Wanting to keep active I decided to go mountain biking with Mountain Biking Chiang Mai. The day starts with a bit of waiting while everyone is fitted with knee and elbow pads, jerseys, daybags, water, and finishes paying. Then we loaded in to some samlaws and drove to the top of the mountain (about 2000m elevation, 1.5 hour drive). When we offloaded there was a bit of time to test and adjust the bikes, then we had to ride over a log so the guides could see our skill level. It worked, since the group I was with (4 other men) was about the same level as me, so there was no one holding the group up. I was on ride no. 3 – the Old Smuggler’s Route – cross-country.
We rode through part of the Royal Project site – the King’s effort to turn the hilltribes away from opium cultivation to sustainable agriculture. The weird thing about Thai national parks is that they’re full of commercial activity, aboriginal reserves and encroachment. Anyway this project is growing coffee, and seems to be going quite well.
We stopped here for a coffee break. Bring some snacks because the riding is quite demanding – the fitness guide is accurate! From here the track followed a disused dirt road. It’s a good thing I was wearing the pads because I came off a few times. Fortunately there was another chap who came off almost as much as I did.
The track is very scenic – when you’re not blasting through it. The brochure says you go through a village, but it’s over in the time it takes to say ‘Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!’
After this there is a mix of singletrack and dirt road. The guide didn’t give much instruction. I took it slowly here but the others didn’t mind. It’s nothing like dodging cars! We also saw a scorpion on the way down.
At the bottom there’s a lovely lake. It would be worth a visit for a picnic by itself. There are a lot of little huts set up over the water and a place to rent the swans that you pedal around on the water. Our group set up in one of the huts and were given a Thai meal and drinks.