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Published: November 17th 2006
Wat Tham Seua Buddhas
These were at the very top point of the mountain
Today was possibly my favourite day in Thailand, thus far. It was a great day where we saw great sights and met great people, and got some great pictures! All this greatness occurred at the monestary of Wat Tham Seua (also known as Tiger Cave Temple).
We all slept in until 10am today, which is unusual for us. It WAS our latest night out in Thailand yesterday, but we never go out so that doesn't really mean much. After we finished sending e-mails last night we went to an Italian style place which had live music and tasty, tasty thin crust pizza. A bit above our normal price range, but it was worth it because we'd all been missing pizza and the live music was pretty good. The band did tons of classic rock covers, all with lyrics betraying a hint of Thai accent. The best part for me was how the 3 guys in the band were just LOVING every minute of their gig. Pure joy was shown on their faces. Plus, this one guy was totally multitasking. He was lead vocalist, did a few guitar solos, but also ran all the drum backups via some kind electronic device
The Three Mountaineers
We made it! The view was worth it
he had going (including occasional solo parts and crash cymbal accents!). As if that wasn't enough, he would disappear from the stage area every now and again and we'd see him clearing tables or giving people menus. The service there was great, actually, and we saw our waiter on the street again this morning. We had a little chat. Seriously, the Krabi people here are SO nice. I love this town.
Oh, by the way, I almost titled this entry "Derek has a new Thai girlfriend: 2." You know how Derek always gets laughed at when we're in Bangkok, for no apparent reason? Well, here he seems to be a babe magnet. I told you about the girls in the ice cream shop yesterday. Well, today the free sample girls in the supermarket were all over him, and one asked for his phone number! Since he didn't have one, she had to settle for an e-mail address, but was pretty disappointed because we're leaving for Ko Phi Phi tomorrow. Sooooo funny.
Anyhow, you're probably wondering about these monkeys I speak of. After a late start we got a taxi truck around noon to Wat Tham Seua. It was
These guys actually got the whole family together when I got my camera out, and posed for a family photo. Hopefully you can see them all well enough.
a bit more than we wanted to pay, but it was a pretty long ride so we relented. Turns out it was SO worth it! I can't even fully describe the place. It was a working monastery, so there were monks and nuns everywhere. However the place was really welcoming and well set up for visitors. They even had western style, public use toilets! (no toilet paper, though. See the end of this for more on toilets in Thailand). There were souvenir stands and places to buy food and cold drinks, and free drinking water was available everywhere. You don't EVER get free drinking water in Thailand. Not even at restaurants. Despite these tourist-oriented niceties, the area was not tacky at all (at least I didn't think so). We started our exploration with an arduous trek up "Buddha's Footsteps," which was a massively steep staircase containing 1237 stairs. Thailand is not a cool place, either, so the climb caused major sweating on more than one front. The first part of the walk was great because there were MONKEYS EVERYWHERE!!!! Old monkeys, young monkeys, tiny baby monkeys... oh it was just amazing. They were jumping and playing around right beside us.
Really great in real life, but hard to photograph the entire thing
Signs everywhere told us "Beware monkeys steal thing" or something like that, but we thought we'd be OK. However, on the way back down the stairs, a really big monkey jumped on my back and stole my water bottle out of my pouch and bared his teeth (he could have it!) while another tried to scratch me! Ahh! I ran away before contracting any monkey diseases (hopefully). But for the most part, the monkeys were awesome. We watched them playing for ages both on the way up and down.
After some monkey gazing we continued our ascent, and caught up with some girls about our age who I was pretty sure were Canadian, since they had North American accents and used meters to indicate measurement of things (no self respecting American would ever use meters). Turns out, one was from Victoria (Lambrick Park grad) and the other was from Campbell River! MORE Victorians! It's incredible. Small, small world. We talked with them between gasps for most of the journey up to the top. The view was amazing and gorgeous, which helped us to keep going. At the top we were rewarded by a GIANT golden buddha statue, a great
Some of the gorgeous scenary
THIS is the Thailand I have been longing to see
view, many smaller shrines, and a number of dead scarab beetle-like things which I enjoyed examining. They even had a water purifier up there so that we could refill our now empty water bottles. This luxury is totally unheard of in Thailand, and I was incredibly impressed that the monks would provide it at all, let alone at the top of a mountain. We stayed at the top for a fair while, and during that time we met a girl, Chelsea, who was incredibly pleased to meet other Canadians (for some reason she hasn't met any yet. Where's she been?) but even more impressed to find out we were from Vancouver Island because she was from Nanaimo! By this point I was blown away by the occurances. We really hardly talk to any travellers, and Vancouver Island is not a big place. We must be drawn to our own kind or something. Anyways, Chelsea is an international student here (I wasn't clear on what kind of student). She seemed to be on some kind of rotary exchange. She and a ladyboy friend of hers were really helpful in teaching us how to say some commonly used Thai phrases like "hello"
The dangerous descent
Be sure to hold the handrail, boys!
and "thank you" and stuff. I think she was pretty happy to finally get to be the teacher of Thai culture instead of the student for once. She's only been in Thailand for 3 months, but her vocabulary of Thai words was pretty darn impressive. Maybe she'd studied a bit before she came. I gave her my business card so I might hear from her again.
By this point, we were pretty happy. Monkeys, VIslanders, incredible views and shrines... the day was good. But it would get better! The long descent was a bit hard on me, causing my legs to quiver uncontrollably. I don't know why, but recently that happens with I go down huge sets of stairs. It happened at Blue Mountain, too. I guess I need to work out on a StairMaster more! Oh well, it was more funny than anything. I didn't even feel tired. Maybe the monkeys recognized me as the weak one and that's why they stole my water bottle.
After some rest and refueling, we headed of on another path. This was was considerably flatter, and led us past some seclusion cells which the monks had built in the limestone cliffs
The shrine in the forest
We lit incense here. It was a beautiful spot. I wish I'd photographed the skeleton, too, but there was always a monk in the vicinity (you can't photgraph monks)
at the edge of the rainforest. The area was so lush and peaceful, with amazing jungle sounds all around. The lovely greens were offset by bright orange robes drying just outside of the cells and caves. After a short time we came up on a large buddha shrine, with all kinds of other items in a ledge against the cliff behind it. The items included reading material, toilettries, clocks... I think they might have been for the monks in seclusion, but I really have no idea. They could have just been offerings. Not sure. We were so taken by the place that we made donations and lit some incense in front of the shrine. The best part, for me, was a human cadaver skeleton which was assembled in a glass case. Behind the skeleton was a really beautiful writeup, in English, which spoke of how we should not be offended or repulsed by the skeleton, because it was used as an aid to medical students and it was there to remind of us of the fragility of the human body. It went on to say that beauty was only skin deep, and that the body was simply made up of
A quick caving excursion
You had to work to get to some of the cave shrines. Here Derek squeezes through one of the wholes. The limestone formations inside looked incredible.
skin, flesh, blood, and bones, much like the 4 elements of the earth. It said that when we see butchered animals we simply think of food, and the human body is just a reflection of that food in a different form. It also said somethings about how the body is only one part of our being, while our spirit and "light of god" (or something like that) live on forever after our body is gone. It was a pretty good essay. Mark took a picture--I hope it's readable.
From there, the path continued through more incredible rainforest, past more cells, and to a number of really interesting limestone caves, some of which had smaller shrines inside. After a while, we picked up two dog "guides" who led us on our journey through the woods. It was really cool. The lead dog even took us down side paths to all the caves off the main way. But he disappeared just as we reached the end of the trail.
Although we wanted to return to the top of the mountain to watch the sunset and see the big Buddha lit in the dark, we all knew that none of us
Our Thai Guide
The helpful doggie guide who led us on a tour of the caves
had the strength to make it up that mountain again, so we shared a taxi truck with a big load of cups, coconuts, and pop back into Krabi town, where I immediately went to this internet cafe to get my memories of our amazing day down. I've already used up my hour of internet time but I just HAVE to post some pictures. I hope they do the beauty of the place justice.
Tomorrow we say good bye to our incredibly cheap lodgings and go to the very expensive island of Ko Phi Phi. We'll either be paying an arm and a leg, or staying in squalor, or both. I'll let you know!
Oh, and Gary (a scout leader I know) was kind enough to forward me the following story on toilets in Thailand. Let me say I agree WHOLEHEARTEDLY with the findings, and would even be tempted to suggest that that number of unsuitable facilities is higher than 70%. Glad to see that someone else shares my feelings!
Health BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) - Seventy per cent of toilets in Thailand's gas stations, transportation hubs and other public places do not meet World Health Organization standards for
The old and the new
It looks like they're building a new, grand temple, but the old one on the right seemed pretty nice to us. No entrails inside, as promised by our guidebook, which was kind of disappointing.
cleanliness, health officials said Thursday. But a campaign to provide the public with cleaner facilities appears to be working, Health Minister Mongkol Na Songkhla said at the opening ceremony of the 2006 World Toilet Expo and Forum in Bangkok. Authorities launched a clean-up campaign after randomly checking 6,149 public toilets across 12 of Thailand's 76 provinces in March and finding that 90 per cent did not pass the standards for cleanliness, he said. Inspectors found bathrooms lacking toilet paper or a bidet-like spray hose, as is common in Thailand as an alternative to paper. Facilities often lacked soap for cleaning hands and had cracked toilet covers. A second round of inspections in November found that the percentage of dirty toilets had dropped to 70 per cent, and authorities are hoping to cut the number to 60 per cent in 2007, Mongkol said. Inspections also found the majority of restrooms weren't accessible to handicapped people, and didn't pass safety standards that require separate male and female bathrooms, he said. Efforts will focus on cleaning up washrooms at the country's Buddhist temples, he said, noting that 99 per cent of the country's toilets in private households did meet international standards. Bangkok's new international airport, Suvarnabhumi, which opened in September, has come under criticism for several reasons, including its bathroom facilities. The airport initially built 100 toilets for its more than 100,000 daily passengers, sparking long lines and complaints about dirty facilities. Authorities have said they will triple the number of toilets to 300.
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