Daily Archives: January 30, 2006

King Naresuan the Great

One of Thailand’s greatest heroes was King Naresuan, the warrior king. When he was only nine years old, he was handed over to the Burmese as a kind of hostage when his father lost a battle. It was traditional in those days to do this in order to keep the defeated subdued. Young Naresuan spent most of his informative years in Burma where his likeable personality and excellent fighting skills made him a favourite of the Burmese king. However, Naresuan never forgot his Thai roots. When an opportunity arose, he returned to Thailand where he declared independence from the Burmese. After a series of battles the final showdown came in Suphan Buri on January 25th, 1592. King Naresuan, who was sitting atop a war elephant, spotted the Crown Prince of Burma. They had been childhood friends. Both elephants charged towards each other. After several minutes of hand-to-hand combat, the Crown Prince was fatally stabbed with a lance. With their leader dead, the Burmese troops retreated and didn’t return to Thailand for a very long time.

This day is now known as National Armed Forces day and the event is celebrated every year in Don Chedi for just over a week. On Saturday I went up to Suphan Buri to meet Steve and his good wife. He showed us around his fine city and then took us to the fair in nearby Don Chedi. The place was packed with thousands of people. It was much like the temple fair we have here in Samut Prakan every year. Apart from all the food stalls, there were Thai dancing shows, singing, likay and boxing. However, the highlight was certainly the light and sound show which recounted the life of King Naresuan. This culminated with the spectacular elephant battle which you can see in my photograph at the top. It was certainly an impressive event and only cost us 100 baht each ($2.50).

Over the weekend I did visit a few tourist attractions in Suphanburi and I will tell you about these later. Strangely, you won’t find this province mentioned in the Lonely Planet. Yet another oversight as we saw some pretty amazing stuff. However, hats off to Carl Parkes, a regular visitor to our blogs, as we took along his Moon Publications guidebook to Thailand. He had several pages on this province which helped us greatly. Thank you Carl.

Old Patong:Our first trip from Patong Beach

Superman, Erik The Red and Michelle of Patong at Lenas hut Kata Noi.
Note the little hut/bungalows on the side of the steep hill behind us,
they were the ONLY accomadations in Kata Noi at the time!

Acquiring the Spirit Of Patong really opened new territories for us!

It was rare that I ever got on the Baht bus, Patong Patty would go into Phuket town every few weeks, mostly to shop for arms full of orchids at the big open market there.

After getting the scooter with sidecar, we ventured over the big hills that separated Ao Patong from the rest of the Phuket Island. In those days, there was only one road in, a few “dirt-bike only” trails went north to Ao Kamala or south to Karon Beach, but our little scooter was just a Honda Lead, with a sidecar made from the droptank of an old F86/F100 jet and it wasn’t really made to carry the extra weight of the sidecar & a passenger, but it was just right for us.

It was just powerful enough to barely make it over the steep hills between Patong Beach & Kathu, sometimes with Patong Patty jumping out as the centrifrugical clutch on the Lead started to whine, she’d often simply ease her legs over the side, standing up and giving the scooter a wee shove that was just enough to help it power up enough rpm’s to gain the crest of the hill, where I would wait for Patty to jump back in and hold on tight as we’d race down each hill.

The scooter being so gutless was actually a blessing, we rarely got up enough speed to get into trouble, only occasionally jamming on the brakes to avoid any and all of the following;

pedestrians having to immediately cross in front of a moving vehicle
water buffalo[s]
snakes[not ONE day went by that we didn’t see something slithering across ALL roads we were on]

and of course, ALL larger vehicles, which was everyone on the road!

especially other motorcycles…

We had been in a few rented jeep-like vehicles, to Naiharn beach and Kata and even little ideal Kata Noi, but this was our first trip with just the two of us and we were so excited!

Locals, especially children would giggle, smile and clap their hands when they got the first glimpse of the Spirit Of Patong. Funny how something as simple as a scooter with a sidecar, in a land where many contraptions were bolted onto motorcycles was so pleasant for all that saw it!

The scooter had no “gears”, but an automatic clutch, so we had to be careful going down those steep hills too!!

I rode the breaks slowly descending the steeper hills or dirt paths, sometimes Patong Patty would get out and grab ahold of the back of the scooter, acting as a human brake! We never crashed, but sometimes slide down a dirt path that a bike with a clutch would have just eased on by.

Anyway, we made it over the big hills, turned south just before Phuket town[it was still a bit scary for me to drive on the left side of the road, but I would just pull off if too many big trucks or buses were coming at us], towards Chalong Junction, where the road would go to Kata Beach or south to the gypsy village of Rawai and then west to beautiful Naiharn Beach.

At the junction, we stopped by the big Wat Chalong, although there was a Wat in Patong, we never seemed to go there, but seeing the golden spires of Wat Chalong, it seemed to pull us in automatically.

Being dressed for the beach, we naturally didn’t go into any buildings,etc, but met a young man there riding an arm powered tricycle! This hand cycle really appealed to me, we quickly swapped bikes, he riding our scooter all over the Wat grounds, while I tried to get his trike moving by arm power.

At the time, I was extremely strong, my arms and shoulders full of muscle from years of pushing wheelchair racing and basketball and walking with forearm crutches, but this young guy we met, maybe in his early 20’s had twice my strength, easily moving his hand powered trike with ease, something that I managed to barely get it moving!

After getting back on our bikes, we bid him ad eau, wai’ing and we headed towards Kata Beach.

There was another steep hill just before Kata, but it wasn’t like the big hills sheltering Patong Beach, the scooter made it up without a worry and we were able to look down at Kata Yai and see all the way north to Karon Beach too!

There was only a small village in Kata in those days, a few bungalows near the south end of the bay, we had lunch there, then went over the steep little dirt track just to the south to the ever scenic Kata Noi.

We had a greenspot at Lenas little shake, the only place on the entire bay then and headed back up the dirt path and home to Old Patong.

The day had been full of excitement and fun for both of us! We washed off the bugs from both the trike and ourselves and were quite sunburned and tired. We learned to wear hats AND sunblock after this trip!