I’ve lived in Thailand for ten years now. My favorite trail run is a mountain that’s about 30 minutes away by motorbike. I go two to four times a week. I’ve been going for the six years we’ve lived in this area.
In six years I’ve probably seen a total of 150 other people on the trail at the same time as me. When I go varies, but typically I’m there in the morning and that’s usually when I see other people if I see anyone at all.
The hike is magnificient. It’s 4km of uphill climb – most of it gradual, and peaking out at 500 meters elevation and a near 360 view of the surrounding karst topology, palm and rubber tree plantations, and miles and miles of great beaches, and dozens of amazing islands coming up out of the Andaman Sea. The views along the trail (5 of them) are all stunning. It’s one of the best things for outdoorsy types to do on their vacation, or for those that are lucky enough to live close by.
So, where in the world are all the people on the trail? It is a well worn trail and I maintain it to keep the thorn bushes and vines cut away. Some of the park rangers come to do major trail clearing when big trees fall across the path. So, it can’t be that it doesn’t look like an appetizing trail. It’s beautiful!
There are gibbons jumping high in the trees, there are flying squirrels, flying lizards, geckos, big mountain lizards (Calotes emma, primarily), big monitor lizards that resemble Komodo dragons, but that are completely harmless. There are eagles, bats, bugs of every sort, and few mosquitoes. So, where are all the nature lovers in Thailand?
Out of all the people I’ve seen on the trail, I’d said only about 30% were Thai nationals. The rest were tourists visiting who happened to see my website about Krabi (SeeKrabi.com), and found the page where I cover the hike (here).
It’s a sad statement about what people are doing with their lives, is what it is. Instead of waking up early for a 9 a.m. hike up an incredible mountain with their kids, people are sleeping off hangovers or massive dinners from the night before. Maybe they’re watching TV or, like my twenty-something neighbors, playing videogames all weekend.
It just seems to me that when travelers come to one of, if not THE, most beautiful place in Thailand, they would head outdoors to see what there was around them. Is it too hot for people that are from northern Europe, Russia, Canada and the USA? I don’t know. Temperatures are usually in the high 80’s and 90’s in the morning. Does that put everyone off a walk through a canopy covered trail? I dont’ know. It’s just depressing to me because I get so much out of my trips up this mountain. It’s like my own oasis of solitude most days. Today I saw two couples going up as I was almost done with my run. That was nice to see. They were panting and sweating buckets already, asking how far there was to go. There was 80% of the hike to go! Maybe it is judged as being too hot to be exercising when people arrive for vacation in the rainy season.
And it isn’t just the mountain trail, it’s all over. At the beach on a Saturday we might see 100 people. This is a locals beach, everyone knows it’s there, and it’s picture perfect with two little islands within walking distance when the tide is low. Still, only about 100 people a day are there for the few hours I go with my wife and daughter. There are a couple hundred thousand people in this province, within reach of this beach. Where are they?
The waterfalls are virtually barren. Tourists is all you’ll see there, and then, not all that many of them. Maybe 200 people per day at the main waterfall just outside of town?
There is a city park down by the river. In the evenings after 5 p.m. people go to walk or jog around the one kilometer path, play tennis, play basketball or futbol (soccer). Total number of people at the park at any one time, I’d estimate at no more than 400 on a typical weekday and less on the weekend. Where are the people that want to walk around and enjoy nature and get some exercise while they’re at it?
You know where everyone is? They’re at the malls walking around in the cold air conditioned air. They’re in their homes watching the television and playing video games. They’re eating out and relaxing without becoming active. Walking, running, swimming, hiking, climbing, these are things that few people do here. It’s mind-blowing to me because we live in a paradise for all these activities and more.
In Hawaii it was better. I saw many more people hiking on the trails, and the paths were longer and the climbs more difficult than what we have here. I might see 100 people on a mountain peak trail on Oahu, and that’s just for the few hours I was on it too. Maybe 200 go in a day. The trails here haven’t seen 200 people in a week most times.
Anyway, just an observation about how little people seem to care about exercising outside on the trails. It saddens me because I have such a blast every time I’m lucky enough to go climb the mountain and run down it. Sometimes I do it again, I’m so glad to be there.
I wonder what the world would be like without TV. Without air conditioning. Without comfortable couches and beds.
I think a much better place. Or maybe most people would just find a new way to relax?
Hard to say… I just wish there were another couple hundred people on the trail every day! Seems like there would be happier people. Happier families. Happier workplaces. Happier cities. Happier countries and a happier world.