THAILAND:

PRASAT VIHARN TEMPLE and PHUKET VEGETARIAN FESTIVAL

 

OCTOBER 1998

 

 

 

Text and Photos Copyright ©2001 Mark E. Halliday

 

 

Friday, October 16: After completing work in China, I Flew from Beijing to Bangkok.

 

My goal was to visit the Khmer Temple of Prasat Vihear (also spelled Prasat Viharn).

It was closed until the recent departure of the Khmer Rouge.

I took a train from Bangkok to Surin, in northeast Thailand.

Surin was quiet, very little English spoken, but had great Thom Yam soup!

I continued by train to Sikaset station the next morning. At the Kissiri Hotel I hired a car to take me to Prasat Vihear for the afternoon. They would drop me in Ubon Ratchatani before dark, charging 1200 Baht.

 

 

 

Prasat Viharn lies just a few hundred yards inside Cambodia.

However, the only approach is from the Thailand side.

At the end of the road, you walk across the border into Cambodia.

There are no passport checks, but military posts remind you this was a recent battleground.

For about a mile you climb up an ancient walkway with seven levels.

Each level has more elaborate carved temples than the previous one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The temple has a stunning site at the edge of the Dangrek Hills.

Tilted sandstone strata create cliffs

above the Cambodian plains to the south.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All around the site are signs reminding you not to go any further!

Children play around artillery pieces dug into the hillsides by the Khmer Rouge.

 

 

A monk came up to the plateau edge,

pointed at a distant mountain,

and started praying with gestures towards the horizon.

 

 

 

It was the end of the rainy season; young monks come out from the monastery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was the only foreigner at the site, so I attracted attention.

Everyone posed when I took my camera out.

 

 

These monks were curious about my business card, and wanted to know about each word !

 

 

 

Khong Khiam

 

After a night in Ubon, I travelled to Khong Khiam, a quiet village on the Mekhong River about an hour away.

 

Along the road I asked the driver to stop when I saw these big drums!

 

 

 

 

 

This region is also known for gongs as well as as drums.

The family in this house showed me how beautiful the gongs sounded,

but I thought they were to big to buy one!

 

 

 

 

 

Riverboats on Mekhong River provide tours each day, a true floating restaurant.

 

On board they had this photo

of a Giant Mekhong Catfish

 

 

 

 

 

Prataem Cliff Paintings

 

 

A short drive from Khong Khiam are the Prataem Cliff Paintings.

 

These sandstone cliffs are on the west bank of the Mekhong.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking down a set of stairs, you find rock paintings on the sandstone walls.

 

 

 

 

The designs seem similar to those in the Southwest U.S.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PHUKET VEGETARIAN FESTIVAL

 

 

I took an overnight train from Ubon to Bangkok. The train has a stop just outside Bangkok airport, so it was easy to jump on the first flight to Phuket Island.

That same day friends Rob Edson and Rob & Peggy arrived.

The draw was the "Vegetarian" festival, which is stranger than the name implies.

 

 

 

There are religious processions through the streets of Phuket City every dawn for 10 days.

 

 

The celebrants impale all kinds of objects

through their cheeks,

or cut themselves with axe blades,

in search of redemption.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processions carry Taoist god-figures

through the streets in chariots.

 

Crowds of people along the procession route explode

a variety of incredibly loud and wild fireworks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long poles are wound with firecracker strings,

and held out over the street

as the god-chariot passes by.

 

 

 

 

 

We considered a three or four-day live-aboard scuba trip to the Andaman sea.

That didn't work out, so we had a day trip.

Although fun, the visibility was marginal.

We dove on a sunken pasenger ferry, which was unusual, but not really.

 

Rob liked the shrimp.

 

 

 

 

 

The beach

in front of Club Med is

beautiful,

and public.

 

 

 

An interesting tour to Phangna Bay

shows off strange rock formations

and the site of two James Bond movies.

 

 

 

BANGKOK

 

Back in Bangkok from Phuket,

we stayed at the Hotel Narai.

 

 

 

 

Jack and Fernando joined us here,

and we did some sightseeing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next evening my sister Karen arrived in Bangkok from Kathmandu!

We had dinner and enjoyed her stories from 6 weeks in Nepal.

She visited friends in remote villages where she worked 20 years before as a Peace Corps volunteer.

It was also a sad time: we had recently lost both our grandmother Pauline Kemmerich and uncle Noel Kemmerich.

 

 

 

 

Text and Photos Copyright ©2001 Mark E. Halliday