Author Topic: Chaiyapum: Tiptoe through the Siam tulips  (Read 1998 times)

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Offline Johnnie F.

Chaiyapum: Tiptoe through the Siam tulips
« on: June 28, 2011, 10:59:21 PM »
INTO THE WOODS

Tiptoe through the Siam tulips

Chaiyapum's Pha Hin Ngam National Park is once again carpeted with beautiful pink flowers

Burned by the strong sunlight and too little rainfall during a long hot summer, brown trees and yellow fields are normal sights in Isaan, the north-eastern part of Thailand, a place well-known for its bone-dry plateaux, burning heat and spicy dishes.

The wild meadows of Pha Hin Ngam National Park in Thep Sathit district of Chaiyaphum province are so very not different from the rest of the region. They too are yellow and dry until that first shower of rain. Then, the trees spring back to life and start to sprout young, green leaves. The endless yellowish fields hastily gulp down every drop of rain while, underneath, some dormant rhizomes gradually emerge. Within weeks those rootstocks have transformed the fields into greenish blankets dotted with pink flowers.

Known as dok krachiao to the locals, the deep pink Siam tulip has several names, among them pathuma (lotus), bua sawan (heavenly lotus) and bua bok (land lotus). It's a type of pink curcuma and it's actually a member of the ginger family, a cousin of the ginger and turmeric we use in our kitchen.

Here, at the national park, the endless fields of meadow stretches out before the visitors like a dreamscape - foggy and silent in the morning. Once the morning sun shows up and the warm light streams into the wild, strange-looking rock-formations gradually appear. Locals describe them as a "frog", a "elephant", even a "World Cup Trophy" but visitors may see other shapes.

"Campers comes here for a breath of fresh air," says Wiroon, the local who puts up a coffee stand near the park.

But you're advised not to visit over the weekend, otherwise you'll get the same breath back home. The park is usually crowded with casual weekenders stopping by for photo opportunities.

A casual stroll through the field is a must. On a bluff above the deepening valley, the green canopy of rainforest beds down and stretches out to the distant range. This outlook is known as "sud phaen din" - or edge of the earth. As its name suggests, you're overwhelmed by the great sense of isolation."

You can pitch your tent in the national park and reinvent your boy scout skills with some outdoor cooking and barbecue. But those who don't want to rough it under canvas can bed down in the ranger cottages.

Carpeted with pink flowers and home to many species of bird and wild animals, Pa Hin Ngam National Park offers a real escape for the town-weary travellers in July to August.

IF YOU GO

Pa Hin Ngam National Park, (044) 890 105, is about 300 kilometres from Bangkok. The Siam tulips are bloom from now until end of this month. Try not to visit the park on the weekends, as it's packed with visitors.

Either rough it out under canvas in the national park or reserve one of the cottages run by the park. Book in advance at www.DNP.go.th/parkreserve/.

For outdoor BBQ or cooking, bring your own supplies and equipment.

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