…A Day Of Stone Temples.
So, my stay at the zero-star hotel in Phi Mai came to an end before 8am. I was up early and wandering around the town before 7am, watching the day start up for the local residents, as they did things that are probably best not photographed. I wish I’d had the camera though when I found a little old lady sitting in the road on a tiny plastic stool, a good two meters from the kerb. She seemed oblivious to the fact people were driving round her. She was probably reserving a parking space for someone, and has done the same thing for the past fifty years.
I didn’t have the patience to wait for the hotel restaurant to open at the appointed hour of 7:30, so I wandered in shortly after 7, and was warmly welcomed with a freshly cooked full breakfast. So, the restaurant was better than the hotel.
All of which put me on the road well before 8, and after close to 200kms, I was somewhere south of Buriram, at Phanom Rung or full name, Prasat Hin Phanom Rung (Phanom Rung Stone Castle). This is the place that most travel websites will tell you is hard to find. It isn’t. There are signs everywhere. Even the tour buses manage to find it. Arrghh. Well, only one or two.
To quote Wikipedia, Prasat Hin Phanom Rung “is a Khmer temple complex set on the rim of an extinct volcano at 402 metres (1,319 ft) elevation, in Buriram Province in the Isan region of Thailand. It was built of sandstone and laterite in the 10th to 13th centuries. It was a Hindu shrine dedicated to Shiva, and symbolises Mount Kailash, his heavenly dwelling.”
It’s an interesting place. Well, a thousand year old stone temple would be. It involved climbing up and down lots of narrow and steep stone steps, but it was worth it. I’d planned at least half a day, but frankly, an hour or so is enough…
I should say that driving in this part of Thailand is very easy. The roads are good, and there’s minimal traffic. Which meant I was at the next stone temple in ten minutes. Prasat Muang Tam, I thought, was nicer than it’s more famous cousin on the volcano. It’s on flat land, easy to walk around, and somehow looks more attractive due to the surrounding moats. But it’s smaller, and thirty minutes is probably enough…
So that meant it was time to drive sixty or so kilometers north to find Buriram town, to do what, I wasn’t sure.
Along the way I saw a sign to “Ancient Village.” I figured I’d go see. Ha! Like so many times I’ve tried following signs, there’s only ever one, and they never tell you how far. Five kilometers, or fifty? No one knows. So I never found the place, and in the process of looking, I thoroughly confused Ms. Chuckles. She had a veritable orgy of making U-turns if possible, all of which I ignored. That resulted in thirty minutes of narrow gravel roads through all kinds of farm lands, seeing things that I suspect most Buriramsians (I made that up) wouldn’t even know existed.
And, as if by magic, a four lane road appeared, along with a KFC sign which I followed, and found myself in the Buriram United soccer stadium complex. This was a good thing, for two reasons. The race circuit is in the same complex, so now I know where I need to be the next few days; and there’s a whole complex of restaurants, and I was starving. This gave me time to regroup, to decide not to head to the hotel, but rather to a place just down the road called the Khao Kradong Forest Park.
A bit disappointing was my main conclusion. I think you’re supposed to walk around the place, which would take several hours. This would include walking up a few hundred steps to reach the giant Buddha statue on the top of the hill. Luckily there’s a road that winds its way around the whole complex. If you walked you’d get to see all the eco-stuff along the way, reading the ever-helpful signs that say things like “Grass” and “Earth.” Now you can see why I was not too excited.
At one point there’s a “rope bridge” which is actually a very sturdy steel structure with steel cables. Okay, that’s re-assuring, especially for those of us who don’t much like heights. The bridge leads over the crater of another extinct volcano, but frankly you need a good imagination to realize this…
So, I drove around, took photos, especially of the large Buddha – which I have to say – is impressive, and left.
All that remained was a short drive to the Lemon Resort. Now, this place is nice. Small chalets built around an artificial lake. New. Clean. Friendly. “Like.”
And so for the next few days I’ll be out at the circuit. Looking forward to that.