Sometimes in Thailand, you don’t know what you’re going to get when you ask for something. Whether you point unknowingly at a menu item at a restaurant written in the curvy Thai script or attempt to convey where you want to go to the guy driving a motor bike taxi who only seems to know the words “hello,” “yes,” and “no.” These mistranslations and miscommunications are frustrating, but can also bring unexpected surprises that make it worth the risk.
On Saturday, Jonathan asked a woman who works at the front desk of our apartment building to order us a taxi to take us to the mountains. A few other farangs (foreigners) had told us about a lake just over the crest of the mountains that’s ideal for swimming and relaxing. The lady nodded with understanding when Jonathan asked to go there, made a few calls, and told us to be ready around 11am to see “three mountains” (hands placed with fingertips together to form that visual mountains).
Our taxi driver rolled up in a black pick up truck with four wheel drive and Buddhist emblems hanging from his mirrors. I learned later that his name is ‘Up’ (with a rising intonation) and has lived in Lopburi all his life. His English was pretty poor, but he was generous and helpful the entire day. While he didn’t take us to “three mountains” in the way we expected, it turned out to be better than we expected.
Our first stop was a monastery town in the mountains. We entered the abbot through a large lion-like head with a wide-open mouth.
Entry point to Buddhist monastery
We were soon surrounded by orange-robed monks, peacocks (it must be a bird sanctuary), temples, and Buddha images. I was originally under the impression that we were going straight to the lake to go swimming, so I felt inappropriately dressed in a bathing suit, short shorts, and sunglasses. All of my tourist books about Thailand have warned me that I should dress respectfully when visiting monasteries by covering my knees and shoulders. But, luckily, no one seemed to mind.
The monastery was quiet. You could hear birds clucking and people murmuring in the distance. The monks didn’t really acknowledge us as we walked around the property taking photos. Without seeming cliche, I felt more at peace there than I have since arriving in Thailand.
Our second visit of the day was a monastery buried into the side of a mountain. This was one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited in all of my travels. When we got out of the car, we were instructed to remove our shoes and ascend the stairs to the first room of the monastery. We were greeted again by monks, and this time addressed by an older man who stopped his lessons to ask us where we were from. The cave was full of golden Buddha images and incense. Again, our cab driver showed us up another set of stairs to find a stunning view at the top.
The monastery was built into the mountain
Outside on this platform, we heard little squeaks and flutters from another entry into the cave. Our cab driver pointed at his watch, saying at the 7 p.m., millions of bats flee the cave to feed on mosquitoes around the mountain. They return at 6 a.m. every day, he said. You could smell the nitrogen-heavy guano smell of the bats leaking from the entry. (Naturally, we made a few Batman references).
Giant Buddha image in the cave monastery
Our final destination of the day was what we expected all along — a lake. It wasn’t like the typical lakes that I’m used to in North Carolina with murky green water and thick brush around the edges. This lake is tropical and blue, and bordered by picturesque mountains that reflect in the glassy water. The beaches were quite rocky, but we pushed past it and enjoyed the warm-ish water.
Lake in Lopburi, Thailand
Jonathan conquered the burning hot water trampoline (and was careful to dive off since we found metal rods in parts of the water)
As the saying goes, you don’t always get what you want. But sometimes you get more than you asked for.