Monday, April 18, 2011
From the train station at Petchburi we boarded a local bus which was going to the Chom Klow Hotel. It was filled with half a dozen elderly Thais dozing with their jackets on in the stifling heat. We asked two old-timers if they were familiar with the hotel and they looked at each other and then back at us with blank stares. We asked another old gent and he gave us the same blank stare, so I wondered what was wrong with these people that they didn't know the location of one of the few hotels in town. I said the name of the hotel a few more times, with a different inflection, when an old man leaning over his cane at the front of the bus sprang to life and spat out Chom Klow. They all started laughing. Yes, yes, yes, that's it, they said, all suddenly coming to life and nodding their heads. Hey, that's what I've been saying, dude! Didn't I? But I'd obviously been using the wrong inflection. Aimee and I laughed and we all felt the good vibes and they cheerfully pointed out the hotel as the bus drove by it.
The Chom Klow Hotel was a scarred and faded five-storey block of cement located beside a muddy river that meandererd through the city. A bridge heavy with traffic and noise crossed nearby. Our room in the back overlooked the water, and after wondering how many mosquitoes would be paying us a visit that night to suck our tired blood, I dumped my bags down and collapsed on the lumpy bed. The fan croaked and groaned as it listlessly turned, doing nothing to dispel the steamy heat.
The first thing my daughter wanted to do was to go to a store and get some chips. I gave her a little money and she was off. Five minutes later I shot up off my bed and ran out of the hotel and up the street, searching everywhere. How could I let her go off like that? Where is she? What was I thinking? I couldn't believe that we hadn't gone through our hotel name, address, and getting a taxi routine.
I was starting to panic scanning the streets and sidewalks and shops when I heard a faint voice through the traffic. "Mom! Mommy! Over here!" I swung around and a redhead in an orange Thai dress stood there waving to me from across the street. Oh my god! I ran over to her, relieved.
We strolled around the town that night. Very near our hotel was a busy night market, filled with a smorgasbord of spicy Thai food. We gorged on all kinds of wonderful things while people turned and stared at us, sometimes reaching out to stroke my daughter's red hair.
An older gentleman around 60 years old approached us and in perfect English he told me he was a retired school teacher and that he had lived in Petchburi his entire life. He would be glad to show us many interesting sites if I so desired. We chatted for a while and we strolled around the market before agreeing to meet the next morning at 8:30.
When Aimee and I went downstairs the next morning, Chumpion was waiting outside in his black 1950 Austin. It was an incredible old car to go touring around in and we had a great time bouncing over all the pot-holed roads to the caves and temples on the outskirts of town. We went to one of the four largest reclining buddhas in Thailand and when I say large, I mean massive. This great photo of a reclining Buddha gives you more of an idea of the vast size of these sculptures.
Here's a reclining buddha, although not the same size.
After visiting another cave and viewing some ancient artefacts, Chumpion took us to a floating library which was over 500 years old. It was just a simple wooden structure standing on stilts in a small pond. Then he took us to his home where we drank tea and ate pie and home-made biscuits. He told stories about Petchburi, Thailand's King, and his own life. He never married and his mother had recently died. I was so thankful for his generosity in taking us around to the caves and temples and then finally to his house, because we never would have seen what we did without him.
Remember what you have seen, because everything forgotten returns to the circling winds. Navejo Wind Chant
Kudos and good health to you Chumpion, wherever you are!
When we were over our food poisoning from Koh Samet island, my 8-year-old daughter and I got on a local train in Bangkok that was headed south, but after a few hours on the train it was time to get off because Petchburi City looked okay from the window. I discovered later that most travellers don't stay in Petchburi, they either make it a day trip or just bypass it altogether. These are the kinds of places I love to discover.
Posted by Nancy O.