Back to the train we went to continue our journey north. The next largest town along the train line was Phitsanoluk. We settled into our 3rd class seats, working to be in seats out of the sun, as any seasoned 3rd class traveler should strive for.
An hour north, we passed through the monkey town of Lopburi, allowing us another look at our previously visited monkey pals. A nearby seat was filled with a fella in need of a USB cord to charge his phone. So started a new friendship with Tom from the Czech Republic. He too was headed to Phitsanulok for a couple nights.
A breezy 6 hours & one e-book later, we’d arrived at our destination. Though easily overlooked in a Buddhist country, this travel day was actually Christmas Eve. Our evening arrival was greeted with brightly lit festive lights down the main street and a bright Christmas tree in the roundabout. We booked our stay at Karma Home Guesthouse upon the recommendation of our Dutch friends in Ayutthaya, so the three of us set off in search of home or food, whichever came first.
Our host, Mark, enjoys taking guests out to a local food place for a “family” meal, which made for a very nice way to meet our fellow travelers, get to food quickly, and eat at a place we may have otherwise overlooked. Our Christmas Eve ended with joining in on cultural dancing at the night market held each evening at a nearby temple.
The next morning presented us with two Mark-recommended adventures: east to the old ruin city of Sukithai or west to the new temple of Wat Pha Sorn Kaew. A flip of the coin and we were off to catch a bus west toward Khao Kor. We journeyed the 100 km west along the winding road called the “Green Route”, but were dropped off about 2 km short of the actual road we needed to go up. This allowed for a quick bite to eat, which gave us the energy to start walking and hitch hiking the 4 km to the hilltop temple. About halfway up the hill, Steve’s magic thumb gave way to a ride from two nice Thai ladies.
The first thing we noticed was the beautiful new, 5-tiered white Buddha statue pictured on Mark’s calendar was completely shrouded in scaffolding for repairs. What a busted photo opportunity! But fortune looked down on us as we discovered the adjacent temple was vastly undersold to us!
This three story white building was entirely covered in mosaics! Not just decorated with a few mural artworks, but rather a building seemingly made of mosaic art- the exterior walls, the interior walls, the floors, and stairs. Millions upon millions of pieces of colorful glass, marbles, broken tile, broken plates, pottery, cups, kettle – all skillfully pieced together to create the coverage.
It was also turned out to be an artwork to attempt to photograph the mosaics around all the Instagram posers laying all over the mosaic floors. As previously discovered, beautiful locations create beautiful people watching events. The three of us independently explored the temple with the intents of filming, photographing, and absorbing the beauty of this hilltop wonder.
After about two hours of exploration, it was almost time to attempt to catch that speedy bus back to home. A third of the way back down, we hitch a ride in the back of a pick up truck to the bottom of the hill. From there it wasn’t long until those thumbs snagged us a gold mine of a hitch – all 100 kms back to town!
A fairly big language barrier didn’t stop Steve from making a new friend. Pleasant conversation ensued for the trip back, each of them teaching each other new words while Tom & I listened and watched with amusement from the back seat. Our new friend bestowed a small Buddha figurine on Steve as an offering of friendship & good luck. Steve offered the most personal gift he could return, his Army dog tags, which now hang from the rearview mirror of a truck cruising around central Thailand. Our friend also gave Steve his small toadstool shaped Bluetooth speaker as a gift. It was quite a fun & generous way to spend our Christmas day!
Our evening was spent meandering the new week-long holiday festival, celebrating the upcoming New Year. We perused food stands selling roasted bugs & scorpions, fresh made waffles & crepes, and clothing of all styles & colors. We enjoyed the various performances of traditional dances and modern movements while snacking on tasty (albeit bug-free) desserts alongside our fellow housemates & friends.
(Above photo courtesy of our new friend Tom, right)