…I Finally Got There.
Why do I say that? Well, I probably started planning the trip three years ago. It’s not close-by so I wanted to be sure of perfect weather. And there were plenty more places to go that were closer. Then I imprisoned myself on a tropical island for a year.
Yesterday, for some reason, I woke before dawn. When the sun finally put in an appearance it looked like a cloudless sky. “I should go somewhere” I thought. Then the brain said “Go to Takua Pa.” I’d pretty much forgotten about the place.
But, I’d done the planning. I had a list of a dozen places to see, so breakfast was hastily breakfasted, and I was on the road early.
Takua Pa is about 230kms almost due west of Khanom. Unfortunately the road is not quite so precise. It’s down a bit, up a bit, left a bit, right a bit… you get the picture. But for the last hour – and since there’s only one road, the first hour of the return journey – the scenery is pretty spectacular.
The road winds up and through Khao Sok National Park. It’s so remote there were even elephants wandering alongside the road. But me being me, driving just ever-so slightly above the speed limit, I was well past before I thought “I should have taken photos.” Oh well, I’m sure you know what elephants look like.
And why would I go there? Well, it’s a very old place. There are records of a settlement dating back to about 40BCE. Not that there’s anything left of that, as far I as I could determine, but there’s evidence of trading activity from at least 500 years ago. That is, I should explain, if you go to the old town.
If you’ve zoomed through the place on the 401 heading to the coast, you’re probably thinking “This guy’s nuts.” And you’d be right, but not because I’m mis-describing Takua Pa. I’m talking about the old town which is maybe 7 or 8 kilometers to the south of the new and better-known town.
The new town is like any other Thai town that’s on a major highway. 7-11 convenience stores on every corner and a PTT gas station at each end. Not that I’d complain about the latter. They always have clean washrooms, and an Amazon Café with quality capuccino and chocolate cake. I fill up there often. My stomach, that is.
I went to quite a few places in and around the town, but let’s start with the town itself. It’s a typical Peranakan town, that is, inhabited by people who are descended from the Chinese settlers who arrived between the 15th and 17th centuries, most of whom came to the region to work the tin mines. In fact, there’s a mural in the town showing the process of tin dredging. That died out about fifty years ago.
Actually the word “peranakan” is an interesting example of Malay prefixes and suffixes. And by “Malay” I mean Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia. In English we add suffixes to alter the meaning, such as go, going, gone. In Malay, the suffix ‘an’ can be added to make a noun, and ‘kan’ to make a verb. If you look at the middle of peranakan, it contains anak, and that means child. Anakan is therefore the noun that means child. But there’s a prefix, “per.” I can’t think of any instance where this happens in English.
This is where it gets a bit complicated, but “per” or “pe” if there’s a following consonant, indicates the word is something that comes from the following letters. So in this context, the Peranakan people are descendants (children) of the original Chinese immigrants.
You can find Peranakan people and Peranakan towns right down the Peninsular in places like Penang, Melaka and Singapore. Anyways, here’s a couple of photos of typical streets…
Sorry if they look a bit blurred. I had a senile moment and forgot to check the camera settings before shooting. I’ve never really figured why the settings should change. By default I leave the camera on “Landscape.” But during the night, the camera gremlins (I call them cannonites) wander around resetting everything.
If you think the town doesn’t look too exciting, well, until you look more closely, it isn’t. These are pix of what is usually called The Five Foot Way…
The idea is that you can walk under the overhanging upper floor to stay out of the sun and rain. You have to walk carefully because all the buildings are on a different level, but that’s not a problem in Takua Pa as the residents have found a different use for the pathway.
You have to look into the buildings to see the interesting things. This is someone’s front room. Yes, really…
I stood chatting for a while with (I assume) the owner’s son. Just behind the door you can see on the left his mother was eating lunch. He invited me to join them. It’s that kind of place. Everyone is a friend. But, not knowing when or if I would get lunch, I’d just stuffed my face with the aforementioned Amazon chocolate cake. Plus, it was a bit early. The place seems to grind to a halt at midday. It would have been an experience.
Talking of grinding to a halt, this must be the office of the Ministry of Early Lunches…
Every place I looked into was the same. Nothing was closed nor locked. Just, abandoned for the lunch break. It was like they’d all vaporized.
Did I mention it’s a small place? They even have a mobile bank ATM! And you can sit and relax while you’re banking and ATMing…
Here’s some more views from around the town…