A great time was had, we didn't get to the original viewpoint because we had more to do that day. However, we had a great experience, a massive challenge in flip-flops, met some nice locals who were just what I have come to expect from people in the little experienced real Thailand of the small villages and towns. A totally different bunch than the bunch in Bangkok; they are smart, friendly, inventive and engaging people and if you do not get out and converse with them, you can never say you know or have lived Thailand.
The destination of my most recent road trip was to experience and review Khao Chamao-Khao Wong National Park. Whilst planning the trip I came across a small view point on a mountain in the area of That Tong in Chonburi province. It was on the way and seemed like a nice place to stop, get some exercise and see the area from a view. Little information was provided on the google maps review so I just knew where it was but not where the trail entrance started. A lot of the hikes in Thailand are like this; hiking is not a massive pastime here and most of these hikes are mainly used by the small village and towns younger population as a place to escape the annoyance of parents. The hiking area is only about 1hr30mins from Bangkok and 1hr from Pattaya. So a great hike that can be done in the space of a morning.
We arrived at about 10am and drove up what I thought was the right road, turned out I was wrong but sometimes making a wrong turn can deliver better results. The road was fairly poor but my Lizzy (Toyota Yaris), as she does, made it with surprising ease. As we passed, what google maps said was the trail entrance, we realized that this wasn't going to be our day, or so we thought. I had also spotted a temple nearby the hike and this was obviously the road to that temple. We therefore decided to keep going, have a look at the temple, take some Kodak moments and then head back down the road and over to the other side to see if the trail started there.
Phra That Khao Chao has an initial impressive image of three Buddhas of the same attitude/ asana but each with a different mudra which is the hand gesture. Each asana and mudra has a different meaning related to an important event in the life, or past lives, of the historical Buddha.
Starting from the right we see the fearlessness (Abhāya mudrā) thai:ปางประทานอภัย pang bprà-taan à-pai: either one or both arms are shown bent at the elbow and the wrist, with the palm facing outwards and the fingers pointing upwards. It shows the Buddha either displaying fearlessness in the face of adversity, or enjoining others to do so. Right hand raised is also called "calming animals" thai:ปางโปรดสัตว์ pang pròht sàt; both hands raised is also called "forbidding the relatives" thai:ปางห้ามญาติ pang ham yat. These 'mudrā are usually associated with a standing Buddha, but seated representations are not uncommon.
The far left we see the Buddha with the mudra gesture of calling for the rain. This is not one of the original Mudras and has been added so a more precise incident of life can be depicted by the artist.
In the centre we see the Buddha with the mudra gesture of Charity Varana mudra thai:ปางประทานพร pang bprà-taan pon: the right arm is shown pendent (extended downwards). This mudra is usually associated with a standing Buddha only. This position can signify either that the Buddha is granting blessings or receiving charitable offerings.
I then had a look at google maps again to plan our next move, that is when it got interesting. I saw that there was actually a waterfall called Khao Chao Waterfall not too far into the jungle. So with our flip-flops, bad idea, we started down the trail which I thought was the best one suited for the direction we needed to head. The trail started off fairly easy but gradually got steeper and steeper. Luckily there was 4G pretty much throughout the mountain, so I was able to gauge if we were heading the right way. At first we were going away from the waterfall but as it is so often, you will find the trail can suddenly turn and you will be heading the right direction. Things are never straight forward in life but I suppose that is what makes life so interesting and challenging.
We continued for quite a while with the trail getting steeper and muddier; we had been going in the right direction but then the trail started to go past the waterfall, way past 5555 we stopped to take in some water and look at the map. To our shock we then saw a pin for a hike and another viewpoint which looked much much better than the one we originally planned to go to. We were even actually on the right trail and only 10mins more hike away from the top. We were delighted with this unexpected turn of events and even though we were being absolutely menaced by the mosquitos we pushed on. We had not prepared for this which made it all the more funnier, we were both wearing flipflops and only my partner had on her leggings, we also only had one bottle of water between us and a 50year mother in law in tow 5555. My partners mum is no stranger to hardship and was an absolute champion that day, even though she is very fit, it was a tough, muddy and very sticky trail.
We muscled on and randomly bumped into a Thai guy on his Honda CRF250 motocross bike. I am a big motocross guy and made him aware I was a KLX250 guy to which he laughed and said, "good bike, good bike". I think he was a bit surprised to see a farang in flipflops being trailed by his partner in flipflops and even stranger the mum in law...also in flipflops, how we roll, spontaneous, crazy and always up for a hike!
We made it to the top where again this story and adventure just got even better. We snaked through some tall grass and large rocks and made it to the view point only to find a young Thai guy from the local village was calmly sitting across the viewpoint cooking his lunch in two shoots of bamboo over a small fire. Again, total surprise on his face and probably thinking who is this idiot and what does he want. No really, he was such a nice dude, offered to take our picture in front of the viewpoint, gave us information about the mountain and trails and allowed us to inspect his authentic feast of Thai curry and rice cooked in natural bamboo.
We had a sniff around the top for a bit and realized that there is a circular trail around the top with a large centered area of tall long grass on the top. The information the boy gave us was invaluable, we had gone up the hardest trail 5555 and he set us on course for a trail down which would take us past the chedi and would be a lot less strain on my poor mother in law. We said our thanks, wished him a good meal and headed downwards. He was most definitely right, the other trail is a lot easy and we were down in no time at all. We took in the Chedi near the bottom and then headed back to the car by which time this kid had eaten his meal, packed up and caught up with us.
One of the more stranger days but definitely not a surprise for us anymore. Information on hikes and some waterfalls is really limited in Thailand, especially the ones which are not very popular or have been abandoned. This is partly the reason why I am writing hiking articles, The well known hikes of Thailand are well written about but are mostly far from Bangkok. I feel there are so many small hikes around Bangkok on these randomly dotted mountains, with trails which are possibly thousands of years old and really a great experience. I really believe there are a lot of foreigners in Bangkok who think that the only hikes available are a plane ride away or hours in the car. This is totally wrong and I know a dozen or so hikes within 2hrs of Bangkok.
A great time was had, we didn't get to the original viewpoint because we had more to do that day. However, we had a great experience, a massive challenge in flipflops, met some nice locals who were just what I have come to expect from people in the little experienced real Thailand of the small villages and towns. A totally different bunch than the bunch in Bangkok; they are smart, friendly, inventive and engaging people and if you do not get out and converse with them, you can never say you know or have lived Thailand.
The trail starts left of the three Buddhas and right of some concrete objects. Take the right trail and you will go passed the chedi, go to the back of it and you will see a trail going up the mountain. Take this trail all the way to the top. When you feel that you are quite high you will come to a fork which is the circular trail around the top, take a right and follow that trail. When you see the long grass and an open area, that's the top area, for the viewpoint take a right and you will see some large rocks and a viewpoint. Happy hiking!