Taking time out at the Thai Stonehenge
This time last week I was strolling around what is known as the “Stonehenge of Thailand” — and I’m not talking about the abandoned piles of the ill-fated Hopewell project on Phahon Yothin Road. Moh Hin Khao (the Hill of White Rocks) is located in Chaiyaphum, just north of the provincial town.
Actually “strolling” was not quite the correct word — “perspiring” is far more accurate as it was a bit on the warm side, or to use the correct meteorological term, “bloody hot”. And yes, we were stupidly out there in the midday sun — Mad Dogs and Englishmen and all that. Noel Coward would have been proud.
The wife had decided that as a certified old fossil, I would feel at home amongst rocks that have been around even longer than me.
Of course Moh Hin Khao is nothing like the real Stonehenge, which is man-made, while these Thai rocks are very much the work of Mother Nature, sculpted by the weather.
The wife explained that the fun part was guessing what shapes the rocks resembled. She insisted one group of rocks looked like elephants, but hard though I tried, all I could see was … well, old rocks.
Actually I did spot one resembling a mushroom, although that observation didn’t impress the wife.
Moh Hin Khao possesses some marvellous views across the valleys of Chaiyaphum, one of the westernmost provinces of the Northeast. It is also one of those rare places these days not overrun by hordes of noisy package tourists.
Dinosaurs and maidens
Trying to imagine shapes in the rocks prompted memories of a trip to the Stone Forest, near Kunming in southern China many moons ago.
The “forest” is a rare geological phenomenon of limestone pillars sticking out of the ground, more than 250 million years old. Frankly, after tramping up and down a large section of these pillars for half a day, I felt nearly 250 million years old too.
Just like the rocks in Chaiyaphum, every other lump of petrified limestone at the Stone Forest was supposed to resemble some kind of creature, from lizards to lions and even beautiful maidens.
Our enthusiastic female Chinese guide wouldn’t let us move on until we had correctly identified the shape of each rock we stopped to look at.
She even became quite agitated when we couldn’t figure out one shape and to help her out I said I thought it looked like a dinosaur.
That was not exactly the answer she was looking for and there was even a hint of a scowl as she explained that my “dinosaur” rock actually resembled one of the aforementioned beautiful maidens.
Rock of ages
In a UK poll a few years ago the real Stonehenge surprisingly topped the list of the most disappointing tourist attractions in Britain, although it was also one of the most visited places.
If you are simply looking for a visual treat, Stonehenge is not the place. It becomes impressive only when you think how the stones actually got there.
I happened to go on a rather murky day some years ago with an unfriendly wind whipping across Salisbury Plain and straight up my trouser legs.
I was with some American tourists and after a cursory walk around the stones, they seemed more interested in getting back on the coach and nipping down to the nearest country pub.
And I have to admit, being something of a cultural dinosaur, I felt much the same way.
So half an hour later there we were eating fish and chips accompanied by a pint of beer, with poor old Stonehenge all but forgotten.
Pillars of hope
I must admit to not being entirely sure about the current status of the Hopewell pillars (aka Bangkok’s Stonehenge) as they were supposed to be pulled down to make way for the Red Line train project.
In a way it would be a shame to demolish them all, as after nearly two decades they have become something of an institution amongst Bangkok’s citizens and visitors alike.
In the days when Don Mueang was Bangkok’s only airport, the forlorn pillars were among the first glimpses of Amazing Thailand that foreign visitors would see — but they never earned a mention in the guidebooks.
Admittedly they weren’t exactly the Eighth Wonder of the World, but certainly made a good conversation piece.
Hail the War Elephants
Having played against the Thai women’s national team in an “exhibition match” some years ago, and getting whacked on the ankle by a young lady for my efforts, I have followed their fortunes through thick and thin, mainly thin.
That is why the best news of the week is the Thai women’s football team winning a match in their first ever World Cup, currently being held in Canada.
Simply qualifying for the tournament was a huge achievement in itself, but actually winning a game is something truly special. Mind you with their nickname, Changsuk (War Elephants) they ought to be good.
You just had to look at their ecstatic faces at the end of the game to see how much the victory meant to them.
And they celebrated on the pitch in true Thai tradition — taking selfies. Well, why not? Well done girls!
Now there is just the minor matter of facing tournament favourites Germany. Don’t worry about it if you get walloped, just enjoy the occasion.
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Bangkok Post columnist
A long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. In 1994 he won the Ayumongkol Literary Award. For many years he was Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post.
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