Skip to content

nakrian

khi nok, among other things

Tag Archives: Tourism

Emiko and I went to Bangkok on July 7th to do some light shopping and sight-seeing. We happened upon a soi* that was celebrating one of the most romantic (Japanese) holidays of the year: Tanabata**. This holiday celebrates the love and marriage of two stars: Orihime, the Weaving Princess, and Hikoboshi, the Shepherd. Their romance was all-encompassing and passionate– so much so that they ended up neglecting their sky-duties. Tenkou, the Sky King (and Orihime‘s father), was angry at the two lovers and so he sent them to live at opposite sides of the Milky Way so they could focus on their work. However, Tenkou was sympathetic to the desires of his lovelorn daughter, so he allowed the couple the opportunity to meet once a year, every year– as long as the young couple worked very hard to complete their duties over the ensuing months.

The celestial reunion of Orihime and Hikoboshi usually happens on July 7th, when the stars Vega and Altair are in close proximity to one another. If you happen to be in Japan on July 7th, and the night is clear, you just might be able to witness the heady reunion of the star-couple.

Traditionally, the Japanese celebrate the Star Festival by writing wishes and desires on tanzaku (brightly-colored paper streamers) and then hanging the inscribed streamers–along with other paper decorations–on bamboo trees. After the festival the streamers are burned in a bright bonfire to help make the wishes come true.

Writing wishes on streamers for Tanabata

Tanzaku hanging from the branches of a bamboo tree

While my wish wasn’t romantic or even that specific, I do hope it comes true– through hard work and inner-reflection (I wrote on my tanzaku that I want to be a happier and healthier person). Although, now that I am thinking about it, a little magic every now and then is always nice. I could certainly stand some glitter in my life (kind of like Newt Gingrich in this video).

* Alley-way

** The Star Festival

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

A few weekends ago, the gang and I decided to take a little sight-seeing trip to Pak Chong in Nakhon Ratchasima province (roughly an hour from my village). We drove by rice and tapioca farms, mountains, temples, and many street stalls. The views were absolutely breathtaking; it seemed as though everything was in Technicolor. Pak Chong, in my opinion, is Thailand’s interpretation of The Wizard of Oz.

Pak Chong is replete with many richly colored farms and fields

Field ready for planting with mountain back-drop in Pak Chong

After making a few stops along the way to take pictures and buy fruit at road-side stands (custard apples & 2lb mangoes), we finally arrived at our intended destination: Khao Lak Chang Bat Cave. The cave is about 3km from Khao Yai National Park and is actually quite difficult to find without the aid of GPS and a Thai-speaking friend.

We arrived at Khao Lak Chang at a quarter after 5:00pm which gave us enough time to hike up the mountain for a closer look at the cave before the bats began their nightly hunt. The mountain was rocky and the soil quite fertile, so hiking up to the cave was like a game of chutes and ladders: three steps forward, one slip back!

Hiking (and falling) up to the Khao Lak Chang cave

The smell of urine and guano grew exponentially stronger the closer we got to the cave’s entrance, as did the presence of flies and mosquitoes (the joke of the climb was that we were “undeturd” by the smell–clever, I know). The tiny cries of the khang-khaw* became more audible and more persistent, until I thought I would go crazy from the odor, the flies, and the droning chirps and shrieks of the bats.

Entrance of Khao Lak Chang Bat Cave

A gate was erected to protect the khang-khaw from meddling sight-seers (i.e. people like us), so we could not go exploring inside the cave. However, we were able to climb up the gate and snap a few photos of the immediate entrance. This was perhaps not a very safe endeavor as the mountain was steep, but it did yield some good shots of the activity inside the cave.

Khang-khaw preparing for their nighttime departure

While we might not have been able to see much inside the cave, the view of the farms and horizon below us were absolutely incredible.

View from the entrance of Khao Lak Chang Bat Cave

Shortly after seeing a 5-foot-long (1.5m) black, king cobra near the cave entrance (an adrenaline-inducing experience to be sure), khang-khaw began to make their way out of the cave to go on their nightly hunt. I snapped a few photos before we hurried down the mountain to take in the show in its entirety.

Bats beginning to exit the cave

Millions of bats leaving the cave at sunset

Clouds, mountains, and mountains of clouds

Bats, bats, bats!
Every so often Thai children would scream, causing the bats to momentarily scatter across the sky before reuniting in their tight stream

A cluster of khang-khaw

Filing out of the cave to go on their nighttime hunt for food

The show, which starts around 5:45-6:00pm, lasts for roughly an hour and a half. If you are ever lucky enough to see the rare, wrinkle-lipped bats leaving their cave in Pak Chong, you will be in for quite a spectacle. The sound of the bats overhead is like a strong wind, which is punctuated now and then by the shrieks and screams of young Thai children trying to disrupt the path of the bats. The experience was amazing and I strongly encourage all tourists and residents of Thailand to check out Khao Lak Chang Bat Cave.

* Bats

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Monday was Buddha Day1 and also a full moon. Following a late lunch of Paht Pak Toa Huu2 and sugarcane juice, we drove to Wat Khao Jan Ngam3 to walk off our meal and appreciate Buddhist history. At the base of the mountain handwritten signs alternated between cautioning visitors of king cobras and informing them to abide by the Buddhist tenets in order to become beautiful women or intelligent men (bah!). As we hiked to find 4,000-year-old pictograms drawn on the wall of a boulder, gnats and flies warned us of rain. The drawings, which feature animals and thick-calved herders, were in great condition considering that they were completely exposed to potential vandalism and rain. Across from the pictograms stood a shrine, perhaps in celebration of the boulder-work. The shrine consisted of melted candles and spent incense, a naga4 statue, and a baby preserved in a jar of formaldehyde atop a wooden table. The baby, while perhaps not directly related to the pictograms, is meant to be a lesson for people who do not successfully care for their bodies while pregnant. In the hope of bringing themselves choke dii5, Thai visitors will often supplicate the spirit of the deceased infant with offerings of baby toys, bananas, and lotuses.

Wat Khao Jan Ngam: Prehistoric Painting

We continued our hike up the cloudy mountain, maneuvering between large boulders topped with trees whose roots spilled over the rock walls. Under thunderclaps and rain, we made our way past Buddha’s footprint and found shelter in the hut of a forest monk. Sitting barefoot on the monk’s wooden bed, we talked about cobras and watched as steam rose from the rocks of the mountain. When the rain began to let up, we hiked quickly down to the  car and headed back to our village.

Wat Khao Jan Ngam: Mike & Buddha's Footprint

Wat Khao Jan Ngam is exceptionally beautiful– and secluded. Hiking through the park under the darkened brow of the sky was an eerie experience (it would make a great backdrop for a ghost film). Wat Khao Jan Ngam is off the beaten [tourist] track and it is difficult to find much information on the location, paintings, sculptures, and carvings on the mountain–it’s not even listed in the 2010 Lonely Planet: Thailand travel guide. It is easy to see why many monks take meditation retreats at this mountain.

If you are interested in visiting Wat Khao Jan Ngam, it is located in Amphoe Sikhiu, Nakhon Ratchasima. Take Mittraphap Rd. (Highway 2) and turn left at kilometer 198 (near Mountain Creek golf course). The temple is another 3-5km down the forested road.

1. Buddha’s birthday

2. Tofu with stir-fried vegetables, served with rice

3. Temple of the Beautiful Moon Mountain

4. A one-or many-headed hooded serpent

5. Good luck

Tags: , , , ,