Thursday, February 28, 2008

King Rama II Memorial Park

King Rama II, posthumously named Buddha Loetla Nabhalai, was the second King of the Chakri dynasty, the royal dynasty still ruling in Thailand today. He was born on February 24 1767 in Amphawa, next to the temple Wat Amphawan Chetiyaram. To commemorate the place, a park was established at that place adjoining the temple, built on land donated from the temple.

The park is located on highway 6006, which branches off from 325 in Amphawa town. We came there from the Ratchaburi Cathedral, which is also on the 6006, but it already had become rather late, just 30 minutes before the park was supposed to get closed. So I only had time for a stroll through the park till the Mae Khlong river, and return to the car, but no time to see the exhibitions inside the buildings built in the historical style. Just had the time to take photos of the various parts of the park, which additional to these houses also contain a ship used by a later King, and also several statues within a pond. Too bad I don't know which stories are the basis of these statues, but wouldn't be surprised if it is one of the nirats of Sunthorn Phu.

Nearby is also the Amphawa floating market, much less commercial and touristical than the famous one at Damnoen Saduak.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mermaid in Songkhla

Everyone knows the mermaid statue in Kopenhagen, but the one in Songkhla has become a local tourist attraction already as well. It is located at the northeastern tip of the peninsula which contains the city of Songkhla, at the Samila beach.

Of course the statue does not depict the mermaid from Hans Christian Andersens fairytale, but a character from the tale Phra Apaimanee by Sonthorn Phu. The statue was created in 1966 by Jitr Buabus, director of the Art & Craft College, Bangkok.

This beach has quite a lot of statues. A little bit west of the mermaid is a statue of a cat and a mouse, which refers to the name of two islands off the coast named cat and mouse island. It look especially nice when seen through that gate, which is kind of an entrance to the beach.

South of the mermaid at the circle ending of the street is a statue of a reading man. I have no idea what is the meaning of that one, as unlike the mermaid it had no English description on the plate next to it, and at the time we went there my knowledge of the Thai letters was also almost zero so I could not write down the name of the statue either.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Rafflesia in Khao Sok

Sign at Entrance to Visitor CenterThe Khao Sok national park (อุทยานแห่งชาติเขาสก) is not really a place I can call "unseen", as it is the most popular national park in southern Thailand. Given it's location not far from the touristic centers on Phuket or at Khao Lak, it is an easy target for day tours from these places for tourists tired of spending all day at the beach. But even though foreigners are nothing uncommon there, it is not overcrowded with them and still worth the visit.

Cliffs in Chiao Lan lakeThe park is accessible in two parts. The first one is the Ratchaprapha dam, which created the Chiao Lan lake. Especially this dam is popular for Thai tourist, so I already went there twice, the first time doing a picnic there and then later do a boat trip over the lake to the fascinating cliffs partially submerged in the artificial lake. The second time we just did the boating, as the dam itself was already overcrowded with Thai people celebrating Songkhran (Thai New Year) there.

Sok river in the morning mistThe second part around the visitor center of the park has several jungle trails, however I did not do any of those yet. This is because I most wanted to see the most peculiar flower of Thailand, the Rafflesia. It is a parasitic plant living within the roots of a tree, with only their buds and flowers being visible. While this is interesting already, the mere size of the flowers - reaching one meter in diameter - makes them really extraordinary. I wanted to see this flower in real ever since I first read about it, but either we had no time while we were in Surat Thani, or it had no flower in blooming then. So when we went to the visitor center and learned that there is a Rafflesia blooming, we quite quickly decided to go to that place instead of taking the trails.

View over the forested hills of Khao SokThe blooming was actually not within the park itself, but on private land slightly outside the park boundaries. The hiking began at the house of the rubber farmer who owns the land, and after a short walking through the rubber trees we entered the jungle already. I have no idea how far it really was, but it was quite tiring to walk uphill in the hot weather with just on bottle of water. But it was well worth it, as it was not just a single flower in full blooming, but it also had two older ones in various parts of decomposing, and also new buds which were about to bloom soon. So I could not only take close-up photos of this fascinating flower, but could get the whole development from bud to decomposing flower in one time. The only thing which lacked was the smell - normally Rafflesia has a smell of rotten meat to attract the flies to do the pollinating. But that one had almost no smell at all, but even without smell there were a few flies inside it. The full set of these photos I have uploaded to flickr.

Rafflesia kerrii bloomingSeeing the flower in real did only create more interest into these flowers, so I got myself the book "Rafflesia of the world" by Jamili Nais - the only online shop which has it for reasonable price was borneobooks. I learned a lot more about these plants from that book, so I am looking forward to see the new book mentioned in the Rafflesia blog.