On a Lark, Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park

Wat Phra Kaeo

Various poses at Wat Phra Kaeo.

Standing,

squatting,

leaning,

Wat Avasa Yai

and leaping all around Kamphaeng Phet.

Kamphaeng Phet was a garrison town to protect first, the Sukhothai Kingdom, then later, Ayutthaya. The ruins are now a small but charming archaeological park with about 40 to 50 wats. While I saw most of them in passing, and walked to about a dozen, the ones pictured above include Phra Kaeo, Chang Gate Fortress, Singha, Pekaram, and Avasa Yai. As considerably less restoration takes place here, all that remains at some sites are just the brick and laterite cores.

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Bagan & Beyond

Bagan P

It’s impossible to capture the magnitude and magnificence of Bagan. 

Upon arriving in the Bagan Archaeological Zone, I was asked where I was staying so the driver could drop me off at a hotel. Having not made a reservation, I glanced around,  spotted the only other Westerner and pointed at him. This is how I met my travel buddy for this trip, Kevin.

With more than 2,200 structures still remaining it would take more than a New Orleans’ minute to see all that Bagan has to offer.

Same, same but different.

Kevin and I took in as much as we could from the saddles of our ebikes.

Clouds killed any chance of catching a good sunset so I gave dawn my best effort.

Irrawaddy River Sunset

A sunset cruise on the Irrawaddy yielded one fair result.

 While I spent most of this trip in Bagan, I did get a glimpse of Mandalay as it was my entry/exit airport. Here are the highlights…

U Bein Bridge

I walked across the world’s longest teak footbridge, the U Bein Bridge, which spans the Taungthaman Lake near Amarapura.

I walked to the top of the tower at Mandalay Palace, around the Su Taung Pyae Pagoda, Kyauktawgyi Pagoda, and Mahamuni Buddha Temple.

Maybe it’s the teak, but I found Shwenandaw Kyaung Monastery, or the Golden Palace Temple, to be the most charming.

I wouldn’t even mention Kuthodaw Pagoda but that’s where the world’s largest book resides. The entire text of the Tipitaka Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism is inscribed on huge stone slabs. All 730 “pages” are housed in individual shrines, called kyauksa gu. Most impressive.

Two-Wheeled Touring

Since my last post, I’ve been wandering on the weekends with either mountain biking or motoring buddies. In addition to this tuft-bearing longhorn beetle and the best tea in Chiang Mai, a few highlights follow below.

While taking a stream-side snack break, I couldn’t help but admire the view.

I’m not sure who picked this destination but it was fun despite my getting lost… twice.

I never seem to tire of rice fields or grow bored with the shelters in them.

Macbook-carrying hitchhiking monk on the way to Buddha’s footprints.

When climbing waterfalls in the rain, how wet do you get?

Twain in the Rain

Today’s ride took us through Mae Takhrai National Park. The cloud coverage was great for keeping me from burning and melting.

Hell is hilarious so I I had to laugh. Maybe I shouldn’t have…

Immediately afterwards, a downpour started.

Almost two hours later, we were finally back on track. While it can be a little inconvenient at times, I do love rainy season. The fields are lush, the falls are flush, and the trails go slush… ah, mud rides.

Iconic Kyoto

Despite soaking me like a drowned rat, the rain was kind enough to let up so I could visit the vermilion torii tunnels of the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine grounds and the famous forest at Arashiyama.

I couldn’t help but wonder if the maiko hide fish snacks in the folds of their obi. They do tend to congregate around the temizu water troughs.

Bamboo Grove

A designated soundscape… the sound of swaying stalks in the grove is recognized by the ministry.

The bulk of my time was spent riding along the Katsura and Kamo rivers or sampling mochi/people watching in cafes until a storm passed.

 I stole many glances at various temples from the seat of my rental bicycle as I wandered about the city but was often too wet or avoiding impending saturation to stop. Props to the Almont Hotel for providing dry towels, a blow dryer, and warm house clothes.

Amiss at the Acropolis

“You are now at the Acropolis,” said Thanos, our guide… hmmm, I was sure there would be more people and the Panthenon would be bigger. Ok, so this is the one that Homer makes reference to, the Acropolis of Styra, on Evia, not in Athens.Acropolis of Styra Church of Virgin Mary

The walk to the top of Mount Kliosi was one of my favorites with Castro Armeno, the Church of the Virgin Mary and the Cave of St. Nicholas to explore.

Other highlights of the walks around Evia included: the cipollino marble quarries on Mount Ohi where columns chiseled back in the Roman era still remain;

Castello Rosso, one of the grandest forts of the 4th crusade,

with its intact arches and chapel;

the village of Marmari;

the Porfyra Gorge;

various hidden coves and stone bridges with crystal clear water;

and the Aegean coast.

Blue Beach

Evia was beautiful and clean and reflected in the food. Most of what we ate was locally sourced and incredibly fresh. I was worried that I’d find the cuisine bland and boring but I think those may have been the best meals I’ve ever consumed.

On the other hand, the food in Athens was all I expected it to be… but the city was not.

Something as simple as taking the metro from Monastiraki Square makes one pause,

as does the Presidential Guard and the UNESCO Acropolis,

the Erechtheion Caryatids, both outdoor replicas and indoor originals,

the Parthenon and the Theatre of Dionysus,

Athens Pan

and well, Athens.

In addition to the many historical sites, the street art was startling as well.

I loved these “split” style works.

Achilles was by far one of my favorite artists

but there were many other talented ones

to be discovered in all the chaos.