You want to know a scary fact?......good........cause I was going to tell you whether you wanted to know or not!! We totalled up the number of weeks we had had visitors last year and do you know what......it came to more than four months worth of guests.......that's a third of the year!!! (Don't get me wrong.....it was brilliant seeing everyone but that's a lot of guests!!!). Normally we get a two week holiday on our own but cause we came to see you lot in the UK last year (and wouldn't have missed it for the world!!) we've had a grand total of two days away when it was just the two of us and that was on our wedding anniversary!!! So, guess who decided to go away for a few days between Christmas and New Year!! (No, it wasn't Moon :-D)
So, on Wednesday Chris got up early with me and came to Pakkred to meet Mo-Cha-Ya (He said he wanted to see what I got upto when he was at work!!) She was great with him......we were both slightly worried that she would take one look at him and bawl her head off (not having seen many white men in her wee life!!) but she was great - fell asleep in his arms (honestly.....how cute are they in that picture!!). It was really quite amazing.....we got to see her take her first steps!! (I was ridiculously excited and she beamed from ear to ear......awwww)
After Pakkred we headed over to Bangkok Noi and got the train up to Kanchanaburi. (I know we've been recently but it's cheap and easy to get to and the Indian there really does do great pakora........yes we are aware of just how sad that is but we don't care). The first night we were there we just chilled out by the bar at the river, watched the sunset over the bridge and then walked along the road to the Indian restaurant where we had a fantastic meal (Guess what we had!!). The following day we got up early and arranged for a car and driver to take us along to HellFire Pass. I know that we have been there before but we had decided that we were going to do the full walk along the tracks which takes about three hours. It's heavy going - lots of stairs and it's very rocky but the museum staff keep in touch with you via walky-talky to make sure you are all right which eliminates the worry of being stranded if there was an accident. It was amazing.....and not something that everyone does so we only passed about three other people on our walk (and we managed to get some great pics as you can see!!). From there we decided to visit the nearby Khmer ruins of Prasat Muang Singh since we had never been. We both loved it.
History Stuff - (just skip this bit if your not interested)
About 800 years ago the Khmer empire stretched from Cambodia all the way across Thailand - Prasat Muang Sing is believed to have been one of the last temples built by the Khmers at the end of the twelfth century. It covers one-third of a square kilometre and it is believed that the site has not only defensive significance, it's bordered by moats and ramparts, but cosmological significance because at the heart of the complex is a enclosed shrine. It is absolutely stunning, faces east towards Angkor, is surrounded by a series of walls and covered gateways and is guarded by a sandstone stature of Avalokitesvara. (He delayed his entrance into nirvana in order to help others gain enlightenment and in Mahayanist mythology he represents mercy - the other statue at the sight is the female Prajnaparamita who represents wisdom). It really whet my appetite for going to Angkor and we were both really glad we had seen it before going as I think it would have been a disappointment had we gone after. Once we finished romping round that we went to the Ban Kao Museum which is devoted to relics from an advanced prehistoric civilisation (8000 to 1000 BC) that once settled on the banks of the Kwai Noi river. It was a lovely way to end our day as it really put into context some of the stuff we had seen at Prasat Muang Singh.
The following day we had decided to bite the bullet and visit Wat Tham Mangkon Thong - otherwise known as the Floating Nun Temple. I've mentioned this place before......you pay a Nun some money and if you give her enough she will go and float in a pond and meditate. Chris and I toyed with the idea of trying to kidnap a Taiwanese visitor (you may remember the guide book said Taiwanese were particularly impressed) but A. we couldn't find one and B. we were not sure that we would even recognise what a particularly impressed Taiwanese would look like!! Well, apart from not seeing any Nun's or a pond I can seriously recommend going.....I'm not kidding - the temple is stunning. You have to walk up tons of stairs to get to the cave which houses the old temple bit but it's seriously worth the pain and panting. It felt old and unreal and the Buddha was surrounded by old texts - it was really quite wonderful.
I have to tell you this cause your going to laugh - when we had just arrived a group of Thai's suddenly appeared as if from no-where. When we went in the direction they had appeared from we found another Buddha and some concrete steps which we climbed but they just came to a dead end and the only thing we could see what a small hole in the ground which was partially obscured by rocks. There was no way they could have passed us without us seeing them so we couldn't figure out where they had come from. Well, when we were in the temple cave we were shown round the Buddha at the back of it and the man then pointed at a hole in the side of the cave - he told us to crawl through it and that it would bring us out in a chamber we could stand up in. Eejits that we are.......we did exactly what he said and after crawling along on our hands and knees (with heads down cause there wasn't enough room to have your head up) we emerged in a chamber that I could stand up in (Chris had a few more problems) and as we walked through the chamber we spotted our exit......a rusty ladder that went straight up to the hole that was at the top of those concrete stairs (so that's where the buggers had come from). Glad I had lost weight since moving here or I might have got stuck!!
The final temple we visited before heading back to Bangkok was Wat Ban Tham (There are a lot of caves in this region many of which have been turned into shrines). Up another load of stairs (honestly by the time I got to the top my calf muscles were screaming - I never wanted to see another stair again.........ever!!!). Wat Ban Tham was founded about 600 years ago but is famous for a seventeenth century love story that played out at the cave site. A young woman called Nang Bua Klee was forced to choose between her criminal father and her husband who was a soldier and a local hero to whom she was pregnant - her father persuaded her to poison her husband (I don't know why) but he learned of the plot and killed both her and her unborn child. It is said that their spirits now reside in the cave as one of the stones inside is woman-shaped. It's a popular place for women who are trying to conceive to visit (no, I'm not one of them before you get any funny ideas!!) and they bring pretty dresses and shoes for the mother which are hung in wardrobes to the side of the shrine as well as toys for her son. The cave is incredible as you can see from the photos.
Then it was back to Bangkok by bus which was even cheaper than the train......it cost us a whole £0.80 each to get back. (Just in case anyone is reading this that is planning to get back to Bangkok this way the bus doesn't take you into central Bangkok so you have to get a taxi from the Station back into town).