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

Post 281: Phimai ... Ancient Ruins

‘Highway 2’ leads to and from everywhere in Korat and as a straight and featureless road, it ought to be boring, but it isn’t. Well, it might be boring to many people that travel along it, but I just seem to find stuff. Maybe it’s the benefit or riding a slow bike and having the time to take in the stuff that’s happening around you, or maybe it’s just that I don’t have a plan or a timetable to follow. I’m just going with the flow … mai pen rai.

At a constant 35 degrees and with no shade or breeze worth mentioning, you can only have so much fun on this road before you turn-off and find something worth pointing a camera at. North along ‘Highway 2‘, I came to the ancient Khmer ruins at Phimai. It stands at the northern most end of the great Khmer Highway that originally ran all of the way from Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It’s the largest single historical site in Thailand, equal in size to Angkor Wat itself, but apart from three saffron robed monks, I’m the only person here. Maybe the good people of Thailand are sheltering from the blazing sun, or maybe, they’re simply avoiding me. Whichever it is, I really don’t care. I haven’t been involved in an English conversation since leaving Pattaya three weeks ago and I have to say that my life is no poorer for it.

I spend a full three hours of my life just wandering around the ruins, climbing the ancient walls and drinking iced tea in the cold shelter of an ancient building. I know that this structure is Khmer because of the shape of the towers, more curved than pointy. I also know that when they built this Buddhist Temple in what I guess ,must have been the 11th or 12th Century, the Khmer were Hindu and not Buddhist. I’m confused, but all of the information here is written in Thai and I haven’t got a clue how to begin deciphering the script. I talk with one of the monks, but unlike Monk Tony who I met down in Koh Chang, this monk never lived in Putney. He speaks Thai too fast for my aging ears and not a single word of English. I decide that sometimes it’s actually better not knowing the facts and just let you’re imagination run riot. I’m sure that Lara Croft will be along at any moment.

In a few weeks time I’ll be visiting Angkor Wat, a journey that I first attempted back in 1988. At the time, The PDR of Kampuchea was governed by Heng Sarim but Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge were still going strong in the Tonal Sap area. The border was closed but I crossed over with a guide at Aranyaprathet and ended up in a whole world of shit. Back in those days I really didn’t mind, but I’m older now and more vulnerable to pain and discomfort, so hopefully this time it will different. What I do know is that Angkor Wat will be a whole lot busier, and no doubt more expensive that this place. Maybe I’ll linger here a little longer and get chummy with the monks ….they must surely understand the connection between Hinduism and Buddhism.

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