Posts Tagged ‘Ayutthaya’

Sukhotai

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Another five and a half hours on a bus got us from Ayutthaya to Sukhotai. The tickets have assigned seat numbers but the concept appears foreign to Thais, and recognising and sitting in the correct seat is beyond many of them. The empty seat next to me was occupied by a monk after the first stop. Unusually for a monk he turned out to be very talkative and was a champion fidget. He took a shine to my Kindle and dropped more than one or two hints about me “donating” it to him or swapping it for his mobile phone. Dream on! He was quite interesting though and showed us his photo album. It included photos of him leading a ceremony with all the participants having a cotton thread wrapped around their head and joined to a matrix of threads in the ceiling. There were also photos of his family and of his very intricate tattoos, which he explained were done the traditional way with bamboo and a hammer.  He also told us when we’d reached Sukhotai, which was useful because the bus stations, like everything else are signed in Thai but not English.

I’m not complaining about the lack of English signage; it’s not like Buckingham Palace is signed in Thai, but it does make life a little difficult when you can’t read or speak the local language. I have a feeling things will be worse when I get to China.

The hotel had a driver waiting for us at the bus station – very civilised :-) We had our own little brick built cabin with a galvanised roof and this one had been cleaned. Hannah was happy. After dinner we went and looked for the night market. Maybe we looked in the wrong place, maybe we were too late, but all we found was a food market.

On Tuesday it started raining as we went to breakfast and quickly turned into a torrential downpour which lasted over two hours. So it was almost 11:30 before the driver dropped us at the bus stop for the old city. The bus did a good job of competing with the Ayutthaya “express” train for slowest motorised transport award. It only had two working gears and the driver was reluctant to use the higher one. At the old city we found the usual scam of buy something (entrance to the temple complex – 100 baht) and then buy all the extras (bike hire – 30 baht, bike admission to temple – 10 baht, audio tour – 150 baht, extra if keeping it more than three hours, audio player deposit). The temple complex was apparently built by a better bunch of builders than those at Ayutthaya, many of which were distinctly wonky in a way that simple ransacking wouldn’t have caused. If you can stand more wat photos, they’re at Flickr.

After the temple complex and a late lunch we cycled eight kilometres to Tak in search of, wait for it, yet more wats. We didn’t find them and couldn’t hang around looking for them. We had to head back for the last bus from the old city back to Sukhotai. We returned the bikes at 17:15 in good time for the last bus at 17:30 only to find the driver had thought better of it, and packed up early for the day. We waited with three other tourists until about 17:45 and took a tuk-tuk instead.

Wednesday was another travelling day with a bus ride to Chiang Mai. No chatty monks this time, and also a much less luxurious coach, but it somehow managed to do the journey in only five hours instead of the advertised six.

Ayutthaya

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

After a third totally lazy day at Koh Chang it was time to move on. If we hadn’t booked the next three weeks worth of accommodation and travel we’d have probably stayed on Koh Chang another day or two.

The “hotel” proprietor, Sean, drove about six of us to the taxi stop and dropped us off. The taxi drove all the way back to the hotel to pickup a couple of people from the hotel next door and then all the way back to the main road and the 31km up the island to the ferry point. Happily this time there were no locals out chucking water around; Songkran is over for another year.

The ferry back to the mainland seemed to take rather less time than the ferry to the island, presumably due to tide or currents. After nearly two hours at the bus station our VIP coach advertising a whole range of services not actually provided set off for Bangkok. Six hours later we peeled our numb bums off the seats and ventured into Hualampong railway station in Bangkok for the train to Ayutthaya. According to the Thailand trains website a second class ticket is about 60 baht one way. We were surprised to get charged 490 baht for two then. No explanation and no chance of getting one. The train was described on the tickets as an “Express”. The only express aspect appeared to be that it didn’t actually stop at every single station en route. But it stopped at plenty of places in between, including level crossings and never once exceeded 40kph, frequently crawling along at walking pace.

All of the place signs, street signs etc. here are in Thai. Occasionally one has the same information in English. Few of the train station platforms did. We guessed which was the correct station from the elapsed journey time and the guard confirmed it. Actually once we were off the train the platform at Ayutthaya was one of the few with a sign in both Thai and English.

A tuk-tuk whisked us to our hotel which Hannah took an instant dislike to, thinking it doubled as a brothel. It just described itself as a traditional Thai massage hotel. Actually there was no evidence of it being a dual-use establishment. The room could have used a clean between occupiers but really wasn’t too bad. It was certainly a step up on the teahouses in Nepal.

At breakfast next morning we talked to a group of Brits who were moving on to Sukhotai. They recommended hiring bikes from the hotel and doing a river cruise in the evening. So we did. Centuries ago Ayutthaya was an independent kingdom in what would one day become Thailand. It was frequently attacked by the Burmese and sacked by them twice, most recently about 350 years ago. Before then it must have been a magnificent city. The Burmese ransacked all the wats and they were not repaired after the Burmese left. The city is built on an island and there are temples everywhere, some in large complexes. We cycled round several of them, visited the National Museum which houses several relics recovered from looted temples and took the river cruise to visit three more temples off the island. There are photos of many in my RTW2011 set at Flickr. My camera batteries gave out just before the final temple. Missing a few more temple pictures wasn’t a problem but I also missed out on the four foot long monitor lizards on the river bank. Shame.

On Monday morning we visited a couple more temples and were dropped off at 12:00 at the bus station for the ride to Sukhotai.