"Come to Ban Phaeng with no
expectations. I did. I never expected I'd be going to
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.
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
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.
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
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
All said, a great place to spend two memorable sober nights.