Pua & Back - R1148 - the Legends route.

DavidFL

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Off for a blast along the legendary R1148 to check out the Chomphu Phukha tree on Doi Phukha.
Dave DKT & I meet up at the Phusang PTT, just north of Chiang Kham.
For Dave, there is actually another more convenient PTT south of town on the 1148, but over a cuppa we both agree that the Phu Sang PTT has superior service & facilities.

After a natter & on the road on time, we note crowds of people lined up beside the road for kms ready to make offerings to monks.
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It was quite a spectacle & went for kms. There must be an amazing parade of monks coming for a special event I thought.
Every village had tens of people sitting on mats waiting beside the road, waiting in eagerly participation to make merit.
Eventually the crowd lining the road got thicker, vehicles banked up & red flashing lights appeared in the distance.
I slowed right down for the event & paused to get a photo or two of a massive parade of monks.

And there was one!


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And he's got a nice entourage of followers.
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What do us mere ignorant farang know, not much of course, but a bit of digging gets some info.

The legendary monk Luang Ta Boonchuen, from Esarn.

72 Year Old Luang Ta Boon Chuen has been walking tudong from the upper regions of Northeast of Thailand to Isaan, Si Sa Ket Province to pay his respects to Luang Pu Suang of Wat Prai Pattana, a lersi-monk who was 500 years old when he passed away. Luang Ta Boon Chuen has been covering the journey, hundreds of kilometres long, barefooted, and does not receive monetary offerings, but only offerings of water and some medical supplies.
Luang Ta Boon Chuen ordained in his later years and he takes the father of the forest tradition, Luang Pu Mun Phuritthato as his role model. Enduring pain and hardship, he goes on tudong to practice the Dhamma and develop his khanti parami (patience, forebearance). The villagers that he passes are full of faith in him and many line up to pay their respects to this old monk.


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The monk who lives life on the road, non-stop walking across the nation. Walking bare feet every where.

Hundreds of people line the road wherever he goes.
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The locals provide water & items of clothing for him to walk on and ease the pain on his bare feet from walking on the hot asphalt.
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No doubt an amazing man & worshipped fondly by thousands of people along the way.


Supposedly on his way to Chiang Saen, so they say in Chiang Khong?

A legend on 1148: Luang Ta Boonchuen.


More to come...
 
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DavidFL

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Back on the road the two GTR warriors hit the 1148 on their big bikes. We are a bit quicker than Luang Ta Boonchuen, but we know who the real legend of 1148 is - Luang Ta Boonchuen of course.

Dave DKT does the honours for some GTR 1148 pics.
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R1148 is often voted the top bikers road in the North.

It is 91 kms from the R1179/1148 juncton at the Chiang Kham end to the 1148 /101 junction at the Tha Wang Pha end, & is one hell of a twisting roller coaster ride
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But which way is the best ride?
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Some 1148 natural beauty at Ban Hae
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Smack bang in the middle of 1148 is the little village of Pha Lak.
It is 45 kms from the 1179/1148 junction at the West end & 45 kms from the 1148/101 junction at the East end.
Super conveniently located in Pha Lak is a local convenience store.
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The owner is a fabulous dynamic lady, who regularly drives her fully loaded pick up to Nan to get supplies.

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At the time we were there she was just unloading her pick up, loaded with washing machines, wardrobes & groceries.
3,000 kgs was her load today, but her suspension tune up with helper springs enables her to carry much more.
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She often drives, fully loaded, to Lampang / Lamphun / Chiang Mai delivering fruit from Pha Lak.
What a legend both Dave DKT & I thought.

Asked which was easier on 1148 - Nan or Chiang Muan, & the reply was Nan of course, less hills.
Nan was only 1.5 hours away for her in the pick up.
What a driver & 1148 legend!


more to come...
 
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DavidFL

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Pua is another 61 kms / 1 hour from the Pha Lak & it's time for lunch.
The Chomphu Phukha Resort is the venue & it is a gem of a spot, having been a GTR Up Country Dinner Venue in September 2019


Over lunch Dave DKT & I mull over our options for Pua & the Chomphu Phukha tree.
Ian Yonok has just been up there a week or two ago to see this extremely rare tree blooming.

Pua city & the immediate environs is also a gem of a little town.

Dave DKT was originally intending to return home the same day, but the old GTR fellah wins him over with a promise to take him to the ticklish tree as well. What the bloody hell is that, you're pulling my leg? Nah, nah, it is a real tree, that sleeps but when you tickle it gently, it jiggles. Ok I gotta see that to believe it.....
So we book a couple of rooms at the Chomphu Phukha Resort & head for the hills & R1256.

R1256 is the road up the mountain & it really is one of the great rides in North Thailand.
I first went up R1256 in the late 80s, before the road was complete.
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The distance is 56 kms across R1256 to Bo Klua & the ancient salt wells on R1081.

Time is flying by & fortunately it is only a brief 30 kms up hill ride to the Chomphu Phukha Tree on the ridgeline
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Riding 1256 with Dave DKT.

The iconic R1256 hill on the way & return
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The Chomphu Phuka Tree is 30 kms up the big hill & just past the 700 metres past the OTOP coffee shop, & next to the shrine
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The Chomphu Phukha Tree
The original story use to be that there was "only one left" in the world and this was it.
But over the years more have been propagated or found on Doi Phukha & other examples have been found elsewhere around the world.

Whatever, the tree is unique & only flowers for a couple of weeks February - March, & I don't recall ever having the good luck to be in the right spot at the right time on Doi Phukha. So this was it!

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We were not alone & patiently waited our time to get a few happy snaps at this marvelous specimen.

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What you need to know & appreciate
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Petal examinaton done, it was time to retreat to the coffee shop for the old GTR fellah
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A super friendly chat with the staff revealed the info that they are Lua gals from up the road & off the beaten track at Sakieng
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"All" the villages on Doi Phukha are either Lua or Khamu.

Rambling in Pua to come....
 
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DKT Dave

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Great write up David. We always see so many things on our 1-2 day sojourns! So much that I often return home weary, but inspired. Also a little thankful to be able to just potter around the house for a couple of days to recharge the batteries!
 

ianyonok

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Super. Looks like the trees by the road have a few more blossoms on them now.
Did you catch the Chompoo Phukha tree at the back of the coffee shop, also a beauty.
 

DavidFL

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A return to Pua, chilling out & pottering around....

Wat Rong Ngae
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Located 60 metres off R1256, the Doi Phukha road, & just 2.5 kms east of Pua city.

What's what with Wat Rong Ngae
Wat Rong Ngae is an ancient temple which is believed to have been constructed circa 1767 AD. by initiation of Chao Luang Thepphayarin Chao Chang Phueak Nga Khiao who was the former ruler of Rin Town. The town of Rin was in the territory of Sip Song Panna, ruled by Phya Saen Mueang Kaeo. When Rin was attacked by enemy, Phya Saen Mueang Kaeo could not defend the town therefore, Chao Luang Thepphayarin Chao Chang Phueak Nga Khiao came to his aid with 4 army leaders namely, Thao Kaeo Pan Mueang, Thao Wanna, Thao Lek Fai, and Thao Toe. However, the enemy was too powerful, thus they fled to an area near a stream called “Long Ngae Stream” (whose name derived from the “Ngae” plant that grew near the stream). The group settled at the place, which was a fertile land, and founded a village whose name followed the name of the stream, later the sound was distorted until the village name has become “Ban Rong Ngae”. The temple, also named after the village and was officially granted Royal Wisungcamsima on January 10th, 1927.

Across the fields out the back is a memorial to the brave defenders of Pua.
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Some Wat Rong Ngae humour
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More on GTR here:

Arrival time back in Pua city was just on 5.30PM & an intended happy hour venue at the aircon Hang Out coffeshop / pub failed due to its closing.
So the Chomphu Phukha resort restaurant was the venue.
Miss Chun was the star waitress & what an enjoyable dynamic employee she was.
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A bit out of place in Pua I thought & indeed she was.
An Ex King Power employee from Bangkok, selling thousands of baht worth of beauty products a day with a nice commission, but the good ol covid-19 had cost her a job & back home she was, hoping to return to work back in Bkk one day.

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The Pua Health department & hospital then started to take over with a 200-person staff party at the Chomphu Phukha so it was time for the outsiders to vacate the scene.

Seeds was the place to go with Ms Emmy on stage singing.

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Seeds is the #1 upmarket night spot in town & always guaranteed to be a good night out in Pua
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Always looking out for new venues & attractions, GTR got a tip off for the other top venue in Pua city.
So we decided to check it out.
As the old GTR fellah exited a sweet voice in perfect English said hello, how are you, do you remember me? Oh oh, not, but you used to work here? No I'm the owner. oops. We miss you, when are you coming back with your biker group for dinner again? Silly old farang, I apologize, of course yes I remember now, we had a fantastic night here, & you arranged a lift home for everyone last time. Super service.....we shall return as a group in a few months.....time for another GTR dinner in Pua guys.

Moseying on down the road then, the Seeds does have some competition at the One Wan 90s Pub.
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More down to earth, unpretentious.
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And that was the end of day one. There were some legends on R1148.

Day 2 & homeward bound to come...
 

ianyonok

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Yes, but you got the tree by the road in full bloom, we were too early for that one.
 

DavidFL

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Day 2 Pua & home....off to find the magic ticklish tree & on the way I recall another fabulous old wat.

Wat Ton Laeng
Located 1.9 kms N-W of the main Pua city road junction.
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Wat Ton Laeng is a beautiful ancient Tai Lue temple believed to have been constructed about 1584.
It is unusual in that the roof is hipped on all four sides, creating an almost pyramidal form. The gable, which is correspondingly smaller than those in most wats, is brightly decorated in typical Tai Lue fashion.

The walls are pierced into small windows to prevent the coldness. The entrance is facing towards the east so that the first sunlight of the day would shine on the main Buddha image and the Buddhist people who come into the hall would pay attention to the main image.
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Whilst at Wat Ton Laeng the local bamboo transporter arrived with some bamboo.
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A chat with the hobbled rider revealed he too had knee trouble, & needed a replacement, but sadly no money.
Life goes on, it is what it is he said, My pen rai.

Heading back into Pua city & 1.3 kms fro Wat Ton Laeng / 600 metres from the main road junction is Wat Prang.

Wat Prang - the Ticklish Tree
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This temple is more renowned for Gardenia turgida Roxb. (Rubiaceae).
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That's the ticklish tree, the one that jiggles when you gently caress it.

Dave DKT was a non believer at first, but after gently massaging the tree trunk he was stunned to see it come to life & give a little dance.
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A team effort for the father tree
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Gardenia turgida Roxb. (Rubiaceae)
According to Wikipedia: Gardenia is a genus of flowering plants in the coffee family, Rubiaceae, native to the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, southern Asia, Australasia and
They are evergreen shrubs and small trees growing to 1–15 metres (3.3–49.2 ft)

In India the tree can be used for medicinal purposes for snake bites
From a small tree - 5 g of fresh roots are crushed and mixed with 200ml of drinking water. Root paste along with water is given orally in twice a day.

It is the "only one" in Thailand, so they claim.

We lucked out & the ticklish tree was in flower.
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It flowers the same time as the Chomphu Phukha tree, so if you're checking out one rare species, swing on by & check out the other rare species.
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Ride on to the ticklish tree when you can
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See more Pua info on GTR here


Down the highway & rural back roads, homeward bound next...
 
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DavidFL

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It's time to pack up & leave Pua city & head for home, but not without a couple more interesting wat stops, a mammary flash & a missed turn.
There's always something going on out there on a GTR ride, believe me.

Tha Wang Pha anchors the east end of R1148 & it's claim to fame is the Tai Lue village of Nong Bua 6 kms to the south.
Nong Bua is a fabulous Tai Lue village with an exquisite Lue wat that has 100 years old murals depicting early Lue life.
The wat is famous and is popular with Thai tourists. Ride around Nong Bua vilage and you will note it is a classic beauty, wealthy, charming & spotlessly clean. You will probably only get to see the village charm if have trouble locating the wat, as we did coming in from the wrong direction.

The Nong Bua comunity is a beauty & one very proud of it's Tai Lue history & culture.
They run an excellent attraction that is extremely well maintained with loads of TLC, plus are super friendly people.

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Jamming with the Wat Nong Bua jazz band.
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Wat Nong Bua
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Wat Nong Bua was built in 1862 A.D. by Thai Lue craftsmen who had migrated from southern China.

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The Vihara is adorned with elaborate carvings, and the wall murals have been painted by Thai Lue artists from one hundred years ago.

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The Wat Nong Bua murals are equal in beauty & quality to those at Wat Phumin in Nan city.

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The exact history of the temple was not recorded, but the village elder’s knowledge and the mural images provide some information.
Kru Ba Payna of Nong Bua relates that his father was a soldier of the Prince of Nan.
After the war with Luang Pra Bang, his father brought the artist “Tid Bua Pun” to paint the murals.
Some of the murals depict foreign soldiers and a steamship. The history of the steam boat is that it was imported to Thailand in the reign of King Rama IV.
There's also the appearance of rifles in the painting. These were used extensively from the period of King Rama IV to the period of King Rama V. Therefore, these series of mural painting were painted in Ratthanakosin era.

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The Wat Nong Nua murals are appreciated as high in value for their depiction of the life of ordinary people at the time.

The stories of mural painting adapted from eleventh story of Jataka tales and the life of Buddha. This Jakata tale is parable for teaching children about devotion, filial piety, honesty and benevolence etc.


Wat Nong Bua done & dusted it was time to move onto a mystery wat that I'd only seen a photo of on a friend's facebook page. It was somewhere around the back behind Wat Nong Bua, but a kms or two away. We went the wrong way first of course & ended up in the wat next door to the mega sparkling crystal wat I was in search of.

Phra That Chom Chaeng Nong Bua
The wrong wat is called Phra That Chom Chaeng Nong Bua.
It ended up being a surreal experience here & one that left me speechless & disbelieving, but it was real alright.

This wat has a 300 year old chedi & has an abbot with a few kutis for Mae Chee, female monks.
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Not sure if we were in the right spot, I asked the resident Mae Chee, who rushed out to greet us, if we were allowed to park there & visit the big crystal chedi. Yes you can park here, but the crystal chedi is actually next door & access from this wat is now closed, you have to go around the other side of the block. While you are here, please take a look at our little temple.

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Some tractors were busy leveling & filling in land for big new Buddha images overlooking the valley, that would be ready in 3 or 4 months she claimed.
Asked how long she had been at the wat. The reply came back nearly 10 years, since I got cancer. The cancer has spread through my body & I'm on chemo treatment # 4 now. It started with breast cancer, at which point, in the blink of an eyelid, the mae chee lifted up her top & flashed her missing breast!! Dumfounded & stunned I was. Oh oh I'm sorry about that, I hope you can continue to fight on & enjoy what life you have left. Let's change the subject please. So Dave DKT & I went into the wat, made a donation for the temple, got blessed & took a couple of group photos at their request.

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Several days later, back home in Chiang Khong, I'm still not sure what I experienced & saw, but I did!!

The crystal chedi next door next...
 
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DavidFL

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Finally the right wat & one I've been wanting to check out for several months, but there's never quite enough time for all the attractions & roads you want to do..

Back out on the concrete lane & around the other side of the block to find a massive white chedi, that dominates the skyline from afar.

Phra Maha Chedi, 5 Lord Buddha Metta Dharma House - Dharma Practice Center
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A borrowed image.

You need to park your bike carefully in the designated car park, do a safety first covid-19 check in & then get guided into the chedi.

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Be prepared for a jaw dropping view inside the magnificent chedi.
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With all the mirrors & lights it is definitely a challenging photographic opportunity.
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Some ceiling views
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Dave DKT looking mesmerized
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The old GTR fellah also feeling mesmerized
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Two happy mesmerised punters
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So what's the score?
My wild understanding, that could be very inaccurate but......a monk from Korat - Kruba Gai, once came to mediate on the hill where the chedi is.
He had a dream of a crystal chedi & subsequently built a magnificent chedi complete with mirrors inside to appear as being in a giant crystal?

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The project has become a Buddhist learning / meditation centre & is ongoing, and includes the White Villa a km or two up the road.


A return for more investigation is in order.
 
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DavidFL

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Homeward on R1148....

R1148 passes through a mountainous section between Tha Wang Pha & Chiang Kham,with multiple Mien & Hmong villages along the way.
Due to neglect by the govrnments of the day, the mountainous areas in the middle used to be under the influence of communists in the 60s-70s-80s. Many of the villages along 1148 got caught up in the battles between the Thai government forces & the communists.
It was a hard struggle to survive in difficult times and an often brutal war.
South of 1148 & north of 1091 used to be the communist stronghold of Doi Phachi / Santisuk, a Hmong village.

In the 60s-70s all this area was a communist sympathetic area & inhabited by hill tribes - the Yao & the Hmong - growing opium - what you had to do to survive & make some money, because the government wasn't that interested in the hill folks out there.
A few anthropologists though were researching the villagers & trying to assist with agriculture.
Some of them spent time with the villagers & got to know them reasonably well I guess.
One of them was in Phu Langkha 1968-69.
The Yao village of Phu Langkha had already been there for 50 years in 68-69, but in Feb 68 the Thai military government decided it was time to have a clean out & rid the area of the opium growers & their crops.

The village of Phu Langkha was bombed & everyone was evacuated. The army then came in &

"set fire to dwellings and ransacked outhouses (stables, granaries, pig pens etc) while other units manually planted mines in the vicinity of those constructions and in all swiddens at or above the minimum altitude (1000 metres) required by the poppy crop. Any likelihood of even a temporary return by the Yao fugitives appeared to have been totally eliminated. Poppy growing in the area had been permanently terminated by denying the crop the human labour essential for its cultivation."

Phu Langka is nearby Doi Phachi Wildlife Sanctuary.

After the CPT surrendered, many were evicted, throughout the 1980s possibly, and at least as late as 1990 (by essentially the same outfits as had invited them earlier).
Near Phulangka, the Phachangnoi Wildlife Sanctuary was established to take land away from possible CPT use. There was no large scale logging, but the WS Director had a road built into the forest for the benefit of his “friends” for at least selective cutting of choice trees(there was also sporadic hunting by WS staff). Local farmers state that the forest was in much better shape prior to the WS being established. I find it plausible that napalm accounts for the lack of regrowth in that area of Phayao (formerly part of Ch.Rai), but don’t know how one would find out.

Source: New Mandala

Another comment in the dialogue suggests that napalm was also dropped to clear the crops.
School teachers that I once spoke at Ban Luang on R1091, just a couple of years ago, said that Doi Phachi was still a mined area.
It's a very interesting area for riding: R1148 & R1091 (plus quite a few more in Nan on the Lao border.)

Oddvar has ridden in this area on some wonderful trails.

Awhile back I saw an image of a "communist memorial" that intrigued me in the village of San Charoen.
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Image source: Pongpet Mekloy @ Bkk Post.

San Charoen is a Yao / Mien village that was once famous for its opium poppy & ganja fields, but is now famous as the # 1 coffee producer in Nan.
Riding home from Pua to Phayao / Chiang Khong with Dave DKT gave us the opportunity to check it out & perhaps learn some info & history.
It wouldn't be difficult as I knew the turn off on R1148, so just follow the road in.

It is a magnificent tight, narrow twisting concrete roller coaster road.
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However most of the way the road is only a car and a half wide, so one needs to be very careful on the multiple blind corners not to make a mistake & get clipped by another oncoming car.

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Some riding shots with Dave DKT.

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We were not the only riders out there.
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The Ponggi hot springs along the way did not inspire.
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Although it was ok for some.
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2.5 kms further on the heat was getting to both of us at a slow speed so we stopped in a village for a drink 'n chat.
Where's San Charoen was my 2nd question after a sawatdee krap.
Oh you missed that a long way back, you didn't see the turn off?
Well no, not really. Only one but I didn't think we needed to make a turn off. Damn.
Yes you have to turn off on the other side of the mountain
Grrh.
This is the end of road too we were informed.
Neither of us were impressed with my error, but it is what it is.

A delightful chat with the shopkeeper followed. A wonderful woman of Mien ethnicity.
So all the villages in the immediate area are Yao / Mien.
The communist Hmong from across the mountain in Santisuk / Doi Phachi used to harass us for food & supplies, plus try to get us to join them.
No, we didn't like them & didn't want to help them. We used to run away & hide when they came.
Once they burned down our big wooden houses because we refused to help them.
Us Yao / Mien we were not communist, only the Hmong trouble makers.

A great little story & undoubtedly there are more out there if you've got the time & communication skills.
I love exploring this country & chatting to the locals to learn about their history & lives.
They all have a story to tell from decades ago when life was so much tougher & that often makes the journey so much more rewarding.

It was getting late in the day, so Dave DKT& I decided it was time to call it quits for now, crack the whip & get home. San Charoen can wait for the next trip.
I got home to Chiang Khong at 8pm, exhilarated after a fantastic 2 days with some of the legends of R1148.
Let's rock 'n roll & do it again soon. 1148 rocks for riding & history.

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P.S. Luang Ta Boonchuen, the 72 year old walking monk has just passed by Chiang Khong on his way to Doi Luang.
He averages about 25 kms a day. What a legend!

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Respect plus!

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