Dat Fa waterfall is in the Tai Rom Yen National Park (Surat Thani Province). The waterfall has some 22 levels. We came here in December but were driven back by a torrential downpour and didn't have a chance to see much. This time the weather was fine and we walked up to the sixth waterfall.
Beyond the sixth waterfall the path became very steep and treacherous. We walked some way up but eventually gave up and went back down. When we got back to the park headquarters Na asked the staff about what was higher up. They said it was a long way from the sixth to the seventh waterfall. The eighth waterfall is the highest -- it spills over an 80 metre high cliff.
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Saturday, January 14, 2006
view of the puppeteers in action
Last night in the courtyard of a small Chinese temple by the night boat pier in Surat Thani I saw a shadow puppet play (Thai: nang thalung). There were only a handful of people watching but that didn't really take anything away from the performance. Check out this video of the performance.
shadow puppet play
close up of the shadow puppets
Thursday, January 12, 2006
The Bangkok Post travel section (Horizons) has an interesting article on meditation retreats in Thailand today. The article reports on three temples near Chiang Mai offering retreats and teaching for foreigners.
Wat Umong is a forest temple on the outskirts of Chiang Mai. I have visited it a few times and it is an interesting place. One of its most interesting features is the many signs in Thai and English featuring Buddhist slogans like "Today is Better than Two Tomorrows." It also has a network of caves and tunnels that were once used for meditation. The temple has offered teachings to foreigners for sometime. The Bangkok Post reports:
"We will be friends to anyone who wants to know more about Buddhism," said Songserm Bikkhu, the teaching monk who directs Wat Umong's newly-opened International Buddhist Education and Meditation Practice Centre, which has 17 rooms for foreigners who can choose from one to four-day retreats. There is no cost, just individual donation. Many Westerners give US-6 a day.
"If people would like to take a retreat or to ordain as a monk and practice here, they can," Songserm Bikkhu said. "If they would just like to come, learn and go and practice on their own, they can."
The article also says that another temple, Wat Ram Poeng, is expanding its facilities for foreigners.
Yesterday's ThaiDay had an interesting story about Sumano Bhikkhu, an American monk who has spent 15 years living and practicing in a cave in Isaan. He is the author of several books and despite living in a cave he still has a laptop computer that he uses to write with.
You can find a list of Buddhist temples and meditation retreats in Thailand here.
Saturday, January 07, 2006
If there is one thing I am continually shocked and appalled by in Thailand it is the shocking disregard that people have for road safety. The recent New Year holiday higlights the massive problem. 434 people were killed over the seven days of the New Year. This was less killed than the 628 killed during the same period last year. The Bangkok Post reports:
Nearly 90% of all accidents involved motorcycles, and 65% of fatalities involved people not wearing crash helmets.
Drink driving was said to be the cause of 37% of accidents. Pick-ups were involved in almost 6% of accidents and personal cars and taxis in around 2%.
So few people in Thailand wear helmets while riding motorcycles. In Surat Thani many people will wear helmets while riding in the city were the police might stop and fine them and then take off their helmets once they leave the city limits.
And then there is the problem of drink driving. Alcohol abuse is so common place that drink driving is an almost inevitable consequence.
The fact that the road deaths were down from last year does indicate that the increased efforts of police have some effect. However, if the police only have crackdowns at the most dangerous times of the year this won't change people's bad habits. A combination of consistent law enforcement and public education is the only way to bring down the road toll.