Tag Archives: adventure

The Good News Part II

THE ZOO

Sadly, the entrance is the best part of the zoo
Sadly, the entrance is the best part.

The first week I ran up to the zoo. I’d run there once on a previous visit, so I knew I’d be safe. There are just a few houses on the way to the zoo, and thus the dog threat diminished, but I was still leery. Only once I got passed the gates did I feel at ease.

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The beginning of the hill…
The hill at the zoo
In case you didn’t realize the hill was steep, here’s a sign.

Inside the gates, all I had to worry about was dying from exertion trying to make it up the hill. It was a pretty decent grade, gaining almost 400 ft elevation over two miles, which might be peanuts to some folks, but it was a tough workout for me.

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The small shrine at the zoo
Offerings
Offering stage

One of my cousins works at the zoo. I was chugging up the hill and I saw her at the small shrine where the workers make offerings. When I saw her, I was like, “She looks familiar. Do I know her…Oh snap, that’s my cousin!” I waved. She didn’t recognize me at first either. I didn’t stop to chat, which I later realized is really is rude, sorry, but lesson learned.

The downhill run was super fun though. It was hard to slow down. I was flying! I’m sure the workers there were thinking “Crazy Farang (foreigner).” Actually, most of Thai people that saw me running had a confused look on their face, that I understood as, “What is that idiot doing?”

THROUGH FARMLAND AND THE WOODS

My earliest run. It was awesome!
My earliest run. The sun was a super intense orange, simply awesome.

The next few runs were out through some farmland. I wanted to be adventurous and go explore. Running in an unfamiliar location is thrilling in that you have no idea where you are, so it’s very easy to get lost – and that’s the best part! You just go. You don’t know where you’re going or what you’ll run into, but you’ll find out when you get there.

I  followed this dirt road for what seemed like eternity. Running unfamiliar locations has that effect, making distances seem greater than they actually are. Eventually the road ended and I turned around. The next time I ran the same course, but ventured out a bit more at the end of the road. And I ran the course a third time and ventured even further.

Thrilling as it was, the idea of getting lost was scary. After all, I couldn’t exactly tell anyone where I was going, since I didn’t know myself. So they wouldn’t know where to look for me if something happened. Often, I was in the middle of nowhere and if I had been injured, it would be hours or days before I saw a person.

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Much of the area had recently burned.
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For all I know, the sign says, “TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT”

I tried to take mental notes about where I was running. I figured worst case scenario, I could simply backtrack. But after a certain point, my brain could recall only so many  “unique” rocks or trees or whatever. And when it’s a million degrees and you’ve been running for an hour… all of a sudden backtracking isn’t so easy. I also had an idea of leaving a trail of bits of torn up neon colored paper, but I tried it and that wasn’t as good an idea in practice as in theory. Big surprise there!

A posted sign however, is unmistakable. This sign was my landmark for where the “road” ended and I ventured off into the woods. There was always a sense of relief when I saw the sign on my way back. I was cautious on those runs and didn’t get lost. So naturally, I stopped being cautious.

The Good News Part I

Imagine a hundred of these suckers going off every ten minutes...okay it wasn't that bad. But close.
Imagine a hundred of these suckers going off every ten minutes…okay it wasn’t that bad. But close.

Whether the rooster population made it impossible to sleep past dawn, or everyone had to get ready for work in the fields, it’s hard to say (it’s the latter), but most people in the village were early risers. I could hear everyone in the neighborhood gearing up for the day, which included making som tum. (Som tum is a side dish consisting mainly of shredded papaya, tomato, peppers, fish sauce and lime. Thais eat som tum like Americans eat french fries.) You could always hear the pounding of the mortar and pestle from somewhere.

Also, everyday someone – not always the same person – would play music that the whole neighborhood could hear. While that might seem obnoxious, the music was always appropriate for the hour, and it was actually very pleasant and soothing. I think the music was a form of community sharing, and I miss that immensely.

I stayed with my uncle and he frequently cooked sticky rice to take with him to the farm, so I’d wake up to the smell of a wood fire. As much as I wanted to stay in bed, I had to get up. There was always a slight twinge of guilt that other people could get up and be productive, and here I am, the lazy American… Not to mention if I dawdled too long, it would be super hot. I’d get up, get dressed, put in my contacts, and fill my Camelback. I carried a stick to fend off any aggressive dogs.

Uncle Bpan
Uncle Bpan

Aside from acclimating to the heat and humidity, dogs were another challenge. The area I was in is a poor farming area where dogs roamed the streets. Basically wherever there was a house, there was a dog or two. The dogs may have had an “owner” but ultimately, they were their own masters. They constantly patrolled their territory and dog fights were common, even among dogs that knew each other. The dogs were used to automobiles and motorbikes, but they were most certainly not used to runners.

Even just running down the street the first few days was a little nerve-wracking. I tried to leave at a time the “owners” would still be around so they could call off their dog. And really, there was never just one dog. As soon as a dog barked, three more would spring out of nowhere, barking and ready for blood. At least, that’s how it seemed. Honestly, I’m not one for abusing animals, no sir, but I started to hope for a dog to attack me so that I could beat the dog and get over my fear.  I was tired of running scared. Luckily, being on the edge of town surrounded by farmland would offer more than enough mileage.

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Panda, one of the nicest, most flea infested dogs on the street. He went to work with us several times.

And just for the record, I made friends with several dogs on the street, flea infested or not.