07 June 2012

Temple (Wat)
Men Only
Gong Rubbing
Saw A wank a lot (Sawankhalok)

The day started out well.  Having spent half the night trying to get the blog up to date for you, I went to bed.  The nightclub up the road was still pumping out the noise.  This was pretty good as they had good taste in music.  My only issue was that they had sped it up a bit.  You had songs you recognised, but it jarred as it was at the wrong speed.  Still they knocked off around 1 am. Have I mentioned how I miss the dogs at Mimili howling at night?  No, not really.  I was swearing at the dogs last night!

Still it was a good nights sleep.  In the morning we were off to find Phra That Lampang Luang.  This is considered the most beautiful Wat in the north.  It is a Lanna Style architecture.  The oldest bit is from the 13th century, but like anything it is constantly repaired and updated.  The centrepiece is the oldest wooden  (Teak) building in Thailand from 1476.  Although it was under renovation while we were there.

To get there was an experience in travel.  We had to go to Ko Kha (cola)  We knew the bus stop where we could catch the inter town bus.  How do you tell the busses apart though.  They are all oversized tuktuks.  Some are yellow.  Others are yellow with the bottom painted green.  Then there are the blue ones, black ones and Technicolor dreamcoat coloured ones.  Telling them apart is an issue, and every town is different.  All we can pin it down to at the moment is if there are Thais in it, it should be cheaper.

Flagging down a yellow one in the right spot with a Thai in the back, we negotiated to go to Phra That Lampang Luang.  The price was 3 each (We assumed 30 baht as this has been about usual for between town travel from our extensive experience traveling all over Thailand 😛 …)  He dropped off this other passenger and took us to the bus station.  Here he got a translator to tell us that he was going to charge us 500 baht to go there as a private taxi.  We explained to the woman what we wanted and she said that she would help us get the right one after this.  Then he wanted to charge us 80 baht for the pleasure of taking us to the wrong spot.  No way.

10 minutes later we were on our way out to Ko Kha.  This is supposed to be around 20km from Lampang.  It was a quick trip, and before we knew it we were dumped at the markets on the main street.  Here we found a moto.  This guy was willing to take us out to the Wat for 50 baht. It is amazing that it is more expensive to travel within a town than to travel between towns.  Same tuktuk.  This has happened to us a lot, and most of them were today, so wont grumble any more about it.  Just put it down to Thailand.  The moto trip was supposed to be only 2km,but was closer to 4.  With Anna at the back and Andrew sandwiched in the middle, it was not the most comfortable, but we made it out there without incident.  The first things you see at the Wat is a large market on one side, and a large brick wall on the other.  Needing breakfast we hit the market.  Looking at the pottery, as this region is renowned for its pottery skills and finding a food stall, we were armed with the strength of Noodle Soup to continue with the day.

Temple Entrance

Last of the old Murals

There is as mentioned a rather large wall surrounding the complex.  This looks very old, and is the thin brick used about 500 years ago.  Up the steps through an ornate archway and into the complex itself.  The wooden teak building is right through there.  unfortunately it was covered in scaffolding and sheets, so you couldn’t get a clear picture of what was inside.  There was some ornate carvings on the outside and some large pillars.  Heading to one side is a covered shrine.  This has some very old teak mosaics (paintings) of the teaching of Buddha on them.  You could only make out a few bits and pieces of this as it was well worn.  Beside this, and behind the main building there is a very large chedi.  This has royal protection as it was topped by the seven tiered umbrella.  The base of the chedi was clad in bronze with gold geometric designs on it.  The top was all gold.  As the sun had just come out it shone bright enough that it was hard to look at.  There were a few tourist monks and other Thais doing their worship, walking around the stupa.  This is a very important palce as it contains a hair of the Buddha, that was brought here 400 years after he ascended into nirvana.

Andrew going into Mens only area

From here there are a couple of other buildings. One was set back a bit and raised up.  A man gestured for Andrew to approach and when Anna went to follow was told to wait there.  This is a mens only place.  Thinking I was in for it (I am a bit too cynical sometimes) he led me up to a small room and shut the door.  Wondering what was going on, as he also put his hand over a small hole above the door plunging us both into total darkness.  After about 30 seconds he removed his hand from the hole.  There was a white sheet hung up inside.  As my eyes acclimatised, I saw an image inverted on the sheet. Basically it was set up like an old camera obscura.  It showed the entire complex upside down and reversed.  The colour was stunning, and the man proceeded to point out all the different buildings shown.

Chedi and Umbrella

Joining back up with Anna afterwards, he yelled out to us again, he wanted the lady to go with him this time.  We went into the last big building, which we were saving until last, and took us to a corner in the back.  Here was almost the same thing, just showing the Chedi and not in focus.  Still, Anna got to see a bit of the light tricks that are used.  We wouldn’t have found either without him.  I probably would have gone up to the mens building, looked in and seen nothing but a sheet and whats behind it, then gone down missing the best bit.  The other section is in a corner, and also easily missed.  Being done with the main complex we moved around the side.  Here there is a small museum showing a range of things from statues, swords, currency and bronze or wooden items.  Outside there are two of the traditional large gongs.  These are big circular bronze dishes with a bulge in the middle.  I have always assumed that the bulge is like a target to hit when ringing it.  These were rubbed to a fine gleam.  This is for luck right?  No.  If you do it properly you can get the gong to resonate.  Rubbing one hand after the other at the right speed consistently creates this brilliant harmonic for as long as you keep it up.  Now I just assume the size of the gong dictates the tone?  Still it was a neat trick.  After getting my first bowl to resonate a few days ago, I now want to get this one to work (just not today).

It was time to go back and we had to get transport.  At the market outside the Wat we could get a moto for twice what it cost to get there.  I suppose they have a captive audience, but we decided to walk for a bit to see what turned up.  It was hot and sticky.  Both of us where swearing at my pigheadedness over AU$1.50  Realy! Still, after a few hundred metres  an oversized ice cream cart without the ice cream pulled up.  This is the tuktuk for the region, every place so far has had different tuktuks, rickshaws, motorised transport etc.  It is hard to keep track of.  For about half what was required at the market he took us back to town, and even dropped us at the closes tuktuk bus that was going to head back to Lampang.

Back in Lampang it was a bit to early to go to the bus station as out bus was not going till 16.00. We had a stroll along the famous riverside. There are about 3 cafe’s here and a mop shop. Further to the night market that we missed yesterday due to the rain. They were only just setting up, but managed to find some nice deep fried dough.. The rain was back, so we decided to find a tuktuk willing to swing by our guesthouse for our bags and then on to the bus station.  We were there in time, got our tickets and just sat enjoying the atmosphere of a local bus station.

The bus trip to Sawankhalok was uneventful.  There were some nice landscapes along the way and our bus turned into a stop and pick people up everywhere bus.  It did have aircon though, so was cool.  It was cold enough that a jumper would have been nice.

At Sawankhalok we were left at the bus station.  This was fine, but no one spoke any english.  I don’t think they get many foreign tourists here.  As we had thought it easy to find a guest house we hadn’t worried too much.  Now we were not too sure.  Making the universal sleeping sign we were pointed down the road.  Walking that way there was nothing in English.  Well, I suppose we are in Thailand.  There was a couple of large buildings that could have been hotels.  The first one was a private residence, however walking past the big windows of the second, we could see something that looked like a reservation desk.  Walking in we had no idea on if we were entering a private house or hotel.  It turned out to be a hotel.  The woman staffing the desk also spoke no english.  She also turned out to be a he.  On signing in we were given our room key.  307. Easy enough.  3rd floor number seven.  All the numbers on the doors are in Thai though.  Not wanting to try every door, I went back down to ask him/her which room it was.  He/She had a bit of trouble with what I wanted, but worked it out and showed us to our room on the second floor.

Being late it was time to find dinner.  There was a nice place backdown the road that looked like a bar, and a good place to get a drink after, so we went further up the road.  It was easy to find a nice place.  Our waitress came up and took our order.  We basically ordered two pork dishes as there was no english involved.  Our waiter or was it waitress came back with a drink and we started wondering if there was a Transvestite convention in town.  There was also another working at this restaurant.  That made three.  After a really nice dinner of pork and seafood, we headed back to the bar near our hotel.  It turns out they do food.  There was a nice girl there that used us to practice her english on, and was really nice and attentive.  She was also a Thai dancer, but we didn’t get to see her dance.  The other waitress was a waiter?!  What gender do you use anyway?

That about sums up the day for us, so off to bed before this town gets any more confusing.


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