Posted by: fiddlehead | January 21, 2010

Phuket High Trail North (and East) of the Heroine’s Monument

Since I haven’t written a blog entry on my exploring lately, I will take up from where I left off just north of the Heroine’s Monument in the middle of the island.
From there, our trail heads east and crosses the highway near the older cashew factory and store about 500 metres north of the monument.

There is a narrow rubber tree area just to the right (south) of the cashew factory.
I went through there and then had to do some ziz-zagging around some houses and residential area and then find a bridge across the small river about 1 km in.
After the bridge, there are more rubber trees and then a huge field that was just being planted.
Eventually I got to the mountains again and breathed my sigh of relief from all the development and farms.  (for some reason, i don’t consider the rubber tree farms as farms because they feel like being in the woods of jungle)

Lots of bushwhacking over on this side of the island as it is more remote.

After attempting to follow my “original white” trail on my GPS, i made it to a waypoint that I call “ravine” which had a good path leading down to a road so I roadwalked back to my motorbike rather than do all the bushwhacking to get back.   (I didn’t have a machete that day so was quite cut up and it was slow going)

The next day I went out, I parked my pickup truck near where the dirt road meets the blacktop road in the valley and walked back up to the “Ravine” point.  From there, I found some decent trail for a bit until I got into some more rubber trees.

This time, I had my machete with me and carry it in a badminton case as I don’t want the locals to feel threatened by me in any way.    Didn’t really matter as I didn’t see any locals until near the end of the day when I came across a huge road being built.   I cannot figure out where or why this road is going.    There doesn’t seem to be much of anything on either side of the mountains here and is a very remote part of the island of Phuket.   But yet, the road seems to be big enough for 4 lanes and there’s a lot of big machinery up there putting it in.
I ended my day at a house that I called “NamHouse” as I asked for and was directed to their running water supply.  They weren’t the friendliest people but were probably scared that their land was being infringed upon with the new road so close and now a farang walking right up to them.    I was somewhat tired at that point so turned around and headed back to where I had left the truck.

On my 3rd day in this part of the island, my goal of the 4th big (and highest) of the bumps of land or mountains was to be obtained.   I knew I didn’t have too far to go and by using Google Earth, could find the road and trail into the “NamHouse”  waypoint that I had made last time.
But from there, after only about 200 meters up and down through some rubber tree woods, I was bushwhacking up the steep side of this 4th mountain.

At least the jungle here seemed virgin with no chopped out areas, which always makes the bushwhacking very difficult.
Hiking through virgin jungle is always easier because the big trees (and some of these were very big) block out all the sunlight that makes the underbrush grow so fast and thick.   Without that thick stuff, my biggest problem this day was the steepness of the climb.
Near the top, I got into a lot of bamboo, some of it being very big.   This can be tough going, especially when it gets thick and the dead bamboo can pile up like pickup sticks.

Eventually I got through and made it to the top.
From my experiences so far on the 48 days of this exploring of the island of Phuket and laying out this possible, future hiking trail, I have found that usually there is some sign of man at the top of these hills or mountains and can usually expect to find a way down that is easier than the route I took up.   Not so today.   I walked around up there for about 30 minutes and it was thick and no sign of man at all.    No views because there were big trees around.
I wasn’t really looking forward to bushwhacking back down the way I had come up because it was tough going.  But I had no choice.

So, I got a bit cut up with thorns and used my machete a lot this day (this was on Jan 19, 2010) and am wondering how I can get back up to the top and the point that I had marked “Hungry” on my GPS as that was my reason for turning around at this point.  I was hungry and didn’t want to get deeper into a spot that I couldn’t find my way out of.

So my dilemma now is that when I get a full day to go back up there, since it is so far away from where i live and takes almost an hour to drive there, do I have to bushwhack all the way up that big mountain again.  It took me at least 2 hours of climbing/walking plus the hour of driving, and to do that backwards to get back is just too big a part of the day.

I believe on my next day out, I will go to the Bang Pae Waterfall and look for a possible road heading into my needed direction.  On Google Earth it looks like there might be one heading south from the waterfall.

Stay in tune for more entries for this wilder side of Phuket.

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Posted by: fiddlehead | August 10, 2009

Best Views in Phuket

The word “Phuket” comes from a Malay word “bukit” meaning Mountain.   It is a very mountainous island approximately 30 kms long by 7 kms wide.

I live near the southern tip of Phuket, in Rawai, so many of these locations are more towards that end of the island.
I also enjoy hiking in the jungle and find some great views up there looking down as well as some beach scenes.  Phuket is a beautiful place and there are some great viewpoints throughout the island.

Many of them you can drive to.   Here are my favorites.    (all of these you can drive to)

1Big Buddha

bigbuddhaflagbigbuddha01
The Big Buddha statue is just east of Kata and north of Chalong.   It is a prominent landmark for much of the southern half of Phuket.  I have been going up there for 7 years now and remember the first few times, it was just the base of the statue.
The 45 meter high statue of Buddha took 8 years to build
(they are still putting finishing touches on it) and

the windy road  is now paved 90% of the way.

So, what’s keeping you from going up and enjoying the famous structure as well as the great views of Phuket town to the east, and Laem Prom Thep to the south, and Kata/Karon beaches to the west!
(There is a small lookout behind the small sitting Buddha to the south near the top.)  (picture on the right)

2. Khao Khad Views Tower

Cape Panwa Tower Khao Kwa

Cape Panwa Tower Khao Kwa

This is a new structure, having been completed 2 years ago over on Cape Panwa.panwalookout
The 360 degree lookout was built on the highest point of Cape Panwa and is very spectacular.

Once you go up the 100 steps to the top of the tower, you will find maps for each compass point with descriptions of what you are looking at.

You can even see Ko Phi Phi on a clear day.

Last time i was up there, it was a beautiful sunset and there were 4 other people there (Thai couples)

So, if you like to see a nice sunrise or sunset view, that takes a bit of climbing, with peace and quiet around you, and,

you like spectacular views, this is one of the best!

There is even a restaurant near the parking area at the bottom.   Enjoy!

3. Laem PromThep

This is the southernmost point on the island of Phuket.

promthepsimonBut just above the point (at the water’s edge) is a mountain of hill called Laem PromThep.promtheprestaurant

There is a big parking lot nearby and then steps up to a

very fine lookout and great place to catch the sunset over the Andaman sea.


There is a statue of a Thai mariner on top and a huge plaza type area that fills up every night and especially on the weekends.
There is also a great restaurant nearby with the same stunning views of the sunset.
(The owner is a bonsai expert too and the gardens are as spectacular as the view.)

4. Karon Viewpoint

kataviewpoint

Between Nai Harn and Kata beaches on the back road over the mountain, you’ll come to a great lookout called Karon Viewpoint. (Also many locals call it Kata Viewpoint)

The best views are looking north at Kata and Karon beaches. You can also spot the Phuket Beach Meridien’s private beach as well as Kata Noi from here.

A very romantic, and picturesque spot.


There’s a guy that has 2 eagles that hangs around up there and you can have your picture taken with the birds (for a fee)
This is a very scenic road in the daytime and also has 4 elephant trekking companies within 3 kms between the two beaches


5Rang Hill in Phuket Town

ranghill01

This is a romantic hill with it’s great views of Phuket Town and the South China sea to the east.

To get there, go to the north part of Phuket Town and look for signs.


There is a very nice restaurant near the top and it’s very popular with Thai locals and young couples.

Also there is a fitness park nearby.


6Windmill HIll

Windmill02

If you start at the top of the list with Big Buddha, you will notice a large, modern windmill in the southern view.windmill

This is the 2nd high point coming north from Laem PromThep and a beautiful view also.


One of the highlights of this view is looking almost straight down at Ya Nui Beach, which is a small beach that has good snorkeling and kayak rentals.
Looking northwest, you can see the famous Nai Harn beach and it’s Yacht Club hotel.

Another great sunset viewing lookout.


Every evening you can usually find some people with their homeade gliders and remote control boxes flying them through the view.
Parking is limited

7. Monkee Hill in Phuket Town

This is the hill that can be seen from most of Phuket town that has all of the TV and radio towers on top.
On the way driving up (or walking) there are literally hundreds of monkeys nearby.
They often come out when people arrive to feed them.
Careful though, they do bite sometimes. Especially if you get between a mother and her baby or a fight going on between the males.

8. Lookout near the top of Mae Sip Song

xradar

Mae Sip Song is the big mountain with the golf-ball looking structure on top.sipsonglookout
This is actually a Thai Navy radar station.

Many people think that this is actually the highest point on the island. Many publications say it is so.
It is not though.  If you read through my blog, I have an entry on how I determined there is a higher point to the west of the Kathu Waterfall.

But there is still a good lookout from the last big turn before the top on Mae Sip Song mountain.
One word of warning:  If you drive up this road, you will pass 2 signs saying “No Trespassing”  Miltary Base or something similar.
The 1st time i was ever up here, i hiked up through the jungle while planning my hiking trail (available on this blog elsewhere), and got to this beautiful lookout overlooking Patong to the west.
While i was enjoying it, about 15 4 wheelers with tourists riding them drove up and stopped and everyone was instructed to get off and enjoy the view.      I have been up about 6 times since that 1st time and never been hassled in any way.   That doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen.

____________________________________

This list is a small one compared to the numerous possibilities of great viewpoints throughout the island.
There are so many really good views that i find almost weekly when driving around and sightseeing.
Like heading up to windmill hill from Nai Harn Lake, there’s one spot where someone cut some trees back and there is a fantastic view of Nai Harn beach. naiharn beach

Or, up at the Small Sea View restaurant and sunset view spot on the back road between Kata and Nai Harn.  (head towards Kata Noi and turn sharp left and go up the smseaviewreststeep hill about 1 km to the now 3 restaurants built to take advantage of this great view overlooking Kata Noi beach.

Another is the view up at Pub Pla restaurant which is now closed and for sale.  But this restaurant commands a spectacular 360 degree view which is between Kata and Chalong and just SE of Big Buddha.   I believe the road is now closed so you can’t drive up there.  Perhaps someone will buy it soon and open it back up.

There are also many great viewpoints that have to be hiked up to.

As well as the unlimted beach views, from the sunrise shots on the eastern side of Phuket, to the great sunsets on our island’s more famous beaches.

Mai Kao Beach from our campsite

Mai Kao Beach from our campsite

1st beach north of Patong

1st beach north of Patong

Posted by: fiddlehead | June 15, 2009

Laguna’s 4th annual Phuket Marathon

So, i just finished my 4th  “Run Paradise” Marathon at Laguna yesterday.
I am a bit sore today of course.

I would like to say it is a professionally run venue with a lot of thought put into every aspect.
Medical teams were spaced on the course, aid stations were well stocked and plentiful with smiling, helpful staff at all of them.

The time and money put into the start/finish line is impressive.  Speakers are everywhere, free 10 minute massages after the race, food for the runners, and a big VIP area (never been inside there)

Also, this year for the 1st time, they had the registration area at the start/finish line.   It was a huge tent put up complete with air conditioning and many vendors as well as the helpful staff for all your needs.

Despite a small mixup in my pre registration, they got me sorted and one funny story comes to my mind: I went to get my “packet” of some free stuff from the sponsors and a nice singlet shirt from Nike.   I was the first one there and I asked for a size XL shirt (they are always so small).  I thought i’d better check the size and sure enough, they had given me a Medium.     So, i showed them the size and asked for an XL,  once again, with smiling faces, they gave me a Medium.    I tried to tell them i really needed an XL (I am not that big but am aware of their sizing)   and finally had to go back and show them where the XL’s were.   They showed me on my race number where it said “M” and this is why they kept giving me a Medium.    The “M” on the number is for Male.    Anyway, it was no big deal, just know to check these things.

The marathon race had 2 choices:  A 4 am start or a 5 am start.   Since i knew that i was going to be slow, i opted for the 4 AM start.
I had to work the night before and didn’t get finished until midnight.    So, i arrived at the parking area around 12:45 and slept in the back of my truck.   Although it was quiet, it was a hot night and i didn’t really get much sleep.   Oh well.   We all make our choices in life and perhaps this wasn’t the best one.   But i didn’t want to drive 45 minutes only being half awake so i chose this way.

My longest training run had been 20 kms.  That was my biggest mistake.
I did great for the first 20 kms.    Then my legs started tightening up and felt heavier and heavier as we went along.
I started switching between walking and running.
Luckily I can walk fast (many years of hiking trails makes for a fast, easy pace)
I had a few comments out there on the course that my walk was almost as fast as some people’s run as i would switch between walking and running and pass the same people many times.
You get to have a lot of friends that way and there were 3 or 4 of us who talked a bit.

Many were from Singapore and one guy must have taken 200 pictures.   Turns out there was a photo contest for the race and he was out to win it.    He had 3 sets of batteries and would take pictures with all the pretty girls at the aid stations as well as many of the runners.

Running is a lonely sport.   Training can only be done when you can make the time and in Thailand, only early morning or early evening.    Then there is pace.   It’s hard to find 2 runners that can run the same speed enjoyably, especially two who are compatible and have the same time available.    Like i said, it can be a lonely sport!

But, being in a race of 42 kms, you find your pace and then discover that there are many people with a similar pace.   So, for once, you can talk while you run.     I enjoyed this aspect of the race probably more than any.

I have a good friend from the states who comes here every year for this marathon.  He used to live in Thailand and loves coming back for these visits.    His name is “Wall”  (nickname of course) and this time, he had just summitted Mt.  McKinley in Alaska 10 days before the race.    He had frostbite on his toe, 70 mph winds, 60 deg. slopes to contend with as well as having to carry a 130 lb. pack.  He beat me by 2+ hours.   Of course he always beats me as i am not a fast runner at all.    But, to come from that extreme temps and climate and fly 12 hours to Bangkok and then another one to Phuket, arriving the day before, to this heat and humidity, well, let’s just say we are both very tired and a bit sore today.

All in all it was a good time alhough my legs haven’t hurt that bad for many years now.
Thanks to all the organizeres, staff and Laguna for a well done job on the race!

Posted by: fiddlehead | May 2, 2009

LOSO Concert last night at Phuket Brewery

My favorite rock & roll band in Thailand played last night at the newly opened Phuket Brewery across from Tesco Lotus.

2 of my good friends and fellow rock and roll lovers, Kim and Cathy went along with me.  I had checked the website for the newest venue for hosting big groups, the Phuket Brewery but it being new, didn’t say much.   Just basically had a poster on there saying Loso, May 1st.
So, we hopped in my truck and headed over.  

Sek Loso at "Phuket Brewery" May 1,2009

Sek Loso at "Phuket Brewery" May 1,2009

 

We got there about 8 PM and followed a few cars heading in and followed the car park signs.   While waiting for a mini-bus to move, the best parking spot in the whole place, right in front of the entrance, opened up so we pulled right in, pretty impressed with out luck at finding it.     Walked up the steps and saw a ticket window with only one or two other people in line.    I went over and the girls followed and we got in the short line and when it was my turn to be first, 2 Thai people immedietly crowded in from both sides and started arranging for their tickets right through me as if i didn’t exist.      

The girls had just come from a Thai culture course as they were school teachers and it was required.   Apparantly one of the things they learned was to have patience, especially in lines so they told me to chill out and just wait, this was the Thai way.   So, i waited about 5 minutes and then it was my turn.   I said “three tickets for LOSO please” and she said.  “Sorry, finished” !  Since Kim speaks good Thai, she asked if it could be possibly sold out and the lady said yes but we could wait for cancellations.    We may have looked a little bummed out because a farang man (caucasion) and his Thia girl friend asked us if we had a problem.    We explained the situation and they said they had room at their table.  
The girl went back up to the head of the line and her and Kim came back with 3 more tickets to join them.   Great!  

Looking around the place, there is what seems to be a semi-outdoor restaurant area off to the left but the big room, for the shows, is straight ahead in the back.   It is Huge!    

Best seats in the crowded house!

Best seats in the crowded house!

 

So, we went inside the huge arena and were escorted up to the front all the way over on the side.   There seemed to be some confusion about our tickets and their boss came over to help and showed the girl her error and proceeded to take us right up to the very middle and the very first table right next to the stage!    Could this be our seats?  With aprox 300 tables in the whole place, we had the best one? 

Sure enough, a waitress came over and we ordered a round of dark beers in pitchers and checked out the new hall.  It is really big with about a 100 foot stage complete with lights all over the ceiling and a big sound system.    Soon after, our beers showed up and the place started filling up.   4 more of the Thai girlfriend’s friends showed up and they were some beautiful Thai 20-30 year olds and we introduced ourselves all around and ordered some food to go along with the drinks.      Here i was with one other guy and 6 or 7 girls in the best seat in the house (big house) with the best parking spot outside.   What great luck!  

xbrewry04The beers came.  It’s rare to get a good, heavier, dark beer in Thailand.  Not that Thai beers are not good but they aren’t very heavy and if you like darker, heavier beers, check out the Brewery.    The place was filling up fast and soon enough, a magic show started on stage right in front of us.  
There were girls who twisted like a pretzel, magic, a guy spinning plates (about a dozen at a time) and a guy shooting mouth darts at a volunteer from the audience holding 4 balloons.     Then the house band played some numbers with a woman soloist and two guys soloing a few songs and then it turned into one of these comedy acts that are so famous in Thailand although not really my cup of tea, where two guys start joking and one of them is older and dressed like a woman.    Thai people laugh so hard at these things.   Of course, i had no idea what they were saying but then, they pointed at Steve (the Farang who got s the seats and is in the brown shirt above (picture) and started coming on to him (the transvestite anyway)      I was so glad it wasn’t me.    Someone told him to offer the guy a sausage from our food plate and he did and the guy started making some obscene gestures and eventually ate the sausage after playing with it for a while.    

Finally, the moment we were waiting for arrived and the curtain opened once again to find Sek Loso and his 4 piece band opening up the set to some of his great hits.   
Immedietly, people started filing past us to get in the small space between us and the stage so we knew it was time to stand up and start dancing along and partying to some great rock and roll.xxloso021

Going to a live rock show in Thailand with one of the the more famous superstars can be quite a treat.    Thai people love their music and party hard.   Almost everyone sing along to almost every song and they all knew all the words.    Having been a LOSO fan for a long time, i knew the tunes but of course, didn’t know the words.     Once again, i couldn’t believe that i was standing and dancing about 10 feet away from Sek Loso and watching his every move and emotion and hearing his guitar come through so loud.  

The more he played, the more the people came up to dance and party as close to him as they could.  Which basically meant, at our table.   This was great fun as i like being close to the action and am not one to hide in the back at concerts.       After they played about 8 or 9 songs, Sed proceeded to take off his shirt and sunglasses (his trademark) and then some other musicians came out of the wings to join along.    He switched over to some western standards and played Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze as well as Cocaine by Eric Clapton and these two other guitar players took over on some fast solos while Sed sat down on the drum riser and had a drink.

He came back to join them with some showing off and playing with his teeth and running around.   I must say i think he had a few to drink which was probably one of the things the crowd around me loved about him.    

xxloso03xxloso04   LOSO stands for Lo-Society and he is from the poor northeast corner of Thailand known as Issan. I think he is actually from Korat.   I’ve heard he writes a song a day and has many many hits in this country.   He had toured in England and Europe and possibly the US also (not sure) and he had a Farang band for those tours.   Tonight, he had a Farang drummer but the bass player and rhythy guitar player, as well as the two solo guys that joined in, were Thai.

After those 2 or 3 western covers, they brought out his acoustic guitar and he went into some more big hits and the crowd (who had been a little quiet for the western songs) rose up in unison singing along to every word once again.

After about 1 1/2 hours, I headed for some air and realized i might not be able to come up that close very easily once leaving. xxloso051

 

In the back, i ran into some friends who were there and was talking a bit (something that was impossible to do at our seats)   The sound was great all over the big hall.   I would estimate that there were 2-3,000 people there filling up the place.    I did take one picture from back there although it didn’t come out too good.  

I went outside for some air and Kim and Cathy kept running out to tell me the great views they are having from moving all around, including up in the balcony where they sat for a bit with the performers in the beginning of the show (magician and pretzel girl, etc) and they found free beer up there.

About 2 AM we left as they had to go to work the next day.   The band was still playing.  I was still recognizing the hits and they were going on their 3rd hour of non-stop music.    I dont’ know how long they played but I know it was longer than most any concert i remember.   We definitely got our money’s worth as the tickets for the show had only cost 299 baht each!    (about $9.00)

Thanks Mr Sek Loso.   And keep playing the Great Music! 

xxloso07

 

     xxloso08

Posted by: fiddlehead | March 30, 2009

Rate Your Hiking Ability

Ok, I’ve been thinking about this for a while and finally got it finished. I invited a few of my more experienced hiking friends to help out and we made some changes to this final rendition.

This quiz if for experienced hikers.  I say that because if you don’t have more than a few hundred miles of hiking experience, you will probably not do well.

Unfortunately, the software wouldn’t allow me to create my own ranges at the end.
An average score turns out to be around 25%     The highest score so far has been around 70%

You may not agree with all of the questions and how they relate to hiking experience.  I feel they do although will admit that I added a few questions related to mileage because the software rates each question only to a +or- 6.   So, sorry for the repeat questions near the end but it is required for a topic that i feel is most important:    EXPERIENCE!

So, please click  HERE to take the test, or quiz, or whatever you want to call it.

Feedback welcome!    Enjoy.


					
Posted by: fiddlehead | March 11, 2009

Phuket High Trail Heroines’ Monument to Kathu

March 10, 2009

Well today i went out and had probaby my toughest day yet.  
I am getting further and further away from home (Rawai) and have to drive about 40 minutes now to start.
I went out for 2 days on the motorbike looking for an easier way into where i had left off above (west) of Kathu waterfall.   Didn’t have any luck so today, went back to where i parked the bike before to do the 480 meter ascent.

When i got there, there was a crowd of people, a backhoe backing up the hill, and as i looked to see why, noticed the concrete bridge that spans a small creek there was completely broken in two!xbrdge01

Seems the backhoe tried to cross the bridge and was too heavy for it and collapsed it.   Some rubber farmers were trying to get across and i went first and scrambled up the steep concrete ramp.   Took this picture as my battery in my camera went dead.   Looks like the start of a rough day so far.

Was glad to reach the top and the saddle where there is a house and the road turns to trail.   A lot cooler up here at 420+ meters.    Walked north for about 20 minutes to where i had left off before.   The waypoint on my GPS was Y4 and there were 4 trails at this point.  I tried all 4 of them and eventually (after a bit of rough bushwhacking) chose one heading west and down on that side for a while.   

Turned into some pretty good trail that seemed old but overgrown.   Eventually it got me to some rubber trees although they were old and not worked anymore.   The trail was good though and going almost exactly in the direction i needed so i followed it for about an hour?  

Then i got to a spot where i could see the next hill was completely logged and thick brush covering everything. From my experience, i knew this meant trouble and sure enough, i tried 3 different routes through there and it just got too thick to go.    I spent a good hour looking for a way through and finally found a little traverse cut into the east side that was somewhat doable.  (overgrown a bit but at least i could walk without getting completely tangled in vines and bushes)

Then it ended.    And i could see i had to leave the knob i was on and head east to another one that was jungle and doable for sure.   But, there was a big gully in between.  I worked my way down and saw a big dead tree that had spanned the deep gully and thought i could walk across it.    But, it has been raining lately and was slippery.   Exactly half-way across, i could tell it was too slippery to do and sure enough, i fell.    I fell about 6 feet and landed on my back.   In water.    I laid there a bit determining how hurt i was and was glad i could get up.  The nearest road at this point is probably about 3 miles away and who knows in what direction???  Lots of steep, terrain around and nothing easy.    I got up and took a good 5 minutes to reorient my thoughts and why i am doing this.

When i’m on trail, it is great and there’s no place i’d rather be.    But, when it is bushwhacking through the thick shit, it is hard.   Very hard.    I don’t know if a trail will ever be built.   If it is, it’ll be an awesome trail but will anyone want to hike the whole thing?   Or will the rubber tree farmers stay as friendly as they have been to me?   Or will anyone even want to do these steep climbs on their holiday?    I can only say that i would.   If a trail was already here, i would be on it every chance i get.   Because it is full of views, and jungle, and rubber trees, and well, this is Thailand.    The highway past Tesco, and Big C, and all the shopping and congestion and Chalong circle with it’s police only ever checking for helmets and drivers license, and the increasing road rage and traffic accidents and noise.   Is that what people come to Thailand to see?   Maybe, some of them.   Human nature baffles me sometimes.    

Anyway, back to my story.    After resting for a while, i bushwhacked a bit up the side hill and found a faint trail heading a bit east of where i wanted to go but was glad to be back on some sort of trail.   After 2 more hills, i came to a newly planted rubber plantation and knew there should then be some kind of access nearby.   Another 10 minutes brought me to a shack where i approached with my usual “Sawadee Krup” spoken loudly.    No dogs here but a man came out with sleep in his eyes.    He didn’t really speak but pointed to the trail that he comes in and out on when i asked him about “going down”.    
I followed this for a good mile before coming to another house although i could hear people working in the nearby plantations.    Then I came to another house, much bigger this time and a small road.   Following that brought me eventually to a road that a 4 wheel drive could come up.  I followed this down for a good 2 or 3 miles.

I was very tired by now as my GPS said i did 17 kms and i hadn’t turned it on until i got to the top of the 450 meter climb at the beginning of the day.     With at least 2 or 3 kms of bushwhacking in there, that is the toughest day i’ve had.     I came out on a concrete road that i had checked out before near Chong Talay.   It was a long and windy road so i just sat down in the shade and waited a good half hour before a man came along on a motorbike and i flagged him down and asked for a ride to the Heroine’s monument circle.   He shook his head and i climbed on the back.    
At the circle, i paid him 60  baht and went immedietly to a restaurant and ordered some food.   I hadn’t expected the day to be that long and it was now about 3:30 in the afternoon and i hadn’t eaten since breakfast.  

I was pretty dehydrated also even though i had filled up my half-litre water bottle at least 3 times in springs and small creeks up on the mountain.    So, i enjoyed some food and drink and then got a motorcycle taxi guy to take me the 20 kms back to where my bike was parked.    He showed me  a nice shortcut that went past the British International School or “Dulwich” as it used to be called.   That’s the 1st time i had seen it and was impressed as it looked like a college campus.    Of course at 600,000 baht tuition per student, it should looke impressive!

Getting back to my bike, i noticed a huge backhoe trying to do something with the bridge so that at least people could get across.   But i didn’t stick around as i badly needed a shower and some rest.    I was beat.  
It was one tough day.

Today, Friday March 13th, 2009   I went out to complete this section from where i left off at the windy road at my waypoint:  “1st good road” (on my gps) 
I still had about 3 kms to go to get to the big road near the Heroine’s Monument.

So, following that concrete windy road northwest, you come to a sign saying Land for Sale, 50 rai.   Go up the hill there which is a good gravel road and then turn left at the Y at the top.   You’ll see a sign saying “nature” or something like that and “Sea view”.    Go up until you see a pile of rocks (nice, natural, formation at the highest point) This is a very nice spot and they even have a concrete table and chairs there for a nice breather before going on in a northwest direction (All my posts so far have been northbound).  xrocks07

Some decent trail just to the east of the ridge and following some old rubber trees.   Not too far in and you come to a short side trail to the left and a good lookout point looking west.   I marked this with a waypoint “lookout 1”.   xrocks021xrocks04   Then continueing on and you come to a cliff where it appears some mining was done on the east side.   You must traverse the top of this cliff and our trail goes very close to the edge here but there are good views to the east and the south China sea.

Then the trail heads down through rubber trees and i find it best to stay on the edge of their property line.   That is usually the best trail as the rubber can become like  a maze, although that’s not a problem with the GPS in hand.  
Lots of cleared land and a maze of dirt roads at the bottom where you go under a huge power line.    Then through some shacks of Myamar workers.  One guy came out and talked to me.   (somewhat as neither of us had a common language except perhaps Thai???)    He got through to me that he was a farmer in Myamar but now makes jewelry at a nearby factory with the word “Limited” in the business name.  
I followed a trail around their small village of corrugated shacks until i came to a small vegetable farm at a half finished concrete (new) bridge.    But you couldn’t cross the bridge and the lady had her lane blocked off.   I was only about 20 meters from the main road that runs from the Heroine’s monument to Surin beach here so marked the point “Bridge1” and headed back.   

I retraced my steps all the way back and stopped for a good breather as it is very hot this time of year and it was around 1 pm now.   I stopped at the cliffs and finished off my water bottle.  

When i got back on my bike, i headed over to where i had marked the bridge and checked out a possible road that went directly to the main road and then crossed the big highway to look for something to get me to where the mountains start on the other (east) side.     Didn’t find much as it’s really built up around here but…………..that’s for another day.   I am happy that my trail has now been walked from Lam Prom Thep (southernmost point on Phuket) to the Heroine’s monument and over many of the biggest peaks on the island.    It has been almost a year now of this work and i thoroughly enjoy it.  (except perhaps for SOME of the bushwhacking that gets SO thick)    xrocks06
My wife thinks i’m nuts.   I usually come back full of cuts and scratches and very dirty, hungry, and dehydrated.    But, i’m learning so much about this island and it’s people who work the rubber and farms and how humble and inviting they are.     I will upload some pics from today and then start to plan my 3-4 day  backpacking trip to retrace ALL of the route so far. (coming up soon???)

Posted by: fiddlehead | February 26, 2009

Highest Point in Phuket

Being a Geography buff, and living in Phuket, I see as much of this beautiful island as I can.

Did a little research and saw that Mai Thao Sip Song Mountain was the highest point on the island.  It is the one just east of Patong and west of Wat Chalong with the big golf ball looking structure on top.    It is actually a radar station for the military and restricted area. xtrail08

I have been doing a lot of wilderness trekking and trailblazing trying to put together a hiking trail that will eventually go the length of the island, from Lam Prom Thep to the Sarasin bridge.    I want it to go over the high peaks as much as possible and follow the ridges and string together a trail that will be full of views, wilderness, and ridge walking.

I’ve been writing blog entries as I go along and eventually will have one in guidebook format for anyone wishing to hike it as well as the track uploaded to Google  maps for you to download to your own GPS and follow it precisely.         Here is the first and second sections for those interested.

Now obviously Mae Thao Sip Song Mountain should be on the trail.   But, unfortunately that’s impossible as it’s restricted and has very steep sides so traversing is extremely difficult.    I have plotted a route around it after 7 days of trying.

Now, I am well north of that area and up closer to Kathu waterfall.

Earlier in the week, when I was planning my route using Google Earth, as I do, I discovered that according to Google Earth, there is a higher peak.     But of course, this is only computer generated from satellite images so there could be room for error.

So, today I dropped my son off at school and went to the beach to set my new altimeter on my Garmin 60 CSX GPS, at 2 metres (it was low tide this morning).    Then I drove up to the Kathu hill that takes you to Patong.  The high point on that road has a small Taoist temple where many many people blow their horns as they go by.   Must be nerve-wracking for the caretakers who live there but maybe it’s something they are used to by now.    I stand around there for 10 minutes setting my GPS and clearing memory to build a new track and profile map and the horns had me ready to move out.  Fast!

xtrail01It is a beautiful trail heading north out of there and I even pictured myself back home in eastern USA on the Appalachian trail with the well kept trail.   The only difference was the species of trees.   And of course the heat!

There is a saddle about halfway up with some homes or farms around there.   I don’t know which side they come up on but it must be a good road as the houses are nice although there is no electricity.

Found a beautiful spring full of lily pads and flowers in bloom.   Dipped my water bottle into it and was surprised the water looked so clear.    I tasted it and must say it is some of the best water I’ve had since I started coming here 9 years ago.    xtrail021

Continuing up, it turned into a bush-whack as the trails all ended or lead off in directions that weren’t going to work for my goal.    One section had a lot of bamboo and rubber trees that had been cut down and left to rot.  This is the kind of bush-whacking that is extremely difficult and it was on one of the steepest parts.
When things get tough like that, I often just traverse around the mountain and often find another trail somewhere.   Sure enough after about 40 minutes of very tough going through rotten brush, I found a great trail that looked like motocross bikes had kept it clear.
I followed that for a while and came to a house where 3 rubber tree men were eating.    Tried talking to them a bit although my Thai was almost as bad as their English so, I just went back to bushwhacking.   They probably thought I was a little crazy.  Many do when I go out on these excursions.

Got into some heavy vines that were next to impossible to get through without a machete so again,  I traversed until I found an old rubber tree farm and could go up along the border.    Not much further and I came to what was the high point.     Nothing there, except a property marker.   A cement post driven in that looked as though it had been there a very long time with lots of brush, weeds, bushes and vines growing up around it.

I put my GPS onto the altimeter page and took a picture.  xtrail03xtrail05 545 meters. I checked it in feet: 1778 feet.   I was pretty excited as I knew that Mai Thao Sip Song mountain was around 500 metres.
I sat there a while enjoying the quiet.   There are good views of the Andaman sea about 50 metres east of the high point.

xtrail07I then used the TracBack feature and followed my route back although I tried to make it  a little easier and followed the rubber tree border a little longer, but eventually had to bush-whack again.
I fell down pretty hard on the spot where the cut bamboo was as it was very steep here.

Stopped for another bottle of great tasting water on the way down and waved to a few of the farmers.

I was very tired when I got back to my motorcycle at the loud road crossing as it had taken me about 4 hours total of steep ascents and descents.

But there was one more thing I had to do.   With the altimeter set that morning, and having been to the new high point within 2 hours, I drove up to Mai Thao Sip Song Mountain to check the elevation.
I could tell when i was getting close (you can drive up although there are restricted area signs and guards at the top).  I probably looked like I had been out jogging and  I parked my bike and walked up the last 200-300 meters.  Now it was the hottest part of the day and it gets steep near the top.  So, probably looking very beat, i walked right up to the gate and waved at the soldiers inside.    The high point is about 10 meters away from the gate just to the right (east).     My altimeter read 482 meters!

Now, Google Earth has it at  512 meters to the west of the gate but, like I said, I don’t trust Google Earth as much as I trust my new barometric pressure altimeter.    But either way, Mai Thao Sip Song is the second highest point in Phuket and the newly discovered highest point has NO NAME!   And no access.    And no one knows.

So, I’m writing it all down here, just hours later as it is all fresh in my memory.    I will add  the screen shot of the GPS altitude page for the days hike.

profile-kathu-to-highpoint

Now March 3rd, 2009

Went out again today and first went and set the altimeter to sea level as we had rain yesterday and today looked like rain too so I figured the barometer had changed.   Sure enough, it was off by about 20 meters.   I then drove to Kathu waterfall where I parked the bike and headed up steeply to the gap from the east side towards the high point.
There was decent track going up as someone (I later found out who) has made cement tread going up the very steep climb.   At the top, I turned left or south to connect the point to where I last left off.

About 300 meters before the high point, I saw a man at a nice cabin who seemed friendly and said hi.  I told him what I was doing and he told me to stay to the right on the way up as it is easier track.     Sure enough, I’m glad he told me or I would’ve been bushwhacking again but got to follow track and rubber tree farms almost right to the top.

There are good views of Patong and Kamala beach from just before the high point.   When I  got to the spot that is the highest and checked the altimeter,  amazingly  it was exactly the same at 545 meters.    So, I am fairly positive that this is within a few meters of the correct altitude.       I sat down after a tough, steep climb, not having stopped since I parked back at 79 meters elevation.     470 meter climbs will tell you to stop and rest for sure.

xcabin021On the way back down, I saw about a 2 meter long dark grey snake.   He squirmed away from me as fast as he could and I think we scared each other.     Back at the cabin, the man talked again and offered me water and bananas and then invited me up to his porch.   I went up and he explained that he was from the area and bought 50 rai (20 acres) about 15 years ago and planted fruit trees.   Mostly Dorian and jack fruit, but also some lemon and others.      He offered me coffee and I accepted as he was a pretty cool man with lots to add to the history of Phuket and the way it used to be.   He told me that at night, he sees and hears  people with guns shooting pigs, monkeys, chickens, and whatever they can shoot to eat.     They are mostly Burmese rubber tree farmers and construction workers.   I have seen them living off of frogs and lizards and slugs and geckos and the women collecting wild edible plants.      These people have it rough as yesterday I saw a truckload of them going down the highway in a pouring down rainstorm packed in like sardines with no cover except their bandannas.   Very sad.

So, talked with the man for about an hour I guess and then headed out and continued past the point where I came up to check out a road that was on my GPS.   Saw another cabin with no one home but another nice spot.    The road turned out to be slightly overgrown but possibly and easier way in from the Kamala side that I will try next time I come up.     Saw one side trail that I checked out and it was a pipe to a concrete water basin and most likely good water as there is not much higher  elevation around here.          I then went back down the steep trail in fast time and headed home.   Now, the further north I get on this project, the longer the drive from and to home to get to the trail where I left off.

If you want to keep following my adventures on this trail, you can see my next blog entry here.   It is the next section northbound and one of the hardest and most remote up to the Heroine’s monument.

Also, my first blog entry which explains a bit more on why I would like to see this trail exist and my first steps and ideas are on a post from August 2008 here.

Down-loadable track that can be installed in your own GPS and followed can be found at Google Maps HERE.

Brought to you by Warmstuff Distributing   www.warmstuff.com (selling thermal long johns and warm stuff to keep people warm all over the world)

Posted by: fiddlehead | February 16, 2009

Phuket High Trail Continued into 2009

Feb 16, 2009

Ah success.  Finally after 7 days of working to find a way around the big mountain with the big ball (Sip Song is what is called on Google Earth which means 15).   It is a radar station for the military so restricted. 
And I have now spent a lot of time on both sides of this mountain trying to find a suitable way around it without dropping all the way down to near sea level.
Today i finally made it.   On the west side where i went in from Patong and rejoined my route where the last entry ends.    

I continued on the road to the right going north past the junction where you can go down to Patong.   The road goes up steeply.  Since it is now dry season, the road wasn’t too bad and i could actually go up there with my motorbike.   Forget that in rainy season as the road is not only steep but full of deep ruts.

Follow the road, forever going higher until at last you come to where it forks off to just two trails going to different rubber tree shacks.    I continue on the one to the left, which goes between two shacks, turns right and then follow the path.   After about 300 metres, you come to a spring that has now been dug out and built up with cemented rocks.  The man was there today and i tried to tell him nice job and sometimes i drink the water there.  I don’t think he understood me though but felt it was a positive vibe coming from me. 

I turn right at this spring and ascend steeply up following paths thru the rubber trees where i can.   

I had been up here before and always got stuck at the end of the rubber trees and it just got too thick to get through.  

Eventuall, as before, i get stuck and today even dropped my GPS in the thick brush.  It took me about 30 minutes to find it.     Then i headed a bit south to a gully and on the other side is thick jungle and steep terrain.   I thought i have to give it a try as sometimes the real jungle isn’t as thick as the overgrown rubber trees.  

Sure enough i could get through although got tangled up in vines a lot.  They are very strong and you can’t break them.  You have to climb your way out of them.    My new machete would’ve been the very thing i needed but i still don’t have a sheath to carry it and don’t know if it’s legal for me , a farang to be seen with it.   I really need it here though.   

So, i got through there and found another path up higher that lead in the direction i wanted to go.  (I had come in from the Kathu/Patong road’s high point once last year and set some GPS points to shoot for, and that’s where i now was trying to hook up)

Now also, i have the Thailand maps in my Gps and although they are not topo, they show a lot of roads including some smaller ones.    One showed up that was a bit below my point that i had reached before and closer.   Since it was still very thick in here (overgrown rubber trees) I headed for the end of a road and after another 45 minutes or so, found it.   There was a house there with 2 dogs barking excessibly.   

So, after a rest and a drink, (it was getting hot now as it was close to noon) i headed back on my track but forever searching for a better way.   I had this feeling that i would find an easy way to skip the jungle, steep, thick brush portion but it wasn’t to be.    I had to eventually follow my track on the GPS as it is really thick in there.    One time through with the machete would fix that though.

So, i got back to the bike around 1 after about 4 hours to go about 1 or 2 miles but finally connected the trail around this Sip Song mountain.     I was a little bloody and very hot and glad i had left a 2 litre bottle of water (now very warm) at the bike.     And it was quite dangerous and Very Steep going down.   Not a good road for a bike for sure.

So, next time out, i will go in from the north side again and try to find the best route over there.   So, i consider myself to be past Patong now although it’ll take until i get to the Kathu/Patong high point temple until i really can call it complete up to there.       sorry, no pictures today.

Ok, i’m adding to this a few days later (Feb 23 now).   Went out today and came in from the Kathu hill side.  I go to the top of the hill where the small Buddhist temple is and everyone beeps their horn as they go by.  

  Head south on the small but cement road.    I drove as far as i could along the ridge and then walked about 300-400 metres right to where i previously stopped near the house with the dogs.    I kept a track on the GPS and basically went back to the bike, and followed the road back.  

xpatong02There were 2 places where it would be best to leave the road and go up for some better views but it (ridge) returns to the road again.    A nice roadwalk though.    I saw that some adventure race signs were left up from a race probably this past weekend.  

  Near the northerly end, it would be best to leave the road and follow the ridge i think.    I didn’t do it though as it was pretty thick and a trail would have to be built.    All in all, this has some nice scenery looking down on Patong along this whole section.xpatong

After i got to the big road (Kathu/Patong road)  After seeing views of the next section and how wild it looks (no sign of any houses or construction or anything except mountains and nature)   I decided to walk in a little bit to see if there was a path.  Sure enough, a beautiful path that reminded me of the Appalacian Trail back in the states except for the trees being a different kind.    I met a monk in there who told me it was beautiful.  Not sure if he meant the day, the trail, or the mountain.   But it all looked excellent to me and i can’t wait to go back on my next day’s adventure.

Posted by: fiddlehead | February 8, 2009

Road Trip Thailand 2009 Part 5 (Final)

 

Leaving Chiang Mai after 2 nights stay, we drove up north to Mae Sai which is the most northerly  point in Thailand and very crowded with shoppers just south of the Friendship Bridge to Burma (Myamar)

Thum had been looking for a wicker table and we found one here as well as a nice wicker chair for me and a toy for Simon, we all got something we wanted.  

img_2300Then we headed west and went to the Golden Triangle where Myamar (Burma), Laos and Thailand all meet at a point where two rivers including he big and famous “Mekong” river meet.img_2311

There was lots to see here with a big Buddha on a boat and boatrides although we were a little late and I felt rushed once again.   We couldn’t stay the night as we had to keep moving and went on to Chiang Rai (another 60 kms) and got there just after dark.  It took a while to find a hotel that had wireless internet as the Eagles game was coming on in the middle of the night.    We finally found one, the newly built “Diamond Park Hotel” which was very nice for 700 baht.     Our room had 2 big beds, marble floors hot water (in the evening anyway) and wireless internet. 
But, in the middle of the game (at 4 am) the connection went down.  I woke up the desk guy and he said, he was sorry but the internet always went down every night and there was nothing he could do.   So, being the good Eagles fan that I am, I took my laptop and got in my truck and drove around for about a half hour until I found signal and parked at the side of the street and watched the game on justin.tv until half-time.   They looked bad and I decided to go sleep instead as it was now 5 am.     I woke up around 8 to find out that they lost although they made a good game of it in the 2nd half.     Oh well.   No Superbowl this year for us. 

Chiang Rai seems to be a much higher  level of class of people, hotels, food , music and everything that we’ve seen in our short time here.   Once again, I wish I could stay and hope to be back someday to check it out some more.    The hotels are all very nice and about double the usual 300 baht price, they are much nicer inside and newer.    People seem friendly everywhere  and of course, Simon is always a magnet for nice people.  

In the morning, we drove around town a bit and then went and had a meal at an Issan restaurant so Thum was very happy about the food.   Next door was a good bakery and I got some treats for myself.

Heading south now, the trip seems to lost it’s sense of adventure as we are heading home although still a long way away.   We stopped for the night in Phrae which is an old city with the old walls around the middle.   We stayed in a huge hotel full of men mostly called the Nakorn Prae Hotel I think.    We walked around a few blocks to a street full of food vendors and had a good meal there.  

img_23551Heading towards Hoi Yang and our house there, we stopped to eat at a nice roadside pond where Simon and I tried some fishing.    Thum was happily eating some Conan Jean while we made a few casts.   It was a bummer but we lost our best and newest lure on my 3rd cast.    I could’ve swam out and gotten it as it was caught in someone’s net but it was too cold for me.    At $.50 a lure, I let it go.    Then we tried some real food as Thum said Thai fish aren’t stupid enough to bite a plastic lure.  They want real food.   But we had no luck and continued on.

After looking in the book (Lonely Planet) we decided to camp out instead of stay in Lam Sok as we had planned.

So, we decided to go to Nam Noi National Park and were driving through when i remarked to my Thum that the Lonely Planet Book said that there may be wild elephants in the area. Not 10 seconds after i said this, i looked over to my left and saw an elephant in the jungle! So, i stopped, and backed up with my camera ready (on video mode) Sure enough, it was an elephant and he looked at me and then let out an huge, loud, PHHEEEEWW! (what do you call that noise an elephant makes?) and charged us! I couldn’t believe it. He got to a pretty big tree (about 20′ tall, not that big) that was between us and hit it. It shook but held and my wife was screaming. I had one hand on the camera, and one on the steering wheel and needed another one to get it into 1st and not reverse but kept filming anyway. My son (3 year old) started crying and the elephant seemed to be looking for a way around the tree. So, i kept it in reverse and kept filming and backed up a bit. He started coming around towards us and i finally got the heck out of there.

 Our hearts were pounding for at least 15 minutes afterward. I don’t know which is worse: Bear, Moose, or Elephant but i do know which is bigger! Wow. I’m still excited thinking about the feeling. We camped out last night at the park campground and my wife had to make sure we wouldn’t be attacked in the night by any elephants. The ranger just laughed but did say that they’ve been known to flip over a car as apparantly they don’t like pictures taken of them (or flash?) The video is pretty shaky but i will work on something to post on my facebook when i get more time.img_23743

Anyway, we camped out that night and it was a little cold so we had a nice fire in our barbecue grill as usual.   In the morning, many of the campers came and sat around our fire with us as they were all cold.   Very friendly people from Hat Yai in southern Thailand were right next to us and we exchanged phone nos. and pictures etc.

Heading on, it was time to go home (for Thum) to our hose in Hoi Yang, a small town in Chaiyaphum district near Kon San.    It wasn’t too far and we got there in the morning to many neighbors and friends waiting for our arrival.  
Simon had many friends there: Jig Saw, Star and Fa and had to show off his new toys.   Now, Thum’s mom knows that I don’t like all the chickens and this time had netting keeping them in a specific area.   I hate stepping in chicken shit in the morning.    When I built the house and stayed there for 8 weeks, we got rid of all but 2 but now, she has about 20 again.   And 2 cats and a dog.   I guess she gets lonely as they never seem to eat any of the chickens.

That night, I went to the market and was shocked to see for the first time ever: skinned rats for sale with their carcass opened up to display their guts.     I had to go home and get my camera and when I started taking pictures of them, people were telling me how delicious they were.    I made a pretty big deal out of pretending I was puking every time they said this.     That night, over some beers with neighbors and friends, I kept asking everyone if they ate rat and they all said no but some had tried it already. 

It was a good party and one of the couples was telling me they had a silk worm farm about 2 kms away.   So, the next day, Simon and I went to visit it.   It was pretty cool although brand new and he only had one pile of worms but said in 15 days, they would make the big building full.     He had a nice little farm.   His name was Lek and his wife Doi (meaning: small and mountain)   They had many tamarind trees and gave us a lot of the fruit to eat.

That night, I went to the brand new internet and game room right up the street as the internet has finally hit Hoi Yang after all these years of my driving 15 kms to intermittent internet.   This new place had about 40 brand new computers with very comfortable reclining chairs and 2 people in there.   I worked for an hour and the fee was 10 baht (about 30 cents)   I can’t imagine how they are going to make any money but then this is Thailand (TIT)

So, on Friday, Jan, 23rd, we left early in the morning and within 15 minutes came across a parade.   We were on the back road to Phu Kiow when all traffic was stopped for what at first appeared to be a high school marching band.    But it turned out to be about 25 marching bands of all ages.    Some of the older marchers were lady boys and not so young either.    Many were kids and I was surprised to hear much of the music being played coming from children playing melodicas.  img_2430  This is an instrument that I had just bought one for Simon and have been working on playing myself.    Of course there were many drums too and some horns.    Turns out it is a big contest among schools (and parents it seems) for different athetic events including tug of wars, 3 legged races, etc.

We stayed and watched for almost an hour.    A few hours later we were stopped for our 3rd police check that day.  (they definitely seem to come in spurts) and for the first time was asked for our truck paperwork as well as my drivers license.    All was in order but the policeman got Thum to walk around the truck and told her that she was lucky to have a nice baby and farang and what did she have for him?    She knew what he wanted but since all of our paperwork was in order, she gave him 30 baht (less than a dollar) and he seemed happy with that.     It is one of the worst parts about Thailand as the police openly practice their graft or “tea money” it’s called and everyone  just accepts it and pays.    Apparently if your paper work is not in order, you pay between 100 and 300 baht depending on how good a talker you are.

We got through Bangkok with no problems with the GPS and I think it was less than an hour through the busy city even though it was Friday afternoon.    We stopped at the salt drying flats and bought some salt and watched a guy feed some tiny algae or minnows and I believe he was making fish sauce although I’m not sure.   

We stayed at our same hotel that we started the trip with in Chaam and got the front (seaveiw) room.

Heading home the next day, things turned out longer than we wanted so, we ended up spending the night in Ranong which is a border town to Myamar.  I’ve been there lots of times on visa runs but the family has only been there once before.    We got a room in a brand new hotel near the northwest part of town and right near many restaurants including another 69 baht AYCE buffet, which Thum likes so much so we did it again.      
Driving home the next day and passing many National Parks again made me think how big this country is and how our 4 week trip could’ve easily been twice as long ONLY to see the half that we did.
We had to rush through the 2nd half of the trip and passed some really nice stuff.    

But, duty calls and I had to be on a gig on Monday morning.   Turned out the gig was pretty nice as a German couple got married and invited their best friends along and we took a speedboat past many beautiful islands east of Phuket and over to Railay beach which is a favorite part of this great country for me and Thum and Simon’s been there 3 times already also.    img_2532
So, this time i got paid to go there and even stopped at a few beautiful places on the way and on the way home including elephant island where we had lunch and i played on the beach.  
Not a bad way to end the trip although i wish the family was together for it.     I missed them already.

Well Simon started school a few days later so now we will be waiting for the school schedule for the next 12 years or so for our roadtrips and vacations.      

 

Now,  that this journal is finished on this blog, I have uploaded all the best pictures to an onlin album.   
Can be seen here        All the pictures are in order except for the last 4 (differernt camera)

Posted by: fiddlehead | February 8, 2009

Road Trip Thailand 2009 Part 4

 

The road got worse and we left the farms behind and entered the mountains.   Mostly all jungle now, with nice views and once in a while we could see the river to our left and Burma on the other side.

Got to the town of Mae Sariang just before dark and again, got one of those hotels that seem to be the biggest in town, yet only cost 300 baht and get pretty full.  This one seemed to full of truckers as there was a big parking lot in the back.      Just up the road was one of those 99 baht AYCE barbecue’s where you cook your own food at your table on a charcoal fed cooker.    I don’t see how they make any money as I made about 7 trips to the chicken/pork/ and beef section and then had 4 ice cream cones for desert.  Our total bill for the 3 of us was $10.00!

Have internet Wi-fi access at the hotel so, was able to catch up on some work although the real work of building a new website will have to wait until we get back to Phuket.
Yesterday, I had a phone call about a job for the 24th of Jan.   I had to make a quick decision and decided to take it.   Now our trip has a much different feel to it as we have a schedule of some sorts.    I am still driving away from home but realize that we are going to have to head back at a certain time.   It is a much better feeling to not have a plan and just take things day by day and go with the flow.   I wish I would’ve said no now that I’ve given it more thought and experience this feeling of urgency now.      Oh well.   We still have 10 days to go so I should just calm down and enjoy. 

Well, I thought it would be a 4 hour drive to Chiang Mai from Mae Sariang but it turned into 2 days.   But they were 2 good days.

As we got closer, we saw signs for a National Park that Thum said was no. 1 in Thailand and it also was home to the  country’s highest peak.    It seems the Kings mother loved this place and turned it into a royal project to growimg_21201flowers, coffee, and indigenous vegetables and trees and all kinds of horticulture.  

Although it was cold, we could camp for only 30  baht a night ($1) which we did.   The campground turned out to be very crowded and we were one of the few with a fire as we had our little square charcoal grill to build one in.     In the morning, we headed up the road to the high point and, sure enough, it was very cold up there.    The views weren’t so good but the trees were big and the top was a grove of woods that was pretty cool.     Also, we stopped at the Royal Project and it was very beautiful with flowers, irrigation ditches planned out with waterfalls and very natural looking and picturesque place.   It was the most beautiful part of Thailand we’ve seen so far.
On the way down, we stopped at 2 big Stupas that were very picturesque with flowers everywhere.   We took lots of pics and then stopped at a nice river to cook a bit before heading into the big city.img_2087 

Once in the city, we used the GPS once again to find the hotel that I had found on the internet.  The Royal Guest House was the name and it had a good location near the night bazaar and the canal.   It was a bit expensive after all of those 200-300 baht rooms.   This one was 580 baht but had a swimming pool.

We took a walk around the night market and Thum bought some long pants as it is so much cooler here than Phuket and she is not well prepared.   

In the morning, we headed out to go to Doi Sathep which is an old temple on a mountain about 17 kms northwest of Chiang Mai.    But on the way driving there, we saw the zoo so decided to go there instead

 

Pretty impressive zoo although I haven’t been to one in about 20 years or so.   It was very big and we put some miles in this day.    First up was the giraffes which you could feed and Simon always loves feeding animals.    Then, after the white tiger, we paid again to go into the Panda building.   They have 2, a male and a female.   You had to be quiet, no flash pics and even had to walk through some water that was disinfectant for bugs I guess.    img_2200The male was pretty cool sitting on his big throne and eating wood it seemed.   He put on quite a show for the cameras clicking away.   The female was sleeping but they both looked healthy.  

We then headed up a steep hill and headed back, seeing penguins, rhino, lots of monkeys, and 2 lions among playgrounds and lots of cool stuff.   Simon was pretty excited the whole day.   img_2215

 

 

 

Back in our room, I found that if I stood outside on our balcony, I could get WiFi to login and do some work.   We’re finding Wifi more and more all over the country.    

 

Now, all pictures from this trip have been uploaded and can be seen here

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