Another Flat?! Drive from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khan

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Thailand Fly & Drive – Part 31

After settling the issue with the flat tire the night before, I expected to clear breakfast fast today and set off as early as possible for the furthest drive of our entire trip, a nine hour, 550km leg from Mae Win all the way to Chiang Khan at the Thai-Laos border.

As luck would have it, my daughter had a nightmare and came over to sleep with us. Because of that, I didn’t get a very good rest myself.

When we woke up in the morning, we quickly got all our kids down to the restaurant. We walk past our car and I can’t believe my eyes, the back left tire that was okay the night before is now flat!

I can’t believe it… More drama?!

After this trip, I have become a pro at changing tires by myself…. 😛

I didn’t get into any trouble on the road from the workshop back to the guesthouse. Then it dawns on me that the damage must have been done at the same time as the incident that caused my front left flat the previous day. Probably there was a leak but not as drastic as the big hole in front. Through the night, the tire slowly discharged air.

I quickly gather my family at the restaurant to have breakfast, and after filling my stomach up, I go and do the dirty work to change the tire. The saving grace is that the weather is cool and super comfortable, definitely nicer than having to change the tire back in Singapore. Also, with my experience just the previous day, I was fluent with all the steps and I managed to settle it very fast.

After breakfast, we load the car and all proceed back to the workshop at B Quik Hang Dong, where I was the night before. The Lioness and Lion cubs all went shopping at the adjacent Big C hypermarket, and I sat there to wait for the technicians to sort out the flat tire. Again I had to wait for the insurance guy to come take a look, but I didn’t get interviewed a second time. The whole thing was sorted in about 90 minutes, for which I was grateful, as we had a long drive ahead. They gave all the tires another check, and rotated the tires so that the two new tires were in front, so the good thing was that I would have new thread on the front wheels for the rest of our trip! I didn’t have to pay for the damage at this point, but eventually at the airport, the penalty to my wallet came up to be around S$220 for this whole episode, even though when I peaked at the actual cost of changing the tires (I glimpsed the receipt) it would have been no more than S$140. The rental company jacked up the workshop cost by about 50%…. scumbags 😛

We top up our kids at KFC, and finally set off proper from Hang Dong at around 1pm. It is an 8 hour drive ahead, through the provinces of Lamphun, Lampang, Phrae, Uttaradit, Phitsanulok and finally Loei province, which borders Laos. Our destination is Chiang Khan and its popular walking street along the banks of the Mekong River.

Many wonderful roads along this route with great scenery. We drove through sweeping curves with mountains in the background, narrower country roads with forest scenes. There is always the temptation to speed because of the long empty roads, but do watch out because there might always be a speed trap lurking around the corner. Some of the roads are still under construction, and we have to navigate potholes and detours. Do keep alert and don’t assume smooth roads will be smooth all the way.

Today’s drive was the most varied experience of all our legs for this trip! I absolutely loved the autumn roads in Phitsanulok province which brought back memories of my previous experiences in Japan and Europe.

After a five hour drive with just one pitstop, we decide to pull over at at PTT Petrol Station in Phitsanulok province for dinner, both for the car and for the humans.

Lovely post sunset glow at the PTT kiosk

After dinner, we still had about 2 hours more to drive in the darkness. Things start out okay at first, with proper street lamps.

Then, as we enter Loei province, the lights seem to go out, and we get fewer and fewer cars for company. We skirt close to the Thailand-Laos border and there is literally no car for miles and miles.

Driving through the bushes in Loei in pitch darkness.

We feel like we are driving through the bushes, and some of the roads are also not in great condition. It is pretty hard to read the road conditions in the darkness as they alternate quite suddenly between smooth and bumpy.

After what seemed like an eternity in the dark wilderness, we finally break out into civilisation. Thankfully, we manage to make it to the Chiang Khan walking street before our hostel car park closes at 10pm. If we had missed the timing, I’m not sure what we would have done, or if the hostel staff would have stayed up to wait for us.

We made it to the famous Chiang Khan walking street!

The weather is cold, must be about 10 degrees, and the walking street is empty, winding down for the night. Not much to explore tonight, and everybody’s tired, but we manage to get some chocolate fondue to reward the kids for making it through the day’s long long drive.

The kids were enthralled by the fondue machine!


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