April is usually the height of the hot season. The sea, both in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman, is at its best. The forest, meanwhile, may seem lifeless, yet actually there are a lot of interesting things going on in the ecosystem. Most waterfalls, for example, may not be boasting powerful cascades, but the calm, clear water reveals a fascinating array of fish and other aquatic lifeforms that thrive. And guess what: even during this dry period of the year, there are falls in some protected forests where the water continues to flow down rigorously, regardless of what month is shown on the calendar. Too bad I don't have their photographs in digital form and no time to dig through the piles of slides.
Many wild orchids flaunt their blossoms during this time of year. Several species of birds are either finding mates or preparing nests, getting ready for the rainy season when food will be easier to find and thus suitable for raising their next batch of offspring.
Thanks to the lockdown, I got the chance to explore my archive of digital photographs going back about a decade-and-a-half.
Shown here are some pictures of selected domestic trips I made during the first half of April. I must admit that I was surprised to find out that I had made quite a few road trips during this period of searing heat. They were all fruitful, though. The places are varied and scattered in different parts of the country. Some are good for day trips, others may require a few days. There are also a couple of sites that I hope to one day revisit.
Hopefully, you might find some of these destinations interesting enough to add to your travel bucket list.
To a lot of people, the longer the lockdown, the stronger their travel itch becomes. Some have vowed via social media that they will hit the road as soon as things return to normal.
Nobody knows how long this pandemic will last. Anyway, let’s be hopeful. One day we’ll be able to travel freely once again. It doesn’t hurt to have some plans, does it? To make it easier for you, here are some travel ideas that — I’m keeping my fingers crossed — you might be able to use in case the coast is clear three months or so from now.
For previous articles, visit https://www.bangkokpost.com/topics/1896450/travel-diary.
On the way from Lampang downtown to Chae Son National Park, my colleague and I passed a hill on Chae Hom district with a temple perched on its peak. It's Wat Akkho Chai Khiri. The hilltop temple can be reached either via a long staircase of 227 steps (to match the number of the precepts followed by Buddhist monks) or the driveway. Of course, with not much time to spend, we chose the quicker way. Apart from folk-style Buddha images, the temple also has a small building which you should close all the openings once you step inside. Leaving only the east-facing window ajar, you'll see the reflection of the adjacent golden stupa on a canvas placed in the building for the purpose. No matter how the Sun changes its position, the reflection always appears on the very same spot. Apart from Wat Akkho Chai Khiri, in Lampang province you can also experience similar phenomena at a few other temples, such as Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, Wat Phra That Chom Ping and Wat Phra That Doi Noi in Ko Kha district. To contact Wat Akkho Chai Khiri, search for "Unseen Thailand/Stupa Reflection" and you will find the temple's page.
At this time of the year in the eastern region, the sea and beaches are at their most beautiful. Orchards are beginning to yield fruits. Inland national parks such as Khao Chamao-Khao Wong in Rayong, Nam Tok Phlieo in Chanthaburi, and Khlong Kaeo in Trat may not have much water at their falls. But that means fewer tourists, too. The forest tracks and the rocks along the waterside are not slippery, which makes it safer to get a close look at pla phluang (mahseer barb), which can be found in abundance in the parks' streams. The fish and the waterfall pictures were taken at Khao Chamao.
Nakhon Pathom sits east of Bangkok. The province's southeastern part, which is adjacent to the capital, has several places worth visiting. Among them are Wat Don Wai riverside market in Sam Phran and the Thai Human Imagery Museum in Nakhon Chaisi. The two places may be in different districts but they are only 10km from each other. Thanks to its proximity to Bangkok, this part of Nakhon Pathom is an easy destination for those who do not wish to spend long hours on the scorching road.
This elegant Buddhist temple, Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat in Nonthaburi, was built in 1847 on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, on the plot of land where the house of King Rama III's maternal grandparents once stood. The temple features the distinctive architectural style of the king's reign, a clever mix of Thai and Chinese arts. King Rama III was a great monarch. His story, from how he got to rule the kingdom despite not being the rightful heir to the throne to how he helped save Siam's sovereignty more than four decades after his death, may not be widely known. During the lockdown, if you do some research on his interesting life, your future visit to Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat or any other site related to him will surely be more enriching.
Even in the hottest period of the year, the temperature can still be comfortable if you're at a place high enough. That's what I found out when I went on a mountain-biking trip from Doi Pha Tang Forest Protection Unit of Chiang Mai's Doi Inthanon National Park to Mae Ya Waterfall at the foot of the mountain. The starting point, some 1,500m above sea level, was pretty cold for me even though it was not long after lunchtime. This route is just one of the many dirt trails available in the mountains of Doi Inthanon. The forest-protection unit may not be easy to find on Google Maps. Here are the co-ordinates: 18°31'10.89" N 98°31'52.50" E.
(Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Of all my early-April trips, this one I took five years ago is my favourite. The 4km² Rayong Botanical Garden in Klaeng district is made up of several types of wetland habitats, from an open lake teeming with lotuses and other aquatic plants, some of which are carnivorous, to peat swamp forest and grassland amazingly floating on water. A boat tour from a small pier near the garden's office and nurseries allows you to get a close look at not just plants but also birds and other wild animals living in these fascinating ecosystems. Crocodiles, by the way, were never sited.If you have inquiries or wish to reserve a boat (each vessel can accommodate up to 10 passengers), call 038-638-981 or search for "Rayong Botanic" on Facebook.
2016 & 2017
Songkran and other long holidays are periods when I normally choose to stay in Bangkok. Why compete with the crowds of travellers when you can enjoy the capital in peace. During Songkran of these two years, my cycling friends and I roamed the streets and alleys in the old parts of Bangkok on both sides of the Chao Phraya River. I hope we can do it again next year.
That year, as you can see in the photos, the wet season arrived early. I was visiting two reservoirs in the East: Khao Chuk in Rayong's Klaeng district and Khiri Than Dam in Chanthaburi's Khlung district. Khao Chuk, with both asphalt and dirt roads running around it, is a popular training ground for Klaeng cyclists. Khiri Than Dam, meanwhile, was more rugged and thus more fun for mountain bikers. Both artificial lakes are beautiful. Thanks to the moist weather, I also got a stream of fog in the photo I took from a waterside lookout point at Khao Chuk. The other two pictures were shot around the reservoir of Khiri Than Dam.
To make the most of my trip to Krabi's Koh Lanta. I borrowed a mountain bike from the hotel and rode to the Mu Ko Lanta National Park at the southern tip of the island. Along the way, I saw more shops and other structures which did not exist the previous time I visited. However, the national park was as beautiful as always. Its iconic lighthouse still stands gracefully on top of the headland. Don't be too overwhelmed by the scenery, though, especially if you have food or any bag in hand. The monkeys here are very aggressive.For more information, visit the Mu Ko Lanta National Park page on Facebook.
This time last year, I went to Hua Hin. The sea and the beach near Soi 83 were filled with kitesurfers, enjoying an activity which to me seemed fun but far from easy. I had a different way to set off an adrenaline rush: mountain biking. The deciduous forest on Hin Lek Fai Hill is home to several DH trails that were suffering from the forest fires. But take a good look at the picture and you'll see that the narrow bike trail also worked effectively as a firebreak.