Two nights in Old Si Satchanalai provided respite from ‘route’ cycling and the opportunity to visit the Unesco World Heritage Park, just half a mile away, where there are many more ruins dating back to the 12th centuary. The remains of the temples are set in beautifully kept parklands, and are somewhat reminiscent of the relics at Ankor in Cambodia, but without the hordes of people and at £2.50 each for us and 25p per bike, the hefty entrance fee.
The skill of the craftsmen who built and decorated these enormous temples is truly awe inspiring.
The ‘day off’ as Gavin insists on calling the day cycling between the temples and exploring them on foot, in 30+ degrees, had to be ‘paid for’ with an 80 mile ride north to Phrae. A 5.45 am start required the use of lights but was essential to get miles in before the heat built. The early stages along the Yom river, through miles of freshly sprouting rice, was delightful. The water filled paddies glistened in the early morning sun with the growing seedlings a vibrant green five o’clock shadow where flocks of egrets and the occasional grey heron feast.
The second half, after the busy town of Uttaradit (breakfast stop with 36 miles done by 8.15 am) was less fun as we had to take a major highway; the traffic noise, heat and the biggest hill we have encountered so far were quite wearing, despite there being a reasonable shoulder most of the way. We arrived in Phrae; the old town is heavily influenced by Burmese carpentry skills, at 2pm and were very happy to chill at the delightful Phoomthai Garden Hotel. Sadly neither of us had the energy to take a dip in the pool just outside our room.
Having only 30 miles to do today (Saturday) allowed us a bit of a lie-in and a very nice breakfast. In contrast to yesterday, our route to Song was on minor roads winding through delightfully named villages and open farmland.