From yesterday… The bread was yoga. Today was supposed to be a rest day. I’ve decided I need to improve faster at yoga. For not liking yoga I sure do a lot of it. Ao Nang Yoga teaches two classes a day. One at 9am and one at 6pm. I’ve always gone to the 6pm class. But I figured for days I don’t go climbing I should also go to the morning yoga class. So today, I went to the morning yoga class for the first time. It was nice. A little more relaxed than the evening yoga class. Then it was a quick climbing session with Martin at Chong Phli. We had about 90 minutes to climb before I had to go to school. So we did a quick warm up on EFZ 6a+. Then we went over to Buzzsaw 6b and I climbed that. But instead of going to the normal anchor I did the traverse at a grade of 6b to the anchor for Piranha 7a so we could try something hard on top rope.
NOTE: the Buzzsaw 6b to Piranha 7a anchor is a pretty long traverse. Maybe 30 feet left from the first bolt. Have the second climber clean this on their way up. Cleaning this while the lead climber is being lowered is not advised.
There was just enough time left for Martin and I to try Piranha 7a one time each. Unfortunately neither of us were able to do it so I cheated my way to the top to clean the anchor then it was time to go to school. Then back to my room for a short rest and off to the second yoga class for the day.
Now, as I write this one day (and two more yoga classes later) my body is tired and I have sore muscles that I have not felt in a long time so I got a massage and am now enjoying a few adult beverages.
A little bit of a late start as usual. Got to the crag at about 10am. Warm up on EFZ 6a+. Anong led it first then I led it. Then we each climbed the route on top rope and I cleaned it. Next move over to Mad Skills 6b. I led it then Anong climbed it on top rope. She is getting a lot better and needed only a little help getting through the crux. Then I climbed it on top rope two more times and cleaned it. By this time it was a little after 12:00 and the sun was already shining on the wall. That means it’s time to go home.
It’s low season in Thailand now which means it is hotter than usual and the rain is starting to come. Maybe not quite as many people and rooms are cheaper. Anong and I had Chong Phli to ourselves today.
Today it rained pretty hard off and on. With the sun shining on the wall at Chong Phli starting around 12:00 now that means I either need to start getting my ass out of bed sooner and learn how to get ready faster or start climbing at a different wall. There is another wall that is fun to climb at. I was there about 4 weeks ago with Martin. Bat Cave wall is a little hard to get to because it involves renting a kayak but you get a nice warm up on the way there and the routes are fun to climb and right in my range. 6a to 6b+. Another good thing about Bad Cave wall is all the routes are a little bit over hanging which means they will stay dry even if it rains a little bit.
Just when I was thinking one of the things I like about Thailand is that theft and property crime seems much lower here than in America somebody stole my helmet at the Tesco Lotus parking lot in Krabi Town. Oddly enough they did not steal Anong’s helmet which is red. Mine was white. So back into the store to buy a new helmet. I got a red one this time.
Old sign on the left. New sign on the right.
There’s a big new speed limit sign on the road through Chong Phli where I usually go climbing. It’s interesting that they increased it. I think the two signs confuse Thai people though and instead of going 60 km/h or 40 km/h they add the two together and go 100 km/h
Today was the first day of climbing in almost two weeks since getting back from Isan. I was both excited and a little nervous to get back on the rock, wondering how much strength I had lost. So I decided to ease back into it. First I put up Zak Attack 5 to warm up. Anong also led it then I climbed it one more time on top rope to clean it. Then we moved over to EFZ 6a+ . That also went well. Anong climbed it on top rope and I also climbed it one more time on top rope to clean it.
I was feeling good about my climbing and had my sights set on McLovin 6b next but it was not meant to be. Nature was conspiring against me today. It has started raining a little bit which means there are a lot more mosquitos out now. It seems like a minute after I got to the crag I had a dozen mosquito bites and the itching was starting to annoy me. Annoyingly, my left elbow also started hurting me while belaying Anong on her last climb. That combined with some ominous looking clouds and the distant sound of thunder we decided to call it a day.
Now back in my room it has started raining so it was a good decision. I can relax, rehab my elbow, and think about what I want to climb tomorrow.
Isan (Thai: อีสาน) is a general name given to the northeastern region of Thailand. Anong and I spent 9 days in Nong Bua Lam Phu (Thai:หนองบัวลำภู) province for the Songkran festival, plus a couple days for travel. Isan is bordered to the north and east by Laos and Cambodia. Ethnically and culturally the people are Lao though Thaification has reduced the influence of the Lao culture (the people still drive like idiots here though not as bad as in the south). The dominant language in Isan is also called the Isan language. Luckily for me it is very similar to the Thai language and the people of Isan are generally bi-lingual in Isan and Thai so I was able to have very basic conversations with Anong’s family who does not speak english. Conversations mostly consisted of me saying “Wannee aga rawn mak mak” (Today the weather is very hot), “Phom mai kao jai” (I do not understand), and “Kap khun krap” (Thank you). It was nice to meet them and they seem like nice people.
The food is also different in Isan but I didn’t really notice because Isan food has permeated the rest of Thailand and central Thai cuisine has also made its way to Isan. One big difference though is meals in Isan are usually served with sticky rice instead of long grain white rice. I was impressed by the Isan persons ability to consume sticky rice.
Isan is the poorest region in Thailand though economically it is also the fastest growing. Agriculture is the dominant sector of the economy in the region. Most people grow rice or sugarcane. The countryside is very beautiful and the pace of life there is slower than in Bangkok and southern Thailand.
Typical view in Isan.
There are also many temples in Isan. Look at my previous post for some pictures. Here are a couple more of Wat Tam Erawan (Thai: วัดถ้ำเอราวัณ).
All the best temples in Thailand require walking up many stairs. In this case about 600 steps.
View from the top.
Big Buddha at the top.
Bang the gong 3 times.
Enter the cave and walk through to the other side.
Coming back from the other side. The rocks in the cave were amazing. I really wanted to climb them but that would be frowned upon.
View of previous staircase.
The roof of the cave has a hole in it that I thought looked like a certain part of the female anatomy.
Near the front entrance. Lots of rocks stacked on top of each other. My camera made everything look lighter than it really was.
Entrance at the bottom of the stairs.
The only thing I didn’t like about Isan is the lack of sport climbing. Next spot for me to visit will be Chiang Mai which is known for it’s unique Thai culture and also has very good sport climbing. Not sure when that will be though.
Songkran (Thai: สงกรานต์) is the traditional Thai new year. It is typically starts on April 13 and continues to April 15. During this time many people go back home to visit their families and participate in Buddhist rituals. Here are some of the more enjoyable aspects of the holiday that I observed and participated in.
Rinsing images of Buddha
Images of Buddha are rinsed with scented water called nam-op (Thai: น้ำอบ). It is symbolic of washing away sins and is supposed to bring good luck. The afternoon of the first day we went to a small local wat (Thai: วัด) for a ceremony in which some monks chanted and splashed water on everyone. Afterwards we went outside and poured water on the images of Buddha. When that was done some of the older ladies also poured water on me! I was slightly annoyed because by this time it was starting to get cool and I was mostly dry. Hopefully I did not show it. But after thinking about it I realize in a way they were comparing me to Buddha and did it because they thought it would bring them good luck.
Flowers for making nam-op
Rinsing images of Buddha with nam-op at วัดถำกลองเพล (Wat Tam Glawng Pean)
Spending time with family
People travel home to their families for a family reunion. It is also a time to pay respect to and remember deceased family members. Here are a couple pictures from a ceremony for Anong’s mother. Several family members gathered around the gravesite while a couple monks chanted and gave some kind of blessing. A few small bones from the deceased are placed inside the yellow monument. I wasn’t sure what to think of the whole thing other than it is very different from western culture and it was interesting to be a part of it.
Worlds biggest water fight
April is the hottest time of the year in Thailand with temperatures regularly around 40C (104F). Getting wet during the hottest part of the day feels nice. It’s the few mean spirited people who ruin the holiday but most people “play water” (Thai: เล่นน้ำ) respectfully. Then there are the little kids on the side of the road with squirt guns. They are really cute! It is also tradition to smear white chalk on peoples faces to help keep cool.
Here I am, wet with some chalk on my face at วัดหนองปลาขาว (Wat Nawng Bplaa Kaaow).
At Wat Phu Noi (Thai: วัดภูน้อย) a monk recently passed away. There was an interesting ceremony in which people lined up and poured nam-op over some flowers placed on the monk.
At Wat Nawng Bplaa Kaaow (Thai:วัดหนองปลาขาว) we got to feed some fish and see some animals.
At Wat Tam Glawng Pean (Thai:วัดหนองปลาขาว):