Typical Ayuthaya Sight
Buddha statues amid ruins, Wat Maha That.
I used miles for our flights on our vacation to Bali. With miles, I could get us to Bali, but we had to return from Bangkok, so we decided to spend two days in Bangkok. We spent one of these two days on a day trip out of Bangkok to the old capital of Ayuthaya, and the other day in Bangkok itself. Our Bangkok blog is here
Our Day in Ayuthaya
Leaving our hotel early, we took the metro from Petchaburi station (where our hotel was located), to Hua Lamphong station. What a change from when I lived there.. seven subway stops and you complete in less than 20 minutes a journey that used to take up to two hours or more! Arriving at Hua Lamphong, we bought tickets for the next train to Ayuthaya departing about 40 minutes later. The third class train fare was only 20 baht (US$0.65) per person! A seat is not guaranteed for this fare, but when I lived in Thailand I only had to stand once in the eight times I took the train. As we had some time before departure, we headed to the food court for breakfast, where
Jeff had real pad thai, not the heavy gloopy stuff you get the US. I cannot for the life of me figure out why pad thai is so popular in the US; it is nowhere as popular in Thailand, and way different!
Boarding our train, we were stoked to find that the cabin was quite empty and we each had two seats. The train pulled out of Hua Lamphong slightly behind schedule and moved very slowly through Bangkok. In fact, we had to stop twice to wait for traffic crossing the railway line to stop. En route, we passed close by my old apartment at Ngamwongwan Road and my former workplace (the old Don Muang Airport). We also passed the food stalls where my office assistant would buy our lunches. My Singaporean boss called the place Typhoid City and he refused to eat anything from there.
After Don Muang Airport, the train passed through the Rangsit area, which is in the northern outskirts of Bangkok. Here were some depressing sights - shanty towns and dirty klongs (canals), some of them juxtaposed next to walled luxury compounds. Once past Rangsit, the scenery gave way to lush ricefields. At this
Jeff and "Eh"
Eh took us around Ayuthaya in her tuk tuk.
point, the train picked up speed. We arrived at Ayuthaya after two hours on the train, well behind the scheduled 1.5 hours.
At the train station, we negotiated a tuk tuk hire with a young man who then brought us to a cute and brand new tuk tuk driven by his wife, Eh. We chose to hire a tuk tuk because we had limited time; if we were staying overnight I would have opted to rent bicycles. Anyway, we had Eh and her tuk tuk for three hours and we were there to make the most of it!
In case you were wondering about Eh being an odd name, Thais tend to have long names and so it is common for them to have a nickname. Eh was likely a nickname. In many cases, the nickname is a shortened version of the full name (like "Jack" for Chakrapan or "Pom" for Pomsoong), but many Thais also have nicknames related to physical attributes - one fellow in my office was named "Khaek" (Indian) due to his darker features. Animals are another favorite - in my office, I had an elephant (chang), a bear (mee), a squirrel (gatae), a mouse
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon
Big chedi from afar. See how much it sags towards the middle? I wonder how safe this structure is given they allow people inside the chedi.
(nuu), a crab (poo) and a shrimp (kung). It is not uncommon for friends or coworkers to not know one another's real names.
Jeff, at 6'6", had trouble getting into Eh's little tuk tuk. He started out by lying down on his back on the benches, but he later sat cross legged on the floor of the tuk tuk. See the video below. Ayuthaya's tuk tuks are larger than Bangkok's. I should have made Jeff take a tuk tuk in Bangkok, darn it!
I let Eh figure out where to bring us. Our itinerary included:
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon: This site has an amazing large chedi that one can climb into, and a reclining Buddha. There is also an active temple on the grounds.
Wat Maha That: An impressive complex of ruins with probably the most photographed item in Ayuthaya - a Buddha head enclosed in tree roots.
Wat Racha Burana: Another impressive complex of ruins with a large prang that is fairly intact. It was rather cool to see a tree growing out of the top of the prang. I doubt the tree was good for the prang's structural integrity, though. Thankfully,
Wat Maha That
Possibly the most photographed image in Ayuthaya.
it did look as if the prang was being restored.
Wan Phra Si Sanphet: A ruin with three intact chedi.
Wat Mongkhon Bophit: A modern functioning temple with an large golden Buddha inside.
Wat Lokaya Sutha: The main feature of this complex is a large reclining Buddha. Our favorite memory of this place, though, is a little girl who kept calling us and wai-ing at us whenever she caught our attention.
There are quite a few photos included in this post; I have captioned them and arranged those that are not embedded in the blog text in chronological order - the pictures and captions should give a sense of each of these monuments and what we saw. Walking around these ruins, it was hard to not think about how grand Ayuthaya must have been in its heyday. Even more disconcerting was thinking about what may lie underneath the newer buildings.
I think Eh was slightly annoyed with us because we refused to take an elephant ride offered outside Wat Mongkhon Bophit, which in turn most likely deprived her of a commission. At the end of our time with her we did ask her to bring
Wat Racha Burana
Impressive Prang with tree sticking out from the top.
us to a good lunch spot near the train station - at least she'll earn something from this. I was of course a little wary as I was afraid she would bring us to a restaurant that services large package tour groups, but we were pleasantly surprised to discover that she had brought us to a lovely floating restaurant on the banks of the Chao Praya River frequented by locals. I had a fresh grilled river lobster and Jeff had pad see iew while we watched rice barges amble by towards Bangkok. It did look as if families actually lived on some of the rice barges as we witnessed one pass by with a nuclear family complete with screaming toddler.
After lunch, we procured our tickets back to Bangkok. As we had about 45 minutes before the train departed, we went to a roadside juice bar across the street from the station for a drink. There, we had a "small world" encounter. A fellow traveler who had just arrived in Ayuthaya struck up a conversation with us, and during the course of our chat we learned that he had gone to UCLA undergrad (Jeff's alma mater) and that he
Wat Lokaya Sutha
Large reclining Buddha.
was about to start his MBA at UCLA's Anderson Graduate School of Management (my alma mater) this coming fall! Who would have imagined such an encounter halfway across the world? Anyway, Kevin, if you are reading this, good luck as you start this exciting new chapter of your life!
The train journey back to Bangkok was even slower than the outbound as we waited a long time for traffic to stop on the approach to Hua Lamphong. In hindsight, we should have disembarked at Mo Chit station near Chatuchak and made our way to the metro. I spent most of the downtime standing underneath the little fans in the train. We were really hot and tired by the time the train rolled into Hua Lamphong. From there, we took the subway to our hotel for a much-needed shower. After that, we had a enjoyable dinner at Cabbages and Condoms (refer to our Bangkok blog
USD1 = THB30.
Third class train tickets cost only 20 baht each way; my understanding is that a seat in the air conditioned coach costs over 200 baht. Save the baht if you can handle the heat. Consider disembarking at
Our Lunch Spot
We had a great lunch on a floating restaurant along the Chao Phraya River, with rice barges passing along their way to Bangkok.
Mo Chit (or another station convenient to the Bangkok Metro) on the return instead of going all the way to Hua Lamphong.
You don't have to find tuk tuks in Ayuthaya; they'll find you. The going rate for a charter of this nature is between 300 and 400 baht per hour. This is steep but there isn't much wiggle room. Renting a bicycle might be more enjoyable if you have more time.
Unfortunately, I cannot recall the name of the restaurant where we ate but it was a few hundred yards south of the train station on the opposite side of the road from the station. The restaurant does not have a shopfront and is only accessible by a driveway.
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