My Journey to the Peak of Phu Bo Bit Mountain in Thailand
At around 4:00 pm on February 28, 2018, I reached the peak of Phu Bo Bit in Thailand's Loei Province—the tallest mountain I've ever climbed. This was a personal challenge due to my age and the fact that I had never scaled a mountain 647 meters above sea level.
In this article, I first relive my journey from Udon Thani City to Loei City in northeastern Thailand. Then, I describe my experience of climbing to the top of Phu Bo Bit and feeling like I am on the top of the world.
Reasons for Traveling to and Climbing Phu Bo Bit
Phu Bo Bit was recommended by my friend who climbed it after he traveled from Udon Thani City to Loei. I was also fascinated by some Youtube videos showing young people delighting at reaching the peak of Phu Bo Bit.
After consultation with my friend who has traveled to Loei Province before, my wife and I decided to make the trip to Loei and climb the mountain. This is because David said that the roads between Udon Thani City and Loei were good and the trip would take only about two hours. David also gave me some highway maps and introduced a hotel not far from the Loei Night Market and Phu Bo Bit.
I also made the journey to prove to myself that at my age I could meet the challenge of driving two or three hours and also climbing a mountain almost 2,000 feet in elevation.
My Journey to Loei City
On February 28, 2018, I drove from Udon Thani City to the city of Loei in Loei Province. My wife and I had decided to make the trip in the morning when the weather was cooler. At around 8:00, we departed our home and took Highway 210 in a southwesterly direction toward the city of Nong Bua Lamphu. I was on a four-lane road and able to average 100 kph until hitting a fairly low mountain range separating Udon Thani Province from Nong Bua Lamphu Province.
After traversing the mountains, I descended into Nong Bua Lamphu City. Four or five traffic lights slowed us down but fortunately, another four-lane road outside of Nong Bua Lamphu whisked us to Na Wang Prefecture. Upon reaching Na Wang, I had to endure a two-lane highway until I hit Wang Saphung in Loei Province.
At Wang Saphung, I turned on to another four-lane road, Route 201, which took me for 25 km into the small city of Loei.
The City of Loei is situated in the fertile valley of the Loei River 545 km N-NE of Bangkok. It is 150 km west of Udon Thani City.
After reaching the outskirts of Loei on Route 201, I passed a number of new car dealers until I saw the small Loei Airport off to the left. The airport is about three or four kilometers from the center of the city. I continued into the city and made a U-turn right before I saw a big intersection running between Loei and Chiang Khan to the right.
Following my U-turn, I headed back the way I had come on a small road parallel to 201 which was under construction. After passing through Ruamchai Road, I went one block until I saw the Loei Hospital on the corner of Nokkaeng Road. Making a left on to Nokkaeng, I followed it around a circle until I reached Highway 2017. After turning right on to 2017, I went for less than a block until seeing a sign for my hotel, the Loei Palace Hotel, off to the left on Charoen Rat Road.
You cannot miss the Loei Palace because it is a big seven-story white building off to the right of Charoen Rat. My wife and I immediately checked in at a little before 11:00 and we were given a good spacious room with king bed on the third floor. The room rate was 1,200 Thai baht ($38) per day which included breakfast, Wi-Fi, and use of an indoor pool. My friend had recommended the Palace because it was only three kilometers from Phu Bo Bit and within walking distance of the downtown park, river, night market, and Walking Street.
Ascending to the "Top of the World"
Following lunch and a short rest in the hotel room, we set out for Phu Bo Bit Mountain a little before 3:00. Phu Bo Bit is in the Phu Bo Bit Forest Park off of Highway 2138. It is about three kilometers from the Palace Hotel. Hotel staff told us that the best way to reach Phu Bo Bit by car was to take Charoen Rat Road to Highway 2138 and then turn right.
To my surprise, Charoen Rat Road wasn't a straight shot to 2138. We found out that it snaked through a small village with narrow lanes. Eventually, however, we reached 2138 and made a right turn. After traveling one or two kilometers which seemed like an eternity, We finally spotted the narrow entrance to the Phu Bo Bit Forest Park off to the left.
First, we had to drive up a 100-meter road before finding a place to park our car. Next, the challenge began of climbing 1400 steps to reach the peak of Phu Bo Bit.
The first 100 steps was a piece of cake and my wife easily beat me up to a landing where a small Buddhist temple was located. After another 50 steps, my wife became hot and sick and couldn't continue. I was left on my own to ascend the remaining 1250 steps.
This was a challenge because the steps were quite steep and I had never climbed more than 600 before. That was in 2013 when we ascended the steps to the Erawan Cave situated at the boundary of Nong Bua Lamphu and Loei Provinces. At an age of close to 74, would I be able to meet this present challenge?
A short while after leaving my wife behind, I saw a sign reading 500 meters. Like a fool, I thought I had already climbed 500 meters and had only 147 more to go. I realized having misinterpreted the sign when I later saw another sign saying 400 meters more to the top of Phu Bo Bit!
During my climb, most of the steps were in place and there were handrails on both sides of the path. In some places, however, steps were missing and I had to jump two or three feet up to higher ground.
After 40 minutes, I finally saw another sign noting 200 more meters to the top of the mountain. A few steps later, I was on a small plateau and saw a groundskeeper sitting in front of a cave to my right. To my left, there was a scenic view area for taking pictures. Unfortunately, the lighting during that time of day was bad and my pictures did not turn out very well.
Continuing my ascent, I was pleasantly surprised to see yellow aluminum steps taking me up the final 200 meters.
At the Peak of Phu Bo Bit Mountain
I rejoiced after reaching the peak of Phu Bo bit and walked around the top taking pictures and videos. The city of Loei in the valley by the Loei River was visible. Unfortunately, I had chosen the wrong time of the day to scale the peak. It was about 4:00 when I reached the top and I found the lighting at that time of day not very good for pictures. I later found out that most people reached the peak between 6:00 and 6:30 so that they could take beautiful pictures of the sunset and lights of the city.
Descending Phu Bo Bit and Enjoying Loei in the Evening
At about 4:10, I started my descent from the peak of Phu Bo Bit. After 20 minutes, I found my wife still sitting on the step where I had left her. In celebration of having climbed to the "top of the world," I hit the glong (drum) which was near a Buddhist temple three times.
In the evening, my wife and I had an excellent hotpot dinner near the river and then walked through a park and night market which was on a Walking Street. We didn't purchase anything but tamarind fruit which my wife and relatives are very fond of.
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© 2018 Paul Richard Kuehn