Wednesday, July 22, 2009

They built it on a mountain - วัดถ้ำเขาปรางค์

Here is another temple I visited during our recent trip to Lopburi. We stayed and played at the Pakak Hillside Forest Resort during the short trip. One of the most noticeable things about the location of the resort was a Buddhist temple built into the side of a densely forested mountain.This temple is relatively new and from far away you can see several spire-like points forming what looks like a crown. As Pae and I played, the temple was always in the background or right in the corner of my eye, begging for me to pay it a visit. Pae, being raised around temples her whole life, wasn't as excited as I was to go explore this temple, so I made plans to get up before everyone else at 6 in the morning and ride a bike up there, snap some quick pictures and ride back and have breakfast. (The fact that I thought it would be cool to bike 1/3 the way up a mountain may have also contributed to Pae's disinterest.)We rented two little rooms at Pasak. The boys (P'Nut and P'Neung aka Bubbles and Cowboy) and I stayed in one room, Pae, Mom and Dad in the other. The boys tried to stay up and watch the marathon Federer v. Roddick Wimbledon Final, but I tried to sleep since I was intent on actually waking up to visit the temple.

I woke to my annoying little cell phone alarm, looked at the time "6:05 AM" and literally rolled my eyes at myself. Took me a couple minutes to shake all of the sleep out of my system, but I was able to throw on my nasty pond water smelling shorts from the day before and sneak out of the little cabin before 6:15. I grabbed the bike Pae had the day before and started my approximate 8 kilometer round trip up the small mountain.It was great, there was fog everywhere and actually dew coated all of the grass and weeds along the little dirt road leading to the temple. The temple is called Wat Tham Khao Prang วัดถ้ำเขาปรางค์, here's a picture I took from the bike of the beginning of the sign for the temple (temple in background).

I tried to make it all the way up to the temple without getting off of the bike, but the bike had only 6 gears the smallest of which was certainly not made for climbing a mountain. I churned away until about 100 meters from a set of stairs leading up to the temple when I finally cracked! Had to walk the bike the final stones throw.

A middle aged lady, reacting to barking dogs, came out of her hut and asked me in Thai if I was alone. I told her yes, to which she asked what I wanted. I told her that I wanted to see the temple and take some pictures. She smiled, kinda giggled at my foreign attempt at Thai, and pointed to where I could park my bike. I thanked her, waded through a group of curious, full grown temple dogs (soi dogs that live at a temple and are taken care of by the monks) and started up the stairs. I'd guess that there were no more than 100 bright red steps leading up to the temple, white banisters on either side, and deep jungle-like forest the whole way up.On the right of the stairs, in the jungle (that word sounds a little over the top, but I'll stick with it) was a large structure with a rusted tin roof, orange robes hanging from the walls...monk's robes drying or airing out. This was the monks' living quarters. I wouldn't have even noticed this building if not for a medium-sized monkey that leaped from a tree onto the metal roof. The sudden shudder of the thin tin roof startled the four dogs that were climbing the stairs with me. An interesting National Geographic moment then occurred as the four dogs, each on a different level of the stairs, had a stare down with the monkey. I was watching and listening for the rustling of the bushes for other monkeys to make sure I wasn't mugged by the little trouble makers. Remember, I had just woken up and was in no shape to bust out any kung fu moves on those little scavengers.We stood there for literally three minutes, dogs completely still, Clint Eastwood stares piercing the understory. Anti-climactically, the monkey just kinda sat on the roof scanning the situation. I followed his lead, lost interest and headed back up. Three of the dogs remained vigilant and stayed in their spots, as the lead dog accompanied me the rest of the way to the temple.We got to the top to find a fresh looking temple situated in a flat area, right in front of another mountain rise that jutted another 400 meters or so into the sky. The view of the temple from close up was actually a little disappointing as I could only see the front set of spires from that angle, but still worth the ride.The view of the countryside below was stunning. I leaned against a wall, as the dog chewed on some bird feathers, just watching the fog and mist lift on the farmland below.I snapped out of my little trance and chugged back to the bike down the stairs (no monkey this time) and made the mostly down hill ride back to the resort, where the family was just beginning to shower. Perfect timing. The scrambled egg, bacon, hot dog, ham and toast buffet was made even yummier having done a little exercise beforehand!

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