Eric and I have been wanting to visit our friends, Andrew and Jane, who are also teaching in Suphanburi province and live just an hour and a half van ride away and we finally made the quick trip last weekend! They are also interested in exploring the more rural parts of Thailand (like us) and their small town, Dan Chang, actually gives them access to some awesome wilderness! So Friday after school Eric and I left the big city (Suphan) for some outdoor adventures. Down the street from Jane and Andrew's apartment is a Swedish guy who makes some awesome pizza and we definitely indulged in the western treat Friday night. I haven't eaten pizza since our first weekend in Suphan since it is incredibly expensive (for living on a Thai salary) and not that great, so I definitely took advantage of dinner in Dan Chang.
Eric and I woke up Saturday morning to check out Dan Chang near Andrew and Jane's apartment before our 10 am scheduled meeting time with the guy who was going to take us to the mountain and camp site. Dan Chang is much much smaller than Suphan and has a really good vibe, which made Eric and I a bit jealous of Jane and Andrew. There is nothing wrong with Suphan, but it isn't a big city and it isn't a small town so it lies in that awkward size where it isn't like everyone knows each other but it doesn't have all the activities that a big city would have. After buying some snacks at the market for our camping overnight we left to meet up with our driver.
Andrew and Jane have been trying to figure out how to get to the tallest mountain in Suphan that they had read about and finally figured it out a couple weeks ago by talking to this guy who they think runs the Dan Chang mafia (basically just one of those guys that is always on his phone and knows everyone). He arranged to have his friend (who also seems like a mob boss but has the best smile) pick us up and drive us to the camp site at the base of the mountain. He was running an hour late, so we walked to the big reservoir dam about 2 miles from their apartment. It was amazing being able to walk from their apartment to some country roads and to enjoy the company of some people we don't get to see that often. (sidenote: Jane is the only foreign girl in Dan Chang so she was really looking forward to girl time and Eric pretty much only interacts with girls in Suphan so he definitely needed some male company.)
The second mob boss picked us up (I will now refer to him as Smiley since I can't remember his name) from the reservoir in his pickup and we began the longer than expected cramped ride to the mountain. The only camping Eric and I have done here was at Erawan falls where there was a very official yet cheap camp site with food stalls near by and we had no idea what to expect with this camping experience. We stopped at Smiley's house on the way to buy a ridiculous amount of eggs to take with us (evidently no food stalls) and also stopped at this little water fall off of the dirt road (I think mostly so Smiley could get rid of us for a little so he could take a nap). We finally made it to our camping spot after some other stops by 4:15. At this point I was pretty tired and dehydrated so I decided to skip hiking the mountain Saturday afternoon with promises from everyone that they would do it again the next morning.
They headed off and I enjoyed the start of a new book and appreciated the quiet and the beautiful views. It always surprises and pleases me that Thais like to camp and this campsite definitely filled up despite it being so far away from anything and up a long dirt road. By the time Jane, Andrew, and Eric got back from the hike, the newly arrived groups of our fellow campers had set up their giant tents, busted out the propane tanks, woks, variety of meats and vegetables, and had just put away their super fancy cameras for sunset photos. I hope to be invited to go camping by a Thai family because they do it in style. Unfortunately for us, they love to stay up late and wake up eeeeeearly. We were woken up between 6 and 7 am to "Noooong, Soooong, Saaaaam! Hehehehehehe!!!" (1, 2, 3) as the various groups photographed the sunrise and posed in their pictures.
So we got up with them and left to hike up the tallest mountain in Suphan (which is actually only 800 meters from where we started). That sounds pretty pathetic, but it was 800 meters of straight up and was a great outdoor stair master workout. We were led by the two friendliest and most active dogs I have met in Thailand (who we named Kingston and Tukie after some of Eric's friend's dogs) and hiked up in the fog. We walked through various fields of vegetables and a small village (mostly just a collection of houses with their respective farms) and loved every minute of it. We made it to the top and enjoyed being in/above the clouds looking down on our campsite.
Of course there was a giant Buddha statue at the top of the mountain that I'm pretty sure the guy that runs the campsite hikes up to every day to honor. Thais love their Buddha statues. We took some short naps and snacked on our treats from the Dan Chang market and waited for the fog to clear a bit, which it didn't, and descended back to our campsite, then back to Dan Chang, and eventually home to Suphan. It was a great weekend and I am definitely looking forward to spending more time in more rural areas of Thailand and Asia when we are finished teaching! Also, Eric and I are running a 10k in this coming weekend and Jane and Andrew are joining us! The race is outside of a national park that is supposed to be pretty amazing and we are going to do some more camping and exploring after the race! This is my first (and maybe only) training race for my half marathon so if you would like to show some support for my Run Vietnam for Literacy campaign, please donate at my website and join me by running or getting outdoors this Saturday!