Friday, June 11, 2010

In Which I Get Slapped By a Monkey and My Umbrella Saves the Day

We went to Lop Buri today. Here's the run-down:

1. We went to another temple, but this one was probably my favorite yet. It's very famous because it was built around two footprints made by Buddha (supposedly). They also have a snake (Naga) staircase with three sections - one for happiness, one for love, and one for wealth. To get that objective, you have to walk all the way up while holding your breath. We also rang bells there.

2. We had lunch at a restaurant where they sit you on the floor around a table in a pavilion. They served us chicken sandwiches, potato chips, and Vietnamese-style spring rolls (which apparently means they come with a plate full of herbs like mint, sweet basil, and parsley. You pluck off the leaves and eat them in between bites of the spring rolls).

3. We went to a palace built for one of the Ayutthaya king's summer home. It was built when Thailand started trading with France, so it had European influences in the architecture.

(A side note about the sites: they're mostly these old-looking, tumbled-down brick structures. They remind me a lot of the look of Ephesus - not marble, but about the same level of ruin-ness. What I have to keep reminding myself, though, is that the Thai ruins are about 400-200 years old. Which makes them a lot less impressive than the ones in Greece and Turkey.)

There was also a museum next to the palace ruins that held artifacts and explanatory placards. The placards were in English, which really helped me figure out a lot of what J.J. has been trying to explain to us. In the upstairs part they had a bunch of personal items of King Mongkut - his bed, a few photographs and statues, some of his room's decorations, etc. One of the placards there mentioned how much he championed education. He even hired an English governess, Mrs. Anna Lenowens, to teach his kids. "It's the King and I!" I exclaimed. None of the Dutch knew what I was talking about. I looked around to find Jenna, just so I could tell someone who would know. "This stuff - it's the king from The King and I!" J.J. overheard and I tried to explain about that. She was very impressed that there are three American movies about Mrs. Anna and King Mongtut, but she had never heard of that before. And so, once again I encounter a musical theater reference that no one around me cared about. But I was excited.

He does not look at all like Yul Brenner, by the way.

4. We went to the monkey temple!

The monkeys are all over a shrine and a set of ruins in the middle of a busy intersection in the main city in Lop Buri. We bought vegetables from a vendor and, with our hired bodyguard (who was armed with a slingshot that the monkeys were terrified of), we offered the food to the monkeys. They would take it directly from our hands, sometimes hopping on our legs to try to get more. I was feeding one, but when I didn't hand the chunk of cucumber over fast enough, the little monkey slapped my hand and screeched at me! Later, another one snuck up behind me and pulled on my skirt to try to get some more food.

They are indeed cheeky monkeys!

Speaking of which, let me tell you about my other wildlife adventures in the last 24 hours:

A. I was walking along the path to the canteen for breakfast this morning, when a bird startled and flew very quickly out of the flower bush next to me. I turned to see, and there was a long green-and-white striped snake slithering around the branches at shoulder level, flickering its tongue out in my direction.

B. While showering last night, I found two geckos, a one-foot-long lizard, a frog, and several dozen ants in the bathroom. They all watched me get undressed. I was not at all phased by this, which I think is a sign of my adapting.

C. I'm also getting used to brushing little turds off my bed.

D. There is a species of bird here that calls "Pew, pew!"

E. I have been using my travel umbrella as a sun parasol. It found a new function today when, as I was walking to the bathroom at the palace, I passed under a tree and heard a sudden "Thunk!" and then a louder "THUNK!" I looked down and there, right at my feet, was a big green snake. It had fallen (jumped?) right onto my umbrella! Inge and Sabrina, two of the Dutch, were just ahead of me, and they turned back when they heard me shriek. "Slang! Slang!" they cried, pointing at the snake as it slithered very quickly off into the bushes.

Thank you, Mom, for suggesting I bring the umbrella! It is keeping both the sun and the reptiles off of my head, and for that I am truly grateful.

P.S. Tomorrow we're going here and also to the river Kwai. I hear there's a bridge there? :)

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