Ranong, Thailand; July 22 – August 6, 2018
Just over a block from the house is one of Ranong’s attractions, Throne Hall. The grounds are beautifully manicured and many locals use it as a workout area, walking or running laps around the stone walkways. The main attraction for tourist is a gorgeous structure that sits on the property, the grounds are free to walk around but to gain access to the building there is a fee of a 100฿ per foreigner. Many evenings we would take a stroll around dusk to the property so that Francesca could play with locals, she loved the fountains in the middle of the property and watching the tadpoles swim around. Some days there would be other little kids wandering around the grounds that she would run to, take them by the hand and request them to come with her. “Hey kid, come on kid, come play with me.” is a phrase we heard many times. Other days we would see locals out walking their kittens on a leash, yes their cat! They would be having little photoshoots with their precious kitten and Francesca would be beside herself. They would let her take a hold of the leash and walk the kitten around the grounds, it was so darn cute, that is until she let go of the leash and we were chasing down cats. Francesca would be sad when the owners would request the leash back, sometimes she would follow them batting her eyes and pouting a bit to see if she could regain control of her new furry friend. Often we had to pick her up and head the other direction to divert her attention elsewhere.
As we walked around the grounds and ran through the grass we collected the plumerias that had fell from the trees; I love having plumeria flowers in my hair. We would admire the giant snails gliding around after the rain. Francesca would find water puddles to run through and jump in, if there were any. The property was quite relaxing and we enjoyed spending our evening there. As we explored more of the area, we discovered a small Buddha temple behind Throne Hall as we climbed a staircase that we thought would take us to a look out point but we were wrong. Francesca asked to make an offering, picking up the incense and candles to light, sitting down in front of the statue like we showed her how. She admired the figurines that had been left to honor Buddha, became sad and would start to pout when she noticed some had seen better days. “It’s really broken. Momma, its really broken.” As we made our way down the stairs I noticed a path into the woods that continued up the hill and headed that way. We passed a small shelter that had been constructed with pieces and parts of torn tarps, furnished with a broken plastic chair which had no legs, and old blankets for a floor; perhaps a fort some of the local children had built.
As we approached the top of the hill we notice an overgrown area with uneven cylinder stones sticking up above the grass, I wondered what the area was used for or if it was the beginning of a structure that had not been completed. As we continued we noticed there were several staircases that lead down the hill a bit to areas, similar to the first one we saw, with various cement structures it was then we realized the area was a workout obstacle course. Not sure when they stopped maintaining it but the area was well shaded, had a lovely view overlooking Throne Hall and looked like the perfect place to workout. We circled back, down some moss covered stairs, a long too overgrown path to the top of Throne Hall. Francesca climbed an old canon that sit on the hill and attempted to slide down the hillside; she end up scooting down on her bum.
Passing the time in Ranong
Once you hit all the major attractions in Ranong, which there are not very many, we passed the time as we would if we were at home. Taking walks around to the local park, strolls down the main street stopping to see the little Children Francesca had made friends with along the way, wondering the market in search for things to make for dinner. Francesca had made quite a few friends with the locals both young and old. She would stop to play with a little girl down the street for a few minutes; chasing each other and jumping up and down.
On one of our market trips she met a little boy and climbed up on the seat next to him to inspect the video game he was playing. She would stop at the booth that had flashing lights every time we passed mesmerized by the strobing colors.
Often she would be confiscated by the local vendors who would come and take her from my arms a run off with her to give her treats and show her off to their friends.
One afternoon a young woman at the market was blowing rubber bubbles, you remember those tubes of a substance smilier to rubber cement that you squeezed out a bit on the end of a tiny straw and blew on the other and magically a bubble formed that you could handle and pop at will. Francesca got a kick out of that; she tried with all her might to blow throw the straw, her little cheeks popping out as she strained to make the rubber expand. Daniel had never seen the substance before, I used to play with it when I was little, hours of fun until it all ran out.
Bang Non Wat
During the past several months we had passed a huge standing Buddha as we rode out of Ranong on HWY 40, with our time in Ranong winding down we decided to stop in and explore the Wat. The property had several temple areas, several large Buddha statutes and stupa areas. As you made your way to the temple you passed between two Naga that lined the staircase, at the top a huge building with a giant laying Buddha inside and several smaller figurines. The standing Buddha was positioned to the right of the building and towered about 100ft in the air, below it, in the pedestal which it stood were several more statues where one could go to make offerings. The grounds were beautiful with figurines scattered throughout the property. We could see the monk walking around their quarters off in the distances. The surrounds were very peaceful and we only saw a few people there taking care of the grounds, it was if the whole Wat was there just for us to enjoy.
Before leaving we stopped by the gift shop area, yes even Wat’s have gift shops. There was a huge statue of the monk that is revered at the Wat, likeness of him were found on pendents and figurines in the gift shop and on a billboard out by the roadside. We made offerings in respects of this humble figure. Francesca, now an expert on the ritual, removed her shoes, grabbed the incense and flowers from a lady sitting at the entrance and headed to the alter to offer her gifts. Then kneeled down to bow in front of the 30ft tall replica of the monk. After she was finished she ran off to pet the doggies that where lying about on the floor. One of the ladies gave her a juice box, a common occurrence that she is given something everywhere we visit, the Thais love to give her treats of some kind. After that we headed back home before the rain started again.
*We have been to several Wats, this one has been by far my favorite and is well worth a visit.
We started out for a bike ride in hopes to photograph some things we had not captured on our outings the pass couple months. We made our way through downtown and before we could make it to far the skies opened up and the rain came pouring down. Francesca and I pulled off at the restaurant we have eaten at many times while in Ranong, it was still early in the day and they were not open but working on some water features they were building. The shop next door had a lovely Thai lady that invited us in to pass the rain, Daniel was held up across the street waiting for his opportunity when the rain settled a bit to join us. Francesca perused the store, it was filled with security systems, cameras, speakers and other electronics. She was invited to sit down at the desk and was given pen and paper to draw while we waited. She tried to make phone calls on a hand radio that was given to her to play with. We waited for about 30 minutes in hopes to continue our ride but the rain didn’t seem to want to stop. Daniel made his way to us and we decided to head back home the next time the rain let up. We thanked the lovely lady for allowing us to hang out in her shop and raced home before it started pouring again.
Many of our rides around Ranong had taken us pass the Governor’s Graves, today we decided to stop to take some photos. The grave site is beautiful with manicured bushes and statues that stand guard. Many locals bring offerings to the grave placing drinks and food at the base of each statue and around the burial site. We saw several figurines of roosters, zebra and elephants that had been placed around the grave site. Francesca ran around visiting each statue ensuring each one had a offering at their base, she did not want them to be thirsty. While we were there people honked as they past by, at first we thought we were popular and waved each time then we realized they were honking in respect as they past the grave site and we giggled at the thought of them saying hello to us. I’m pretty sure we have been waving at people, the whole time we were in Ranong, that were honking at monuments and not us; sometime they were honking at us which was usually followed by the driver rubbernecking to take a photo of Francesca on the back of the bike.
One More Visit
Ranong is typically not a city in Thailand many tourist spend a lot of time at, especially in off-season. It is usually a quick stop for a visa run as there is not much going on in the town. During our three months in the rainiest Province in Thailand there were a few places that we went to a several times and should you find yourself in the city on the Andaman Sea looking for something to see we would suggest you stop by these places. The Raksawarin Hot Springs Park and Arboretum, the free admission to the area and numerous activities including hiking, swimming, children’s playground means you can easily spend the entire day exploring the area. Restaurants and food stalls are readily available, as well as a bit of shopping or spa treatments can be had while here. Raksawarin Park is a few miles from downtown, located to the east of HWY 40, you can walk there if you desire; it may take about hour to get there with a bit of an uphill climb, or a short songthaew ride which would cost about 10฿ to 20฿. We rode bicycles every time we visited the area which was quite enjoyable.
In the opposite direction from downtown lies the UNESCO Urban Mangrove Forest, this is more of a activity that would consume a few hours of your time should you choose to walk it. From downtown it would take around an hour to get there through the back streets and a few market areas. Once there you can explore the forest on the elevated path the meanders through the boggy ground, view the wild life that thrives in the mud, and make your way to the canals for a off trail hike. Before, or after, you have spend time gazing at the multiple species of mangroves and wildlife that resides in the area you can visit the educational center located to the west of the forest. Remember that area is just a small section of the 30,000 hectares of mangroves that engulf the Province.
Once last surprise, if your into classic vintage cars, the hotel B Ranong, located on the Rungrat Road has a collection of old vehicles parked on the property. They often have one or two parked in front of the bar on the road side, however, if you venture down towards the hotel you can see several more stored in the covered parking area. Some are in fabulous condition and others need a bit of TLC. There is even a few motorcycles displayed in a building in the back. If you enjoy vintage cars this is a must see in Ranong, you wouldn’t even know it was there unless someone tells you about it or you randomly pick the hotel to stay in.