I think I’m about buddha’d-out, and templed-out. But Nan was not finished showing off Hua Hin to me, so today we left in the morning and headed inland. Once again, I had no idea where we were going, but Nan knows I’m into the photo ops and is more than happy to oblige.
I will say, however, that riding on the back of a motorbike for long stretches is no fun.
First, however, we stopped at a local pet food store, where Nan picked up some fish food. Apparently, we were going someplace where there was a lake and lots of fish to feed, as we did a week or so ago at another temple. The fish food was very cheap and while I waited I noticed they also, for some inexplicable reason (this was a pet food store, after all) they had a display of vegetable seeds.
I have been traveling with about 20 packs of seeds, mostly for herbs such as basil. I can’t order these to be shipped overseas, so I ship them to my daughter for remailing. However, my seeds are all past their use date and are not germinating. So recently I ordered more from the U.S. This store didn’t have the herbs I need, except for basil, but they did have tomato, eggplant and cucumber. The best part was the price – 4 packs of seed for about $1.50 total. U.S. seeds are $3 per pack plus shipping (plus overseas mailing).
Once done here we headed out into the hectic traffic, first waiting for the train to cross and then heading who knows where. First stop: a huge fish pond. After tossing our fish pellets to the ravenous fish, geese and pigeons, we ventured on the road again.
I guess my showing appreciation for something is a signal for more of the same, because the next stop was another elephant camp. Now I have to say that my first elephant encounter was very emotional for me, but too much of a good thing is, well ..
And this place was somewhat depressing. I hate that these beautiful animals have to be shackled by heavy chains, that they cannot walk around unless someone is riding their back, that they look so forlourn in the stalls. And this place didn’t want me getting near the elephants (unless I wanted to ride one, I guess).
Geez, the last place pretty much forced me to get underneath their elephant, who promptly smelled me with his huge trunk from cap to toe. I talked to her. Looked her in the eye.
This was more pathetic. For 300 baht, a woman brought a basket of small bananas for me to feed the elephant, but I wasn’t allowed to get too close or touch it. A truly tourist experience. They did have an interesting history museum-like area.
We then walked around a bit and discovered five more elephants, half in the sun, half under sheet metal roofs, all chained to stakes in the ground. It was pretty upsetting. They did not look like happy campers. I was asked if I wanted to ride one and promptly said no. These animals are treated very badly as they are trained to do their tricks for tourists. They are basically tortured and beaten into submission. I want no part in encouraging their captivity.
We moved on to another temple area further west. Pretty basic stuff. Then, as we were headed for Nan’s ultimate destination, I noticed signs for an artists’ village up ahead. We stopped and had a look around. The artwork was impressive but far too expensive for me – large wall hangings for $500, cast metal statues for $100, large paintings for $500. Fortunately, with my nomadic existence, I can’t accumulate possessions that won’t fit into my suitcases at some point in time.
I had not eaten yet and noon was approaching.
I have had Wat Huay Mongkol on the places I wanted to see locally but I had no way of getting there except for an expensive tour guide. But I figured if I was patiant, an opportunity would occur, and today was the day.
The ride was long and took us past fields of sugar cane and pineapples (they grow out of the ground, like a beet). We passed numerous upscale gated communities (I hate those), all out in the middle of nowhere and absolutley needing a vehicle to survive. The burgeoning Hua Hin suburbs, if you will, but separated by farmlands and abandoned tracks of scrub brush land.
The wat’s grounds are large, with another temple located there, as well as a cast metal statue of a military officer, with hundreds of chicken statues in front of it. I have no clue.
At the base of the hill, are two 10-foot-tall wooden carved elephants with the Luang Phor Thuad person at the top of the hill recreated as a rider. Thai visitors will buy an offering, say a prayer and then walk under the belly of the beast three times for good luck. Religion is so screwy.
Here’s a little bit of descriptive of the wat from the web:
The Wat Huay Mongkol temple complex, located some 15 kilometers west of Hua Hin, is famous for its enormous statue of one of Thailand’s most famous monks, named Luang Phor Thuad.
The statue, which is about 12 meters tall and 10 meters wide, is set on a large mound. The image can be seen from far away, reaching higher than the trees.
This place is very popular with Thai people from all over the country, who come here to pay respect to Luang Phor Thuad and to ask for things as favors, good luck, health, fortune and happiness.
On each side of the giant statue, there is a huge wooden elephant. Local people walk in circles under the belly of the elephants wishing for good luck. The complex also holds a Buddhist temple, a statue of King Taksin the Great on horseback and shops where Buddhist amulets can be bought.
The whole complex is set in a park like environment, very well suited for a couple of hours of relaxing. The area has a lake, waterfalls, streams, bridges, a number of pavilions and lots of shady places. Thai food can be bought in several restaurants.
Luang Phor Thuad, whose name is sometimes spelled Luang Phor Thuat, lived some 400 years ago in southern Thailand. He is now famous all over the country for the miracles that he performed. It was said that Luang Phor Thuad turned saltwater into fresh, drinkable water on multiple occasions.
A great number of miracles is attributed to the famous monk Luang Phor Thuad. Therefore, many Thai people believe that amulets created in the image of Luang Phor Thuad hold great protective powers, especially from natural disasters like tsunamis and flooding and from accidents. Especially old amulets are considered very powerful and priceless.
A bit of candy and a small drink that I have no idea about and we were headed back to Hua Hin. There, I would finally get my first meal of the day at 2 pm, a lovely plate of rice, shrimp, aparagus, greens and tomato, with a side of sliced cucumbers. I could get used to being cooked for.