My days here on study abroad are quickly dwindling…although I’ve been in Thailand for four months to the day, this country continues to offer more and more places I want to explore. A few weekends ago I hopped on a train to Nakhon Ratchasima to visit a city commonly known as called Korat. We went in not even knowing where we would stay for the night, but once again we were well taken care of by the people here in Thailand who took us on their motorbikes to an affordable and comfortable hotel. Although we offered to pay them for the ride, they turned down our money and stayed with us until they saw we had settled into our room. While in Korat, we made a couple of trips to Terminal 21. Each floor of the mall has a theme based on a city around the world. For example, we travelled through Paris, London, Istanbul, Tokyo, and San Francisco. Each floor was extremely detailed – everything from the decor, to the flooring, to the lighting stuck with the city theme.
Last weekend I discovered there is a Tuscan village here in Thailand (how crazy is that?!). Palio Village is located about another 1.5 hours south of Nakhon Ratchasima and is close to Khao Yai National Park (the first national park in Thailand). I went in excited to explore all of the shops and restaurants, but once we arrived we found out the village was almost completely deserted. There were literally two restaurants and one shop open for business. Evidently, most of the shops close because few tourists visit during the rainy season (which is just beginning now in Thailand). I was a bit bummed, but still enjoyed the food at the Italian restaurant that was open. The next day we visited GranMonte Winery. We were the only two visitors there and for less than $6 USD we sampled four wines, ate some cheese and crackers, and soaked in the views of the surrounding mountains. Since there are currently no leaves on any of the grapevines, we opted for a self-guided walk around the winery instead of paying for a tour and then dined at their Vincotto Restaurant.
We wanted to stay in Khao Yai longer, but came across an issue with transportation. It turns out that in the Khao Yai/Palio area, there are no public buses and no taxis either. Most people either drive their own cars, motorbikes, or hire a private driver. Since we didn’t have a car and opted to not pay a large amount of baht for a driver, we decided to take a van to Bangkok. (That being said, I will definitely be coming back to visit Khao Yai National Park this summer!). Even when I thought I had my fill of Bangkok, the city always offers something new to discover. We paid a visit to the Golden Mount (also known as Wat Sraket). There were some great views of the city…
but I was also struck by the vulture statues that we saw on the way up.
It turns out, those vultures are part of an interesting time period in history at the temple. In 1820, a cholera epidemic spread to Bangkok from Malaysia. Since cremation was not a practice in the old city at the time, the bodies were delivered through the only city gate that allowed for cremation. Wat Sraket happened to be close to this gate. The temple received bodies faster than they could be cremated or buried, which led to vultures congregating on the temple grounds. The epidemic lasted for six decades; at its peak in 1849, one out of every ten people in Bangkok were killed by the disease. A sad, but fascinating piece of history. I love learning about public health when I least expect it!