A Travellerspoint blog

January 2016

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)

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