Not an organised trip for us today, oh no, we were off to Phimai but under our own steam – well the steam of the mighty Thai bus system. We had actually spent some of yesterday’s ‘lazy day’ quite productively by researching the journey we were going to take today. The theory all seemed easy enough, at least to the uninitiated anyhow but would our trip today all go to plan?
The journey actually started well enough as no sooner had we scrambled out of our tuk tuk at Khorat bus station than we were being shuffled along the lines of bus queues in order to get onto our bus and no sooner had we boarded and flashed our tickets than we were off! We were zipping along at an extraordinary 5 miles per hour! Now we continued along at this speed whilst we were in Khorat picking people up until it seemed that we had on the bus enough passengers to make the trip worthwhile, at that point the bus then speeded up to a more comfortable level. It then exceeded the kinds of speeds we deem ‘normal’ back in the UK and hit those heady heights that the rest of the coaches on Thailand’s road seem to travel at – i.e. terrifyingly fast!
At the supersonic-speeds we were now travelling at, it did not take too long for the bus to reach our destination and Phimai did not seem to be too big a place so it should be easy for us to get our bearings and locate all the places we wanted to try to see today. The bus dropped us off close to the wats and one of the city gates which had part of the wall that is still standing from the old city fortifications. We only had chance to grab a quick look at the first wat though before my wife needed the toilet badly, very badly indeed. So after we frantically located a bog (toilet) and she had relieved herself somewhat, she felt significantly settled enough that we could albeit somewhat nervously continue our explorations of Phimai.
So we had a look around the old red block gate and the ‘grassy mound’ walls either side of it, which were all that was left of the city’s outer walls. The wat we visited after the gate was okay but it was a ‘working wat’ so it was quite busy and they are not the most inviting place but it did have a quite strange looking funeral carriage inside all snakey and animally.
We then went across town to the historical park, which I suppose is another way of saying ‘temple’ but it still looked really cool on such a beautiful day. Phimai has been said by some – possibly those who try to drum up tourism for the town – as being the forerunner to Angkor Wat being a smaller scale version of it. However, a lot of Khymer temples have the same kind of look so I am not too sure how genuine a claim it is. It didn’t make any difference to us though as it was such a lovely day and the place itself is really interesting and historic in its own right and as there were so few people about, it felt like we almost had the entire place to ourselves. So the feel of the visit to the park just had a charm all of its own. Again many of the statues and the lintel work above the doors was just amazing, as good as any of the Khymer craftsmanship that we had seen in Cambodia.
Next we decided to go and have a look at the Phimai’s museum as this is supposed to house many of the artefacts found at the historical park and its surrounds. The museum was set in some very nice gardens with a big pond and was itself a very nice clean and new looking building.
Now although the historical park had a lot of intricate carving here at the museum they had definitely stored the best stuff. Okay, there were more of the decorative lintels but also pottery, jewellery and small statuettes and the craftsmanship of the items here was of an altogether different level. Everything made was of such a high standard that it was hard to credit that the craftsmen only used hand tools such was the detail and intracacy of the work, they must have had really good eyesight and both a steady hand and nerve. Some of the stone carvings on the lintel work actually looked like they were not actually attached to the lintel at all such was the skill of the workers involved. We had a good couple of hours round the place before we started off wandering back towards the bus stop.
We walked back through another colourful wat and saw what we thought was the city’s pillar, it did seem to be a bit small though, more of a pillarette! Closer to our bus stop though was a place that did make me smile, a Ladyboy Wedding Studio shop, I suppose everyone needs a bit of love and a special dress for their special day! Whilst waiting for our bus the local school kids were getting their buses home and we watched the kids just being kids whilst having an ice cream.
For our trip back we paid a bit more in order to have some air conditioning as it was such a hot day. Surprisingly though, the bus appeared to have no air conditioning – what a surprise there eh! – so we spent a lot of time panting and sweating our bits off. It took a while to get back but was not that bad a journey and after a tuk tuk ride from the bus station we were soon enough back at our hotel.
At night we ventured out in search of trying to get ourselves some ‘cheapy’ food at the night bazaar. This was a really cool place, if you get the chance to do it, do not hesitate, they sell everything edible and a lot that wasn’t and after a bit of a wander round to see how it all ‘worked’ we started grabbing ourselves some food. The first place even allowed us to have a sit down on their tiny little stools whilst we awaited the food being cooked. You can see the foods being cooked here and the smells mean that even when you are full, a couple of stalls later and you feel like you could eat even more food – like torture it is! We had ourselves some meats, omelette, cake and pineapple all on one plate (only joking) and it was all really tasty food. If we have any stomach problems tonight we will have no idea what caused it, we have eaten so many different things! Still, touch wood, we have only had the one problem all the time we have been away so we should be okay, shouldn’t we?