Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tripping the Middle Earth

I see it as the middle of Thailand, a region covered by Phitsanulok and Petchaboon. These highlands lay between the two major arteries leading to Chang Mai up north and E-San north east. Not so well heard of as I was told, it had only grown in popularity following the stir of emails forwarded from one to another in recent years. New to me as well, I have found yet another hidden charm that I have always been seeking. A region that is cool throughout the year with a maximum of 25 in the hotter months of mid year. The drop in mercury to 0 with the formation of frozen trinkets of dew this season. The narration of the land told by the seasoned voice of the old man. I sipped the hot coffee between breezy chills.

Such a place had always exists. Land that used to cost 40k per rai had now inflated to 4mil per rai with the influx of the touristy hordes. Who buys the land I asked. The richness of Bangkokians fuels the property market I was told. I don’t see no five star resorts there… yet. Only plenty of high scenic spots cleared by the farmers to reap the money from the campers from Bangkok. And interestingly, not a single farang for miles on my trip. No big restaurants, no Starbucks. No Seven Eleven, and no big shopping malls. The driver told me electricity and water only came in recent years. Even now, for the campers on some well serviced grounds to enjoy a warm bath, they have to pay 40 baht. A fee for a bucket of boiled water to be laboriously carried up and down the mud steps, delivered to the small mucky concrete enclosure called the toilet.

The cold greeted an unprepared me dressed in only shorts and polo shirt. How could I know the climate was as such. This place is nicknamed the Switzerland of Thailand by many. Still she remained now as an undiscovered spot of paradise un-smudge by the smear of foreign tourism. In the night of 8 degrees, I had to bath in what seemed like water of 0. Whatever body appendages you can imagine I have shrank to a nano mass of something you could never imagine. Darn, it was really really cold. It was even worst in the night when I had to just visit the toilet to release water. The walk to that darn hole, I had to climb over a small hill. The 50 meters felt like 500 as the wind seized every strand of whatever pathetic leg hair I had. I could have just opened my tent, stick out whatever that was necessary and did it. But other then having a civic mind, it was impossible to do that in such cold conditions - cannot find.

Just 20 years ago when the driver was a child, the Thai soldiers were at war with the communist. Shootouts happened everyday. Friends and relatives commonly died in the crossfire. And so he left to find a life in Bangkok, and now he works as a guide bringing many back to his hometown. Nearby Lan Hin Taek, full of natural rock trenches. The communist hid there well, the causalities of war too many. A wall was put up in memory of those who fought, and perished. The echoes of the dead still lives among the fractures of mother earth.

The roads in middle Thailand is not car friendly, I saw Honda Civics naturally low scraping earth. It is made even worst by the so many constructions of upcoming projects trying to cash in on the regions’ growing reputation. When it rains disasters will happen. Mud slides and land slides of every scale destroying everything in their path had taken place before and will happen again. So huge the extent of these natural calamities that only recently, an entire village with many lives was taken. The driver told and pointed as we passed the tomb for many. The eyes only see the camouflage of new foliage so green and fresh. The agriculture so bright and welcoming, the dark mountain of mass murder stands in the short distance.

Drive there if you will, but only to your destination for your stay. Engage the “two rows” I would recommend, and have them bring you around this Khao Kho region. Natural attractions aplenty but die your car will if your own you drive, especially Civics. I had asked and was told that it only cost 1000 baht for the “two rows”, all to your own troop of holiday seekers.

I traveled with a bunch of old folks, all grandmas and aunties from around gig’s local very average village. I was the only guy in the van excluding the driver. Where were the husbands and the men of the family? All gone by now, not dead but with the other woman. They were corny as hell as usual. I told them I did not have a good sleep, the ground was hard. They missed the word ground on purpose and commented how did I get hard? The night was so cold, they don’t believe I could have gone hard.

Tents at 200 baht per night inclusive of the blankets that so many had rolled in. Washed them had they I wonder, but too long I will not ponder. Mundane accommodations for two, but you can squeeze as many as you will in at 1500 baht per night. All lodging were inclusive of the morning mushroom and pork “kao tum” (boiled rice) made so delicious by hunger and the cold. No warm water for bath and I took the water from the same tank and using that same scoop as that used to flush the toilet. A holiday to be at the most basic Thai ways.

Not much more of chances at theses prices the near future to come I foresee. The Bangkokians are buying up the farmlands, turning them into an attempt at grand resorts which will be overpriced like so many other destinations already so. Farang to Thai ratio 1 is to 1000. Plenty of potential mountain wives for the farang picking if you ask me. And if the encroachment of culture with the cross marriages so common in Chang Mai and Chang Rai were to come about, classy and pricy hideaways will ensue altering the culture forever. Tap the potential if a rich Bangkok boy I am, but sadly I am no Bangkok boy and money no enough I am like many. Gosh… the opportunities in this land. Curses the shit job and life I am. Buddha, Jesus, Toa Peh Gong and whatever up there, heaven help me.

Full photo sets here under Petchaboon Jan 2009.

1 comment:

Brunty said...

An excellent post. Great pictures and the elderly ladies sounded like they were a handful.