To commemorate my last weekend as Teacher Charlotte, Somsri organised a trip for the teachers and I to visit north eastern Thailand. A minivan was hired, and I begrudgingly dragged myself out of bed at 3am to travel halfway across the country.
Despite the early start I was all set for a nose to window journey, not wanting to miss any of Thailand’s vast and impressive landscape. The teachers selflessly squeezed together in the front and back seats of the minivan giving me three seats to myself. 6 hours and I found myself in Buriram, waking up to realise that I’d missed all of the Thailand-Cambodia border mountain range.
Our first point of call was Prasat Muang Tam, a national park home to the ruins of ancient Cambodian castles. We weaved in and out of crumbling fortes and archways, trying to seek shelter from the lingering monsoon rains.
Somsri and Usana unfortunately lacked the photography skills I usually require from my travelling companions, with them not quite understanding the concept of ‘a flattering angle’. Perhaps it was the language barrier, but this isn’t quite the cute ‘look at me peering out of the window’ shot I envisaged.
After lunch we resumed our castle quest at Phanom Rung national park. Here lies the ruins of a Cambodian palace built thousands of years ago, built into the crater of a volcano that has been dormant for thousands more. The original, yet completely overgrown staircase is still used to reach the summit, but the crumbling stone and rains made it scarily slippy, and almost impossible to navigate.
Panting, having just annihilated my glutes on the climb up, I had high expectations of the views and castle ruins to come. Making it to the final step, we were met with nothing but a miniscule version of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and an obscured view of the climb I’d just made.
At the summit another staircase led ominously down into the deep jungle, to a rickety rope bridge over a second crater in the volcano. I bounded off amongst the trees ready for another climb, only to be called back by Somsri telling me we weren’t going to go down. Although disappointed not to see the infamous ‘Devil’s Vagina Tree’ for obvious reasons, my gratefullness at getting off the Thai beaten track surpassed any feelings of resentment.