CHRIS & ANDY'S TRIP '04 travel blog

In the forest at Suan Hin Pha Ngam Park.

After my attempt at the 'wheel', First gave it a try.

Buddha had a great view at the top of Phu Rua National...

A couple of bells at the summit.

A closer view of the statue in the late afternoon.

Wang Saphung is a small town about 20 km. from Loei, the largest town in the area. The northeast is on a high plateau and is a bit cooler than the south. Pui was staying for most of the month to work at the family store before going back to Bangkok to continue working on her master's degree. Fight was just using the trip to get to Bangkok and start school as well. In the morning we went to Pui's store and I met her family. She took First, John, Fight, her aunt and myself to a waterfall called Suan Hom. From there we went on to Suan Hin Pha Ngam Park. Here we got a guide and walked through twisted rock canyons that rose hundreds of feet above us. The paths were narrow and we had to duck under and curve around the rock walls and caves. This was all surrounded by thick forest and it was hard to get good photos. It was easy to get lost in the maze of rock and having the guide was a good idea. Eventually, we came out at a high overlook and enjoyed the view. On the way back to the parking area I took the wheel of the tractor powered people mover we were on. This was a Kubota tractor motor mounted in front of a long steering mechanism and it pulled a wagon where the passengers sat. You had to squeeze a clutch-type handle and each side in order to turn the machine-very awkward.

We next went to the Chateau de Loei Winery and had a taste. This is the premier winery in Thailand and they export to Europe and the U.S. We had to go through the winery property in order to get to Phu Rua National Park. Here I had to pay double what everyone else paid. I thought the park guy was trying to make a little money for himself off of me, but he pointed to the sign that indicated the higher 'farang' or foreigner price. The park was a high pine forest with several viewpoints and overlooks. At the end of the long, steep road we came to a Buddha statue looking out over the plains below. They all paid their respects and rang the bell with the wooden mallet. We took some photos and enjoyed the cool weather.

That night they had a BBQ for me. This was Korean-style cooking with the meat and vegetables being cooked on a sort of metal dome over hot coals. First's cousin, John, made me a music compilation cd of a band called Carabao. He got 10 albums worth of m-pegs on one cd and I traded him for a copy of my homemade music. The next afternoon we left Pui in Wang Saphung and First, Fight and I headed back to Bangkok. Late in the day we were cruising along in mild traffic when a girl on a motorbike at the side of the road ahead of us decided to turn around. She pulled out right in front of us and First hit the brakes hard. We skidded as she turned broadside to us and stopped in the middle of our lane. First let off the brakes for a second to gain some traction, turned a little to avoid running directly into her and hit the brakes again. We came to a dead stop in the middle of the road, tires smoking as she putted off looking like she didn't have a care in the world.

We got back to Bangkok late in the evening and First thought I should stay someplace closer to where he lives so it would be easier to pick me up to go places. All the rooms in that area, though, were rented on a long term basis and we couldn't find anything suitable, so he took me back to Bansabai were I was before. The girl working the night shift wouldn't let me have the same rate that I had before when Nok had signed for me to get her discount. I stayed across the lane at First's aunt's place and in the morning went back and talked to someone different and negotiated a better rate for three days.

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