Last week we started our trip from Bangkok and we stopped in Ayutthaya.
We decided to rent a car as the quickest, and only, way we found to move along the ancient Khmer Thailand-Cambodia highway. Was it a good idea? Was the car an easy way to travel in Thailand? After 2 days my only answer was YES, most definitely. The roads are well marked, the traffic is not as crazy and, surprisingly enough, quite respectful. The only question mark still was how to go with the car through Cambodia, would have been possible? We could not find any information on this subject and we hopped for the best. In the internet era it is easy to find information on the borders around the world, but that is just because somebody else before you posted a comment. Could we be the first ones? Or maybe the lack of info was just an indication that the border was closed.
Why visiting this town? There are many reasons of which the monkey population is most probably the highest in priority.
Travelling by car allows you to stop and go wherever you like. How many times I got disappointed by the guides promising an amazing town and finding just a place to have a coffee (and sometime not even that). We read on Lopburi many things. A small town with almost no trace of tourism, a local market with real local food and products. Of course we were not the first travellers to arrive there but for sure the town is not living of tourism. It was indeed a long time that I have not visited a Thai market without the impression to be almost in China, I guess a side effect of the globalization. Real good honest street food and almost no english spoken. Back to the old hand signals ordering the food looking at the table around you.
The most notable characteristic of this town is the monkey population, all around the little streets with a big colony at the temple in the centre. This is the main driven factor to stop here for few photos. Don’t just go to the temple, have some shots in the streets and the abandoned shops now literally occupied by the monkeys.
At the temple there are so many monkeys around you that a good way to visit the area is actually to stay inside the temple itself (no access for animals). If outside watch out for the monkeys trying to still your water and food. From the courtyard you can make interesting photos of the people behind the bars looking at the monkeys outside. It was like being in a zoo, but this time the visitors were in the cage, a unique prospective.
You may also be lucky with some Buddha monks around. It will add more contest to the photo beside a nice contrast with the typical orange clothes. My usual rule of thumbs is to have a talk with the person, in this case the monk, have a laugh about something and before leaving asking if I can have few shots. Rarely it doesn’t work.
Khao Yai National Park (NP)
When in Thailand you talk about national parks Khao Yai is most probably on top of the list and there are good reasons for that.
It is close to Bangkok, just 2 hours driving, making it a popular cool place to spend a weekend or a holiday. However, the driving tourism is the Thai one with almost no foreigners around. Once we arrived to the main village of the National Park we started looking for accommodation but we could not find any sign of hotels or rooms. We just saw some numbers here and there, we gave a guess that it was the cost for the rooms in Baht, the local currency, and luckily it was.
The NP is quite famous for the high concentration of animals. Get ready to wake up very early in the morning, the best time to spot them. There is a big colony of elephants and we had almost an encounter with one of them, just behind the information centre. It was metres from us but a local Thai couple got so scared that they started screaming and guess what? The elephant run away, most probably even more scared 🙂
You have multiple photography opportunities here. Take your zoom lenses and book a safari, the easiest way to move around. The guides know where and when to go. Sunrises and sunsets are very spectacular too, not to mention the waterfalls and the rivers around.
Watch out for the spicy food, the hottest I have ever tried and I am used to eat very hot. Absolutely no English spoken in this area. We ordered based on other tables food but obviously the locals have a different balance of flavour. If you see red stay away 🙂
Relax for a couple of days here