Thursday, 9 December 2010

Lopburi - playing/fighting with the monkeys

At the evening of 02.12. I arrived in Lopburi and met an english couple on the way. Later I picked up Rose from the trainstation and we went to Lopburi festival which offered quite a big market :)
Already at night we could get a glimpse of some ruins and saw a few monkeys. But most was to be discovered the next day.
We were lucky that because of the upcoming King's birthday all admission fees were screwed and entry was free :D After some good breakfast we visited Prang Khaek, Wat Sao Thong Thong, Chao Phraya Wichayen and the Phra Narai Ratchaniwet palace.
After enjoying the atmosphere at this places we went to monkey's part of the town to Wat Nakhon Kosa, which unluckily no-one takes care of anymore. And furthermore to the real monkey havens at San Phra Kan and Prang Sam Yot. At the latter we were feeding the monkeys which turned into a fight :P Unbelievable, but the monkeys conquered whole hotels and the streets around this area are theirs. People try to fight them with long poles and catapults because the monkeys are everywhere. And if the think you have food somewhere, they will come after you :P That was a lot of fun^^
Later we enjoyed sunset from Wat Phra Si Ratana Mahathat.
The next day we went back to BKK with memories of many monkeys, haha^^
And 2 days later (the night between 5. and 6.12.) I had my flight back to Germany.

Phra Narai Ratchaniwet palace

Feeding the monkeys

And playing with them^^

Simply too many!

Little Casanova :P

Who is it?

Sunset at Wat Phra Si Ratana Mahathat

Monkeys rule the streets here!

Phrae - off the tourist track, small but charming

My train from Chiang Mai arrived at Den Chai with a usual Thai-railway-delay at 7:30pm. Unluckily the first I was told that no buses are running to Phrae at this time anymore :(
But I was very lucky as the ticket officer of the trainstation called his friend, then called me on the back of his Vespa and drove me to the next gas-station where his friend was waiting with a pickup giving me a ride to Phrae :D That is the friendly charm you meet at places where not many tourists are around :)
The next day I explored the small city. During my time in Phrae I saw 3 other tourists, which is nothing in Thailand^^
I started with breakfast at the small morning market and then visited the Vongburi house, the residence of the former king of Phrae. Furthermore I payed Wat Phong, Wat Phra Non, Wat Shusun, Wat Luang, Wat Phra Baht Ming Meuang and Wat Sa Bo Kaew a visit. Wherever I went, people recognized me with "oh! farang" before they greeted me with a friendly "sawadee kha/khrap" :)
After a few hours in town I made my way back to the railway station to catch a train towards Lopburi.

Wat Phong

Wat Shusun

Wat Luang

Wat Sa Bo Kaew - as you see now-a-days technology is higher than religion...

Chiang Mai

At the evening of 29.11. I arrived in Chiang Mai. My first impression was rather good. But overall I'm missing a bit of a profile of the town.
It is the second biggest city in Thailand, but it is no comparison to Bangkok. Chiang Mai's center is packed with tourists. Every are guesthouses, bars, restaurants, cooking school or outdoor adventure companies. Tho I stayed in a guesthouse with best value for money ever :D
On 30.11. I made my way through the city. Wat Chiang Man - the oldest, Chiang Mai city cultural center with the 3-kings-monument, Wat Phra Singh - the most famous, Wat Thung Yu, What Chail Phra Kiat, Wat Pan Tao - big teak building, until Wat Chedi Luang. On the latter I had a nice conversation with a 16 year old monk before heading for lunch and eastwards out of the old city.
East of the old city Burmese style temples were waiting. I found Wat Bupparam very beautiful. Then visiting the small Talat Tonlamyai (flower market) and the huge neighbored Talat Warorot which is the most famous market in town and sells anything from fresh food to textiles.
Then I made my way down the river towards the night market. Which is where I was able to find quite some nice souvenirs :P
The next day I took the 3pm train to Den Chai (Phrae)^^

Overall Chiang Mai did not really leave any special feeling for me. Shopping was great and the talk with the monk was fun.

Wat Chiang Man

Wat Phra Singh

Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Bupparam

Dogs "protecting" the entrance to Wat Bupparam :P

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Chiang Rai - chilling northern city and the stunning white temple

At the evening of 28.11. I arrived in Chiang Mai. I enjoyed some shopping at the great nightmarket before I went to sleep.
The next day I visited the city starting at Wat Jet Yot, further to the clock tower and seeing the morning market which was not really worth it. After the morning market I saw a parade on the streets. Looked like Students from University made up a big parade with mixed topics. One was the traditional Lanna culture. Other were worn-out topics like global warming, aids, drugs, etc.
After watching the parade I continued my way to Wat Phar Kaew, which houses some fine Buddhist sayings: "The most miserable act in ones life is jealousy", "One can maintain peace of mind is happy", "The most of suffer will build a stronger you". Unluckily most sayings were not translated... While pondering about the sayings on my way down I was suddenly shocked to the heart as a next to my foot a 1m long green snake rises and goes "ssssss!"... just before my heart stopped beating it turned around and made it way down the stairs where it came from, and I followed it slowly :P
After that shock I made my way to Wat Phra Singh and Wat Klang Wiang.
Then I checked out and caught a bus towards Wat Rong Khun - the white temple. And wow... it is by now the most beautiful and bizarre temple I have seen. In sparkling white it can shock you with some bizarre sculptures of hell. But most stunning were the paintings inside the temple: 11.09.2001 in the fangs of oil industry, more scenes of terrorism, sex trading and that mixed with spiderman, neo, batman, superman, transformers, star wars, saw and many more. Unluckily not allowed to take photos inside :(
After seeing the temple and the nearby galleries I flagged down the next bus and wanted to go to Chiang Mai... but unluckily the first bus just went until Mae Khachan, where I jumped on the real bus towards Chiang Mai^^

Clock tower


Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Klang Wiang

Wat Rong Khun - the white temple

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Luang Nam Tha - villages in a nice countryside

After a horrible bus ride (it must have been 5°C in the bus and the road conditions were gruel) I arrived in Luang Nam Tha 4am in the morning (27.11.). I just fall asleep at the bus station... but 1h later I took a tuktuk to Zuela guesthouse and I was lucky that someone opened the door and gave me a room. I was freezing and after some hours of sleep I woke up with fever... lucky me :P
Anyways... 1 pill and a hot soup later I jumped on a bicycle and went for tour around the town. The tour brought me from the museum to That Luang Nam Tha, placed on a hill. And from there through many small ethnic minority villages to That Phoum Pouk, located on another hill^^
I enjoyed the scenery around the villages and rice fields. It was harvesting time, so all the villagers were out to get in the crop and burn the leftovers. Kids playing at the river and farmers trashing the rice... the mountains in the background gave a nice ambience and the tiny villages and dirty road made the old countryside feel perfect :)
About 25km later I was back to Luang Nam Tha and enjoyed dinner at the night market.
The next morning I took a minibus to Huay Xai, which is located at the Mekong and serves as border town to Thailand. First I enjoyed the colourful Wat Chome Khaou Manirat and it's view over the town towards Thailand. After lunch I crossed the border to Chiang Khong, Thailand, from where I took the bus to Chiang Rai.

Luang Nam Tha Museum

That Luang Nam Tha

That Phoum Pouk

Harvesting time :D

Colourful Wat Chome Khaou Manirat, Huay Xai

Friday, 26 November 2010

Luang Prabang - world heritage

After a 6h ride I arrived in Luang Prabang at evening. I took the first guesthouse on the road and fall asleep in my bed, even tho it was just 8:30pm :P
After some fine 12h sleep I started to discover the city. Unluckily it did not meet my expectations. Too many tourists and the city seems a little surreal, as everything is about tourists :(
The temples were not as great as I hoped they were. But after being in the city for 2 days I really enjoyed it.
Well, ok... I started my first walk along Nam Khan river, enjoying breakfast at the river front. A small glimpse into Wat Sensoukarahm, Wat Sop, Wat Sirimungkhun and Wat Si Bun Heuang before visiting the more famous and old Wat Xieng Thong. River Nam Kham meets Mekong river and I continue my walk along the Mekong river front. A visit to the Royal Palace Museum and it's Wat Ho Pha Bang before I climbed 328 steps up to Phu Si hill and That Chomsi. I couldn't wait for the sunset as simply too many tourists have been there. So I climbed down and slandered over the handicraft night market to finish my day.
The next day I woke up early to see Tak Bat - which is when every morning at dawn all monks come out to receive their food for the day from the people. I was astonished by the number of tourists, but even more by the number of monks. It were at least 100... maybe up to 200 monks on the street. An sheer endless line of saffron robbed monks walking in front of the temples. I'm not sure though if they were able to outnumber the tourists... I have my doubts on that^^ Afterwards I walked along the streets to visit some more temples and the morning fresh market. At 12am I went to see Tat Kuang Si waterfall. It was an impressive one, indeed. Many small falls and pools lead you to the main waterfall. A climb up the hill allows you views down the waterfall and see the great landscape. After the climb I took a swim in one of the pools, really refreshing :D On the way back we stopped at a Hmong village. Unluckily that was simply too touristy... the villagers did set up stores all way along the village and the kids were trying to sell and beg non-stop. Sad to see what too much tourism can lead to :(
At the evening I take the bus to Luang Nam Tha.

Wat Sensoukarahm

Wat Xient Thong

Buddha within Wat Xieng Thong

Wat Ho Pha Bang

That Chimsi at the top of Phu Si

View down to the Mekong and to the mountains from Phu Si

View over Nam Khan river and Luang Prabang from Phu Si

Monks receiving their daily food as gift

Tak Bat, more than a hundred monks

Wat Ho Siang... that is a special Naga^^

The morning fresh market... yummy :D Do you see the shoes?

Tat Kuang Si waterfall from downstairs

Kuang Si waterfall from upstairs^^

good view from up the waterfall :)

Late afternoon sun gives a great atmosphere to the smaller falls

The pools were great for a refreshing swim :D

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Pakse - Vientiane - Xien Khuan - Vang Vieng

That was a quite stressy start into relaxed Laos^^
Monday (22.11.) I took a minibus from Ubon Ratchathani to the border village Chong Meng (100 baht, 1,5h). The visa at Laos border was without problems, just that I forgot to get USD in Bangkok and so they charged me 32euro (1300 baht) instead of 30dollar :(
A minibus (80 baht, 1h) brought me from Vang Tao to Pakse in Laos. I bought my ticket for the overnight sleeper bus to Vientiane. The 3h until the bus came, I used to do some sightseeing in Pakse.
There is not too much to see... I saw 3 markets and 1 of 2 bigger temples. Wat Luang was filled with young monks and the sunset behind made it quite a sight :)
The shopping mall looks funny^^ 2 floors of a cooled market :) After walking through the streets I had an indian dinner before taking a Laos foot massage... the right way to start my Laos trip and good relaxing before the bus journey.
The sleeping bus was horror^^ It took us 10h, 150.000kip from Pakse to Vientiane. The sleeping spots were about 1,7m long and 0.7m wide for 2 people. I shared mine with a tall french guy... I was able to sleep maybe 3 out of the 10h. My back and legs were aching afterwards :(
In Vientiane a tuktuk brought us from southern bus terminal to the centre. I enjoyed sunrise from the Mekong-promenade and new built Chao Anouvong park before having a good breakfast at Nam Phu Park.
From the local busstation I took bus number 14 to visit Xien Khuan (5.000kip 1.5h). Xien Khuan houses the Buddha Park which is filled with a huge amount of bizzare sculptures from Buddha, Shiva, Vishnu, Arjuna, and many more Hindu+Buddhist gods.
It is great to simply look for your most favourite sculpture or go through hell, earth and heaven to reach the top of the pumpkin sculpture and enjoy a view over the park.
The same bus brought me back to Vientiane where I booked a bus to Vang Vieng (30.000kip 4h). On the bus to Vang Vieng I met 3 polish who just started their holiday 4 days ago. I explained them that Vang Vieng is famous for it's nature, adventure activities, parties and drugs. A happy pizza knocked me off at the evening :P
After a long sleep and good breakfast (I enjoyed several baguettes in Laos already^^ finally bread again :P) I jumped on a minibus to Luang Prabang (100.000kip, 6h).

Wat Luang, Pakse

Sunrise from the Mekong at Chao Anouvong Park

Pumpkin sculpture in Xien Khuan Buddha Park


You just have to pick your favourite sculpture^^

I liked that one the most :P

stunning park

Good view after going through hell, earth and heaven of the pumpkin.