Standing at the Hua Lamphong train station early in the morning, covered in sweat and tired of the night drive from Chiang Mai, we just wanted to escape the big city. Steff told Jazz and me about the place outside of Bangkok where you can get Sak Yant aka bamboo tattoo from a monk. The city’s name: Nakhom Pathom. 1,30 hour ride. 3rd class. 14 baht ticket fare.
“Let’s have an adventure! Let’s go where tourists don’t go! ” -Steff was excited.
We looked at each other and got on a local train. Not that we had anything else in mind so let’s have an adventure for 14 baht.
Tourists in the 3rd class
We attracted a lot of attention while driving with the locals and though it was 3rd class, there was a toilet, cleaning guy and a woman selling Thai food. I was pleasantly surprised. It took us almost two hours for only 56 kilometers but that’s the “Thai” way so it’s better to relax and enjoy the scenery.
We arrived and then saw it, in all its beauty, dominating the city – the world’s largest pagoda (120 meters) and the first class royal monastery. Phra Pathom Chedi is the first religious landmark that signified the influx of Buddhism into Thailand.
When we passed through a small bridge towards the pagoda, judging by the looks, we were the only “farangs” in the town.
“Finally!” – Jazz said.
And as she said that, we got approached by Alexander, Danish who’s been living in Nakhom Pathom for 10 years, but with pauses.
“Do you need some help?” –he asked, glad to see us so he helped us with finding a hotel.
“Why did you come?”
Sweaty, hungry and even more exhausted we found Mitsampant Hotel. Two big beds, no WI-FI, no chargers, but nice and clean with a friendly owner who runs some electric appliance store.
“Why did you come here? Bangkok has everything you need” – he was confused andwondered why we came to this peaceful town in the central Thailand.
The best floating market in Thailand, Damnoen Saduak, is just one hour ride from Nakhon Pathom, as well as the bus going to Kanchanaburi province, site of the Bridge over the river Kwai. This sleepy town has a lot to offer – from its big temple, Night market and food stalls to flying ice cream – yes! There are a couple of 7/11’s but no McDonald’s or KFC’s. Less scooters. Less people in general.
We took a shower and went to explore. It was a day before the Chinese New Year’s so the town was in preparations for the celebration. It was also February 18th, Makha Bucha day (or Magha Puja), one of the most important dates in the Buddhist calendar, celebrated on the full moon night. Festival is held in honor of Buddha and commemorates the day when 1,250 monks gathered to be ordained by Buddha.
Temples make one think
I sat and observed people going to temples, laying flowers beneath the Buddha statues, giving donations and food to monks and putting coins in the bowls, while praying. Monks chants was going all day long and got me quite hypnotized and sleepy though I felt completely awakened. I found my shelter in the shade of the trees, to avoid the sun. People were passing by, staring at me, waving and smiling. Peaceful, quiet and ceremonial atmosphere made me think.
Why do we travel to places less seen? Why do we long for shocking excitement of arriving in a place we don’t know? Novelty and wonder. The wanderlust. These are the reasons to move, to search for “geographic cure” for our, sometimes unknown sickness. The great affair is to move, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote. Is unknown going to bring us to a better place within ourselves? Do we travel to get truly lost, to be anonymous for a little while? What good it can bring? I think the ultimate answer, that some of us want to admit while other refuse is Love. Love towards ourselves. Love towards everything that lives and moves. Love towards unfamiliar and rare, yet marvelous feeling of being free.
“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake”.
– Robert L. Stevenson
Evening brought the desired shade and we became hungry. Locals still couldn’t take their eyes off of us , but other than that, it seemed that we didn’t disrupt their daily life.
We felt happily tired. Just 14 baht and 56 kilometers from Bangkok for unexpected experience. Sometimes we really need to take the road less traveled. Sometimes that’s the only way to wander.