“Nature – the sublime, the harsh, and the beautiful – offers something
that the street or gated community or computer game cannot.” (Richard Louv)
…NATURE. A huge part of our family culture always has been doing things in the outdoors. For Jeff and me, our first few dates were dirt bike riding, hiking, star-gazing in the mountains, snow skiing…even went camping and kayaking for part of our honeymoon. During the first four years of marriage before we had kids, we spent lots of time backpacking, kayaking, rock climbing and mountain biking. So, when we had our son, it was a no-brainer to continue these activities as much as possible, and we carried him on our front and back on many hikes until he could walk on his own. The first few years of that resulted in trading off between him walking and Jeff giving him shoulder rides. By the time our daughter came around, it was easy to bring her along as well. Our kids have always seemed to enjoy our outdoor adventures, and I hope appreciation and taking care of natural, open space is something they carry into adult-hood and pass on to our grandchildren! After all, it is my parents who gave me the love – Dad took me fishing as a child, they both took me on short hikes to our local river (Knights Ferry) and a little farther up to a nice lake (Pine Crest) in the mountains. I grew up on 6 acres of almonds, and pretty much lived outside riding my bike and climbing trees in all of California’s 4 seasons.
We have committed to…
…SHARING GOD’S CREATION with ourselves and others. It’s no surprise that as an adult, I long to get out of town and into the outdoors as often as possible, sometimes alone (the introvert in me can recharge like this!), sometimes with family, sometimes with friends. For many years, most months our family would get out doing something outdoors about once a month, sometimes more, sometimes less, but it was a nice rhythm in our life. A few years ago, we owned an outdoor gear shop from which we sold gear and guided various trips such as kayaking and backpacking. The store itself did not work out, but we found true joy in guiding people out on adventures and met some fabulous people we wouldn’t have met otherwise. One of the things that came out of the whole thing was that I started a women’s ministry group in which we’d have a Bible study once a month and then get out on some adventure trip once a month. I have a vision that something similar needs to happen here in Bangkok, but haven’t worked out many of the details of it.
Our family has lived in Bangkok nearly 6 months, and we haven’t met our goal of getting out into the outdoors once a month. After all, we aren’t here on vacation! We live here, we serve here. Life is full and busy with work, school, and church. But we have thoroughly enjoyed every time that we have been able to spend a day in nature. We knew that during Christmas break we’d have opportunities to get out there more, so this last week we met up with some friends at a climber’s camp I’d learned about months ago from Pinterest. It is about a 2 hour drive from Bangkok in central Thailand, in the province of Saraburi. They even have 4 amazing dogs, one who decided to be our companion and guard our campsite and hike with us!
Grateful to have discovered…
…Nam Pha Pa Yai , a wonderful hidden gem of a place easily accessible from Bangkok. The sweet Thai climber who owns this nice piece of land by the river is named Joy. The land is blessed with amazing limestone cliffs that she and others have bolted for climbing and repelling routes. Naturally, this area attracts climbers. We were there to sleep outdoors and to check it out for future climbing possibilities, and will definitely return here. Our friends rapelled (called it abseiling at the camp) and climbed, but we decided to wait and book a more difficult rappel and climb for January or February now that we know what this place has to offer.
“Nature inspires creativity in a child by demanding visualization and the full use of the senses.” (Richard Louv)
Even without climbing, the camp has lots to do to unwind from urban life. Joy keeps goats, so the kids really enjoyed feeding the two orphaned babies and running around with the goats as they were fed and let out to pasture. There are slack lines, hammocks, a beach with a perfect cliff for jumping, and delicious food. Oh the food! You either bring your own or eat here, as it is 15 K from any town (and that town is a small one), but if you don’t eat here you’re missing out! The portions are large, dinner is all you can eat, and there are lots of choices to choose from for breakfast and lunch. They also serve tea, coffee, beer, homemade breads and cookies… definitely a good eating experience for us!
We went on a hike, I think it was about 5 K (3 miles) that turned out to be more difficult than we thought. But it was great! We saw the Bat Cave, which is where we will rappel next time we go, and experienced hiking up some challenging terrain. But everyone in the group made it, age 5 to 72! We did the zip line – free with harness, but we needed to rent a harness as ours are in storage in California. (could kick ourselves for not bringing the harnesses and climbing shoes, especially since I knew about this place before coming here – I didn’t know it would be so awesome and so close!)
The sleeping arrangement was great – raised bamboo platform with a tent on it, 250 baht/ 8 US dollars. So we had our tent, and the kids had theirs. We hung our hammocks just outside looking over the river and into the greenery, which is a little dry since rainy season ended over a month ago. The evenings were not cloudy, so we saw the night sky full of stars. Night time and mornings were nice and cool (not cool enough to wear more than shorts and a t-shirt, but not hot). Actually, as long as we were in the shade, we were not too hot with the slight breeze that was around most of the time. With the warm weather here, the kids and Jeff enjoyed swimming in the river and cliff jumping. Not me! 🙂 But I did get some knitting done, and reading, and was delighted to watch the family partake in the water activities they love. You can rent kayaks here; we might do that next time. It is flat water, but there is a current. The river comes down through central Thailand, and ends up in Bangkok like all the other rivers here.
“In nature, a child finds freedom, fantasy, and privacy: a place distant from the adult world, a separate peace.” (Richard Louv)
We really savored our time at Nam Pha Pa Camp, and are grateful to have spent the 2 days before Christmas in God’s great outdoors and getting to know another family better. Had we been still living in California, we probably would have gone skiing or snow shoeing, so this was a different kind of winter nature fix. Can’t wait to get back out! Hopefully we can share this amazing place with others here so they, too, can feel refreshed.