Communist Village & Natural Wonders Of Phayao...

ianyonok

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..... plus a pretty tough dirt ride over the mountains.

But it started with a search for a "Hanging Rock" at Bo Sipsong.
North of Phayao is a ridge running roughly north-south. Access from the west is from a village road, east of highway 1.
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A brand new tarmac road in.
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Then came to a checkpoint. Here; N 19.24225 deg, E 99.91057 deg.

Various unusual natural features to see on this ridge;
At least 12 round natural bore holes in the limestone, caused by water erosion. Hence the name Bor Sipsong or 12 wells. Also many odd shaped rocks, but it was late in the day and I only had time to get to the Hanging Rock.
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Pha Hua Rua - Ship's Prow Cliff
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It certainly did have the shape of the bow of a ship.
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With a great view looking east across road 1202 to the Phu Nang N.P. It is another escarpment, like Phu Che Fah or Phu ArnMa. All three or these escarpment viewpoints are looking east.
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Some of the natural bore holes.
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After a night in Phayao town, I took a ride around the Gwan. There is a nice paved road that goes all the way around close to the water. At the southwest corner of the Gwan is the ancient port at Bahn Tung Giew.
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A dugout canoe, at least 70 years old.
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It does appear that the lake shore line has been cut in a way to moor up more boats.
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Looking west across the pink flowering lotus to Doi Nork, on the Lampang border ridge, Doi Luang NP.
An amazing rock and special for me, as it was a very tough climb up there to see it, 6 months ago. We had camped later that day on Doi Luang, the highest peak on the ridge, to the left in the photo.
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But back to today..
I rode east to Dok Kham Tai and then to Pong. But to get to Pong you have to ride a long way, all the way around the Phu Nang National Park. The southern route is via Chiang Muan and the northern route, as I went, via Chun. The Phu Nang National Park forms a huge area almost in the middle of Phayao province and there are apparently no roads over these mountains.
From Pong, the 1188/1228 takes you SE to the big cave at Pha Tang.
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Approaching a huge flat rock face.
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A beautiful spot.
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Moving on, took the concrete road 15klms SE to Bahn Santisuk.
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Looking east to Doi Pa Chang & Doi Pha Chi, above Bahn Santisuk.
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A great ride with no traffic.
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An isolated Hmong village, hidden in the mountains on the Phayao - Nan border.
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North of the village, along the valley, I found a very interesting and somewhat sad place.
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Overgrown and poorly maintained.
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It was the communist graveyard I was looking for. Here; N 19.06031 deg, E 100.49374 deg.
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I thought this said "Susan Wirachon". But actually, "susarn" means graveyard in Thai.
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About 10 graves in all. Simple concrete slabs, each with a small engraved and gilded marble headstone.
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I later realised why each name was prefixed with "S" in Thai. This stands for "S'hai", the Thai equivalent of "Comrade". This is the grave of S'hai Sunthut.
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Careless use of a strimmer has damaged a couple of the headstones. The graveyard clearly gets very infrequent maintenance, but perhaps once a year there is a remembrance ceremony held with the villagers.
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S'hai Gong.
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There is a small railing around the site but disappearing in overgrowth.
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I headed back to the village.

A large red star on the gable end of this house.
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Is the bottom script written Hmong language?
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A trail leads south out of the Bahn Santisuk over a stream..
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..then up a steep slope to the ridge
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About 1klm out of the village, I turned off right into a previously cleared area.
A sala for.... re-eduaction..?
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This monument to Communism looked sinister..... up on a raised platform of ground, like a stage. The party officials would stand on the stage next to it and the comrades would sit on the ground in front.
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Unfortunately illegible.
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Hong Nam
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Steps up to the stage.
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The word in quotes is "S'hai"... Comrades.
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There is no mistaking the round symbol on the top of the memorial.
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Not very long ago......
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This memorial is at; N 19.04843 deg, E 100.50047 deg.

Time was rolling, so I continued along the Phayao - Nan ridge trail, camera battery dead. This trail went on and on, first east with lots of steep and slippery ups and downs before turning north, with more slippery ups and downs. I think about 25klms all up, some of it very gingerly, before I popped out into Bahn Sop Khun, further north on the Phayao - Nan border. I was certainly tired & happy to arrive and get out of the mountains before dark. Then took the lovely windy tarmac road east to Ta Wang Pha and crashed in a roadside GH. Only dropped the bike once this time out, which is good.... or perhaps I'm not trying hard enough..

A fun and interesting ride in some beautiful scenery. I want to go back to Bahn Santisuk some time when the Phu Yai Bahn is there. There is some hiking to be done up Doi Pha Chi.

But somehow, I don't think Bahn Santisuk is ready to get listed on the Thai Tourism Authority's website yet...!

I must just add; Thank You to David, for the tip-offs about the locations in this report.
 
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DavidFL

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Great report & bit of history Ian.

Fantastic that you got out there to check it out for us.

Now I wonder how old the graves are - I guess there were no dates?

We will have to get some translations for a bit more info i reckon.
Especially this one
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I think there might be a guy in Chiang Khong too, who knows a bit about the commie battles in the area.
All this history fascinates me & makes the touring more rewarding.
I will see if i can track him down once I am back in CK.

Last but not least TQ too Jean Baptiste, who tipped me off as well.
 

DavidFL

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Update March 2022

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The overgrown graveyard site north of Santisuk has been cleaned up & renovated.
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Some new headstones are in place
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Interesting enough GTR met up with Khun Chalong, the village headman & ex communist warrior.
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He has just written a Thai language booklet with the history of their struggle & community.
When I asked about the RTAF chopper shot down in 73 he said there were two shot down & the remains of one are still up there on the mountain!.....anyone up for a serious mountain goat hike?