A Travellerspoint blog

December 2015

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)

Please, no fish sauce

Nang Rong

semi-overcast 31 °C

The guesthouse was busy this morning. Someone had a similar arrival to ours, but had to sleep on the couch as there were no open beds. Wouldn't be getting in my Canada Christmas skype today. Ryan went down the street to get a haircut. He came back with the 'Zack Efron' look since they had made him pick his style out of a magazine. He was a bit disappointed they didn't have Ellen DeGeneress or Leonardo DiCaprio in What's Eating Gilbert Grape.

It took about two hours to get from the hostel to Mo Chit station. It also required bus 77 where Ryan made a friend from Hangzhou, eager to hear about his travels. He was travelling to Cambodia, lucky enough to leave his big luggage back at his Bangkok hotel.

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We wandered Mo Chit, finding out tickets to Northeastern Thailand were upstairs. After that, two vendors told us no tickets available (it was the holidays after all) and one lady finally sold us a ticket to Buri Rama, near Nang Rong, for just shy of 250 baht. We killed time there until 3pm, playing the Logos app, journaling, browsing the old Lonely Planet and wandering around to get food and drinks.

The bus ride was pretty uneventful. I watched the road signs to try and find where Nang Rong was since our tickets didn't match that particular destination. At our washroom stop, we were able to tell the driver with the help of another English speaking Thai passenger where we wanted to be dropped off. We picked up some guava and a chicken satay as a snack since it was getting later and darker.

The man who helped us translate helped us find Nang Rong, confirmed again that we had hotel reservations. I called the number for Honey Inn, our guesthouse, and after some chatting, made difficult by the roar of busses, I understood that he would pick us up there and to stay put.

Kris picked us up in a gray truck. He seemed like a nice guy. The Inn was cute with pastel colours and two stories. We even got free water bottles with our cheap room plus barnyard animals sheets, towels and toiletries. It even had some of Thailand's best wifi so far.

Venturing out for food was a different battle. The first place looked at us for awhile before asking us to write down our order. However, we couldn't write in Thai. Instead, I tried to order som tam without shrimp or those small fish they put in the papaya salad. She seemed to understand, but when it came out, miniscule fish clung to every noodle and it had been doused in fish sauce. Even Ryan couldn't eat it because of the fishy taste.

Our second attempt at supper was a few doors, or food stalls, down. I tried to order chicken fried rice for Ryan and egg fried rice for me with a whole lot of gestures and some Thai. We clarified it a few times, but my Thai must be rusty because we came out with a odd tasting chicken with rice for Ryan and a chicken fried rice for me, which I tried my best to pick the meat out of. Being outside the tourist bubble had its downsides.

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Posted by Sarah.M 21:39 Archived in Thailand Tagged bus bangkok haircut nang_rong honey_inn Comments (0)

Exhausted in Bangkok

semi-overcast 30 °C

Just after three a.m., our lovely bus pulled onto 'Khao San Road' or the street far enough from it to confuse people into taking tuktuk rides at irrational prices. I turned down a cab offering a 300 baht fare telling him I used to live in Bangkok and knew it wasn't fair. A few other tourists came to ask us for directions after that and the cab driver wanted nothing to do with me.

We wandered the dead streets in search of actual Khao San until we gave up and flagged down a cab who would take us there on the meter. The price came out to 70 baht, or 80 since we didn't have the right change and he was nice enough not to scam us.

We followed the directions to our hostel and then called Jay. She wasn't pleased, saying the bus companies always let people off at crazy hours, but she was understanding and let us have the dorm beds a night early without charge. We'd have enough costs in Myanmar in a few weeks, she'd said.

Around six, after not being able to sleep in the sticky hot dorm, I texted our Thai friend Lift, then called to see if we were still meeting up around eight to explore Bangkok. Even when we did leave around 8:30, our dorm mates were still passed out cold.

We took the Bangkok Sky Train (BTS) to Victory Monument and soon after met up with Lift who recognized us right away. He was very friendly and helped us catch a bus to Koh Kret, even paying our way much to our protest. The bus was pretty full so we all sat apart until the very end. Koh Kret was in island in the Chao Phrya River in Nanthaburi province, where he worked with people with cancer at a clinic. He also had training in herbal medicine.

The island, reached by ferry, had markets and a temple. It glittered in the sun. Lift found my sarcastic observations of the faux waterfall entertaining. While we walked through the market, Lift bought us treats like popsicles made from Big Cola, and a bamboo wrapped shrimp dish Ryan wasn't big on and I couldn't try. We all got little toffee treats too.

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We walked around the island to a garden area with only a few flowers in bloom. Again, he bought us a herbal drink with ice.

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We also visited a kiln and pottery area where people could made their own creations with the help of a mentor. The firing took ten days to complete. The island, inhabited by mainly Mon people, was known for their clay pots and pottery. They had some pumpkin themed ones as well.

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People whizzed by on bicycles, The whole walk took about six kilometers and we picked up more food, a mango and a Thai ice tea that came in a handmade clay pot. Lift gave it to me as a gift. He had plenty of questions for us on Canada about our weather, homes, winter driving and marriage ceremonies. We learned more about Thai dowries, weather in Phuket, Southern Thailand where he we originally from and the temples/stupas erected after a person's death.

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Back in the city, we visited Golden Mount, a temple I had missed last time. The climb was a bit hot, but the view from the fountain was quite refreshing. There were statues of Buddha and of a woman wringing her hair. The top where the Golden stupa sat atop a white square base also had a nice view of the city, although Bangkok was smoggier than I'd remembered.

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Lift showed us the other temples we'd be visiting including Wat Arun. On the way, we rang some of the large bells that surrounded the temple to announce our presence. Flags hung from the sides of the stupa all the way to the top and statues sat both outside and in. Lift told us it was probably alright to take photos inside, just the really official ones like Grand Palace were off limits inside. Gold was everywhere.

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Next we walked to the Giant Swing but didn't go inside the temple as Lift recommended visiting others instead.

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Along the way stopped us. "Look at the animal," he said. Ryan found it endlessly entertaining to hear all the syllables in animal enunciated. It was a medium monitor lizard hanging out by the drainage canals.

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We passed a popular Thai restaurant just packed with people. We kept walking toward the river, my head pounding and stomach growling. I had to stop and rest while Lift ran off to get fruit for us.

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We ventured into Khao San road at my request to find veggie friendly food. It was Lift's first and likely last visit. He found it a bit ridiculous, overpriced and there were no actual Thai people, Nepali, Indian and Burmese, sure, but few Thais. We ate at one of the cheaper places. I tried a tasty basil fried rice. Ryan and Lift thought their meat dishes were just alright. After we went looking for a Cheap Lonely Planet book, but all the stall were closed. Lift took off and we did too in a cab soon after.

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The roads were jammed and our cab driver tried to take us to a closer BTS station to cut out some of the wait. My bladder was hurting so we stopped the metre at an even amount and took off to find a gas station.

Afterward, we walked about an hour looking for the BTS. There were a few English signs around, but the neighbourhood was mainly Thai with street restaurants, bars and malls here and there. Instead of signs we decided to follow actual rail in the sky to Thonburi station. By the time we found it, we only had to ride one stop and we were near our guesthouse. At least the ride had been an air conditioned relief from the heat. Quite the adventure all because of my small bladder and bad traffic.

Back at the guesthouse, we checked in officially and paid Joy. There were a ton of male backpackers in the lobby sitting around drinking with her, but we were too beat to join them. When we got back to the dorm, people were still sleeping, even at eight pm. We just weren't used to being dorm people and had to unsuccessfully sneak around quietly to get ready for bed. We managed to get much needed showers in the end.

Posted by Sarah.M 21:23 Archived in Thailand Tagged taxi temple bangkok lizard pottery scam thai_food khao_san_road golden_mount koh_kret Comments (0)

Leaving Koh Tao

overcast 22 °C

We took our sweet time packing up before a final breakfast at Zest. Our last cinnamon buns for awhile. The fact that they were dry made the goodbye easier. Ryan went back to the room to get the hotel's wifi , but it was still patchy. He got a Christmas Skype in with his family. Ava and Talon noticed Ryan's slow growing beard.

After checking out and making sure we had a room booked for tomorrow night, we left our bags at the travel agency where we'd booked our boat and bus tickets to Bangkok. We searched for food and got to try the kebabs in the end. Tofu for me and regu3346CE8AACB7D33BF4887D88D3A421F0.jpglar for Ryan with tasty garlic sauce. As we sat there, rain began to pour down in sheets. The downpour sent water pouring down the streets and the shabby electrical installation in the construction next door sent sparks flying everywhere. The Bro and Sis restaurant staff got on their construction crew after that as they attempted to make the mess of open wires safer. Ryan wasn't impressed with their electrical codes, if they had any out here. Luckily, nothing caught fire.

Once all our belongings were in plastic bags and the rain had lightened to sprinkling, we splashed down the streets to Impian Divers to buy a dry bag that the staff hadn't even realized they sold. We got the Dutch orange one at the special 420 price the instructor joked about. He even threw in sea sickness tablets for our ferry back to mainland when we asked. Robert, the owner, came to warn us about the bus and ferry company, Songserm's, theft history. He had an eerie way of describing it, but we'd keep an eye on our bags.

The ferry didn't depart on schedule, about an hour late, but it was nice and empty. The ocean didn't look forgiving with dark skies and rain off in the distance. The waves rocked sea sickness into Ryan for quite awhile. Thankfully after the second pill, he was feeling a bit better.

We docked and got thirty minutes to eat fried noodles or rice along with an addable fried egg for 10 baht. Ryan skipped the meal. Then we boarded the tour bus to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles before a long 'supper' stop. I bought a bag containing at least 2 pineapples and Ryan helped finish them up now that he was feeling better.

Posted by Sarah.M 21:28 Archived in Thailand Tagged ferry koh_tao rainstorm songserm Comments (0)

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