10 June 2012

Lop Buri

The day started out well.  Anna let me sleep in, while she made her way down to the train station to work out times.  We wanted to go to Trang in the south by sleeper from Bangkok, or if possible directly from Lop Buri.

On her return she was carrying two time tables for the trains.  One for the north, and one the south.  These were quite handy.  We had to change trains in Bangkok. Anna also had good news.  The 8:15 train had been delayed to 12:15.  This would give us plenty of time to get to Bangkok after a bit of sightseeing. First up the morning markets, followed by the weekend markets. Lots of clothing, food, snacks, and the occasional baby squirel for sale.

Closeu of Prang Detail in Lop Buri

The first stop, after markets, was to look at some of the ruins in town.  These stretch over a period of time.  Some are from the 12-13th century and others are from the 18th century.  The nice thing is that they are scattered throughout town, with no intention to demolish them to make way for progress.  This also made them easy to find.  I won’t list all the Wats here, needless to say we were making What Wat jokes all day.

The ruins themselves are pretty far gone, although on some of them there is still plaster work decorations and brickwork.  You can easily see the different periods, as the style of brickwork changes.  The older construction work is made from good quality small bricks.  From there you get the Laterite carved stone, then you go back to brick, but larger and of poor construction.  It was nice wandering around the town with these ruins popping up.

History:  It has been inhabited since the Dvaravati period.  6-11 century, when it was called Lavo. When the Khmer took over most of Lavo culture was erased, eventually the Ayuthaya took over and in the 17th century Lop Buri was the capital for a while.

Mother & Baby Monkey @ Lop Buri

However, the main reason for coming to Lop Buri wasnt the old capital, or the ruins.  It was the MONKEYS!  Lop Buri is famous for its monkeys.  We had seen a few last night when we were walking around town.  Now we went monkey hunting.  We were looking at the Wats at the same time so this is a bit disjointed, but Monkey time now.  Wat Prah Prang Sam Yot.  This is the major ruin in town (well it looks the best anyway.) It is a Hindu-turned Buddhist temple with three prangs. They used to represent Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. Now there are Buddha statues in them.

Monkey free shrine to Monkeys

Across the street is San Phra Kan (Kala Shrine) with a statue of Kala inside, the Hindu god of time and death. We decided not to go in, as it was a sunday, and a lot of worshippers were there. It is not our place to get in the way of this. We walked around and admired the Thai dancers rehearsing at the back of the Shrine.
This used to be monkey central, but they were getting too annoying here and were forced to move one temple down. In Recent times the original monkey troop has been split, with a splinter group choosing the city over the ruins.

One Eyed leader of the city Monkeys

These ones are supposedly led by a famous half-blind dominant male. These guys make making a nuisance of themselves and a lot of Lop Burians are not that happy with the monkeys anymore. Of course buddhist teachings stop them from hurting the animals, and they are being seen as the “children of Kala”. Everybody agrees though that the monkey are good for tourism and once a year the townspeople put on a feast just for them.

How many Monkeys can you carry? Anna had 5 at one stage

In the main complex (Wat Prah Prang Sam Yot) we were overrun by monkeys.  They were jumping on us, off us, and climbing up us.  At one stage Anna and I both had about three or four monkeys on us.  Pulling our hair, sitting on our heads, and clinging to our legs.  We didn’t know how to get rid of them without upsetting them and getting bitten (I do not want to go through a set of rabies shots) so we struggled all the way back to the entrance weighed down with monkeys.  (This is not as easy as it sounds)  Apparently all you need is a big stick.  The woman at the entrance waved hers and all the monkeys left.  We borrowed her stick after this. The littles ones are fine, it is just the big ones that worried us.  There were also lots of baby Monkeys.  (Someone really should hang out there giving free condoms and talks on population control.)
As we were heading out there was another group that were being swamped.  We gave them our stick.

Monkeys and cars are a bad combination

Another time, when Anna was walking in the morning, there was a group of monkeys in a tree.  This tree had a car parked under it.  The first monkey dropped out of the tree onto the car.  This set off the car alarm.  It then jumped off the car and ran back up the tree.  After the alarm stopped, the second monkey jumped out of the tree onto the car.  Setting off the alarm again.  This happened a few times until the monkeys got sick of this and went else where.  They had been setting off the alarm on purpose.

We had seen earlier a couple of guys with slingshots going along and hunting the monkeys out from under the cars,  thinking nothing of it at the time.  Later we came across a Toyota that had been parked on another road.  Here there were a few monkeys playing around.  Climbing up poles, a tree and over the car.  They were stripping all the plastic from the car.  Several bits were on the ground, and others had been pulled almost completely clear. It all clicked : You hire the slingshot men to protect your car..

Our first Monkey.  Having walked through the markets in the morning to pick up some food, we went over the road to eat it.  Soon enough a monkey appeared.  He sat there watching us.  We didn’t think it was a good idea to feed it, as this would encourage them.  A bit later a man walked over and gave the monkey an egg.  This distracted him, and as we ate our breakfast, he ate his.  A nun fed it some lychee, and he happily cracked it open to eat the fruit.  The woman sitting near us gestures for us to be careful as it could grab our bags.  Still it was fun.  At the end of breakfast as we were going, the monkey did jump up and grab the empty bags.  I tried to get them back, but the woman said not to as I could get bitten.

After getting sick of Wats and Monkeys we made our way back to the station.  We passed the bus stop, and asked about tickets to Bangkok from there.  They had a bus leaving at 12, arriving at 2 and it would take an hour from there to the railway station.  however this was 200 baht plus taxi to station compared with 50 baht arriving at the station.  It didn’t seem that the time difference made it worth it.

Train? What train?

At the station we booked our ticket.  Asking about arrival time, she said 15:30.  This was with the delay so we thought we would be fine.  So we decided to book our sleeper ticket to Trang at the same time.  The train was supposed to leave at 12:30.  Having said that, the train was supposed to originally leave at 8:15.  12:30 came and went.  It was delayed until 13:00.  This still left us plenty of time to make our connection which was at 17:05.  When 13:10 came and went we started to worry.  Anna went and asked what was happening.  With the language difficulties, it was a bit awkward.  There was something about an extra 45 baht, and not sure about the times.  At 13:30 we cancelled our connection, and the expected time for our train to arrive was 13:34.  As she was walking back, there was another delay.  Our train now would not arrive until 13:59.  At 14:10 a train did come in the right direction.  It was going to Bangkok.  However as it was not the train we had a ticket for, we couldn’t take it.  Our train was still not expected for another 20 minutes.  WTF?  It suddenly clicked that the extra 45 baht could have been an upgrade to that train.  Darn and Dang it!

Our train… Better late than never

We patiently waited for our train, that finally decided to arrive at 14.45. Hauling our bags up we noticed that the benches were made of wood, with no padding what so ever. Well it is third class, but this is a bit rough. Later we noticed that our carriage was the only one with wooden seating, but too late to change. The train wasn’t too bad, and we arrived in Bangkok at about 17.10. We quickly made our way to the ticket counter, hoping to still be able to get a ticket for the 17.05 to Trang. (All Thai trains leave late, right?) Not this one, this one actually left on time!! Ok, then we want some tickets for the 18.30 sleeper train.. This one is booked, and only third class is available.

Third class. You are allowed Durians and chickens here

Third class is not a sleeper, it is wooden benches (or similar) for 12 hours.. No, thank you.
Sleeper train tomorrow then? Again the 17.00 is already booked, and for the 18.30 one only top bunks are available. These are not as comfy as the bottom bunks, and if the bottombunker wants to have proper upright seating, you will be kicked out of your bed..
Time to pull out our magic flipping coin, cause we did not know want to do any more. Go south, or forget about it and head east. Heads for south, tails for east. It came up heads, so tomorrow we are in two top bunks and praying to get some sleep.

Cheap hotel for the night, and we will sight see a bit more of Bangkok.  O.K.  The cheap hotel is a dive.  Really.  It is the Station Hotel.  There was a nice hotel on the other side of the station.  This was 900 a night.  So we decided to skip it and asked them for a guesthouse near by.  They pointed out the station hotel.  We walked over and down a little back alley to the entrance.  The staff were completely apathetic to us, but we did get the key to see the room.  They did make it clear there was no TV or hot water, so we weren’t expecting much.  The room  was semi clean. The wall to the corridor went up three quarters of the way then turned into ventilation holes.  Well, at least there was a fan.  The Bathroom was nothing special.  Western toilet with the standard mold around the wet room.  Still it was 280 a night. ($9.30)  Although we had paid less for better, this was Bangkok after all, and we didn’t want to go far from the station.  Still it was decent.

We could show you the room, but this is better

On turning in for the night we started out with the idea of getting a good night sleep, as trains can be difficult.  All was well, the mattress was do-able and there wasn’t too much light coming in.  Around 12:30 we were suddenly woken.  What was going on?!?  There was a god awful noise.  Little did we know there was road works going on nearby, and what we were hearing was a jack hammer.  This lasted until well after 4am.  So much for sleep.  However it did make sure that we would sleep well tomorrow.  Teach us for not enjoying the nightlife of Bangkok though.  Who sleeps in this city anyway?


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