This would be our last stay in Thailand, for this trip at least, and we were headed to the east of the country, to Isaan where the weather is hot and the food is spicy. If you want to see ‘real Thailand’ or get ‘off the beaten path’ here’s the region for you! There probably wont be any western food options and few people will speak English, but in return you’ll get a glimpse of Thailand without the tourists and you’ll be called farang at least four times a day!
Phimai was hot, ridiculously hot. We thought we’d got good at being sweaty and dealing with humidity but this was something else! Luckily the town does have something worth braving the heat for. Phimai Historical Park is home to Khmer temple ruins said to be a miniature version, or even a blueprint for, the famous Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It has been restored relatively sympathetically over recent decades, so it is safe to scramble into the old stupas and gateways, admiring the stone carvings which adorn the exterior. We were the only westerners there and so enjoyed the smiles and ‘sawatdee kas’ of the Thai tourists.
Phimai is also famous for a really big tree…well more like something that looks like lots of trees but is in fact one tree! Sai Ngam Banyan tree is another favourite with Thais, where you come to stroll under the weeping bows of the tree or maybe release a fish or turtle into the surrounding lake for merit. For Ella, however, it will be remembered as the site of disappointing noodles…in a gravy sauce the consistency of wallpaper paste…not nice. We also saw a man pick up an angry goose; just another day in Phimai!
We needed to escape the temperature and see another national park before leaving Thailand, so jumped on two buses to Pak Chong. This is where wealthy Bangkokians have their second homes and come to get away from the heat of the city and you could tell. There were outlet malls and fancy hotels all along the main road through town. We stayed at Bobby’s Tours and Apartments, the only problem being the bus dropped us on the wrong side of the six lane motorway without a footbridge. So we kinda had to run across a motorway… don’t judge…everyone else was…peer pressure! Another one to chalk up for the bucket list!
We took the guesthouses’ one day tour to Koh Yai national park with their great guide Ben. I was surprised how many animals and species there were in the park, compared to any other we’ve been where the chances of seeing anything are virtually nil. Here we saw a family of gibbons playing in the trees, deers, scorpions, snakes and hornbills…all in a few hours. And though we didn’t see any of the wild elephants, people regularly do (we did see fresh footprints and dung…so not a complete loss!). Another clear fashion bonus of the tour was getting to wear the über attractive leech socks (Ella was especially pleased about the added protection from her nemesis!). In the photos you can see this seasons colour, blue, being flawlessly modelled by the trekkers…watch out catwalks leech socks are about to hit the runway! It was a really great day and left us pretty exhausted, but the guesthouse has delicious food which was totally worth staying awake for.
So only one more stop in Thailand before we head back into Indochina and the beauties of Cambodia…