A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: DanaGege

Let Me Take You to Monkey Town

Where our ancestors still rule the ruins ;)

semi-overcast 31 °C
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Lopburi has lots of old Khmer style ruins and a royal palace that has been turned into a museum, but the biggest attraction – and at the same time biggest annoyance – by far, are the monkeys. They’re literally everywhere: on and around the ruins, on the electricity cables, the sidewalk, cars and even scooters. And though they look cute, trying to pet them is ill advised, because a) they steal your stuff, anything they can get their hands paws on, especially shiny things like glasses and b) they bite. They also attract a lot of tourists to town though, so Lopburi has a sort of love-hate relationship with them. Add to that the fact that these people are Buddhist and therefore not allowed to hurt any sentient living being (and that does include the monkeys) and you’ll understand it’s complicated.

Monkey taking a ride

Monkey taking a ride


They're really not afraid of us

They're really not afraid of us

So that’s why all around town you can find signs that warn tourists that feeding the monkeys is punishable by law, while at the same time they are fed every day at 10 and 16 at special feeding places to keep them from bothering the tourist. This is also why, if you want to go into the ruins, it’s advisable to take a guide with you. Not to show you the way, but because they carry a catapult and shoot at monkeys that come too close. While those same guides encourage you to feed the monkeys at the ruins, because the tourists find it fun. Complicated indeed.

Monkeys steal

Monkeys steal

Another advantage is that Lopburi is small so it’s easily doable to walk around town and see most of the sights in a morning. Even if you have to go back to the hostel because the ice coffee from the 7/11 turns out to be made with milk.

Phra Narai Ratchaniwet – the former royal palace – also houses a museum. Once again we saw lots and lots of Buddha’s but little else of interest. Actually, the museum building and its environment (the ruins) were more eye catching. We sort of stumbled onto Prang Khaek Sactuary and I was once again fighting off Tomb Raider associations.

Phra Narai Ratchaniwet ruins

Phra Narai Ratchaniwet ruins

The main attraction was the most interesting though, mostly because of the monkeys – that were everywhere – and the bats – that hung from the ceiling. We went back at 16 to see the feeding of the monkeys, but when the only thing that had happened by 16.15h, was that my arms were turning red, so we gave up and went back to the hostel.

Monkeys being fed

Monkeys being fed

Posted by DanaGege 11:38 Archived in Indonesia Tagged monkey thailand asia lopburi ruin Comments (0)

The Bumpy Road to Lopburi

In which we meet our first tropical rainstorm

sunny 27 °C
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After an early rise, quick breakfast and packing we made our way to the bus station for the 2x2 hours ride to Lopburi. The road to Saphanburi, where we had to switch busses, turned out to be bumpy. The ‘my fillings will rattle out of my teeth’ kind of bumpy, so editing pictures like I had planned to became quit challenging.

Once in Saphanburi, we had lunch in a really luxurious restaurant. It was close to the bus station and it had air-conditioning and that’s all we cared about at the time. Turned out we were still too slow though; upon returning to the bus station we learned the bus to Lopburi had left no more than 5 minutes ago. Which meant waiting for an hour for the next bus, which meant I could edit those pictures after all.

Before we got to go on our merry way, we were hit by our first tropical rainstorm, though. And let me tell you, that deserves the name rainstorm. Made a short movie for you guys, so you can see for yourself. Since the monsoon is catching up with us, we would see many more of these storms in the coming weeks and be rained on by a few as well.

Of course the bus couldn’t drive in that rain, or so we found out: we waited for 10 minutes at the station until the worst was over. After that we happily took off, without windshield wipers! Let’s just say I focussed on other things and was very relieved when the rain stopped completely.

The ride to Lopburi took much longer than expected; we arrived in the monkey town at 17:00, instead of the expected 15:00. So we made quick work of getting a hostel and dinner. Later that night we were besieged by an army of tiny, tiny flies in our room, but oh well. Better than mosquitoes, right?

Posted by DanaGege 13:05 Archived in Indonesia Tagged rain thailand asia lopburi Comments (0)

Erawan National Park

Swimmin’ with the fishes

sunny 27 °C
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Our hostel is great: we have a bedroom and bathroom bungalow in a very green environment. We even have a table, two chairs and a rack to hang our clothes.
Bungalows at Blue Star Hostel

Bungalows at Blue Star Hostel


There are just two downsides: the toilet is the kind where you have to use water from a big bucket to get your ehm…. stuff, into the sewer. Ok, maybe I should explain something about the Thai toilets, since I also already mentioned the squatting toilets.

So far we’ve met both squatting and sitting toilets. Usually there’s an ass shower present (I know it’s called a bidet, but ass shower gets the meaning across so much better), 90% of the time you’re not supposed to throw the toilet paper (which is not present 80% of the time, so we lug our own around) in to the toilet, but into a trash basket next to it (and try not to look too much at where you are throwing). This is because the sewer system can’t handle the paper. If you do throw the toilet paper in the bowl and you’re unlucky a backflow occurs when you flush and whatever you put down there, comes back up to say hi. Most of the time, you can flush the toilets, sometimes what you do is get the small bowl or pan that is floating around in a big container of water, fill it with water and pour into the toilet. Repeat until the toilet is empty.

Now squatting toilets are not as gross as they sound. Granted, you have to make sure you don’t pee over your own feet, but for … other business, they’re surprisingly nice. The disadvantage of Thai toilets is really the ass shower, to which the multiple signs of ‘please keep floor dry’ are testament. Anyway, enough of the toilets and apologies for this… dirty subject.

So, two downsides: one is the toilet, the other is the fact that even though the sign on the restaurant door says they open at 7.00, you cannot actually order until close to 7.30, so we missed the first bus to Erawan National Park. And I didn’t have too much faith in making the second either, as our tuk-tuk driver knew a better place to drop us off than the busstation. In the end I was proven just another suspicious Westerner, because eventually the bus did pick us up and – after an hour and a half’s worth of almost bumping your head into the roof – dropped us off at the national park.

First course of action was finding a toilet and changing, because swimming at the waterfalls is a definite possibility here, although to be honest, I was quite sceptic about that. The waterfalls are actually the seven plateaus of one waterfall. Our aim for the day was to climb 500 meters all the way to plateau seven.

The first part was a piece of cake; there’s even a nice tarmac walking road. Plus, we are immediately treated to a lizard fight.
Lizard fight

Lizard fight


Plateau two was really busy; lots of Thai and tourists in the water. And we got nicely sweaty by this time as well (it really doesn’t take much in 90+% humidity), so – despite my earlier scepticism – taking a refreshing swim seemed like a good idea. Undressed and started out barefoot rock climbing (it’s a waterfall people, not a swimming pool) and almost gave up right away. The ‘pool’ was full of fishes, see? And they were decidedly not scared of people. In fact, they happily came over to nibble at whatever you decided to put into the water and trust me, it takes some time (and in my case a fall) to get used to that feeling.
Second Tier Waterfall

Second Tier Waterfall


Eventually, we made it in and had a nice and very refreshing (the water was downright cold) swim.

The following plateaus were all gorgeous and the monkeys we were being warned for everywhere (they are supposed to be rather aggressive and steal your stuff), didn’t bother us in the least. In fact we had a good time watching two moms with baby monkeys attached to their bellies. On our way up, we also met our Spanish and Columbian friends from last night. We didn’t talk much, but it’s still fun to walk into people you actually know.
Beware of the Monkeys

Beware of the Monkeys

Monkey moms with babies

Monkey moms with babies


We did make it all the way up in the end. Granted, we were sweating buckets, out of breath and I miss stepped somewhere so my right foot hurt like a bitch. But those are all passing things and they were all worth it. Although my foot is still not okay.

On the way back down we hung our feet in the water and got over our discomfort of the fishes nibbling on your toes.
Cascade

Cascade


Of course, we compiled a video of our adventure:

When we finally got back down, it was nearing three o’clock and we didn’t have lunch yet. Gege wanted to do the 1 km bird walk too, but lack of time and my stupid right foot made that impossible. So we took the last – very full – bus back to Kanchanaburi at 16 and spent the evening recovering in our room.

Posted by DanaGege 11:25 Archived in Indonesia Tagged nature park thailand national asia kanchanaburi erawan Comments (1)

The bridge over the river Kwai

Or the story of how I got brave on the back of a scooter

sunny 34 °C
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The best way to see the sights around Kanchanaburi is by scooter: most sites are outside of the city and the distances between them are reasonable. So we decided to rent one (Gege got an international drivers license before we left) and I had the dubious pleasure of taking the backseat. Now, for all of you who have never been on the back of a scooter doing 40 to 50 km/h before: it’s terrifying, ok? Especially since Gege hadn’t driven a scooter in quite some time, so it was all a little wobbly in the beginning. We got the hang of it during the day, though, and before lunch, I was filming from the back of the scooter 0_0.

Link to YouTube.

First stop was Tham Khao Poon, a cave wat. It was quite narrow and small and all, but thankfully my claustrophobia didn’t really bother me. Probably because the narrow parts were short and followed by big caves.
The Buddha images didn’t impress us much; for one because they are not spectacular to begin with, but also, because we’ve seen so many Buddha’s by now, they just make us eye roll. The caves themselves more than made up for it though. There were huge stalagmites and stalactites and we even saw some bats. Apart from that, the humidity inside must have been nearing 100% and it wasn’t so deep that it was actually cool, so we were quite sweaty and panting by the time we climbed back out.

Not always very wide

Not always very wide


Or high

Or high

There was supposed to be a mountain Wat not too far from the caves, so we tried our best to navigate that way. We had a map – that didn’t quite show all the roads correctly - but the signposts are either in Thai or not very clear, so in the end, we missed it. After a long drive we passed them, but never found the entrance. We did find Wat Ban Tham on our way and tried to get a picture of the stairs that go up the mountain. It’s a huge dragon, coming down the mountain and the stairs eventually lead into its mouth and through its body, up into the Wat. It looked a little Chinese to be honest, but that’s possibly simply because I associate dragons with China.

Dragon in the mountain

Dragon in the mountain

On our long way back down – looking for the boat restaurants – we missed our exit and landed square in front of the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre. It was signposted far les exuberantly than the Mea Klong Dam we crossed to get here, but – as it turned out – far more impressive.
The Thailand-Burma Railway Centre is a museum about the thing that made this area infamous: the Death Railway. If that doesn’t ring a bell, it’s the railway that runs over the bridge over the river Kwai (pronounce the ai like ua in square, not the way the movie taught you, they fucked it up there). The museum is very well done and has lots of information about the PoW’s, the camps and the railway. In short, they worked too long, in terrible circumstances, with little or no food and slept in sickness ridden camps. But what made it most impressive to me, was the possessions and letters they showed of the PoW’s. I find it hard to describe the gut wrenching feeling you get when you read a letter PoW this-and-that received from his 4-year old daughter in which she explains that she’s been very brave, because she’s lost a tooth and didn’t even cry. And then asks ‘What are you doing, daddy? I thought and thought about it. What are you doing?’. The last sentence on the display was that the PoW died of beriberi two weeks after receiving this letter.

I spent quite some time in the museum and because we couldn’t find the boat restaurants in the end, we had a very late lunch, 16.12 h. late. We figured we couldn’t leave here without seeing the bridge over the river Kwai. Not because it’s that impressive, it’s a bridge, after all. But because it’s so famous. It was mostly a ‘we are here now, let’s go and see it’ kind of deal. Well, it was indeed unimpressive and full of tourists, but we have seen it, walked on it, even.

Bridge over the river Kwai

Bridge over the river Kwai


Together on the bridge

Together on the bridge

Back at the hostel we met a nice couple, she was from Spain, he from Columbia, both studying in London. And we revisited the night market with them. We left them there to enjoy it, but for us the bus to Erawan National Park would leave at 8 the next morning, so we wanted to get some sleep.

Posted by DanaGege 11:05 Archived in Thailand Tagged the thailand river bridge sights asia over kanchanaburi kwhea Comments (0)

Travelling day

And no fighting

sunny 34 °C
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We slept wonderful, thanks to air-conditioning with a remote control, so we were up nice and early and visited the National Museum of Ayutthaya. I don’t remember the full name of the museum, but trust me, it was named after a king and full of Buddha’s. It was a short visit, which left us time to see the fighting show of ancient Ayutthaya fighting style. Unfortunately, these shows are only held in the high season. Teaches us for coming when everything’s cheap ;).

That left us with little else to do than go back to the hostel, pack our stuff and say goodbye to our very friendly and largely toothless hostess. We said goodbye to Tony’s as well with an early lunch and got onto the bus to Kanchanaburi.

Upon arrival there, we tried a few hostel, but quickly ended up back at the first try. Dinner at The Hut was nice, but nothing special. The nightmarket was great fun though. Very atmospheric and busy, it was lots of fun to just walk around. Although – admittedly – the amount of great and strange sweets and other foods that were available for very friendly prices, probably had something to do with that as well.

Assorted foods on the nightmarket

Assorted foods on the nightmarket

Sweets at the nightmarket

Sweets at the nightmarket

Yellow watermelon

Yellow watermelon

Posted by DanaGege 21:25 Archived in Thailand Tagged food market thailand asia kanchanaburi Comments (0)

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