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I have had a number of readers write to me asking if things were OK as I haven’t updated the blog with new entries for a while. This has been the result of a number of factors. My stepdaughter Peng has an operation recently, which I wrote about HERE, and we have been more home based than normal supporting her during her recovery (she is doing great). I have also come across that time, which was bound to arrive at some stage, that no matter where we live and how different and varied it is we will eventually most likely run out of new discoveries to share with others. My life in Thailand has allowed me to write over 300 posts over a four year period, which is amazing, but I find that to do more now would be to repeat topics I have already covered. The farming and seasonal cycle continues as do the many festivals I have written about. Life has become more everyday and will remain so unless we do some more extensive travel away from our immediate area, which I do plan on doing once Peng is fully recovered.

Having said all of that we did spend a day on the road yesterday and the photos I took have motivated me to put them into a post, which I hope you find enjoyable. I have to confess that all of the places we visited I have covered before (see above!) but for those with a poor memory or new to the site this fact may be overlooked. I find there are always different aspects to revisiting places as they often change and information needs updating. I have also combined the three attractions we went to under the one Nong Bua Lamphu heading for anyone visiting the area as an easy read for a varied day out.

The motivation for this trip came from my in-laws Yuan and Lud. They told Gaun (my wife) that they were bored of being stuck working on the farm and wanted a holiday. I am always happy to help them see more of their own country and I get great enjoyment from doing so. It’s a bit like taking kids to Disneyland. Half the pleasure is watching others have fun. For regular readers of the blog you will remember just how much joy we all had visiting Phuket earlier this year:

A bit different from working on the farm. Lud, Yuan and Gaun.

Gaun and I have been to all the places I write about several times, often with visiting friends, but for Yuan and Lud this was their first time. As all the places we went to were within an hour’s drive from home and Yuan has lived here over 40 years (Lud 20 years+) it shows the limitations of their lifestyle, which mainly involves farm, home and the local markets.

Step one for a day out for Thai people is to ensure the car is loaded with food. If you have family that are also best mates as I do then a journey will be full of chat, laughter and lots of eating! My Thai family being farmers are also keen critics of other people’s farms as we travel around with comments made on the good, the bad and I am sure the ugly!

Stop one for the day was a place called Phu Phan Noi (signposted Phuphan Noy) just outside the town of Nong Bua Lamphu off highway 210 heading towards Udon Thani. I won’t do the whole Google Map thing here but if you search for the names I give you they are on Maps and I have provided reviews and photos there too.

I will be helpful though and add GPS details for you in multiple formats, which should get you close.

This is a lookout hidden away on a cliffside at the back of Nong Bua Lamphu. If you are driving from Udon Thani to Nong Bua Lamphu the 210 becomes a winding road for a short period before dropping into the town. This decent forms part of the cliffs that I mention. The Thai inability to navigate curves is evidenced by the number of skid marks and impact dents on the concrete barriers that separate the dual carriageway for good reasons 🙂

The type of sweeping views you get from the lookout..

Since we last visited there have been a number of changes. A new lookout point has been added to the right of the main entrance.

In true Thai fashion this is a slightly ad-hoc sort of construction made from tree branches and left over steel, but it gets the job done. The rope at the end is to stop kids from falling over the edge 🙂

To the immediate right of this a rope walkway has been added for whatever reason. Gaun is always up for a challenge so she tested it out and lived to tell the tale.

Yuan is not nearly as adventurous and stayed at the top.

Gaun heading off.

All good. Regular readers will be pleased to see her now famous red hat is back in action.

Also new to this part of the place is the discovery of a fossilised tree trunk embedded into a rock overhang at the bottom of this rope challenge. It has only just been discovered as a result of building the rope structure and specialists have been arranged to carbon date the find. You heard it here first.

One old tree. It’s towards the top of the photo is case you aren’t a fossil freak.

The area was being roped off when we were there.

The official sealing off of the area is being done with timber cut locally and a plastic water pipe nailed onto the top. Note the timber ladder in the background. Lateral thinking in Isaan is a topic I will write about soon.

If you have had enough of fossils then there is a path that follows the cliff with some excellent views over the surrounding countryside, which at this time of the year with good rainfall and newly planted rice and sugar is looking very postcard green.

A dog relaxes and enjoys the view.

A telephoto shot over Nong Bua Lamphu to show you the hills to the west in the far distance towards the provincial capital of Loei. The trip through these hills is a great driving road to Chiang Mai 600 km away, something we have done seven times now. the big Nong Bua Lamphu public hospital in the foreground.

It’s the small things……..

A lovely capture of Yuan. Such a nice person. I am a lucky man in many ways especially with my Isaan family.

If you keep on the path heading to the left of the entrance you will eventually find a raised walkway that takes you through trees to another lookout facing more southerly with extensive views over farming country.

Me and the wife on the walkway! Seeing this photo again writing this post it reminded me of the guy who kindly wrote to me that he bet we would never last five years. Well it has been four years already and life has never been better. So far so good.

That comment was posted on my most popular post “Living with a Thai Woman” HERE and it read in full:

Wishing you the best, for your relationship to Last more than 5 years.
If you stay together more than 5 years, you will be one couple, out of a million. Really. Sincerely. Good Luck!

You get all types. I will report back next year if we made the one in a milion 🙂

A great resource this walkway and still in one piece two years after being built.

And the view at the other end. It’s worth the walk don’t you think? Somewhere out there in the distance towards the right is Si Bun Ruang, our hometown.

Meanwhile as we left there were a couple of new happenings worth sharing. Firstly there was this young guy and his even smaller mate:

You don’t see wild monkeys often in our part of Thailand. This one had a collar so was a tame(ish) one. If you have met wild monkeys you know that they are not cute and cuddly.

Secondly because it is rare to find anyone at all visiting this attraction (we were the only people there apart from a few workers and that’s pretty normal) funding has been approved to build a large observatory, construction of which was underway in what used to be the carpark.

An observatory for all those stargazers in Nong Bua Lamphu.

I will make sure I am there for the opening and report back. This is where it stands as of yesterday.

You will find that the cycle of Thai public construction, whether sponsored by government or privately through the massive Buddhist industry, follows a set pattern. It is not a requirement to look for logic in the expenditure of money. Who knows how this is approved. There will be a big “start work” ceremony with important people and monks involved. The construction is finished and then there’s another big opening ceremony with important people and monks involved! The new building is then often semi-abandoned to fall into disrepair over time. Maintenance is a complete mystery here. At some point in the future the cycle begins again and the old structure is demolished or a new structure is raised next to the old one complete with starting and opening ceremonies! I sound cynical but this is actually how it works. I am only reporting not judging.

From Phuphan Noy we drove a few km towards Udon Thani (east) and turned into one of the better known wats in the area called Wat Tham Klong Pen (Google Maps) or Tham Klong Pane:

I have taken most friends who visit us to this wat because it is a nice mix of photo opportunities. The name gives a clue to what it will look like. A “Tham” is a cave (sometimes spelt as Thum) and a Klong is one of those large drums you see in some temples. This place is enclosed in a huge forested area so it is unusual not to see Pha or Pa in its name meaning many trees (forest). The cave reference is a bit of a stretch because although there are big rock outcrops with some overhang the “cave” aspect was mostly an illusion created using concrete and tin roofs. Well the main “cave” has been demolished since I was here last and a new structure is planned to take its place (refer to previous comment on the Buddhist construction industry.) These are a couple of photos taken when the main hall existed:

Photo One: The main public space.

Photo Two: This was the focus point. Gaun paying her respects here.

And now? Rather sad looking.

That main hall. You can see the point where those two rocks met overhead in photo One above.

And this is where Gaun was in photo Two. You can match the tiles.

And the planned replacement looks like this:

I am sure it will be impressive once in place. You can see the rocks on the far left. Not exactly a cave though!

The good news is that the reindeer I had met previously haven’t been left totally homeless, which will be a relief to fans of Greenland and Father Christmas:

The reindeer as I last saw them safely undercover complete with personal streetlight.

Now they are waiting patiently for their new home to be built.

The tigers have been relocated too! Love it.

Despite these alterations this is still a great place to spend time. Take the walk behind what used to be the mail hall and you will come across sights like these:

Stones piled on top of each other for good luck.

This was the home of the founder of this wat – see below.

The building at the back of the monk’s house is a mausoleum built on top of some large rocks along with smaller versions.

A closer view.

Simple monk accommodation.

And a different view of the same building because I like it.

Carved out of the rock.

Every time I come here I see something I missed last time.

The determination to live whatever the challenges.

And another example. I love the way this tree has “melted” over the rock before growing normally again in the sunlight.

This tree would never have survived in the outside world. It would have been furniture  or firewood by now. There’s more chopping down than planting in Isaan (apart from Gaun)

This is the same tree species (their scientific name is Dipterocarpus alatus and they’re related to rubber trees. Thais call them “ton yang na” – ton = tree) you will find on route 106 from Chiang Mai to Lamphun, which I wrote about HERE:

The Chiang Mai version. Each of these trees is sponsored with people who look after them.

An interesting day out if you have transport and are in the area.

If you are a tree enthusiast then meet Dave who writes about mapping these trees in Chiang Mai. An informative read HERE. Cheers Dave. Back to Isaan.

I suspect this area isn’t supposed to be open to the public but I just love this Buddha for some reason so we called in to say hello. It is situated behind the demolished hall. The sign which probably says “do not enter” is in Thai so…………………

If you do drop in have a look at the roof. You will see why they are in the process of rebuilding it.

Back in the car the next stop is deeper into the wat grounds.

Another structure with Buddha statues inside. Designed to reflect look of the rocks in the area.

Monkey and elephant meet Buddha. The monkey normally offers a honeycomb while the elephant water.

Hidden away opposite the “rock” building is a large pond with huge koi fish. Feeding fish is a Thai national pastime to gain merit to balance up eating a lot of them 🙂

Buy 10 baht of fish food from the machine on the way in.

A beautiful setting.

Lud returns with another 20 baht of food.

It had to be done.

A slightly blurred photo of the first owl I have seen here taken as we walked back to the carpark.

And finally back in the car we headed to the end of the road to the museum for Luang Pu Khao Analayo, for some reason called “The Human Imagery Museum” on Google Maps.

An unusually original piece of design.

The man himself.

Display cases of his possessions.

Nothing held back. A nice touch to have English translations. Very unusual.

OK. Enough of this wat. We picked up some streetside lunch and then drove 30 minutes to the other side of Nong Bua Lamphu to a wat called Sa Phang Thong. Yuan had heard of the large turtles you could feed there so that was our final destination for the day.

This temple is nothing too impressive in itself building-wise. It is situated on a lake with a central island and a small zoo with mostly birds and a few basic animal types. It is reasonably well maintained, which is a plus, has plenty of shade and makes a pleasant place to include on a day out in the area.

The orchids caught my attention and even though they are the common colour seen everywhere they are still stunning.

The small temple building recently upgraded. A good effort on the gardens, something you don’t see often in connection with wats. A shame.

Schoolkids returning from visiting the island. I liked the colours framed by the tress.

A small girl feeds the fish and also a lone rooster by default.

The turtles come in for food. Sausage on a stick.

There are bigger one than this but they must have had enough food for the day as they didn’t make an appearance.

More fish feeding by the family as storm clouds gather. This is the bridge across to the island.

The zoo is a little sad but the animals could be in worse conditions.

Captivity. The photo says it all.

Great camouflage.

So there you have a day out with my family. A stop at Makro supermarket on the way home to buy some farang supplies completed our time away from home. Homemade Hawaiian pizza was the outcome of that shopping trip enjoyed by all this evening.

Thanks for reading.