A number of my colleagues and I went on a field trip in Prachinburi last Thursday and Friday to check some archaeological sites (Khmer period) made of laterites. I swear I have no idea what a laterite is prior to this trip (see the Wikipedia entry on laterite here). However, I remember this material used in several temples in Angkor, which were distinct for their orange tint. The temple we saw in Prachinburi was nowhere near as grand as any of the Angkor monuments, however, it is a very important one as it houses the oldest Buddha foot imprint in Thailand.
We then moved to some ancient city, whose name escapes me right now, to visit other sites, mainly holes in the ground carved from the rich deposits of laterite around the area. My archaeologist colleague told me that the purpose of these holes were largely ceremonial although the mystery behind the smaller holes has yet to be uncovered.
Time to check in at the hotel. As we were in some un-touristy city, I expected to be holed in some dingy hotel room. Surprisingly, we ended up in a five-star hotel that sits on the edge of a lake. Very fancy indeed!
The next day was MAJOR laterite overload. Stop after stop we ended up in the numerous laterite "mines" that dot the outskirts of the town. I swear the entire province could be sitting on a humongous slab of laterite. The laborers of the mines only need to dig a few meters to find a sizable laterite deposit and, using a rotating blade, they literally slice the laterite that sit on the site. After which each tile is chipped off the ground and passed on to another group of laborers who polishes them. Laterite is popular in landscaping (footpaths, driveways, etc.) and wall finishings.
While we were hopping from one laterite mine to another, my colleagues and I noticed that we have yet to spot a Seven-Eleven in the town, which is a far cry from its over-abundance in Bangkok and perhaps all other cities in Thailand. Many many years from now, archaeologists and anthropologists would probably call the period we live in as the Seven-Eleven civilization. The number of Seven-Eleven would be a indicator of the social and economic advancement of a particular province. If that's the case, Prachinburi would miserably fail in that criteria.