22nd May 2014. Doi Lium and Tak Kar Tan Cave.
It has been a number of weeks now since I last posted a “trip” report. In part that has been due to a couple of accidents on the mountain bike. The first of which incapacitated me for three weeks when I hit my knee very hard on Doi Suthep and then two weeks after recovering from that, I had another spill on the technical section around Huay Tung Thao lake where I cracked a couple of ribs after being thrown off the bike by a tree root hidden from view. Although I carried on riding with the broken ribs, it was really only maintenance riding for three weeks.I haven’t been idle though; using the time to fine tune and then even finer tune my route sheets for my ride along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route which will start on Wednesday 9th July.
Today I wanted to seek out some new destinations, some detours from an established route: the route to Samoeng. On my last ride along this road a couple of signs caught my eye. The first said “Tak Kar Tan Cave 4.2km”. The second was a sign post indicating “Doi Lium Viewpoint 3km”. Unable to find anything about either of these locations, I decided to ride out and see what I could find.
As a “warm up” I took the Samoeng Road (road 1269) to Baan Kao Dua. The Baan Kao Dua community has a rich ecosystem of natural resources in it’s waterfalls and forests. It is a quiet, relaxing garden village well known for its local vegetables and herbs and herbal medicinal drinks. As a Lanna Village (Northern Thai) the villagers still fashion cooking implements such as spoons and flasks from bamboo.
The morning was bright, sunny and warm and afforded some nice photo opportunities overlooking Ban Kao Dua and the American Pacific International School. The APIS provides a boarding school program for international students from the age of six years through to graduation in Grade 12. The boarders are fortunate to be living in such a beautiful location.
Onwards, or rather back along the 1269, to Doi Lium. Google aerial maps of this location show a cluster of houses on large plots a number of which have swimming pools. However, the road does not match the quality of the residences and after just half a kilometre it deteriorates into gravel and rock, not suitable for my mode of transport today. Even so, in that short section of concrete slab road, it peaked at 21% incline.
I abandoned the idea of finding Doi Lium and returned to the road 1269 and headed back towards the Baan Klang Doi resort and spa. The road to Tak Kar Tan Cave is on the right just past the resort and winds its way up the mountain side towards the Hmong Village for a little over 4km. It is yet another concrete slab road which seems only to serve the banana groves and strawberry fields between the main Samoeng Road and the Hmong Village.
Yet another failure. I couldn’t find the cave, although I suspect that I would never have reached it on my cycle today. Leaving the village and heading up (literally) into the clouds was a very steep and rough track which I suspect may have led to the cave. If so, a mountain bike would be required. The 4kms up to the village from the main road averages out at about 10% and tops out at a whopping 26%. Just about do-able on my road bike. A little more research is required.
So defeated but not disappointed I returned to Chiang Mai and decided to ride the short hill to Palaad Tawanron a well known local sea food restaurant set in the foothills of Doi Suthep, at the rear of the zoo next to a waterfall and overlooking the university and city.
At the bottom of the hill I stopped to chat with a couple of Dutch tourists who were pouring over a map and a copy of a Lonely Planet guide book. They had arrived just yesterday and were looking for the local Wat Umong and for a swimming pool. We chatted for a while before they went on their way and I cycled off up the hill. I’ve sort of made it my business to help anyone I see with a map in their hands. Thais are notoriously bad at giving (or taking) directions. I once spotted a traffic policeman in the Night Market giving completely incorrect directions to an American couple who were looking for a well known spa. He was pointing 180 degrees opposite to where they needed to go. When I corrected him, the policeman simply walked away.
I’ve only ever been to Palaad Tawanron at night and in a taxi. It’s a testing little climb. Today the waterfall was empty. The restaurant was closed as it only really services an evening clientele. It is a nice place to come for a romantic meal after dark; to see the city lights and the lake in front of the restaurant. Mind you, it isn’t cheap.
Some of the climbs and the mud and gravel left their mark on my shoes today. Road cleats are NOT meant to look like this……