Tuesday, October 20, 2009
9 temples in a day was today's diet on my tour of the Khmer temple sites of Isaan, northeast Thailand. It included the disputed border temple of Ta Muen Thom, where we found the wooden gate masquerading as the border post, wide open and the Khmer and Thai troops mingling freely with each other, sharing jokes and cigarettes. Nice to see, though the Thais were clearly in charge of the temple compound itself. I didn't expect to be able to visit the temple due to the border tensions over the past year, so was cock-a-hoop to get in, though the destruction that has been wrought on the wall carvings was upsetting. Pictures showing the tampering will be posted when I return to Phnom Penh on Friday. We started the day early at 6am with our car and driver Mr Moo. First stop was Phanom Rung (the Thai spelling), which with its hill-top location and wealth of carving just pipped Phimai in the temple charts, though I rate both very highly. More later. Mueang Tam (Thai spelling again) was a quiet oasis broken only by the party of 100 schoolchildren who arrived just as we were leaving, thank goodness. We clocked up visits to some of the smaller sites in the vicinity, including the three temples that constitute the Ta Muen group right next to the Thai-Cambodian border. We finished off at Prasat Ban Phluang in the pouring rain before heading for our overnight stop in Surin. The hotel we booked wasn't swanky in any way afterall, so no wonder they gave it to us at rock-bottom price. We have a couple more temples to visit in the morning before we head back to Khorat for 1 more night and then to Bangkok for a night. The highlight of the day, besides the high of the temples, was our lunchtime stop in the town of Ban Kruat where we found Mr Dang and his restaurant. He produced a full English menu with every conceivable English pub/cafe grub you could ask for. I had steak and kidney pie, chips and baked beans and it was superb. Mr Dang serves the expats in the district, who he said numbered more than 200 families, with many coming from the US, England and Scandinavia. A corner of England in an unlikely setting.