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Canoe Wheeling

We woke up bright and early in Sangklaburi, having changed our rooms at the P. Guesthouse from the three-bed room that Hood, Scott, and I had shared to a two-man nest, with a private balcony looking out over the lake. It was the same price ($6 per night) and we were thrilled.  But of course, we missed Hood.

Today was to be somewhat of an atypical day for AsiaWheeling, in which we would rent one of the many fine handmade wooden canoes they had down by the dock at the P. Guesthouse, for a little bit of good old-fashioned AsiaPaddling.

We ziplocked our electronics, but we prayed, for the sake of the Panama hats, that none of the local fisherman who so deafeningly zipped around the lake on unbelievably fast, long, and skinny motor boats, would come so near and so parallel to us that we would take a spill.

I took the rear position, and Scott the bow as we headed out into the lake. She was a good boat, fast, silent, and true. We were rounding our first curve, past dozens of houseboats, and fields of some crop we could not quite identify, toward what we had heard was the location of a sunken temple. Sure enough, a few more curves of lake later, we found ourselves at a truly ghostly sight. As you, dear reader, no doubt remember, this was a man-made lake. Before the time of the lake, a great temple had been built in this valley. When the valley was flooded, the temple was submerged completely, but now being the dry, and therefore, low season, the top floors of the building were once again revealed from the cloudy green waters.

We paddled some of the smaller sections of the temple, before beaching the canoe and climbing out into the main building.

The floor was covered in muck, but the old stones were still visible in places, especially where the floor had cracked, revealing another completely submerged chamber beneath us.

Most of the more intricate parts of the temple were broken or ruined by years underwater, but we were still able to make out some interesting and significant features.

The arrival of some truly vicious swarms of gnats heralded our return to the boat.

We kept paddling farther down the lake, where we found more floating villages, clinging to the shore,and more of those interesting large net-fishing devices that we had first encountered being used by the fishermen of Goa. We stopped to hang out for a bit with a roaming herd of cattle, all of which sported jingling bells, and found us quite engrossing, before turning and heading back.

Our whole time in Sangklaburi, we had been noticing a giant golden temple that loomed amidst the smokey mountains across the lake. This, it seemed, would make a wise next waypoint, so we pointed the canoe toward its shimmering majesty and started paddling.

When we finally reached the shore, we beached the canoe next to an interesting agricultural operation, where they appeared to be growing a kind of Asian cabbage and beans, the cabbage spread out on the ground, while the beans arched overhead on makeshift bamboo structures. We scrambled past the farm and up a steep crumbling slope toward a road. We followed the road up and around into the forest. First we passed a large, and quite deserted facility, which remained a mystery to us until we were finally able to ascertain, upon finding a giant charred oven, that it was a crematorium. Hauntingly fascinating.

Just then, we saw a bright red fox appear from the woods and look at us. He turned around and began to trot down another unpaved and overgrown road. It seemed like our best bet would be to follow him, so we did. And sure enough, each time we came around a corner in the road, he would be waiting for us, and upon seeing us continue to trot forward. Finally he led us to the base of the great gold temple.

It was closed for business, it seemed, and the doors were barred and chained. This, however, did not seem to have kept a small village of furniture makers and wood carvers from having sprung up around it.

It was the hottest part of the day, and most people appeared to be napping. In fact, it was so strangely deserted as to elicit some activity in that  part of the brain that is cultivated during the viewing of zombie films. So, you might forgive your humble correspondent’s mild alarm when a strangely loping child appeared as if from nowhere and began running at Scott. His body, poor thing, had grown unevenly, likely due to malnutrition and disease. He appeared to have a great deal of trouble seeing, but had locked onto Scott and made a direct hit, promptly embracing him in a prolonged bear hug.

As the duration of the hug lengthened, Scott began to grow uncomfortable. Finally, and quite gently, Scott disengaged himself from this child and we moved on, continuing our exploration of the temple grounds and the surrounding village.

Back in the canoe, we were getting hungry, and it seemed high time that we return to the city proper and find some food.

After settling up for the canoe rental, we headed into the town, where we feasted on street food: grilled pork on a shard of bamboo,

accompanied by a bag of fresh cabbage, basil, and hot peppers,

delicious northern sausages filled with rice and meat,

and spicy sweet shredded papaya salad, mashed to perfection with a large wooden mortar and pestle.


  1. Henkes | April 19th, 2010 | 12:19 pm

    Following a Red Fox and then stumbling upon a beautiful golden temple? It sounds like you two are in the international version of a Hardy Boys novel!

  2. John Norton | April 20th, 2010 | 12:59 am

    The photography continues to be spectacular. The canoe and parasol in the ruin kills.

  3. Mark/Dad | April 23rd, 2010 | 7:41 pm

    What a beautiful stripper canoe! I agree, Henkes, an almost fairy-tale set of encounters.

  4. Woody | April 24th, 2010 | 9:21 am

    @ Mark/Dad
    It was a beautiful canoe; and quite fast. A magical day to be sure.

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