As I’m doing some extra paid teaching at another school tomorrow I haven’t had the opportunity to stay anywhere this weekend, so Bubpha took me on a day trip to some nearby places that I’d been itching to go to. She agreed to pick me up at 8 but ending up running late, so I impatiently sat at my schoolhouse windows, drinking coffee and watching the English language film channel I discovered my TV could get the other day. White Chicks was on, which I laughed at more than I’d like to admit.
She eventually arrived and we made it to the station in time for the 9am train to Lop Buri, which is a province about an hour north of Ayutthaya. Lop Buri is famous for being home to an abundance of wild monkeys, and I had heard that they can be seen running through the streets and temples whilst pestering tourists for food. Naturally I was excited to get there, because monkeys are awesome, but the first temple we explored opposite the train station was a bit of a disappointment. I can understand the historical importance of it, but it looked very similar to many of the ruined temples that I’d already seen in Ayutthaya. Plus, there were no monkeys. Not even one.
At this point I was getting worried that the day would be completely monkey-less, but a quick walk up the road from the station put my concerns to rest. We made it to the Phra Kan Shrine, which doubles as both a temple and a feeding sight for the monkeys. Although we missed the monkey’s daily feeding taking place there were a few hanging around making their way through the leftovers of the feast of fruit they’d been given in the morning, but we still hadn’t seen the biggest monkey swarms just yet.
It soon became pretty clear to me that worrying about not seeing monkeys in Lop Buri is redundant, as it would be much more difficult to try and avoid them. Whilst walking around I saw dozens of them swinging from balconies, signposts and electrical wires, whilst others hid under cars and in back alleyways. Bubpha found my obsession with taking photos of them quite amusing, despite my attempts to explain to her that this is nothing like anything I ever have or ever will see in England.
The greatest monkey hub, however, was the Prang Sam Yot Temple across the street from the shrine. As we entered I bought a few bags of sweetcorn and some weird drink that had a dead wasp floating in it for some reason, which were being sold as monkey food. Needless to say, the next 30 or so minutes involved a lot of monkeys clawing, jumping and grabbing food out of my hands, whilst Bubpha attempted to take some good action photos.
We ventured into the innards of the temple itself after that, which the monkeys aren’t allowed to go into, but they make up for this by climbing and sprinting up the wire fences that surround the construction. I found out that they’re all massive posers at heart, to the extent that they will literally push other monkeys out of the way in order to get in a photo.
Eventually we moved on and found Lop Buri market, despite the fact that I was still on a slight monkey high (they’re just so awesome! don’t pretend you wouldn’t feel the same.) Bubpha told me that there were a lot of good clothes shops here, but she then dismissed a bunch of shirts I was looking at as “old people clothing”, delivering another massive blow to my belief that I have any sort of good fashion sense.
Before heading back onto the train we stopped at a pizzeria for lunch, which Bubpha was excited to take me too because I’m always telling the schoolkids that pizza is my favourite food. It killed me to tell her that this wasn’t the first time I’d had pizza here, since we got some in Kanchanaburi last week, but the beastly shrimp and ham one we decided on was tasty enough regardless.
After falling asleep on the train, which I keep seeming to do here, we ended up and the Bang Pa-In Palace in Ayutthaya. Apparently it’s used as an occasional summer residence for Thai royalty but is open to tourists during the seasons where nobody is occupying it, so we got to see a lot of the royal chambers and temples. Plus the whole area is massive, to the extent that it wouldn’t surprise me if the phrase ‘fit for a king’ originated from here.
After an hour of looking around Bubpha told me that there was even more of the grounds to see, but it required us taking a ride over the Chao Phraya river that connects a lot of central Thailand. Last week in my blogs about Kanchanaburi, I joked that everywhere in Thailand had a bet on to see who could provide the most dangerous transport. As if to prove this even further, this was what we had to cross the river on:
so it’s probably not that surprising that I feared for my life (admittedly for about the 50th time in the last few weeks) during the 20 seconds it took to cross. The worst part was the sudden halt the “carriage” (I use that word very loosely) made when it stopped, as it swung outwards even further and would have sent me flying off into the water below had I not quickly grabbed onto the railings.
Still, feeling triumphant at not being dead, we made it round a couple more temples and saw a school for Buddhist monks before heading back to the train station. I ended up speaking to a monk inside a Buddhist church about England whilst also admiring the building’s colourful windows. Bubpha began to ask me questions about the Buddhist temples in England, and after telling her that I didn’t know any I began to wonder how many we even have. They’d certainly make the country a lot better looking, judging from everything I’ve seen here.
We arrived back to Phachi’s Saturday night market, which was overflowing with foodstalls and clothing. I finally bought a belt so my work clothes actually look a lot more complete now, but much like the monkeys this morning I got distracted when I found a guy selling baby chicks from two boxes he had placed on the floor (I’m very easily please by this sort of thing.) Weirder still was that the chicks in one of the boxes were multi-coloured and had clearly been dipped in some sort of dye, and I couldn’t work out what the purpose of selling them would be, unless there’s a large demographic in Thailand that is inexplicably bored with the natural fur colour of chicken and want something new and exciting.
Bubpha had pretty much made it round the whole market during the time I’d spent taking rainbow chick photos and when I found her again she was carrying food bags fully of rice, steak, crabs, spicy beef and salad, so clearly this market is an excuse for her to buy as much cheap food as possible. We headed back and I managed to eat about 20% of everything I just listed before feeling like I didn’t need to eat for the next few days (as if that will ever happen here), and even that felt impressive considering I saw a gecko the size of my face scuttle across the walls of Bubpha’s house that reduced my appetite somewhat.
I’m feeling pretty tired now and should get some sleep, especially since I have to be up for the horrendous time of 6.30 tomorrow, but since this is the second day in a row I’ve experienced gecko based horrors I’m wondering if trying to make my house wildlife-proof would be a better use of my time.
Except that would reduce my chances of getting a monkey as a room-mate, and after today that’s totally something I want.