Still, the mountain is meant to traffic large numbers of people simultaneously and there were some very "Thai" aspects to the experience, including the existence of professional porters that most people use to carry their gear up the mountain for 15 bht a kilo.
Rita and I paced ahead, we both have a pretty fast walk in general, but we stopped to smell the flowers, listen to the wind and birds in the bamboo forests, and eat a quick slice or two of daang moh (red watermelon).
There were sections that were rigorously steep (I have no idea how the porters managed them), and some of them had stone or steel stairs built to get you up.
We went round and round later about how they possibly carted all of the materials to build and supply the structures on top, but with the exception of one tractor vehicle moving trash we saw no evidence of anything being delivered without human power. There were signs to watch for wild elephants (unfortunately the only chang we saw was Ben and this very strange thing in all black),
and Sarah wondered why they couldn't be put to lugging things up, a preferable life in some ways to putting on a dog and pony show (that is an oddly mixed metaphor- an elephant putting on a dog and pony show), but I pointed out that such a remedy would then put the porters out of a job, and then we would have had to go to the "porter round up" in Surin and watch the porters reenact old battles and throw darts at oversized dart boards and give people rides around town. Once we arrived on the summit, where the porters put down their loads and they were transferred to rolling carts, and we covered a flat sandy 3 k trail, we arrived at an enormous tent city.
Then it was time to scurry back to our tents and a hot breakfast, which, coupled with the Thai sun soon did it work and had us all back to our usual sweaty selves. Rita's friend Sean who teaches in Chaing Mai and his girlfriend Bpalm had to get back to their car for a twelve hour drive home, and after much discussion, we decided to head back down ourselves rather than stay another night.
This meant that Ben, who was arriving a day late, would be making the trek up the mountain with all his gear for the shear exercise of it, unless he wanted to stay up on his own. There are many waterfalls on the top of the butte, yet at this time of year they are close to completely dry. We too had a long trip home and thought it better to catch up on our sleep in Khon Khen so we could be in good teaching form for the 4th. We scooched over to the nearest waterfall, snapped a few photos, and broke down the tents.
We had planned on buying some Leuaang mo (yellow watermelon) at this stop, but it was the only one where the confection was not available. I decided this was our elusive Moby Dick, the unsatisfied object of our desire which would call us back. If I do make it back to the top of Phu Kradeung, it will most likely be conveyed like this elderly fellow. We wondered if they were going to throw him off the cliff in some death ceremony or if he had paid for a round trip.
I was very hooked on this Moby Dick premise and thought we should each come up with a personal Moby for which we quested while in Thailand. If one managed to locate their Moby, they had to immediately imagine a new one.
Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.
and our cold night atop this Thai landmark led me then to the wonderful poems of Han Shan, translated by Gary Snyder:
Clambering up the Cold Mountain path
|by Han-shan (Cold Mountain) |
(730? - 850?)
English version by
Clambering up the Cold Mountain path,
The Cold Mountain trail goes on and on:
The long gorge choked with scree and boulders,
The wide creek, the mist-blurred grass.
The moss is slippery, though there's been no rain
The pine sings, but there's no wind.
Who can leap the world's ties
And sit with me among the white clouds?