Friday, 30 August 2013

Prachuap Khiri Khan

2N Guesthouse with Nisa (behind Jackie) and Nit

We sadly left Phetchaburi and Nisa and Nit’s welcome at 2N Guesthouse, but not before they found out it was my birthday and produced a birthday card, which we’ve now got on out table in our next guesthouse, the Sunbeach Guesthouse in Prachuap Khiri Khan.

My birthday card from Nisa and Nit
The view at the front of our guesthouse in Prachuap Khiri Khan
The train was uneventful, it was about 40 minutes late, so virtually on time by Thai standards, but the air conditioning that was advertised was a bit suspect and was just fan cooling only, so at the end of a three hour journey we were feeling quite warm. We did get free lunch on the train though, although when the girl first offered it to us I assumed she was trying to sell it, so refused, but Jackie enquired a little further and it appeared it was included in our ticket price although no-one had told us. It was a bit like aircraft food, but the spicy chicken soup followed by green curry and rice was enough to keep us going.

Walking along the front for evening dinner
As we got off the train I wanted to get a motorbike tuk-tuk to our hotel, but Jackie wanted to be the intrepid backpacker so we walked – in the full sun and heat of the day! It was probably only about 2km, but by the time we arrived, carrying about 12kg packs each, we were just running with sweat and I was on the point of losing my sense of humour! However, the Sun Beach Guesthouse is a great place, right on the front. Quite new, about a dozen rooms, very nice pool with jacuzzi, well furnished rooms with TV, outdoor sitting area and, of course, air conditioning!

One thing we did notice as we walked from the railway station was the range of restaurants and, on the front, seafood restaurants with cold slabs of all manner of fish and shellfish including prawns from medium to lobster size, scallops, clams, horseshoe crabs and squid. It all looked fabulous, so my birthday treat was to select the best, which happened to be closest to our guesthouse and have a feast! Fried butter fish in garlic, BBQ’d squid, clams, cockles and prawns with rice, all served with very spicy Thai dips and Chang beer. Absolutely delightful and a snip at just over 500Baht (£10!)!

Monkeys bar the way on the stairs to the temple
The next day we walked through town and decided to climb the 396 steps to the wat on top of the Khao Chong Krajok ‘mountain’. It’s considered a feat and the municipal tourist office in the town gives out a ‘certificate of conquer’ for those people who have done it, so we walked up in the heat of the day, past hoards of monkeys of the same aggressive type we saw at Phetchaburi, but they seemed a little more laid back as long as you didn’t look into their eyes (if you did they bared their teeth and made gestures of attack)! It didn’t take us long and, although we were very hot, it wasn’t an ordeal, but when we got down the tourist office was closed for lunch, but worse than that, I realised we’d missed the most important bit on the summit, round the back of the wat is an impressive rock arch that is accessed by scrambling over the rocks and, according to the leaflet it ‘creates an exciting fun a lot’. Oh well, we’ll just have to do it again then!

It's about 35 degrees C!
More monkeys bar the way!

Views from the top are worth it
The wat on the summit

The notice on top proclaiming success on mounting the 396 steps (actually I counted only 390!)
It's just as far down!

Family photo!

There are quite a few interesting things to see in and around the town, but all either a very long walk or a short ride on a motor scooter. They rent them at our guesthouse for 250Baht per day (£5.00) and Jackie thought we should get one. I haven’t ridden one of those since I was 16, 40 odd years ago, but yesterday we rented one and after a wobbly start trying to get my balance with Jackie on the back we were off!

The start of the scramble to the rock arch
First stop was breakfast, second stop Khao Chong Krajok mountain for the second time, this time to see the rock arch and before it got too hot. Parking the bike away from the monkeys (who enjoy taking them apart while owners are away apparently), we were up and ready for the scramble, which turned out to be quite exciting, over some relatively exposed rocks and down an improvised ladder tied to the rock that Jackie was really unsure about, until I went down first so she had to follow. Well worth while though with great views all around. 

The 'ladder' descent
And the arch

Both of us...
Our certificates (I got one as well!). No idea what it says!
We also visited the municipal tourist office and got our certificates this time. It took a while for them to understand what we wanted (I don’t think many people ask for them!) and Jackie was cringing and calling me ‘sad’, but eventually they understood, got a couple out of a cupboard and filled our names in, while we sat in a comfortable sofa in an air conditioned room drinking water they supplied.

The entrance to the Khan ka di cave temple
From there we had an 8km or so ride to the Khan ka di cave temple, which is another of these temples constructed in a natural limestone cave. It was another exhausting walk up 100 or so steps in the heat of the day and when we got there the lights inside weren’t on and we hadn’t taken a torch, so we fumbled about in the dark taking the odd flash photo to illuminate the cave to give us an idea of where we were. There was a massive reclining Buddha image along one wall and a whole army of figures three wide and five deep guarding the Buddha. In the darkness illuminated only by the camera flash, it seemed really spooky and alien. 
The photos also have some of those ‘orbs’, little spheres apparently suspended in mid-air, adding to the spookiness. It was really odd, very much Doctor Who’ish. When we got back down we found the light switch, so turned it on, walked back up the 100 odd steps, only to find the lights still weren’t lit, which looking at the electrical wiring is not a surprise!

The spooky guards 5 deep and 3 wide by the reclining Buddha. This was in total darkness with only instantaneous camera flash illumination only

See the 'ghostly' orbs apparently floating!! Strange...they are 6 deep now, but they were only 5 deep before!!!

Outside the cave temple
Jackie buys bananas to feed to the monkeys. they are fairly keen to get to them!

One satisfied customer!
Action shot! Monkey grabs banana while leaping from wall! Only to have it stolen from him by bigger, older monkey

At the historical monument looking back to the town
From there we rode round to the mini bus depot and railway to look at options for our onward travel to Chumphon on 31st August and then went on to ‘Wings 5’, which is a military base with an airfield but also has two things of interest, one an historical monument of the first Japanese landings on 8th December 1941, the day they declared war, at the start of their advance to take Malaya and Singapore. I’ll talk about that in a separate entry, but the other reason is to see the Spectacled Langur’s, which are very cute and non-aggressive monkeys, which inhabit the Khao Lommuak hill at the edge of the airbase.

The monument to the fighting with the Japanese (explained in the next blog entry)
The non-threatening spectacled langurs
To get in we had to go through a military checkpoint and sign in at the office. The road goes through the military airbase at one point going across the middle of the runway, bollards across the runway mark the road and you must stop if a light flashes! We made our way across the base and back round past the end of the runway to the historical monument and then on to the Spectacled Langurs reserve where there were 30 or so of them of all ages, the youngsters running, climbing, flinging themselves about and playfully fighting. They were all pretty agile, even the mum’s with their tiny young (who were bright yellow) clinging to them, who seemed quite happy climbing poles and trees and jumping through the air to land on some other object, with junior still clinging on!

Our guesthouse, pool and jacuzzi
After another delightful seafood dinner last night we’re chilling out (that of course is a relative term in this heat) at the guesthouse reading, writing the blog, occasional dip in the pool and jacuzzi, then dinner, all before catching the minibus to Chumphon tomorrow. We decided on the minibus as it’s more frequent than the train and ‘Werner’ is going to pick us up from the bus depot and take us to the Albatross Guesthouse on the seafront. Werner runs a diving centre in Chumphon and after enquiring about diving he booked the guesthouse we had been looking at on the internet for us (without us asking him) and offered to pick us up. 
And our A/C room, not bad for 700Baht (£14) per night eh?
Jackie making sure she gets no coriander in her dinner!
I’ve spoken to him twice on the phone now and he sounds a great guy. We’re going diving with him on 1st September to some coral islands off the coast that, according to our guide book are fantastic. For 2200Baht (£44) each, he takes us out for the day In his boat, provides lunch, all the diving gear and provides a dive leader (which might be him) for two dives, to show us where to go. That’s pretty good value, so it’ll be nice to dive again for the first time since 2006!

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