Sa Iab, Some Golden Teak & A Wander For A Gtr Dinner.

DavidFL

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GTR had an upcountry dinner in the rural backwater town of Sa Iab, located on R1120 at the end of November 2020. A true gem of a quiet rural town, Sa Iab is delightfully charming, even with no 7-11 or even at ATM, the nearest of which are in Chiang Muan 24 kms to the North.

Monthly Gt Rider Up-country Dinner Rendezvous Rides

Who needs a 7-11 or an ATM when
The forests and canals in tambon Sa-iab are so rich in food that most residents live for days without money, simply by harvesting plants and fish. "With only Bt100, some families can live four or five days buying only the non-food items they need.
Fighting for the forest, battling against the dam
Sa Iab has been on my mind as a place to stay & check out the last few months while I was riding R1091 and researching a bit about the Yom river.

Riding The Yom River & R1091

The town's claim to fame was stopping the Kaeng Sua Dam being built 20 kms away as the crow flies, but which would seriously affect the Sa Iab villagers & their livelihood. They had the balls to make a stand and fight for what they believed in!

In 2011, six thousand people lived in Tambon Sa-iab. Along with the some 3,000 homes that would be flooded if the dam were built, the country would lose 29,569 rai of fertile forests, another 28,831 rai of forest reserves, 21,481 rai of Mae Yom national park, and 11,206 rai of golden teak forests, the country's most fertile and complete.​

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The other Sa Iab claim to fame, as we found out, was liquor, with it being promoted as the product, the OTOP item, & when you took the time to walk the sois of old Sa Iab, every 4th house seemed to be bottling hooch & making money.

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I decided to take my time in Sa Iab & take a stroll through the old part of town, & what a awesome classic it was.

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Narrow lanes, old wood houses with monster sized house posts, and notably most properties with a high fence & big gate.

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Perhaps concealing their once illicit hooch activities or making houses even. There's a great story there if you had excess time & communication skills with locals who wanted to talk, but I noted whilst the villagers were friendly enough, there were those wary of the silly old farang walking round with a camera photographing as much as he could. And rightly so too I thought. I did however manage to break the ice a couple of times for some personal photos.
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It wasn't all free though & I agreed to buy 50 baht's worth of veges from this lady, just to not be a free loader taking photos. The veges ended up in the kitchen of the Sakthong & may well have been in someone's dinner.

Some old GTR charm worked well on this gal to proudly pose in front of the stunning front doors of her house.
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more to come..
 
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DavidFL

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Very protective of their community & suspicious of outsiders you wont find any Google Street view for the Sa Iab side streets.
In 2013 they blocked the Google Street View car from photographing their streets - suspicious they were gathering info for the pro dam builders.
Bangkok Post article

The campaign has not been without heavy personal cost. In the 1990s, Sa-iab residents faced financial hardship and criticism for being selfish in their resistance to the project.
The villagers claim they have been denied services by government agencies, including state-run hospitals, and their children have been bullied at school.
They effectively became a hermit community without reliance on the outside world.
Living in the ugly shadow of the kaeng sua ten dam
So it was with some caution I walked the sois of this gorgeous community.
The kids were unsure of the farang, as were a few oldies, curious as to what I was doing.
Once I was asked in a demanding manner what I was doing & why I was taking photos, and this was by the owner of one of the biggest houses. Some old charm from lung saved the day, but the further out I went - 20+ kms - the more I see concern from the locals about me taking photos.
To get them to relax I usually stop in any shop buy a drink & chat with the kids & people there - break the ice if you can. Joke & get them to relax if possible, so you are not considered a threat.

The area was settled around 200 years ago and local beliefs are based on animism which influences the way they manage water resources and the forest.
But their bucolic lives were interrupted 90 years ago when logging concessions were first granted and Sa-iab forest started to disappear. In the late 1980s, Sa-iab residents established a forest conservation group, Rassadorn Rak Pa (Residents Love Forest), which managed to win restrictions on logging in their area. The teak forest gradually recovered.
But another threat to the forest emerged after a cabinet meeting in Chiang Mai in 1989 when construction of the Kaeng Sua Ten dam was proposed. It was the first time Sa-iab residents had learned about the dam with the message being passed on by environmentalists and student activists.
Living in the ugly shadow of the kaeng sua ten dam

Old Sa Iab City Photos

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Logging in the forest began back in the early 1900s with the first companies coming from Britain. The local population had no history of logging teak trees before but when they saw the lumber was highly valuable and good for building, they quickly learned the trade.
Villagers would take the teak that the companies left behind, but there used to be wild tigers and elephants, bears and buffalo here.
When the logging companies came, they cut down the big trees and scared the wildlife away. Since we began to manage the forest as a community, they are starting to come back,” said Wichai Luksaphon, a prominent voice among the Sa-iab campaigners.
What happens when anti-dam protestors win? - Southeast Asia Globe
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more to come..
 
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DavidFL

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Temples in the area, with magnificent timber.

Wat Don Chai is the main temple in Sa Iab.
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The monk's quarters
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A didn't quite understand this building
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Wat Don Chai Location


Wat Don Kaeo is 2 kms south & east of town.
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You have to wonder how many hours & months went into carving those doors?
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and the windows
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Wat Don Kaeo Location

Some Don Kaeo village houses
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Wat Mae Ten is 10 kms north of town
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The monk's quarters, with a couple of nice posts out front at the entrance.
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Wat Mae Ten Location

Off for a meander on a side road next...
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DavidFL

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North of Sa Iab & half way to Chiang Muan there's a turn of to the east that goes out to some remote villages.
R4020 is the route number and it is concrete asphalt for a good 26 kms (& maybe more?)

On the recent survey ride for the GTR dinner we met a group of riders from the BMW Club in Phrae, who were on a merit making trip to a village down R4020 somewhere.
Wat Tha Wa was the temple name I recalled, but it was not convenient at the time for the three of us to tag along with the Phrae BMW on their thamboon trip. We were on a mission to check out he Mountain Lodge plus the menu & facilities of the Sakthong.
But I made a note of the place & the road for exploration after the GTR Dinner.

The R4020 turn off on the hill
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And off I went for a meander to see what's there.
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I was actually hopeful that there might be a link up to Ban Luang of R1091, but no such luck.
Ban Na Fai was the first village 8 kms in off R1120.
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and I couldn't but help notice that was a nice car port
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4 kms further on is Ban Na Luang & Wat Na Luang, the local temple down the hill on the right
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Google Maps

A Ban Na Luang house
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The road soon turns to concrete and continues winding its way through the hills
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It is steep & narrow in places & I almost got wiped out by a speeding tak tak cresting a hill, with him drifting onto the wrong side of the road.
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Tha Wa is another 8 kms in from Na Luang.

Wat Tha Wa is the temple the Phrae BMW team came to make merit, and It's easy to see why...a new wat being built.
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A chat with the monk here suggested that there was no real way through through to Ban Luang, & that the road ended in the next village Huay Pong.

The Huay Pong temple
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The stunning monk's residence.
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In both Tha Wa & Huay Pong villages there were magnificent old wood houses with huge house posts, but I got the general feeling taking photos may not be that well received, plus I was at the burn out point there were so many amazing old structures to marvel at.

Another trip out along R4020 beckons, because now that I'm back at home it looks like there maybe a loop for R4020 that links back onto R1120 south of Sa Iab....

Enjoy the ride & take your time, you don't always have to ride on through, there is still a lot out there to see and experience.
 
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Oddvar

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I have spent some time looking for a connection to/from the Ban Luang road, but so far not found any.
I did the loop years ago on the CRF. Good for knobbie tyres.
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DavidFL

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I have spent some time looking for a connection to/from the Ban Luang road, but so far not found any.
I did the loop years ago on the CRF. Good for knobbie tyres.
View attachment 138488

Damn did I miss that report?
I'd like to see some pics of the dirt section, if you have any. I'm a bit sensitive to any rough stuff when I'm on the V-Strom nowadays.
 

Oddvar

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Sorry, no pictures. Just a blast through looking for trails leading east to the Ban Luang road.
Would not surprise me if it is concrete as all small trails/paths is being upgraded now days.
 

DKT Dave

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Great write up David. I didn’t realise you were doing this exploration of the Sa Iab area. Nice one!
 

DavidFL

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Great write up David. I didn’t realise you were doing this exploration of the Sa Iab area. Nice one!

Yeah on GTR dinners I always like to look around the local area & see what I can find while there.
The Sa Iab area is a beauty for the timber & forested hills, & is part of the Mae Yom National park.

อุทยานแห่งชาติแม่ยม - Mae Yom National Park

Site description
The IBA comprises Mae Yom National Park, which is contiguous with Doi Phu Nang proposed national park (IBA TH015) to the north. The site includes a substantial portion of the Mae Yom river valley. The dominant vegetation type at the site is mixed deciduous forest, while hill evergreen forest is found in the foothills, and deciduous dipterocarp forest occurs in the low-lying plains. One of the most notable features of the site is a 4,800 ha tract of natural Teak Tectona grandis forest; by far the largest (and also considered the richest) natural Teak forest remaining in Thailand. At least part of the site was formerly under a logging concession.


Key biodiversity
Mae Yom National Park is an important site for the conservation of the globally threatened Green Peafowl Pavo muticus. This species was formerly widespread along the Mae Yom river but disappeared due to hunting, logging and encroachment. Its rediscovery at the site, in March 1996, led to a wide-ranging survey for the species and other pheasants in northern Thailand, which located a population of over 200 individuals, shared between Mae Yom National Park and two other IBAs: Wiang Lor Wildlife Sanctuary and adjacent area to the east (TH014) and Doi Phu Nang (TH015). In addition, there is a record of the globally threatened Silver Oriole Oriolus mellianus from the site, and the globally near-threatened White-rumped Falcon Polihierax insignis also occurs.​

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals Gaur Bos frontalis (VU) Asian Gold(EN) Cat Catopuma temminckii (VU) Dhole Cuon alpinus (VU) Northern Pig-tailed Macaque Macaca leonina (VU) Asian Black Bear Ursus thibetanus (VU) Reptiles Big-headed Turtle Platysternon megacephalum (EN) Plants Afzelia xylocarpa (EN) Anisoptera costata (EN)

http://datazone.birdlife.org/site/factsheet/mae-yom-iba-thailand