Khao Phra Wihan

Trip Start Sep 18, 2004
Trip End Jun 05, 2005

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Sunday, April 10, 2005

Written by Nelly

History of Khao Phra Wihan
From Buriram we took an evening train to Si Saket, 100 kilometers away from Khao Phra Wihan. Khao Phra Wihan, built between tenth and twelfth century, sat on top of a 600 meter cliff on the border of Thailand and Cambodia. The temple complex was accessible only from the Thai side. For many years, the Thais and the Cambodians bickered over who should own Khao Phra Wihan. In 1963, the World Court awarded Khao Phra Wihan to Cambodia based on the fact the Khmer ruins were Cambodian heritage. The Thai we talked to were still rather bitter about the decision.

Special Karaoki video
We took two bus rides and a short motorcycle ride to make it to Khao Phra Wihan. On one of the bus rides, a Thai karaoki music video was being played on TV. We found these Karaoki videos infinitely entertaining, especially when your brain cell didn't really want to work too hard in the steambox-like bus.

We were having a pretty good time until one special karaoki video came on. It started out benign enough, a woman was saying goodbye to her husband and her young baby to go away somewhere distant to work. The husband did all the housewifely chores day in and day out, sometimes being ridiculed by other men in the neighborhood. The wife would come back and visit once a while and everything was good. Well, one day the wife returned in a car. Along with the wife was a white man stepping out of the driver's seat. From the painful look on the husband's face, you knew that he had lost his wife to a farang (that's what the Thais call foreigners). At this point, a couple passengers in the bus turned around and stared at Jesse.

We noticed since we have been travelling in Northeast Thailand, or Isan region, we were getting quite a few unfriendly stares. Old women would give Jesse the evil eye, while men would stare at me with contempt. It didn't help the situation, when the only other foreigners we saw in these regions were older unattractive middle age men with young pretty Thai wives. These men would be paying for the wives' whole families to visit temples and buying them new hats. In one of the temples we visited, Jesse was even asked by a Thai man if he had a Thai wife. From what we saw, we are guessing that many foreigners come to this part of Thailand to find themselves wives.

I can count to ten in Thai!
Since Khao Phra Wihan belonged to Cambodia but is only accessible from the Thai side, we had to pay an entrance fee to both Thailand and Cambodia. It was 200 baht ($5 USD) for each side. I didn't begrudge paying the Thai government the entrance fee, because most of the sights in Thailand were very reasonably priced, and the Thai government maintained nicely paved road, free and clean toilets, and great brochures.

Of course 200 baht is the foreigner price, the locals paid 20 to 50 baht. When we got over to the Cambodian side, the ticket seller, assuming that I was Thai, gave me a 50 baht ticket instead of 200 baht ticket. I decided to go with the flow, since I already suffered enough rude stares being mistaken as Jesse's Thai girl in this part of the country, I was ready to get a little monetary compensation for the wrongs the Isan general public inflicted upon Jesse and I. Alas, the ticket checker was a shrewd woman, she started mumbling something to me, presumably in Thai,
"Do you Speak English?" I asked
"Nihon Nihon!", she started pointing at me. Nihon means Japan or Japanese.
"Not Nihon! Not Nihon!", I told her.
"Speak Thai?", she asked.
"Oh yeah, I can speak Thai, I can count from one to ten! Neun, Sawng, San, Sii, Haa, Hop, jet, baet, kao, sip...can I go in now?", I said.
Although the Thai tourists around us found me very entertaining, especially when I started counting in Thai, it was not good enough. I was escorted back to buy the proper 200 baht ticket instead.

Thais we meet are always more curious about me than Jesse. They always assume I'm Thai, or they always tell me "You, Thai, same same." However, when it comes to selling me a more expensive foreigner ticket, all of a sudden I looked more Japanese than Thai. Khao Phra Wihan was the first time the ticket seller gave me a Thai ticket. In most other instances the ticket seller will point at me and yell, "You Nihon! You Nihon!" I will always tell them, "Not Nihon, American, Not Nihon, American." Unfortunately, there is no way to redeem my nationality after they assume that I am Japanese.

Khao Phra Wihan
Khao Phra Wihan was well worth all the trouble getting there. It was on a hill setting which offered excellent views of the Thai and Cambodian plains below. We could always tell which side was Cambodia by the jungle and the dirt roads, versus the paved roads and farms on the Thai side. It was quite big, around 900 meters in length. Quite a few beautifully carved lintels and columns were still around. The photos would do more justice than my description. Sadly, many of the statues were smuggled out of Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge period.

Just like all other Khmer sites in Cambodia, there were hawkers, young and old, selling post cards through out the complex. The 900 meter path was lined with cold drinks and souvenir vendors. One of the vendor was trying to set up his umbrella, so he decided to drill a big hole into the sandstone pavement which was more than one thousand years old. It was a huge contrast from the Khmer sites in Thailand.

Cutest Chai Yen Lady
On the way back to Si Saket, we were waiting for the bus at a road junction in Phum Saron. A few food stalls were set up around the bus shelter at the junction. I bought some Thai ice tea (Chai Yen) from a smiley old lady. She spoke some English and she was just the cutest Thai lady we ever met. Besides Thai ice tea, she also sells batter fried sweet potatoes. She called them french fries. We bought some and they were excellent. She told us that a bus will come around three o'clock, we can just sleep in the shelter until then. She asked us where we were from, and she told Jesse how his skin is so much more beautiful than Thai skin. She also taught us couple more good words in Thai, such as beautiful and delicious. When she was not talking to us, she would be frying up some more sweet potatoes, joking to her neighboring fruit vendor, and singing out loud. We asked if we can take a picture of her, she smiled broadly and started fixing her hair! When we got on the sawngthaew and waved goodbye at her, she was waving goodbye and blowing kisses at us!

What's Next
Back to Bangkok to prepare for our flight to India on the 13th.
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