Hello all The glossy coffee table book ‘Buddhist Temples of Thailand’ has just been published by Marshall Cavendish. Photos by me. Words by Joe Cummings who many of you in CM may know. What has this got to do with motorcycle touring?..... Quite a lot, since I did the whole book from the back of my Kawasaki Boss. Especially in the north this book will give those interested in Thai history and culture a good idea of what to look out for when pottering about…… Links and intro on the ride below. http://thegreglowe.com/buddhist-temples ... toric-wats http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=3 ... 316&ref=mf This book started for me with a list. Assignments often do. Greg Lowe, the creator of this project, and Joe Cummings the author and well-known Thailand expert, sent over the photographic shoot list for me to follow. Some of the names I knew – places I had worked before. Most I had never heard of. I looked at the maps and worked out the routes and the roads. This was to become more than a series of photo-shoots. Looking at the obscure and diverse nature of the locations I realised it was best to approach it as one long motorcycle trip. For those who enjoy motorcycle touring, Thailand is something special. With piles of camera kit strapped on to a smallish, but very reliable locally assembled Kawasaki cruiser, I set off from Bangkok to Mae Hong Son via the stunning border road over the rugged hills from Mae Sot. Then from Chiang Mai to Nan, via Lampang, and on past the lake at Pha Yao. On again down huge eight-lane highways and up dusty tracks, past southern beaches of pristine tropical sand. From the furthest northern points where hill tribe people cultivate rice and tea on steeply stepped mountain paddies, to the deepest south where the fisherman of Songkhla speak harshly and quickly as they mend their nets in small, rough commercial ports on plastic-bag strewn beaches. Then on to Isan, the heart of the country in many ways, over sugar palm and rice-field covered flatlands. In all it took 12,000 kilometres of motorcycling to cover every location on the list. The list had become a voyage of historical discovery. Starting with the first location, the well-known wonders of Wat Mahathat in Sukhothai, the second location I was sent to was 60km from the main temple sites - Wat Chao Chan. It took some finding. I eventually found myself driving down a heavily wooded, jungle path miles from the main temple complexes and historical parks. I arrived in a clearing. It was utterly Khmer. The bright afternoon sunshine flooded through the trees creating javelins of light silhouetting a structure that was unmistakeably straight from the heart of Angkor - all these hundreds of miles north of Angkor Wat itself or the exquisite satellite temples of Phimai or Phanom Rung. A deserted outpost of a long gone empire seemingly lost in the woods. All that history packed into this tiny, atmospheric, leafy and deserted place. I never knew what Joe had in store for me next. Nan in the far north of Thailand remains a treasure trove of the most beautiful architecture and fascinating traditional culture. More hidden gems around Chiang Mai and Lampang – places that even many locals have never heard of such as Wat Lai Hin or Wat Ton Kwen. Fading, elegant and exquisite testaments to craftsmen and priests from a distant era, it was often the details that were spellbinding. The tiny delicate relief sculptures of a greedy cat tracking a clueless and possibly doomed bird on a gate to a place that initially seemed crumbling. A faded painting in a far corner of Buddha in his last moments. Isan is a place of historical wonder and robustly welcoming hospitality. Thai, Lao, and Khmer all mixed up in a hotch-potch of architecture, rural kindness, and fiery, fiery food. That Phanom, and the Angorian temples in Khorat and Buriram remain dramatic testaments to the flow of empire and the skill of ancient architects. Bangkok is home to some of the world’s most spectacular religious buildings. The list, however, revealed other lesser known treasures. In small crumbling structures down hidden lanes, locked ordination halls contain ancient murals, lost statues, and amazing light. Thailand is a country where people flock from all over the world to enjoy famously splendid historical treasures. Not everyone realises, however, what other riches are hidden or unknown. From North to South and East to West.