After the success we had the other day going to Phimai today we were going to attempt to get to another one of the ‘must visit’ places in the vicinity of Khorat. Although we did not really notice it at the beginning of the day but it was actually day 200 of our journey! We were simply too busy concentrating on going off out on yet another day trip of our own organising. The place we would be trying to get to was Phanom Rung and it seemed quite a tricky one to get to but after our recent success we found we had a new confidence in the might of the Thai bus transportation system, a confidence that was simply waiting to be shattered but hopefully not on today’s journey.
We had a bit of a bad start though as the tip off from our hotel about the bus time was completely wrong so when we arrived at Khorat bus station we were a bit disgruntled to find that we had to wait quite a while before our coach was actually due to set off. It was okay if a little hot in the bus station which seemed to be somewhat devoid of air conditioning. Once on board the bus though it was not too bad at all but we were mindful that when we reached our ‘stop’ we would just be dropped off at what sounded to be simply a crossroads on the main road and at that point we would then have to get someone to give us a lift or take us on a tour to complete our trip. Failing that, we may have to turn round and come back, which we decided was NOT an option.
Although, once again, it all sounds a bit haphazard when we got to the dropping off point our bus driver simply shouted over to a motorbike rider company that was hidden behind a tree! Once called, a woman then emerged from her hiding place and we haggled with her for a whole five minutes or so, until we simply caved in but by the end of it we did have ourselves a combo ticket that also included a visit to Prasat Muang Tam. It had been hard work though and we were wearied by the verbals from the lady by the time we had been introduced to our two motorbike riders and hitched ourselves up, one onto each of the two motorbikes they had, we had started to look forward to it all.
Once saddled up we flew off towards the hill (or extinct volcano) and once there we started to travel upwards. On the way up we saw that black clouds were starting to roll in which did not appear to be a good sign … lol. It waited until we were on the other side before the heavens opened and opened somewhat heavily. The raindrops were huge and my driver stopped and from under his seat he produced poncho number one. We then went on a little ways and the rain worsened still further so he then produced yet another poncho for me to wear and he put on the one which I had been wearing! Whilst all of this was going on Liz and her driver had disappeared. She had not vanished for long though as when we arrived at Prasat Muang Tam, there stood a soaking Liz and her equally soaking driver. Liz’s man had not stopped to don said ponchos, so consequently she looked like she had been for a bit of a swim down the river but by the time we had purchased our tickets and had a quick toilet break at the toilet by the park’s entrance, the clouds just vanished from the skies and it was all brilliant sunshine and blue sky, at least for the time being!
The place had a huge reservoir next to it and four ponds on the inside too and although the central prang, the main tower had been totally demolished the place was still something to see as everything else was in really good shape. Once again because it was a place that was a bit off the usual route, off the beaten track as it were, it was just about empty, so we could simply wander about undisturbed and just about left to our own devices. The smaller ponds on the inside had lily-pads and flowers on them and once again the lintel carvings were of the highest standard but I think I have been saying that a lot about the Khmer craftsmanship. It is good though believe me or rather don’t believe me and go and have a look for yourself.
Next it was back up the hill or extinct volcano or whatever it was to go for a bite to eat before entering Phanom Ruang itself. After we had been sustained by a bowl of yet more delicious noodles we entered the park. This one has been restored by the government somewhat and with it being at the top of the hill too you get treated to some really cool views both inside and out through the trees as well. It is a really delightful place and because it has been restored you get a real feel for what it would have looked like back in it’s heyday in all of it’s splendour.
Besides the odd place or two, the restoration work was undistinguishable from the original brick and carving work, it was that good. The weather had all come good too but, as ever, the photos do not really do the place justice. In the central tower there were bats nesting up high in the roof brickwork and whilst exiting the place I managed to take a bit of a stumble over some of the stonework and yet I do believe the incident was not bat-related. Well I must admit that it had been a really great day but after the temple tour it was once again time to go back to the bus stop via our mopedly method of transport.
On the way back to Khorat this was when the heavens once again right royally opened up in big style. It was such a bad rainstorm that you could not even see the outside from the bus windows, it was all just a rainy blur. Also once we got back to the bus station the tuk tuk we hired to get us back to the hotel almost sank it was just that bad! When it rains here it rains in biblical proportions!
At night though, when the weather had calmed down somewhat, we went out and about and even treat ourselves to a good meal at a restaurant just a short way from our digs. We even had ourselves some desert, something we do not normally tend to do. It was ‘just’ panecotta but it was absolutely delicious. All in all it was a good end to what had been a tiring day but tomorrow we would not be resting as we would be moving on once again. This time we were heading back towards the mighty Mekong to stay a night before we moved on to our next country – Laos