Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Bye, bye Thailand

Wednesday 12th January 2011

MP3 track of the day: Hysteria - Muse

Weather: blue skies, fluffy white clouds and not to hot ... perfect weather

I had so much to complete today that, not only was I up and out of my guesthouse by 8:30am, but I also wrote a list … number one, 'Wat Rong Koom'.

'Wat Rong Koom', or in other words 'the white temple', was a Thai Buddhist temple located thirteen kilometers out of Chang-Rai. Both my guidebook, and Matt and Rachael, had made a special mention not to miss this temple and so I went down to the bus station to find some transport. Platform two was where the ticket salesman told me to go and, once I had arrived at said platform, my bus was waiting for me. Moving closer the external paint work had mostly scratched away from the rusting metal shell of the bus. Climbing on-board I looked at my surroundings to find that the engine was laid out on the floor front of me (covered by a foam shell with a sheet on top) and that the metal frame of the seats were all rusted with the foam from the seat cushions making a bid for freedom. All-in-all the bus had character and it reminded me of the buses in Fiji; I sat down, ate my breakfast, and awaited for the off … which commenced at 8:45am.

This bus seemed to be a 'family affair' with the dad driving the bus, the mum collecting fares and their young toddler-boy playing with his ball and pillow on the seat behind dad (well I suppose it means that they don't have to pay for a child minder). As the temple was only thirteen kilometers out of town it didn't take me long to arrive at my destination; once off the bus I walked in the direction of this tall white building. It only took five minutes to get to the front of 'the white temple' and, I have to say, that I wasn't quite expecting what I found. It seems the temple has a connection with death as skulls where present on the traffic cones outside the temple and there was a pool of model-skeleton hands trying to break out of the ground. This temple was certainly cool and so I went forward to take a closer look.

Having moved to the edge of 'the pool of skeleton arms' I could see that some hands where holding skulls and there seemed to be two guardians, at the entrance to the temple, keeping the skeletons at bay. Whoever the designer was, he had seen one to many horror films. I moved past the two guardians and across a white bridge, taking photos along the way, until I reached the temple itself. Once I had taken my shoes off I went inside; there was a huge Buddha directly in front of me however, as I turned around to head out of the doorway, I looked at the artwork and noticed that there where small images hidden within the main piece. I managed to find an image of Batman, Spider-man and a few space rockets but I'm sure that there where others if I had looked harder … how odd I thought.

Once out of the temple I put my shoes back on and followed the arrows directing me off the temple. As I walked I took numerous photos as, with the blue sky as a background, the temple looked magnificent. I visited the rest of the attractions within the area which consisted of a golden building and a shop … neither of which where a patch on 'the white temple'. As I investigated the area further I found a free-entry art gallery which I had a look around. The art work in there was some of the best I had seen in any country I had visited so far and consisted off the usual, but brilliant, Buddhist art followed by a mix of Buddhist art and problems facing the world today (for example global warming) which was interesting. Towards the end of the gallery there was a small exhibit on drawings of women that, once down at the bottom of the piece, transformed into places within the United Kingdom … very good. Finally I made it into the art exhibition shop where I had already decided to purchase a few postcards of the artwork present here … that was until I saw a small A5 photo-book of the temple, and art gallery, and so I purchased that instead.

I had arrived at 9am and I was leaving at 10am; as I was walking away from the complex I was very glad that I had arrived early as thousands … yes thousands … of Chinese 'battle bus' tourists had just descended on the place (four double-decker coaches!). I walked back to the main road and caught a bus back to the city; all-in-all my trip had cost me ninety baht (twenty baht, each-way, for transport and fifty baht for the photo-book) which was well worth it.

I got back to my guesthouse at 11am and proceeded onto item two on my list, book ticket to Laos. I went up to the shop counter and booked my boat to Laos for tomorrow. 1,400 (£28) baht later it was all booked and so I moved onto item three, re-pack my bag. As you know I always go through the entire contents of my bag to make sure that nothing 'alien' had been placed in my bag before I go through a countries border security. This took quite a while and once completed I headed for lunch before coming back for a shower; I then headed downstairs to use the internet.

I was overjoyed to find a 'SpicyLao' within Louang Phabang and, considering what a good time I had at 'Spicythai' in Chang-Mai, I booked myself in for three nights. I uploaded my photos from 'the white temple' and did other bits and bobs (which included checking the UK / Laos exchange rate. £1 = 12,483 kip … blimey!) on the internet before tea. After tea I headed to a 'seven-eleven' to get quite a few snacks for the two day trip a head of me. As my trip was starting at 7am tomorrow I headed to my dorm early, watched part of a film before getting an early night.

So my time in Thailand ends today. This is the third, out of six, South East Asian countries I shall be visiting and so far it's the one I've liked the most. Even though Thailand is poorer than the other two countries I've visited (Singapore and Malaysia) the people seem a lot nicer and the infrastructure is a lot better than in Malaysia. The road system here seems to work and unlike the other two there seems to be a real effort in making things pretty with art, statues and other bits and bobs lining the streets. It's nice to be able to walk on pavements and accommodation here has been good. However, It still isn't a patch on Japan, Canada or New Zealand and I still wonder, bar how cheap everything is, why so many people come here for their holidays. Speaking of how 'cheap' things are my wallet wouldn't agree with the 'cheap' statement I made above as my daily average was over £20.00! (more than Malaysia ... and my budget was ten!). However I have done quite a few activities (elephant trekking, Boat trip to 'The Beach', Bridge over the river Kwai and the cooking course … plus I have been traveling within 'peak season') so I could have done things cheaper if I had tried. On the plus side I haven't been locked up in a lady boys wardrobe or got married to a Thai bride (I don't find Thai women that attractive … not like the Japanese girls!) … every cloud and all that. Finally I don't think that I will be coming back to Thailand anytime soon as other parts of the world do things much better.

So before I sign off from Thailand just a quick reminder than I leave for Laos early tomorrow and it's a two day, one night, trip to Louang Pheblang meaning that I doubt I shall be blogging tomorrow (and depending on what time I get in on Friday I might not be blogging that day either). I hope to see you lot on Saturday … until then have fun!

Toodle Pip!

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