Ranong, Thailand – June, 2018
Wat Ban Ngao
Our friends Andi and Mat told us of a beautiful Wat with a fish pond that was pass a spot called Bald Mountain, which is a hill that has no trees. Behind the Wat are steps that lead up the side of the hill, locals climb it as an offering or just to get some exercise. Mat had told us it was quite a lot of stairs so we were interested in climbing to the top, like we did in Kotor, Montenegro. We rode the bikes 9 miles to Bald Mountain, a route we had taken a few times before but this time. When we arrived to Bald Mountain we did not see a Wat or stairs of any sort. On the contrary, we saw a group of people that appeared to be filming a commercial for a local phone carrier. They were holding up signs and performing a choreograph dance with music playing over a loud speaker. The spectacle was very entertaining to watch, Francesca was interested in joining in and hoped she could sing with them. We had thought about hiking Bald Mountain since we didn’t see that Wat but I noticed something in the distances that might be what we were searching for so we hopped back on the bikes.
We were off-road riding through a large field, weaving around puddles, waving at the cows as we rode by, ducking to avoid branches to the face as we followed a path that looked like it might be a short cut, to somewhere. The dirt trail spit us out on a paved road, we saw a beautiful estate that we thought might be the place we were looking for so we turned in and headed toward the building. The lawn was perfectly manicured with animal topiary all around, there was a stream that ran through the property and bridge to cross to the residences. As we got closer to the house I told Daniel that I think this is someone’s private home, he agreed so we turned around and continued on. The paved road lead us right to the Wat and a little village market where you could buy refreshment or food to feed the sacred fish in the pond. We parked the bicycles and walked the grounds, Francesca and I made our way to the pond while Daniel took photos. There was a group of young women feeding the fish, of course Francesca booked it straight to them. She knew they couldn’t resist her cute little smile and they would give her some food to feed the fish, sure enough they were mesmerized by her blonde hair and blue eyes and handed over their bucket of feed.
After the feeding of the fish they took turns taking photos with her, this girl is going to have random photos with people every where in the world. Once they were finished with their photoshoot off they went, while Francesca looked for another person she could coax into giving her some fish feed. After a few minutes with no one to bat her pretty eyes at she lost interest and began to wonder off looking for things that would spark her interest, like a large gong that called for her to bang it. After a bit of time exploring around the pond we make our way to the staircase on the hill.
Our little champion climb the whole staircase by herself, even thought there were a few tears and a bit of pleading for us to pick her up. We denied her request and reassured her she could do it. I began chanting a mantra for her with each step we took: You are strong, You are tough, You can do anything! She successfully made the ascent and once at the top rang her bell. We gazed out at the view overlooking the Nago Waterfall and the valley of Ranong. After a while of running around and taking photos we made our decent to visit the Nago Wat.
The Wat sat atop an event hall that was still under construction, you could tell it was going to be a marvelous room with disco mirrored columns and intricate decor. The upper level was beautiful there were rooms for the monks to do there meditation, statues and bells at particular points around the perimeter, intricately carved art surrounding the base of the temple. Francesca made her way into the temple, we showed her how to sit with her feet facing away from the alter. We made an offering to buddha placing flowers on the alter. Francesca was so curious about everything in the temple, she helped the attended collect the flowers and other offerings, placed them on a tray so they can be used again. She was given a blessed bottle of water that she carried with her around the grounds. She is so amazing to watch, learning and adapting to the culture. It was a great day of exploring together.
Rakswarin Hot Springs
Ranong has a few hot springs you can visit if you want to soak in some hot water while in the south of Thailand. We visited the springs that were located down the road from our house, Rakswarin hot springs and public park. These hot springs are free. Rakswarin is located in a beautiful area filled with trees and well maintained, we witnessed the pools being cleaned which is critical when you think about all the bacteria that can breed in the hot water conditions. The water when it comes out of the springs in about 60 degrees Celsius, it is then mixed with cooler water from the nearby river to bring it to 40 degrees to make it enjoyable to sit in the water, if desired.
The public park has restaurants, spas and accommodations should you want to stay next to the springs. There are several public pools, some for you feet and others to emerge yourself in; there is even a paid area that offers you towels and private bathing along the riverside. Many locals come to enjoy the warm water and the serenity of the surroundings.
Francesca loved the hot water, she wanted to swim in it. Daniel and I placed our feet in, typically I love a hot tub at 104 F but that’s when its cold outside. With the air temperature in the high 90’s the water was a bit to hot for me to enjoy, a few minutes with my feet in the water was plenty. We had to coax Francesca out, she did not want to leave the hot bath but we couldn’t let her stay in for to long. Beside the hot spring feed pools you can go swimming in the river however the current can be rather strong. We saw a bunch of local boys jumping in and vigorously swimming to the edge, great exercise if you want to brave the rushing water current. We did find a spot across the road from the springs that had a more subdue stream with a pool that was more our speed. Francesca and I splashed around with the locals for quite a while. The area also offers some other activities and attractions, it is worth checking out if your in Ranong for a few days.
Ranong Sport Club
Since there is no beach in Ranong we decide to visit a water and sport park we seen advertised on a billboard during our rides around town. We headed north, turning of on a path that ran along a canal. Winding through a neighborhood that looked a bit more upscale then a lot of the area we had adventured through. The road ended at what looked like an apartment clubhouse, we parked the bikes and went in to see if we could access the pool. We paid 40฿ each for Daniel and I to swim. The pool wasn’t pristine but we jumped in anyways. There was no one else there so we had the pool to ourselves, the slides were dry and we wondered if they even worked. There was a kiddy pool and a large dive pool for swimming laps. After we had been there for about an hour a maintenance man came to turn on the water to the slides, then things got a bit more fun.
We took turn sliding down into the water. Francesca splashed in the kiddy pool, we floated around in the life buoys that were hanging out in the pool. We spent a couple hours there before a couple girls showed up fully clothed to go swimming, it is common for the locals to swim in the clothes. They are very modest and rarely will you see a Thai women in a bathing suit. Even the guys will go swimming in jeans and a teeshirt, doesn’t seem very comfortable but its what they do. After a while we decided to head home before the afternoon storm rolled in, I’m sure you notice a pattern by now with the daily rain. We had a nice day but the pool wasn’t any thing spectacular.
Close Encounter with a Monocled Cobra
We let Francesca decide what we were doing for the day and she wanted to go swimming, again, so we made the decision to head to the creek by the hot springs. We took the long way around to get our exercise in before headed up the canyon. When we go to the creek we were greeted by several locals that were hypnotized by our little lady, they came running over to take photos with her. Francesca was escorted into the water and carried around, splashing and playing with all the children. We were there for several hours before Daniel decided to head home to get dinner ready. Francesca and I lagged behind, since she didn’t want to leave. About an hour later we started to head home. I glanced at my phone before taking off and saw a message from Daniel: There is a snake in the house. I didn’t think much of it and figured I would be hunting down a grass snake when I got to the house. Francesca and I raced down the hill to house and when we arrive things changed a bit.
Daniel had a flashlight in hand and told me to get Francesca off the floor. He ask if I got his message about the snake, then said it’s a cobra. I didn’t really believe him. He said he stepped on it as he was walking into the kitchen and heard it hiss at him. Daniel had the little guy cornered in the bedroom and wasn’t sure how to get him out. Thank goodness I grew up in swamp land, accustomed to reptiles; I armed myself with a mess wired trash can and plastic stick (Chatouille’s cat toy). I poked at snake trying to get him out from under the water pipe that ran the length of the wall. The snake got a bit pissed, started hissing loudly. I poked at him a bit more, enough to dislodge him from the corner, he slithered towards us flaring his neck, spitting and jumping at us; kind scared the shit out of us! I quickly placed the trash can over him, trapping him in the waste can cage; then we took photos, while trying to figure out what to do with it. We didn’t want to kill it. Should we release it in the backyard? Hell NO if we did that we would be concerned every time we go out there and constantly wonder if it would find its way back inside. We decided to release it by a small stream a bit away from the house. Now we had to figure how to get it outside.
I combed the house for something i could place under the cage and found a piece of cardboard I could wedge under the trash can. As I was sliding the cardboard under the can the little guy almost escaped, I quickly pushed down hard on the can, restricting his neck under the rim so he could not move then flipped the bin over, sliding the board back releasing the snakes head so that the reptile fell to the bottom of the rubbish bin. With the snake trapped in its cage we made our way to the creek down the street to release it. When we reached the stream we let the little guy slither down the bank and watched him swim up stream until he was gone. When we returned we did a bit of research on the slithering reptile that greeted Daniel when he returned home and had we know just how dangerous it was we might have opted on a different method of getting rid of him. Little did we know the snake was a Monocled Cobra and one the deadly snakes in Thailand and responsible for more than half the deaths due to snake bites in Thailand. Needless to say we were a bit more scared of it after we knew the facts. Daniel still can’t believe he stepped on it and lived!