After a quick time in Bangkok we took a mini van to Cha-am: a nice place by the sea with lots of good seafood! these statues guarded a little stone square jutting out into the sea. It provides some shelter from the winds and has accumulated a little beach on its far side. The roots of strange coniferous trees and the feet of centuries of purple umbrellas stand defiant of the encroaching sea. The trees look like stern giants in the ranks. You can see the line cracking in places – in Cha-am the sea gets really close – and you worry about the place being eroded and sunk in fifty years time. it’s clean though, so I swam happily.
While we were there, people sitting underneath, sat under the purple tortoises, eating visceral beauties like this. They grab fat, live shrimp and barbeque them for you. I saw bigger plates too-steamed crabs, muscles, cockles, scallops all fresh as far as I could tell.
We made sure to score a meal at a restaurant on the seaside road just past a bridge that spelled an end to Scandinavian party goers and gave way to the wind swept faces and humble enterprises of locals. It’s not Right as you get off the bridge but just a little past, on the side of the road away from the beach. In special basins built into the floor – the unlucky citizens of the sea waited helplessly for their imminent demise; for a fish, six crabs and some shrimp, Jane and I were the ravenous agents of said end. But they made a great end let me tell you. Jane, to my great surprise and delight, tore into the seafood with vigor – something her usual nibbling demeanor never indicated. I’d found the best kind of girl to have dinner with: one who eats!
I wanted to get out; I wanted to go to Kaeng Krachan but we got talked into a big limestone cave instead.
We had to pass some grey-faced monkeys hanging in the trees. But it all lead to this.
In the belly of a hollow mountain, a microcosmic forest has taken hold. The place permeates a sense of sacred shelter. A little shrine stood on a small sandy rise in the sunlight. A holy place guarded by the windy conifers on the beach.
After our stay in Cha-am we went north to Samut Songkhram and the next day rode a magical bus to Ratchaburri (it was the orange one). Thai public transit insists on being absolutely every kind of colorful. Jane wanted to put her head on my shoulder but I wanted to look out the window.
We were going to Khao Ngu – otherwise known as Snake mountain. The monkeys thereof taught me a valuable lesson. Happy year of the monkey by the way.
Our first sight of the monkey troupes of Khao Ngu. People kept offering us corn and I kept refusing – trying to be stingy.
Suckle Philippe. Suckle for your little monkey life.
The monkeys wonder why I offer no corn. Secretly fixing to teach me a lesson.
This is the entrance to Snake Mountain: a jagged slab of rock jutting into the air above Ratchaburri. We had to ascend steep stairs.
That was a view from the top. The smog was a grim disappointment.
But these formations still took my breath away – commanding, dramatic – a little Buddhist shrine carved at the entrance to the park spoke of people knowing this place was sacred for thousands of years. The same sense of agelessness I’d felt first on the golden mount over came me. The monkeys weren’t on this peak, and Jane and I were alone. We decided to press on – Jane being very patient with my need to go a little deeper into the park. More old women offered me plastic bags of Corn – almost in alarm.
This a view of a pool from a cliff top; when the light met it right in your eyes it was a special kind of blue. This photo does not do it justice.
Monkeys were enjoying it.
An ancient peak with a jagged hole loomed over us. I reckon that’s where the great snake of snake mountain slithers into the underworld in the limestone to sleep.
As I was admiring the rock and the pool. I left my glasses unattended, and was suddenly in need of all that corn…