This is part one of our third trip to Loei from Dec-28-2008 to Jan-1-2009.
Warning: There are LOTS of pictures and it might load very slow !
Note: In case you are interested,
here are our previous trips to Loei: 1st Visit in August 2007
and 2nd visit in two parts: 2nd Visit Part One
2nd Visit Part Two
Loei is 520km from Bangkok. For your info, (520 x 5)/8 = ___ miles. ( Please fill in the blank yourself.... )
See the map
at Wikipedia for reference.
We left our house around noon. Weather was lovely all the way from Bangna. We stopped by "Ta-Pae" restaurant in Vichian-buri for an early dinner.
Vichian-buri is in Petchaboon province and is well-known for grilled chicken.
The food at Ta-pae's was good. In addition, to our surprise and delight we saw on their menu the most delicious "chiao-guay"
You can go to my older blog
and scroll to the end to see my introduction of this black jelly dessert.
The trip was uneventful until a mechanic at a gas station in Petchaboon told us the front left tyre of our Camry was "kind of" flat. For safety reason we immediately had it switched with our spare one.
There was a nail buried in the tyre! It might have gotten there sometime after we left Ta Pae's.
It was already dark when we passed by the town of Lom-Gao. The road was getting darker and darker.
For a long while we felt as if the entire 63 million people in this country had gone somewhere else for vacation, leaving only the four of us on the dark mountainous road.
In addition, the sky was not clear that night and we could hardly see any stars. Everything around us was pitch darrrrrrkkkk. What if we had not known the tyre needed changing...?! What if something happened to our car while we were still in the middle of nowhere...?! How lucky of us!
Rang-Yen Resort, Dec 28-29, 2008
( In the Thai language, "rang"
= nest, hives; "yen"
= cool, cold. )
We were about to get sick of the darkness around us when we saw the sign to this resort. The narrow and winding road to the resort seemed endless.
However, the dark road continued even after our car passed by the resort's gate. By the time when I am typing this I can no longer remember whether we saw any guards at the gate. The resort was huge. It looked so empty, deserted and HAUNTED, making all of us a bit worried before we saw the light at its main building. The friendly smiles of the resort's receptionists easily dispersed our worries. On one side of the wall we saw a picture of our beloved Crown Princess in the garden of Rang-Yen Resort. This place was honored to house Her Highness for a night many years ago, said one of the hotel receptionists.
The wide TV screen was showing live football (soccer) b/w Thai / Vietnam when we entered their restaurant at almost 9pm. The boys and I did not pay much attention to the match. They two were more concentrated on their Uno game. It was funny watching them play Uno without cards on the table or in their hands. The "cards" were in the Iphones. We later found that wi-fi was available only inside the restaurant.
In the morning we saw the huge resort very beautiful with lovely gardens.
Hover your cursor over the pictures below to enlarge them.
( To view even larger size of the pics please scroll down towards the end of this page and click on the links to the slideshows. )
Phu Rua, Dec-29-2008
Hindu Gods Statues in Loei
We saw humongous religious statues by the main road in the middle of nowhere. At first I had thought it a factory to carve statues on demand. We parked the car and went in to fulfill our curiosity. Turned out that it was a Hindu or Buddhist worshipping place. So weird to see such a huge religious place in the middle of nowhere
! Hundreds of bees were busily buzzing near their hives not far from the entrance. They seemed harmless. We heard a man preaching. Might be a tape. The loudspeaker was ...(too) powerful. The words were, however, easily understandable and
acceptable by any Buddhists. A Thai caretaker welcomed us warmly. There were gigantic statues here and there in the opening. There were signboards that had prayers written in Thai. The prayers, however, were of certain ancient and archaic language(s) completely foreign to my ears. There was a souvenir shop but we did not buy anything. There were a few foreigners besides us. I could not tell whether they were from India, Nepal, Malaysia, Singapore, or somewhere in Myanma. How strange they who lived so far away had known of the place whereas we in this land had not. Or was it just the four of us?
Our next stop was the famous winery Chateau de Loei, although I doubt if they still produce wine. We tasted their delicious icecream, bought lots cookies, sweets and cakes before we got back on the road. Soon we reached the town of Loei and had our tyre patched at the first tyre repairing shop we spotted. It costed only 80 Baht, which was less than three US Dollars. The workmanship was good. Loei Palace Hotel was still the tallest building. It was so good revisiting a familiar place.
In the evening our friends ( Min and parents ) took us to a new restaurant, "Lan Chang". It was another impressive place. There was a stage beyond a pool. Outdoor tables were placed around the pool and all of them were full. The music was lovely. The musicians looked only a few years older than Tony, my 18-year-old, but they were so prefessional. The owner himself also played a few songs after he greeted his guests. Our friends told us the restaurant owner loved music. The night was cool and I did not think there were mosquitos under the table -- so different from Bangkok! Before leaving the stage the owner introduced a guest musician who was his classmate and old friend, a young professor from Had-yaai University in the south. This professor said he had just finished attending a seminar in Laos and decided to stop by Loei to visit his friend, the restaurant owner. I do not know what subject he taught at the university but he was so good with the instruments. He made two rounds to every table. The first time he played a flute and the second time a saxophone. Everyone enjoyed the show and no one complained much having to wait so L-O-N-G for the food.
Exploring Loei, Dec-30-2008
The next morning we went for a drive by ourselves without a good map or any fixed destinations. The pictures below were taken at an outdoor War Memorial in Loei. It was by the main street. A place to commemorate those that had sacrificed themselves defending the country from the infiltration of the "enemies" ( that is, the Communists). Seemed our government did not have enough budget to do more decent maintanance of the place. Everything in here -- with the exception of the lawn -- looked so old, faded, and rusty. I learned from a trip we made a few years ago to Mt. Khao Kho in Petchaboon ( located to the south of Loei ) that there had been civil wars in Central Thailand against the Communists, and those wars had ended about twenty-some years ago before I returned from long years of my life from abroad. I do not understand why the war memorial on Khao Kho in Petchaboon and the Communists' camps in the jungle not far from Khao Kho were far better preserved than this one in Loei.
There were four plates with inscriptions on the base surrounding the monument or tower or pillar or whatever you call it. The letters on the plates faded to a great extent, making it very difficult to read. One of them had 23 names of high-ranking officers and another had 72 names of the soldiers and civilians who died in the war. What a sad place!
My boys and their friends have been very fortunate. They grow up with games, not wars. I hope they never have to be in any real wars.
(Please note that I did not make the picture on the left expansible.)
We left the War Memorial and passed by Loei Airport. The door to the airport building was locked. No more flights this afternoon? We drove on, turned left when we discovered a road sign pointing to a golf driving range. Driving Range in Loei? What a surprise! Then I noticed a Mosque on the way. What?! Muslim community in Upper Isaan?! Another surprise! But we did not stop at those two places. Soon the winding road took us off the main street to the wilderness. We found our maps completely useless. Even the e-map in Iphone could not help. However, the view was beautiful and it was not completely dark yet so no one was really worried. We stopped in the middle of nowhere
(again) and video-recorded the sunset.
We moved on, trying to get our way back to the main road. The winding road, however, took us up the mountain.
Eventually the asphalted road gave way to a bumpy red dirt road and there was a sign pointing to a gold mine. Wow! A GOLD MINE
in Loei?! We have that in Thailand, too?! Cool! We went further. I'd never been to any mine before! It was about 5 o'clock in the evening when we pulled over at the guards' box. The entire mine area was already quiet. We got out of the car and talked to one of guards. The mine, according to him, was owned by a Singaporean company. Every week ( or "month"?! -- Sorry I already forgot! ) they would export three "lumps" of the ore from the mine to somewhere outside Thailand to purify. Each "lump" was more than 10 kgs. The signboard at the entrance said the mine was opened in Buddhist year of 2535, which was almost 17 years ago. Min was so surprised that we had come this far to the gold mine! She said she was here in a school trip not long ago and she remembered the place very FAAAAAAAR from town. But we did see a few road signs that said the area was still in "Ampur Muang"
or the town district.
Somehow we found our way back to town before dark. In the evening Min and her parents had dinner with us at Moum-Aroy
(= The "Delicious Corner" )'s. The colorful fish in the restaurant who had followed Ken in the last visit a year ago was still in the tank but it did not move that fast now. Getting old? The food, however, was as delicious as before.
Temples and caves, Dec-31-2008
Loei is well-known for temples and caves. In the morning Min's parents took us to a temple that had monkeys. "Wat Tham Phah Morg Hoh"
was in Wang-sapung district. As its name indicated, the temple ( = "wat"
) was well known for the caves ( "tham"
), and it was built high on a cliff ( = "phah"
means fog or foggy, reflecting the weather of the area. I am not sure what the last word "Hoh"
means. Could it be monkeys? The climb up the stairs was a good exercise. We saw lots of monkeys on the way. Once in a while we heard loud noise from their "sabotaging" roof drainage of one of a temple buildings on the cliff. Our friends said we could not blame them, as they had been living here before us.
According to a framed photocopy of an article in the temple, the monkeys here were of a rare species but were getting mixed with another similar but more popular species.
The entrance to a huge cave was to the left of the temple's main "hall". The cave was very clean and well-lighted. There were many Buddha statues in there, including a reclining one. In a corner near the wall we noticed a barricaded small opening that led to the dark "void" below. Not sure how deep it was. The sign by that void could be translated as "Angel's Gate" ( "pra-dhoo teh-wa-daah"
). Tony said it should have been named as "Hell Gate" ( "pra-dhoo na-rog"
" ). How true....! Before we left the temple the priest blessed us and sprinkled holy water on our heads.
The videos: the monkeys at the street level, a walk in the cave, Ken and I in the main hall of the temple on the cliff.