A Travellerspoint blog

Khong Chiam

Buses and motorbikes

semi-overcast

After getting ready and hurrying to the front desk, we relaxed hearing the news that buses to Khong Chiam left every half hour. We went for an early lunch to use the better wifi and eat more fried rice, not so spicy like the first time. We'd be quite delighted when other options came our way.

The New Year's fair was still on, making the walk to find a cab much longer and more challenging. We walked past a lot of stalls outside the park selling woodworking and fancy outdoor furniture. The beginning of the market seemed like an ideal place to find a vacant cab, but still no success. We settled on a tuktuk who got us there for 80 baht and were grateful for the breeze.

Getting tickets for the bus caused some confusion as we thought 1330 was the price and not the time as the man had intended to communicate. The tickets worked out to 80 baht each, same price as the tuktuk but a much longer voyage. Eating tasty fruit from the vendors helped pass the time.

In the van our bags took up quite a bit of space since they didn't have a luggage storage area. We felt bad and really should have stacked them so people wouldn't have been so squished. Luckily the crowdedness didn't last too long.

Khong Chiam was small and easy to figure out with Google maps. There were some convenience stores on the main street too. Since Agoda's map were pretty unhelpful, we still needed directions from the friendly police playing cards outside the station and who called out "Hello!". It was just down the road.

A friendly older man greeted us at the yellow Sibae guesthouse. He asked us to pick a room, but when we inspected them closer, the only option cleaned and ready at that time was the corner one of the second floor. He told us that it got pretty hot during the day. At least it came with air conditioning and a fridge. He also let us know the transportation options for seeing Pha Taem National Park, motorbike or a tuktuk driver for double the price.

We wandered down by the river walk and picked up snacks and water. Afterward, we struggled to find the steak restaurant he spoke of to rent a bike so we went back to get directions again. The Apple guesthouse that used to rent bikes according to the web, no longer did so and there was only the steak restaurant.

We found the restaurant and they showed us the bikes also saying there weren't many left and that it was better to rent it that night. We had supper there to think it over. Mine was 'fried rice no animal' as Ryan had figured out the least confusing way to order vegetarian food in Thailand, and pork and rice for him. We decided to get the bike and Ryan would have time to practise driving it down the quiet streets in town. The woman assured us they were easy to drive, young girls could do it, and the roads were pretty quiet. She gave us helmets and a mobile number in case anything happened too. Ryan had some fun driving the bike around town once had got the hang of the balance.

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By the riverside, part of a little island was lit up with animal light figures. Another section on the bank had Thai writing and dragon to celebrate the New Year. The temperature finally cooled a bit too.

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  • **

Double post today in an effort to catch up. Be sure to check out the Exploring temples of Ubon Ratchathani post if you haven't already.

Posted by Sarah.M 20:41 Archived in Thailand Tagged park rental bus national bike khong pha taem chiam Comments (0)

Exploring Ubon Ratchathani temples

sunny

We lazed around in the morning, savouring the comfy bed as last night the receptionist had informed us that they'd mistakenly put us in the wrong room and we'd be switching today. We also had to fight with the wifi to book a place to stay for tomorrow night near the national park we wanted to visit. Holidays left us with few options, but there always seemed to be something.

At breakfast, the other receptionist was unaware of our wrong room situation and told us just to stay in the room, unless there was something wrong with it. The wifi kicked back in and we scored a room near Pha Taem National Park through Agoda. Sketchy, given my luck with them booking us a sold out room last time, but it was our only option.

By the time we got moving, it was almost lunchtime The place with vegetarian options was closed so we went to a bakery instead which to our luck had dishes I could eat too. Ryan had pork and rice while I had veggies and rice. We also stumbled across some creative gardening.

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We wandered down to Thung Sri Muang in the high noon sun. The crowds were absent save a few Thai people taking photos or resting in the shade. We went to the giant gold monument used in the candle ceremonies. It also took the shape of a boat and had demons, birds, snakes, dragons eating people and even a crab. It was beautiful from afar and fun to inspect more closely. There were also big artificial plastic lotus flowers opposite it. We played on the semi-functional exercise equipment after that.

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Nearby, the river market was closed but we got to enjoy Moon river. It was pretty quiet, though there was a boardwalk and a 'Full Moon' boat parked. It was likely much different and more low key than Koh Phanang's idea of Full Moon celebrations.

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A washroom break turned into us tucking into the room to escape the heat until we figured that sunset loomed too close to complete our temple visiting plans. Our first destination was the temple we could see from our window and hear quite well last night called Wat Luang. It faced the river. There was a tall, thin, white temple, a large Buddha statue and a bell tower. A neat garden facing the river was tended by the monks. It had animals both in living and plant form.

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The second temple we visited, Wat Klang, was pretty standard, with a large wooden building on stilts. We were able to go inside and see the Buddha statue. It also had a concrete looking temple in gray and beige.

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Some of the homes we came across during our walk were quite colourful. I thought my mom would enjoy this picture

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The third temple, Wat Tai Phrachao Yai Ong Tue, was fairly epic with an almost Hindu influence. It shined, glittered and had animals as well as religious figures in every direction you looked. There were two giant sitting Buddha statues, one in gold and the other in white. Another great feature was a temple with beautiful tile artwork as well as a view of the whole complex from the top.

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We left happy and went to see another temple which was under renovations. We kept walking past a market to Wat Buraphanam. It was a residence for famous meditating monks: Achan Si Thachayaseno, Achan Man Phurithatto, Achan Li Thammatharo, Achan Sao Kantasilo, and Achan Sing Khantayakhamo. There were statues of them along with wooden houses on raised stilts and a big snake statue. Some dogs were there to check out what we were doing as well.

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For supper, we returned to the bakery and had a half decent meal of fried rice. Back at the room, we opened the celebratory A&W root beers we'd been too tired to drink yesterday and threw on a movie. For a few hours, we almost forgot we were in Thailand.

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  • **

It's been awhile, our apologies, we've been busy, busy during our last month in Australia. Soon we'll be off to New Zealand. This post is a bit light on details. We managed to misplace the helpful pamphlet the tourism authority gave us before I could write this entry up. If I mixed up any of the temple names I do apologize, I've done the best I can tracking them down on Google Maps. I hope to have some better write-ups for temples when I go back and have more time.

If you're curious about the temples' history, this website covers many of the ones we saw both this day and the previous: https://sites.google.com/site/watthaikhoobarn/english-information/history-of-ubonratchathani .
Just take a look at the side tab for the English temple names.

Posted by Sarah.M 19:25 Archived in Thailand Tagged temples ubon_ratchathani Comments (0)

New Years Eve in Ubon Ratchatani

sunny 29 °C

It was nice to wake up in a soft bed in the morning and go downstairs for a complimentary breakfast. They even had tasty cookies to go with our jam toast. We did some research in the room to try and find attractions to visit here and how to get around. The wiki-travel was a touch bare for Ubon Ratchatani. The girl at the front desk helped us figure out the locations on the map. Some were close and others far.

On the way to the first temple. we stopped at a restaurant with an advertisement for vegetarian food. Ryan had fried rice and pork and I tried the fried rice paprika, forgetting that paprika in Asia is ultra spicy. I was even slurping down my soup to make my mouth stop burning. I don't think I've really experienced such pain eating before without losing my wisdom teeth.

We found the tourism authority of Thailand (which abbreviates as TAT without explaining what it stands for) who gave us even more maps that were quite helpful. The first temple, Wat Tung Sri Muang, was easy enough to find. It had an ornate archway. We followed another woman past a tower and statue.

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In a small pond stood a wooden building among the lotus plants. We walked the bridge to go inside and discovered it was a scroll house to keep religious documents. There was a small shrine in the middle and we walked around, able to take in Wat Tung Sri Muang from the open windows. The building had a musty smell.

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The main temple had white pillars and gold nearing the roof. Inside, there were paintings. A monk had another woman translate for him to tell us that they depicted the life of Buddha. They were both quite friendly.

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Next, we visited Ubon museum to learn more about the history of Thailand and the region. The exhibits went through different compositions of soil and resources in the area today. It detailed the introduction of Buddhism to Thailand then to the Dvaravati and Khmer periods. Another section had artefacts from Laos and Thailand. The Laotian Buddha statues had smaller and rounder faces. There were also animal traps and handicrafts.
Although the museum covered a lot, it was a manageable size, not overwhelming and considerably cooler than it was outside.

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Afterward, we found the entrance to Wat Sri Ubon, past the bustling New Year's market. We walked around the exterior a bit but didn't really go inside. Lots of people were sitting around almost picnicking by the temples.

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The next temple would require transportation: songtao eight or twelve according to our map. We walked awhile, tried flagging down two trucks with no luck. They saw us, stopped, but wouldn't let us on. Though other Thais further down the street could board. It felt quite anti-foreigner and frustrating, though we didn't fully understand their reasons. It got pretty hot so we flagged down a tuktuk who took us a on a short pricey ride.

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We made it to the impressive Wat Ban Na Mueng, a boat temple. Statues of dozens of people rowed with giant oars fixed over the sides of the boat temple. At the back there was a row of golden Buddha statues, gleaming in the hot sun. The whole area was fun to photograph and not too busy. We could walk around on the boat as well as in the temple in the cabin area of the boat.

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Toward the back of the grounds, sat the main temple on an island in a large pond. This boat temple was wider and sparkled. In the water, small whiskers surfaced attached to hungry catfish fed by the locals. Turtles came to the surface frequently too, though they were easily spooked. Blue Naga (snake) tails rose out of the back of the boat and their bodies traced the path of the bridges. The boat was white unlike the previous brown wooden one. On the way out, we passed another white temple under construction along with the bell tower.

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We were a bit worried about transport back as we were now in the boonies and our tuktuk had taken off as soon as we handed him cash. A man in a black car stopped to offer us a ride but our destination was not on his way, though he wished us good luck (chok dee!). At the main road, we saw a taxi right away who offered to take us. He was nice and friendly, though he spoke little English.

We arrived at Wat Phra That Nong Bwa with some daylight still illuminating the white and golden tower. It was more boxy and tall than the others.
At all the temples, we had noticed white strings tied just above head-level in a grid pattern. Bundles of string were attached as well. Inside the temple, gold glistened as high as the eye could see and a large Buddha sat in the middle. Several people dressed in white were praying.

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The back area of the temple was reserved for those buying products to donate in the new year festival. A couple explained it to us as we accidentally wandered into the space. We went to 7-11 for a snack then sat on the sarong in the grass by the temple until the sky went dark and the temple lit up in gold. It was quite beautiful to see. More families arrived for the ceremony, lying down bamboo mats and tying the white string to their donations.

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Not wanting to take up space for the celebrations and getting hungry, we started walking to the main street to catch a cab. Since it was New Year's Eve, the cabs going to the city were all full. The ones travelling the other way looked that way too. Figuring we might as well cover some ground as we attempted to hail a cab, we made it all the way to a mall where we stopped for supper in MK restaurant known for its hot pot dishes. I had a veggie suki and mango drink, Ryan a chicken dish and later we also had some pretzels. Outside we met a family from Rayong as pumped about Koh Samet (a Thai island and few hours from Bangkok) as I was.

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We walked down to the NYE fair to see alleys of games, shops, food and even carnival rides. We braved the Ferris wheel as it seemed safer than the fast spinning one in a country where we weren't familiar with the safety standards. It gave us a nice bird's eye view of the tents, stage, crowds and lights. The military had also set up a cap gun shooting range. We were tuckered out by that point and went back to sleep at the hotel. Ryan woke me up at midnight for a moment.

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Posted by Sarah.M 22:13 Archived in Thailand Tagged temple market new years cab ubon ratchatani Comments (0)

Holiday Bus Travels

semi-overcast 28 °C

Our mission for the day was to get to Ubon Ratchatani and we arrived at the station to catch the 9:30 bus. It was unfortunately full. Christmas wasn't really a big deal, but New Years was a cause to celebrate in Thailand, meaning everyone was trying to get back to their families. We asked about tickets and the official information was to get our tickets on the bus itself. Another man came to try and buy tickets from him, but we declined as we thought it may be a scam. We waited it out.

At 10:15 another bus came. People asked or told us to get on the board so we did. The Thai vendor came running and yelling at us. I stayed with our bags near the bus in case there weren't seats while Ryan dealt with him. He'd been quite condescending but sold Ryan the tickets. When we boarded there weren't any seats, so Ryan ran back to try and get tickets for the next one. The guy threw his hands up and walked away, clearly not his problem anymore.

The driver pulled out plastic stools for us and the other Thai passengers who had purchased oversold seats. The same thing had happened to me in Malaysia a few years earlier so I wasn't too surprised. Once enough people left, we'd take their seats. This was technically the VIP bus, a private company so unlike the local bus (where you bought the tickets inside) they didn't say they were full, they just created more seats. Ryan was still pretty upset and wanted to punch the vendor.

After an hour and a half of hanging onto the backs of seats, handles and armrests, we got one of the big seats, larger than the average just so they could charge a high price per ticket and overfill the bus anyway. We even got to sit together later as the other passengers reached their destinations.

In Ubon, we took a tuktuk straight to Sri Isan Hotel. It had an actual lobby, unlike most of the budget places we stay, with couches, tables and lounging areas. We were led up to the second floor to our snazzy room which came with a couch, desk, hair dryer, kettle, fridge, TV and even free water in glass bottles. Weren't we special, usually our budget rooms didn't come with such luxury. It would be a nice place to spend the new year.

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We went to the market to eat, passing a neat park in the process with a big track filled with joggers and runners. It gave me a good feeling to see so many active individuals engaging in basketball, running, and aerobics. There was a big gold statue area in the middle of the big park that we'd explore later. We passed the city shrine temple with animal statues in front of the white, gold and red building.

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For supper, we found Vietnamese baguette sandwiches which were crunchy and a touch bland, but vegetarian friendly for me. Ryan tried some fried chicken and I had some taro dumplings. Back at the room, I managed to get my belated Christmas Skype in with a decent connection.

Posted by Sarah.M 21:01 Archived in Thailand Tagged temple bus market thailand ubon ratchatani overcrowded Comments (0)

Temples of Nang Rong

Prasat Muang Tam and Phanom Rung Historical Park

semi-overcast 30 °C

In the morning, we managed to send off some laundry, book a tour of the ruins with Kris and visit the day market by the lake. We got a familiar breakfast from 7-11 plus market oranges and barbequed eggs. I'd had them last time in Laos, and even with a weird texture, I find them pretty good. Ryan wasn't a fan and let me finish them.

The drive to the ruins went past fields of harvested crops and grazing cows. The sky was incredibly blue. It was reminiscent of Cambodia, except these cows weren't chained up. Kris kept down the back roads to avoid the traffic congestion. We got stopped at a checkpoint once and we found out that Kris was a retired army sergeant with slightly expired insurance that the police didn't care too much about.

The first temple we visited was Prasat Muang Tam, a smaller Khmer temple. The Angkor Wat temples in Cambodia came from the same empire. This one was built for the god Shiva and was in a direct line from Angkor Wat. Historically, people would often visit between them and use this area as a place to stay.

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The exterior had a triangular peak with carvings in the light brown bricks. It was a long building with a couple side entrances. The lintel over the central entrance depicted Krishna fighting Naga (snake) Kaliya because it had poisoned the river used by Krishna's people. Between the three entrances were windows with carved vertical pillars.

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Inside the temple were four L-shaped ponds with pink lotus flowers. The outer walls had similar entryways in each direction and we explore the space left open in the wall, taking photos through the frames. We found the side of the main temple in the sun and waited our turn to take pictures in front of it.

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Inside the main temple were four towers and a fifth larger one that didn't quite stand the test of time. It represented Mount Meru. We could go inside the four towers, although there wasn't much more than a concrete pedestal and the dome ceiling. There were also remains of the libraries where people would have kept scrolls and religious manuscripts.

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We found Kris sitting nearby, strumming on a guitar. We took off to the top of a dormant volcano to visit Phanom Rung Historical Park. The name was from the Khmer word Vnan Rung which meant 'vast mountain'.

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We perused the museum first which had all the information we lacked at the first temple. It went through many different Khmer monuments across the country. Many in Thailand served as rest houses on the journey to Angkor Wat, the mother temple. Phanom Rung was actually build before Angkor Wat in the 10th and 13th centuries. There were other exhibits on its history and how one of the lintels went missing last century. 'Give us back our lintel, take back your Michael Jackson' an activist had said. There was also information on different religious practises: the deflowering of young teens particularly unsettling from a human rights point of view, but that was ages ago.

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We went through the museum backwards so the pertinent information came last. Prasat Phanom Rung, the one we were currently at, was a Hindu temple designed for the God Shiva to resemble Mount Kailasa, Shiva's pantheon. The whole complex had been restored but due to lack of settlement or battles around the area until recently, the temples had been quite well preserved.

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After a few snacks, we tackled the lower stairway that at one time would have had a wooden gateway. Once we climbed the stairs, we came to a one story structure with stone pillars. Since it wasn't the main attraction, there were no crowds so we could explore the narrow gallery and ante chamber. It had been known as White Elephant House, now as Changing Pavilion since the kings used it to purify and prepare before a ritual at the main temple.

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After the Changing Pavilion came the Processional Walkway not as long as I anticipated given the description I'd read, but still long enough to have seven sandstone posts with lotus bud tops. The view of the main tower up ahead had most people excited. We passed one Naga (snake) bridge and challenged another set of stairs. Once at the top, the views of the fields off to the South were beautiful and made us realize we were pretty high up.

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We crossed the court and outer gallery, past more ponds to reach the impressive main tower. Carved from pink sandstone, the temple had a VIhara as well as an inner sanctum that at one time had enshrined the linga phallic symbol of Shiva. Above nearly every entrance, and there were many, were lintels depicting different scenes from Hindu epics. Some doors had a second lintel as we went inside to explore.

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We also visited the outer galleries, similar to Prasat Munag Tam, but with false windows. The library or Bannalai here was still standing completely and was one of the last structures built on the site. In contrast, the oldest brick sanctuaries had become ruins.

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Kris called to tell us that 'something', obscured by misunderstanding, was empty. I thought phone, Ryan thought gas tank so we visited the final entrances quickly, got a picture of the two of us and headed back.

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For supper, we went the other way down the main street and found a bilingual menu and a lady who understood 'Mai gin...' (don't eat...) and my list of animals that followed. We had fried rice and shared a veggie dish. Success!

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Posted by Sarah.M 20:07 Archived in Thailand Tagged park temple historical khmer hindu tam vegetarian nang_rong muang prasat phanom rung lintel Comments (0)

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