Sunday, November 12, 2006


10th November - 12th November

Surrounded by three rivers converging, the island of Ayuthaya was once the capital and cultural centre of Thailand from 1350 to 1767. Now a UNESCO heritage site, it is home to several sets of ruined Wats (a Buddhist temple/monastery).

Consequently, travellers from all over the world come here to sweat their balls off cycling from Wat to Wat in the searing heat with the only shade taken up by the resident packs of rabid dogs.

Fortunately for us, however, we decided to start our own cycling tour in the evening while the Wat were closed. After a shaky start, getting lost and then chased by a pack of dogs we found ourselves at Wihaan Phra Mongkhon Bophit and bribed the security to let us in while it was still lit.

There were owls and large fruit bats roaming the sky. Zhenia caught one on camera flying past one of the Praang.
Towards the end, Pat got spiritual. There can be only one!

The next day was hot but we sucked it up and got on our bikes. Here's the Chedi at Wat Phra Ratburana.

One of the many mange dogs relaxing after a busy night in the shade.

Zhenia looks serene at Wat Phra Mahathat.

One of the major tourist snapshots - the Buddha head engulfed in tree roots.

A grumpy and sweaty Pat sits in the shade after we cut the tour short in favour of drinking beer.

We thought it was a branch floating by until we realized that there's no current in the moat. A four foot monitor lizard.

Nong Khai

6th November - 9th November

Once in Nong Khai we were told by everyone and their Thai girlfriend
to go and see Sala Kaew, a sculptural park that includes some very bizarre, surreal and creatively impressive concrete statues filled with Hindu and Buddhist imagery.

As the story goes, Luang Poo Boun Leau Sourirat, a Lao national, tumbled into a hole as a child, where he met an ascetic named Kaewkoo, who introduced him to the manifold mysterials of the underworld and set him on course to become a Brahmanic yogi-priest-shaman. As a sign of his gratefulness, Luang build the park and named it after his teacher.

Before we set off for the park, however, Zhenia bought a hat - simply charming!

To get to the park we rented bicycles. In the background, Pat's foot is hanging mid-air.

As we approached the park an enormous concrete Buddha appeared right in front of us.

On entry into the park we were immediately confronted with one of the more bizarre sculptures: a pack of dogs wielding booze, guns, riding motorbikes (all with erections) angrily surrounding a huge elephant.

A 27 foot seven headed Naga. Pat enters the jaws of the 'Wheel of Life', considered to be the main spectacle of the park.

One of the stranger representations in the 'Wheel of Life': adultery. Here the husband slaps his mistress while his wife looks on laughing. In the background you can see two skeletons representing the death of love.

In the middle of the wheel sits a large head with many little heads on top of it, representing (according to the artist's view) the many faces that a person has throughout his/her life. From bottom to top in order: your best face, your most evil face, again your best face, your strange face, an even stranger face, the snake, good face, zero. If you ask us, the whole thing is strange but curiously interesting.

A reclining Buddha. All the details on the head and the torso are the artist's own design.

More information and pictures about the park can be found at, just click on the 'Town to Explore' section. Also, a digital version of the above "Wheel of Life" is available on the same website.

Pat and Tom were later given a brief tour of the main building, a shrine to Luang Poo Boun Leau Sourirat himself, which included his mummified body (no pictures allowed, unfortunately). The most fun in the park, though, was feeding the fish.

Later, we celebrated another religious monument, a massive rotisserie chicken machine and shared a spiritual moment around a whole chicken (feet and all).

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Spreading the Avian Flu

Before being entirely done with Laos, I would like to leave a humorous, yet true, episode.

After leaving the crew for some well deserved peace and quiet, Pat caught up on our 2nd day in Vang Vieng. Shortly after, he fell seriously ill of what he thought was the Avian Flu as he shared his train carriage with a cage of chickens. Not long afterwards, the rest of us (I'm talking Phil, Ursula, Sean, Tom and myself) fell ill with the same bug and were practically glued to our bed for days. Symptoms included extreme body aches, severe headache and a fever that had buckets of sweat dripping off us. I swore up and down that it HAD to be Dengue. Good thing we were all supplied with antibiotics and managed to crawl out of an emergency state to a somewhat normal state with hacking coughs.

Crossing the Friendship Bridge and back into beautiful Thailand made us all sigh with release because we were on our way back to health and sanity. However, our first guest house over the border in Nong Khai was run by a very fruity set of aging ex-pat hippies that charged three times the price for beer but still expected you to serve yourself. Real put-on shit!! Our goal: to disseminate the killer Avian Flu to at least 2/3 of the granola crunching population of Mut Mee Guest House and leave unnoticed. So far we have been able to detect 3 people with our familiar raspy cough.

All that's left to say is, "Can't you feel the love in this house, man? You look like you need a hug!".