The Majesty of Rail Travel
Today, Nicole and I woke up early and headed to the train station in Bangkok. We decided to visit Lopburi, a small city overrun with monkeys. It’s also home to many temples and easily accessed by train.
Not wanting to deal with a potential van scam, we decided to take the train instead. Let me tell you, its a much easier experience and I highly recommend it. Just ask Harry Potter, traveling by train is a great way to travel, and the only way to get to Hogwarts.
We took a cab to the train station and booked a ticket leaving in another 45 minutes. We didn’t have to visit a million different windows and we weren’t led to a sketchy van around back. Instead we got our tickets and enjoyed a cup of coffee in the train station before boarding our train for Lopburi.[divider_flat]
The seats were pretty comfortable, about as nice as Eastern Europe and nowhere near as nice as Western Europe or South Korea (more on that later). I was glad we booked second class tickets instead of third class. The third class seats were stiff boards that were completely vertical and if our train hit an iceberg, I don’t think those in third class would make it to the lifeboats in time.
One of the best and least expected parts of the ride was the food. Everyone got sardines, rice, and soup. It was decent. I liked it. Nicole did not, so I got to eat hers. Tale as old as time, couple gets a meal, boy likes it, girl doesn’t, boy gets double serving: just one of the many perks of having a girlfriend.[divider_flat]
Lopburi: Monkey Town
We arrived in Lopburi a few hours after boarding the train. It was a very small place. If it weren’t for the monkeys and temples, I don’t think anyone would ever visit. Nicole and I bought an Est Cola, like a hamster eating its young and developing a thirst for blood, we’d developed a thirst for Est Cola, it also appeared to be the only refreshment around.
Visiting temples in Lopburi is incredibly easy, especially from the train station. Immediately across the street from the station is a temple, also next to it is another temple and next to that another temple. The part of Lopburi we were in probably had more buildings that were temples than buildings that were not temples.
The ruins and temples we saw in Lopburi were much better preserved than the ones we’d seen in Ayutthaya. I was able to capture a few great shots of the ruins before we moved along in search of monkeys.
Just up the road we came across one monkey, then another, and another. Soon we were surrounded by monkeys. I felt like Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes (in my head that joke worked, but I imagine its not really that funny). They seem unfazed by us and just did their thing, walk around, look at their toes, climb on powerlines.
At the center of Lopburi, and possibly its largest intersection, is a temple where most of the monkeys hang out. There’s a little gate out front and a guard who takes your $2 and lets you into the temple. You can also purchase monkey food to entice the monkeys to come closer. This seemed superfluous as the monkeys inside the temple grounds were already very interested in people. I’m guessing the monkeys didn’t know who paid for food and who didn’t so they were willing to take the gamble and greet anyone in the hopes that they might have food.
The monkeys, while they were allowed to roam the temple grounds, were not allowed to go inside the temple. This rule was enforced by the guard collecting tickets and his trusty slingshot. If a monkey got close to the entrance to the temple the guard would shoot a pebble at the monkey. The one time I saw a monkey try to make a break for it, the guard fired a warning shot near them, or perhaps he missed them, and the monkeys scattered.
Nicole and I explored the inside of the temple first, knowing that the monkeys would always be waiting for us outside, like a swarm of eager reporters. Inside the temple was quite bare. We were able to see the faint outlines of murals that had long since faded. The halls were laid out in a simple cross with windows on the left and right every 10 feet or so. Each window was barred to keep the monkeys out. Most of the monkeys opted to hang out right on the other side of the barred window since it provided shade and Thailand, even in winter, is still absurdly hot. I took a few photos of the monkeys and temple interior before my camera died. From here on out on my trip, all my photos are from my cell phone.
I regretted going inside the temple first and wasting my last little bit of battery on the stone work. It meant I missed out on some quality monkey shots. Outside the monkeys laid about like tourists at a Sandals resort in the Caribbean. They picked bugs off each other and practiced hugging. I had to get pretty close to the monkeys to get some of my photos and I got close enough to a few of the monkeys that that jumped on me. Unfortunately, Nicole wasn’t able to get a photo in time, so you’ll have to take my word for it.
Hostel: Part Lunch
We stopped at a nearby hostel to get a bite to eat. The food was pretty good. Not as good as the food we’d eaten in Bangkok, but still better than most of the food I’ve had in Korea. The hostel seemed like a pretty neat place to stay. There were a few ads for buses to other cities nearby, some ads for snorkeling and scuba diving trips. It made Lopburi seem like the sort of place vagabonds travel through on their epic year long travels. After our lunch Nicole and I checked out one last temple near the train station before heading home.
Midnight train to Bankok
We didn’t actually catch the midnight train, as there was no midnight train. We did however, take the last train of the night leaving Lopburi and it was about an hour late. The upside to traveling by train is its fast and they feed you, the downside is its often very late and not at all reliable in Thailand.
On our train ride back to Bangkok, we had a simpler meal of snacks and buns left out on the seat. I’m not sure if they were given to us or if someone just left them but we ate them and they were decent. One of the snacks was a sweet green paste bun like the one we had on the food tour, but instead of coming from a bakery it was a prepackaged alternative. Even though it wasn’t very good it was interesting to try a manufactured version of a culturally specific food.
If you haven’t picked up on this yet, Nicole and I are really into fish and chips. After the train arrived in Bangkok, we took the skytrain to the pub district we’d visited on one of our first days to try the Londoner, one of Bangkok’s best pubs and one of only a few that brew their own beer in-house. We had their fish and chips and a pint of their two best ales. I highly recommend it.