Phu Chi Fa to Chiang Khong by bicycle - 85km
Brief: Tough morning with a sharp descent, followed by a steep ascent. Back on to the 1155, gradually going from hard to easy by the time you arrive in the flat land of Wiang Kaen.
After sunrise and breakfast in Phu Chi Fa, we took the strenuous descent back the way we came (the other option of taking the 1093 north was discouraged by locals) reaching the town where we had lunch, before taking the long road back uphill. Rejoining the 1155, the road is nothing compared to what was behind us, but is still extremely physically demanding. By the time we reached the 1155, it was noon and the humidity made breathing much harder. With one or two absolute monster climbs, we were encouraged us to use our thumbs again and as you can see the view is incredible.
Arriving in Wiang Kaen, we start to feel a great sense of relief as the horizon is flat and the first coffee shop for a couple of days is a great treat (on the right handside and unmissable just before entering the main city).
When arriving in Wiang Kaen, don't make the mistake we made continuing straight (ignoring the turning west/left to Chiang Khong) and arriving at Wat Huai Luek, the river dividing Laos and Thailand. With no route to continue we have to spin around returning to the junction. Adding on an unnecessary 20km to our day!
Carrying on the 1155 you make a unavoidable detour southwest to join the 1020. On the plus side you ride next to a river and a couple of magnificent viewpoints, notably the That Ya Mon viewpoint. Riding through the heart of a few local communities, keeping bellies full, we hammer on north to the border crossing.
Deciding we didn't want to spend a night in Chiang Khong, wanting to progress to Laos, we followed signage to the border. On our way to the city a local cyclist bemused by our little baggage, took it upon himself to direct us straight to the border crossing. In fact it is simple enough and well signed, but the extra riding company was nice.