Thursday, 13 March 2014

Khao Khitchakut National Park อุทยานแห่งชาติเขาคิชฌกูฏ


Khao Khitchakut National Park อุทยานแห่งชาติเขาคิชฌกูฏ

Each year in February and March, an important religious festival is held at Buddha’s footprint in Khao Kitchakut National Park (various other spellings are found).

From their information leaflet:
[quote]Khao Prabat Pilgrim Festival
From the 1st day of the waxing moon of the third lunar month until the new moon of the 4th lunar month (February – March) the peak of the mountain is vibrant with the ceremony of a religious festival. Pilgrims roam up to the peak night and day to worship the Buddha’s footprint. Sometimes more than 500,000 people visit the area during the 8 weeks of celebrations. The trail to Khao Prabat peak is suitable for those who enjoy to conquer a peak.[/quote]

This year, it is 31.01.2014 to 31.03.2014 (some sources say until 01.04.2014). The area is open to public only during this time. I went on 03.03.2014.

I have heard of this before, and a note in a restaurant in my area prompted me to search for details. That note offers a return trip from Bangkok for 550 Baht, however only on the weekend, they need 6 people for the trip, it’s a one-day trip, leaving 8 pm, arriving at midnight, climbing the mountain at night to observe the sunrise and return to Bangkok on the same day.

A Thai friend will go there by car with his family and friends, I might have gotten a free ride, however it is as inconvenient as the above: start at midnight in Bangkok, arrive 4 am, back on the same day.

I prefer some comfort, sleeping in a hotel room and not sitting in a bus for hours at night, so I went alone. Travel to Chanthaburi will be posted separately.

Ask at reception for public transport. Walk to bus station, arrive there 9:32. Song Thaeos leave from the main road, the Chanthaburi-Wan Klaem-Wang Pong จันทบุรี วันเขลม วังพง is the one which drives past Wat Grating วัดกระทิง. (The lines seem to be color coded and to have numbers: blue, line 6067, but I have no confirmation.) The ride costs 35 THB and takes 9:44 – 10:23. 

Waiting for departure of the song theo. (I have a similar shirt with "superman", but I didn't wear it on that day, otherwise I would have asked him if he would like to make a little spiderman with me.)


At the wat, there is a booth with signs in Thai, I buy a ticket 100 THB and sit down in the waiting area. The ride takes 10:49 – 11:13 and goes past Wat Pluang วัดพลวง, to the dam and then onto the mountain. The ticket price seems to include entry to the national park, we shortly stop at the gate.

(An alternative way is from Wat Pluang, where you can park your car, with a stop to change cars in between, costing 2x50 THB. Our car drove past the stop in between and I saw signs “50 Baht to Wat Pluang”. At Wat Pluang there is a large market for food and religious items.)

You do not have to go to the National Park headquarter, in fact that would be a detour if coming from Chanthaburi, and as far as I know you cannot directly access the Buddha footprint from the headquarter.

The ride is a rough one, I think the cars have a special gearshift to manage inclines of estimated 30% and drivers need special training. The road is two lane, but sense of direction changes between left-handed and right-handed when cars pass each other. There is no roof on the passenger area. A walkway for pedestrians is parallel to the road, I didn’t see anyone walking up. 



Near the top, there is an area where passengers get off (when coming up) or wait for car (for going down) and from there on it’s walking. 






There are 152 bells on the way up.


All goods and waste has to be carried up and down, there is a constant stream of carriers.


Many shops along the way:



Getting closer, spectacular view (but a bit misty in the plain; 102 bells on the way down):




It takes me 11:19-53 to get to the huge boulder with Buddha’s footprint in front of it. 





This boulder is accessible from three sides, two are easy to get to and often photographed (see pictures above), the third is a bit difficult and dangerous, the fourth is inaccessible. View of the third side (back of the boulder, towards the plain):




This is the most prominent boulder, visible from 10 km away from the plain, but not the highest point of the mountain. I continue my trip to a viewpoint



and to Pa Daeng (ผ้าแดง, red cloth), the end of the trail, where people write wishes on red cloth, arrive there 12:48.


All along the way, from getting off the car to Pa Daeng, there are small shrines and flower petals and incense sticks scattered on ground and on rocks.





The surface of the rock is rough from erosion, people try to attach coins and joss sticks to the rock, hold just by friction and tension:





On my return, I take a different path and discover that there is a cave almost perpendicular underneath the main boulder:



View of the in accessible back side of the boulder from the entrance of the cave:


Those who are too frail to make the trek themselves can hire a palanquin, carried by four Thai men, for 800 Baht:


There are loud chirping insects on the way (details will be posted separeately). On the way down there are 102 bells. Back at the car park 14:50. Have lunch (Khao Man Gai, 40 THB, normal price, they do not take adavantage of their location), buy ticket 100 THB for return to Wat Grating, 15:10-36. On the return, I saw some people walking up.

There were several thousand Thai on their way up, on the mountain, on the way down, and that was during daytime when it is less busy than during night. I saw four other Farang. Every Thai I asked knows this place and has been to it.

It took just 21 hours from making the decision to go there (from my room in Bangkok, calling hotel I stayed in before to ask if they have free rooms - it might be high season with everything booked out during the festival, but it is not, most people seem to make a day trip from Bangkok without spending a night in a hotel) and cost 600 Baht (all travel, food, hotel included). Amazing Thailand!

From Wat Grating it’s a few km to Grating Waterfall, I take a motorcylcye (70 THB, 15:48-56). Continued in an upcoming post about Chanthaburi.

Further reading:

A similar natural phenomenon (large boulder on a mountain) exists in Myanmar:
(smaller than Khao Khitchakut, but completely covered in gold, and with an overhang)

(end of post)

5 comments:

  1. Fantastic reading and pictures, thank you
    This place is unknown to most farang tourist guides but seems quite remarkable.
    Some eye-candy along the way too ...

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  2. Great travel story

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  3. Some area atop the mountain near the footstep, you have to take your shoes off?

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  4. Love reading your blog.... I miss Thailand !

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  5. You have to take shoes and hats off, see shoes in one picture and all Thai near the Buddha footprint and the main boulder bare feet.

    ReplyDelete

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