The Mysterious Old House
The Mysterious House
Discovery: The Mysterious Old House
We moved to Thailand a few years ago after we retired. Our house stands in a tiny village amongst mountains and forests, with the enchanting sea in the Gulf of Siam only 4 miles away. The best of all worlds? Of course it is. And the one abiding joy of living in a rural setting is the beautiful walks you discover when you go off exploring your local environment. We have several favorites, depending on the time of year. Some of them become impassable once the monsoons come in earnest.
But one of our much-loved walks with our Labrador Pippa is just a mile away and is as mysterious as it is pretty. The early morning sun climbs the mountain beyond the forest and is captivating. The entire world there is surrounded by birdsongs and the hum of the awakening insects. We stumbled upon this purely by chance and have continued to walk there several times a week since we first arrived. The changes have been slow, dramatic and tangible.
The first discovery was taken rather timidly as we appeared to be in someone’s garden, albeit very large. There were two rather grand and imposing gateposts on either side of a well defined path, but no gate. We ventured in, expecting any moment to see several Dobermans or Rottweilers come racing towards us hell bent on annihilating any trespassers. We had no escape plan and one of our Labradors was an ancient but feisty 11 year old, whom we should not have placed in such a precarious position. But we hesitantly went forward and became increasingly emboldened when nothing rushed at us out of the early morning mist.
The path was obviously used but rather overgrown on both sides. A neat avenue of trees of varying species lined the path and framed the walk enticingly. The whole area was generously planted with trees but the undergrowth had become very weedy and overgrown. It had that definite air of neglect.
The first sign of habitation came with the discovery of a large concrete tank and a bore-hole cover hiding under a thick covering of plants and covered in mosses. It appeared not to have been used in recent months or even years. Maybe we really were trespassing in someones’ garden.
We walked on breathing in the freshness of the surroundings and next stumbled upon a sturdy garden wall made from the local granite. This was closely followed by a neat two storied house set within another part of the garden, but obviously in a decaying state. The whole was surrounded by magnificent mature trees. The building was safe enough to explore though and we did this with growing curiosity. The old place was obviously in a state of being plundered, though there was no-one around now. Some of the windows were without their glass, some broken and others were missing altogether – frames and all! It was easy to identify each room, - the kitchen, lounge, dining room, shower and toilet rooms, and the bedrooms. Some still had furniture in and the kitchen could have been used there and then had the water and electricity not been ripped out of the walls. There was even a table still standing there. The floors and walls were beautifully tiled but were showing signs of unkind wear from looters. The built-in furniture had been ripped away in places and hung sadly waiting for their death knell.
We walked out onto the upstairs verandah and were instantly bewitched by the marvelous views across the valley, across the river and towards the tree covered mountain opposite. It would have been bliss to sit out there of an evening under the huge Bread-fruit tree shading the house to one side. Breadfruit trees are one of my favorites, mainly because of their wide canopy and massive, deeply indented dark green leaves. The fruits are insipid so not of commercial value, but the trees themselves are amazingly architectural, especially in this setting. There were numerous trees all around the property giving an air of peace and tranquility; making you feel that the mad world was a million miles away. Heaven on earth we both agreed.
What a wonderful place to live in. We determined to see who owned it.
But for now we’d not seen all of the area and continued on our quest to see what else we could find. The gardens were completely walled and must have been beautiful when properly tended. You could still see the outline of the beds and some of the remaining plants. The outside of the house itself showed signs of potted plants and statuary. These were either broken or would have taken too much effort to remove them. The whole place was so overgrown it was impossible to see very much else, so we came away in a state of puzzlement, wondering who could possibly have abandoned this idyllic place.
More of a Mystery
Over the intervening years we watched the old place decay. Everything movable was removed or ripped out and it became quite a sad walk so much so that we abandoned it for probably a year or more. This year however, I was left to my own devices as Derek had had to return to the UK to work; the ravages of the recession had taken its toll on our meagre finances and dwindling pension and he’d been offered a three month contract harvesting with his brother Alan.
Imagine my delight then when I turned into the driveway of the old house with Pippa a couple of months ago. The whole area had been neatly coppiced or cut back and the overgrown undergrowth ploughed and harrowed. Tidy piles of wood lined the avenue. Not a weed to be seen, not a tree out of place. But the avenue of trees leading down to the house had grown beautifully, especially the mangoes which now lent deep shade with their overhanging branches. I felt all that was needed were a few strategically placed seats for the area to have reached perfection.
Sadly, the evidence of the landowners’ intention was only too clear. Everywhere you looked were concrete boundary posts, parceling out the land into neat quarter acre plots. At least they weren’t stranded with barbed wire yet. The intention was obvious – selling for development. Maybe it was a good thing we hadn’t followed up the ownership after all.
As we progressed along the now neat path towards the house, the first thing we came to was the concrete tank and bore-hole, now cleaned up. The walls around the house were still there and looking neater now because the weeds had been removed; but of the house nothing remained but a pile of brick, tile and stone rubble. I wanted to cry at such vandalism, such waste! But I actually walked to the end of the path; something you couldn’t have done a year ago, and found that the boundary fence overlooked the overflow reservoir from the next lake towards the Khao Chee Chan image, our local beauty spot, graced by an immense laser image in gold of Lord Buddha etched onto the rock face. It was the monsoon season and the water was flowing swiftly forming a wide river which we followed. The sound of rushing water was impressive! Pippa needless to say, had a great time exploring every nook and cranny of the once beautiful garden.
What we hadn’t realised was just how big the place was and how well it had been previously landscaped. Evidence lay in the neat walls and terraces, which thankfully had not been bulldozed, but left just as the owner had designed and built them. The river meandered at the bottom of the slope around the garden and on the other bank bananas had been recently planted. Ever one for an opportunity, someone had utilized the land until it was sold. Good for them. We found 3 small bridges across the torrent, in different places. Two were of derelict concrete and one was a recent one of 3 thick bamboo poles taken from the grove on the far edge of the garden.
As we rambled through this once fascinating garden, climbing steps here; descending others there, a feeling of great sadness crept over me. All of this once much loved and cared for place was now nothing more than a ruin. Who had lived here? What had they done? Were they old? Was it a solitary person or a couple? Did they have children? Had they died? Why had no-one taken it over if the owner had had a family?
The sadness was tangible and as I sat on the steps with Pippa waiting patiently for me to stop gazing and contemplating, I could almost feel the person watching me and enjoying my empathy with his or her plight. I don’t think they’d left the place at all; I could feel their presence here and feel their concern for what was going to happen to the old place. I sat there for a long time in this state of reverie, not wanting to break the spell that seemed to entwine me and the old owner.
It is a place of great mystery and I’m determined to find out more about it from some of the people in the village. But maybe that will break the spell. Maybe it’s better to leave that beautiful setting bathed in an aura of mystery. Sometimes you can spoil a dream by knowing too much. And soon it will be just a memory if they really start to build there.
Meanwhile, until that day comes, I’ll go back there every few days with Pip and sit in quiet contemplation with the ghost that wanders through the garden…………………………….