Monday, October 19, 2009

Phimai makes the top 10

Just a very quick post as I'm in Khorat (or Korat) and I'm off for a shower and change of clothing after a hot and humid day visiting Phimai and Phanom Wan. Tim and I arrived in Bangkok just before midday yesterday and after some minor hassle we got a mini-bus to Korat, in the northeast region of Thailand. We bedded down at the San Sabai Hotel, which was clean and tidy enough, and had a steak dinner at Chez Andy, though there's a lot more to the day than I have time to tell you at the moment. First thing this morning, the driver we booked never showed so we spent a couple of hours arranging a new car and driver before finally heading out to Phimai. Incredibly clean and tidy, Phimai is a large temple complex built when the Khmers ruled most of the area that includes Isaan and southern Laos. Its Khmer influences are unmistakable. I'll post some photos when I get back to Phnom Penh in a few days. Suffice to say I was like a pig in shit, seeing this temple for the 1st time. It still retains a substantial amount of original carving alongside some additions added when the Thai authorities reconstructed the temple. It was busier than I expected with at least two groups of foreigners visiting the site, as well as a party of monks. My impression - I liked it, it was beautifully looked after, the lintels and carvings in situ were very good and it would likely make it into my top 10 Khmer temples. Next up was the Phimai National Museum until we found the gates locked with the closed sign hanging upside down. Undeterred, we legged it over the gates, smiled at the security guard and his dog and visited the open-air section of the museum, but couldn't persuade the guard to open up the indoor section. Well at least we saw some of the excellent collection of Khmer iconography on display. After lunch we headed back to Khorat, with a small detour to the quiet-as-a-mouse Phanom Wan which paled against its bigger neighbour. But a nice diversion nonetheless. Then it was back to Khorat, some bargaining with the car rental company for today's car and the next two days, and a welcome shower. Tomorrow Phanom Rung and Muang Tam are the highlights with an overnight stop in a swanky hotel in Surin at a rock-bottom price. I'm looking forward to it.

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