Discovering the world on $20 per day ......................

Post 127:Road to Chai Nat, Thailand

I’m getting used to this weird and wonderful bike, .. it’s got no power and all of my weight is placed firmly on my arse, … but it’s actually quite good fun. Each time I pull away from stationary my feet search for nonexistent footpegs below my knees, no doubt this provides some nice comedy moments for all of those behind me, but for myself, …. It’s a little disconcerting. It’s hot and humid, 34 degrees and this is still the rainy season, .. but thankfully today, ..the rain has not arrived. My clothing is soaked, the little Honda is too slow to allow the air to flow through the material and cool me, I need to keep drinking water to avoid dehydration. After another 100Km I decide that it’s once more time to fill the tank. Thankfully here in Thailand petrol is cheap and very easy to buy. There is none of the Russian opera where you guess how much you will need and pay in advance. Here, you ride to the pump, choose the colour of fuel that you require, which for me is green, the attendant fills your tank and once full, … you pay him. I have no idea how much fuel this teardrop shaped tank holds, but 100Km has sipped just 3L of 91 octane fuel. It may not be as swift or as comfortable as the Triumph Tiger, …. but the Honda Phantom is certainly as economical.

With my spirits and confidence running as high as the air temperature, I decide that sticking to the main highways is becoming too tedious. After too many weeks of ‘safety’, I need to explore the unexplored, I have a sudden urge to remove myself from the beaten track. I see signs written only in Thai, signs that I believe contain the word ‘Wat’, … meaning ‘Temple’, .. I think. I turn left, the road is narrow with only paddy fields and stilted houses to either side and the traffic consists of only motorcycles and scooters. At the junction where I turned from the highway there had been a second sign, this sign was again written only in Thai. I can only assume that this second sign stated that ‘All Highway Rules End Here’. Towards me, from behind me and from either side of me, powered two wheeled vehicles carry any number of passengers, engineering equipment, farm produce and even refrigerators in every possible direction. ‘Left & Right’ seem to mean very little here, it’s every boy or girl for his or herself, … I join in, ,… it seems like the polite thing to do.

Within a couple of hours I visit two temples, each of which is both beautiful and peaceful, each busy with people yet as quiet as the air around me. There is an overriding feeling of peace in these places, a feeling that is always in stark contrast to the chaos of the life that is happening outside. These temple complexes are small enclaves of tranquillity where even the air seems to cool itself in response to the desire of the spirits. The influences around these complexes are a mixture of Buddhist and Hindu, two religions seemingly now living in perfect harmony. I quickly learn to differentiate between the two styles of architecture and see clear evidence that ‘Harmony’ has not always existed here. At one temple, the heads of every image have been removed, some cleanly, some violently. I believe that these vandalised images are Khmer but I did not discover the reason for the decapitation. I believe that this violence was metered out by an invading army during an invasion that took place in which century I do not know, .. and for what reason remains unclear. Perhaps I have it the wrong way round. Maybe they are Hindu images decapitated by the Khmer armies, .. or perhaps Khmer images are actually Hindu, .. one day I will find out. In an area where western visitors are more common, the information at such sites would be repeated in English, French and German etc. Here, slightly away from the road towards Chai Nat, where I am the only ‘Farang’, all information is strictly in Thai, … and in a way, .. I enjoy that more. Travelling often asks more questions than it answers.

No comments: