Day two started with an early goodbye to the Avantara Riverside Hotel, somewhere I was really sad to say goodbye to. For me an enjoyable hotel stay is all in the detail, and this one had everything.
It actually started a little later than advertised as the rest of the group thought I was still in bed, when in fact I was so organised I was sat in the van waiting for them looking rather perplexed when one of the guides exclaimed ‘here he is!’ as I was minding my own business.
Once we got on the road we headed towards Prachin Buri, with a stop off at a local restaurant. Here I ate squid for the first time ever. I need a Blue Peter badge or something. It also continued a quickly developing theme – the quality, freshness and authenticity of the food we were eating. We haven’t dined in built-up restaurants, just authentic Thai restaurants.
Ton Pho at Wat Si Maha Pho was the next port of call, the site of the oldest and largest Banyan Tree in the country where it is believed Lord Buddha sat during his enlightenment. After observing the Temple’s monk wave his arms at us for taking photos before he was properly dressed (we were asked to delete these images, that’s how devout these guys are) it was onto Amphoe Si Mahosot, otherwise known as Lord Buddha’s Footprints.
What you don’t realise until you see it is the happiness it brings local guides talking about the origin of their Lord. And their knowledge! Believe me, their knowledge is phenomenal. It isn’t a script a London bus tour guide has memorised, it’s knowledge from the heart. The footprint couldn’t be accurately dated, but it’s thousands of years and forms the very principles Thai people live by today.
While all this was taking place our guide Suree – and a few of the group – were looking up to the heavens, as things went pretty black pretty quickly. You know when the locals say ‘we need to get back in the van before the rain arrives’ that things are about to go down. In our case, it was rain the size of hailstones. And yes, we did get caught in it.
I suppose this is why Thailand can produce fruit like we went on to taste at a local orchard. The mixture of the searing heat combined with the huge downpours means it’s an ideal climate to grow Mangosteen, Durian and Long Kong fruit. I dried off pretty quickly after the downpour, so I can only imagine how the locals use the climate to their advantage.
Often referred to as ‘the Queen’ of tropical fruits, Mangosteen’s purple case gives way to a soft and juicy fruit on the inside. It kinda looks like soft, pureed garlic. ‘The King’ of tropical fruits in these parts is Durian, a weird-looking and even weirder smelling fruit. You have to eat both at once, due to the high alcohol content in Durian. One warms you up, the other cools you down. Like much of life here, it’s about Ying and Yang.
After MUCH fruit was consumed, it was time to head to our hotel for the next couple of nights. The Tawa Ravadee Resort has the most stunning exterior, with the centrepiece undoubtedly the infinity pool overlooking a lake. More on the hotel later. A quick change and a welcome meeting with the local governor saw more delicious food consumed. It’s challenging to keep track of everything, but I do know my master plan to come back fitting into a pair of trousers that haven’t fit me for a while is in tatters.
Or is that due to the alcohol? It could be. Probably is. However, when they’re in the resort’s VERY OWN KARAOKE BAR (complete with Japanese man who sang love songs all night) it seems far more acceptable, right? RIGHT? It was an assault on the senses in every way. Cheesy videos, many Mai Tai’s and singing, dancing and partying through the night. Oh what a night (no we didn’t sing that).
Local life in Thailand is pretty simple. You have Lord Buddha, you have your plot of land, and you have what you own. I’ve never met a more hospitable group of people, and getting out into the eastern provinces allows us to see just how amazing Thailand is.