Red carpets, arctic swimming & art galleries

Huay Me – Ban Sapan – Nan

I awoke just before 7am to find Tao and Kai already preparing breakfast. Showering was a little more sophisticated this morning : we had a cold water tap in a lockable room with soap and shampoo. We set off around 9am to walk ‘the red carpet’ (so called as it’s a dirt track which weaves its way through the mountains and from a distance looks almost red in colour due to the sediment in the rock). Not long after we left the village, we were caught up by the 60 year lady whom we’d met last night. She was beginning her walk “not very far” (it was actually 3 or 4km) to the nearest stream to catch some fish for her family. She was mending her net with cotton and thread on the way down to the stream. It amazes me how little these people have yet how much they are capable of. It’s eye-opening, refreshing and inspiring.

We passed by a Christian church in a local village where a priest was performing a ceremony to bless those who were sick, and also a small bamboo weaving establishment where a lady was making a wicker sunlounger, which she will sell for just 600THB. I would pay at least twice that amount for the level of work and time which goes into the construction of these beautiful pieces of furniture.

We finished our trek back at Ban Sapan, where we made a final 2km hike up to the waterfall to take a refreshing swim. However, once i’d submerged my entire body in the water ‘refreshing’ was not the word i would have used : the water was so cold it took my breath away! I wondered why Tao and Kai were reluctant to join myself and Mia!

When we arrived back at the village, one of the local families (friends of Tao’s) had cooked a huge spread for us : sticky rice, chilli paste, spicy pepper and eggplant sauce, pumpkin, omelete, homegrown crispy white cabbage and local tea. I was so full afterwards that i think i slept through most of the journey to Nan Riverside Art Gallery. I was, however, awake for the stop at the site of Chompoo Phu Kha. It’s a tree which only grows in this part of Thailand and for that reason the local people regard it as holy, its trunk decorated with bands of brightly coloured flower garlands to represent this.

Nan Riverside Art Gallery was well worth a visit. The grounds and the buildings within them are designed by local artist, Winai Prabripoo, who also owns the gallery itself. It’s situated along the banks of the Nan river, in a very peaceful setting, whilst at the same time being just off the main road, 20km out of Nan. The artwork is a combination of sculpture, buddhist inspired paintings and local landscapes. Tao and I both had a favourite painting we wanted to take home with us : an abstract face melting into the backround it was painted upon.

We finally arrived back at Nan Guesthouse at around 6pm, where i thanked Tao and Kai for a fantastic few days. It really was everything a trek should be : we walked over such a variety of terrain and through diverse and spectacular landscapes, and in the villages i felt part of the environment and its people, rather than just a voyeur.

As we were parting company, Tao invited me for lunch tomorrow. I wasn’t entirely sure how i was going to manage to eat any more food after the amount we’d consumed over the last few days, but the two of us got on well together during the trek so i had no reason to refuse his invitation.

I spent the evening perusing the stalls at the market (a monthly event spanning 3 nights and lining the best part of Sumonthewarat Road). Like Nan itself, the market is not really aimed at tourists (i.e there were no stalls selling the usual gifts and handicafts attractive to foreigners) but it was interesting all the same and the prices were a lot lower that at markets in more tourist-orientated towns and cities. They even sold pets there : dogs, rabbits, mice, and the tiniest little Russian hamsters.
There was live music entertainment provided on a stage set up opposite the Dhevaraj Hotel and seating laid out outside the hotel itself. So, when i’d seen all there was to be seen at the market, i sat down at one of the tables, ordered a beer and listened to the Thai music offerings being performed on the nearby stage.
Photo is of a lady weaving a piece of bamboo furniture, just outside Ban Sapan.

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