Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lightening the load -> freedom turns out my bag was much too heavy, it didn't allow me the mobility I desire. So, I sent home about ten lbs. of stuff and feel a lightness that people only sing about in songs. Have you noticed how many song lyrics are written on this subject? I fully understand them now! There's a freedom that goes along with simplicity.

I have to say, traveling to Asia is the best decision I've ever made for myself (maybe right up there with finishing my undergrad degree). Being here I feel like a child again, in that everything I see is novel and fascinating. While riding the local bus yesterday from Konchanaburi to Lopburi, I was completely entertained with watching people, the countryside of sprawling green pastures, sugar cane and banana fields, ancient ruins, small hut villages and colorful markets. I didn't even listen to my ipod for a six hour journey.

Let me recount my travels so far.... I stayed in Bangkok for two nights, visited a few temples and rode the Chao Phraya Express (river shuttle) to see Wat Pho where there are more than 1,000 Buddha images and the massive Reclining Buddha resides. This Buddha is most grand in person, pictures could never do it justice. Plated with gold and mother of pearl, it's mass fills the entire room. On my final night in Bangkok I hailed a tuk-tuk to see the famous backpackers enclave, Khao San Road. This place is a whirlwind of the senses and that scene from The Beach (where Leonardo goes to Khao San) is very similar to what I saw and experienced. The most interesting part about this visit was the royal funeral, which was broadcasted on all Thai televisions. Every person in the city sported black clothing, in mourning the princess' death. I tried to see inside the Grand Palace, but the gates were locked for the funeral procession. That evening numerous city blocks were closed off from traffic, where tens of thousands came to pay their respects. On the city streets large screen TVs projected traditional Thai dancing and even puppetry. Like I said, fascinating.

From Bangkok I went to Ayutthaya which is a short hour and a half train ride. This town is referred to as the sacred city because it's scattered with remnants of an ancient kingdom dating back to 1350. I rented a bicycle to maneuver through the modern city built up around the crumbling ruins. Many are very much intact, with the exception of most of the Buddha statues which were decapitated by invaders for use in antique trading.

Having seen enough of Ayutthaya and wanting to get out into nature, I decided to venture onto Kanchanaburi. I heard from several other travelers that this was a place not to be missed. After four sweaty hours on a non air-con bus, arrived at my destination and landed my bag in the Sugar Cane Guesthouse on the river Kwai. Ended up spending four nights split between a bungalow room and a room perched on a floating bamboo raft, absolutely serene. While in this town I visited a tiger temple, the famous Death Railway Bridge, took a full day cooking course with a trip to the market and a hike up a seven tiered waterfall called Erawan Falls.

After all of that action, I jumped on a bus heading through Suphanburi and up to Lopburi. I have to be really careful when I ask for directions because many of the names of cities sound the same, especially when vocalized with a Thai accent! Once our bus arrived at the Lopburi bus station I found a mototaxi driver to take me to the Asia Lopburi Hotel where I'm currently staying. I'm right in the center of old town and within walking distance of all the ancient temples. The town is crawling with hundreds of Macaque monkeys, swinging from telephone polls and scaling building walls.

Tomorrow I will head north to Sukhothai another ancient city on the way to Chaing Mai and Pai. So much to look forward to! Below I've posted some pictures highlighting what I've seen and experienced so far.
Bus ride with the locals.
Neighborhood shrine. These are all over Thailand. This one was especially decked out.
Reclining Buddah in Wat Pho.
Buddha head remnants in Ayutthya.
Ruin I found while bicycling in Ayutthaya. It wasn't actually hard to find, the city is covered with them:)This is me feeding my new (captive) elephant friend bananas for 20 baht. I actually felt bad for him because one of his legs were chained to the ground and he kept tugging on the chain with his trunk. Kinda sad really.Visit to the Tiger Temple. I got the chance to pet multiple full grown and baby tigers. Kanchanaburi morning market. This was the aesthetically pleasing portion, further inside Thai people were selling eel, pig heads and butchered rabbits. This is suprising to me, considering the Buddhist religion is against harm or death to any living being. Noi's cooking course. I prepared five traditional Thai dishes. They turned out yummy! We had a feast at the end!Sunset over River Kwai.

Erawan Falls.
Frisky monkeys in Lopburi, they're everywhere! These girls from Eastern Thailand were extremely curious about me and awed by the fact that I'm traveling alone. They were determined to get my picture- all giggles and very sweet. I'm the exotic one?! :)