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Don't know if Petchabun qualifies as Isaan or not, but I went ther over the weekend.

Chiang Mai has been so hot and dry the last month(s) that I went on a trip to find cooler weather and greener surroundings.. Found it too in Petchabun province, in the area near Lom Sak where there are a few National Parks.. really beautiful forests and scenery. And.. GREEN! Some fog and drizzle around at the higher elevations. It always surprises me how big the difference can be between lowland weather and vegetation and higher up. Noticed this in Loei as well (basically the same area as North Petchabun and parts of Phitsanuloke and Khon Kaen provinces). Suddenly it's chilly and humid and you get pine trees and all that. GREAT! Would love to do a night-forst trek in that area sometimes and see some wildlife.

I think also during the hot season, this area is FAR more interesting and worth visiting than, say, Doi Inthanon in Chiang Mai. On paper this is the highest peak in Thailand, but somehow it doesn't seem that way.. on an old 100cc moped you just cruise all the way to the top. On the Loei-Petchabun area though it seems really, really steep and then the weather gets MUCH cooler.

In the rainy season I suppose Doi Inthanon is nice too, especially when you leave the main paved road to the top.

Also nice: All the national parks we visited charged very little money.. just 20 baht per person for all. One cave site in Nam Now National Park just charged 20 baht for electricity and there was a forestry dept. guide there to show us around!! Much better than in , say, the much more heavily touristed Mae Hong Son; when you get to Tham Load they have some kids who fell off the mountain to show you around for 10 minutes with some gas lamp, and charge 100-200 baht for the privilege.. At Nam Now last weekend the guide was really knowledgeable, and the caves extend really far. I think we just spent 45 minutes or so in side, but these are the longest caves in Thailand, they extend for 4 kilometers according to the guide. If you make an appointment and get all the gear then you can actually do some serious caving there. Also the cave (the part we visited anyway) was nice and cool.. I've seen that differently in Thailand too..

The areas that are NOT part of national parks are seriously deforested though. Kind of a sad sight to see dirt covered hills as far as the eye can see.. Then again, people have to make a living I suppose.

Then drove through Phu Rong Kla National Park.. this road goes high up REAL fast. Seemed every bit as high as Mae Hong Son or the back-end of Doi Inthanon. Nice views too, maybe I can post some pics somewhere.

All in all a really nice, cool, remote area. Coming back to Chiang Mai it seems that cooler, rainier weather has arrived here as well. GREAT! I appreciate nature a lot better when you don't get the feeling that everything is dead or dying around you.. And off-roading on dry dirt is not much of a challenge either.



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Nice post Chan - I've been to Nam Nao NP in the past and liked it too, but still to visit Phu Rong Kla. In Loei, Phu Rua is a winner outside of New Year, wehn half of Thailand is either there or Phu Kradung. Forests are getting a bit thin in places, and like you, the sight of so many bare hills depresses me.

As to your question of whether Petchabun qualifies as Isaan or not, reckon it's somewhere in between literally. Think the original inhabitants spoke more of a northern dialect (and a few hill tribes thrown in for variety), but the majority these days are migrants from central Isaan provinces who were encouraged to go up there and clear the forests for cash crops back in the 70s and 80s. Gave the govt., a double benefit - more agri-exports and less places for the CPT to hide out. Lots of good plaeng pua cheewit were penned up on those mountains. :o

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