I milk the time I have with all the amenities I need and duck out by check out at 12. I walk a few miles, get something to eat, and then get back to the station. I’m back somewhere around 2 and now I have just over a day until they come to pick me up.
Two young women come up to me at one point and ask if they can get their picture with me. I expect this in Ghana, but forgot this is actually quite common in Thailand. It seems strange since there are so many other foreigners here. I guess those foreigners don’t travel outside of the big cities often.
At one point, a Thai monk comes up to me and asks me where I’m going. His Thai is different than I’m used to, so it’s really hard to understand anything he’s saying. It still hasn’t failed that he can understand my Lao, now with a spattering of the Thai side of the differences between the two languages. He shows me a map of Thailand and says he’s from the very southern part, which probably explains his different dialect. I don’t really know how to understand this meditation retreat, so I just tell him that In going to practice sitting meditation. Then, without any notice, he just leaves and continues to walk around the station. Well, bye buddy.
After some more time of people watching, the same monk comes back up to me. Before he speaks he holds his finger up with an angry face and I can already sense the lecture coming. He starts speaking fast and forcefully, so I make sure to sit up and pay close attention, but I only catch something about sitting meditation, a negative, and a list of other words I don’t understand, all followed by “samadhi”, which means concentration, or meditation, when followed by a word like sit or stand. Then, again without a word he turns around to get a taxi and leave for good. I think he was trying to tell me that I need to practice all kinds of meditation and not just to focus on the sitting aspect. Or in Thai, the word for meditation is actually and insult to the persons mother. The latter would make much more sense with the sudden anger and to be fair, I did say it first.
It’s now around nightfall, so I leave the station to go to the small road that leads back to the main one. On the way back in I say a potential camping spot and want to go give it a try. I wait on the side of the road for the cars to stop enough so I can briskly walk over.
I make my break for it and make it behind the big bushy tree before any cars come by. I crouch down real low because there’s much less cover than it appeared from the roadside. If I stand, then both sides of the traffic would see me. I make sure I’m level with the cover and then begin to get out the tent and set up. I make sure everything is slightly on the side of the outbound traffic. I figure the people leaving just saw this place so they’re thinking more about their travel than looking around and the people coming into the station and trying to figure out where they are and are more likely to scan the area. Because I’m crouching and my legs are about as flexible as to iron rods, I start to pour sweat. I don’t want my tent to be covered I swear the first time I use it and the cover of nightfall is almost here, so I pull out my poncho and sit down in the grass.
As I’m sitting and looking off into the open field, opposite of the road, a dog peaks his head above the brush line and starts to bark at me. I’m not sure if it’s more of a howl or a bark and he’s far enough away from me, so I ignore him and get back to the set up. Just like when I practiced in the hotel room in Europe, it goes up in minutes. I put the cover on top, called the rain fly, because it’s been off-and-on raining since I got to the station. Without the rain fly I’d get immediately soaked from the air vents all over. It also gives me some space in front of the tent to let my dirty shoes sit in front f the tent, yet still be protected from the elements or anyone’s sight. I take out the sleeping pad that Aaron gave me, but I think there’s not enough room with both of my bags. There probably is enough room, but I’m too tired to figure that out right now and the grassy patch I’m on is quite cushy. Even though I’m excited and scared at doing this for the first time, the exhaustion from travel takes the upper hand.
With no idea how long I’ve been asleep, I wake up in the darkness of night to footsteps approaching my tent. They sound too quick to be human, so I don’t worry too much. All of a sudden they come to a stop, now about three feet from my head. The rainfall has no kind of see through part and makes the tent completely watertight, so this thing and I have no chance of seeing each other, just sounds and smells. As I begin to notice even the symphony of night insects is quieter than normal, the silence is shattered.
That same distinctive howl-bark I heard when I was setting up the tent comes from where the footsteps stopped. I nearly jump straight up in the air. With his barking, two more sets of barking now approach from the left side of my body. Within seconds of those, yet another two sets of barking come from below my feet. I close my eyes and concentrate on the different types of barking to count about five dogs. They’ve now completely cornered my tent to the bushy tree I set up to hide behind.
Now I’m scared stiff. I try to stay perfectly still to not show any sign of aggression toward them and to let my mind race for a plan. From my experience with wild dogs in Ghana and Laos, I’ve learned that most dogs in this situation are just ‘beating their chests’ and if you don’t show to be a threat to their territory, then they’ll soon get bored of you and leave you alone. That’s my plan, so I concentrate on laying perfectly still.
After about 20 minutes, a few of the dogs leave in the direction of the small road. My plan is working, I’m beginning to relax a bit more. Then eventually the rest of them leave and move on to something else in the distance. That stubborn dog with the howl-bark hangs around longer with less and less interested barking as more time goes without me moving. Eventually, he leaves and they move on to barking at something else in the distance. Again, the stubborn dog comes back as if he’s trying to prove to his friends he really did see something. He only lasts a few minutes this time and then when the symphony of bugs start up again, I’m able to fall back asleep.