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    Suphanburi Province: A Day Trip Northwest Of Bangkok

    A RAMBLE IN FOUR PARTS

     

    Part Two: A Rural Suphanburi [Water] Buffalo Park

     

    My friend John Stiles and I set off in my old truck up the road to the rural province of Suphanburi, to the northwest of Bangkok.  As usual, we had a vague idea, from a tertiary Google search, of what we wanted to see, but no particular plan: we would ramble.  We would eventually see several amazing Buddhist temple complexes, a Buffalo park, and a Farm Museum.  We never 'found' the actual town of Suphanburi, but we didn't care: we had a grand adventure rambling about the rural Thai countryside.

    As there is only one kind of buffalo in Thailand, they are referred to as Buffalo . . . not Water Buffalo!

     

    Baan Kwai (Buffalo Village) in rural Si Prachan,  Suphanburi Province a delightful 17 acres of ponds, buffalos, old Thai houses reassembled in tidy gardens, buffalo, intended to educate the public about . . . buffalo.

     

    The grounds of Baan Kwai are very nicely tended and the old Thai houses are beautifully restored and maintained.  This is the ideal of old Thai culture.

     

    I love these old Thai style houses . . . normally made of teak wood.

     

    Beautiful old trees threw their shade throughout the park.

     

    They made a nice effort to create an 'old time' rural feel to the place.

     

    There was an area set aside for a exhibit of rice cultivation.

     

    A Thai scarecrow.  We saw many of these in the fields all across Suphanburi Province.

     

    There were several ponds for the buffalo and ducks and geese.  Those are fish traps . . . although I do not believe they used them . . . they are for the visitors to look at.

     

    The ducks came near . . . expecting a hand out.

     

    A park employee called the buffalo over . . . so she could sell us some buffalo feed to hand-feed them.

     

    The buffalo in the water happily obliged and came over to be fed.

     

    A mother buffalo and her baby swam over too.

     

    These buffalo were a pleasing color . . . and moved with such slow grace in the water.

     

    Feeding time!

     

    This one came right up and under the netting we were sitting on while feeding them . . . making for an interesting photo, no?

     

    There was a lot more to see here than we anticipated.

     

    The buffalo village also served as a kind of agriculture museum as well.  What a wonderful haystack!

     

    I fell in love with this old agricultural work truck.  Each of those scratches and dents came with a story . . .

     

    The extreme of utilitarian equipment.

     

    Classic.

     

    Some of the buffalo were brought into a shed for feeding.

     

    The purple . . . perhaps medical treatment of some kind.

     

    No: not a cowlick . . . a buffalolick!

     

    Buffalo are a noble creature . . .

     

    It was a pleasant day for just walking a round.  There was always something of interest to see.

     

    The large seed pod of a fern palm.

     

    It was the end of the rainy season and everything was looking good.

     

    A lovely Hibiscus flower.

     

    No buffalo park would be complete without a fiberglass replica of a buffalo cartoon character from Thai childrens' TV.

     

    We saw only three other visitors during the hour we spent at the buffalo village.  Granted, it was a Monday, but there must be a tourist season.  A school teacher friend of mine said that his school takes elementary school kids here by bus once a year . . . .

     

    The whole buffalo village was dotted with the fine old Thai style houses.  Beautiful.

     

    Buffalo pull buffalo carts . . . duh!  I was glad to have found this shed containing many very old and restored carts.

     

    A cart for every purpose.

     

    Very simple construction, but strong.

     

    This was a very old Thai house that was open for inspection.  We went in and were amazed at what we saw!

     

    Many old antique items remained in the old farm house.

     

    Fantastic light and color inside the old Thai farmhouse.

     

    Huge teak planks made up the floor.

     

    Such quiet spiritual beauty!

     

    Marvelous light, color, shape, and texture.

     

    Every wall, every room . . . held visual marvels!

     

    A perfect still life study wherever I looked.

     

    A collection of things one might find in an old Thai farmhouse.

     

    Parts of the old farmhouse were open to the outside . . . it is the tropics, so no need for heating . . . most likely the open kitchen area.

     

    As we were leaving Baan Kwai, we couldn't help but notice a large fish tank . . . with fantastic reflections . . . of us!  Bizarre selfie opportunities like this do not come along all that often.

    Suphanburi Province: A Day Trip Northwest Of Bangkok

    A RAMBLE IN FOUR PARTS

     

    Part One: An Ancient Rural Suiphanburi Riverside Wat

     

    My friend John Stiles and I set off in my old truck up the road to the rural province of Suphanburi, to the northwest of Bangkok.  As usual, we had a vague idea, from a tertiary Google search, of what we wanted to see, but no particular plan: we would ramble.  We would eventually see several amazing Buddhist temple complexes, a Buffalo park, and a Farm Museum.  We never 'found' the actual town of Suphanburi, but we didn't care: we had a grand adventure rambling about the rural Thai countryside.

    Suphanburi, just a two hours drive from my home, is like going back in time to simpler days in Thailand.

     

    . . . and wonderful old Buddhist temples (Wats) dotted throughout the scenery.  Our first stop was as the result of spotting a large, towering chedi through some trees as we sped down the highway.  We turned off the road not knowing that we would find a most beautiful and interesting temple.

     

    The wat we found was also a school, which was just getting started.  A student band was playing and children were singing.  We wandered in.

     

    The wat was built along both sides of a river, one of the tributaries of the Chao Phraya River.

     

    Marvelous aged textures throughout this beautiful place.

     

    I believe we could have spent all day just photographing this door and the windows on this old storehouse.  The black mold outlining, the weathered and stained walls, the encroaching plants.  The color!  Incredible.  But we ambled on, pointing our cameras here and there, and always finding something visually interesting.

     

    Detail of a weathered old river ferry boat that had been pulled up into the wat parking lot.

     

    It was still early, after morning meditation, so the monks were out doing their chores.

     

    The brooms neatly arranged . . . and a bench to sit on after completing the job.

     

    In our ambling we found an old wooden building and went up the stairs to find a meditation hall with an elaborately decorated 'pulpit.'

     

    Simple votive items in storage until tomorrow's meditation.

     

    The simple interior of a rural Suphanburi wat.  Little did we know that just across the river was the other half of this wat complex . . . and it was something special!

     

    We crossed the bridge to the other side of the wat.  It had a very different feel . . . Yes, this monk had a hole in his head (from an earlier injury).

     

    A grilled banana hawker stood outside of the temple buildings.

     

    A votive altar made in a boat at this riverside temple.

     

    The boat altar was full of these scenes of devotional focus.

     

    A reminder that these altars are not 'antiques' or 'relics' but living, current places of respect, attention, and daily tending (note the fresh bananas).

     

    The entrance to the first wooden building we came to turned out to be a consolidated museum of the ancient Buddha images from the oldest wats on the ground.

     

    The interior of the museum.  The light!  The light!

     

    Remarkable.

     

    Revered monks in effigy.

     

    Many fine, ancient Buddha images were housed in the museum.

     

    Ghostly reflections on the display cases enhanced our fantastic experience.

     

    Remarkable artistry in gold.

     

    We walked out of the museum and into a nondescript wooden structure next door . . . and another world revealed itself to us!!!

     

    We entered at the invitation of an old monk . . . and went deeper and deeper into this artistically remarkable spiritual space.

     

    Further and further into the old wooden temple . . .

     

    The open-sided temple seemed recently restored.

     

    Further and further into the temple until we came to the central altar.

     

    Sacred altar to The Buddha.

     

    As this is a living temple, the monks live in cells around the central temple and use it as a kind of day room for their chores.

     

    All the mundane items of daily living stacked in a corner of this remarkably beautiful place.

     

    There were many other other altars in the freshly varnished temple. This one included a 'self portrait' of your intrepid photographer.

     

    I am keeping good company . . . John and The Buddha.

     

    There were freeloader cats looking content in the temple.

     

    The cats distributed themselves around the temple in the most aesthetic way possible.

     

    A temple cat in full meditative repose.

     

    Wonderful reflection of the surrounding temple structures on the polished varnish floor (with cat).

     

    I was tempted . . . but relented . . . because of the peacefulness there.

     

    I could have spent all day in that wooden temple (or all the rest of my life!) . . . but we left our homes that morning to ramble, and ramble we would.

     

    I am not sure what to say about this.  I am sure this 'modern' monk is somewhere on his own spiritual path . . . but it seems odd to me.  I guess the Buddha did not anticipate modern technology, and the current wat abbots have not discovered effective guidance . . . or it doesn't matter.

     

    Back outside in the real air . . . a row of chedis moldering away in the sunlight.

     

    Yes, still inside the same temple grounds.  Buffalo revered as a part of the lives of the people who live in the surrounding rural farmland.

     

    A beautiful Wat gate with welcoming mythological spirits.  This building was surrounded by a walled compound filled with old chedis holding the ashes, one would assume, of former monks and abbots.

     

    The surrounding chedis.

     

    The old chedis stand in a vigil around the temple . . .

     

    Some of the detail of these old funerary chedis is still very beautiful.

     

    Missing Buddha images!  If you ever go to Thailand, remember this photo!  This is where those expensive 'rare ancient Buddha' images sold in the expensive hotel art shops come from!  They are robbed from these old chedis.  It is against the law to export Buddha images without the proper permission from authorities.

     

    Around the temple I walked admiring the lines of chedis.

     

    A temple within a temple.  Stunning architecture.

     

    Old and decaying temple hardware . . . and a new lock.

     

    I left the inner courtyard though this gate . . . more exploring to do.

     

    This wat building nearby drew my attention.

     

    Several of the traditional white wat structures stood nearby.

     

    An old, sun bleached and forlorn door to the first wat building.

     

    A view between the several wats.  The small photos on the column (right) indicates there are the ash urns of deceased donors enshrined in the wall or column.

     

    High up, under the gabled roof end, the exquisite Buddhist art looked almost new.

     

    This old Buddhist tablet stood in front of a plaque listing donors to the Wat . . . in order of the amount donated.  My name, and my wife's name, appears on many of these donor lists throughout Thailand.

     

    Birds had built quite a nest above one of the doors.

     

    John and I wandered further back into the wat along a wooded path and discovered abandoned monks' quarters.  It looks like whoever lived there in the past left all of a sudden.

     

    We sensed a mystery: Why had these monks left in such a hurry that they did not even have time to take their  robes with them?  Perhaps they had done something bad . . . or had been suddenly transferred to another wat . . . or . . .?

     

    Along a path we came upon two powerful Buddha images in a pavilion next to a pond.

     

    Each pavilion Buddha was amazing.

     

    Behind the Buddha pavilion was this Thai-style cottage set in the middle of a pond.

     

    This building was a bit of a mystery too: there was no bridge out to the structure, and there was no boat anywhere to be seen.

     

    A small forest of trees full of chattering fruit bats surrounded the cottage in the pond.

     

    It was not even noon and I felt my day had already been successful.  We walked out of the wat over the bridge and along this road.

     

    Out past the old school house to my truck and back on the road to more rambling adventure in Suphanburi Province.

     

    Oh, I almost forgot . . . there was a rooster at the wat and I took the best rooster photo of my entire life!

    20K Bike Ride Around the "Green Lung of Bangkok"

    Prapadaeng Island, or more commonly known as 'the Green Lung of Bangkok,' is a large bend in the Chao Phraya River that, despite its close proximity to the city of Bangkok, remains surprisingly a beautiful slice of wild nature . . . mostly as mangrove swamps.

     

    Prapadaeng is not very developed for cars, but is highly developed for bicycle riding on these elevated paths.  Not all the bike paths have these guard rails, some are quite frightening . . . but fun.

     

    Although there are a few small roads, and a few cars around, most of Prapadaeng is still mangrove and palm swamp.

     

    I did not go biking alone, but some of the fun-loving faculty, staff and administrators of the King Mongkut University of Science North Bangkok, where I am currently employed.

     

    Our ride was in three parts, first we rode to a Wat to receive a blessing form the monks.

     

    Our monk blessed us.

     

    The small wat was very pleasant.  The monk on the left held the ancient traditional Buddhist iPhone.

     

    The next leg of our journey was to a wonderful riverside restaurant for a tasty Thai lunch.

     

    The restaurant gate.

     

    We took our lunch out on a sala over the river, but they had an old house section too for eating.

     

    Mick, an English teacher, was happy we were going to eat in the sala.

     

    While we ate we watched several ocean going ships navigate up the river to the Port of Bangkok.

     

    After lunch we literally rode 20 meters to a coffee and dessert shop, Treetops, next door!

     

    The Treehouse is a beautiful place.  We ordered and enjoyed some excellent coffee and an array of desserts.

     

    The Treehouse has several rooms for rent.  It would be nice to stay out there one night.

     

    After lunch, coffee, and dessert, we rode along the river toward the Botanical Garden.

     

    There was some small holding agriculture here and there . .  and the requisite spirit houses too.

     

    Everyone commented about how wonderful it was that such pristine nature was so close to Bangkok.

     

    There were many different kinds of plants in the Botanical Garden. Duh!

     

    At the Botanical Garden, I climbed the observation tower to take some novelty photos . . . and ones of the wonderful nature.

     

    The view from the tower.  Our university van picked us up at the Botanical Garden and took us home.  We had a great day out and about.

    Out and About in Pakkret, My Hometown

    Pakkret* (variously Pak Kred or Pak Kret) is a small municipality (population 180,000) in the Thai province of Nonthaburi, 10 miles up the Chao Phayra River from the heart of Bangkok. [* The name Pakkret derives from the Thai, Ban Pak Tret Noi (บ้านปากเตร็ดน้อย), meaning village on the mouth of the lesser bypass.]

     

    Pakkret sits on the east shore of the busy river.  Longtail boats and ferries move people across and around the river banks.

     

    Small government ferries take shoppers headed to the big Pakkret Market . . . for 3 baht (US$0.09).

     

    Many wooden houses on wooden pilings line the river at Pakkret.  Many of these houses sit below the river flood level and the residents vacate their home for 2-3 months of the year.

     

    Shoppers going back across the river.

     

    When I think of Pakkret I think of the river . . . and the two grand markets.

     

    With Chinese New Year just a week away, the Pakkret market has taken on a festive feel.

     

    The Pakkret market is a very visually stimulating place . . . and an olfactory stimulating place.  Wonderful smells.

     

    A Pakkret market fish hawker.

     

    So many still life studies everywhere I looked.

     

    All that great tasting Thai street food has its origins in these 'wet markets.'

     

    I am not even sure know the names of all of these interesting vegetables.  I can't remember ever eating purple green beans . . .

     

    It was a late Saturday afternoon, so it was not a crowded as usual.

     

    What would a Thai market be without the ubiquitous stuff-on-a-stick!

     

    Delicious Jackfruit.

     

    I don't normally take cat photos, but this forlorn market mouser with a recently chewed ear caught my eye.

     

    Food is very inexpensive in Thailand.  Most markets have stalls selling these 'meals in a bag' for commuters.  Just pick one of these up on the way to or from work.

     

    My brother-in-law from Hong Kong, and fellow photo buff, was the excuse to explore the market and riverside attractions.  We found the little Chinese temple sandwiched in an alley.

     

    Chinese Temple detail . . .

     

    In addition to food, the Pakkret market also has sections for [old lady] clothes.

     

    After shopping for your restaurant or market stall, you can hire a motorcycle taxi truck to get your stuff where you want it to go.

     

    Motorized carts for moving produce and products around the market district.

     

    A traditional, and less expensive, means of transportation is the samlor.

     

    The Thai markets are places of constant action and movement.

     

    Outside the market, on the street, are even more edibles . . . steamed dim sum.

     

    I am always amazed at the artistry of Thai artificial flowers!

     

    We wandered around in some alleyways along the river and discovered a Buddhist Temple Supply Shop.

     

    A back alley home cookie factory making traditional Chinese treats.

     

    Somebody's business: crushed ice.

     

    Down along the river . . .

     

    Our late afternoon walk brought us to the riverside . . . and this fantasticly weathered and decaying old wooden house . . .

     

    The high water lines of recent river flooding clearly shown on the old house.

     

    I love the textures of deteriorating wood on old doors and windows.  This particular riverside house had absolutely scrumptious surfaces.

     

    Yes, these are the actual colors . . . fantastic.

     

    I think of the surface variegation on these surfaces as their histories.

     

    This window has everything I want in a photo: dilapidation, corrugation, and decay.

     

    This window and those above are all on the same old wooden house sitting on pilings in the Chao Phraya River.

     

    The Thai-style gabled roof . . . showing the age of this magnificent structure.

     

    Just as we were leaving this beautiful place, the sun came out and shown magic afternoon light on the rotting piers of the old house.

     

    Lopburi Ramble: In Search of Sunflower Fields

    My friend John Stiles and I took a day off work on a week day and drove north out of Bangkok early in the morning in search of the famous Lopburi sunflower fields . . . they were suppose to be coming into bloom this time of year (November 2017).

     

    Just an easy 1 1/2 hour drive up a divided highway to Lopburi.

     

    We began the day before first light, so when we came across this roadside restaurant on a pond, so we stopped.

     

    We enjoyed some good coffee (they had a grand Italian coffee-making machine!) and dry honey toast with pork floss.

     

    There was a dried fish stand setting up outside the restaurant when we arrived.  Very photogenic.  We would see a lot of dried fish throughout the day.

     

    Small dried 'sprats' . . . my favorite.

     

    The fish hawker and his beautifully arranged fish.

     

    The colors and arrangement oft these dried fish were captivating.

     

    Good in soups and salads.

     

    A heap of dried fish heads . . . for making fish head soup!

     

    There were also some fresh fish for sale as well.

     

    Drying fish on the round baskets.

     

    These are rice treats with either fish, beans, or sweets wrapped in leaves.  We didn't buy any fish or rice treats . . . and headed up the rural road toward Lopburi.

     

    We left Bangkok (Minburi) around 6:30 am, loaded a general Lopburi address into the GPS, and headed up the big highway for the hour and a half drive.  When we got a few miles outside of Lopburi, we left the highway for the small roads . . . and found several wonderful small Buddhist Wats.

     

    Right off a small road to Lopburi we found an ancient Wat . . . with a beautiful spirit house.

     

    Monks quarters.

     

    I enjoy walking around old Wats just to see what can be seen.  Here, a still life portrait of items arranged in the  space of a monks house porch.  I love the makeshift, slapped together feel of the shoe box . . . no concern for aesthetic geometry . . . yet beauty was achieved.

     

    In front of a meditation hall. The crematorium can be seen at far right  . . . the monks were consulting with contractors about repairs needed to the crematorium.

     

    An alcove for a magnificent Buddha image.

     

    I found the steering wheel on this ceremonial cart interesting.

     

    I love old unattended things.  This ceremonial cart sitting beside a klong was a thing of beauty (to me).

     

    The old ceremonial cart by the klong.

     

    The old wooden Wats have so many beautiful scenes to photograph.

     

    The old Wat held a beautiful black Buddha.  I am always interested in the devotional markings pilgrims have left behind.

     

    The pattern of the gold leaf applications is fantastic.

     

     

     

    We saw only a few monks out and about.  This monk stepped out for a cigarette. I asked if I could photograph him and he nodded OK.

     

    Around he back of the monk's quarters . . . rural Wats are sometimes disheveled like this.  The monks are not there to garden, and the local people who support the Wat are busy working hard to stay alive.

     

    The old surfaces of the ancient monks' quarters had a marvelous patina.

     

    Monk and water urns.

     

    A powerful Buddha image.

     

    I looked one last time at my final destination . . .

     

    The practical side of Wat life.  We left this wat and drove down a tiny rural farm road until we came to . . .

     

    Just around the corner . . . a colossal Buddha image under construction.  10 stories tall with two workers crawling all over it.

     

    Sculpting the Buddha's head way up on bamboo scaffolding.

     

    In a lot just in front of the giant Buddha under construction were these racks being filled with fish to be dried.

     

    Fish spreaders . . .

     

    Another 500 meters walk up the country lane and we encountered another, bigger fish drying operation . . . and the same two guys spreading fish!

     

    They were drying a variety of fish on bamboo racks.

     

    Some of the drying fish had been split and skinned.

     

    Some of the drying fish had been gutted and beheaded.  There was a lot of drying fish here.

     

    John asked one of the fish spreaders where the fish came from, since we were a couple hundred kilometers from the sea.  They said it was all imported from Cambodia fresh every day.

     

    I'm afraid we made this guy a little selfconsious with all the photography  . . . DAMN TOURISTS!

     

    I took way too many photographs of these incredible fish patterns . . . .

     

    Very strange things to see out in the Thai countryside.  We left the drying fish behind and went looking for the sunflower fields.

     

    We eventually found a field that was just coming into flower.

     

    We first explored a little patch up a dirt path . . . away from another field that had quite a few other sunflower pilgrims.

     

    New sunflowers budding are fantastically interesting things.

     

    The sun was hiding behind the clouds, but that might have made the photography better . . . .

     

    Beautiful sunflowers . . . they make you happy.

     

    A beautiful place to be on a Monday afternoon . . .

     

    We passed by a field that had yet to flower.  John, from Iowa and, like all people from Iowa, was an expert on sunflowers.  He said that sunflowers have an 'internal clock' -- in other words, sunflowers planted a week after other sunflowers, will bloom one week later.

     

    An ice cream hawker found his way to here the Thai tourists were  . . . as we had.

     

    John bought an ice cream sandwich . . . literally, a slab of ice cream in between slices of bread.  The hawker consented to this photograph.

     

    We found a larger field of blooms.

     

    This is more like it.

     

    We were not alone, of course.  Sunflower fields attract people like moths to a flame.

     

    A gorgeous place to find a sunflower field . . . below the sharp hills with a Buddhist temple perched high up on a rise.

     

    The light was starting to fade as we headed out of the beautiful fields . . .  we had a hilltop Buddha image to get to.

     

    Rows and rows of sunflowers popping in and out of the sunlight.

     

    This sweet, and nutty, couple were selling freshly salted and roasted sunflower seeds. I bought a kilo (they were delicious).

     

    And off we went to find the hillside Buddha.

     

    This MUST be the road!

     

    Yes, all the roads I have ever taken have led me to this place . . . the highway to hell!

     

    The Peacock Temple was . . . .  very interesting, that is for sure.

     

    Chedis . . . and the snake-railed steps up to the big Buddha on the hill.

     

    I love these rural Wats . . . in nature and not overly tended.

     

    And so we started the climb up the temple stairs . . .

     

    And up and up we went.  The stairs were numbered, so we didn't have to count them ourselves.  However, we did not know how many total steps there were going to be!

     

     

    The walk to the top (436 steps in all) was well worth it . . . the view across the Thai landscape was remarkable!

     

    The Peacock Temple below.

     

    What we came to see: a giant Buddha image.  Very beautiful.

     

    There were several altars in and around the top of the climb . . . as well as some tunnels that went inside the mountain . . . we didn't explore these.

     

    4:00pm at the top of a hill enjoying the view and the various altars.

     

    After 30 minutes on the top of the hill, we made our way back down the dry leaf covered 436 steps.

     

    At last . . . the bottom in sight.  And then into the car and off to a Wat we could see from the hilltop Buddha.

     

    We arrived at a temple hosting a meditation retreat just at the moment they bikkus were in meditation. 

     

    Such a beautifully spiritual place.  We were at first reluctant to take photographs until a Wat attendant came over and indicated that it was OK for us to use our cameras.  We took full advantage.

     

    These Buddhist 'nuns' were in colored robes normally associated with Tibetan Buddhists.

     

    We did our best not to disturb the meditating nuns and monks.  Here, a photo during their break.  Monks on one side, nuns on the other.

     

    An elderly nun.

     

    I felt that this was a meditation center I would enjoy attending.

     

    A beautiful 'sala' . . . one assumes it is used in case of heavy rain during meditation times.

     

    The Wat seemed very prosperous, with new structures under construction.

     

    After the meditation stopped, John and I walked around the Wat grounds.

     

    The main Wat structure.

     

    Fantastic design and excellent workmanship.

     

    This 'Thai Angel' was outside the front entrance to the large Wat . . . and very unusual to see with a baby, almost in a Virgin Mary pose.  Is this the baby Buddha Gotama?  I do not know.

     

    We walked around all sides of the Wat main structure.

     

    A Thai Wat in the fading light.

     

    Nearly last light.

     

    One last look around the ground gardens.

     

    We passed a lotus hawker on the way to our car . . . and drove home in the dark: another satisfying and inspirational day out in the world.

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