Tuesday, 29 April 2014

repost: Bang Saen and Wang Saen Suk Buddhist Hell Garden

Trip to Bang Saen beach and Buddhist Hell Garden 31.12.2012

My friend M stayed over night, so we get up together. He asks for fire and I hand him a lighter without thinking about it, then he heads to window to smoke. Shock! First time we met he smoked, on my following holiday he had given up smoking, and now he was smoking again. Next time I will have to inquire before we meet. There are only few boys who I find so hot that I can tolerate them smoking, he doesn’t fall in this category.

My friend got a 100 Euro note (worth about 4000 Baht) from a customer which he shows to everyone who wants to see it or not. He checks the exchange rate on every exchange booth we come across and even takes me on detours. I should have told him that stock exchanges are closed and the exchange rate doesn’t change over a public holiday (at least I think so).

We take baht bus to Sukumvit Road / South Pattaya bus station and bus to Bang Saen (80 Baht per person, 13:20 to 14:55). The bus station in Bang Saen is called Nong Mon Market (ตลาดหนองมน).

A few words about Bang Saen (บางแสน) (I only recently learned about Bang Saen and as it gets only little publicity in the forums I assume others don’t know it). It’s a university town and beach resort half way between Bangkok and Pattaya. It hosts the largest university in Chonburi province, Burapha University (มหาวิทยาลัยบูรพา) (which has it’s share of gay students, personal observation on camfrog). The main reason for my visit was the Buddhist Hell Garden Wang Saen Suk (วังแสนสุข). The layout of the town is similar to Pattaya (i.e. there is Sukhumvit road parallel to the beach but far away, beach road, second road).

We have lunch near the bus station and take a baht bus to the beach. We come across a tourist information where I get a flyer in English with a map and descriptions of points of interest. The beach is considerably wider and nicer than in Pattaya or Jomtien. There are many Thai and few Farang. We take a chair on the beach and rest there for a while. Pictures from Bang Saen beach:

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But my reason to go to Bang Saen was the Buddhist Hell garden. So we take another bath bus (my friend was too lazy to walk, but on the map it’s just about two kilometers).

These boys were having a party on the pickup (loud music from the driver, bottles with drinks and cigarettes) and obviously driving around in circles:

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Traffic was slow, but finally we reach the entrance to Soi 19. About 500m walk to the entrance of the Wat Saen Suk (picture taken upon leaving).

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An empty artificial pond:

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These statues have a connection to the Chinese Zodiac:

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Buddhist teachings (?)

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The core of the park, depictions of tortures in Buddhist hell:

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The punishment for adultery is to climb a thorny tree:

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adultery again:

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and finally the highlight of the park: the giant hungry ghosts:

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On our way out, scenes from Buddha’s life:

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Dry leaves from the trees were burnt, so the smell of burning matter was all over the place. I don’t remember closing time of the area, I think it was 6 pm (I made a mental note that you can sneak in through the exit if the main gate is closed).

Baht-bus back to the bus station on Sukhumvit road. Return to Pattaya (80 Baht per person, 18:05 – 19:15). Back to hotel with my friend. By chance, K from two days before is there chatting with the receptionist. K and M know each other. I can’t understand what they are talking, but surely it’s about me, how small my dick is and what a stingy tipper I am. I have an appointment wit B who came from Buriram to meet me in Pattaya (fortunately at his place, so I can avoid having three fuckbuddies meet). M has an appointment with another customer, perfect timing for both of us!

We have dinner, then go for a drink to Question Mark bar and then to Jomtien beach to watch the fire lanterns and the firework for new year.

Bang Saen is worth going again. I made several contacts via camfrog to meet gay students. The university has a large aquarium that is open to public. There is a mountain with a viewpoint. Some kilometers to the north (Ang Sila) is an interesting chinese temple I recently read about (an entire temple complex with multi storey buildings, according to pictures on the web).

To be continued.

Here some webpages about the Buddhist hell garden which I read before going there and to prepare this post:

http://www.bangkok-daytrips.com/buddhis ... nd-heaven/

http://www.forteantimes.com/features/fo ... iland.html

http://horrorfanzine.com/trip-to-the-bu ... -thailand/ (there are two similar hell gardens in Thailand)

http://atlasobscura.com/place/the-wang- ... ell-garden

http://www.thailandphotomap.com/chonburi/wang-saen-suk/ (with map)

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Xiengkhouang to Luang Prabang 06.02.2014



Xiengkhouang to Luang Prabang 06.02.2014

(In this and the following articles, some details about prices and times will be filled in later and are currently marked "xxx
". My notes about this trip are in Thailand, I am writing these articles now in Germany.)

There is only one bus from Xiengkhouang/Phonsavan to Luang Prabang, at 8:30 in the morning (95 kKip at the bus station, I paid 115 kKip including pick up, the bus station is some km away from my guesthouse) so I have to get up early. (kKip = 1000 Kip = kilo Kip, like kilometer and kilogram. At the time of writing 1 Euro = 11.1 kKip, 1 Baht = 250 Kip.)

Transport options in Xiengkhouang:


Timetable and prices at the bus station:




At that ungodly hour, it’s cold and misty:




The road is twisting/winding. Several passengers get sick, one diagonally opposite to me pukes into a plastic bag (transparent; I think his last meal was noodle soup), and other white passengers tell me that others simply puked out of the windows.

After a few hours of reading (book or on my phone), I get unwell, too and estimate that it will take just one or two hours until I join the others. But fortunately, when I stop reading it gets better. (My mother is more sensitive, she gets sick when she reads sitting in a German car driving on a German road.)

We have two unexpected service stops and one stop for lunch.






Alcohol with bear and deer feet:



For a few hours it’s interesting to look at the scenery, but then it becomes boring. And if you have a sensitive stomach, you might get the above mentioned problems.

Arrive in Luang Prabang (Southern bus station) at xxx. The bus station is close enough to town center for walking. So I walk to the place where I stayed last time (Feb 2010). On the way, I ask at some other guesthouses: all booked out. But I am lucky, the place from last time has free rooms.

Luang Prabang 07.02.2014 Pak Ou Caves



Luang Prabang 07.02.2014 Pak Ou Caves

There is one regular ferry to Buddha Caves / Pak Ou Caves (Thai: ถ้ำปากอู่, literally: caves at the mouth of Ou river) 8:30 in the morning, but it’s too early for me and I assume it will be full. But internet says you can hire a boat to take you there. (My landlord said you can go by bike or tuk-tuk, but then you would have to cross the river.) So I walk to the river shore, hoping to meet other tourists who want to share a boat. And indeed, I spot a group (French women) talking with a native and walk close to them so I can hear what they are talking about, and they ask me if I want to go to Buddha Cave. After some negotiations, we get to xxx per person (xxx for the boat). Internet says you can get the ride for xxx. I think our mistake was to take the first (coming from the south) instead of going further north on the peninsula, and maybe waiting for others to join.

A good example for mismanagement: I would prefer a regular service with fixed prices, but the way it is everyone has to look for a boat (they leave from a wide stretch of shore) and negotiate, which puts me off.

The ride is interesting.




There is the inevitable stop at a whisky village on the way (suggested by the captain), where you can buy clothes (probably made elsewhere) and whisky (made in the village as far as I can judge, I saw pots with rice for fermentation and distillation equipment).



Small bottle xxx Kip, large bottle xxx Kip. Disclaimer: ChristianPFC disapproves of killing animals for decoration or for non-FDA-approved medical use or mistreating animals for entertainment.



Continue the trip.






Finally arrive at the cave. Entry is 20 kKip. We have xxx minutes to explore the caves.

Lower cave is quite full, I wonder what it is like when even larger numbers of tourist come with the regular boat in the morning.





Climb to upper cave. In front of the cave, a woman is sitting who sells/lends flashlights and demonstratively points to a box for donations; short of jumping and waving her arms at me. 



more information about the caves:

http://www.travelfish.org/sight_profile/laos/northern_laos/luang_prabang/luang_prabang/251

----- Gold panning in the Mekong

On the web, I found information about gold panning in the Mekong River. ChristianPFC is very interested in gold. The website says it takes place during dry season, my landlord said it takes place all over the year. Dry season makes more sense to me. I didn’t see any gold panning during our ride and our captain didn’t take us to such a place (the French ladies were interested as well, so I asked the captain).


(end of post)

Luang Prabang 07.02.2014 Wat Xieng Thong

Luang Prabang 07.02.2014 Wat Xieng Thong

One of the most important temples in Luang Prabang, haven't been on my first trip to Lao. Entry xxx kKip. Well worth it! Haven't seen comparable mosaics with colored glass before.















Verdict: must see!