So, them Thailand day trips. On the Saturday Gemma and I daytripped to Lopburi, a town two hours away by minibus. Lopburi is famous for its monkey temple and sunflower fields, that was all I knew in advance.
|Here's a sneak peak...|
After an enjoyable ride in the empty tuk-tuk, after a few minutes, we saw a ruined temple from afar and it looked very impressive and exciting.
We got off the vehicle and walked past this sign.
And suddenly there were monkeys everywhere. On the street, hanging from the cables and wires and lamp posts, wandering amongst the motorbikes parked in front of the shops. The shops had cuddly toy crocodiles at their entrances which I originally thought were just cute souvenirs, but then the shop keepers started waving the crocodiles on sticks at the monkeys who scarpered.
|The first monkey pic I took in awe... Not at all ready for more|
|Note the tightroper|
|The local xeom-drivers|
This was all super cool but a bit nerve-racking – in any info I had ever heard or read about rabies in Asia, monkey bites were ALWAYS mentioned...
“Keep an eye out for monkeys hanging from trees and wires and sitting on roofs and ledges, and be aware that they have some unpleasant bad habits including defecating on unsuspecting pedestrians from their overhead perches, jumping on people to snatch food and stealing bags that they suspect may contain something edible,” says Wikitravel.
So, enter the temple.
Wat Phra Sri Ratana Mah Tat, the 12th century ruins of a Khmer temple. According to quite a few sources the monkey population is becoming a problem in Lopburi and they have been planning (or already doing it?) to transport some of the monkeys somewhere else. But, on the other hand, apparently they have an annual monkey festival where the monkeys feast on an insane buffet, 'to thank the monkeys for their contribution to the prosperity of the town', so, well, I guess there's two sides to the story. Certainly Lopburi would have no tourists whatsoever if the monkeys had not decided to conquer the temple. It's not the most beautiful of towns.
Anyhoos, the experience. Definitely by far the Most Exotic Experience I've had so far. We were trying to think how an equivalent place in Europe would survive with all them European health and safety regulations. Well, it wouldn't.
For the first time here, I was also definitely out of my comfort zone, in fear of them bites. Even though it's probably unlikely the monkeys, or well, crab-eating macaques to be precise, did really have rabies, even a slight contact with their teeth would have made me paranoid . And I preferred to spend the rest of my time in Bangkok away from Bangkokkian hospitals. There were a few official looking men in safari-coloured clothing wandering about with sticks, but I doubted they'd be carrying anti-rabies injections in their pockets...
You could buy monkey food (“food”, I guess corn is monkey-friendly but the green little pots that looked like the same sugary jelly muck that the kids at my school get sometimes as their after class-sweets, is probably not classified as the most nutritious monkey food), though controversialness here too, since according to web sites I am looking at now, monkeys are to be fed only “at 10am and 4pm” at designated “monkey-feeding areas”. Haha, never trust what you read online when it comes to this area of the world.
|Getting the daily vitamin dose|
I feel like I'm severely disappointing ye fans as well as myself, who I'd like to think is an interesting, adventurous person who would not squeam away from giving a small cute animal a piece of food... but, alas, I did. But, both Gemma and I still got a monkey contact-experience – Gemma was taking a pic of a monkey on a wall when it jumped on her, and another one decided to jump on my arm and not leave without my water bottle...
|Mummy and baby <3|
You could also go inside the temple itself – smelt dodgy but was a nice safe haven from the monkeys. Felt like we were in a wrong-way-round zoo, peering at monkeys running about outside behind the bars.
A super interesting experience on the whole, but I must say I was very relieved to leave Monkey Territory...
|but not before a monkey pose|
Next stop: Sunflower fields. We had made new friends at the Monkey Temple, two American girls teaching in Bangkok. Gemma and I had just been bluntly refused by the monkey stick man when we asked if he could take a photo us, when M & C strolled in, M cheerfully offering to do it instead (the result being the above photo). Friendship started there. I love random travel friends.
|It says Lopburi|
So the, four of us returned by Oversized Tuk-Tuk to the bus station to get a bus (a proper-sized one) to the sunflower fields.
|This time the Oversized Tuk-tuk was more crowded|
Waited for the bus to leave for about half an hour, and shortly after we did leave, it suddenly stopped at the side of the road and the driver got out and, in the middle of the road, came to our open window to tell us the last bus back was at four – this meant we'd only have twenty minutes at the fields. Oh, that's fine, thank you Mr Friendly Driver, we'll stay on anyways.
|Mr Friendly Driver on the Search for the Sunflowers|
It was not sunflower season. We passed many fields on our way, but fields of dead sunflowers. The driver was on the look-out for live ones, and started gesturing to us that there may not be any. (The scenery was super interesting and surreal though, even "mountainous" at some parts (ok, vaguely hilly may be the better way of saying it), so even just the bus ride was a fantastic experience!)
But, finally we reached a field with a big plastic sunflower in front of it and, well, there were LIVE sunflowers there. “Twenty minute,” the driver reminded us as we jumped out of the bus and rushed towards the fields.
|They were filming something there too|
A very enjoyable twenty minutes taking jumping pictures and eating (free!) sunflower seeds, and precisely at four o'clock we were on the opposite side of the big dusty highway waiting for that Last Bus. We were pretty much in the middle of nowhere.
We saw a bus heading towards us and happily waved it down. As it was slowing down we realised it was a different driver and there were some army dudes in it so we figured it wasn't us and waved it pass.
Though actually it was apparently our's. The Last Bus to Lopburi.
Ok, what to do. No idea where we were except that it was about an hour from Lopburi, which is about two hours from Bangkok. Hmm!
I love hanging out with 'travellers'. None of us freaked out, none of us seemed even vaguely worried, we were obviously trying to think of ways to get back, but, well, we were in Thailand. And people are so helpful and lovely, there would always be a way out of a sticky situation.
Suddenly, twenty past four maybe, another bus came heading towards us. Hurrah! It was even our driver, we realised! Except he wasn't very happy with us, he kept repeating “four o'clock”, reminding us that he had told us to be there at four exactly for the last bus, and clearly we missed that. The driver was on his way home, he was not going back to Lopburi!
However, in the end, with the help of the translation of the one lady in the bus, when he found out our ultimate destination was Bangkok, he had a little think and told us to get on the bus. So, there we were, in this empty bus, heading towards somewhere from where we could get a bus back to Bangkok, not via Lopburi.
This Star of a Busdriver dropped us off (including the lady) at a service station maybe fifteen minutes later, where the Lovely Lady phoned somewhere and told us there'd be a minibus to Bangkok in ten minutes. We bought ice creams and had the local policeman ask to get a photo with us (the Lovely Lady took the photo, and then wanted one of herself with us. I guess they don't get a lot of westerners at this out-of-way service station...).
Then the minibus arrived and we enjoyed about three hours in this cramped-up back seat clapping our hands. (There were many mosquitos.)
A great, very interesting and definitely not the most common daytrip.
And that was the Last Bus of Lopburi.
Next entry, hopefully a bit more sooner, about Daytrip #2, AYUTHAYA.
STAY COOL PEEPS