Cycling 60km in the high heat and humidity of Northern Thailand in February may not seem like the greatest idea. Yet, exploring the countryside of Lamphun and Chiang Mai provinces by bike allowed me to discover a part of Thailand that few visitors get to see.
Despite no less than three bike rides in the previous few days, I clearly haven’t had enough. I was up bright and early to pick up my bike for my latest adventure. Luckily, I was able to recruit someone to join me on my all-day ride and my friend looked even more excited to get going than I was!
But first we had a train to catch! After acquainting ourselves with our bikes, we set off towards the train station through the sleepy streets of Chiang Mai. We weaved in and out of narrow alleyways, passing market vendors setting up stall for the day and tourists rushing to beat the crowds to the temples in the OId Town.
Our small convoy reached the station and we loaded the bikes on a local train. The plan was to head to the town of Lamphun and cycle back to Chiang Mai via a scenic 57 km route. We proved very popular with the locals and posed for photos with guys in very official-looking uniforms on board.
Once in Lamphun, we cycled along quiet roads past the remains of the ancient city wall overlooking the Kuang River. Lamphun dates back to the 8th century, making it about 500 years older than Chiang Mai. It was an important religious and cultural centre of the ancient Hariphunchai Kingdom.
We soon made our first stop of the trip at the 11th century Wat Phra Tat Hariphunchai. We learned about legendary queen Chama Thewi, craned our necks at the beautiful golden chedi (stupa) and saw a giant stone with an indented footprint supposedly belonging to Lord Buddha himself! After a quick snack, we were back on the road!
We rode out of Lamphun and were soon cycling along local roads and through fields, where farmers in straw hats picked the twice-yearly harvest of red chilli peppers. Banana trees lined the roads, wooden bridges crossed irrigation canals and locals waived as we passed their quaint houses and food stalls.
We passed rice fields before stopping for lunch at a roadside restaurant where we cooled off with refreshing ice coffees and played with resident dogs while waiting for our spread of traditional Thai food.
We managed to drag ourselves back on the bikes and took a short detour through the handicraft village of Baan Tawai. After making our way through rice fields we rode along a busy main road for about 10km. The sun was high up in the sky and the heat was making this stretch of the ride more difficult.
The scenery gradually changed as we started passing car dealerships and grocery stores. We finally reached the Hang Dong Market in a busy town where we had a refreshing strawberry smoothie, wandered the stalls selling everything from sunglasses to spices and had some snacks.
After a much needed break, we were back on the bikes and before long were again cycling through small villages and dense woodland as we made our way to the foothills of Doi Suthep mountain.
Cycling in the heat was beginning to take its toll and we lost one of our fellow riders to fatigue. We watched with slight envy as he headed back to the city in a taxi to enjoy a cold beer but were determined to keep going!
Our last stop of the day was Wat Umong, a temple set against a mountainous backdrop in a wooded area. It was built in 1297 and we wandered through its system of tunnels dug into the ground underneath the chedi. Buddha images lined the tunnels, which, legend has it, were dug for a monk to meditate in peace.
We found ourselves in the outskirts of Chiang Mai, continuing down twisty streets and alleyways, rode through the campus of the Chiang Mai University and joined traffic heading to the square of the Old Town. We arrived back at the at the tour HQ hot, exhausted but smiling from ear to ear. As we joined our fatigued friend with an ice cold beer, all we could talk about was our awesome countryside adventure.
What: I did the Chiang Mai Countryside by Bike tour (฿2100/£48/$60) with Grasshopper Adventures. They offer a variety of tours across South East Asia. Their Chiang Mai office is in the heart of the Old Town near Sripoom Corner.
Who: Boi guides groups throughout the week and is absolutely amazing. Ask for him and say hello from me!
Where: Chiang Mai is the largest city in Northern Thailand and the capital of a namesake province. It’s one of the most historically important cities in Thailand.
Getting there: There are regular flights from Bangkok (from £20/$25 one way with AirAsia, flight time around 1 hour) and other regional airports in Thailand. It’s possible to reach Chiang Mai by bus or an overnight train. Lamphun is about 25 kilometres south of Chiang Mai and can be reached by train.
Also Try: To read about my other cycling adventures in Thailand, check out my Cycling Hidden Bangkok post or Bangkok Bike Tour: Exploring Secret Trails of Thailand’s Capital
Note: This is NOT a sponsored post. I did not receive any payment or discount from Grasshopper Adventures.