The other weekend was another traveling weekend for me. This time we- Marie, Laura, and I- ventured to the boonies of Thailand- ironically named the Phetchabun (Phetch-ah-BOON) Province- to hike and camp. Phetchabun is located smack-dab in the middle of Thailand; a no-man’s land that happens to have incredible mountain scenery and epic temples.
Since this trip was planned on a 3-day weekend, I was excited to peace out of school on Thursday and prepare for an early departure Friday morning. So of course, a Higher-Up Power somewhere beyond decided to test my enthusiasm for this trip and have me scratch my eye with my contact lens.
Friday morning: I wake up to my face soaked wet from my teary eye, which is purple, swollen, and will barely open. Niiicccceeee. Snap decision time! Either 1) travel with half my eye sight or 2) be an adult, go to the doctors to prevent infection, and rest. Tick, tock. Tick, tock!
Navigating blindly into the wild it is!
Saturday was a bit of a blur (pun intended) as there’s quite a bit of transportation required to get to the middle of nowhere. Which was fine by me as I could barely see out my eyes at this point.
To explain to those who have never scratched their eye badly- your eye becomes SUPER sensitive to light. Like, eye instinctively rolling backwards to prevent light from coming in. Fortunately, our traveling day was cloudy and we were in bus with tinted windows for the majority of it. Unfortunately, this was still too much light for me, so I had to keep my eye shut while donning a pair of sunglasses and keeping my hand glued over my eye. Nice look.
Eventually, we arrived at our destination for the night: The Namnao National Park.
We checked in, were given our tent (the friendly park ranger took one look at my face and went “Oi!”- guess my eye was still looking ugly), and ventured out to find an area to set up camp.
It was at this point I recalled that- oh wait- I’ve never set up an actual tent before. Quite possibly doing so for the first time in the pitch black with only our phone lights to guide us might pose a challenge…
However, that Higher-Up Power from before finally decided to catch us a break. As we randomly held up tent poles, a neighboring camper walked on over. “You need help?” Ummmm, yes please! Immediately, 2 of his buddies came over to help. Meanwhile, another group of Thai neighbors poked their heads out of their tent to see if we needed help too.
God bless Thai people! We now had 5 men with legit flashlights tied to their heads (might as well have been halos) helping us set up camp. And when I say “help,” I mean they did the whole thing while we stood off to the side and tried talking to the women who were also there.
Wishing I had something to thank them with, I said Cop-coon-ka (thank you!) over and over again. To this, they simply replied “mai pen rai” (No worries!). We were safe and sound in our tent 5 minutes before a downpour began.
Thai people are the best.
The next morning, we intended to get up super early to hike up the mountain and watch the sunrise. The snooze button maaaayyyyy have been hit a few times, but hey, it ended up being a cloudy morning, so no harm done! Eventually we got up and started hiking up the highway. And here is where my second realization hit me: I am not in shape for hiking. And did I feel the burn on those inclines… Still, the end result was totally worth it:
It was one of those moments where I realized how lucky I was to be in Thailand. On top of a mountain. Bright and early on a Saturday morning. I was sad to leave because I knew I would probably never be back.
Afterwards, we set out to continue our hike and find a cave that was supposedly “nearby.” And of course, to be on the lookout for crossing elephants!
After hiking for way too long though, we hitch-hiked a ride from another Thai angel, who let us hop in the back of his truck. After dropping us off, we continued to hike to the cave spot.
Only, we never did find it… turns out we were hiking in the wrong direction. Oops. On the bright side, a 10-mile hike before 10:30am is an awesome way to start the day!
Thankfully, we were able to catch a ride back to our campground from some more nice Thai people. On the way back, they took a detour to show us some sights and what do you know! We were back at the Sunrise Viewpoint. And here I thought I would never see that place again. As we admired the view for a second time, one of the guys we were with ripped off a leaf from a tree and started eating it. He then generously offered some to us.
“Is this okay to eat?” We tried asking him.
“A-roi!” (delicious!) He said as he pointed to a sign written in Thai.
Well, that certainly cleared things up. Still, when someone offers you food in Thailand, you eat the food. Even if it’s a leaf. And what do you know, the leaf tasted exactly how I expected a leaf to taste. I’m still not sure if the guy was being sincere, or just messing with us…
So after eating a leaf, we did some more bus traveling to reach Phetchabun’s famous temples. These temples were at the top of a mountain and surrounded by cute cafés that jutted outwards.
The view itself was AMAZING!
Mountains for miles around and puffy clouds to complete the pictures:
Afterwards, it was time to leave the boonies and head back to civilization. Back in Bangkok, we stayed in a hostel where I got to really look at my eye for the first time. Turns out that I had popped several blood vessels and now had a blood red eye that resembled Natalie Portman’s eyes from The Black Swan.
No worries though. My eye is slowly turning back to normal. I’ve gotten many “Oi-s!” from my students (Thai people say “Oi!,” not “Whoa!”), which is actually kind of funny.
Overall, I give Phetchabun a 5 out of 5. There was a lot of bus travel, I was sore from hiking, and I might have struggled to see at some points, but it was well worth a 3-day weekend trip!