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Ban Phaeng

"Come to Ban Phaeng with no expectations.   I did.  I never expected I'd be going to Ban Phaeng."  Doug Knell, Doug's Republic

Ban Phaeng isn't the kind of place you ever plan on going.  No one brainstormed the idea that he'd travel to Isaan and make a mandatory stop in Ban Phaeng.  You wind up here, like I did, after a long day of motorbiking.  Driving through the tiny town, you see a gas station, a Cafe Amazon, and about the only hotel in town, J. B.'s.  If it's late enough, you stop.  

In Ban Phaeng, there's J.B.'s or there's J. B.'s

That's what I did, checking into a very comfortable USD 18 room and settling down to a decent but overpriced meal in a town with few restaurants.  A Dutchman in his late 50's living handsomely off the Dutch welfare state explained to me that he used to live in the area with his "wife."  He'd return to Europe periodically to earn himself some euros and then return to Ban Phaeng to live in the tiny house with the missus.  He found that she misspent the euros he sent and exhibited reckless behavior.   Should he have been surprised when he was 57 and she barely 30?  The romance went south, he lost the house, and had returned to the area of his semi-permanent roots to kill some time before going to Laos.

I fully intended to leave the next day to bike the 100 km or so to Nakhon Phanom.  I actually checked out of J. B.'s but left my rather heavy knapsack behind at the desk while I reversed my tracks first to visit Phu Langka National Park to see a few waterfalls.  A sign posted showed the waterfall had various tiers and 8 km hike would take me to a pagoda.  Why not?  Incorporating sound physical exercise regimens into a daily lifestyle is what we're all supposed to be doing.

Phu Langka National Park Sriboonag Pagoda
An expected one hour trip to Phu Langka National Park outside Ban Phaeng lasted 7 hours, as trails in Thai national parks are more miss than hit.  From left to right:  Doug posing before waterfall;  Doug standing in front of the Sriboonag Pagoda

Too bad the trail disappeared a few kilometers in.  I could see the pagoda in the indeterminable distance but no trail was evident.   Time evaporated, and by some surreal circumstances, ambling about on non-existent trails looking for ones, I stumbled into a monk and his temporary encampment.  He offered me a very hot bottled tea that's best served cold.   He escorted me to a cave where a crew of male and female monks were conversing.  Their leader spoke English.  He'd obtained an engineering degree in the Philippines two-and-a-half decades earlier.   He and a disciple escorted me along the impossible-to-find path to the Sriboonag Pagoda. He and his fellow monks occupied individual caves scattered about the national park.  I made a call to my girlfriend from the top of the pagoda, a dozen miles from the Laos border, and had my call routed through the Lao Telecom networks and back to Thailand, a scam I fully uncover here

By the time I got back down, had a bath in the waterfall, and biked back to J. B.'s to pick up my knapsack, it was much too late to be making tracks to Nakhon Phanom.  I grabbed a beer and booked myself another night.  The Dutchman and I hopped on our motorbikes and drove around the tiny town until we came to a small restaurant selling what turned out to be extremely tasty pad thais and stir fried morning glories.  

All said, a great place to spend two memorable sober nights.


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Computer Comprehensive Companion

  Are you traveling through Isaan and going through Ban Phaeng? You've got to see Phu Langka National Park and the Sriboonag Pagoda and stay at J.B.'s