Pedal to the Max

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Asia » Thailand » Central Thailand » Ayutthaya
February 25th 2016
Published: March 6th 2016
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Rob Writes

As Take That were descending on Bangkok it was time to get out of there pronto. Truth be told though, as Tina mentioned, no hotel would have us. As we had hoped on staying a further night in Bangkok I hadn’t done much research on the best method to get out and onto our destination. We knew we wanted to go to Ayutthaya and I had briefly read about a bus which goes from the Victory Tower monument, but that was it really, that was all I knew. Fortunately Victory Tower had a BST station right next to it so we jumped on the train outside of our hotel and got off there.

On exiting the Victory Monument station we were presented with minibuses alright... loads of them, everywhere. We had no idea which one we would need to get, but had spied a tourist information box about twenty metres away, so we went to enquire.

Never in my life have I met someone so unfit for doing the job they were doing. I walked up to the kiosk and asked softly, and very politely, where one may find the nearest minibus for onward travel to the lovely town of Ayutthaya. Fuck knows what she was mumbling; I couldn’t hear her for traffic noise. I went to stick my head into the booth to listen but out came her hand frantically waving a metal ruler in my face. At first I thought she was trying to kill me. What did I say? Turns out she was trying to point at a poster on the front of the kiosk on the other side of the glass. I hadn’t seen it, fair enough; I too would try and fuck you in the eyeball with a sharp object if I were in her shoes, it’s a reasonable response, especially to any confused, overwhelmed traveller. It was a quality poster I’ll give her that, just as helpful as her. I suspected she made it. It said both the name of the place where we wanted to go and the time(s) the bus left. Great! Where we getting on it then? There’s no way I was attempting further contact. Let us move on.

We arrive at the next bus stop. Ayutthaya? Over there! We go over there. We arrive at the next bus stop. Ayutthaya? Over there! We go over there. We arrive at the next bus stop. Ayutthaya? Over there! We go over there. We arrive at the next bus stop. Ayutthaya? Over there! We catch the bus to Ayutthaya. For those interested the CORRECT bus stop can be found north of the Victory Monument station. Follow the main road until you’re at the large roundabout. If your still facing north at the roundabout it’s in the 1400 hours position, possibly 1405. It’s 60bhat each.

The minibus was a bit of a squeeze, we had to shove our bags in the isle but otherwise it was probably the best and most value for money journey we have taken yet (wasn’t even VIP). It was more than comfortable.

We arrived at Ayutthaya three hours later and were dropped off just outside the old town to the east. We were getting braver now. We hadn’t booked a room but did have an idea of a few places where we would like to stay. We did this because we found when extending our stays at previous hotels we had booked on the web, the hotels were always keen to undercut the website by a few pound. The only risk is, the hotel you’re arriving at may be booked up.

You see some weird people. We shared the bus with a western tourist, a young girl, probably mid twenties all nicely dressed up in a candy-striped summer dress. Her make-up and hair were perfect and she was carrying a small fancy looking handbag. What’s her story? Where’s her luggage? Where is she going? I don’t think she knew any of the answers to those questions either. When we arrived at Ayutthaya she seemed to be in a state of confusion and was arguing with the driver. I had to tell her this was Ayutthaya and this was the right place. I couldn’t help but feel she looked quite glamorous against the backdrop of dusty Ayutthaya. Anyway, Tina and I then left in search of a tuk-tuk that wasn’t already waiting at the bus stop to shaft us. We had probably got about a hundred meters down the street when we turned round to see that same girl behind us. She didn’t look like she had any clue where she was going, but her appearance suggested otherwise so we moved on. Another hundred meters down the road and there she was again, she seemed to be following us. Should we ask if she’s ok? Oh look, there’s a tuk-tuk! Off we go to our hotel. I hope she was alright. I suspected she was just here for the day, but still I feel like a bit of a bastard for not checking and asking for her number.

We turned up at a hotel called Q Zone Boutique just north of the old town and over the small river. Sure enough our plan worked and we arrived to stay for three nights for a lesser price than that on the interwebs. I think it was about twenty-three pound a night.

This hotel was great! The room was big and clean, the air-con was good, breakfast was included and they had free bicycles out front to get about. I was in my element!

It was mid-late afternoon at this point but we decided to take the bikes to visit the temples on our side of the river. Ayutthaya was quiet so cycling on the road wasn’t too frightening. I was more concerned about Tina and her issues/frustrations she has with physical activity. My concerns were founded when immediately after getting on the bikes I turned a corner in the road and she carried on going straight-on right off the road and onto a dirt track, “Where are you going?!” I shout, “I didn’t mean to do that!” she replied. Didn’t mean to do what? She didn’t do anything? She didn’t mean to not turn her handle bars in the correct direction. Here we go again... Panic mode on. Do they do stabilisers in Thailand?

After a wobbly few minutes we were cool and soon cycling between the various ruins, having a rest, taking some photos, it was nice and very quiet. I can live with this! As dusk started to set we headed back to the hotel. We had only been out a few hours but we hadn’t had lunch and Tina was knackered, so it was dinner time.

We went for dinner in the centre of the old town. I fancied something easy and tasty so I just looked up the higher rated places on the internet and after a lot (a lot) of persuasion convinced Tina we should use the bicycles to head into town rather than get a tuk tuk. The traffic had really picked up now and it was a bit scary. Again, I was more bothered about Tina. As I ride a bicycle at home five days a week on the road I know the crack. It’s easy to give in to your vulnerability but you really have to ride defensively and stand your ground. Road position is everything. Tina was getting overwhelmed by the traffic a bit. She kept pulling in after passing parked cars and of course, no cunt will let you out again when you’re on a bike, just like home. I turned around and couldn’t see her, not knowing this had happed I shat it. She was alright though. A quick lesson in ‘How to Cycle on the Road - Safely’ alternatively titled, ‘How to be BELLEND cyclist who doesn’t PAY FUCKING ROAD TAX so has NO RIGHT TO GET IN MY WWWAAY – Arsehole car driver edition’, soon followed and we were sweet.

Cycling back on a full belly wasn’t cool and of course, Tina got cut up by a moped which was frightening but we got back to the hotel safely. We watched a bit of Breaking Bad before going to bed.

Just to mention, I had spring rolls for dinner, the first in Thailand and they were shit. Vietnam spring rolls are far, far better. Vietnam spring rolls use a really, really thin rice paper so they don’t really hold a lot of oil and are just so crisp against the fresh vegetables they contain. Here though. YUK! They’re more like Chinese spring rolls, rolled in a heavy battery pastry which is all you can taste, regardless of what’s inside. It’s over. I’ve started dreaming about becoming a Vietnamese spring roll cook, an outlaw cooking the purest, most chemically stable spring roll in Thailand.

Our first full day in Ayutthaya saw us hiring a tuk tuk to take us around the large, more spread out temples. Ayutthaya wasn’t a large place and I would have liked to do this by bicycle too but Tina assures me her arse was far too sore, all from sitting on a bicycle two minutes the day prior. What-ever. The tuk tuk cost us 300 bahto for three hours, a bicycle would have been free. Had we taken the bicycle we could have spent that extra 300 baht on some tasty food later on, which we would have no doubt earned too, but no, Tina’s brain doesn’t work like this. Sometimes I wonder...

The temples were good fun. I would have liked there to be a little more information to read at the various sites because without that, you’re just looking at temples, and as interesting as that is, after a while things start to get a little blurry, although it was thirty-five degrees...

We had finished our little tuk tuk temple jaunt by about mid day. We asked the driver to drop us off at the market in the centre of the old town and had a look around. I bought some... well I don’t know what they were. They reminded me of coconut mushrooms. They had a similar texture and were covered in coconut but came in three different flavours. I think they were meant to be a sweet, although they weren’t that sweet. They weren’t savoury either. From what I could gather the flavours were soap, Cussons original soap and aniseed. YUMMY! I ate one before putting them in the bag, setting a mental note to throw them in the bin. Later though I was stuck in the hotel with no food and ended up eating them all. Seems they’re an acquired taste.

Tina started to complain while we were in the market. She was hungry, her arse hurt and above all that, hot. Our hotel was fifteen minute walk away so we started to head back. Tina was adamant she wanted a tuk tuk but I had no change and there was no way a driver would take a fifty baht fare on a 1000 baht note. We walked half the journey before a tuk tuk stopped. I managed to find about twenty-five baht in loose change and we agreed on that.

Cowering inside, away from the mid day sun we enjoyed some down time. I headed out on my bike for lunch shortly after, fortunately finding a roadside restaurant nearby. I don’t really know how else to describe it. It wasn’t really a restaurant, these places are literally everywhere. It’s a guy, with a fridge, with a wok and a camping stove, with a bag of fresh vegetables and a bag of rice, a couple of herbs/spices and a basic menu along with a few plastic chairs and tables. Everyone seems to sell food outside their homes in some varying degree. The problem was, these places weren’t catering for us tourist types. There’s never any English and rarely any pictures. Fortunately this place had a banner with pictures on. “Two of these YES, PLEASE!” I ask, stabbing at the banner with my finger while rubbing my belly. Sorted, that was dinner for less than a pound. The portion wasn’t very big though, which is why I ended up reluctantly devouring the earlier mentioned Thai ‘sweeties’ as a desert.

We didn’t do anything later that afternoon if I remember correctly. I think we just arsed about on the internet and watched some TV. There was a small shop next door to us where we bagged ourselves some instant noodles and a few other bits for dinner, I really couldn’t be arsed going out and waving my fingers about in the search for food. I did my usual newsagents raid where I buy one of everything I see, not knowing what any of it is and eating all in one sitting hoping I find some ‘golden’ snack in there. This is getting a bit long in the tooth though, I’ve done it in most places we’ve stopped at and I’m yet to find anything worth eating again. Most of it is crap versions of the shit we have in the UK and I mostly end up disappointed or with bad stomach*. I thought the Manchester United endorsed ‘Euro Cake’ that I found would be right up my street, but really it was like eating a shitty stale doughnut. I think I’m ready to fly home. I have seen everything the world’s newsagents have to offer and to be honest, the one thing which I have been able to get in every one, my go-to no BS sweet snack which has never failed to be there and more importantly, never failed to satisfied my snacking cravings, the humble Snickers.

*I forgot to write about my beef jerky experience in Hanoi, another newsagent find, but one of the definitely darker moments of this journey so far. It was weird. It was like eating crystallised chilli manure; it tasted a bit like grass too, adding to the manure texture. It was alright really, mostly tasted like chilli, but soon after finishing it my stomach was cramping like fuck and I had crazy burps. I was so bloated I looked pregnant. I felt violently sick but I just wasn’t being sick. I even tried spinning around in circles and jumping up and down to make myself sick, but that didn’t work. After an hour or so curled up in the foetal position, bollock naked, burping away, crying into my pillow trying desperately to sleep, I decided enough was enough and ended the night with my head in the shitter and my fingers down my throat. I felt top notch after that.

Anyway, back to Ayutthaya. Lazing around carried on into the following morning. We got up and had breakfast but after that just lounged about. I went out on the bike on my own and found a Tesco (Lotus Tesco here) while trying to buy a SIM card. I never bothered with the SIM card in the end but I did get hold of some Pepsi Max for Tina. That’s all she drinks and it’s like rocking horse shit over here. Man, she was happy with me for that.

I honestly do not remember what we did that afternoon. I’m quite sure it was nothing though. We were meant to only spend two nights here but as it was cheap and quite laid back we decided on another, so this would be the day before our finial night. I think we watched a fair bit of breaking bad before hunting for somewhere to eat again later afternoon.

We found a restaurant by the river behind our hotel. I say found, it was actually the guy on the reception of our hotel that showed us where it was. It had a standard Thai menu but also had the option of cooking your own food on a BBQ they bring to your table. We chose the BBQ option and ordered a selection of raw seafood to cook. I have no idea why we chose this. We have done this before in Glasgow. There’s a place on Union Street that does the same thing and it was twenty pound each, twenty quid to cook your own food, badly. Yea it was great fun, this was great fun too but on both occasions I just wanted my dinner. We hated this one too. It was only a couple of pound each though, so that wasn’t so bad, but a squid and a few prawns with some vegetables between two is not filling. Great fun but I’m hungry! The river flowing past along with the sunset sure made up for our shit cooking though.

Well, looks like a trip to Lotus Tesco was in order to get some supplies in to munch while we watched Breaking Bad. Tina came with me this time despite her crippling sore arse. I know why she came; she came because I found Pepsi Max earlier in the day. She thinks if I found Pepsi Max she might find some more home comforts, maybe a Krispy Kreme or possibly a three tonne jar of Nutella. It’s funny how her arse isn’t so sore now isn’t it.

That was our night. Up early the next day to check out and get a transfer to the bus station. We had arranged with reception for a luxury, VIP, 10*royalty edition bus to Sukhoithai. Of course, I’m taking the piss. I’ve come across a lot of ‘VIP’ advertised things that aren’t VIP at all. I suspect this may be one of them. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

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