…Top Ten Things That Stand Out.
This time last year I posted several “Top Ten…” articles, covering everything I could think of.
Looking back, that seems like overkill. This year, I’ll try to focus on the top ten things – whatever they may be – that stand out as exceptional experiences from 2016. And I must say, it hasn’t been easy to narrow them down to ten.
But, I do have time on my hands. The monsoon season is continuing pretty-much unabated here in Southern Thailand, and the Met. Office today has issued a heavy rain and high seas warning for at least the next ten days. Oh what fun.
So, without making any attempt to prioritize them, here they are in chronological order…
- Tapi River Tour.
- Khanom Lookout.
- Wat Khao Suan Pradit.
- Thale Noi Waterfowl Reserve.
- Khmer Empire Stone Temples.
- Wat Kradang Nga.
- Ban Phum Riang.
- Ban Khiri Wong.
- Festival Of The Tenth Lunar Month.
- Laem Sak.
About a year ago I was wandering around the town of Surat Thani, not with any particular intent in mind, when – somewhere near the main jetty – I realized someone was shouting and waving at me.
When I investigated, it turned out the guy was a long-tail boatman, offering tours on the tributaries – and there are many – of the Tapi River. It sounded interesting, if a little expensive – so I promised to return. Why I didn’t go there and them I can’t remember, but I’m sure I had a good reason!
Anyhoo, I did return, only a couple of weeks later, and I have to say, this was a real experience. Most of Surat Thani town is on the south side of the river. The north side has not much of anything in the way of civilization. Just a few riverside hamlets. Most of the tour was through the narrow, quiet and peaceful backwaters of the main river.
To be honest, there’s not a heck of a lot of things to do in Surat Thani, so if you happen to find yourself there, this is probably the best thing you can do with an hour or two. But if you check the Travel Index page, you’ll find a few other worthwhile things to see.
March was the month I moved from Sichon to here in Khanom. During numerous tootlings around the area looking for somewhere to live, I spotted a sign to something called a lookout. The road next to the sign was decidedly narrow and went steeply uphill. An interesting challenge 🙂
When I did get the change to go up, I discovered it was more of a challenge than expected. Part way up, and at the steepest point, it changes from concrete to rough gravel. At least, it did in March. I really should go back there soon – when the weather improves. I’m sure right now the top would in the clouds.
And I guess I should confess, I did go a second time, and managed to get stuck part way up. A car was stalled ahead of me, and when I stopped on the steep gravel, it was – game over! Only one way to go.
Bert lacks a few of the bells and whistles you might expect on a fairly new vehicle, perhaps the most important being a backup camera. Making a twenty-one point turn is preferable to trying to reverse on a steep mountain road and risking sliding down the side.
The town of Don Sak is just up the road from me. Well, twenty minutes or so. Most people don’t spend any more time there than they have to as it’s home to the two main ferry terminals for boats to Koh Samui.
That’s a shame. It has one of the nicest wats, with some of the best views from its hilltop location. Looking at it now, while being deafened by yet more torrential rain, makes me realize how much I’m missing the stunning blue skies. This was taken last May…
Thale Noi, which translates to Little Sea, is a lake straddling Patthalung and Songhla provinces roughly 200kms south of me. Well, that’s where it starts if you’re heading south, but the chain of lagoons that form Songkhla Lake continue for another seventy or so kilometers, and are some thirty kilometers wide.
The thing to do is rent a boat and “driver” and cruise through the water lillies, observing not only the numerous varieties, but also the huge range of water birds and fowl.
I seem to make one epic trip per year. In 2016 it was the long slog up to a place called Buriram. Yes, I like driving, and don’t usually call a trip “a long slog” but from here to Bangkok, there is only one road, and on this occasion it was a good fifty percent construction zones.
At 1100kms, I could have planned to reach Buriram – another three hours beyond Bangkok – in one long day. I’m glad I didn’t. That would have been painful.
There is so much to see in Thailand, I made it a three day trip each way. My number one reason for going was to visit the Buriram International Circuit, but a close second, was to see the thousand year-old Khmer temples. I saw a lot. Very impressive, and well worth the drive.
If you’re a regular Twitterings reader you’ll know I’m a sucker for wats. Not for any religious reason. I’m just amazed by the colors and designs, and the thought that they are all constructed thanks to public donations. If I catch one on a fine day, with a clear blue sky as a backdrop, well, the camera is put into overdrive mode.
I was tootling around Khanom one day, as I do, when I noticed Wat Kradang Nga shining in the early morning sun. I’ve driven past many times. I’ve photographed it on more than one occasion, but this time I was lucky that I was spotted by one of the monks, who allowed me to photograph the murals on the walls of the main prayer hall.
North of Surat Thani City is the small town of Ban Phum Riang. The internet will tell you its famous for its silk making. Maybe at one time that was true, but now, there’s just one backstreet shack where silk is still made. Finding it was a challenge, and I only succeeded with the help of a local shopkeeper.
August was in fact the third time I’d been there in search of the silk makers. If I’d known there were only two ladies tucked away behind the local mosque, I might not have bothered. But I’m glad I did…
Only thirty kilometers west of Nakhon Si Thammarat, and about an hour and a half away from me, this small village tends to be popular with tourists. That’s a shame; and I know, I normally comment on the lack of tourists, but Ban Khiri Wong is a small place, and it struggles to accommodate the tour buses and crowds of people.
I had to do a little detective work to find out when and where this festival would take place, but the nice lady in the Nakhon Si Thammarat tourist office was super-helpful, and so I found myself in the right place at the right time.
It was one of those days when everyone was out on the street in their finest clothes and in their friendliest moods, and if they weren’t part of the procession, they were still going to have fun.
In October I spent a day on a small cape – Laem Sak – in Krabi province. It was quite a special experience. A combination of wandering around the fishing villages chatting with people, and visiting the under-construction Wat Laem Sak with its hilltop views of the sea and islands…
Wow! And those are just the top ten. I could have made it top twenty or thirty. So many experiences in one year. Let’s see what 2017 will bring. More of the same, I hope.
Just a short admin note: If you want to read the original articles, the headings are links. Click and enjoy!