Tag Archives: ruins

Day 10: 19 January, HK

Today I embark on a little excursion which I had been putting off for a while. I get the ferry from Central to Park Island (formerly Ma Wan), a 3o minute ride. The island lies beneath the motorway from Lantau and Tsing Ma bridge. There is no private transportation access, and it is home to a modern private residential development, and some dumb looking attraction called Noah’s Ark. I’m here to walk past all this crap and find the original village of Ma Wan on the western shore. There are some paths over the hill with “private property signs” which lead down to the main street, which snakes past some wharves, rotting old stilt houses hanging over the beach, a little temple, a ghostly children’s play area and the shells of windowless empty shells of abandoned houses. The street lights still work…The villagers were forcibly ejected to make way and increase the prestige for the new luxury developments. Some locals still fish from the beach and use empty houses as bolt holes. I explore a couple of houses, and climb up flights of stairs onto their flat roofs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI miss the ferry to Tsuen Wan, as I’m engaged in a chat with KK. This leaves no alternative but to get the ferry back to Central, which is a pity as I had wanted to go somewhere new. In Admiralty I find a vegetarian “cafe” which sells fusion food and I have an interesting  laksa risotto. I walk up Hollywood Rd to Man Mo temple, and take in the smokey atmosphere before waking back east through the antiques streets to the mid -central escalators. On the way I come across another calligraphy stand: same political party, same process of writing out good wishes slogans. I pass by Central, a building that captivated me last trip with its many mirrored surfaces. I spend a while exploring the optical effects with my camera and get some great shots.

It’s the end of the work day. Under an elevated walkway is a busy Chinese medicine shop, with workers following recipes to source ingredients from walls of labelled wooden drawers then weigh them out with hand balances. At the door a man is selling herbal teas from vast metal urns. I try one. It is acrid but feels good. I sense this is an old and traditional shop….but when I looked for it on Google Street view later, I saw an empty concrete shell, suggesting that it hasn’t been around for very long at all.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have an anxious hunt for a recommended restaurant on the 23rd floor of a block in Wan Chai/Causeway Bay. Anxious as my phone battery has run out, and then because my Octopus card is empty so I can’t go anywhere else as it’s late. I’m the last customer in this buddhist place and I feel like a curio or inconvenience to the staff. Anyway the food is good, in spite of the hidden charges!

Day 3 in Sangkhlaburi…..Religion

At sunrise their are groups of monks on the bridge heads. Locals are flocking down the hills to make merit by offering food then being blessed. There is so much food that they will end up not eating it all, for sure.

I negotiate a trip across the reservoir to the partially submerged remains of the old temple. The original village was drowned when the valet was dammed. The present settlement being newer and on higher ground. The temple must have been on a small hill. You are able to disembark and wander into and around the structure. Local mon women are arriving on long tail boats to prepare bunches of jasmine. The offer these to the subsequent passengers on the next couple of boats to land. Locals, I suppose, who have come to pray at the shrine inside the temple. This seems to be an auspicious day.

There is an aura of religion throughout the day. In the evening on the mon bridge I bump into the Taiwanese girl who i chauffeured from the bus station in kanchanaburi. As we watch the increasing number of monks a man in a simple white cotton smock and trousers informs us that there will be a large gathering of monks who will be chanting on the bridge soon. About 80 or so assemble and sit on mats facing the now dimming dusk sky. They have little bottles of energy drink. En masse at 6pm they begin to chant. I sit and absorb for over an hour. The atmosphere is special, though not totally serene, as the occasional boat buzzes out into open water. Not all the monks seem to be immersed. I see one chatting on his mobile and another taking selfies on an iPad! This event is to mark the mid-point of the monks' retreat. Now I understand why there is a monk camp site, and why they are behaving as if they are on holiday! These guys come from all ove thailand and are at Buddhist university. The man in white is also studying there.

 

 

 

 

 

Ayutthya

So glad I didn't get sunburned today, and I'm surprised!

Today I cycled most of the day, well from when I felt together enough to go out, which was 11. I rented from a girl, who also had a masculine element to her! She wore a skirt made from Hmong fabrics, which I recognised from a bagi bought in chiang mai. We have a discussion about my necklace, and have our doubts about it being real jade. She likes my British accent! The bike rent is 40 per day, I get it for 2 days for 60. Cycling around the place reminds me of Anuradhapura, in that the town is build among the ruins, mostly well restored, of some magnificent wat and palaces, on an island, which contains a number of ditches and tanks. It also reminds me of jogykarta, sukhothai…elements of others. I've done this before: losing myself on archaeological parks, spending long pauses sitting on temple steps watching the world and emptying my mind. There are fallen cherries on the ground, small children selling some kind of bird made from bamboo leaves. There is a souvenir/snack market, where women are smearing green batter onto hot plates to make pandan pancakes. Others in rubber gloves are dropping batter into huge woks of bubbling oil to make donuts. The stalls have bags of twisted dark crispy snacks. On close inspection they seem to be reptilian in origin. Lizard heads?, snake skin?

Lunch is at the small pure vegetarian food place I had read about but thought I had no chance of finding. I just stumbled upon it. Tasty and cheap!

I cross the bridge to the east and off the island, and follow a smal windy road to a place called th elephant krall. This is like a stockade fenced with red tree trunk like piles. I get excited when I spy a pale grey bull elephant with long tusks swaying his body outside this empty arena opposite a school yard. On encircling this massive space I come across a dark skinned man marshalling 2 smaller darker elephants across the road and down a smaller one to a cluster of buildings and wooden structures. Elephants! Maybe 30 of them. This is some kind of elephant sanctuary. It's fantastic. I spend a happy hour or so watching a 3 day old baby elephant stumble at his mother's feel looking for her teets. The mother shows amazing grace and awareness not to step on the tiny creature. Further along the road I come across the river once more. Here, in twos or threes the elephants are being ridden..and then ridden into the water where almost submerged they are washed, their riders standing on their backs like listing living rocks. On the banks of the river some small children are fishing. All these goings on are every day occurrences and unremarkable to them.

 

I cross the island and over to the other side of the river to experience the end of the sunset at the serene wat chaiwatthanaram, nearly get lost cycling back, and am overtaken by a man with a puppy in the front basket of his motorbike.

Dinner is at gubar. I ask for my curry to be spicy. Big mistake….too hot even for me!

 

Si satchanalai

Well I worked it out. Those guys in chopper bar ( what a name) are the local bikers. Yesterday they turned up on their Harleys and cut off sukhothai city black shirts. They seem to be always the honoured guests with the young boy and girl, the kids of the owner, I guess jumping to attention. The boy’s job is portable barman. He has a trolley full of whiskers and mixers and ice and he regularly pours out new ones for these guys….no measuring….I saw one of them using his brick like Motorola.what is it with these? Over the road, from the veranda I see a group of cops stopping, searching then taking away in the back of a pickup a couple of I don’t know what’s.

Sunday morning a I have a lie in til 9, a quick breakfast, and rent a motorbike, for the measly sum of 150 baht. It’s manual, it tattles, the speedo doesn’t work and the mirrors are floppy, so I can’t see a thing behind me. Fortunately the roads, even the main ones are not too scary. There is a motorbike/ bike lane which doesn’t necessarily get used by traffic just going with he flow. It’s quite common to encounter a bike of motorbike or tricycle coming towards you. There isn’t so much traffic, the road is mainly straight, but a bit pot holed. There are so many stray dogs lolloping around. They look like foxes, and my weedy horn is unlikely to rouse them. In fact on my return journey I very nearly did hit a dog, but this one had an owner. It crossed the road at its own pace. Even when seeing me neither sped up nor stopped. A big black thing a bit like a Labrador. I came so close to hitting it..full on braking…

Transportation in hail and deserves a mention. Motorbikes, ie 100 cc Hondas are the main form of travelling herein the north. I saw a sign indicating that helmets are essential, however, I saw maybe 3 people wearing them, some carrying them…and bikes carrying up to 4 people. I passed a husband carrying his wife pillion, she was cradling her new born baby between them. I don’t know what the age is, but there are certainly 12 year old kids riding these bikes in heir flip flops and Chelsea football kit.

Them there is the Toyota pickup, the fancier ones with cab with 2 rows of seats. The pick up section is used for carrying animals, machinery, vegetables, and people. Sometimes a group of kids, sometimes a whole gang of workers from the fields.

The public transport are saewthawn, which in some places are pickups with the back area covered, but open at the sides, with 2 wooden benches face to face, and a step at the back. Luggage goes on the top, can be flagged down, goes designated routes, used by school kids, workers, traders. In sukhothai these are more like trucks with the same wooden benches, and a wooden floor. They drive incredibly slowly. The tuk tuks here are back to front, more like a ricks haw. Motorbike section at the back, front section is a 2 wheeled affair open at the front and containing 2 benches face to face. The hole thing covered by a flat roof.

 

There are motorbikes with side cars. The sidecar being more like a box on wheels, suitable for anything and anyone.

Some of the vehicles in the countryside are weird looking too. Something which reminds me of a horse and cart, except it is based on a motorcycle. It’s a tricycle with very long handlebars, which reach back to the driver who has a seat on the cart area.

Today’s trip to si satchanalai was cool. I missed the park entrance to. Begin with and explored the area, finding several ruined temples near the road and one with a massive chedi on top of a forested hill. Here I glimpsed a local family rooting for some kind of bugs, the father was banging trees with a stick, taking a drag on his cigarette and breathing the smoke into bore holes in the tree. I don’t thing they were succeeding…and anyway I don’t know what they were looking for exactly.

 

I rode out of the archaeological park, and found myself on a road flanked with paddies reflecting distant mountains. A woman was. Harvesting some rice, her daughters bagging it by the road. The paddies were swarming with birds, many of them large grey and white wading birds with long legs and beaks. A bit like storks.

When I get back to the park, I’m parking my bike and flagged down by woman from the restaurant shack place. She gets my order wrong and I have to send back the rice with pork.

I decide to ride round the park rather than cycle. It turns out to be a good idea as there is quite a lot of distance to cover. There is hardly anyone here, and each ruin I have more or less to myself. It rains a little, there is a swarm of dragon flies gathered over the road at wat Chang lom…the one with elephant chedi. On approaching I thought these were falling leaves, so big and so profuse were they. Wat chedi ched thaeo blows me away…the complex is vast and has enough ruins to last anyone a lifetime.

 

 

The final stop is outside the wall of the park. It has a Khmer tower and some bayon style carvings. Not much atmosphere though as there is construction going on around it.

The journey back is punctuated by a stop to gawp at this place ( see below ). Buddha Buddha everywhere. It’s funny that I have seen so many ruins, yet I passed a number of places where temples are still being built.

 

Dinner is in a chilled out bar that does me a tofu Penang curry and a mango shake..awful lounges cover cd of Beatles songs and carpenters etc. etc….but more relaxing than choppers!

By the way I think I have had enough of ruins now…perhaps you have too? To finish, here is a missing Buddha!

 

 

Sukhothai

Strange atmosphere at night around the bungalow. A pack of dogs howling and barking, in the morning the echoing discordant tangly of at Thai voice maybe advertising something or giving the news. There’s aalittle kitten who is desperate to be with me, on my bed, only breakfast table….

I get a sawntaewn to old sukhothai which acts as a delivery truck for the hawker stalls at the old temples.i rent a knack erred bike for 30 baht and the ticket sellers at the gate to the historical park are grumpy and unhelpful. The park itself is flat and features the partially reconstructed complexes of some pretty vast temples replete with standings and seated Buddhas. There are quite a few tourists, like me on bikes, or bigger groups on the electric shuttle or in tuk tusk. It’s not a particularly serene place. It’s a tourist park..but I guess I’ve been spoiled with the low key and more evocative Khmer ruins in the east. I grab a plate of fried vegetalian food ( that’s how it is written) and a pineapple shake at a little shack, and the groups of spa airs and French trawl back to their buses, all with a bottle of coca Colain hand.

The park is all manicured and a bit dull. I take my clunky one speed bike out of the park and follow the back roads through the woods where there are dozens of ruined chedi and temples. Not as well reconstructed as the park, but a lot more evocative.the best one is here, wat sapan hin, a 200 metre climb taking me to a shell of a temple, 6 columns and a 25m standing Buddha overlooking a flat falt forested plain. I’ve had my 15 minutes alone.a Spanish couple arrive, the girl adopts a Buddha posture for a photo.here come some more. At least cos you have to make am effort to get here, theses people won’t be asses!

 

 

 

 

 

I st for a mango shake by the roadside, and am on the point of returning to base when I realise ther is still more to see, and it’s spectacular, a lily moated crumbly temple on an island with smashed and broken Buddhas, a Khmer style tower and a herd of cows grazing. And hardly anyone there!

 

Phi mai

After the big flash it rains most of the night. Steady drizzle, but large drops that evaporate as soon as they touch you. I have a beer at the bar on the corner, seemingly staffed entirely by lady boys.

Wake up early and wander the town as it begins its day. Kids going to school, breakfast hawkers. I get a fried egg and juice.

When I enter the prasat phi mai, I’m the only person there, other than women in scarf cum masks and wide brimmed hats meditatively sweeping the dust and fallen leaves from the ruins. It’s a big site and I garner that it’s been largely rebuilt. There are barefooted guys precariously erected scaffolding at the west gate. There is a collection of remoulded sculptures. Regardless the place is spectacular, and is claimed to be thailands largest stone monument. The same layout as angkor wat, and apparently there is an ancient road linking the 2 places. It must be weird having this as the centre of your town. The main tower is flooded with the creepy echoing cooing of pigeons. It’s a peculiar mixture of ancient, well, 1100 years old, and a place where life carries on almost obliviously. I see pictures of how it was before restorations began, the romantic in me kind of prefers it.