A Sunday Ride…

Discussion in 'Touring Northern Thailand - Trip Reports Forum' started by ZCM, Aug 2, 2020.

  1. ZCM

    ZCM Ol'Timer

    Jun 23, 2011
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    Sunday 26th July. A day ride around Samoeng Neua area, where I took a ride to Mae Sap Cave, Wat Pa Sukawadee, up to the mountain views of Mon Jam, then to Di Bosco Coffee Specialists and Sala Cafe. (..with a quick stop at San Pa Gu Meditation retreat).


    Full Loop: Google Map Link
    (In truth, it was actually with a heavy heart that I went on this ride. I debated whether or not to mention this factor, as I generally like to keep deeply personal matters quiet. My dear friend sadly suddenly passed away, much too young, that I want to mention him, which I will at the end of this ride report.)

    FIRST STOP: Di Bosco Coffee Specialist.
    Chiang Mai province seems to be the coffee shop hub of all of Thailand, spoiling us with multiple choices. One or two always stand out a little from the crowd, and Di Bosco is one of them. They recently totally renovated the interior of the coffee shop also, with great care and attention. Fab coffee and food, with tons of parking space. A great Sunday ride stop..or any day of the week!

    SECOND STOP: Mae Sap Cave.
    Having passed by this cave entrance many times, but not stopping to enter, I decided it was time to pay it a visit. I am glad I did. The cave has a very striking and beautiful entranceway, with two main caverns (actually, three, if you count the one leading off from the 2nd cavern). There are no small tunnel systems (that I could find), but still worth visiting for how stunning the cave looks (unlike the labyrinth of deep interesting (and somewhat frightening) tunnels at Tukkatan Cave, at the opposite end of the Samoeng Loop, which I wrote about HERE).

    It seemed I also timed it well, for at approximately 1 pm the sun came through the natural skylight in the top cavern, flooding the cave floor below. Very beautiful!

    Additional Details: The cave is free to enter, but a donation box invites you. If you need torches, they can be rented for 20 baht.

    THIRD STOP: Cực Lạc Cảnh Giới Tự – Wat Pa Sukawadee.
    I have visited this rather unusual and secretive Vietnamese temple several times since I first came across it on a small explore-ride around Samoeng Neua area last year. Sometimes the gates are open, sometimes closed, but always feels a little like outsiders aren’t really welcome. Officially a teaching temple, they seem wary about outside visitors popping in. On this day I was lucky. Actually, most times I have been lucky in truth. As I was able to enter easily.

    It really is quite a surreal place, which began construction in 2005 with a $3 million USD budget but left incomplete. In saying that, I did notice some new concrete rendering drying on some pillars, so possibly there is still low key construction going on. I wrote about this temple in more detail, after researching, which, if interested, you can read about HERE.

    Mon Chaem/Jam was typically packed, despite the pandemic. Thailand, having eased off on restrictions, means Thai people are enjoying some tourism in their own country. So, although this region is normally packed with foreign tourists (mostly Chinese), it was still very much congested on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, with car license plates showing a variety of provinces visiting. Seems like everyone wanted a Sunday ride or drive out that day.

    Thankfully the routes I took that day avoided most of the traffic, and I choose to stop at a simple food place a little down from the main mountain viewpoint. This meant that my midday snack was Mama Noodles instead of something more substantial, but for a great view and avoiding the mass crowds and chit-chat, it was worth it. Also, the lady I bought the food from was Hilltribe, with a beautiful baby strapped to her back, so how could I resist?!


    Once I came down from Mon Jam and hit the depressing peak traffic on the 1096, I decided not to end my Sunday ride and instead decided to veer off and head to Sala Cafe for a last (proper) bite to eat before heading home. I also figured I would make a quick stop at the base of San Pa Gu Meditation Retreat, to try to catch the sun setting on the naga dragon staircase.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t make time to photograph or video beautiful Sala Cafe, as I arrived late and only had a short time in which to eat my food before they closed. I didn’t want to delay their cleaning up and closing time. I will return again to make a proper video of the beautiful cafe. Sala cafe also displays wonderful photographs by photographer Jurgen Chopard, who has been photographing Hilltribe communities for decades. You can visit the cafe to see his photographs and also view them HERE.


    LAST STOP: San Pa Gu Meditation Retreat
    Alas, sadly I was just not quite quick enough when eating my meal at Sala Cafe, and missed the window of opportunity for the Golden Hour sunset hitting the naga dragons at San Pa Gu staircase. No matter, just another excuse to return again to try capture the best light at this magnificent entranceway. Maybe another Sunday ride out! My detailed video for this wonderful retreat, including the unusual grounds inside, is HERE


    ..and finally, HOME A perfect Sunday Ride.

    My friend Criis….
    ..so well, I want to take a moment to write about my friend Criis. My wonderful friend Criis. I am struggling to know what to write here. He was a friend of mine since 2007, after we met in Chiang Mai, and became a dear friend from then onwards. Criis had the unique ability to…
    …actually, this just feels too strange and difficult to write about for now. I will go back to it later.

    For now, I will just insert a piece I wrote on his page recently instead. (I may remove all this section, or spend time to re-write it. I am unsure. ..)



    My friend Criis and his wonderful wife Sui had settled in China together but were always having adventures. Their latest planned trip was preparing for a bicycle ride in Vietnam. He had adapted his wheelchair into a bike, which he could peddle with his hands. Was really fantastic. They were a perfect team. I was looking forward to their updates when they finally headed off on this great ride.

    One additional sad note about this situation is that Criis (who was having some heart issues, requiring bypass surgery), likely would still be with us, if not for Covid quarantine issues. He did make it into Australia actually and was already in a hospital in Sydney, ready to have the operation carried out. However, with just one day to go until the operation, his heart gave out. Had there been no delays regarding him entering Australia due to the pandemic, I believe he would still be with us today.


    Criis and wonderful Sui made many interesting videos of their adventures and life in China. Below is Criis YouTube Channel, and one of his fab videos, sure to make you smile…

    …and another, when testing out his new hybrid bike readying for their trip to Vietnam.

    I am not sure what else to write at this point. It will be better if I come back to it because it is still a little too early to have a clear head. I am also concerned about what is and isn’t appropriate to share (on Criis’ behalf). However, given that he had a public YouTube channel, I imagine that he would have been ok with me sharing this. It is hard to believe he is no longer here.

    Just prior to finding out about Criis, I had been on a short ride up to the peak of Doi Suthep, to Doi Pui area. I was met by the most beautiful mist. I realise it is typical to see “signs” when you have lost someone, but part of me kept thinking that there was something quite magical about that day.

    ..then, on the morning of Criis’ funeral, a sudden heavy torrential rainfall took place after many dry days. We haven’t had any daytime rain that intense since, despite it being Rainy Season. Then, on the evening of his funeral I saw outside in the dark for a while and a wonderful scent had me looking up, only to see a beautiful red Ratchaphuek tree in full bloom. Stunning. The next morning I was met by the same tree, with the blooms all fallen, spilling out a circle of red. In Thailand, the yellow Ratchaphuek blooms are the national flower of the country and king. I am unsure what the red one stands for, but for me, the sight and scent of this flower will now always remind me of my friend.


    Saying goodbye is never easy. Wish you all happiness and good health.
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  2. Heineken

    Heineken Ol'Timer

    Mar 2, 2019
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    Im sure Criis would of had no issue with your words, more like a Tribute..........................If his wife Sui can read English ?, im sure she would also have no issue with your beautiful words.

    RIP Criis
  3. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    Jan 16, 2003
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    Nice report Zed & a wonderful memory of your friend Criis.
    No real need to change anything.

    RIP Criis.
  4. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

    Jul 16, 2019
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    Well written and thank you for sharing, Zed. You can’t go wrong when you say something that is heartfelt. I’m sure Criis would appreciate your thoughts and your words.
  5. Moto-Rex

    Moto-Rex Moderator

    Jan 5, 2008
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    Great report Zed.
    Thanks for sharing.


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