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Mount Zwegabin

The twenty four hour loud speaker voices from the temples had us up far before our 7 a.m. tuktuk to Mount Zwegabin. We had some taro cookies for breakfast and a few oranges. On our tour, there was a woman from Calgary and another man from the US. He was a bit hungover, but still wanted to climb the mountain.

We drove through Lumbini garden again then up to the corridor that led to the path to the summit. We started climbing right away while the others stopped at the washroom. We knew we didn't have much time to summit and return and wanted to make the most of it. Our other tour mates had set an 11:00 deadline and it was already 7:30.

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The first section was a challenge with a steep climb up many stairs. We kept stopping for water breaks even though it was early and not overbearingly hot yet. From that height, we could still see some of the Buddha statues below though they grew smaller and smaller with each step.

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By the time we reached the first yellow and blue two story temple, twenty five minutes had elapsed and we'd climbed a fair bit. There was a bit of construction being done but overall it was a pretty relaxed atmosphere.

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The climb continued, but grew more horizontal for some sections as we crossed a ridge. Then we climbed even higher. The countryside was beautiful with green karst mountains in hazy shadows and cliff faces lit up in the sun perfectly. Agricultural land spread far in the other direction and the roads wound around. There were dogs up this high as well.

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The last leg of the journey was hot and sunny with plenty of uphill sections. On the way we encountered a monkey or two but kept our distance. The other two members of our climbing party met us near the top, making better time. We managed the summit in an hour and 45 minutes instead of the estimated two. Not bad for two people from the prairies that rarely climb anything.

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At the summit, there were a few pagodas and small community with a coffee shop/restaurant. One of the gold pagodas sat near the edge of the mountain, overlooking the land below. There was a gong and Buddha statues as well. We took off our shoes as it was a temple and the tiles cooled our feet. Around the back, we found shade and a great view of a few other pagodas on the mountain range. Monkeys stirred below us, playing, eating, and watching until a man with a slingshot came by to scare them off.

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Many people asked to be in photos with the woman from Calgary. We and the American guy posed with a friendly monk from Yangon who spoke great English.

Monkeys did attack in the end when we started eating our corn puff snacks. We gave one to the woman from Calgary but soon a monkey came at her. She threw it away but then it grabbed at her bag. She went to scare it but it hissed at her before it took interest in the coffee glass she had yet to return to the shop. It left in the end and Ryan snatched up her things before it could go after them again. They're scary creatures.

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We had another look at the pagoda and rested more before tackling the trail down. The sun was quite hot now, but many people were making the trek up at this time. A few groups of Burmese guys wanted a photo with Ryan and I before they ran off hooting and hollering. Everyone seemed quite happy.

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At the first rest stop, we found some adorable dogs who were a little scared of us. One of the black ones came to play with and chew on my camera bag strap. Ryan and I were slower on the way down too since we kept stopping to take pictures, but we made it down in an hour for 11:15. Chatting on the way back, we got some restaurant recommendations for lunch like the chicken salad or tomato for me. The woman from Calgary had also been trekking in Nepal and spoke very highly of her six weeks there. Everyone we talked with seemed to love it, so we were itching to go even more.

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Back in Hpa An, Ryan and I headed out to Khit Thit restaurant to try the chicken and tomato salads. They were alright, pretty basic, not really living up to the hype. We wandered the market for fruit to find oranges and bananas. The rest of the afternoon was meant for relaxing, reading and lying down. We had climbed a mountain after all.

For supper we had sweet and sour dishes at Lucky and fireworks followed. Music played from the nearby temple. It was a celebration, of what we weren't sure, and we forgot to ask about it the next day as well.

Posted by Sarah.M 07:33 Archived in Myanmar Tagged monkey climb mount_zwegabin hpa_an Comments (0)

Tour through Khao Sok

semi-overcast 29 °C

Even with our tricky mosquito net that didn't like night time bathroom runs, we didn't get eaten by the bugs. Our wake up calls came from gibbons, birds, and Ryan's favourite, the cicada squeal. He probably still cringes thinking about it. Breakfast was pretty relaxed with only a few people ordering and we managed to chat with Mr. Bao, the owner, and book the overnight lake tour. His absence yesterday was explained by the fact that he owned three business and they kept him on his toes.

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We ventured to Jungle Huts guesthouse where our solo tour departed a touch late. They were nice enough to drive us to the gate. Our guide, Beer, welcomed us and made sure we bought our admission tickets. Then we went through the check-points to enter the park. We felt very tracked and it was odd.

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The first part of the trail was a wide road with red dirt. Beer pointed out monkeys, flying squirrels and even a chameleon. We ventured into a more trail-like path soon after. We stopped quite frequently at viewpoints or to take a break even though we weren't tired. These seemed to be smoke breaks for the guides.

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The waterfalls we saw were more like rapids in each spot that we visited. At least the water was clear and turquoise so it offered some natural beauty. I still didn't want to swim until we made more progress on the trial walk.

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On one of our many breaks, other guides called out to the monkeys and offered them bananas to their hiker's delight. Many gray primates came over, even a mother with a small black baby clutched to her abdomen. They followed those guides afterward for awhile. We, Beer included, kept our distance. Beer shared in the opinion that feeding them only led to dependence and trouble. Afterwards we stopped for an early lunch.

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At the fifth viewpoint, Beer had us cross a river in a sketchy way only to have another guide tell him not to go that way because of the water levels. As I struggled to make it back across the river, our guide decided it was a good time for a cigarette, probably to make up for all of those times we'd declined a break. The Thai rational for the mandatory guide was to make the experience safer. I wouldn't have tried to cross the river on my own, and Ryan was the only reason I made it back across. I was get more disillusioned by the guided experience.

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The path to view the sixth area was covered in leeches that sat on the ground like inchworms with teeth, ready to pounce. My choice to wear sandals wasn't the brightest. I had to keep stopped to pluck them off my feet and would lose the group. When we finally arrived, I had two spots bleeding quite a lot. I washed them up while swimming near some neat caves. Ryan helped me patch up my foot. His shoes had been a much better barrier. By the time we made our way back to the entrance, I had picked up five more leeches. We also saw a centipede on the slippery ground.

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For supper, we found a restaurant with good vegetarian and lacto-ovo options. We shared a massaman curry and sweet and sour tofu, which were both pretty good. When we got back and talked to Mr. Bao, he confirmed there would be enough participants to run the lake tour we wanted to postpone a night. Tomorrow would be a nice relaxing day for our bodies and wallets. Never hurt to rest in a beautiful place.

The following morning, just as we finished our tasty French toast and were about to sort out our arrangements for diving and research for the rest of our Thailand trip, the power went out. There went most of our plans for the day and the reason to postpone the lake trip. Shortly after, a man on a motorbike came by and confirmed that power was out around the whole town and probably wouldn't be up and running until later tonight.

The day passed by leisurely, reading, writing, relaxing in our little cabin. It was nice to have a balcony and the breeze since the fan wasn't working. We wandered a bit into town and found that the vegetarian restaurant was one of the few still open. With power out, many couldn't keep the fridges going. Exploring took up a bit more time, although Ryan was dismayed to learn fruit shakes couldn't be made and blended without power.

In the evening, the power came back, we got our dive booking sorted and went next door to eat since they had a Thailand Lonely Planet, something we'd be needing to figure out what sections I hadn't yet seen as Ryan wanted sights to be new for me too. That would be the biggest challenge. By the end of the night, we found a few sights in the Northeast that would be interesting to visit and might fill up the next couple of weeks: volcano temples linked to those in Cambodia, but on the Thai side since the Khmer empire stretched that far.

Posted by Sarah.M 23:17 Archived in Thailand Tagged monkey thailand waterfall hike national_park khao_sok Comments (0)

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