We stayed in Phayao for one night on our Northern Thailand road trip and aside from staring at the scenic lake and watching a strange aerobics class dance around a giant statue of a snake, there wasn’t too much to do there.
Not that I actually wanted to do anything after having been sat on the back of the bike for ten hours that day.
Except drink beer.
We did that really well.
However, the next morning Stuart insisted that we visited two temples before moving onto Phu Lang Ka. He promised us an unpredictable morning of terror and hilarity. My perfect combination.
The heaven and hell garden of Wat Sri Khom Kham was the perfect way to start the day.
Designed to showcase what heaven and hell might look like, the images of hell were particularly amusing/terrifying. It features graphic depictions of what may happen if you lie or have an abortion, among many other sins I couldn’t work out… I’m also not sure why there is a dinosaur at the entrance.
The second temple we visited was the less scary and more beautiful Wat Analayo.
Up until this point, our road trip had required close to zero physical exertion. The only real strain had been carrying my backpack for the hours spent sat on the bike and I had found a way around this very early on in the trip. By squishing myself further forward on the bike and lengthening the straps of my backpack, I was able to rest it quite easily on the back of the seat and take all the weight off me.
When I saw the enormous amount of steps leading up to the Wat Analayo complex, I realised that this was all about to change.
Stuart hadn’t told us that the temple was at the top of a large hill.
He obviously didn’t know about my condition. He hadn’t heard about my physical problem. If he had known then he surely wouldn’t have suggested coming here.
Having to make a snap decision, I decided to keep quiet. Maybe they wouldn’t notice. Perhaps my condition has improved without me knowing.
It was going to be fine.
You see, the problem is…
I am severely unfit.
After twenty steps my secret was revealed. As I watched Stuart and Dave bound up the steps with all the agility and grace of a butterfly, I stumbled in a vaguely upwards direction looking like a frog in a sock.
This was embarrassing.
Still, I persevered. Ignoring the sniggers and whispers in front of me, I gritted my teeth and slowly dragged my aching body to the top of the hill.
Struggling to catch my breath, it took a few moments before I noticed the bizarre structures surrounding me. From creepy babies crawling over water fountains to enormous lumps of rock looming up towards the sky, this temple was definitely unique.
My fatigue faded momentarily as I walked from statue to statue, taking great delight in the randomness that increased with every step. The temple complex has been added to over time and this has resulted in a haphazard array of ancient and modern architecture that I adored.
The climb to the top of the temple and the subsequent hour’s exploration had left me drained and dehydrated. As we approached the end of our adventure, I knew the descent was going to test me more than any other challenge I’d undertaken.
Summoning the last of my remaining energy, I slowly and carefully made my way back down the steps. As I took my final step down to the ground, I collapsed to my knees in a mixture of relief and exhaustion. I was convinced I was having a heart attack and as I lay on the ground, clutching at my chest and panting in the fetal position, Dave screeched up next to me on the bike.
As I slowly raised my eyes to meet his, I fought to hold back the tears and silently cursed myself when I failed to stifle the sob in my throat. Emotions showed weakness and now was not the time to be weak.
It was time to go to Phu Lang Ka.