Standing at the Edge of Thailand

I would like to share one of my favorite moments to date, a highlight of my travels so far. I’m therefore skipping ahead to our first week in the North of Thailand, when we watched the sunrise from Phu Chi Fa.

February 15th, 2017

It’s 4h45AM when our alarm clock rings this morning. It’s not very difficult to get up as neither of us actually managed to reach a deeper stage of sleep : Valentine’s Day seems to have aroused the need for people from all surrounding villages to aggregate in this tiny town and profess their love by screeching karaoke into the wee hours of the night. If there’s one thing I can definitely give them props for, it is for not being afraid of ridicule.

We quickly get dressed and leave the dingy room we’d been “sleeping” in. It’s quite cold outside, as one would expect high up in the mountains, so I’m glad I’ve packed a warm jacket. We jump on our motorbike and drive the few kilometers that separate us from the parking lot of Phu Chi Fa Forest Park. It’s barely 5AM, but locals are already here to greet us with warm cups of Nescafe. We gladly purchase two and start up the narrow path behind the stalls, along with a few other people. We pull out our headlamps, but quickly realize that we don’t need them: the moon is almost full and its light is more than enough to guide our footsteps. We walk slowly and take in the unobstructed view of the sky. This morning, they all seem just a bit closer, more accessible. Maybe its the fact that we’re now at an altitude of over 1,600; maybe it’s the magic of the moment itself.

At the top of the cliff, we find our perfect spot and settle down. It’s still early, so it takes a while before we start to see the sky changing. I breath in and try to imprint every detail of this moment into my brain: the crispness of the air, the sting of the wind on my face, the tranquility of the world around us. Very slowly, the sky starts to lighten and we start to distinguish shapes in the distance. A sea of milky white clouds spreads below our feet, as far as the eye can see. Only the tip of distant mountains, silent black masses, protrude defiantly from the mist.

Phu Chi Fa sits on the Thai border; beyond the cliff is Laos

Parts of the sky start to blush a pretty shade of rose and the sky grows paler, but there is still no sign of the sun. We begin to worry: could it be that we’ve driven all this way and listened to all this dreadful karaoke only to have our sunrise ruined by some morning mist? We wait a while longer. Suddenly its there: a tiny sliver of red starts to show above the mist. It quickly grows and forms a brilliant red disk. I smile excitedly and fill my lungs with the fresh mountain air. What I see before me is worthy of the opening scene of the Lion King. I almost yell out “Haaaa Kha Begnaaa, Habbabbiii Habbaboo” (if you don’t know what I mean, click here), but choose not to disturb the peace. I think to myself: “It’s for moments like this that I came on this journey.”

Our first glimpse of the sun as it rises from behind the clouds
We were told people fall off  this cliff every year in their quest for a better selfie…

2 thoughts on “Standing at the Edge of Thailand

  1. Beautiful! you gave me shivers… took me back to Mt Sinai yrs ago… where we also thought we were reaching the heavens as we walked in the moonlit sky, felt so little, yet so big. Thanks for sharing!


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