Chiang Mai may not be on your cycling holiday bucket list, but it should be. When I first visited in 2011, I nearly didn’t leave — a week exploring the surrounding mountains on a rented motorcycle had seduced me, and I wanted to stay for good. Alas, life came first, and I reluctantly returned to Australia — but a desire to one-day return remained.
At that point, I’d just dipped my toes into the world of cycling. My close friend Oscar Thompson had been deep into it during our first years of university, even convincing me to buy a bike. But I didn’t ride it much and when winter came we put the bikes in the shed and forgot about them.
But my exposure to the beauty — the majesty — of mountain roads, got me back on the bike. Perhaps glad to have a friend to ride with, Oscar joined me and together we spent hours riding through the Perth hills. The buzz was back; I was hooked.
Unfortunately, the demands of university and work took their toll on Oscar. After a hard ride, Oscar ‘rage quit’ — throwing his gloves, helmet and glasses across his backyard in a frenzy, and consigning his bike to the past.
I continued riding though, and while Oscar completed university and began working fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) as an engineer, I flailed through my degree while squeezing in as many long, mid-week rides as I could. We barely saw each other for years, and as so often happens, our lives diverged as new pressures took priority over old friendships.
But the best friendships need the least tending.