We awoke on Friday the 13th in Chiang Rai after a stormy night. We had booked a trek to the jungle but because of the storm we decided to cancel the trek and re-arrange for another day. Not long after we’d cancelled the sun came out. We were given the opportunity to change our minds and go on the trek anyway, but standing by our choice we decided to stick with the re-scheduled day.
After having some breakfast, we went back to our room expecting the storm to start up again, but it didn’t. Kicking ourselves for having cancelled the trek we decided to go for a walk and rent some bikes (cos our backsides weren’t quite sore enough from the last two bike rides!) We packed a bag – camera, video camera, pac-a-mac’s and off we went.
Our first stop was the Oub Kham Museum – a museum filled with paraphernalia from every corner of the former Lanna Kingdom (or so the Lonely Planet guide told us). The museum was made up of lots of little temples that housed all the artefacts. Luckily there was a guide to take us around as we would’ve had no clue what we were looking at or what direction to go in. It was fascinating and we learnt a lot but I won’t bore you with all the details. We got treated to some green tea and then took a stroll round the museum gardens, seeing a particularly beautiful elephant water feature. Wouldn’t mind one of these in my garden (if I had one!)
With the rain still holding off we decided to go for a bike ride a bit further afield where we would cross the river and visit Tham Tu Pu and the Buddha Cave. After cycling for a few minutes, I noticed that my front tire was flat, so we searched the streets for a garage to pump it up. Luckily they are everywhere in Thailand so it didn’t take long. With the tire pumped, we continued our journey. As we cycled, the rain started to come down so on went the pac-a-macs. After we crossed the bridge we pulled in for something to eat. The place we stopped at barely spoke any English so of course we just opted for rice and pork – nothing new there then! By the time we’d finished, the rain had slowed so back on the bikes we got. It was a very scenic route, with the hills of Chiang Rai around us, biking through some local villages, but the further we got the harder the rain started to fall. We finally reached Tham Tu Pu, but the rain was really starting to get heavy. We saw some steep steps ahead, built into a limestone cliff. Knowing that the Buddha Cave was up the steps, we started to climb. They were extremely steep and very narrow. Once we reached the top we could see into a dark cave. We ventured in and were hit with the smell of bats. It was dark and I could hear the bats squeaking. I wasn’t so sure about venturing in, but Barry convinced me (he later admitted to me that he was scared too – man up!). Once inside we were met with a giant stone Buddha. After a quick look around we left, only to realise that the rain had turned into a torrential storm. There was thunder and lighting and the rain was ridiculous. We contemplated what to do next but there was nowhere but the cave for shelter and really, how long were we going to wait? So prepared to get wet, we hit the road again.
After minutes we were drenched through and the rain was so heavy we could barely see. To top it all off, my tire was going flat again. After cycling as fast as we could, we found another garage where we could get my tire pumped up but it only lasted a few minutes and was flat again. With no other choice we continued to ride. At first we tried to avoid the puddles, but soon realised it was pointless as we were wet to the core. We pulled over where we had eaten earlier to check Barry’s phone for the route. He’d concealed it in his waterproof pocket in the mac. As he put his hand in the pocket to pull it out, he was met with a puddle of water – turns out the waterproof pocket is only waterproof when you zip it up – who knew?! His phone was soaked and refused to turn on.
So now we were drenched through and had no form of map to get us back to our hotel, however we were secretly pleased that we’d made the right decision not to go on the jungle trek, as we had been so angry with ourselves earlier. I decided to take the lead, as I was sure I could get us back without a map. On we rode and rode and rode and the rain just kept pouring. We finally made it back to the town, which was just a sea of water. The traffic had all come to a stand still as it was time for the schools to kick out and the roads were just one big puddle (not just England who can’t cope with extreme weather then!). We now had to walk the bikes, as my tire was just too flat. I couldn’t help but laugh to myself – we were lost, we were wet and Barry was pissed about his phone. We came to a cross roads and I said we should go right, Barry said we should go left. Not wanting to be proved wrong, I agreed to go left where along the way we found a map. Discovering where we were – I was right, we should’ve gone right. We could’ve gone left but it was a long way round and I’d had enough of taking my bike for a walk.
We finally made it back, just as the rain had stopped – typical.
So, lessons learned for the day –
Always carry an empty carrier bag – very handing for wrapping electronic items in to keep dry in a storm (when we got back to the room we also discovered that Barry’s posh new camera had been submerged in a pool of water and as a result was now not working). The only thing that was not touched by water in the bag was the waterproof video camera!
Always zip up any waterproof pockets!
Above all else – never leave the house on Friday the 13th!