Posts Tagged ‘Koh Chang’

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.

Just lazing around

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

We finished our massage course on Monday with an hour long practical exam in the afternoon. We both passed and have the certificates to prove it. That’s a good few CPD points for this year. Hannah is keen to go back to Bangkok and do another massage course. I don’t think I’ll be doing another one so soon.

On Tuesday morning we were up at silly o’clock to visit the flower market. The best time is supposed to be between 3am and 6am. We got there about 5am to be greeted by gorgeous sights and smells. The market is mainly wholesale but they’ll happily sell to individuals and tourists too. The flowers are stupidly cheap – two dozen roses for less than £1 for example. My photos don’t really do the flowers justice – the flash performance of my camera has always been a bit wanting – but there are a handful of the less poor ones on Flickr.

By dawn at around 6am the market was already winding down with some of the sellers packing up and going home. Afterwards we returned to the hotel for breakfast, checked out and caught our bus to Koh Chang. A six hour ride through country that changed very little once we were outside Bangkok. Six lanes of tarmac with a central divide and low rise domestic and commercial buildings both sides. Then a thirty minute ferry crossing from Trad to Koh Chang and almost another hour in a taxi to reach Bang Bao at almost the other end of the island.

We were soaked by the time we reached Bang Bao. It’s Songkran – Thai New Year – and the locals think it’s hilariously funny to chuck as much water over everyone else, but especially tourists as they possibly can. And the taxis (pick up trucks with a dozen unsuspecting victims in the back) delight in slowing down whenever passing a bunch of Thais with their oil drum full of iced water and plastic tubs and buckets for chucking it. Remind me to come back with a water tender and water cannon and repay the humour some time.

Hannah went off for another soaking yesterday and has gone snorkelling today. I’ve just been sitting in the shade on the decking with the ocean on my left hand side, listening to the waves, listening to Pugliese on my iPod, reading books on my Kindle and doing next to nothing. I thought about doing a couple of Happy Hearts Quest tasks but even that seemed like too much effort. Maybe tomorrow…