Photography Travels

Buddha, Buddha, Buddha, Buddha, Rockin’ Everywhere – Thailand Part 8

Another very full day.

After sleeping off the night before and waking up around 2, Christine and I headed out yesterday and got a boat tour through the Ayutthaya river. The boat ride was excellent. It was a lot of fun to ride past people swimming in the river and have them turn to wave at us. The boat made three stops, the first of which was a Buddhist temple that houses one of Thailand’s largest Buddha statues. The thing was massive! There were also monks leading holy blessings. A man was walking around with a microphone and stopping to let people shout in it. The whole experience felt somewhat bizarrely like a Buddhist version of an evangelist Church, surreal. But at least the statue was pretty cool.

I’m not quite sure what the second stop was. Some monks were wandering all around, and there were some interesting buildings and statues, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t go to the spots I was supposed to. When I got back to the boat, our whole tour group was there except for Christine. I went back to look for her but had no luck. Since I had no other way to find her, I had no other choice but to call her on my iPhone, which I had not purchased an international calling plan for. So, I’m fairly certain the call cost somewhere around $6 for 2 minutes. Awesome. After that, I somehow pocket-dialed my friend Jenn in California at 4:30 AM in her time zone. Which she was thrilled about and cost me another $6 at least. Doubly awesome!

From there, we went to our third stop, which seemed to be the ruins of a Buddhist temple. Unfortunately, since everything was in Thai and no one in our group spoke any English, I had no idea what I was looking at. However, I feel like I’ve seen photos of this place before, so maybe once the pictures are online, someone will be able to identify it.

After that, we caught the bus to Nakhon Sawan, where Christine has an apartment. We dropped off our stuff, grabbed her motorbike, and then met up with two friends of hers for dinner, drinks, and karaoke. We wound up staying out until 3:30 AM and had a pretty good time with laughs all around. Today is my last full day here, as tomorrow I have to take a bus back to Bangkok and then a flight to Tokyo at 4 PM. While I’m really excited for Tokyo, and I’ll be glad to get out of the sweltering heat, I’m definitely going to miss this place and Christine.

In a few moments, we’re going to head out for the day. Christine wants to show me some of her favorite places around town and attempt to teach me to drive the motorbike. Assuming I don’t kill us both, I’m hoping to make it an early night, so I can be rested up to travel tomorrow. We’ll see if I succeed.


General Photography Travels

Elephants, Dragons, and Bats (oh my!) – Thailand Part 5

What a day.

This morning, we woke up and had breakfast on the river before catching a ride to the elephant ranch. We sat in the back of a truck for the half-hour ride through the countryside. The weather was beautiful, and it was really nice to have the wind in our faces and enjoy the ride. When we got to the ranch, we bought a bag of bananas, were helped onto an elephant, and rode through the hills. The wrangler handed Christine an absurdly pink umbrella to block out the sun as we rode. He lead us down a path to the river where we dismounted, and Christine begrudgingly returned the umbrella. We each got another elephant to ride in the river. The wrangler provided us with some dish soap and a scrub brush to bathe the elephants. They are such amazing creatures. I sat around the back of an elephant’s neck as it pushed its ears back against its body to hold onto my legs as it dunked itself sideways underwater. An incredible life-affirming experience that exemplifies the intelligence of the animal on almost an emotional level.

That whole adventure cost around $25, which was money well spent. From there, we headed back to the hostel, showered, and rested up. While relaxing, we just happened to catch a glimpse of a giant monitor lizard swimming through the river right in front of our place. As I write this, Christine will not stop going on about it and demanded I fit into this entry. To be fair, it was pretty cool (Editor’s Note: that monitor lizard – aka dragon – is the embodiment of awesome!) (Writer’s Note: Christine is never going to be asked to edit my entries again.)

After that, we rented a motorbike and took off on the open road, eventually finding our way to the “Death Railway” and “The Bridge over the River Kwai.” I bought a much-needed pair of sunglasses, and we proceeded to get lost until we found a passage over the river we could take on the bike (the “bridge over the River Kwai” is train or foot only, no vehicles allowed.)

We spent some time getting lost, asking directions, and having a good laugh before we stumbled onto a bridge and eventually made our way to the Khao Pun Caves and the Buddhist temple built in and around them. It was quite possibly the most peaceful experience I’ve had here, which is saying a lot. The caverns went deep underground, and we stumbled onto a massive amount of bats lurking up above us and proceeded very carefully as not to disturb them. Despite our efforts, one or two still took flight here and there, giving us a mild spook.

The place was filled with an astonishing amount of Buddha statues stashed throughout the caverns, and many of the passages got absurdly tight and short, causing my lanky self to have to duck often. We were both very thankful for not being much larger in size. It reminded me of the scenes from “In Bruges” where Colin Farrell’s character is heckling the fat American family, telling them they won’t be able to climb to the top of the bell-tower. Fortunately, we’re not that large.

The caverns were beautiful beyond what I can describe, and it was nice to find some naturally cool air here (it has been in the 90’s this week). As we were leaving, a monk set himself up in front of a massive Buddha statue and started to pray. It was an extremely moving thing for me to witness, but I made a conscious effort not to disturb him. After that, we biked back into town for some dinner at the “Tofu Bar Vegetarian Food” restaurant, which thankfully had free WiFi for customers. We watched the sun go down over a few beers, listened to some John Lennon, and caught up on the news. I’ve enjoyed being detached from just about everything aside from Twitter, but it’s good to know what’s going on as well.

Tomorrow we’re heading out to Ayutthaya, Thailand’s old capital, and Nakhon Sawan, a small city where Christine is teaching. As much as I’ve enjoyed the tourist stuff, I’m excited at the possibility of getting into a less touristy area and seeing things a bit more like a local.

As for tonight, back to the bar, we found last night to share a pint with a couple of Belgian girls while listening to our new Thai friend Juan (definitely spelled wrong) play music.

Until tomorrow friends, cheers!