Heather's Thairy

Heather's journey to Bangkok, Thailand: a year of adventure!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Camping Adventure

Last weekend was a three-day weekend as a result of mis-scheduling of holidays. At first, we were allowed the option of either taking the day as a holiday or coming to work for bonus pay. I had decided to work, because at the time I needed the hours with my kids, but then it was made a holiday for all foreign teachers as there were not enough people willing to work.

So, I went to Phu Kradueng national park with Chris, Stephanie, Lauranne, Rachelle and Elizabeth. I had been interested in visiting Loei province, the area of Thailand with the national park, for quite a while: it is the province with the greatest temperature range, being the coldest and the warmest province depending on the time of year. The flora and fauna found in this area are exclusive to Loei province.

We flew out on Saturday morning- very early, 6:20 AM. We were scheduled to arrive in Loei at 7:20 AM, but around 7:00 the captain of our plane announced that we were to land in Udon Thani, about three hours away from Loei. Whaaaaat?
It turned out that there was excessive fog over Loei and the landing, at the time, was not possible. About two hours later, after herding us through the airport and packing us into a van and then out of the van and back into the airport, we were put back on the plane and continued to Loei. We got there around 11:45, which was much much later than expected!
Undaunted, we went to the bus station and got a 12:20 bus to the park. After the bus ride and a quick journey in a songthaew, we arrived at the base of the mountain. We purchased toques and scarves at the base- Alisa and Ryan had warned that although it seems strange to get these things in Thailand, they would be absolutely necessary upon reaching the summit.
The hike ranged from easy to incredibly difficult. Some parts were flat, but more often it was like climbing massive stairs...for over five kilometers. To add to the challenge, it was very sandy and slippery in many places.
Thankfully, there are many pitstops along the way that serve water and food; I broke one of my main rules of living in Thailand and ate mystery meat on a stick (it was good, and so far, no repercussions) as well as a roasted yam (also quite good).
We reached the top in about four hours, and then had to hike another 4 km to get to the campsite. The top of the mountain is an immense plateau and the final walk, although less scenic than the hike up, is very easy.

We rented some tents, sleeping bags and other supplies and set up camp. It is relatively cheap to camp in Thailand, and generally people don't bring their own supplies (who would want to carry them up that ridiculous mountain, anyway?) as everything is available at the campsites.
The main grounds offer many services, including supply shops, a variety of restaurants, showers, bathrooms and bungalows that you can rent. We ate dinner at a really nice little place with great green curry. The owners were very friendly and we spent the evening there chatting and listening to Chris' portable MP3 speakers. We saw some deer and the others saw a wild boar, which I didn't see (I'm not disappointed, apparently it was huge, I think that would have scared me).
The night was extremely cold and we were all glad to have the extra sleeping bags and our winter gear. Apparently it drops to about 5 C at night.

In the morning, Chris and I got up fairly early and, after a good breakfast at the restaurant, started off walking around the plateau. We intended to visit a few waterfalls but when we went that direction, a man with a gun told us we couldn't because there were four wild elephants down that way!!!
So, we went to see a couple other waterfalls, both of which were dry (but still scenic).

We also saw a buddha statue. Along the pathway we found evidence of the elephants...

After that, we walked to a pond, which was peaceful and very nice. It was a long walk to get to the cliffsides, but it was worth it when we got there and saw the sights.




It was amazing how much of the scenery looked like we were back in Canada! We joked that so many Thai people are willing to hike up that huge mountain because they can take pictures and show their friends and pretend that they went overseas.

I had to get my stuff and head down the mountain so we went back to the campsite. I started the trek down around 1:15. It was, I think, more difficult to go down than it had been to go up. First, I was by myself, and not having people to talk to and distract me from the effort didn't help. Second, the angle is really steep, it's really slippery and it was really hard on my joints. However, I made it down without wiping out and in pretty good time, arriving at the bottom in around 3 hours. I took a songthaew to the bus stop and quickly got into a bus to Loei.
I realised on the ride to Loei that I had not brought my Lonely Planet book, and was totally without information or reference for what to do when I got there, but it wasn't a problem because as soon as I arrived a samlor driver pounced and asked where I wanted to go. I told him that I needed a nice hotel and he took me to Sunshine Palace, which was not only nice but better than I expected for really cheap. It was incredibly clean, had a hot shower (a MUST given how terribly dirty I was after the hiking and camping), a refrigerator and a television with 45 channels (about 5 of which were actually in English!!).
That evening I walked to a market and a 7-11 that I had seen on the ride to the hotel and got some dinner and some snacks.
Now, I had been scheduled for a 7:50 AM flight back to Bangkok, but about halfway down the mountain I got a phone call from Nok Air that told me that my flight was delayed...until 1:45 PM!!! Aaaugh!
So, in the morning I decided to venture out into Loei and see what it has to offer... and the answer is: nothing!!! Loei is almost barren. There is one really nice park in the middle of the town but not much else. There is one 7-11, one (closed) Family Mart, the shell of a Tesco (either ex-Tesco or Tesco-to-be) and rows upon rows of junky stores and restaurants selling odd things like gasoline out of glass bottles and used clothing. I got a lot of weird looks wandering the streets and got over my sense of adventure fairly quick. I headed back to the hotel and was really, really happy that it was well equipped...I am now very schooled in the news of Asia, courtesy of NewsAsia Channel.
I went to the airport around 12:15, arriving around 12:30...and the plane finally left the airport around 3:00. Another re-routing through Udon Thani and I finally got back to Bangkok at 4:30. I was a bit irritated by the delays of the weekend so I went to Foodland and treated myself to about $50 worth of deliciousness.
Overall, it was a fun and interesting weekend and certainly another great memory!

Until next time,
Heather

1 Comments:

  • At 11:17 PM, Anonymous Auntie Bonnie said…

    Hi Heather,
    Gee I wish we could have a few days like that where you could decide to work or not and if you did you'd get bonus bucks! True, though, probably same thing would happen here. Everyone would rather have time off!
    Yet another interesting place to visit. Amazing that there are so many facilities/amenities along and up the mountain. How the heck do they do that?
    Funny, when you said that you found evidence of elephants, I was expecting something else rather than a footprint, if you get my drift.
    With your school year winding down, it seems like your travelling is winding up. That's the way to do it! You go girl!
    Love, Auntie Bonnie

     

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