautiful thing about motorcycling is you meet bikers from all over the world where good friendships are made, despite living thousands of miles apart.

Having only one day in Bangkok before I fly off to Chiang Mai the next day, I was glad to be able to spend some time catching up with Anniie and Dala over dinner.

I realized my weird brain tend to make me try to speak English like Thai people do, when I'm talking to them. Hmm.. maybe I should influence them with Singlish the next time round.

Friendship makes you feel home even when you're away from home :)

With a night well spent, it's time to head up North to Chiang Mai! I heard it's burning up in the mountains..... Now where's my Inuteq cooling vest and 2 litre bag of ice...

Day 2

Flying sure makes the world feel small! I remember taking about 9 hours riding through 800KM from Bangkok to Chiang Mai with Kevin and Anniie last December. This time, I'm skipping the hard work LOL.

Took a flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai via Thai Lion Air (SGS $27 one way) and got there within an hour.

The minute I stepped out of the airport, woah man, I was instantly embraced by the almost-suffocating heat. Temperature check: 44°C.

Credits to memesvault
Oh god, it IS really hot.

It's so scorching hot that even my taxi driver can't seem to open his eyes due to the sun's glare....

Located just barely 5KM from Chiang Mai International Airport, I've arrived at the very cosy Ducati Chiang Mai where my date awaits - the red hot chilli pepper Ducati Monster 821.

Yeshhh. Collected the KEY to Happiness, started the 112 hp Testastretta L-twin engine and we're ready to take this muscular trellis-framed monster further up North to Chiang Rai!

And here are my essentials to last me through the trip:

Inuteq Cooling Vest - With cold water stored inside, this prevents my body from overheating by keeping my body temperature cool despite the intense heat. It can supposedly last about 2 hours. Got it from Chiap Lee.

GoPro - To capture all the action.

Tripod - This super-handy tool is always with me because I don't have a personal photographer with me all the time.

Xiao Mi Power Bank - Because I take SO many photos with my phone and cameras, this helps to keep my electronics alive through the day.

Spy Shades - Needa protect my eyes from those harmful UV rays.

Cap - Mainly to hide messy helmet-head hairs haha and

Slappin on lots of sunblock before every ride is a must.

With everything in place, I headed over to meet the fantastic bunch of captains from Singapore Airlines who braved the heat and rode all the way to Chiang Mai from Singapore!

Why fly when you can ride..?
Why ride when you can fly..?



And what an honor it is to have them accompany me by continuing on the ride towards Chiang Rai :D 

300KM to cover today over a round trip from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai.

Point of Interest -Wat Rong Khun (White Temple)

It's actually a privately owned fine piece of art exhibited in the style of a temple. Sculpted by Chalermchai Kositpipat and standing since 1997,  it's amazing how pristine it remains after all these years through all sorts of rough weather. And we ALL know how difficult it is to maintain the color, White. 

Like I bet your 6 months old white-colored iPhone is already turning creamy mustard right :p 

Thailand's huge and there's just so many different places to explore even in one province alone, which explains why I've been to Chiang Mai a couple of times but never got a chance to go there.

So the boys and I are here to make sure I will this time!

Off we go, into the highlands. 

Pretty purple flowers still in bloom

As always, Northern Thailand is blessed with enchanting scenery all around but I can't say the same about the weather this time. 

Compared to chilling in a comfortable 11°C back when I rode to Mae Hon Song last December, it's 44°C now. 

As you can see, my pictures seem to be somewhat tinted with a bit of orange hue. No filters, no edit. It's because Northern Thailand is currently blanketed by a thick layer of haze, due to many forest fire burning up now. 

And it doesn't help that the monster is boiling up too, at 97°C :/// 

You think it's dandelions floating around the air, but they're actually all ashes, amidst the suffocating heat. 

Can Singapore have such cute petrol attendants too please? :D
Locals said they are experiencing one of the hottest season in 15 years. 

Global warming.. they say.
The world is coming to an end.. some others say. 

So how? Faster ride more and see explore this world! 

Like us!! Hahaha.

After clocking about 140KM, we've arrived into Chiang Rai, northernmost province of Thailand, and also part of the Golden Triangle where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar converge.  

And this, is Wat Rong Khun (White Temple)! 

It's really very white.. 

Someone pass me my shades please! Too white and with the sun shining on it in all it's glory, my eyes can't take it. Squinting until my eyes are barely open.

Parked our bikes right in front of the temple, replenished our energy drained from battling with the heat with delicious Thai food before we took a short walk into and around the temple to have a closer look at the finer details of this architecture. 

This part looked a bit scary to me, like the artist is trying to signify what hell is like or something. But I'm more amazed at how all their fingers, such a slim section of material used, remain despite going through all sorts of weather for almost two decades! 

The owner of the white temple, Chalermchai, actually spent 40 million THB from his own pocket on building this project with the main intention of giving the people a place for meditation and walk the path of Buddhist teachings. 

After being awed by the detailed architecture of Wat Rong Khun, we decided to cool of the heat by heading for a nearby waterfall. But first, I'm gonna fill my Inuteq cooling vest with ice cold water and see how long it lasts me.

It's midday and the sun's out in full force, perfect to put my Inuteq cooling vest to the real test.

2 hours on, from tarmac to small B-roads, I've no idea how we then got ourselves into the woods, off road.

Forest fires were around us, it was getting a little difficult to breathe. My Inuteq kept me cool for a good two hours, but too bad our journey for the day isn't just over yet. In fact, we're only at our halfway mark.

Ackk where's the waterfall man...

Some of the guys decided to head on further in to navigate the waterfall while me and the rest took a break. I was starting to get a lil light-headed, seems like the first signs of heat exhaustion :(

After 20 minutes, we eventually found the waterfall but it has DRIED UP wth... There goes my hope of cooling down because I was totally prepared to just jump in with my full gears on. They'd dry within an hour of riding anyway. 

Got out of the woods and stopped by a stall along the road side. Everyone was dehydrated, so we bought down all the ice and water they had. LOL. 

We drank it, poured it over our heads, body, wherever that needs serious cooling down. 

And time to head back to the hotel via the shortest route from Chiang Rai. We are all beat. Gonna spend the ride back thinking about how rewarding it is to be under a nice cold shower....

Well, what's comforting was that I'm not alone in this. I've got these awesome peeps with me suffering togetherrr! Hahaha. 

Got back to the hotel safely, took the refreshing cold shower I was dreaming about before wrapping up the day with some glorious Thai street food! A trip to Thailand just isn't complete without indulging in their street food you know.. 


Day 3

If you know me, I'm not exactly a morning person, and most touring rides start off before dawn break because it's safer traveling in the day, it's not as hot, and you'll have more time to explore the place when you arrive at your destination early. 

But I wanted to escape the heat during the day desperately, so I fought the sleepy bugs and got myself outta bed at 5:30AM, and started the ride to the highest point in Thailand - Doi Inthanon

Today's ride is a relaxed one, with Doi Inthanon National Park located just 100KM away from Chiang Mai.

Making our way up the mountains, it was extremely refreshing watching the sun rise and light up the world around us, turning everything it touches into Gold. 

Definitely not regretting sacrificing a bit of sleep for a view like this :)

With almost 38°C difference, temperatures up here dipped to a low 6°C at 6:00AM, as we find ourselves standing at 8,200ft above sea level. 

Finally, we were able to see clear blue skies, and refresh our lungs with clean cool air. 

Compared to just 45 minutes ago when we were clouded with bad hazy air in Chiang Rai? I'd choose to stay here for as long as possible anytime.

Being at the highest spot in Thailand, the Ducati Monster and I were enjoying 360 degrees paranomic view overlooking a sea of mountains nestling quietly below us.

And there we are! Elevated in altitude.

As the sun rose, so did the temperatures. It went from a comfortable 10°C before maintaining at 18°C during midday.

How cool is it to own a cafe at the highest point in Thailand? 
Simple, but it had the basics like coffee and hot chocolate which we had, while in the company of cheerful birds singing and the quietness of nature all around.

There's a short trail that walks through the lush greenery, perfect environment to unwind the mind.

Of all places, day and time, we bumped into a young Singaporean biker, named Azman, who was so brave to ride all the way from home to Chiang May here alone! On his bike that was decaled in such vibrant colors. Well done mate! And have a safe journey back home.

At the beautiful Doi Inthanon National Park. There is an entry fee to the park, which goes to maintaining the place. Too bad the view from here is covered by the haze below so we couldn't see anything except for prettily planted flowers in the vicinity. 

So, we decided to be THE view instead. LOL.

Made our way down the mountain and just 15 minutes away from Doi Inthanon, was Watchirathan Waterfall. 

Luckily it didn't run dry, compared to the one we looked for in vain yesterday!

Little monks were seen playing and sunbathing at the foot of the waterfall as volumes of water just splashed right down beside them. Looking at them so carefree actually relaxes my mind and reminds me that sometimes the simpler life is, the happier we'll be.

Never without a smile without this fun bunch! So reluctant to head down the mountain back to Chiang Mai city where it's burning hot, but it's time to wrap up this short and sweet ride and head back home!

Thank you Ducati Thailand for the Monster 821, it's agility was perfect navigating through the mountainous curves and what a joyful ride it was exploring new places in Chiang Mai with it!