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The bus ride to Phayao was easy. The bus traveled way up into the mountains often having a hard time keeping up speed. Once I saw how steep some of the roads were I felt better about my decision to take the bus. This was beautiful country and very desolate. Arriving in Phayao I found a sweet town on a lake. Sandra has a travel website about Thailand and she sent me off with a map and list of accommodation options in Phayao and Chiang Rai. After putting Myrtle back together, it didn't take long to find her suggestion of the Phayao Lake Guesthouse getting checked in for $17. I spent the afternoon wandering along the lake exploring the small town. At one point I stopped to get some bottled water. I didn't realize I had left my camera in the store for at least an hour. No problem, the shop owners had kept it safe for me. Ppphheewww!
It rained all night and, at times, very heavy. The next morning it was still raining lightly but I decided to believe the weather website showing clearing skies and got packed up. The rains stopped as I was having breakfast and the day turned out to be perfect cycling weather. Overcast, cool and dry.
I had been in touch with an American triker on the Bentrideronline message board who lives in Chiang Rai. He suggested meeting on the highway and then riding in to town together. Great! We met up at the halfway point at a coffee shop in Phan. Jim rides an Ice trike that he has fitted with 26 inch wheels all the way around. This was a first and he explained it is all about speed. The route into Chiang Rai is totally flat along Highway 1. This is a main highway but the traffic really wasn't too bad. We stopped about 10 miles from town to see the White Temple. This was really amazing and I've been looking forward to seeing it for a long time! This temple was built in 1996 and designed by a local Thai artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat. He had been a playboy who had an awakening and gave his fortune away to live as a monk. The land for the temple was donated and all money the temple generates goes to fund the continuing construction. From a distance the temple has an ethereal, angelic look and mood. Once you get closer there are grotesque and demonic sculptures everywhere. In order to reach the white temple you must cross a bridge over a thousand hands reaching up from the underworld. Spooky stuff! The actual temple isn't very big and inside is a wall with a traditional setting and a very real looking wax monk in meditation. When you turn around and look at the back wall the message is very different. There are paintings in the Buddha dragon of Neo from the Matrix, Batman, Freddie Kruger, Michael Jackson and many more pop culture icons. Even the events of 9/11 with a plane flying into the twin towers is depicted. Photos are not allowed of the inside of the temple. This painting on a huge wall was so bizarre I didn't know what to think although I'm sure it is meant to make you think. The side walls are still being painted and a couple of artists were working on one wall. There are many more buildings on the site where monks live and study. Other structures are under construction. The bathroom was done in gold gilt and has to be the fanciest I've ever seen. Amazing place and I hope to see it again before I leave Chiang Rai.
I continued riding into town with Jim who took me on back roads. Just as we got to the city a huge and violent thunderstorm started. He headed home and I made a beeline for the Baan Norn Plearn hotel but was drenched to the bone by the time I arrived. This is a renovated school and is really sweet. The owners are enthusiastic about cycling and gave Myrtle a place inside out of the rain. I booked in for $25 a night for 3 nights. The hotel is in a great location and I'm looking forward to seeing more of this city.
Chiang Mai to Phayao to Chiang Rai
Bathroom at the White Temple.
Serpent sprits in the lake at Phayao.
Hands reaching out from the underworld at the White Temple.
Entrance to the White Temple
A face in the hands.
With JIm and his big wheels Ice trike.