While most of our running friends either attend Amari midnight run, Ban Puen or Bang Pra, I and 39 cyclists went to Nong Khai to observe the famous Bang Fai Phaya-Nak (The Great Serpeant's Fire).
My wife drove me to Amporn Garden near the Parliament where our air-conditioned bus was parked there at about 8 p.m. After all the bikes whose wheels had been removed, were packed at the lower deck, all 40 of us journeyed to Nong Khai province at about 9 p.m.
We arrived at a temple about 6.20 a.m. on Friday which falls upon the end of Buddhist Lent (full moon as well). After taking care of our bodies, assembling bikes, we rode to Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, about 17 km away. The bridge construction was fully financed with generosity from Australian government. Most of us had breakfast here. Then we journeyed to next wat about 5 km away to regroup.
After that, it was a long journey to our destination about 50 km away to Wat Klang (Middle Temple) adjacent to the Mekong River where we were originally scheduled to make camp there. However upon arriving at the temple around 2 p.m., there were a lot of people and buses, cars, pickups etc. I could not find our tour bus there, but was told later that it was parked opposite the road at another temple, Kongkraphan, which was not crowded yet.
We pitched our tents at this temple. By 4 p.m. all the cyclists arrived at the temple. After taking a shower, changing into confortable clothes, most of us rode to Nonpisai district, about 2-3 km away to have our dinner. After dinner, we decided to ride back instead of observing The Great Serpent's Fire there because there were thousands of people crowded at the river bank, no place to park our bikes.
After locking our bikes, we walked across the road to the Middle Temple to observe the event there. The place was crowded too, so now we scattered to find room to either sit or stand. About 7 p.m., the Great Serpent's Fire began with a few spectacular red shooting firework balls into the sky. Some were shot from the river, others came from the Laotian river bank. This Great Serpent's Fire display was more spectacular than the occasionally fireworks from local Thais and Laotian sides which were quite puny in comparison.
The legend was told that at the end of the Buddhist Lent, the Great Serpent would appear and shoot the ball of fires to welcome the return of the Lord Buddha from Dao-wa-dueng heaven where at one Buddhist Lent season, the Lord Buddha went up there to give sermons to his mother who had died and was reborn there.
Whatever the explanation and some who believe that it is a natural phenonmenon, one of our members brought along a night vision telescope and could observe that the ball of fires were lit and shot from the anchored boats in the Mekong River and some came from the Laotian sites.
Yet, some local people believed that it was true that the modern balls of fire were man-made but they had observed in the past that balls of fire were seen from the river with nobody there. They claimed their grandparents had observed such phenonmena as well.
Whether it is a natural phenonmenon or man-made, one thing is certain, people enjoyed the show. I know that I do.
Most of us came back to the tents about 8-9 p.m. because we were tired from not sleeping well on the bus due to coldness of the air-con and loud snores and a long 75-km journey today.
I woke up around 5.30 a.m. from the sound of cocks, taking personal care, changing into running attire and started jogging at 6 a.m. I went to the district and jogged along the river bank. It was the first time that I saw the biggest amount of garbage in my life , literally all available space along the river bank. I ran along the concrete river bank path until the end. On the way back, municipal workers and folks began clearing up the huge garbage. The run lasted about 55 minutes covering about 8-9 km.
After a shower and dressing, I folded the tent and carried it to the waiting tour bus. Today, (Saturday) was going to be the longist ride of about 95 km. After breakfast, we started the ride about 9 a.m. At first, I led a boy, 13, along. It was difficult at the first 10 km because the side road was dug up leaving us riding on broken gravel and red dirt. Around midway, another two joined my group as I led the group along the way, with increasing difficult at the last 20 km due to stiff wind. One of the newcomer came up with seized muscle and I had to slow down to 15-17 km/hour. However we managed to arrive at Bueng Karn, our destination, at about 2.30 p.m. We were one of the only two groups who arrived more or less at the same time. Others continued to drift in and all came by 4.30 p.m.
After taking a late lunch, I decided to pitch my tent near the Mekong river first with 7 others following suit while about 15 others decided to pitch their tents on the grass pavement along the river bank wall.
In the evening we strolled around the town, took dinner and came back to enjoy the nice breeze and talked with local people and among ourselves.
I went to sleep around 10 p.m. Woke up again by the cocks at around 5.30 a.m., changed into running uniform and dashed off around 5.40 a.m. I ran on the concrete road along the river bank until the end of the road. Since the weather was nice and fresh, I decided to continue to run along the dirt road, passing rice fields, farms, orchards etc. This was one of the most pleasant runs in my life. Upon coming back, I checked the time, about 1.05 hours which should cover about 10 km.
Today was Sunday, the last day of our journey. Changed into bike clothes, had breakfast and rode to Phoo Tok, a famous forest monastery, 50 km away. I arrived at the temple about 11.30, took my shoes off, wore flip flops and climbed upu the 7-storey mountain. The 6th storey was the most spectacular in that the local carpenters built walkways on the mountain cliffs for sight-seeing. If you are afraid of height, you are advised not to walk on this narrow wooden planks.
The seventh storey was not yet developed, it was the top of the hill full of trees and vines. Upon coming down at around 4th storey, I slipped and hurt one of my right foot nails with blood oozing out.
I limped down and at the base, applied ice and anti-septic to the wound. My incident was similar to a Thai saying "shipwrek near shore, blinded when old". It was nearly the end of the journey, trouble-free before this accident.
We left the temple around 3 p.m., arrived back at Amporn Garden on Monday at 2.30 a.m.
Upon arriving home, I iced the wound again, went to sleep, woke up at noon, iced the wound again. Right now, the wound is healing, swelling has subsided. There is a slight pain only, barely noticeable.
End of story.
Tuesday, Oct 18, 2000.