Today, we were picked up at the hotel by Nan’s sister Mae, Mae’s husband, Mae’s mother and daughter and son, and one niece. I was afforded the shotgun seat in the big cab, with four in the back seat and the young people in the truck bed.
We were going uphill to visit a series of temples and sights.
First, we drove to the top of the hill, where there was a giant brick stuppa. There were also seveal walkways extending past the rees so that visitors could see vistas of the countryside.
Saturday’s must be grammar school field trip days here, as there were a zillion kids running around in their colorful school uniforms, all clean cut and well mannered. There was one small refreshment stall on site, which was nearly overcome by the swarm of kids seeking drinks and snacks.
It was a beauthiful sunny day, hot in the sun but a nice breeze high up as we were. Next was a complex about athird of the way down the hill that centered around a pool and a number of buddha statues, bells and other buddhist stuff. Pretty tame.
We then headed downhill some more to an area that was busting at the seems with visitors, almost all either Thai or Chinese.
This place is a money mecca for the monks who apparently run it. They sell a wide variety of souvenirs at exorbitant prices, but they turn some of that money back to their visitors in the form of free food. Of course, some of that food is purchased and donated by visitors – there was a brisk trade in bags of rice, sugar, salt and cooking oil that people would then lay at the feet of different buddha statues.
There was a large, orderly crowd (a bit of chaos but not so bad) clamoring for mostly food I cannot identify. I found a few things I could eat that weren’t made to scorch by mouth and throat.
We made one final stop at the bottom, where we were confrnted with an intimidating staircase un the side of the hill. I made a face like “No way,” drawing many laughs, before setting off to conquer the stairs.
It was a big disappointment at the top – there was nothing but a solitary monk. Several buddhas were found snuggled into the hillside.
Finally, we headed back to the hotel, where I tried to catch up on my blog and processing photos. Nan went back to visit with family, before returning on a motorbike. We were going out to dinner by ourselves this evening (or so I thought) and I had requested a river venue.
The river section of town looks much livelier than where our hotel is located. We stopped at a non-descript restaurant that had a huge patio overlooking the river. It was dark so you couldn’t actually see the river, but the ambiance was just what I was looking for.
Then, shortly after we were seated, two women joined us – a longtime friend of Nan’s and the friend’s 19-year-old daughter. We all ordered dinner and shared (I didn’t eat their food as much since it was too spicy – they really like it spicy here.) The bill for the four of us was less than 600 baht, or about $4 each, including a 16-ounce beer for me.
Nan’s friend grilled me some after dinner and I tried to answer her questions with phone translation. Did I mention that I broke down and bought a 3G card the day before so that I could do translation away from WiFi hotspots. But while I can use Google Translate, my phone is unable to download voice-activated translation apps due to a lack of space. So it was peck and type. Very slow.
A long day and lots of fun!