Hill Routes Between Pitsanuloke and Lomsak* พิมพ์ อีเมล
เขียนโดย L. J. Robbins.   

 

ROBBINS, L.J. HILL ROUTES BETWEEN PITSANULOKE AND LOMSAK. JSS. VOL.22 (pt. 2) 1928. p.81-94.

 

 

 

pitsanuloke1

 

                                                    (81)

 

                              Hill Routes Between Pitsanuloke

                                                    and

                                                Lomsak*

 

                                       BY L. J. ROBBINS

                                          _____________


                                                      I

This  journey, undertaken  during  January 1928  by  Mr. R. W.
Aston and myself, for  lack  of  preparation  was   not   a   scientific  ex-
pedition. Unfortunately, because  the  district   is   wild   and  unknown,
and    has  only  been  very  roughly  surveyed.  It   might   have   been
possible to obtain  some   interesting  and  valuable   numerical   details
concerning the lie of the land, but  our  only  instrument  apart  from   a
compass was  a  thermometer  which   came  to  an  untimely  end.  The
journey  was   rather  an  errand of  justice. A British  Shan  subject   of
the  Lomsak district  was  accused, with  others, of  gang  robbery,  and
Mr. Aston was requested to go there to be present at his trial.

Lomsak  is  not  at  all  an  accessible place—and in the  past at
any rate  it  had  a  bad  reputation. Mr. Warington Smyth says " it is  a
district    rich    in    minerals,  but   cursed   by   fever   and   dacoity. "
Geographically, it  lies, together  with  Petchaboon  some  40  miles  to
the south, in a long narrow  valley  enclosed  by  high  hills  to the east
and west. The valley is  shut  in  by the Loi hills to the  north, an   only
open in a small gap  to  the  south near Petchaboon where  the  Menam
Sak  flows  out. In   the   rains  it  is  possible  to reach Lomsak by  this
river. The  only  flat  land  route  is  through  Petchaboon, entering  the
gap  in   the  hills  by  a   track  from  Ban  Bunnag  near  the  northern
railway  line, and  according   to  report  this  way  is  hot,  uniteresting
and  a  hunting  grounds  of  dacoits. The  only relatively direct  routes
are  east from  Pitsanuloke, crossing the hills  which can sometimes  be
dimly  seen  from  the  railway ; and   these   routes   are  two—one  of
them difficult but straight, and  the  other  easier   and  more  circuitous
turning   a    little   north   through   Nakon   Thai. We    went   by   the

_____________________________________________________________

* This paper was read at a meeting of the Study-section of Travel
and Transport in March 1928.

 

                                                                                                                                        XXII—2.

 

 

 

                                                     (82)

 

unfrequented straight  route, much  against the  advice  of  government
officials   in   Pitsanuloke,  and   returned   by  the  Nakon  Thai   route.

We  were  able  to  make  a  fairly  detailed  sketch  map  of  the
country  we  passed  through  and  this  may  be  of  help  to  any subse-
quent   travellers.  Also  several  very  excellent  centres   for   shooting
were  noted. There  was  a   certain  glamour  about  the  journey, since
according  to  the  report  of  villagers  we  were   the   first   Europeans
ever to cross those hills.

                                     

                                                       II

We   left  Bangkok   on   Christmas  Day  1927  by   the   night
train to  the  north, and   arrived   at   Pitsanuloke   the   next   morning
some   hours   before  a   chilly  dawn. Two  days   later the  start   was
made. We   had  asked   for  our  25 conscripted  carriers  to  be  ready
at 6 o'clock  in  the  morning, but  it  was   two  hours  later  before the
last   of   them  turned up, and in consequence we  had a tiring  day  in
the  heat  of  the  sun  over  grass  and  low scrub plain. Elephants had
originally   been  offered  us, but  in  view of  the difficult country and
also the slowness  of  travelling  by  elephant  we  took ponies  instead.
The direction was due  east  of  Pitsanuloke  to  the  village  of   Wang
Tong, in  Ampur  Pa  Mak, some  15  miles   away. On  the   way   the
only incident was the crossing  of  a  marshy stream, where  a  number
of old ladies  punted  us  over—30  people  and  all  the baggage—for
the  admirable  sum  of  one  tical. Wang Tong  was the real beginning
of  the  journey:  here  we  picked  up  a  fresh  company of 25 carriers,
cultivators conscripted  in  the  district, to  go  with  us  all  the  way  to
Lomsak. We  stayed  the  night  in  a   large   and   well   built   temple
sala, with a  band  of  Laos  who  were  returning to their villages after
selling pigs in Pitsanuloke. Ban  Wang  Tong  is  close  to  a  river  the
course  of  which  we  followed  up  for  some  days  into the hills: it is
locally  known  as  the  Kwae  Wang Tong, (on the offical survey map
marked  the  Klong  Ta  Pua), and  is   a   tributary  of  the  Nan  River,
flowing into it just north of Pichit.

                                                       

                                                     Ill

The new  carriers  took  up their  loads and moved off at  dawn :
they looked  and afterwards   proved  to  be  a  very  good  lot  of  men.


XXII—2.

 

                                     (83)


Jokes and shouts were continually passing down  the long  straggling
file of  them. There  were  a  few  small   villages   near   Ban   Wang
Tong:  then   the  country  became  broken  with   the  beginnings  of
forest. At  Ban  Nok  En, famous  for  peacock, we  took on  the kam-
nan
to be our guide — a taciturn old  man  who  always  wore  a  fur

cap  like  a  polar  explorer. The  route  crossed  several  streams  run-
ning   in   deep   gullies, calling  for  a  steep  scramble  down and up.
The latter part of  the morning we traversed light  bamboo  jungle  by
a   rocky   rising  path. Wayfarers  were  few — a  solitary gendarme,
and a party of priests, even they  carrying  the  universal  and  essent-
ial  knife of the jungle. We  camped  for  the  day  under  a  tangle of
bamboo  by  the  side  of  a  rocky stream, Huey Kai, which close  by
had  been  dammed  by  a  stout  barrier  of wood and earth to form a
pleasant little lake. 


                                                     IV

The next morning Mr. Aston was feeling unwell, and  decided
to   remain  in  camp  for  the  day. The  carriers  were  agreeably sur-
prised  by  the  news. The  morning  passed  with a little shooting  for
the   pot ; but   the   many   desirable   imperial   pigeons  about    per-
versely    kept     to     the   very    highest    trees.  In   the   afternoon
the   Kamnan  said   there  should   be  wild  duck  by  the   river,  the
Kwae Wang Tong, to  the  south  of  our camp. According to him the
journey was only 30 sen  but  actually  turned  out  to  be  over  three
miles. This is rather typical  of  the  average  country-man's  amazing
vagueness   as  regards  distance: time too—lie  has  no use for hours
and only distinguishes between early morning, when the sun is going
up, wela paen  when  the  priests  eat  their last meal of the day about
11 o'clock, and afternoon when the  sun  goes  down. There  were no
duck, but there was a wild and magnificent waterfall  where  the  path
met the river. A concave natural dam of rock, almost  a  perfect  semi
circle in shape blocked the river, which  plunged down 40  or 50 feet
in the middle of  the  curve. Below  it  broke  up  into  a  dozen  swift
channels, joining  again  half  a  mile away to reform the main stream
which then  flowed  on  through  a  thickly wooded valley. When  we
arrived a fresh water cormorant leisurely  spearing  fish  from  a  rock
was  the  only  inhabitant—until  he  was  stalked  and shot. The river
was alive with leaping fish.

 

                                                                                                                                                      XXII—2.

 

 

 

 

                               (84)

 

 

                                                       V

Soon  after leaving  Huey  Kai  the next morning  the   foothills
of the range ahead   began. The track even at this  early  stage  of   the
journey bore all the signs of  being  little used: over  rocks  where  the
hooves  of  our  little  ponies  went  clattering it  was an  indeterminate
smudge, and in  several  stretches  of  tall  girth-high grass  (very  plea-
sant   in   the  cool  of  early morning) it was quite overgrown. We  ate
combined   breakfast   and   tiffin  by  the  side of a stream. The  usual
plan of march we followed was  this: to be off  at  dawn  and  do   four
or five solid hours, with  short  rests, before  breakfast-tiffin  about 11;
after  that  another  two  or  three milder hours before camping for  the
day.  Evening  marches  were  avoided   because  of  the  difficulty  of
choosing a ground  and  setting  up  camp  in  the  gathering  darkness
This day, early  in  the afternoon we came to a wide stream which had
to be forded  unfortunately  at the same time that a great herd of  water
buffaloes  was   crossing   in  the opposite  direction. They   with  their 
mournful  unintelligent  eyes  stared  vacantly  at   us. We   met   other
herds on succeeding days being driven in for sale at  Pitsanuloke. The
Lao herdsmen, very sturdy fellows, were well armed—some with bam-
boo cross-bows and the others with dangerous  looking flint-lock guns.
Shortly after we camped  for  the  day  on  the  bank  of  our  river, the
Kwae Wang Tong, close by  the  small  village of Ban Pak Yang. The
villagers, of   the  Korat  Lao  type, saw  their  first  Europeans. As  we
rode  in  there  was  a  general   retirement   into  the  houses  from  the
shelter  of   which  we were  the subject of much peeping scrutiny. But
a very small infant  was  left  deserted  in  the middle of the compound;
he  gave  one  look  and  then  ran  away  with  a  howl  of  terror. This
thawed the social ice, and we found the people  quickly  friendly.  Our
beds  and  awning  were  pitched on a  great  flat  rock  by  the  village
water place. Here  the  elders  paid  us  a  visit  of  inspection, the  men
very interested in our guns  and  electric  torches,  and  the  women  in
the   varied   contents   of  our baskets—one old lady wanted to taste a
piece  of  soap  until  the  cook  told  her  she  would  die  an  untimely
death. In the evening  the  maidens  put  flowers  in  their  hair  in   our
honour, long   hair   piled   up   in   the   Lao   top   knot,   when   they
came  down  for  water  with  pails  and  clusters  of  globular   narrow 

 

XXII—2.

 

http://www.sac.or.th/databases/siamrarebooks/main/images/stories/pitsanuloke2.jpg 

 

 

           (85)

 

necked  pots. It  was  difficult  to  extract   any   definite   information
from   the   villagers  about  the  route  ahead:  their  radius  of   know-
ledge  was  only  a  few  miles. The   rainy  season cuts them off from
all communications   for  months  at  a  time. They  showed  us  flood
marks  high  up  on  trees  growing  in the steep river banks, although
then  the  river  was   shallow  and  running   in   rapids. It   was  quite
impossible for navigation and  the  people  had  no  boats. There, was
the  low  rumble  of  another  waterfall  in  the distance, upstream. We
were  then  probably  quite  2,000  feet   up, but   the  night   was  hot
because  a  peak  just  ahead  the  Khao  Kayang  cut  us  off from the
north-east wind.

VI

The   next   morning  the  villagers  with  blankets round  their
shoulders were  huddled  over  little  fires as we passed through in the
chilly hour before  dawn. Going  due  east, we  crossed  over  a   high
shoulder of the Khao Kayang. It rose up on  our  left  to  a  long knife-
edge crest thickly wooded to the top : the early  sun  brought  out  the
colours of the leaves-bright reds and browns and yellows mottling the
green colours  lost  in   the glare of midday. The track was fairly open,
going  through  tall  feathery  grass  like  small  bamboo  shoots. Here,
and  all  along  the  route, there  were  occasional small groups of teak
trees. We  dropped  down  into a  littl    cup  in  the hills, after passing
a  side  track  leading  north  to  Nakon  Thai, and  came  to the Kwae
Wang Tong again and the village  of  Pooy,  where  we camped.  The
river  here  dropped   in   another  fall  of  great   beauty.  It  cascaded
down  in  half  a  dozen  places. Below  the fall there were many deep
pools, where the  river  tumbled through  rapids, very refreshing for  a
plunge  after  the  morning's march. The  main  stream  here appeared
to turn  rather  to  the  north—till  now  we  had  been  going  roughly
parallel  to  it  on   its   north   bank—and   the  track  went on straight
across the fall.

This   was   December   31st,  the   last   day of 1927. For New
Year's  Day  we  proposed  a  holiday—an  arduous  holiday in search
of   krating,  the  Asiatic  bison. The  p'hu  yai   ban  of  Pooy, a great
hunter, was  consulted, and   promised  to  show  us  krating   grounds
on  the  far  side  of   the  Khao Kayang. At dusk I  took  a  canoe, hol-

                                                                                                                                                XXII—2.

 

 

 

 

                                                                                        (86)

 

 

owed   from   a   single  tree  trunk, and  paddled gently down the dark-
ening   river   as   the  surrounding   hill  turned  to  indigo. In  the  fea-
thered overhanging bamboos on the banks sleeping birds woke at  the
light splash of the paddle with disturbed cries and  a  flurry  of   wings.

 

                                                       VII

The   krating   eluded   us, though   we   had   the  barren satis-
faction  of  seeing  their  tracks. It  was  a  14 hour day of walking, or
rather pushing and stumbling, through wild trackless bamboo jungle ;
and  the  only  wayfarers  we   met   were  a  barking deer and a great
black  snake. But   there  was  a  consolation. At  dawn we had  climb-
ed   the  steep  southern  slope  of  the  Khao  Kayang 4500  feet   up.
Through a break in the  further hills  a  great  stretch  of  country  was
spread  out  straight  in  the  eye  of  the  sun. There  was the  Lomsak
valley, hidden in mist through which a  thread of  river  showed,  and
past  it, the  distant  hills  edging  the  northern end  of  the  Korat  pla-
teau. And  all  about  the  Khao  Kayang  were  other rolling hills den-
sely  wooded  to  their  crests  like  great waves on a green sea. It was
a sudden glimpse of the wild heart of Siam.

After  dinner  that  night  we  found  that the carriers, who had
been  talking  with   the   villagers   during  our  absence, were  rather
alarmed  at   the   prospect  of   the   next  two  or  three   days' march
if we kept to the original track, which  went  straight  over  the  fall at
Pooy.They said it was reported—none of them, not even the kamnan
guide, had been further than this—they   said   it   was  reported   that

the  track  was  overgrown  and  mountainous and infested with tigers,
and  now  abandoned  in favour of a more circuitions and slightly eas-
ier route. We   had  to  rely  on  local  aid, so   a   new guide from the
village was taken on and with  regret  that  wild  sounding  route  was
deserted.

 

                                                      VIII

The   roundabout  way  proved  later  to  be  wild and difficult
enough.  First,  from  Ban  Pooy  we  struck  north  to  north-east  for
some  six  or  eight  miles, finally  losing  our  river  the  Kwae Wang
Tong, before  turning  east  again. A  part   of   the  track   was   over
laterite  and  shadeless  pa  koke  forest  where  all  the  trees  seemed
shrivelled  up  by  the  heat. But  later g oing  steadily  up  we  struck

    

 

     XXII—2.

 

 

 

 

                                                         (87)


 

dense  forest  and  frequent streams. With hardly  a  break  this  dense
forest  was  with  us   for   the  next  two  days. Our  camping  ground
was hacked out of thick  undergrowth and surrounded by a   primeval
tangle  of  thick   creepers. It   was   almost   physically  impossible  to
struggle more than  a  yard  or  two  from  the  path,  and   the   jungle
came down like a wall a yard from the end of our beds. 


                                                      IX

It  seemed  that  villages  could  only  exist  where  there was  a
natural  thinning  of  the  forest. We  passed   two   the  next  day:   the
first  early  on  was  Ban Sam Pak Peow where there were some 20 or
30  huts.  It   looked  quite  flourishing  in  spite  of  the  isolation. Our
men by a unanimous impulse downed their  loads  and  bolted into the
houses  to  buy   tobacco  and   drink;  it   needed  some persuasion  to
rout    them    out.  The   people  were   very   shy   of    us.  Breakfast
later   was   in   the   bed   of    a   rocky   stream  closely   surrounded
by   great   trees.  Several   parties   of    tailless    monkey    inspected
us   disapprovingly   and   moved   away  deliberately,  and  a  greater
hornbill    croaked   in   the   distance.  Walking   up   the   bed   of   a
tributary   stream   away   from   the   men we came suddenly on three
extremely   surprised   small   boys,  who   clutched  their  knifes for a
moment  and  then  bolted. Close  by  was  the  second   village,  very
tiny and poor looking, where—as  indeed  in  most of the others—the
villagers  refused  to sell us chickens  to  replenish our depleted larder.
The  chickens  were   much   more  valuable   to   them   than  satangs.
Then  followed  what  seemed   at   the  time  quite  an epic adventure.
We plunged suddenly into the  densest  jungle  imaginable  and  went
for hours without a  glimpse  of   the  sky   in  a   green   twilight. The
track  was  cumbered with  fallen trees and hanging creepers, and was
tangled  with  huge stems of  the  giant  bamboo crossing at all  a gles,
as if a crazy  giant  had   been  practically  investigating  the  theorems
of  a  humourous  and  ultra  modern  geometry. In  one or two  places
there  was  a  musty  smell  in  the  air where some animal had  passed.
But  we  heard  nothing: the still silence of the jungle was  close about
us,  and  the  noise  of  our  passage only seemed to accentuate it. The
harp  poles  of  the  carriers  were  continually  catching  in the vegeta-

 

                                                                                                                                                     XXII—2

 

 

 

 

                           (88)

 

tion. Riding   was   impossible; and   the   ponies  had   to  be  pulled
through  openings   and   over    four  foot tree trunks. About three in
the  afternoon, after  climbing  up and  down  the channels of several
waterless   streams, we  came  to  Huey Sai, where  we  camped  in  a
tiny  clearing  on  the  bank.  This  was  the  wildest  place,  far  from
any   village,  hemmed  in  by  great  trees  and  matted  undergrowth.
The  sandy  edge  of  the  stream  was  marked with fresh tiger tracks.
That  night  the  men  did  not  spread   far  and  made  their fires in a
compact red group.

 

 

                                                     X

The   next day's  journey was  a  little  easier. The thick jungle
belt  of  the  pevious day was on the  hill Khao San Keo and we were
now  descending  its  further  slopes.  A  side  track  appeared   which
the  guide  said   led  to a Meo village, but this was too  far  away  for
investigation. These  hills  are  probably   about   as   far  south as the
Meo tribe ever come, though  Mr.  Graham  mentions  that  in  recent
years  they  have  begun  to  penetrate  in this district from their more
usual  north-eastern   territory. After  a  little  stretch  of  once cultivat-
ed  land, now  thickly  over-grown  with  a  stubborn white-flowering
bush, we   passed  a  deserted  village, Ban  Khek Noi, with  only the
stark  house  posts  standing  up  mournfully  in   the   wilderness   of
undergrowth. Near  here  the  path  joined  with the abandoned direct
tract    from   Pooy. Then, quite  suddenly, we  emerged  into  an   up-
land  grass  plain grown about  with  groves  of  tall   pine  trees.  The
day's   march  had  been   very  short, but  the  scent  of pines was  so
refreshing a change after the rank jungle smell of  the  last   laborious
days, that   we   made  camp at once. It was cold in  the evening, and
rained a little, so a  luxurious  blazing  fire of pine logs was made.  If
this   place   were   accessible  it  would  form  a  most admirable  hill
station. We guessed its height to be about 3000 to 3500 feet. 

 

                                                    XI

The  next  day  we  came  to  precipitous foot-hills edging the
Lomsak  valley. It  was  obvious  that we were approaching compara-
tive  civilization  again. The  track  broadened and became well worn
and villages began to appear — prosperous villages decently  fenced,
The  first  was  Ban  Nai  Yao  where  there  was  a stream flowing be-

 

XXII—2.

 

 

 

 

pitsanuloke3

 

 

 

                                (89)

 

tween very steep banks: the carriers crossed on an airy  single  plank
bridge, but we on the ponies preferring fording to such  a  hazardous
path nearly came to grief down the muddy banks wet  from  the  pre-
vious night's rain. Followed Ban Tung Samor and  a  stretch of   rice
fields, and then a switchback of  rocky hills. Looking  back  we  saw
the high range we had crossed with early morning clouds hiding  the
peaks; ahead and beneath us was  the  valley   of  Lomsak. After  an
arduous morning we reached Huey Larn, a winding  gulley with  the
track  first  on  one  bank  and  then  on  the other: in a few miles we
crossed  and  recrossed  forty  times. But finally came the big village
of Ban Huey Larn, where  we  stayed  in  the sala—our first roof for
many days. In the evening we  were  objects  of  great interest to the
villagers, who made  demands  on  our  slender  medicine  chest  for
various  ailments. The  local  khen  players  provided  a little concert
in  our  honour, and  received  rewards  of whisky according to their
merits.

The next morning  there  were only a few miles of rice fields
to Lomsak, where we stayed in the guest house of  the  Wild  Tgers.

Of Lomsak, a quiet little up-country town, there is not  much
to say. Stevenson says somewhere "It  is  better  to  travel  hopefully
than  to  arrive," and  our  hopes had been fulfilled by the  laborious
journey. At  present  the  town  is  quite  cut  off from the  world  by
the surrounding hills;  but  one day  when   the  railway  reaches  up
through  Petchaboon  there  may  be  a  different  story  to  tell. The
valley  is  well  cultivated  and  seems  fertile: and  among  the  hills
is  luscious  grass  all   the  year  round  which  should  make  it   an
excellent cattle rearing country.

(Lantern slides of the route were then shown on the screen.)

 

                                                    XII

Our return journey to Pitsanulok was by the more  frequented
route, officially a t'ang luang, northward through  Nakon Thai.  This;
though not quite so wild and mountainous as the outward route, was

in one way more interesting, since it gave a  glimpse of  typical  way-
farers on a Siamese country high-way  and  of  local traffic, shoulder
borne, in various and diverse commodities.

                                                                                                                                                XXII—2.

 

 

                                                                         (90)

 

 

                                                   XIII

We  left   Lomsak  in  a  motor  bus, and  went  north  some 15
miles along a bumpy road   to old Lomsak, Lom   Kao. At  Lom  Kao
there  are  the  ruins  of  a  few  old  temples, but  they  are of no great
architectural interest.

Here  we  took  on  fresh  carriers, since  our  first  men, all  of
whom were cultivators, had had to hurry  back  to  their  fields  in  the
Pitsanuloke  district  to  finish  harvesting their  rice. The  track   from
Lom  Kao  turned  north-west  and  after   a stretch of paddy fields we
were soon among the hills again. We passed an elephant hauling  tim-
ber. Parties of blue clad Laos, men and women, were frequent: and at
many places there were  little  provision shops, way  side   restaurants,
which  did  profitable business with  our  big party. We camped  by a
stream,  and  in  the  evening  shot  doves  and  pigeons  for  the  pot.

 

                                                   XIV

The  next  morning  the  guide  warned  us  that  halts must  be
chosen  with  discretion  since  there  were long stretches not  crossed
by any streams. This  was  true  of  the  greater  part  of   the  way;  in
marked  contrast  to   the  outward  route  where   there  were  streams
every   few   miles. We   heard   the   pleasant   'clock-clock'  of  pack
catttle bells, and  passed  a  long  train, nearly a 100 head, going  with
empty  baskets  for  salt  to  the  famous  wells  north  of  Nakon Thai.
There  were  constant  parties  of  carriers  returning with  heavy loads
of the salt. Often in these abrupt foot-hills, the  slope  is  like  the  side
of a house: it must be no pleasant task to labour  up  and  down   them
with a burden of 40 or more  pounds  at  each  end  of  one's  shoulder
pole. The forest here was  quite open, but  close  ahead was  a  thickly
wooded hill, the Khao Sam-meun, a shoulder of  which we went  over
the  next  morning. At  many  places  were   rough  pig  corrals   made
of  bamboo. The  pigs  are  driven  in  great  herds  through  the forest,
and  the herdsmen  have to be  continously watchful  to  prevent  stray-
ing.  At  one  recently  used  corral   there   were  mystic  symbols   of
white  paper on  posts  to  keep tigers or spirits away during  the night.

 

                                                  XV

The  track  rose  steadily  and  it  was  soon  obvious  we were
already  some  thousands  of  feet  up  from  the  "Spanish beards" of

                                                                                                                                             XXII—2.

 

 

pitsanuloke4

 

                                                                                (91)

 

moss   hanging   down  from  the  upper  branches  of  tall  trees.  One
could  imagine  Drake's  men,  the  other  side  of  the  world, pushing
through  just  such  forest  in  equatorial  America  to  make a surprise
attack  on  the  Spanish  dons. With  the  Khao  Sam-meun  behind us,
we  came  to  a  country of a kind we had not seen before. It was a cup
in  the  hills  grown  over  with  thick  tall elephant grass; but there was
a  view  for  miles  round  and  the  place  had all the air of being teem-
ing  with  game. There  was  a  moment  of  regret  that  we   had   not
brought  shooting  elephants  instead  of  ponies.  A  little  further   on
was a  dilapidated and deserted building which we were told had once
been  used  as  a   shooting  box  during the last reign. There followed
an up-land laterite plain, very  hot  and  shadeless: we  had  to   march
across  it  some  5  or  6  miles  before  coming  to  a stream—and this
only  a  thin  trickle.  We  camped  on  its  bank.  A  party  of  Chieng-
mai  Laos  were  halted   there   when   we   arrived, tall   finely   built
men  and  carrying  enormous  harps   of   cloth   and  silk.  Our   men
found   a   great   delicacy  in  the  rocks  by  the  stream:  little   frogs,
which  they  ate  raw  with  every appearance of satisfaction. Our  bag-
gage  now  included  a  couple  of  khen from Lom Kao, and after din-
ner the musicians among the men played the  strange  chromatic  little
airs of the country  which  always  seem  to  be hovering on the verge
of a musical resolutin which never comes.

 

                                                XVI

Early  next  morning  we  came to rice fields, approaching this
small   town  of   Nakon  Thai  on  the  river  of   Nam   Luang.   The
was  a  considerable  stream, and  had  no  bridge. One of the carriers
went  across  to  explore  and  found  it  ran  neck deep. It looked like
a  wet  passage  until  fortunately  two  small   bamboo  rafts   passed:
we  seized  the  surprised  men  in  charge  and  made  them  ferry  us
across. Nakon  Thai (in  past  times  an  important town) did not have
a  very flourishing  air, and  is  reputed to be the poorest ampur in the
monton. The   surrounding   hills   are   famous   for   krating.  There
followed   several   villages, Ban  Nong  Kra Tao, and Ban Kong Pai,
all busy threshing rice, and then another long waterless and shadeless
stretch  before  the  stream  where  we  camped—and  here   the  best
ground was already in the occupation of ants.

 

                                                                                                                                                            XXII—2.

 

 

 

 

                                                 (92)

 

                                                XVIII


The track had begun to bend in  towards the south-west,  and
the   next    morning    we  went  over  the  Khao  Kayang, the  other
side   of  which  had  been crossed on the outward journey. This was
rocky  and  very  rough  going.   We   met  a  party  of  Laos   return-
ing to Lomsak after several days  of  bird  snaring in the forest. They
had large numbers of live green pigeons, caught at night with a  light
and  a  net ; and  they  were  glad to sell us some for the  inexpensive
price  of   two  for  five  satangs. Also  there  were  baskets  of  dried
smoked pheasants, of the rather rare type with fine peacock-like tails.
We  enquired  where  the  tails were;  the  men  replied that naturally
they  had  pulled  all  the feathers  out  and  had  thrown  them away.
They  were very  surprised to hear that the tails had any value. They
gave us some good information about hunting grounds, and advised
the village of Ban Klang a little  off  the  track  some 10 miles ahead.
The jungle over the Khao Kayang was  very thick, and in places  the
hueys  ran  with  mud  and  not  water. The bare-footed men slushed
through  unconcerned,  but  we  had  to produce unexpected feats of
agility. Once  we  tried  riding  across, but  one  of  the ponies, a tem-
peramental  animal, missed  his  footing  in  leaping on to a rock and
laid  his  rider  neatly  on  his back in the mud. Several times we saw
greater  hornbills  flying  ponderously  low  down over the trees with
a strange slow creak of their wings.

Finally  we   came  down   from   the  Khao  Kayang  to level
ground  again, and   reached  the village of Ban Nong Preu. Here we
branched  off  a  few  miles north to the recommended village of Ban
Klang.  There  was  a  little  enclosed   valley  of  some  hundreds  of
acres  of  rice  fields, completely surrounded by forest. At the far end
of  the  valley was Ban Klang, and it provided  a  delightful camp on
a  closely   cropped   grass  slope  by a little wooden temple. Here, as
in many of  the poorer  villages, priests  did  not  reside in the temple,
but only paid periodic visits.

The  village  hunters  were  called  into  consultation  and  pro-
mised a good day's shooting on the morrow. That  night  there  was a

 

                                                                                                                                                            XXII-2.

 

 

 

                                                    (93)

 

noise  from  the big village threshing floor where seven  water  buffa-
loes  slowly circled round stamping  out   the  harvested  rice  by  the
light  of  flaming   torches  encouraged   by   small  shouting  infants.

 

                                                    XIX

But   the   hunt   never   took  place. The   next   morning  Mr.
Aston  woke  with  a  high  temperature  and  the beginnings of fever.
We  remained   in  camp   all   that  day.  In  the   village   winnowing
had  succeeded  the  threshing  of  the  night  before. There was a big
pile  of  yellow  paddy  on  the  cleared  threshing  floor, and the men
shovelled  it  up  into  the air  while  as it dropped the women  fanned
it  with  big  trays. In  the  evening  jungle fowl came out on the edge
of the rice fields in  great numbers, and  after  dark  there  were  hares
to  be  shot  by the light of  a  lantern. This  would  be  an  ideal place
as centre for  a  week or so of shooting.

 

                                                    XX

The  following  day   our  chief  hunter  turned  up  drunk and
incapable   and   a   rather   inefficient  substitute  was  engaged.  We
camped  some miles  further  along and he showed us a little depress-
ion  in   the  ground  where  there  was  the  saline  earth so attractive
to   animals. There  were  great  foot-prints  of  wild  elephants  there,
and  plentiful  tracks  of  sambur  and  smaller  deer. A  platform was
built into a tree overlooking the place, but in spite of  some  watchful
hours that night nothing came.

 

                                                   XXI

The country was breaking  up into rolling foot hills which we
crossed  the  next  morning. From  the  Pitsanuloke side the slope up
into  the  hills  behind  is  quite  gradual: this  is  true  of  both routes.
But  from  the Lomsak  side on the other hand the rise is very abrupt.
At  noon  that day  we halted  in  the  sala at the village of  Ban Num
Dum:  from  here  as  Mr. Aston  was  now  feeling  definitely  ill  we
decided  to  push  on  till  late in the evening. A litter was improvised
from  a camp bed, and  the march continued. But sunset came before

                                                                                                                                               XXII—2.

 

 

 

                                                   (94) 


the  next  village, and  there  followed  the unpleasant experience of
making  camp  by  torch  light  in  an  unknown place. The villagers,
I  think, thought  we  were  ghosts  or  robbers. The  men  were tired
and  it needed a considerable expenditure of persuasive and abusive
language  before  the  camp  began  to  take  on  that  pleasant air of
limb-stretched  ease—which  is  the reward of a hard day well-spent.

 

                                                   XXI

The  rest  of  the  journey   was  over  rice  fields, and  at  the
village of Ban Don Pong some 10 miles from Pitsanuloke we found
a  motor  bus  service  running  over a buffalo cart track: the  invalid
was  rapidly  carried  in  and  soon  in  the  care of the American mis-
sion there.

(A  map,  lantern  slides, and  a  film of the journey were then
shown on the screen.)


 

 

 

 




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