Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Lopburi

Quick Hits

Access: 28 Baht per person, 3rd class train from Hua Lamphong.
Stay: 250 Baht, NETT Hotel
Pluto & Squid Spent: One night, 888 Baht. 



Planet of the Monkeys

            I was hoping for a post-apocalyptic atmosphere in Lopburi where ruins rub shoulders with modern buildings, and monkeys rule over both. Unfortunatey we spent too much time in the museum, and didn’t get to visit the ruins where the monkeys are most clustered. There you enter at the peril of losing any loose items.  The monkeys are usually docile, but we walked by one hoarding 4 pieces of sliced bread and he eyed us suspiciously as we stopped to take a picture. Before we could do so, he charged at us to protect his precious stash. I’m pretty sure I could have taken him, but my bros held me back. As it was, we courageously turned tail and walked away, like Brave Sir Robin taught us.


Le renard et le corbeau

              We did get to see many monkeys and even their predilection for thieving, as this reenactment of a certain Lafontaine fable shows: The monkey is cast in the role of the crow, holding a bag of stolen bracelets (playing the part of the cheese) in its mouth. Meanwhile the cart owner is playing the fox, trying to get the bracelets. Can you guess who wins in the end? As a side note, that monkey isn’t going to be signed by the Yankees any time soon, total butterfingers.    


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A History Lesson, or How Clams Built Paris


     But in the museum we got to learn about the various cultures of Thailand throughout history. In prehistoric times, trade already extended to faraway lands, and people worked giant clam shells into various forms of jewelry which were highly prized by local and distant peoples. This trade gave rise to the first historical civilization in Thailand, the Dvaravati, which emerged in the 7th century. The Dvaravati culture was heavily influenced by the Brahmanism and Buddhism of its main trading partner, and its society was structured according to the same caste system present in India today. Their trade network also extended to China and as far as Persia by sea, but their cultural influences came from even further: Greece and even Rome (via Alexander’s lasting influence in India). It’s astounding to think that the ruler of a small kingdom in Macedonia made waves big enough to reach the shores of the Gulf of Thailand centuries after his death. Although the Dvaravati Mon polity declined as a local power in the 11th century as the Khmer Empire grew, the region’s prosperity, gained from its strategic location between China and India, continued and would later lead to the emergence of the kingdom that rested power from the Khmers, the Kingdom of Ayutthaya. Many Europeans described Ayutthaya as the Paris of the East, and it was the most populous city in the world in the 15th century at over 1 million inhabitants. Now belonging to the kingdom of Ayutthaya, Lopburi saw a resurgence in the 17th century when King Narai made Lopburi his secondary residence. The ruins you see in most of our pictures are from his fortress complex. He’s a pretty swell guy this Narai. In his ruined throne room I found 10 baht! His kingdom may have been sacked and destroyed, his home may be a mess, but it hasn’t blunted his generosity. Thanks to you, long-dead person!
        

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