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January 6th 2012
Published: January 11th 2012
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On the train to AyutthayaOn the train to AyutthayaOn the train to Ayutthaya

Mind your head Howard!
6th Jan ’12 Minibus from Cha Am to Bangkok, metro system to station, train to Ayutthaya

After breakfast we checked out and hiked back up the main road with our backpacks to get to the minibus pick up point. The minibus started out in Hua Hin so by the time it got to us the only seats left were one right at the back which Howard took and one next to a man who took up 1 ½ seats which I got!

The minibus was great actually comfy seats and air con, we stopped once for a toilet break and then the man and his wife swapped seats and I got more room. It turned out that the 4 other westerners on the bus were all pensioners from Sweden who live 4 months a year in Hua Hin. They have had lots of trips to other countries while staying there and this time were going to Burma – how jealous was I! Anyway after 3 hours we arrived at Victory Monument in Bangkok said our goodbyes and then spent another hour crossing Bangkok to get to the station.

We bought our 30p tickets to Ayutthaya and 1 ½ hours later arrived. This area had been really badly hit by the flooding and you could see evidence of it everywhere. The Prom Thom Mansions Guest House where we stayed even had a flood level marker on the office door and although it was in the town it must have been about 4 feet high.

The place was lovely, the owners so friendly and helpful and apart from having to leave your shoes at the entrance before you entered the place (not a problem for me but Howard and his bloody boots…) totally restful.

We decided to go and track down some food before it got too dark and we had been told there was a night market close by so made our way there, it was just one narrow strip of stalls selling the most disgusting looking strange things I have seen and believe me I have seen plenty over here! The worst of it was the flies crawling on all the fish etc which they did keep wafting off but it convinced me I did not want to eat here. So back we went and there were a few stalls on a nearby corner and a

Buddah head in tree
young lad showed us a menu in English, so we sat down and ordered – this involved another lady who seemed to be the designated interpreter repeating the word chicken a lot. Our food soon arrived and wasn’t remotely like what we ordered just 2 small plates of rice with a couple of tiny chewy bits that I think were meat! Oh well we ate it and gave up!

Back at the guest house one of the staff sat with us and the map and explained where everything was and the best Wats to visit and how to get to the river and restaurants. So tomorrow night hopefully we will get an actual meal.

7th Jan ’12 Ayutthaya

Up bright and early to go Wat visiting before it gets too hot. As they are ruins rather than working temples you do not have to be fully covered which is just as well in the heat. We decided to walk it, there were free bikes to borrow but the roads are really busy and Howard reckons bike seats don’t agree with his bum! Everything is pretty spread out but according to the staff walk able.

We visited the nearby Wat Mahathat which is renowned for having Buddah’s head in a tree! And sure enough it did, we also visited Weat Ratchburama and Wat Phra Si Sampet and the ancient palace. Everywhere you look you see ruins of ancient temples its quite amazing. The Wats’ are really atmospheric and you can just imagine what an amazing sight the whole town must have been when they were in their hey day and all decorated and gilded.

At one of the temple complexes the Wat was still in use and richly decorated, the Buddhas’ are all golden and gleaming and a phenomenal size. There were elephants taking tourists around other temple ruins and a big market selling all sorts of souvenirs, which I just about managed to resist.

Walking around was hard going mainly due to the heat and also the lack of pavements in some areas – they were either covered over with food stalls or full of debris from the floods. So we gave in and took a tuk tuk to one complex that was a fair distance away. Due to the flooding the Wats were free to visit we were told this was as the government hadn’t done any cleaning since then. You could see the water level marks and its amazing how they are still standing. It did mean that a lot of the areas you couldn’t actually get into and explore as they were unsafe and so roped off.

We hiked for bloody miles! We ended up down by the river and found a nice restaurant overlooking it where we had a drink and a bit of lunch served by a very nice young ladyboy – who the only other customers a table of Thais possibly were sniggering about.

Late that afternoon we had booked to go on a river boat trip to visit some of the Wats that were out of the city boundary. This was really pleasant and there was loads to see going on around and about the river. We stopped and got off to visit a couple of temples with their various impressive Buddhas and huge gongs. One of them had statues of 5 of the Ayutthaya kings which some local people were making offerings to and praying.

The last temple we were due to see you again couldn’t go in due to the flooding which was a shame as it was a really large complex known as mini Angkor due to the style of the buildings and stupas. We were there for sunset – as were several other boats so our driver took us further down the river where we had to mountaineer up a steep muddy bank then walk back to go and see it.

From the river you could see the scale of the flooding, all of the buildings had tide marks on them and we reckon it must have risen about 15 feet! It’s amazing how quickly people seem to have managed to get their lives back together again.

Back at the start again we decided to have a look around that part of town rather than go straight back to the guest house as there was supposed to be a food night market there. Well we had been warned they go to bed early in Ayuttha but it was only about 7 and everything was shut! It was a bit disconcerting as hardly anyone was around and it was dark, but we carried on walking and found a street with a bit of life and a sign for KFC!

We never found the KFC but we did find a great restaurant advertising platters of roast duck and red pork so in we went. It was very much a local place but the waitress spoke a few words of English and everything we picked on the menu was finished for the night, except for one small platter of duck and pork which was the last one apparently. So we had that plus some more duck and it was delicious!!! Next door was an ice cream parlour and that was delicious too ha ha.

We managed to find a tuk tuk and got back to the guest house fine and with our bellies full this time.

8th Jan ’12 Ayuttha and overnight train to Chang Mai

We had a leisurely start this morning as we have managed to keep the room until 6pm and to be honest are feeling a bit Wattd out! But never the less we took a tuk tuk up to the Hua Ro market and wandered around looking at all the strange sights, one of which was a big fluffy cat sat right amongst the fish on the fish stall! We seemed to walk the streets for ages and came across one hairdressers shop that wasn’t packed out – I think Sunday must be Thai haircut day as all of the shops were full of people either waiting or having their hair done, and I decided to risk a trim. The young lass was lovely and after a bit of miming and picture pointing she understood I just wanted a trim and a fringe cut. She spent ages getting it all just right, but just like a home I got a bit nervous as the fringe kept getting snipped a bit more and a bit more! It was great when she finished all straight and shiny but as soon as I walked out the door into the heat it all boinged up and I now look as if I have a little curly line across my forehead!!

So we carried on walking and found a little bridge crossing the river to get to the original King’s Palace which survived being bombed and looted by the Burmese. You did have to pay to visit this one which was a working temple so it was shoulders and knees covered (not that my knees are ever

River life
exposed I hasn’t to add) so one of the Indian scarves came in handy.

The place was full of people making offerings, praying and getting blessed by monks. There was one of the biggest golden Buddha’s I have seen and from the ceiling were thousands of strings holding plastic packets with money in them.

In the grounds were various little shrines and chortens containing holy relics and other mystical things.

Not being able to walk anymore without a break we got a tuk tuk back down to the river and there discovered a great little restaurant purely by chance where there was only us and a few Thai ladies having lunch. A shy little schoolgirl took our order – I think to practise her English and the food was the best we have had in Thailand so far. So we staggered back up the road to the Prom Thom and made the most of the room while we still had it.

All too soon we were checking out and were presented with a lovely fridge magnet, our photos were taken for the facebook page lol and then us and a couple of French people who were

The 5 Kings
on the same train were on our way to the station.

At the station we met a couple from New Zealand and sat chatting with them while we waited for the train. The girl had used Thai overnight trains before and reckoned they were pretty good so that was encouraging!

The train pulled in and we only had a minute to board so we dashed along to our carriage and jumped on. It was packed but our berth was ready and waiting and much to Howard’s annoyance already made up for the night and it was only 8.45, so he began manically pulling off the mattress and trying to stuff it on the top bunk much to the horror of the car attendant. In the end it all got sorted though and without too much offense given fortunately!

As per usual we ended up with the hyper child on the opposite bunk, who spent his time beating up his father, screaming when he didn’t get his own way or trying to sit next to Howard who he had clearly taken a shine too!!!!

The train was actually pretty decent attendants came along regularly sweeping the floor

Flood damage
and helping sort bunks out and trying to sell you food. It was much cleaner than the Indian trains, the bedding was crisp and clean!, the loos were ok and the bottom bunk was actually more like a double bed. I still stuck to the top one though and after a bit of Indian cockroach paranoia finally began to feel comfortable.

The train seemed to have a different motion to the Indian ones and it took a bit of getting used to but both of us did manage some sleep.

Additional photos below
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The original King's palace

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