Authors note: I tell the story of my walk across the north of Thailand in a soon to be released book. The timeline and mileages listed below were the plan I put together before starting out. The reality proved to be much different. My actual start date was October 24, not October 18. The rainy season in north Thailand is generally considered to end around the first of October, with the coolest and driest time of the year being from October through December. In 2010 when I started walking, Thailand was enduring record breaking rainstorms and some of the most widespread and dangerous flooding in more than 50 years. A big typhoon approached the north of Thailand in mid October, adding to the already wide spread devastation in the area of Thailand I was walking through.
This adventure walk was not intended to break any records, although
nobody has ever claimed to have walked across the broadest part of
Thailand before this. There were only two rules for this trek.
1. Don't break any Thai laws.
2. Don't die along the way.
At 63 years of age I have backpacked thousands of miles in a dozen different countries. My brain may be younger than my body, because the plan below proved to be a bit optimistic in some ways. I generally walked at a pace of 2 to 2 1/2 kilometers an hour while carrying the backpack. On the uphill sections this pace slowed to 1 or 1.5 kilometers an hour. A normal day during my 50 days of walking included 4 to 7 hours of hiking. But some days when I first started the walk, I could only walk an hour or two before I was wore out. The longest day of walking was the day I got lost and walked 26 kilometers the wrong way at Sukhothai.
This walk was everything I hoped it would be. I met hundreds of friendly and welcoming Thai people. These wonderful strangers gave me food, drinks and snacks time after time. Complete strangers welcomed me into their homes and there was always someone who would find a place for me to set my tent. Along the way I stopped at dozens of those small coffee stands that are everywhere in Thailand these days. These stands are usually operated by a lone female whose sons or daughters have helped her buy the equipment for her small enterprise. They pull espresso shots from a simple one head espresso machine using really excellent first rate Thai coffee from the mountains of north Thailand. This is some of the world's best coffee. They seldom spoke any English, but frequently after reading the note written in Thai that explained what I was doing, these friendly and universally poor coffee vendors would insist on buying my coffee. The generosity of the people I came across cannot be overstated. Many of the Thai people never did fully understand why anyone would choose to walk like I was doing. I'm sure some of them thought I had a screw loose in my head.
Why did I undertake this very long backpack hike? First, I had not been on a new and different solo adventure for several years. More important my lifestyle choices had allowed a once athletic body to turn fat and unhealthy. My blood pressure was too high. My blood sugar was climbing and too high. My cholesterol levels were too high. Simply put I was a mess and heading for a heart attack or stroke. My lifestyle needed a serious change of pace. The walk was a way to kick start those changes. As I write this note it is 2012 two years after I finished the walk from Khon Kaen to Mae Sot. My lifestyle has changed. The hard physical exercise combined with healthy eating habits completely reversed those bad health indicators. My blood pressure is now NORMAL for a 3o year old. My cholesterol and blood sugar are not just normal, but "GOOD".
There were a few situations along the way that had me fearful. Most, but not all of thes situations were fabrications of my mind, not real threats. The plan below shows that I planned to stop at many temples along the way. I hoped to pitch my tent somewhere in a corner of the temple property where I would have the security of mind of sleeping in a religious site. But I only ever slept on temple grounds one night. That is the chapter in the book titled Ghosts in the Temple.
The hiking portion of my adventure was done about 95% solo. Sometimes my close Thai friend, Onanong, walked with me, but most of the time I was alone. In Sukothai and Phitsanilok areas I walked alone each day, then took a bus to join Onanong for the afternoon and evening as we explored those cities together. I slept alone in my tent about half of the nights along the way. The other nights I slept in some guesthouse.
The single most important item in my backpack proved to be a bottle of IBprofen pain capsules. No morning started without one or two of those to kickstart my morning.
I invite you to read my book available on Amazon.com
in June or July, 2013
Wat Thep Sirinam to Pueng Kong Ma Shrine 3 kms Pueng Kong Ma Shrine to Wat Thung Chai 6 kms
Chum Phae to Non sa-at 10 kms Non Sa-at to Nun Han 4 kms
Wat Pa Udomrat, Ban
Huai Kaep to
Wat Phu Hua Chang 5 kms Wat Phu Hua Chang to Wat Phu Khao Wong 6 kms
Wat Phu Khao Wong to Wat Huai Sanam Sai Tai 4 kms
start 280 meters elevation finish day 800 meters el.
Elevation rise 520 meters Length 10 kilometers
Hup Pha Daeng Religious
Practice Center to Thamphrathan Bureau of the Monks 10 kilometers
Drop in elevation during this 10 kilometers is from 600 to 200 meters or about 400 meter drop.
Thamphrathan Bureau of the Monks to Pak Duk is 9 kilometers