Europe On & Off-Road: The Gear List

I plan to ride a considerable percentage of this trip off-road so I aimed to lighten the gear as much as possible and I wanted to get rid of the front panniers to ease passage on narrow trails.
As it is not a short trip of a few weeks (I hope), I have to be prepared for weather conditions in the range of -5°C upto 40°C. That, combined with the fact that for this longer trips, I like to have a certain level of comfort (i.e. a decent 2p tent, decent stove & pots, clothing…) going real lightweight won’t be possible.

Cycling with a backpack, even light and small, is not an option for me, I learned in the past. It is sweaty and my back really starts to hurt after a while. So all of the below will be packed in two dry bags and two panniers.
One dry bag in the front with sleeping bag, liner bag and pillow.
The dry bag on the rear rack has the tent and mattress. All the rest is in the two panniers. Initially I wanted to squeeze it all in two small (front) Ortlieb panniers. It is possible, but it would leave no space for food and toilet paper, so I will use the normal standard rear Ortlieb panniers, giving me ample space to carry lots of food for stretches where I won’t see a shop for a while (f.e. Cantabrian Mountains and other parts in Spain and Portugal), or for when I want to carry enough food for a rest day wild camping in the mountains or forest.

Obvious ways to spare a few grams would be to leave the footprint of the tent behind, which I don’t want, for obvious protection. Or, I could use my gas stove i.o. the multifuel stove, but I know from experience these gas canisters are not at all easy to find in remoter areas.
I considered leaving the laptop behind but decided against it. It’s an easy back-up with all my maps and routes in case something happens with the gps, and being away so long (hopefully), means there’s all sorts of stuff one has to arrange from time to time.
I think this is the best I could do to make it as light as possible for this kind of trip.

Bicycle:

  • Frame: Santos Travelmaster 2.6 alu, 19inch
  • Wheels: Santos handmade ‘vakantiewiel’ – (rim: Exal) 36 spokes
  • Tires: Schwalbe Smart Sam (2.25” front & 2.1” back)
  • Gears: Rohloff hub (chain rings: front 42, back 20)
  • Breaks: Shimano Deore-XT V-brakes
  • Front Rack: Racktime Topit
  • Rear Rack: Tubus Vega Classic

Bags:

  • 2 Ortlieb back roller classic panniers (20 L each)
  • 2 Sea To Summit River Dry Bags (20 L each)
  • Wild Cat Frame Bag
  • Topeak top tube bag
  • Revelate Design ‘Jerrycan’
  • 2 AcePac Fat Bottle bags
  • Daypack: Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil
  • Various dry bags

Camping / sleeping:

  • Tent: Hilleberg Nallo 2 incl. footprint
  • Mattress: Thermarest Neo Air + pump sack
  • Down Sleeping Bag: Cumulus Panyam 450 (820 gr – 0°C comf.)
  • Liner bag (Cocoon Travel Sheet Egypt Cotton)
  • Pillow: Sea To Summit Aeros Premium


Cooking:

  • Stove: Optimus Nova multifuel expedition stove
  • Fuel bottle: Optimus 1L
  • Windscreen
  • Pot & pan: Optimus
  • Mug: Primus 4 seasons
  • Cutlery
  • Wooden spoon
  • Cutting board
  • 2 lighters
  • 5 x 0,75 ltr + 1 x 1,5 ltr water bottle
  • Water filter: Katadyn Hiker Pro
  • Sponge

Jackets:

  • Rain jacket
  • Down jacket
  • Fleece jacket

Shirts & pants:

  • T-shirts: 2 long + 1 short sleeved shirt
  • 1 Long sleeve merino wool shirt
  • 2 Cycling shorts
  • Rain Pants
  • Thermo underpants
  • Casual pants
  • 1 pair light running shorts
  • Boxer shorts

Hand & head gear :

  • Cycling gloves
  • Warm Gloves:
  • Beanie
  • 2 Buffs
  • cap
  • Head net
  • Helmet

Shoes & socks:

  • Light Gore-Tex hiking shoes
  • 2 pair thin cycling socks
  • Warm socks

Photography & Electronics:

  • Camera: Sony RX100 MII
  • 2 Batteries for camera
  • 3 x 64 gb memory cards
  • Laptop & laptop sleeve
  • External hard drive
  • E-reader
  • Phone
  • Gps
  • Cycle computer
  • Mp3-player
  • Headphones
  • Head Torch
  • AA-battery recharger
  • 2 Power Banks: 10.000 + 20.000 Mah
  • 8 rechargeable AA batteries for gps
  • Small solar panel
  • Various chargers & cables
  • Small distribution plug

Spare Parts:

  • Tube
  • Brake cable
  • Rohloff shifter cables
  • Spare Rohloff ‘easy-set’ & shifter clamp
  • Break pads
  • 1 chain + chain lock
  • 1 rear chain ring (20 t)
  • Spare spokes (front & rear)
  • Cable ties
  • Screws
  • Optimus & Thermarest repair kits

Tools:

  • Multitool
  • Swiss Army knife
  • Small screw driver (flat)
  • Allen keys
  • Spanner nbr 8
  • Small pliers
  • 2 Tyre levers
  • Pump
  • Puncture repair kit
  • Spoke tightener
  • Chain breaker
  • KMC missing link opener & remover
  • Rohloff oil change kit & screws
  • Chain oil
  • Chain brush

Toiletries:

  • Electronic shaver
  • Hair clippers
  • Comb
  • Toothbrush + toothpaste
  • Dental floss
  • Shampoo
  • 2 Washcloths
  • Small towel
  • Sun cream
  • Lipbalm
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Tick remover tool
  • Nail clippers
  • Tweezers
  • earplugs
  • Toilet paper
  • Pocket trowel
  • Plasters
  • Bandage
  • Disinfectant
  • Thermometer
  • Face masks

Miscaleneous:

  • Bicycle lock
  • Sunglasses
  • maps
  • Pen
  • Waterbladder: Ortlieb 10L
  • Wallet
  • Duct tape
  • Passport + ID card
  • Passport pictures
  • Drivers license
  • Debet cards
  • Credit cards
  • Homebanking devices
  • Rope / clothes line
  • 5 clothespins

Bangkok Days

Bangkok, by far my favorite town in the world, is an excellent place to start or finish a trip. Normally I always try to stay in another part of the town whenever I am here, just to get to see and know more of it. But I still had a bicycle waiting in Bangkok, so went back to the same hotel as a couple of weeks ago.

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One of the best ways to travel fast and cheap through the city are the fast river boats in the picture.  Be aware that they make really formula 1 style stop & go’s at the pier, so you better be quick hoppin’ on and off.
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River style housing along the Chao Phraya river.
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Genuine Thai smiles at the flower market.

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Flowers on a skewer.

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I always wanted to visit the Baiyoke Tower in Bangkok, but it never happened in the past.  Baiyoke Tower is the highest hotel tower in southeast-Asia with 84 floors.  The tower is 309 m heigh (328 meters with the antenna on top of it).   It stands on 360
concrete piles, each driven to 65 meter into the ground with a 5 meter thick mat over the top.  At the time of completion in 1997 it was the tallest reinforced concrete building in the world.
You can visit the 77th and the 84th floor to admire the spectacular views.

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Some people seem to have their own priorities when visiting Bangkok’s highest tower.
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I arrived in the afternoon but stayed till well after sunset to enjoy the views both during day time as in the dark.

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The Baiyoke tower (right) with the rotating viewing deck on top and the antenna.

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Thai sweets.

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Chinese temple near the Chao Phraya river.

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This lady was doing restoration works on the outside walls of the temple.

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Miniature temples in a park along the Chao Phraya river.

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Happy Bangkok pigeon.
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Another view from the river of the high rises of the city.
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Proudly showing the Thai national flag and the yellow personal flag of King Vajiralongkorn.  These flags are usually flown along to honor the King and the Royal Family.
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Further downstream the Chao Phraya, they are building this gigantic new parliament building.  This 12 billion Baht project should originally be completed in 900 days, but that’s being extended over and over again.  Current dead line is 31/12/2020,  Then, it will be a construction period of 2.764  i.o. 900 days.
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Wat Arun jetty.

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A nice Thai dish, the Bangkok Post….. don’t need much more to be happy.
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Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, in the Dusit Palace complex.  The building was ordered by King Chulalongkorn and completed in 1915, five years after his death.  I visited it in the past, but it is now closed to the public by the new King.  To the right of the throne hall, you see the golden Memorial Crowns of the Auspice built in 2016 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej`s accession to the throne
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I also re-visited the Jim Thompson House.
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Jim Thompson house.  He reversed the wall panels inside out.
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Demonstration of silk spinning at the Jim Thompson House.

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Apart from river boats on the Chao Phraya, canal boats are also a good option to move from one part of the city to another.

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@ the MBK food court.
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On top of the MBK building are cinema’s and gaming halls.  You can drum….
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you can dance,
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you can game, ….
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The famous Thai ‘Crocodile’ bike.
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My favourite Thai dish ‘pad krapao kai’.

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Bangkok Hua Lamphong train station.
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Welcoming 2020 in front of MBK shopping centre.

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Also Britney was here.
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Hope to be back soon, Bangkok.

Thailand: Mae Hong Son – Chiang Rai – Sukhothai

After visiting Mae Hong Son I rode in one long day to Chiang Rai via the famous road nbr 1095. There are reportedly  1,864 curves on this route.  Doing it now by car instead of on the bike, it seems much harder as back then.  (The report of my 2008 journey can be found here.)  One thing is sure: traffic has become about ten times more than back in 2008.  It is still a spectacular route, but I had multiple close calls with cars and motorbikes.  On a bicycle, I wouldn’t recommend this route anymore.

Chiang Rai and the surrounding area has some interesting attractions:

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Wat Rong Suea (The Blue Temple)
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Inside the Blue Temple. Stunning Buddha image.
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On the way to Khun Khorn waterfall, one walk through impressive bamboo forests

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Wat Rong Khun. This is the forst time I saw ‘The White Temple’ with my own eyes. Unforgettable and probably second on my list of must sees after the Golden Palace in Bangkok.

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Wat Phra Kaeo, the temple of the Emerald Buddha.
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I think this is a replica of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok’s Wat Phra Kaeo.

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Clock Tower, Chiang Rai

I took smaller back roads from Chiang Rai towards the Mekong River, passing villages like Ban Mae Paeng and Ban Than Sat.
Ban Sob Ruak is where I actually saw the Mekong River again. It is the epicenter of Mekong tourism in Thailand, called the Golden Triangle, the point where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet. The bus loads of tourists here, I know them from the past. What really susprised me is the complete new city that is being built at the Laos side of the border. Multiple high rises, all hotels and casino’s for Chinese and Thai with enough $$$.

We took a boat trip on the Mekong and visited the Laos side but it has zero charm and has nothing to do with what Laos really is.

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Golden Triangle statue with Myanmar (left) and Laos (right) in the background.
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Las Vegas on the Mekong. Sad.

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Leaving the mayhem of Ban Sob Ruak behind (but not after we had an excellent lunch at a small local restaurant in the north of the town), I followed the river down stream towards Chiang Khong.

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Colourful temple in Chiang Khong
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We rented some small but excellent bungalows a bit out of Chiang Khong.

We continued going south, close to the river. First to Doi Pha Tang viewpoint with its General Lee Memorial pavillion and a nice sitting Buddha.
For the next attraction we had to stretch our legs a bit: climbing up to the famous Phu Chi Fa. From the top of the cliff, you have an incredible view towards the Mekong Valley and over Laos. Most people go there for sunrise, so it’s better to go in the afternoon when all is quiet.

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Mekong River

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At the top of Phu Chi Fa (1.442 m asl)
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Me, on the way to Phu Chi Fa.
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On the left, if you look well,  you can see people on the top of the cliff.  Gives you perspective of the grandeur of the whole thing.
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Phu Sang waterfall

From Chiang Khong, I rode via Phu Sang & Doi Phu Kha National Parks to Ban Sop Bong. Doi Phu Kha is the highest point in the province of Nan (2.000 m)

Some different temples from small villages in Nan province below:

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Upon leaving Ban Sop Bong and riding through a small village, I stumbled upon a fantastic little, white temple, totally devoid of tourists.

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Wat Bo Kaeo
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No tourists, fantastic experience. One wonders how a small village can finance such a beautiful temple.

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Just before arriving in Sukhothai, I saw this giant Buddha along the road.

For the fourth time I visited Thailand’s ancient capital, Sukhothai.

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One of the most famous temples of Sukhothai is Wat Si Chum.  Inside is a giant Buddha, Phra Atchana.  King Bhumibol ordered renovations of the temple, which were done in 1952.

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Wat Si Chum

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I visited Krubasrivichai Monument outside the city of Lamphun.  I didn’t make a good picture of the statue myself, so this is from another website.   The things you see below his chin are giant wasp nests.
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There’s a whole complex at Krubasrivichai Monument.  Pictures below.

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A small last update about the last days in Bangkok to follow soon.

Thailand: Bangkok & Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son

After leaving Australia, I flew to Thailand for a month. My mother flew in as well and I showed her around the country. We started off in Bangkok.

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Wat Arun is a good starting point to show a first time visitor to Thailand. It is a very impressive temple and it involves a nice boat trip across the Chao Phraya River to Thonburi.
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Chao Phraya river by night.
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On the way up to Wat Saket (Golden Mount), one of my favourite temples in Bangkok.
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The stunning Loha Prasat.
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Loha Prasat. You can walk around here for hours and still, every time I’ve been here, I’ve been virtually on my own. It’s not on the tourist trail. Good.

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The Golden Palace in Bangkok, with Wat Phra Kaew.  It was my fourth visit to this place and it seems to get busier every time.  Rightfully so because few places on earth can match this place.  But I prefer the quieter times of my first visits.
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Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.  It is the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand.

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Guardians of the Golden Palace.
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The Golden Palace from outside its walls.
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Wat Pho is the oldest and largest (80.000 sq.m.) temple in Bangkok.  It houses more than thousand Buddha statues, more than any other temple in the country.

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The reclining Buddha, 15 meter high and 46 meter long.
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The Buddha’s feet are 3 m high and 4.5 m long.   The different panels on his feet are displaying auspicious symbols by which Buddha can be identified.  At the center of each foot is a circle representing a chakra or ‘energy point’.
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One of the many buildings inside Wat Pho.

The night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is very popular with tourists. I can’t understand why, because you miss all the scenery along the way, so we took the daytime train, leaving Hua Lampong train station at 8:30 am and arriving in Chiang Mai at 19:30. The last hour is still in darkness, which is a pity as it is the most beautiful part of the trip.

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Arriving in Chiang Mai in the evening, first priority is Thai food !!!
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Wat Chet Lin, a quiet temple in the centre of Chiang Mai.

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Wat Chedi Luang, also in Chiang Mai’s centre.  The fences around the temple weren’t there yet during my previous visits.  The toll of mass tourism.

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Wat Phra Sing. All this golden stupas were still white concrete stupa’s when I visited it years ago.
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Wat Phra Sing.

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More Wat Phra Sing.

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A must see when you are in Chiang Mai is Wat Doi Suthep, about 15 km outside the city in the surrounding hills.

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Black elephant statue on the way up to Doi Suthep.

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Wat Doi Suthep.

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A bit further up the hill, you’ll find Phu Phing (Bhubing) Royal Palace, built as a winter retreat for the Thai King.  The palace is closed for the public, but you can visit the gardens.

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Local dancers @ Wat Sri Suphan

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A temple I never visited, never even heard of during my previous visits to Thailand: Wat Sri Suphan.  The temple was originally built around 1500 to serve as the main temple for a silversmith village.  The process of completely covering the temple in silver only began in 2008 though.  By now, he temple is completely covered in silver, from the walls to the roof.

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We rented this little Honda to make a 2.200 km tour in Northern Thailand.
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Close to Chiang Mai is the mountain Doi Inthanon, Thailands highest peak.  It’s a national park.  A few kilometer before the top, you ‘ll find two remarkable pagodas: Phra Mahathat Naphamethanidon and Nophamethanidon.   They were built by the Royal Thai Air Force for King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit’s 60th birthdays in 1989 and 1992, respectively.  Until recently, one had to climb the stairs to the pagoda, but nowadays, progression  is unstoppable and an escalator will bring you up there, if you wish.
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The highest point of Thailand: 2.565 meter, 33 centimeter and 4,1 mm above sea level.  Precise up to a tenth of a millimeter haha.
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From Doi Inthanon, we rode via Mae Cham towards Khun Yuam.

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Thung Bua Tong Fields 
These Mexican sunflowers begin to blossom only in November and early December (for a period of less than 40 days). 
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Mae Surin waterfall, the highest of Thailand.

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Some fantastic accommodation in Khun Yuam.
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Sunrise from the bungalow.

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Khun Yuam is very close to the border with Myanmar, which shows in the style of the temples you’ll find here.  This one is in a small village west of Khun Yuam.

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More Burmese style temples along the way from Khun Yuam north to Mae Hong Son.

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On arrival in Mae Hong Son, we first visited Wat Phrathat Doi Kongmu, a pagoda at the top of a hill.
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Spectacular views from Wat Phrathat Doi Kongmu.  You can see the small provincial capital Mae hong Son, the airstrip and the surrounding mountains.
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The lake in the centre of Mae hong Son.

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The Thai kitchen, by far the best in the world.
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43 kilometer north of Mae Hong Song, near the border with Myanmar, is the village Mae Aw, also know as Ban Rak Thai.  On the way, we’re passing a few waterfalls. The Chinese style town was established by Yunnanese (Yunnan is a southern Chinese province) Kuomintang fighters who fled from Chinese communist rule in 1949.
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It’s Thailand, it’s right on the border with Myanmar, but it’s all Chinese style here.
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The reservoir at Ban Rak Thai.
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Tea, lots and lots of tea.
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I think, anno 2019, they earn more from the tourist bungalows in the tea plantations as from the tea itself.

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Very beautiful flower, found in a bamboo forest.
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Flower detail.
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A bike, panniers…. freedom !!
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Su Tong Pae bridge, supposedly the longest teak bridge in Thailand.  It looks old but was built in 2012 only to make a connection between Wat Tham Poo Sa Ma, which you can see in the distance, and  locals of Ban Gung Mai Sak village.  During certain periods of the year, this rice fields are full with water, and the bridge makes life easier for the monks to visit the village, and  for the locals to reach the temple for making  merit  and visit to the temple for monk chat and praying.

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Four faced Buddha.
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Inside Wat Tham Poo Sa Ma.
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I guess this is to make wishes.
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Lots of wishes here 🙂

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Hear nothing, speak nothing, see nothing.

Next episode: Going from Mae Hong Song towards Chiang Rai along route 1095, hyped as the ‘hardest road of Thailand’ (it’s not), with supposedly 1864 curves, then from Chiang Rai to Sukhothai.

Australia Prt 21: The data, the good, the not so good, the tips

2019 was a good year with a total of 323 days of traveling during which I visited two countries. 288 days in Australia, my only ‘new’ country this year. The other 35 days were spend in Thailand.

Some data about the Australia trip:

* Total kilometers cycled in Australia: 12.441 km
* Total kilometers all trips combined : 116.190 km

* Kilometers cycled per state (chronologically):

– Tasmania : 1.811 km in 47 days
– Victoria : 512 km in 13 days
– New South Wales : 712 km in 10 days
– South Australia : 2.274 km in 44 days
– Northern Territory : 2.291 km in 46 days
– Western Australia : 4.841 km in 128 days

* Average kilometer per cycling day: 55,30 km

* Total meters climbed: 85.917 meter

* Shortest cycling day: 5,52 km (Gog Range – Tasmania)
* Longest cycling day : 123,11 km (towards Tjukayirla RH on the Great Central                     Road, WA)

* Highest speed : 69,75 km/hr (on Cradle Mountain Development Road, Tasmania)
* Highest point : 959 m (on Cradle Mountain Development Road, Tasmania)

* Longest day in the saddle: 7 hrs 48 minutes (for 71,77 km near Warakurna, WA)
* Total time in the saddle: 931 hours
* Average time in the saddle on cycling days: 4 hrs 12 minutes

* I slept 229 nights outside:

– Wild camping : 220 nights (76,6%)
– Campgrounds : 9 nights (3,1 %)

* I slept 58 nights inside:

– Hosted by people : 40 nights (14,0 %)
– In trail huts : 9 nights (3,1%)
– In hotels : 7 nights (2,5 %)
– On a boat : 2 nights (0,7 %)

* Flat tyres: 16 (after I changed to real fat and heavy Chinese tubes, it became much better).

* Number of pictures taken: 8.898

* And the info everybody seems to want:
Average cost/day: 31,88 aud (= 19,80 euro, = 21,50 usd)

This includes only my daily cost during the trip for food (probably 80% of the cost), entrance fees, camp grounds and other small purchases like sun cream, tubes, etc…).
This does NOT include any bicycle or camping gear, nor flight tickets to and from Australia or the transfer to and from Tasmania with the m/s Spirit of Tasmania.

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Trip highlights:

– Cradle Mountain National Park (Tasmania)
– Bruny Island, Maria Island, Freycinet National Park (Tasmania)
– Cycling the dirt roads along the Murray River (Vic & NSW)
– The Mawson Trail (South Australia)
– The Flinders Ranges
– The scenery along the Oodnadatta Track (South Australia)
– The Sandover Hwy + the small back tracks towards Plenty Hwy (NT)
– Harts Range & MacDonnell Ranges (NT)
– The endles dirt, corrugations and scenery along the Great Central road (NT & WA)
– Cape Le Grand National Park (WA)
– The area around Hopetoun (WA)
– Stirling Range (WA)
– The Munda Biddi Trail (loved the forests) (WA)
– The friendliness and openness of a lot of the people I met
– The often awesome wild camping spots
– Vast open spaces

What I didn’t like so much:

– The behaviour of the majority of car drivers
– The flies.
– Uluru National Park
– Too much traffic on the Oodnadatta Track (due to water in Lake Eyre)

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Tips & advice for other cyclists:
It’s Australia. What makes it special and unique in my opinion are its deserts, its empty, remote areas. Go there and explore it on the dirt roads. With a bit of common sense, you should make it. Yes, you have to look a bit after yourself, carry water and food (sometimes lots), but if disaster strikes, you are not on your own.
When I was doing my research for this trip, people said they wouldn’t even go on the Stuart hwy without a satellite tracker like Spot or Garmin InReach.
That’s ridiculous.
Unless you decide to wander off the track in a random direction, you will have somebody passing you every day. The longest I was on the Great Central Road or Oodnadatta Track without seeing a car was probably 3 or 4 hours. Only a few times I saw nobody the whole day on smaller tracks. So up to you whether you want it. I had an InReach, but in hindsight, I don’t think you really need it. People have been doing this stuff since ages, long before mobile phones and satellite trackers were around.

The Stuart Highway between Darwin and Adelaide seems to be popular with a lot of cyclists. Although I rode only a small part of it south and north of Alice Springs, I think this road is totally unsuitable for bicycle touring due to the amount of traffic, no shoulder and the attitude of the drivers. Same goes for the Lasseter Highway going to Uluru.
It’s a nightmare. Avoid it.

If I would cycle the GCR again, I would ride north of Alice via the Tanami Road, then the Kintore Road, than take the Sandy Blight Junction Road to connect to the GCR. Or, if you want to go via the MacDonnell Ranges, take the Namatjira Drive out of Alice Springs, then connect via Haast Bluff towards Kintore Road, then further as above.
I assume you’ll find provisions in Mount Liebig and in Kintore.
If you do, let me know how it was !

I rode with 26 x 2.0” tyres. Unless you choose to stay on the asphalt (which would be a shame), I think 2.0” tyre width is the minimum you need. Something in 2.25” – 2.5” range would be optimal.
There are lots and lots of corrugations. Invest in a quality bike with the very best wheels you can find, quality racks and quality bags.
And keep it simple. Your Gates belt, your fancy disc or Magura brakes or electronic shifting are recipes for headaches, possibly for disaster.
I went without suspension. Front suspension might be a good idea, but only when it is a very good fork.

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A decent double wall tent and a sleeping bag with at least a comfort range of -3 °C should be sufficient for this trip, unless you go to Tasmania outside summer season.

A big thank you to Hans & Claudia, Sophie, Paul, Ian & Keryn, Fred & Wendy, Beth & Denis, Nico & Mykal, Stan & Briony, Dylan, Libby, Eddy & Shirley, Susie, Diana & Rod, Febe, Geoffry, Will & Jenny, Craigh and David & Marianne. All of them accommodated or helped accommodating me and were without exception interesting and very pleasant contacts and a welcome change from the long, long road.
Stay in touch please !

Below, the map from my route on Tasmania and mainland Australia.
All routes can be downloaded from Wikiloc.