Published: June 29th 2012June 29th 2012
Today was our full day in Ayutthaya, after arriving yesterday and grabbing some grub. We decided today we would either rent bicycles of motorbikes – depending on rental prices. We enquired: 80 baht (£1.60) for two bicycles for the day or 400 baht (£8) for two motorbikes for the day. Although when you convert it into English money, the motorbikes were a good deal, we decided to be stingy and sweat it out on the push bikes.
We had already drawn up a rough route on the awful tourist map they give you here (there are no street names on the map so even figuring out where we were staying was difficult. I spent 20mins last night using lonely planet and google maps to figure it out and scribble all the names onto it). Our route encompassed Wat Phanan Choeng (with its 19m high gold Buddha), Wat Chai Wattanaram, Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Phra Mahathat and Wat Ratburana. We had planned to do the two that were furthest away and off the island first and then basically work our way home, however we changed this plan on the advice of the lovely lady from Tour With Thai who told us that Wat Chai Wattanaram was lovely at sunset.
So we began by cycling down to the ferry port and jumping on the ferry that took us and our bikes to ‘big Buddha’. We were so sweaty and hot from the cycle there that we didn’t have a clue where we were headed but luckily for us it became like a game of hot or cold with the admission fee collection lady. Every time we would head towards somewhere that was wrong she would yell over ‘helloa, big Buddha’ and ambiguously point in the direction we were already headed. We just kept trying until we eventually spotted hoards of Chinese tourists swarming around a doorway. It was the doorway that lead to the wihan housing the huge Buddha. I found the statue extremely impressive but couldn’t help but think it should be housed in a bigger hall. There was only about 3m in front of the Buddha where people were kneeling praying and the small entrance made it difficult to actually get in and appreciate the huge Buddha comfortably. After seeing the Buddha, we wasted no time and hopped straight back onto the ferry and headed towards the Elephant Kraal where elephants used to be gathered and trained for war.
There is now a company who take abused elephants and take tourists on rides around the ruins with the elephants dressed up in royal outfits. Not sure how much I believe they’re ACTUALLY trying to do good as the elephants are still being trained to sit and pose with tourists and still be loaded with the chairs that I hear are bad for them. On top of that, it costs 400 baht (£8) per person for a 20 minute ride around ruins that you don’t want to see (not strictly true I’m sure they’re nice but they’re not the important ones) . So we decided for all reasons listed above to give it a miss and cycle on to Wat Phra Si Sanphet.
After missing the entrance the first time and cycling around to Wat Mahathat and Wat Ratburana, we made our way back and found the entrance. We bought our entrance tickets and I purchased the 3 Wat audiobook (Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Mahathat and Wat Chai Wattanaram). The guy on the audio tour made a point of saying ‘ah-YOO-ta-yarr’ really exaggerated every single time he said it. It was annoying and impressive in equal measures – annoying because the sentences hardly flowed and impressive that he didn’t forget for a single time the City name was used. As I walked around to all the stops, hopping from shade to shade, I found the audio tour to be really good value. Having not really read too much about the history here and not having time to visit a museum it gave the visits some meaning.
We then moved onto Mahathat and Ratburana, which were both lovely. On the way over to them, however, we realised that Len’s back tyre was flat so we decided that after these we would head back to the shop to see what the lady would say and also get a well needed shower. I must confess, after hearing the jet-ski/motorbike scams that happen here in Thailand where the company set up that the vehicle is damaged and then make you pay unscrupulous amounts of money for repairs, I was panicking that the lady was gonna turn evil and insist we pay her hundreds of pounds for a tyre. However, to the credit of Tour With Thai, she just told us it was probably a thorn, there were lots of them in the historical park and told Len to pick another bike. PHEW!
After our showers and some dinner we set off for Wat Chai Wattanaram. Wow was that longer than I could handle… We ended up walking with the bikes for some of the journey, particularly the smaller roads and the steep bridge. But eventually we made it. Only to be told that the temple was damaged in the recent floods and we could do nothing but sit in the car park and look at it! We were there much earlier than sunset as we had allowed time to complete our audio tour and then sit and watch the sunset there. However it is fair to say we were shattered from the long ride and didn’t want to sit there forever waiting for the sunset knowing we had that journey back to do. So we recuperated for half hour or so then set of straight back. When we arrived back the lady instantly says ‘what are you doing here? It’s sunset now!’ and then laughs at us when she sees our exhausted and sweaty faces.
All in all, our bike rental was a successful experience. We only had one collision – and that was with each other! We were on a roundabout:
Me: is there anything coming or can we cross (the junction)
Len: no we’re fine (2 seconds pass) motorbike (a second passes and I immediately start to brake – Len is still looking over his shoulder) actually nah, go!
After yet another shower (our third of the day) we head out to the same place we ate yesterday to chill out with cheap (and extremely strong) cocktails and a live band doing there audition to see if they could be the ‘house band’. They were good, as were the drinks and food yesterday. Chang house – if you’re visiting Ayutthaya you get much better food and service than other (nicer looking) places to eat on the street.
Not really sure what the plan for tomorrow is other than we need to be in Bangkok Hua Lamphong by 18.30 for our train-bus-ferry combo to Koh Phangan.. Hopefully a lie-in =D