Showing posts with label Walking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Walking. Show all posts

Khun Korn Waterfall

We have a relatively new Farang in our family, stepfather to my wife's nephew.  He arrived in Chiang Rai for the first time yesterday, to pickup his stepson after an extended Songkran visit, so we took him and two kids to our tallest waterfall here in Chiang Rai, Khun Korn Waterfall.  It is a bit of a walk so I was surprised to see so many people on the trail and at the falls.  It wasn't even a weekend or holiday, but it was very hot so maybe that explains it.

By the way, I sold my Ninja 650 in the morning before we headed to the waterfall.  It was a busy morning.



Road Trip Part 4, Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park …

To be honest, after my horrible choice of roads to begin the trip, I let my wife do most of the navigating and searching out of destinations and accommodation, while I held forth as the driver extraordinaire.  After wrapping up family obligations in Nong Wua So, she decided on a route to our next destination, a national park I had never heard of.  With the midday temperature rising and the scenery becoming less interesting by the mile, I began to wonder about this place we were headed to.

Suddenly we began to climb out of the heat, into the cool lush mountains.  The road was wonderful and only surpassed by the ever improving view as we climbed onward and upward.  Near the bottom of the mountain was the park entrance.  The sign clearly said foreigners were to pay 200 baht but I gave my driver’s license to my wife to obtain what is usually a 50% discount.  She returned having paid 110 baht, (30 for the car and 40 each for two adults).  Whether they didn’t see me or didn’t care, I don’t know but it did work in my favor.

By the time we reached the top I was in heaven.  It was beautiful, there was a chill in the air and there was renewed vigor in my step.  Stopping at the Visitor Center we enquired about activities and accommodation.  The official on duty was fun and charming, so we took his recommendation of a lovely villa on the edge of the housing area and he offered us a 30% discount off the published rate of 1000 baht.  It was a huge room, well worth the price, rustically appointed with a high lofted ceiling and four single beds pushed together to make two large beds.  The beds were rock hard but I still slept amazingly well.

Not wanting to waste the remaining daylight we set out to explore as much as we could before the sun set.  We stopped for a few pictures at what used to be a reeducation school after the communists were defeated in the area.  From there we drove up to one of the several mountain tops, Phu Hin Rong Kla, at around 1600 meters above sea level.  Phu Phangma, Phu Lomlo, and Phu Man Khao are a few of the other peaks in the area, reaching as high as 1800 meters.

It was approaching six o'clock when we pulled into Lan Hin Pum parking area and we wondered if the hike was doable before dark.  A returning family said it took them one hour to make the loop and at that pace we had our doubts about setting out on a rough, unfamiliar trail without flashlights and the distinct chance of ending our walk in the dark.  In the parking lot we were approached by a young Thai couple in their late twenties.  They were eager to make the hike, but were afraid to do it on their own, so asked if they could tag along with us.

We told them they could join us but that we wouldn’t be waiting around for them.  It would up to them to catch up with us on the trail.  I have to admit to having my doubts as to whether they would follow or not.  After all, they weren’t the most rugged outdoor looking people we have ever encountered.  We hoped to at least get to a view point before the sun set, in order to get some photographs so didn’t waist any time hitting the trail. 

Our timing was perfect in the end.  Our new friends caught up with us and everyone got some photos to mark the occasion.  After watching the sunset, no one wanted to turn back so we picked up the pace once again and finished the loop just as it was beginning to get really dark.  It took us maybe 40 minutes to complete the loop, even with all the time we spent watching and photographing the sunset.

We talked our new friends into staying in the park that night, instead of going back down the mountain as they had planned, and we all had dinner together at the local restaurant.  We ate and talked until the staff began turning off the lights, in a not so subtle gesture, signifying their desire to go home even though our conversation was in full flow.  It was getting late and cold so their timing was appreciated, with us feeling grateful in the end for a hot shower and a warm bed.

We went for breakfast on our own in the morning where I struck up a conversation with another couple who I had noticed camping only a hundred meters or so from our villa.  They had a Chonburi license on their truck so we discussed where they had been and I admired his Canon 60D camera.  Soon it was time to take one more short hike before heading home. 

Lan Hin Taek is not a long hike but it is not for the clumsy or accident prone.  The terrain is broken and the gaping crevasses are spanned in strategic places by the flimsiest of wooden bridges, with no railings.  Still it was a wonderful way to say goodbye to the mountain before heading home.

While my only interest was in the beauty of the place, their is a great deal of military history to this park, as well.  Google, Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park, for more information.  It was a communist stronghold from 1968 to 1972 and it wasn’t until after they were defeated that the park was founded in 1984, as the 48th national park in Thailand.

The drive home was around 500 km of pleasant and comfortable driving in our new Fortuner, which got us home just as it was getting dark.  As usual it really felt good to get home.  After a few days rest at home my wife is now down in Bangkok for a visit with a friend from Hawaii and some time with her Bangkok friends.  All to soon she will be back to her classwork so it is important to make as much of this break as possible.
Fall colors in the forest.
Visitor Center
Road up the mountain.
Road up to 1600 meters.

Excellent dirt road to the top.
View of the parking area from the top.

View from 1600 meters.

Reeducation school area with a few Maple leaves left for our enjoyment.
Beginning our sunset hike.

On the trail.

Lending a little support.

Enjoying the view.

Sunset at Lan Hin Pum.

Sunset photo op with new friends.
The trail to the lookout.

Parking by the front door.

View from the front door.

Our accommodation for the night.

Camping area.

Restaurant

Lan Hin Taek trail

Finding our way.

Amazing rocks and crevasses.

More unusual rock formations.

A view for Lan Hin Taek.
The memorial at the beginning of the trail.

Pictures to Begin the New Year ...

The lush sea of green that so recently surrounded the house has faded to a sandy, slightly ruddy brown, with burned out patches of ash.  The once narrow trail, turned roadway to the dam, has yet to show signs of regrowth along the edges.  The drainage gates on the floor of the reservoir are no longer visible but the water level is still precariously low with little sign of recovery before the middle of the next rainy season.

Cookie and I are, however, free to walk where we will.  Along the road or through the fields, there is little impediment to our progress.  With still cool temperatures and clear skies the year is starting off good.  Here are some updated photos of house and trail and dam.

The Chiang Rai Hash, Again? ...

I am nothing, if not a man of contradictions.  Where is the fun in being predictable, steadfast and never changing ones mind?  It is the simple mind that sticks rigidly to an idea or belief, fearful of a change of direction or even asking questions.  Fearful that fingers will be pointed and contradictions pointed out.  Where is this leading, one might ask?  It is leading to the fact that we went to another Hash House Harriers, yesterday.

Considering the trouble I got into the last time I went and wrote about the Hash, one would be justified in asking me, “Why?”.  Well, I will get to that but the obnoxious answer would be “Why not?”.  To be honest, I was even asked when I could be expected to pen something about this outing, to which I laughed and replied that I might abstain this time around.  So here I am contradicting that response as well, in the manner of my own choosing.  Not constrained by Hashly etiquette or protocol I am able to do, or not do, as I wish.

Perhaps I should start off by explaining how this all came about.  From the very beginning I had ulterior motives for attending the Hash, even the first time.  One might say I go to the Hash, in spite of the Hash, not because of it.  There just aren’t that many places where farangs of the Rai, gather in the light of day.  Of course one sees them in BigC and Makro, but it is not the done thing, to acknowledge those to whom you have not been properly introduced.  Something we have picked up from the Thais, no doubt.  So the Hash presents an opportunity to meet others, that you might not otherwise cross paths with.  Sometimes that is a good thing, the not crossing paths part.  Sometimes you get lucky and meet a like minded soul or someone you can at least enjoy a conversation with.

We happen to know and like the hosts of the Christmas Hash and have been to their house before.  Though we frequent the city seldom, on two recent occasions our paths crossed.  Most recently at Makro, where they extended an invitation to the Hash they were hosting.  Okay, so they were just being polite, but my wife wanted to go.  Not that my wife would ever be so straightforward in acknowledging her desire.  With a healthy dose of that uniquely Thai notion of “Krengjai” she queried as to whether I would be too putout if we tried another Hash.

She knows full well that I have never refused her anything, but still she doesn’t wish to impose or appear to come off as pushy.  With her typically Thai distaste for confrontation, she asked if I would feel uncomfortable in going again and perhaps bumping into someone of disagreeable  manner.  I assured her that no one was going to ruffle my feathers and I was quite capable of fending for myself.  My only consideration was what she wanted and nothing else mattered.

On the day we arrived a bit early to secure a safe and convenient parking space along the side of the soi.  There were quite a few new faces, new to me at least, so I basked in my anonymity.  There were a few who were surprised to see me, and the look on their faces, was worth the 65 km trip.

As others mounted the farm lories to be driven to the starting point, a few of us and one lovely chocolate lab, proceeded on foot.  We did come for a walk after all.  I was determined to approach things differently this time.  To that end, we decided to linger near the back. 

In a rush of testosterone, all the male bluster and bravado vanished into the forested hills.  Most of the way I was accompanied by four women and two children.  I have always appreciated the company of women.  We were familiar with two of the women, being the hosts of this and the previous Hash we attended.  We probably did more talking than walking.  Discussing life, health, events and travel, made for a very enjoyable, social stroll through beautiful surroundings. 

One of the children with us, looked as though he would be much happier in front of the computer or a playstation, and seemed to be suffering a bit.  He was a trooper, however, and suffered in silence.  With no other men anywhere to be seen, I slowed my stride as we all adjusted our pace to that of our lumbering young friend.

After a lovely walk, we were the last to arrive at the pickup point.  This time, no one turned down the ride.  There was food and drink for all and a little entertainment for the kids.  All of whom, went home with a lovely Christmas Poinsettia.  As the more Hashy stuff began, we quietly said our goodbyes to our hosts, and slipped off into the darkness.  Apparently not the thing to do but seemed best for us.

It was after dark, with a long drive ahead of us but we opted to make a brief stop at the walking street to purchase some food to take home, from the many vendors that line the side soi we frequent.  All in all, it was a good day and we found a way to make it work for us, without detracting from the enjoyment of others with differing sensibilities. 

So will we do it again?  Truthfully, I couldn’t say.  If my wife expresses an interest, then I guess you know what my answer would be.

A Dog’s Life ...

It was once possible to stroll down the forest path to the dam, extend your arms and find your hands had vanished from view amidst the lush foliage on either side.  Sure there were ruts and rocks, thorns and mud puddles to be navigated but that just added to the sense of accomplishment at the end of the trail.  After a recent upgrade, the term trail is no longer appropriate.  Two lane highway, now comes to mind.  Sure it is still dirt beneath a sprinkling of gravel but the width and more even gradient makes for a different kind of walk. 

While the distance remains the same the effort expended seems less.  The mental effort is reduced as well.  Hardly any need to watch your step to keep your balance.  With little need to look down I suppose one is freer to look up and across the landscape.  Cookie shows no sign of being incensed by the forward march of progress.  She bounds ahead with her unrelenting enthusiasm, undaunted by a break with the past and intently focused on new sights and smells.  The mental health and balance of a dog is perhaps something to be aspired to.

Speaking of health, we spent much of yesterday in the corridors of an unfamiliar environment.  I am guessing it had been eight or nine years since our last physicals and thought it was perhaps time to let someone check on our internal heath.  I seem to remember a tonsillectomy as a child and a broken leg as an adult but that is pretty much the sum total of my hospital experience.  Since coming to Thailand in 1975 I have been a devout self-medicator (my own word).  A little reading and a close relationship with a skilled pharmacist and I was good to go. 

The recent rash of family and village deaths has left my wife a little rattled and thinking more about things like health and life insurance.  Even with an uncle retired from the business, I have never trusted insurance companies.  I view them in a similar light as the large casinos.  The odds seem overwhelmingly stacked in their favor or they would not be able to build such obscene edifices to their grandeur.

As a first step down the road to helping my wife cope, a checkup seemed the way to go.  We did get impatient by afternoon and left with one remaining procedure for her and the reading of our results by a doctor.  We will reschedule the completion on another day when it might not be quite such an inconvenience.  Overall I found the scene that unfolded around us in the hospital quite foreign and unpleasant.  It reminded me a little, of the time I have spent in my parent’s retirement home.  Unhealthy, unattractive and unhappy people meandering around in a desperate slow-motion dance with death but representing a broader range of age groups, from newborn to very old. 

Perhaps it is all down to luck and good genes but then again my distinct lack of vices may have played a part as well.  Whatever the reason my preference is to focus on getting as much joy and experience out of living as I can.  Trying to avoid or postpone death indefinitely seems to me to be a sucker’s game.  I will, however, find ways to comfort and reassure my wife as she goes through this period of grief, questioning and uncertainty. 

With the inevitability of death, it seems clear to me, that how we live is the only thing we can exert control over.  Accidents do happen and living a “perfect” life is no guarantee of a long healthy existence, but high-risk habits and behaviors are nonetheless, not in ones best interest.  Of course you would not get that message by looking around and observing how others live.  I think I will continue aspiring to being a little more like Cookie everyday.  The here and now of a dog’s life seems pretty good right now.

Age, Imports, Trails & Dogs...

Inevitably, my frequent morning walks to the dam, fill me with a quiet composure and contentment that lingers throughout the day.  To be surpassed only by the joyous exaltation of my four legged companions who explode in dance and song at the mere suggestion of my intentions.  Even the blistering heat of the morning sun, on these recently clear days, could not dampen their spirits, though I confess it slows my pace a bit.  The brown leafless days of the past are but a memory as the forest trees sprout new plumage.  One sometimes forgets that many forrest trees produce, not only leaves of green, but flowers as well.  Some strike you with their brilliance of color while others are shy and subdued in their presentation and would easily evade a cursory glance.  This year the fruit bearing trees put forth the promise of a bountiful harvest.  While not all is lush and green, and will not be for some time to come, there is once again beauty to behold upon the trail.  I even glimpsed a brilliant, deep blue stranger to these eyes, as it flew from tree to tree, proudly displaying the full extent of its colorful form.

While often clearing the cobwebs from my mind, on occasion I find myself in deep contemplation as I proceed down the trail.  Today I found that I was lamenting the role that age plays in this paradise that I live in.  It is not just that I find the resident farangs, to be for the most part, so very old.  Village life itself is devoid of whole generations for most of the year.  Just as in small hamlets and villages around the world, the young lust for a city life, departing at the first opportunity.  Their leaving behind the very young to be cared for by the very old, I fear damages the very fiber of the community.  Children are often cared for by those who are least well equipped to do so.  Sometimes illiterate and clinging to superstitions and practices from a bygone era, their best efforts are often not enough to prepare their grandchildren for the modern world.

I was not so very different, in that I shunned this village life until after I passed the half century mark.  Even so, I am young in comparison to many a farang, who usually had to wait for the maturing of children, jettisoning of the ex, retirement and the late-life discovery of Thai girls.  I lament that village life bears no resemblance to the vibrancy of the city and the limitless representation of age groups and lifestyles.  The city itself, however, I do not miss.   

While I have come across some individuals of interest, many including the Thais I’ve met, are just passing through.  They often live elsewhere and are what I refer to as temporary imports.  Friends from overseas or brought up from Bangkok, or thereabouts, with a mutual payoff in mind.  One escapes the turmoil of the city, if only briefly, while the other enjoys a level of discussion and banter not to be found locally.  We are finding it difficult to extricate some of our city friends from their entrenched routines but remain hopeful that they will relent during the cool season.  It is possible to benefit from others who have the same idea, at times.  One Thai neighbor who visits often with his local girlfriend has brought in friends to see his new house.  I stumbled into their midst one day and enjoyed the trip down memory lane as they quizzed my knowledge of their world.  They being a good ten years younger than I, had nonetheless been present in many of the same environs.  They brought back memories of a time a place almost forgotten and impossible to share with others who inhabit the village.

By way of explanation, my Thai village neighbor from Bangkok, is an outgoing and gregarious sort.  His close friends were an interesting and diverse group.  One studious fellow, with his horn-rimmed glasses, had his nose buried in the newspaper and only spoke in his rich baritone to deflect the chiding of his more verbose companions.  The other less talkative friend was cut from the mold of the strong silent type.  He had ridden up from the central plains on a new BMW 1200 and had a quiet self-confidence that speaks volumes, without speaking at all.  The obvious leader of this boisterous pack sat me down and proceeded to interrogate me in the most disarming manner.  Done clumsily this kind of thing leaves me looking for the exit but done well, as on that day, is the equivalent of a verbal dance.

So there are ways to fill the voids in age and intellect that permeate village life.  Simply import friends from Bangkok or overseas, and to fill the time between visits, there is always Skype and email.  Not insignificantly a blog can play its part as well.  In a way this all suits me and my nature.  Though some will assume a loner to be a social misfit, we are often far from socially inept.  To the extent that joining groups is seen as a limiting thing.  Confining one to a hunting range of restricted proportions.  The lone wolf is a more flexible creature and often ranges far and wide unlike those who join the pack and must abide by its rules and remain within its territory.  Of course, when all else falls short of the mark, there is no substitute for a loyal and trustworthy, canine companion and a long walk to the dam.

The Hash ... Chiang Rai HHH ...

An easy trail quickly turned into a muddy, rock strewn stream that had shrunk to a mere trickle in this dry season.  During a tropical downpour, an obvious death trap, but on the day a minor obstacle to focus ones attention and balance.  The first hill was a completely different matter.  With your heart leaping from your chest and your lungs searing with pain, you were also confronted with the proverbial, take two steps forward and one step back.  Unable to gain purchase on the soft, freshly tilled, hillside soil, many a stride failed to advance one even fractionally toward the distant crest.  Apparently all made it to the top but I had my doubts about that outcome, as I surveyed the scene and waited for my wife to catch up with Cookie and me.  Confronted with a choice after cresting that horrific hill, many a shattered soul opted for the short route back to food, beverage and relative comfort.  Cookie was already sniffing out the long trail and we had not driven 80 km just to take the easy way out. 

It became a much more lonely affair at that point.  We saw no one else on the trail, until we reached a bewildering crossroads.  We joined forces with a group of young women there and several trails were scouted before finding the way.  Our trekking poles helped us to navigate, without incident, down a very steep, dusty, and leaf strewn hill and to ford small streams.  Crouching low to navigate the bamboo thickets was made easier by the lack of leaves, giving one vantage beyond ones nose, which would not be the case most of the year.  Cookie helped us break trail but even she had difficulty finding the way at that one puzzling crossroads.  Our normal trails have ample water along the way, with a reservoir for swimming at the turnaround, but high on the hillside it was very dry and our little girl seemed to suffer from the heat.  We gave much of our water to her along the trail.  At the end she lay for minutes in the cool stream, just behind the host’s house and gathering area, luxuriating in the refreshing current.

According to our host, or hare, we were a rather large group, of which nearly half appeared to be virgins, in Hash terminology.  The host and scribe for the Hash, does a much more thorough job of producing statistics on his blog.  Naming names and recounting who did what, being his forte.  I might suggest clicking on his HHH BLOG for more details.  Children were well represented on the day but I cannot provide much insight as to what they brought away from their experience.  I found so many people cumbersome and difficult to navigate.  But then again, I have always come away from group gatherings feeling less than satisfied.  My taste runs more to a sit-down lunch or dinner with long hours of thoughtful discussion, with one or two other couples or families.  Often that leads to the children playing in the yard, the women doing as they wish and the men sitting around solving the world’s problems.

The Hashers seemed more focussed on the ceremonial drinking, rituals and chanting at the end of the day, than on the beauty and bounty of the trail.  I have always been in the minority, with my view of group activities like this.  So pay no mind of my words and if the opportunity presents, by all means go to a Hash and form your own opinion.  It will be a safe bet that no two trails will be identical, providing variety, and each evening will end the same, providing continuity.  So as the Hashers would say in their rather quirky terminology, ON-ON.

New Year’s 2009...

We sent off the old year with a party for the kids.  Entirely my wife’s idea of course.  Without alcohol or loud music, the adults I’m sure were less impressed than the children.  The kids did seem to have a good time playing games and receiving gifts, however.  I had the pleasure of conversation with an Australian neighbor and a British friend.  Their children seemed to hit it off and made followup plans for today.

We retired well before the midnight hour, but as is our custom, we took Cookie out one last time before bed.  The air was cool and crisp and the stars brilliant and beautiful.  From every direction could be heard revelers from neighboring villages.  All duty bound to bring in the New Year in a drunken stupor.  Though 2008 was good to me on the whole, I was content to say goodbye early and have a good nights sleep.

Much of last year I had been waiting for “Mr. Motivation” to join me in establishing a more consistent exercise regimen.  Motivation’s failure to show up to the party, left me with no choice but to rely on grit, determination and unrelenting action.  Though I hate morning exercise with a passion, it is the only time of day that I can consistently exert control over my schedule.  After a week I seem to be over the initial hurdle.  I no longer search for excuses not to go.  The first kilometer or two can be quite painful but the body warms up and the pain subsides.  A run up to the reservoir and a walk back, will in time, be replaced by a nonstop run.  A mere seven kilometers, it is not a major accomplishment but it is a step forward toward regaining some of my previous physical prowess. 

So this morning, the first of the New Year, was a continuation of what began in the waning days of the last.  In appreciation for all who visit these pages and especially those who take the time to correspond through comments or email, here are a few shots of the first morning of 2009, in my remote little piece of heaven.  My wife and I wish you all, health and happiness in the coming days and may you find whatever it is you are looking for.







More Visitors ...

Our most recent visitors have come and gone. Anticipation of their arrival was too quickly followed by a lamented departure. Our feeble attempts at hospitality were overshadowed by their graciousness as guests. Late seventies and a zest for life that would put people half their age to shame. Interested in everything, eagerly clicking away with their cameras. Easy to please, as well as tolerant and accepting of me, though we no doubt hold vastly different values and beliefs. These family friends have been so giving and caring to my parents in their time of need. Nothing we could have done, would have been adequate to repay our debt of gratitude. Yet in the end, we feel as if we took away more from their visit than we were able to give.

Their path to our door was far from direct. Ranging from Bhutan to Luang Prabang, we were a not insignificant detour, at the end of their journeys before returning to Hawaii. We crowded in as many nearby locations and scenes as time and weather would allow. Many of which I have previously shared with you in these pages. The four wheel drive was allowed to express itself and proudly wore the coat of mud that came from taking us to our many destinations.

As we prepared to leave for the airport there was just time enough for all to gather around the computer and Skype my father. I’m sure it was a thrill to hear the voices of his friends, coming from his youngest son’s home, on the far side of the world. No doubt their reunion in Hawaii will be filled with stories and pictures that will bring untold joy to my father. Sadly my mother is no longer able to share in such things as her reality varies so greatly from ours these days. Even with the best of care, dementia of any form, is a cruel, drawn out and inhumane way to leave this world.

Today things are back to normal around here. The wife and I took our dog menagerie for a stroll to the dam and washed the mud from our truck while watching a truly beautiful sunset, of desert hues. Other than our walk today, I have included views from on top of nearby Doi Yao and a couple of butterflies that had our guests eagerly clicking away in an attempt to capture their beauty.