Beach and Mountains – Thailand
Things you see around Phuket and in our house…
Bang Tao Beach
Life goes on, Covid goes on… We are just coming out of another outbreak and it seems like Thailand has finally decided that we just need to get on with it now. See what happens as only 39% of the population is vaccinated. I think we are all fed up with this and just want to get on with our lives. It has been tough not being able to go home, not seeing friends and family and being “stuck” in Phuket. Yes, I know, it is beautiful, but we feel a little claustrophobic now. We did a quick trip to Bangkok and went in search of graffiti. This is what we found in Charlerma Park in Ratchathewi. https://thesmartlocal.com/thailand/bangkok-graffiti-park/
I had a willing model to help me bring the art to life. I heard that things get covered over and over so I am sure next time we go, it will look different.
It really has been a very quiet time over here in Phuket. Even though tourists have been trickling in, the island is still pretty empty and places continue to be closed. There is little to do apart from eating out and going to the beach which is not bad considering we are in the middle of a pandemic. We did manage to leave the island last week and went up north to Chiang Mai and Pai. The road to Pai goes through the mountains and there are 762 bends which I thoroughly enjoyed – most of them hairpin and switchback. Apparently it was built by the Japanese during the 2nd World War.
Pai is a small town near the Myanmar border. Largely unheard of, it became a hippy, backpacker destination and is now full of cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops. I kind of liked it and didn’t like it! It was quiet which helped but I am not sure if I would have enjoyed a small town full of backpackers. The countryside around it is magnificent though so go there, get out of town for the day and come back in the evening for food and music.
Pai Canyon or Kong Lan in Thai is described in some tourist brochures as Thailand’s answer to the Grand Canyon. To say that’s stretching a point would be putting it mildly. Pai Canyon’s geological and topographic features are quite stunning. This unique geographical area has been formed by continuous erosion over decades until reaching the current condition. The carved narrow ledges and slabs that have survived the erosive actions of the elements have steep 30 meters deep cliff drops and a series of narrow walkways cut on the ridges of giant rock walls that snake out into the densely forested valley. I found it a little scary so did not venture far. Very slippery and too steep for my liking!
The Bamboo Bridge near Pai (also known as Boon Ko Ku So) is an 1 km long bridge that stretches over a field of lush rice fields and leads to a bamboo temple. The wonderfully springy trail takes you over bright green rice paddies. The name Kho Ku So translates into ‘The Bridge of Merit’. Originally built for the monks at the bamboo temple by the locals. Before the bridge, the monks had to walk over 6 km to reach the village to obtain food. The journey took them a long time as the path lead through forest and the rice fields. In order to make the journey shorter the bridge was built. Now the monks no longer have to avoid stumbling through the rice plantations as they can stroll over the lovely fields via the Kho Ku So. It was truly beautiful, especially as there were no people! I think you are getting the idea that empty is best.
On the way to Pai, we stopped at Pong Dueat in is the biggest geyser hot spring in Thailand. It is located in a national park called Huai Nam Dang. The temperature of the water in the geyser can go up to 150 degrees celsius. The water springs 2 metres high every 30 seconds although we did not see it go so high when we were there. The circular walk is very beautiful and about 1.5kms. Again, we seemed to be the only people there.
Chiang Mai has 117 Buddhist temples. Wat Chiang Man was built by Mangrai in 1297 CE as the first temple of Chiang Mai. It gives you an idea of how old they are. This time, we visited Wat Chedi Luang, its construction started in the 14th century and was finished in the mid-15th century. It is home to Chiang Mai’s largest Buddhist chedi – 98 meters tall and 54 meters in diameter.
From Chiang Mai, we went to Doi Suthep temple. A Thai saying goes, “If you haven’t tasted Khao Soi or seen the view from Doi Suthep, you haven’t been to Chiang Mai.” This regal mountain overlooks the city from the northwest, with beautiful views from its summit. Aside from its dominating presence on the horizon, Doi Suthep is the home of some of the most deeply loved symbols in Thailand. The highest peak in the park is Doi Pui which tops off at 1,685 meters (5,528 feet), making it the eighth largest mountain in Thailand. he main reason many visitors come to Doi Suthep National Park is to visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a venerable and venerated temple that is one of the most holy Buddhist sites in Thailand. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a major pilgrimage destination, especially during the Buddhist holidays of Makha Bucha and Visakha Bucha (February 13 and May 11). Beware, there are 309 steps to climb – there is a tram which we said no to before realising how many steps there were!
We stopped off at a Karen/Kayan village which is meant to be for tourists. Not the sort of thing we would normally go to but as there were no tourists about, we thought we would stop for a coffee and buy something to help them out. This is one of several privately owned ethnic villages in northern Thailand that are home to migrants from the Karenni or Red Karen hill tribe in Myanmar’s Kayah State, formerly known as Karenni State. The village was a popular tourist attraction, with visitors queuing to see the elongated, brass-ringed necks of the Red Karen women but now there are no tourists and they are struggling.
From the age of five or six, girls begin winding a series of heavy brass coils around their necks to give them an elongated appearance. The coils, weighing up to four or five kilograms by the time a woman reaches adulthood, push down on their collarbones and compress their ribcages. The women say that it is for beautification and that it gives a sense of cultural identity. Some say this is a cruel practice and it is mysoginistic, personally, I don’t like it but it is not clear cut. Contrary to popular belief, the women do not die if they remove their neck rings. It is reported that they feel uncomfortable for a period after removing the rings, until their body adjusts to not having them.
As the Kayan Long Neck tribe are not native to Thailand, but are refugees here, seeking refuge from persecution in Myanmar, no natural or authentic Kayan villages exist in Thailand. The Kayan Long Neck that live in Thailand reside in refugee camps and have refugee status. This means that they have limited access to education, medical care, employment and that their movement is restricted. So, do we want to promote these villages? What do the Karen want? They want tourists as it is their way of making some money but for us it can seem like a human zoo.
Cape Panwa beach in Phuket and the old Sino Portuguese house on the grounds of the Cape Panwa Hotel
That’s all for now. Enjoy the photos and I’ll see you all after Xmas!