I stated last week I was heading to Khao Khitchakut. We did go and what a day.
I don’t see a lot of how to and such written by Farang so I will try to do my best here to help point the way and explain the process.
First off we stayed at FaaSai Resort – not the closest place to stay but we wanted to be near the ocean chilling out. The day before the trip to KK we did some driving around to familiarize ourselves with the area and roads. We even made a stop at Wat Khao Sukim which is a fun outing as well.
From a driving perspective you just need to use Google Maps and head towards Wat Khao Sukim and then follow the signs to where to park for Khao Khitchakut – basically you will come off of the main Route 3 – sukhumvit and either hit route 3322 or 3249 but once you are close to Wat Khao Sukim you will see signs directing traffic since there is only one way to get to the parking area where it all starts.
We started our morning at around 3:00 AM but the gods were not with us that early. First issue we ran into was having to wake someone at the resort cause the main gate was locked and we could not drive out. That took about 20 mins and set us back from our early departure some.
Next issue was none of our phones worked. There was no data signal and at times there was no signal at all. We use TRUE and none of us had data – so that meant the maps wouldn’t work. Fortunately I had been using Google Maps and a lot of the route was cached from the day before.
Road were very dark though so it took some u-turns and such to finally get there. All in all we made it to the main parking lot about 1 hour later than we wanted but was still dark. By the time we took the first truck to the main area the sun was just coming up and the sky was gorgeous.
Since there are so many people coming to this event and the mountain is only open for about 3 months – the scale of the operation is pretty impressive. We got to the first parking lot where there was food, buddha supplies and drinks. This is where you pay the 50 baht to get in the back of a truck and are taken to base control.
At the base is where there is a ton of food, lots of shops, and just a huge operation supporting the entire ordeal. There is even a gas station for all the trucks that ferry people up and down the mountain. The main thing at the bottom base station though is to quickly buy your tickets to get to the second base station. The tickets are 50 baht each as well and are ordered by number. So the sooner you buy one the sooner you get in a truck.
Like an auction house there is a Thai guy calling out numbers of trucks and which ticket numbers are associated with each truck. Basically once you hear your number and a truck number you jump in if you can fit but sometimes you get in the next one if you have to.
The ride up is nuts. Tough to explain or capture it well. Here is a video just to help set the stage some. I am still not clear who organizes this entire event or who manages the trucks but I think there are a few hundred trucks – many of them new. Toyotas, Isuzu, and Fords mostly. They are owned by some management company that also pays the drivers. They drive pretty fast since the goal is to move as many people as possible. I was told there have never been any major accidents cause the drivers are kind of trained and work the mountain every year.
The road is very steep and can be quite narrow but it is also very twisty. So sometimes the trucks are on one side for a particular turn or on the other for another one. They have signs that show them which angle to take and the trucks cross each other going up and down. It seems quite daunting as a passenger but it all works and is fascinating to watch. Once you get up to the second station you buy another ticket to get the rest of the way up and to the base of the trial head.
Once you get to the top is is madness with everyone buying stuff for buddha offerings and people jostling to get going. At this point I had no idea what was to entail. I assumed at this point I was close to wherever it was we were going but this is actually the beginning of the walk. My iOS to track all this was not working well due to location and lack of 3G most of the time but I estimate from this point we walked about 7-10 km and spent roughly 4.5 hours walking up and down to get to the actual end of all the walking.
Along the way there are various stops that have some religious significance – I can’t recall if we stopped at all of them or not but we managed to take in quite a few. What really stunned me though was not only how many people were on the mountain but the amount of shops selling things. Keep in mind they also had to bring their stuff up by having it carried up.
Throughout the trip you would see people carrying stuff up and down – bringing items and food in – taking garbage out. I think for these people that was their job – carrying stuff up and down the mountain. It looked liked the most back breaking work one could imagine. I was tired from just carrying my fat ass up and of course I had my daughter strapped to me which meant I was carrying an extra 9 kilos or so. The great thing was constantly getting a kick out of all the people who were surprised to see her make the journey. She loved every bit of it.
For those who do not wish to make the journey by foot there is a service for taking people up and down the mountain in a chair. I think it is 2000 baht for the ride up and down. 4 guys using a chair with support poles. You would see these going up and down the mountain all day. Mostly used by the elderly and people who are physically unable to make the climb.
At this point we had reached an area that I thought was about to reveal the end of the journey. The path was getting quite cramped and was full of bells and other things so it just felt like maybe this was getting to be about the end.
However it turned out that this was about halfway and it was nearing the apex of one of the holy spots with a temple, lots of people and the famous rock on top of the mountain. This area also has a heli pad which I guess is used for emergencies but someone also mentioned some people pay for a helicopter to get them to this point. Nice!
This rock is the main one for people to worship at but it turns out that if you want to go all the way you keep walking past this – and we did. At this point I was just on auto pilot. We came across another famous spot and then stopped for some food that is served near the top. Changed a diaper, got some water and took a bathroom break. Can you guess which toilet is for the women?
To be honest I am not sure at each step what the religious significance was. At certain points there were monks, shrines and various natural things that would draw a crowd. You would also see many places for donations – like these umbrellas. My guess is the money intake during this is enormous.
At one point you will think you have to come to the end of it all but it turns out the trial keeps going down the mountain to the very end. We made it all the way and I estimate going to the very end to be about 5km of walking to about 10 or so there and back. This article mentions some of the distances, the things along the way and of course the famous Buddha Footprint which I don’t think I got a picture of.
All in all was quite the experience. Not sure I will do it till my daughter could walk since carrying kids is tough – more fun if they can walk. I would also start earlier – try to get to the mountain before sunrise so you see the sun coming up and the walk is cooler. Also be sure to keep an eye out for the shortcut on the way back – just remember that the food stop has a back way where they bring supplies in. Means you can get down to almost the bottom by using a back way that is mostly for supplies and people going down. Saves you some time since some of the paths come to a dead stop with so many people unable to pass each other.
Once you make it down I suggest stopping for break to grab a drink and some food since the truck ride down might be gnarly if you are tired and on an empty stomach. Once we got back to the main spot you then need to get another truck back to the parking lot which was free for the return. Then we grabbed some noodle soup before heading back to our hotel to swim and nap.