Phitsanulok 2

Definately feeling better. So a longer post.

We need some basic Thai urgently. Normally we go to Google translate, key in a few words and away we go. Not so easy with Thai. Neither the written form or the phonetic is helpful, so we have to use the little speaker icon, listen to it a few times, write it down. Some examples. ‘Hello’ is sawa deee
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This one, the most important of all, is really tricky. ‘Thank you’ is cop koon kaaap. Doing this well is fun because the Thais don’t seem to expect it so much out here in the country, so in response they place their hands in a praying position, bow and slowly say kaaaaa. If you say it in front of several people they all slowly say kaaaaa and the effect is strong. I’m not sure if I should but I slowly bow back. This all takes awhile and is really nice. It’s not long out of Bangkok that thing’s take a turn for the different
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Phitsanulok sees few white people. It’s a few hundred miles from either Bangkok or Chiang Mai and on the plains. In 4 days, maybe 100,000 people, I saw one old man who may have been white, and just before I left a middle-aged man with a Thai wife his own age. He looked like he’d been here for decades. I spoke to neither. We appreciated being culturally alone here in the throngs of a big chaotic festival. It does remind us of rule #56 of round the world riding: non-whites are twice as observant as whites, so there’s no melting into the crowds, lol.

Two things were going on. Firstly a huge regatta, although they don’t call it that. It’s one of the two biggest long boat festivals in Thailand. It happens on this weekend every year on the river Nan and attracts the best rowers from 13 Thai provinces. Rowing is extremely important to Thais and they’ve been racing boats for 600 years. It’s been the principal test of whether young Thai men have the strength, courage and endurance, and are ready to defend their country in war. Awesome, no better reason to row. Go Shawnigan!

We crossed the bridge in the morning, hours before the start
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Looking at the finish line area. Perhaps 500 Thai girls dance on that pad on the far shore
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Looking downriver at the start. Out in the country very few people speak any english so I had to get my facts piecemeal. So I’m guessing the course was about 500 yards because I never found out
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The dancing-girls. I got some amazing video of this
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And the streets behind the river. Packed as you’d expect. Booths with everything you could imagine, but about 1/2 food
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The monks had their own seating area with a little table in front of each of them. On the tables were ceremonial objects I didn’t understand
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When monks cross the street, police or event organizers stop foot traffic. As you can see here they’re a cheerful bunch, always having a good time. They pull themselves together in the temples, but still have a big smile when you go sawa deee
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A Royal Barge offloaded about 50 dignitaries. If you look carefully at the fan on the left of the picture, you’ll notice it’s condensing the humid air and appears to be blowing smoke. It’s also blowing small water droplets and will be in a pool of water. That’s how hot and humid it is here
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A couple of hours before the 2-day regatta start. The Royal Barge and some of the boats gather at the finish line. Far more impressive that the picture suggests
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Boats holding. Everyone once in a while the crew will softly sing a small chant, rocking backwards and forwards rhythmically. Stunning
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The extraordinary bowsprits, perhaps 20 feet long on the biggest boats. So beautiful
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So, a race, from various race shots. The start. You can see 4 boats holding behind
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They’re off. Slowly at first, not trying for speed or advantage, just being in sync with the other boat, measuring each other. The pink boat is going the other way into holding
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Racing, the blue boat ahead. This is the second to maximum size crew, possibly maximum. It was confusing. There’s one simply enormous boat, later
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Passing, in perfect sync with the other boat. Mind blowing, but impossible to show here
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To the finish, the crowds surprisingly calm about the whole thing
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A picture taken from the bridge of a small boat finish
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Here’s the badass boat from Pichit below, in blue. They’re feared and (as this story goes) the men most ready to defend Thailand. It’s very difficult getting a head count because sometimes they’re two abreast, sometimes staggered, and at the ends single file. But in my best pics I counted 54 in the biggest boat, including the potato at the back
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Time for lunch!
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Rowers taking a break. I was struck by how young they were, some just kids
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Yum, seafood. But because this is such a full-on Thai day, we’re headed for the real deal
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But not squid
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A word of warning. Robusta Birdy is a strong coffee drink. I won’t estimate how many equivalent espresso shots, but quite a few, maybe a half-dozen
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Lotus
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And here it is. This seemed to be best of the bug stalls
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Roasted grasshoppers are easy, not very strong-tasting, and quite nice
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These sound gross but are the best. Toasted small frogs, all crunch, no soft bits. Really good, two bites each
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This is where it gets harder because now the bugs have soft guts. These beetles weren’t so bad
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But these I wouldn’t touch. I squeezed one and it felt completely raw, so no way
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A lady had just ordered a bag of these, had poured some hot sauce and was eating them a couple at a time with a wooden skewer, looking fine about it. They’re grubs and not so bad despite being about 50% soft guts. I have video of me hoovering them. Well, very very slowly hoovering one at a time with breaks
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These huge cockroaches were a bridge far too far. They were monsters
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Another boat crew on a ciggy break
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Kids selecting goldfish carefully
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The second thing in Phitsanulok, and the most important is the Phra Phuttha Chinnarat in Wat Yai. Wat, from the Sanskrit vata, means monastery/temple.

King Li Thai in the 14th century commissioned sculptors and priests to cast the Chinnarat Buddha, now the second most important Buddha in Thailand. We’ve heard it’s breathtaking.

First we go to Wat Rat Burana to see the 700 year old Buddha and the murals. Walking through the grounds
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To the temple. Small, elegant and partially in the shade of two huge trees
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Spot the Reefs
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The temple is entirely painted with stories and scenes. Strangely, you can touch them, which of course I didn’t
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And the one shot of the Buddha didn’t work out. Let’s hope we don’t have a similar problem with the Chinnarat Buddha. You have to be on the floor to take photographs in the main hall. The one english instruction I’ve seen in 4 days. Plus there’s a diagram of clothes you mustn’t wear
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Mural
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about 18 inches across
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a foot across
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about a foot tall
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about 6 inches square
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about a foot across
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There are shrines like this everywhere in Thailand
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There were red and blue felt pens, rows of marble balls and a collection box. I didn’t understand the meaning but guessed it was for writing a wish to Buddha
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A girl waits while her husband writes something
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So I did
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The last Buddha before we went to Wat Yai
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A very old Thai lady and a games board in this temple
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Glimpses of magic on the walls
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To Wat Yai
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The Temple was magnificent. Quite small, as they all are
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And the Chinnarat Buddha. I didn’t want to get close and Buddhists were coming in regularly and praying in the area directly in front
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A crop of this incredible work, standing maybe 20 feet high, flawless in its beauty. Click on it for a much better view
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Comments

2 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Epic! You’re cousin passed your blog on to me as a possible honeymoon destination! Really enjoyed reading this post, but I might leave out the bug eating part! Looking forward to the next instalment.

  2. Don Robinson,

    you’re a braver man than me. Fantastic: now to be known forever as…… “Bug Man”! Per is coming up to ride on the weekend so I look fwd to revisiting your restaurant review with him. Good job! Another insect delicacy that is never in season when I’m there: ant eggs (from lge red ants)

    >

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