…A Vertical Erection In Surat Thani.
Do you ever have one of those days when you have a million things to do, but can’t be bothered to do any of them? Yesterday was like that.
By lunchtime, I realized I’d spent more time staring at the beautiful blue sky than I had at my computer screen.
“I need to go out” I thought. “I need to discover something.” So I did.
On my way back from Surat Thani a couple of weeks ago, at the end of the Hunt The Silkweavers trip, I decided to avoid the busy ring road, and headed south towards the always deserted highway 44. The latter runs sort-of East-West, so I was travelling roughly along the two sides of a right -angled triangle, rather than taking the hypotenuse. Yes, you could say I had an acute feeling of being obtuse!
Anyhoo, shortly after leaving the ring road, I realised that on my left was a steep hill. Surat Thani city is not famous for its hills. In fact, it’s incredibly flat. It’s home to the umpteen tributaries and estuaries of the Tha Pi river, and generally rivers are not known for going up and down hills.
But, a hill there was, and it had small roads looking like they might lead upwards, so I made a mental note to investigate further. I even remembered.
Back to yesterday…
I needed to do some shopping before the weekend, having allowed two essential food groups to become seriously low. Beer & wine! So, I figured first I would find the hill, and then I’d do some shopping.
Needless to say, shortly after I left home, the skies became overcast and dark. No matter. The shopping had to be done. So I pressed on.
Just what I was going to find, I wasn’t sure. Googling had uncovered some mention of a monument, plus a Wildlife and Nature Education Station – where they had “Many caged wild animals.” I wasn’t too impressed with the idea of the latter. To my mind, wild animals should be – well – wild!
Eventually I found the correct small road that lead up the hill, and almost immediately was stopped by a barrier and a man selling entrance tickets. Hmm, I hadn’t expected to pay for the privilege of not looking at wild animals.
Then it was let’s screw the farang time. I understand enough Thai to know he was asking me for 60 baht, which I was busily preparing. But the barrier-operating old lady, sitting in her pondok was insisting he change this to 80 baht. It’s not a lot of money, and I’m sure they put their shared 20 baht to good use, and in return I was handed three tickets.
So, I guess that would be one for me, one for Bert and one for Ms. Chuckles – who had joined me in case I couldn’t find the correct small road. Which I couldn’t.
Or, with most Thais believing in a spirit world, maybe he’d spotted Bert’s invisible girlfriend. Or perhaps my invisible girlfriend. Now that’s a scary thought.
So, the three of us, with tickets in hand, tootled up the steep narrow road, until it opened into a wide parking lot.
Just as I jumped out, I realised someone was talking to me. It was the self-styled Mr. TooN IT who’d helped me find parts for my PC. Small world. It seems he doubles as a Tour Guide as well as PC Fixer. We had a pleasant, but short chat.
The British couple he was tour-guiding didn’t seem at all amused by no longer receiving his complete and undivided attention. I made an attempt at pleasantries, but this only illicited a gorilla-like grunt sent roughly in my direction. Oh well, I guess they were paying for his time, and I wasn’t.
Right. I’m on top of a hill, surrounded by large, ancient trees. Now what?
Aside from the trees the first thing I saw was a lookout area. So I went over and looked out.
Impressive, but somewhat spoiled by the weather. That large cloud was clearly bringing rain, and was covering perhaps the most interesting part of the view – the town and river.
From there, I wandered up the hill and found the monument, known either as Phrathat Si Surat or Phra That Khao Tha Phet – Khao Tha Phet being the name of the hill. The monument was built in 1957 and houses some Buddha relics, which one website says were donated by the Indian government.
Okay, it’s quite attractive, but on a scale of all the wats and monuments Thailand has to offer, I’d only rate it at about two or three out of ten.
Having seen that, I looked around and wondered “What next?” The answer is, not much. There’s a few pathways that lead off into the jungle, going past long-abandoned cages, which I assume used to house the wild animals…
One road lead to this pleasant building which I’m guessing was someone’s home, but is now offices…
Mostly, the hill now seems to serve as a place to locate cell towers and the infrastructure needed to maintain them. Which I felt I didn’t need to pay to see.
Overall, I’d say this is not a place to bother with, unless on a nice clear day, you want a spectacular view of the city and the northern mountains.
For me, it was back down the hill and into that rain storm that had now arrived over the city. By the time I arrived at the shopping center it looked like the Big Sea was being deposited on the Big C.