Welcome to the off season. We’ve rounded up an assortment of ORICA-GreenEDGE and ORICA-AIS riders to tell you about how they spend the ever-diminishing months without races. In his own words, Christian Meier returns with his third and final installment of his Thai adventures. This one includes wildlife and wild rides.
Let’s call this one elephants, tigers and the road to Pai.
This past week been one wilderness rainforest filled adventure. Each rest day we try to take in a local attraction, and this week we scheduled a visit to one of Chiang Mai's main attractions: Tiger Palace.
All that separates you from a cage full of tigers is the price of admission. Amber and I bought our tickets and quickly found ourselves in a cage with four one-year old tigers. We received guidelines about what not to poke (whiskers, paws and teeth) but other than that we were left to our own devices to interact with these huge wild cats. We were able to pet them and take photos with them. Although they’re well-trained, it’s hard not to feel a bit on edge around the creatures. It made for a thrilling afternoon.
Our week continued with some of the best cappuccinos I have tasted along with meeting some local barista who share both their stories and love for a good brew. I may have also made a small purchase of a new espresso machine for our apartment, so picking the baristas brains for tips and tricks has been very exciting.
Adventures abounded on the bike as well. A group of about 15 local riders joined me on for the "Road to Pai" challenge. The route covers approximately 135 kilometres with 762 hairpin curves and a couple thousand meters of climbing. The entire ride took about five hours, but time went by fast with so much to look at and some fun descents thrown in along with the climbs -- although the heat here has had me sweating like a melon farmer. As the weeks pass, the legs are slowly catching up to my fresh heart rate.
Pai itself is a quiet town with a very untouched feel although I doubt it will stay this way for long. We found a nice rustic teak bungalow to call home for a few nights, hammock and big spiders included.
During our stay in Pai, we used my rest day to do a bit of elephant trekking. I consider this a ‘must do’ when in Thailand. We got to feed the elephants some green bananas and then wash them in the river after the ride. Our trek took us into the hills and jungle at a very pedestrian pace as the elephant never got far before stopping for some shrubs or the odd banana tree to feast on. Did you know elephants can live to be 100 years old?
Our time here in Asia is coming to a very quick end. It seems like only last week we were still racing the Tour of Bejing and Japan Cup. It has been a super experience here in Thailand. I’ve had a blast meeting many cycling and coffee crazy folks along the way.
Who knows where we will end up next winter but for now its back to our european base and off to training camps. Thanks for following along on my Thai adventures!