08 Dec Visiting Phetchaburi: temples, parks, caves, and more monkeys
We arrive in Phetchaburi in mid afternoon. After finding our way to the budget hotel, we decide to wander through town, maybe find our way up to Khao Wang–the palace hill–and grab a bite to eat. To get over there, we have to climb up and down some stairs to maneuver over a crazy busy intersection. School children in their uniforms are hustling home from everywhere, it seems that there are many different schools and every school has its own uniform. Many of the children give a big smile and lots of waves and many hellos. Some are very curious and seem to want to practice their English and ask “where are you from?” “how are you?”, others just give us curious looks and smile..
The area around the temple/palace hill is full of monkeys. Monkeys on the sidewalk, monkeys in trees, on banisters, even the phone and electric cables are not safe from them. It is funny to watch them play and balance on the cables. As we approach the entrance to the temple hill, we are told that the park is already closed and to come back the next day. After watching the monkeys play some more, we meander through another park filled with monuments, grab another bite to eat and head back to our room.
The following day, we attempt again to make it up the hill. Except this time we try a different route. There is supposed to be a lift going up on the other side of the hill, but as we check out one of the temples in town, we notice some stairs going up behind it. A monk tells us that this is another way up to the temple and palace complex, so we start our hike up. It’s a long, steep way up with lots of switchback and even more stairs. Along the way, we spot many more monkeys and before we know it we reach the top with the King’s pagoda: the Phra That Chom Phet. It is huge and quite the landmark for this town. It can be seen from miles away. We climb up more stairs to look at it, before heading over to the temple complex and the former palace.
The views are spectacular. We hike from one side of the hill to other to check it all out. Although there are plenty of signs to be “aware of the monkeys”, they seem well behaved and leave us alone. At times, they get curious and inch a little bit closer, but for the most part they keep their distance. Occasionally, one hisses at us when we take too many pictures–but hey, who could blame them?
Eventually, we decide that we’ve seen enough of the Palace Hill and head back down. As we go by the ticket booth on the other side of the hill, we realize that we found a way up the hill without having to pay the “tourist tax”…apparently, wandering off the beaten path, or going up the long, steep way pays off.
On our way down, we are debating, to go visit the Khao Luang Cave at the north side of Phetchaburi. For a short moment we think about hiking out there, but the hot, searing sun got the better of us, so we decide to grab a cab.
The Khao Luang Cave is an old temple cave, filled with tons of Buddha statues. Of course it also has stalagmites and stalactites, a wonderful natural skyline, and trees growing in it. According to a Phetchaburi legend, the entrance to this cave was a portal to a twilight zone town where the inhabitants were only young maidens. It has also been the favorite picnic site of King Rama IV, who ordered the renovation of many of the Buddhas inside of it. We did not see any maidens, but on our way out we watch a big group of monkeys going ape over getting fed by a tour-guide and a tourist.
We thought about walking back into town; yet, sight seeing is tiresome. As we walk out the parking lot, we do not see any taxi cabs. A guy nearby asks us, if we need a ride back into town. He offers a ride and a price and we agree…without checking first what our ride actually looks like. He jumps on his scooter with “side-car” and says “get on over there in parking lot”.
We squeeze ourselves on the scooter-taxi…two in the side car and one behind the driver. The ride is quite refreshing and exhilarating…and probably not at all save…but so much fun!
Time for another bite to eat and to meander through town at dark.