After leaving the monastery, three of us decided we wanted to get back to nature and do something that required a large amount of physical exertion. We wanted to climb a mountain. So I whipped out my trusty LP and spied that not far North from Khon Kaen there was a national park, complete with waterfalls and a challenging hike to the top. Perfect.
Getting to the bottom of the mountain was considerably more expensive than even the higher bracket of the LP had pointed out, but at least we were there and ready to go. Due to the height of the mountain, packs were left at the bottom and we just took day packs with us, however it is possible to get someone to carry your bags up for you (for yet a lot more money than the LP states). This mountain, Phu Kradeung, was beautiful. With bamboo forests making way for pine forests further up as the air cooled. Tours of young monks passed us in their bright orange and yellow robes, carrying packs larger than themselves down the sloping steps. Passing signs that told us to be aware of wild elephants, and wooden steps haphazardly strewn across rocks, the walk was just what we needed. The top of the mountain was not quite a peak like as we had anticipated, in fact it was a plateau stretching across 15km, complete with tents, bungalows, restaurants and gift shops. Rather than this making my heart sink that I was not going to be entirely at one with nature, it was done in such a way that didn’t intrude on the serenity of the park.
There are easily marked trails, with exact distances to each view point or waterfall. Although this was confined and organised nature trekking, we didn’t care. We watched sunrise from one side, and sunset from the other. Walking over 9 km in less than an hour and a half in the dark.
Lonely Planet has not raved about this park, only warranting a page or so in the guide book, easily missed by hordes of gap years and those seeking beer.
Be patient with your guide book, if you are gentle and give it your time it is sure to reveal its secrets.