What Wat is Which Wat?

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October 6th 2009
Published: October 13th 2009
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We had two options to get to Ayutthaya from Kanchanaburi. One was €20 for the two of us directly to it and the other was €4 and not so direct! We decided to take the €4 option. The first bus we got on was cramped and busy and had five seats in a row (2 & 3) where most buses have four (2 & 2). We sat in the three seater part and hoped no one would want to sit beside us. We were wrong there! The journey was funny and Thai transport amuses me as much as it annoys me. The bus leaves the station 40mins late then drives 100m and stops to pick up another load. Then another 100m until you lose count of the amount of times it stops. Maybe and just maybe Thailand, you should remove every second bus stop and speed up the times it takes to get from one town to the next. Not that we were in a rush anywhere, its just…. IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE!! Anyway, the bus seats, there was no way in hell we were going to fit into 2 seats. My knees would have been against my chin and Michelle would have been swallowed up underneath me. We did manage to fit into 2 and a half seats and that was tight. With €4 and open window is your air-con. When then bus comes to a halt, the temperature rises like you wouldn’t believe. Would I really change anything though. Not a hope. It was great to sit there with my headphones at full blast, the windows wide open and just watch the amazing Thai scenery pass by. Lone mountains dominated the flat terrain with rice fields just about everywhere you looked. At one stage I’m convinced we picked up a whole school, even though the bus was already full. Also, the bus driver never really fully stops. You have to get off in a running motion or else you’d end up on your ass. In true Thai fashion though you will never miss your stop or be left standing for long. Someone will always be looking out for you, be it the bus conductor, an old lady or a young Thai student. It seems everyone has your best interests at heart. We cannot put our fingers on it yet, but far less people seem to be trying to con you or get you to part easily with your money. Maybe the first time we came we were so paranoid that we thought every nice person was out to get us, just like some guide books or our mothers would have us think!! Our next bus was more of the same and soon we were in Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya was once the capital of Thailand. It remained this way for over 400 years before it finally fell. Three rivers all meet in one area to form and island which is where the old city was built. These rivers provide a defence barrier against invading forces for Europe and Asia. The city finally fell to the Burmese and the royal family retreated to an area near Bangkok. The Burmese looted and ransacked the city and destroyed a lot of the religious monuments. Now a days the old city is surrounded by the new city and it was lucky that in 1981, UNESCO made it a world heritage site. If this had not happened a lot more destruction could have happened to the temples. I’m unsure how many temples there are but the city is covered in them. You don’t have to travel far to find the next one.

The best way to see all the temples is by bicycle. We hired two and they both came with nice little baskets at the front. They cost 80c for the day and definitely the most economical way to get around. Responsible tourism I’d call it! Of course us, bikes and this world trip so far, have not got on. Remember our wine tour in Mendoza, Argentina?Drink Driving in Mendoza (On Bikes) We took of on our bikes and immediately took a wrong turn (my fault). I couldn’t quite understand, but I couldn’t keep up with Michelle. I tried all the gears but it only made it harder. It soon dawned on me that the tyre was a bit flat. We had gone a good distance at this stage, all be it, in the wrong direction. Corrective measures were needed so we decided to return to our guesthouse and get a new bike, or at least pump the tyre! I can honestly say it was the toughest work out I ever had. It was like cycling inside a sauna with the heat up full blast and the exercise bike on Tour de France Alpine mode. I was dripping with sweat by the time we returned. I asked how much it was to rent a moped, only to be turned off by the €7 a day price tag. How tight have I become? Tyre’s pumped we were back on the road. This time in the right direction and enjoying the breeze created by cycling the bike. It was completely different to cycle and so easy. Most of the time we would just free wheel. Imagine the idiot I looked like to the locals, pedalling like a mad man through the streets of Ayutthaya getting absolutely nowhere!

The temples, I suppose I should tell you a little about them. For the larger ones the entrance fee was €1 each. Cheap for someone on holidays but not for someone on a shoestring budget. €1 gets us a dinner here and that’s how we judge the price of things! I could list of the names of all the temples here and it would mean squat to most. Most were big and fascinating and it would be amazing to see them in full action, they way the were a few hundred years previous. Another common theme of our travels is seeing amazing sites, that were once the darling of an empire, only to be burned, looted, bombed, etc, by foreign invaders.

One thing I noticed while walking around the grounds of the temples is that 99% of the Buddha’s were headless and believe me, there were a lot of Buddha’s. I never did ask but I can only presume that invaders beheaded them while looting the place. Most big Buddha’s though still had their heads, which is a good thing if you’re a big Buddha. The way each Buddha is position is related to the life of Buddha. For example a reclining or lying down Buddha is at the exact time of Buddha’s enlightenment. Most Buddha’s were covered in gold but these were melted down when captured in times of war.

That night we took a guided tour of the temples on the outside of the ‘island’ and to an Elephant Kraal. An elephant what you ask?! I’m not quite sure either, as our driver was only a driver and not a guide and his English was poor. From what I could make out it was where working elephants lived. It was really cool though and the elephants just roamed around the enclosure, walking passed us, getting something to eat, turning up to the guy with the water hose for a wash and a drink and just generally relaxing. It’s also free to go in to the Kraal and you can give a donation if you like. It was really strange to see them wander about the place, exactly like a dog in a farmers yard. We went to a local Thai market to finish off the evening and tried just about everything unusual we could see. This wasn’t a tourist market so food was cheap and the stalls sold everyday items like toilet paper and washing powder instead of cheap jewellery and handbags. I had a type of pork sausage that was filled with more rice than pork and was very nice with a bit of chilli sauce. We also got half a papaya, two dragon fruit and 4 bananas for less than a €1!

Next up is Sukothai. The same thing as Ayutthaya but apparently better. I really liked Ayutthaya and all the temples and would definitely recommend it to anyone, even though the Lonely Planet says give it a miss over Sukothai if stuck for time. We really don’t like the Lonely Planet anymore and begin to question it more often than not. We've decided to go third class train to Sukothai and hope it works out ok. Again the difference is nearly €9 but you can be guaranteed, way more adventurous.

In a bit. DH

Song of the blog: Green Day - When September Comes

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18th October 2009

Ah Darren I feel your pain with the bike! Bloody hard work isn it?!

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