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Published: October 24th 2008
A sugar-coated, milky-smooth voice, coming out of bright-red, lipstick-plastered lips of the bus' male steward, whispered delicately in Vibert's ear
. In a language he couldn't understand. At Midnight!
This was Vibert's dream. He shot upright from his recliner seat, his panicked eyes struggling to adjust in the harsh white glare of the bus' florescent lights. Shanna eyed him curiously. Over the public intercom flowed the sugar-coated, milky-smooth voice, coming out of bright-red, lipstick-plastered lips of the bus' male
steward. It was
midnight and, apparently, we were stopping for 'dinner'. "Rats", said Vibert (or something more Caribbean-ish). He had just fallen asleep. We had departed Krabi many, many ago before and he had found it difficult to fall asleep. 'Dinner' break took a better part of an hour and five hours later, we arrived at our stop.
The look on the face of the steward, who we had secretly tagged with the moniker "Lipstick"
, said: "Why Phetchaburi? Bangkok's only 2 1/2 hours away." The truth: we weren't quite ready for Bangkok's chaos and so we chose a smallish city just outside the madness to 'boot-camp' ourselves before our assault on Bangkok or Bangkok's assault on us. A very old, historic
city, Phetchaburi was surprisingly and refreshingly devoid of tourists and abundant in sites. Palaces, stupas, night markets, royal halls and 'Wats'. What? Wats. More on that later. (An aside: have you ever noticed that most tourists really dislike seeing other tourists while touring?)
Phetchaburi's crowning glory was Phra Nakhon Kriri Historical Park atop 92-meter high Phra Nakhon Khiri or Khao Wang (Palace Hill). As history tells, when King Mongkut, Rama IV saw the spectacular view, he immediately ordered that a palace be constructed; a task that was completed in 1860. The only way up was via a meandering pathway jealously guarded by legions of monkeys. They demand a ransom from all who dared to venture up the path. We promptly paid our dues by patronizing an old woman who sold corn and we were allowed free, unimpeded passage. The path upward, a decent huff-and-puff, was strewn with fragrant flowers and bushes. Atop the three peaks of the hill were iconic Thai structures. On the east peak was Wat Phra Khew (a temple of sorts). The grand chedi/stupa of Phra That Chom Phet (which contains relics of the Lord Buddha) occupies the middle peak. A chedi (as it is called
in Thailand) is one of the most sacred and iconic architectural structures found in all countries inhabited by Buddhists. Dominating the west peak was the residential Grand Palace. The Grand Palace is a myriad of temples and rooms which originally served the needs of royalty. It is now a delightful museum with a stunning display of the most precious royal artifacts and a few rooms preserved in its original state and with the original furnishings.
Afterwards, we turned our attention to exploring the city's streets and lanes, day markets and night marks, wats and what-nots. Two days well spent! Now certified fit and ready to take on Bangkok, we went to the local bus station and there we got some rather pleasing information. The attendant told us (as a 'by-the-way') that ... 😊
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