Until recently, this place was unknown to all except the local residents – of whom there are very few. It’s a bit remote. I think travelling north from Phuket there are signs, but going south from Phang-Nga town – as I was – you really need GPS.
There’s a left turn off Highway 4 that’s tough to find, but after that it’s just a long and winding road (cue Beatles) until you see a gravel parking area on the right.
I was expecting it to be busy.
After being recently “discovered” by the tourism industry, supposedly there are now kilometers of parked cars, and thousands of visitors a day. They must have been warned of my arrival. I drove straight into the parking lot, which is big enough for – oh – at least fifteen cars, or fewer trucks and buses. There were four trucks plus Bert.
I’d also read about a Bt50 entry fee, but maybe that’s only on weekends. I walked onto the uphill slog without seeing any ticket sellers.
I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be a wide pathway or a narrow road. I’ve seen photos of steps carved into the gravel, but they’re not there now. Washed away maybe. There is rope at the side, but this lasts only about a hundred meters, after which, you climb ever upwards with care. The gravel is loose and stony. You have to pick your steps to avoid slipping backwards. And there’s no way I’d attempt to drive up there unless I had a truck with low gearing and a locked differential – even if you are allowed to.
Why would you slip? For most of the journey, it’s steep. Forty degrees steep. Which, I expect, is a wild exaggeration. In reality it’s probably only 39 degrees. You need stamina and determination. From some parts of the road there’s a good view, and you can either say “F’it. That’s as far as I’m going” or you can start to appreciate how amazing the view must be when you reach the top. I chose the latter. If you go, you should too.
But, be warned, walking down is in some ways harder. If you take anything bigger than baby steps, you’re likely to find yourself walking so quickly you can’t stop. And there’s still the loose gravel to contend with. It’s tricky.
Anyhoo, allow yourself fifteen to twenty minutes each way. You’ll need to take breaks.
The origin of the name, according to legend, is that a nun named Nang She would visit a monk living on the hill, and would have to raise her long robe – or samed – when crossing a local river. What they did next is best left to the imagination. But if she had to climb the same hill, I’d say – not much.
Nearing the top, I was surprised to see a pickup truck heading down. As I mentioned, properly equipped, this would be reasonably safe. And there were tourists sitting on the back. Hmm, maybe some tourists are more important than others and can arrange a ride up and down. Then I was surprised by one of the tailgate sitters, an American lady, greeting me with a hearty “Namaste.”
Okay, I have a half-decent tan, but do I really look Indian?
I think maybe she was on a wistle-stop tour of Asia and had forgotten where she was. Anyways, I was suitably polite with my reply as her tailgating neighbor looked like an African American basketball player who could have leapt off the truck, bounced me up and down a few times, and thrown me off the hill. All with one hand.
But they encouraged me with shouts of “Great Job. Well done. Almost there.” Easy to say when your only exercise for the day has been making sure your bum stays firmly on the truck.
They were right though. Thirty more steps and I arrived at the most amazing sight. I would say “breathtaking” but I had no breath left to be taken. Let’s settle on “awesome”…
The vista is more than 180 degrees wide, and spans the whole of Phang-Nga bay.
I guess Ko Panyee, which I’d visited at the start of the day, is out there somewhere.
The odd thing is that despite being on the west coast, this sea view is to the east, looking back towards Krabi province. After Phang-Nga town, the land becomes a wide promontory for fifty kilometers or so, ending in the island of Phuket. Phang-Nga Bay is between the parts of the land. (Try clicking on the “Where Was I?” button at the bottom, and you see what I mean.)
It’s apparently popular with campers, who rise early to see the sunrise. I’d actually planned to be there later in the day to see the effects of sunset shining onto the islands, but I was several hours ahead of my predicted schedule. No matter. Maybe another day. It’s worth a repeat visit despite the climb. But now top of my “To Buy” list is a good pair of walking boots. I think they’ll make trips like this easier.
I had to chuckle on the way down. Just starting the climb was a tour group of, I think, Russian tourists wearing flop-flops. “They’re going to slide backwards out of those” I thought. The macho guys were marching ahead, leaving families to wonder what they were in for. One family took a quick look at the first part of the hill and turned around, and I’ll wager none of them made it to the top.
And, having waddled all the back to the bottom, I realized why they might need a Rescue truck. The climb would definitely be too tough or too strenuous for some.
On the way home I was thinking how I should be feeling exhausted, but in fact felt quite exhilarated. Then I recalled reading recently how sudden bursts of extreme exercise are the best way to extend your life. Rather than chopping ten years off my life, I may actually have extended it by ten minutes.
So I started wondering how I could get regular bursts of extreme exercise … which lead me to a light-bulb moment.
Every evening, instead of taking an leisurely stroll, I could run flat out, as fast as possible … between the television and the ‘fridge, every time I wanted another beer. That – and let’s face it, there could be several such exercise sessions per evening – could add at least five seconds a day to my life.
And of course, the corollary to that would be – if I drink enough beer, I could live forever. Pretty smart, eh!