We arrived at Si Thammarat’s bus terminal after a few hours on a mini bus. The landscape did not change much on the way, and the haze was still present and hiding the sun from us. We took a songthaew from the bus terminal to the train station, as we understood accommodation could be found around the area. Using all the Thai words I had learned from Jay, I asked for directions at the information desk. Both me and the lovely clerk laughed lots as I tried to make myself understood. See, it’s one thing to speak Indonesian/Malay – the words sounds exactly how you read them and use the same alphabet. Now, Thai is a whole different story. The tones and intonation can change the meaning of a word completely, so it is very hard for foreigners to get it even remotely right. And instead of our 27 letters, they have over 50 different symbols. As usual, if the will to understand is there, you end up working something out..
We found a very cheap hotel on a stingy little alley a few blocks away, with hookers at our door step 24/7. The hotel itself was decent, clean and roomy, and the prostitutes did not bother us at all, so we started politely saluting them and granting them smiles. The street closest to us ran an amazing market, with plenty of food options and lots of colourful and gorgeous clothes. The thought of dumping all my current clothes and buying Thai clothes crossed my mind a few times, as the latter are beautiful and super comfy, but I behaved. Finding vegetarian food proved to be quite a challenge, but we eventually found a noodle soup that you could add vegetables too. The chosen street stall also offered a few complementary salad type dishes (sorry, I could not identify the vegies use to provide a better description) that were very tasty, so we were utterly satisfied.
We set out to explore early the next morning to avoid the worst of the heat. We stopped at the local information centre, where two lovely girls provided us with a map and some instructions on how to get to the biggest temple complex in southern Thailand. Along the way we encountered many more beautiful shiny temples, of various descriptions, size and colours. It was out first encounter with crazy amounts of Buddhist temples, and we were amazed by their grandeur.
To our surprise, some sort of festival was going on in town, and dozens of grotesque polystyrene human shaped figures adorned the streets. Their expressions kind of reminded me of the Mexican ‘Dia de los Muertos’ celebration, as they mostly had ‘blood’ injected eyes, missing limbs and grim manners. The overall feeling was amazing, though we never really found out what it was all about…
Set next to a stream that might have been a moat once upon a time, the remains of the city wall stood. The ruins were quite awesome, as were the two open spaces on both sides. On the river side, there were some art installations and a pretty bridge that crossed it. Behind the wall, a huge park with a few ponds, blooming flowers and a small temple.
We also encountered an interesting and beautiful Chinese temple, with many dragons and dancing figures. I do not like taking pictures inside temples, but it was the most gorgeous and adorned temple of this sort I have had the pleasure to visit, even if it wasn’t the biggest or the shiniest. It had a warm and welcoming aura to it, with a lovely lady tending to it who graciously invited me inside.
After a few hours of walking in the heat, we finally made it to our destination. The temple was crowded with tourist, though we did not find any white people among them. The outside halls, surrounding the main structures, were lined with golden Buddha statues, that different families had donated and coated in gold. I don’t think pictures (at least the ones we took) do the place justice, so I strongly recommend you checking it out for yourself.
The way back had less stops, but we still got to see yet some more temples (we must have spotted about 20 during the whole day). I find it rather remarkable how you can see so many and yet everyone has it distinct style and personality. One thing is for sure, the Thai KNOW how to bling 😉
After returning to the hotel for a well deserved afternoon nap, we set out to find a supermarket. We were still quite tired from all the walking we had done, so once we did we picked up a healthy dinner as shown below:
The next morning we set out again, but in the opposite direction to where we had gone the day before. Guess what we saw? Temples, you got it! Apart from that, we walked inadvertently into a monk residence and saw them chilling out and having a good time. At one point we left the busier streets to lose ourselves between small alleys. As usual, this was the best decision, as we got to meet some locals and interact with some grinning kids.
Our stay in Nakhon Si Thammarat was splendid. We got to meet a few locals (though very few spoke English) and get an introduction to the Buddhist universe. The timing was ideal, as by now we had seen SO many temples that they had lost a bit of their charm, but then we were virgins and discovered them with awe and intensity. We are grateful to once again have changes our ‘itinerary’ and gone with local’s advise. Thank you Couchsurfing!