Do a bit of tidying up in the garden whilst we wait for things to warm up a bit then we leave Khamnadie at about 08:00 stopping in Phon Thong for some petrol before setting off towards Norng Phok. The road is pretty good and we make good time until we near our destination when we have to start to climb into the mountains. The bike complains a lot and we are down into second gear a couple of times through lack of power. In the end we have ridden for just over an hour and covered 55km when we pull up at the entrance gates to Phra Maha Chedi Chai Mongkul. When we were here last time, about 5 years ago, you could drive right up to the chedi but now there is a car park and shops everywhere and we have to walk about 1km before we can see the chedi
. Richly decorated it is looking good in the morning sun and against a clear blue sky. The chedi is one of the largest in the country and very ornamental which is rare here. It measures 101m on each side, is 101m high and was built on 101 rai (40 acres) of land symbolic of this province of Roi Et which translates as 101. It is said to contain Buddha relics but then again every temple site in the country says the same and how many relics could there still be ? We enter into the courtyard and the beautiful gardens, fountains and on the downside, 100s of schoolchildren ! Entering the ground floor of the chedi thjere is s shrine to a monk(?) where evryone pays their respects and makes a donation so Jai is keen to do the same to get sme good luck on her birthday. The walls and columns inside are all richly decorated. We climb stairs to the next level where you can walk outside to admire the view. We walk all the way around then ascend to the next level where the view is better and with only railing around the edge much easier to see. We can see the temple of Wat Pha Namthip Thep Prasit Vararam - catchy name - to the rear. The view all around is great looking over to the mountains of MUkdahan and across the plateau that is Isaan. t is quite windy up here which also means that temperatures are pleasant. We come down again and walk about the gardens. Unfortunately none of the flowers are producing seeds at the moment although I dont think Jai would have let me acquire any even if they were. The gallery that surrounds the courtyard is now being filled with golden Buddha images lining the walls
. Outside we spot a couple of peacocks wandering the grounds but they cant be persuaded to open their tail feathers for a photo. We wander back to the motorbike enjoying the air and the views. At the carpark I spot a sign to some botanic gardens a further 10km away and we will keep these in mind for another time. When we are descending the mountain I realise why the bike was struggling so much to come up as it is pretty steep. We stop for some BBQ chicken at the road side then retrun to Phon Thong. About 5km short of the town we pass a nice looking garden centre and stop to break the ride. Of course this also meant having to buy something so another 3 orchids will now be adorning our garden. When we gat back we are both a little saddle hot if not saddle sore. We shower and change just in time for George & Wan to arrive for a beer closely followed by grand daughter Norng Fin and her mum - I still dont know her name but think it is Mun or something similar. We sit around drinking a few beers to toast the birthday and eat BBQ fish that we had bought at the roadside on our way back.
I am awake at 05:30 this morning so make us a cup of tea and bring Jai her birthday cards in bed along with a currant bun with a few candles on it - obviously the correct number wouldnt have fitted !!