Published: March 27th 2009May 30th 2007
On Wednesday, May 30, 2007, we hired the guest home driver and van, and right after breakfast left Bangkok headed north towards Ayuthaya and then east to Khao Yai National Park and the Khorat Plateau. We took the superhighway which provided a fast exit from the city. Our first stop was the king's summer palace at Bang Pa-In, about an hour north of Bangkok. The royal family has many palaces scattered around the country. This was one of the older ones, dating from 1850 - 1900, that the king could ride the royal barge up the Chao Praya River to get away from it all. Again, the kids had to don long sleeve shirts and pants to display appropriate decorum. In my view the highlight of this stop was the ornated Phra Thinang Aisawan Thipha-at pavilion in the middle of a lake. This pavilion was copied for the Thai pavilion for the 1964 New York World's Fair.
We then proceeded another hour north to the ancient Thai capital of Ayuthaya, founded in 1350 and destroyed by an invading Burmese army in 1767. The history of Thailand is one of warfare with their neighbors and the enslavement of their populations. Hence,
most Thai are ethnically mixed. After this sacking the capital was moved to Bangkok. We walked around and climbed the ruins of the many temples and palaces, but I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
From Ayuthaya we drove to Khao Yai (Big Mountain) National Park, created in 1962. When I lived in Khorat from 1959 to 1964, we would take vacations on this mountain to get relief from the heat of the Khorat Plateau. Temperatures were at least 15 degrees cooler there. We also enjoyed swimming in the pools below the waterfalls, and horse back riding. Today, there are a number of resorts at the park. We arrived at the Greenery Resort in late afternoon and enjoyed a refreshing swim in the hotel pool. We had supper on the veranda overlooking the pool and surrounding forests; listening for the howls of gibbons and other wildlife.
The next morning, Thursday, May 31st, we drove into the park to one of my favorite waterfalls where you could swim under the falls. When I saw "The Beach" I recognized the falls in the film as the one I used to swim in at Khao Yai. I recognize that most
of the movie was filmed in southern Thailand, but not exclusively so. We didn't have time to swim this day, so after a brief stop for pictures, we left the park for the two hour drive to the Khmer ruins at Prasat Hin Khao Phanom Rung, located southeast of Khorat.
We arrived at Prasat Hin Khao Phanom Rung about 1 PM and spent several hours exploring the main sanctuary, ornamental ponds, the Naga staricase, and the processional way. Growing up in the area, I had been to the Khmer ruin of Angkor Wat (on a trip from Vietnam back to Thailand in 1957), to Prasat Khao Phra Wihan (which we had to slash through the jungle to reach on the border of Cambodia), and Prasat Hin Phimai (which was easily accessible just north of Khorat), but had never been to Phanom Rung, because there were no roads to the area at the time. So rather than visiting ruins I had seen before, we decided to visit these. The ruins are located on an ancient volcanic outcrop, several hundred feet in elevation about the surrounding plains. We were not disappointed. There were many Thai school kids there who wanted pictures
taken with us. Again, I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
We left about 3 PM for the three hour drive to Lopburi. We didn't have time to stop in Khorat to see where I lived as a child. I had previously Google Mapped Khorat to see if I could find my homes, but it looked like they had been demolished and replaced by larger buildings. So I don't think I missed anything by not going there. We arrived in Lopburi in time for dinner and some sightseeing, again of Khmer style temples. What is different here is that the whole town is overrun with monkeys. The kids enjoyed this, but considered most of the monkeys to be gross and rude. Our main reason for driving to Lopburi was to catch the overnight express train to Chaing Mai, which we did at 8:30 PM. Growing up in Thailand, taking a train was the bes tfrom of transportation, as roads were not paved and ful of potholes. I fondly remembered the kaoput (fried rice) they served on the train, and wanted to repaet that experience. We had heard from my sister and others that taking the first class sleeper
was quite comfortable (air conditioned and wide bunks), but they failed to describe the toilets at the ends of the sleeping cars. I you don't mind wading in urine, then you wouldn't mind taking the train. Unfortunately, we had already paid for tickets from Chiang Mai to Bangkok; otherwise I would have flown back. The other thing about trains in Thailand is that they rock violently back and forth. Needless to say, we didn't get much sleep that night. However, the fried rice was as good as I rmembered. We arrived in Chaing Mai the next morining at 9:30...which brings us to the next blog.
There are more photos below