Ban Phue, Tham Erawan: Bolders Bizarre

March 9, 2005

Udon.

 

Another day trip. This one began at 07:30. After staggering and swirling around town looking for the right bus station, on my third try, three motor bikes later, I found the 09:00 mini-bus to Ban Phue where I hop yet another motorbike to Bhu Prabat. (I may be an experienced traveler but my Thai is just good enough to get me into trouble on occasion.)

Bhu Prabat Historical Park. A peculiar mix of pre-historic cave paintings, bizarre geological formations and Buddhist shrines.

"The formations are a collection of balanced rocks, spires and whale-sized boulders with several shrines and three wat built in and around them."

"Most of the rock formations are featured in an enchanting local legend about a king, his stunningly beautiful daughter, a hermit, and a lovestruck prince from another kingdom. The most striking rock formation, a mushroom shaped outcropping with a shrine built into it, is said to be the tower where the beautiful princess was forced to live by her overprotective father."

The trails here are very well marked; I made the circuit in about an hour and a half. But I was reluctant to leave such an impressive array of boulders.

Tham Erawan. One motorbike, and two local buses through mountain villages and towns. Children returning home from school and cheerful Thai ladies returning from the market. They all smile at the "falang" (foreigner) and on occasion I hear a quiet "law" (handsome). I love this country.

Tham Erawan is a "large cave shrine high up the side of a limestone mountain. A huge seated Buddha in the cave can be seen gazing out over the plains."

The guidebook fails to mention that the climb up the mountain is about 400 stairs to the Buddha and another 200 from the Buddha, into and through the dimly lit cave to the other side of the mountain. "Mai pen rai." No problem. It was worth every step. The monk gave me his blessing and a "traditional" plastic wrist band. And the view from the mountain top was .... Whew. I'm tired. I don't have any words left.

Again. No buses. Another hitchhike, this time with a group of Thai guys. After a two-hour, slightly cramped ride back to Udon, again with a smile, they dropped me at the door of my hotel.

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