Day 10 - A dancing transvestite and the ruins of a once magnificent city

December 15th 2017
Published: December 20th 2017
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Day 10 - I am so super keen on this day. Today we explore the archaeological ruins of Ayutthaya, the second capital of Siam. I love this shit, I have always been more keen on ancient history than I am for more modern history. Helena Monaghan taught me Ancient History in both year 11 and 12 and I loved it. At one point I considered studying archaeology, but so few people are actually able to make a career out of this, and we live a million miles from most of the ancient world (our Indigenous people didn't leave much in the way of cities for us to dig up!)

Anyway, we got up early and got our shit packed up and ready to go, after our tour today Anand and the driver will take us back to Bangkok where we will stay the night. Anand wandered in around 8am just as we were about to have breakfast and he was happy to go off and have some of his own while we had something to eat. Breakfast in this little B&B was interesting! This is a proper family owned place, only about 8 rooms in the whole house I think and Grandma heads up the kitchen and cooks up the meals. We had to pre-order our breakfast the night before when we checked in, so we kinda knew what we were getting, but it was still a bit of an experience. I was out talking to Anand and checking out while Todd took the kids to the kitchen (I won't say restaurant, it really was like their kitchen with a couple tables in it). The elderly woman beckoned the boys to a table and I think the only word of english they caught was 'toast', and then she left. When I got there they weren't sure if they had to order breakfast, or let someone know we were ready or what we were supposed to do. So whilst we waited for her to reappear, we made toast lol. It was all good, we had to share the toaster with a nice German family who were also there so by the time we all had toast breakky had started to arrive. We've given up waiting for everyone's food to come out before we commence eating because it just doesn't happen that way! Food comes out when its ready, and as yet, I don't think this has EVER been all at the same time. Thus far Kalyb has been the lucky one whose meal always seems to come last haha. It's all good, it gives us all a chance to try everyone's meal as it comes out. Breakfast was nice, a bowl of fruit, 1 egg, 1 bit of bacon and one of those little hot dogs that they call sausages here.........and a salad, which is still weird at breakfast but I'm digging it.

so after breakky we packed ourselves and all our crap into the minibus and off we went! The mini bus was decked out and it had a tv screen up front that Anand plugged his phonr into to show us pictures, maps and videos of some of the things we were to see. We were soon at our first site Wat Mahathat, which is one of the most iconic places in Ayutthaya. Wat Mahathat was a Buddhist Monastary during the time this was the capital, and it has the famour Buddha head wrapped in the tree trunk. (I do promise that photos will accompany all these posts eventually! Hard to get them up with poor wifi but hoping to fix this!) We next went to the Grand Palace of Ayutthaya, here wasn't even a tenth of the crowds that we battled back at the Grand Palace, or any of the Bangkok temples, so it was much more peaceful wandering around the ruins and listening to Anand's stories about the history of these places. No gold and sparkles here, not any more. The city was founded about 700 years ago (circa 1350), and by 1700 it was the largest city in the world with a million people living there. It remained the capital of Siam for nearly 450 years......before the Burmese invaded and destroyed the lot in 1767. Anything that was worth taking was relocated to the new capital city Bangkok and was reused to build the new palace. I am talking the gold, the decorations, even down to the bricks. So some of the stuff we saw was restoration, but there was still enough of the original buildings to get a good sense of the place. Some of the original plaster decoration is still intact and some of the mural work, though it's badly weather damaged now. Most of the buildings are also black, because the Burmese burnt the city to the ground. Unimaginable these fires must have been! Most of the Buddha's have no heads, though Anand says this was not completely the doing of the Burmese, who are also Buddhist people. The soldiers didn't cut off the heads looters and 'grave-robbers' took the heads and sold them......apparently there is a lucrative market for Buddha heads? I tried to ask what kind of reincarnation someone could expect after having lopped off the head of their God and Anand said it is often understood that people with deformity or disability are often thought to have done these bad things in a previous life. I tried to ask if the people who would buy the stolen heads would meet a similar fate, but he didn't quite understand the question.

We climbed up and down a hell of a lot of steep stairs! I'd say that the activity might be outweighing all the food we are eating, but my pants tell a different story lol. Anyway at the Grand Palace we were able to climb up to one of the main 'prangs' (towers) and then down, down, down into a tiny little chamber that was a treasure trove of some kind. All treasure long since looted of course, but here the weather hadn't been able to completely destroy all the mural paintings, so it was cool......but very claustrophobic! Proud of Toddy for coming down there, neither of us like tight spaces and as a big guy, he could barely get down the stairs. They were so narrow you had to climb down with your foot sideways on the step. Crazy!

So after Grand Palace we went for lunch at a lovely little Thai restaurant nearby. I finally had the famous Pad Thai and it was awesome! Everyone's food was good and my god was it cheap! Only downfall, it was run by a little Muslim family, so no booze......NOOOOOOOOO. Nah it was fine, we gobbled down lunch and headed back for the last couple of sites. Another reclining Buddha which was very near to the size of the one we saw in Bangkok, but his house and all his gold was gone, still impressive! Lot's of little merchants out the front selling gold leaf that you can buy and paste onto a smaller replica Buddha in front for good luck.

The last temple we saw was the largest, and the one in the best condition. Wat Phra Sri Sanphet. This was both a Monastary and shrines for several of the King's ashes from that era. This temple was much more complete, though again, most of the Buddha heads were missing. It was really beautiful, again, pics don't do it justice! Several movies have been filmed here, including Mortal Kombat apparently!

On our way out we visited a replica of what a traditional teak house from that era would have been like. Built up on stilts and just lovely! Though he was quick to say that only the rich would live someplace like that.

So we were about templed out by now, so we decided to head back to Bangkok. There was one more stop, which was the Bang Pa In Summer Palace. So this is about 20 minutes drive away.....and this is where things got a little interesting.....things I have alluded to in the title of this day. A short while into our drive I look up at the tv screen at the front of the van and I see our mate Anand, strutting back and forth in a lacy black g-string and a teddy. High heels and a fancy umbrella completed the outfit. I am staring dumbfounded at this unexpected movie screening and I can see Anand sitting in the front seat watching it on his phone and I wonder whether he realises that he is broadcasting this masterpiece to the big screen!? Then he turns and says look at this! This is my new video, I just posted it today!!! He says 'Victoria Secret!!!', and he laughs. At this point the boys catch sight of our tour guide strutting his stuff in his ladies underwear. I have to give them credit, both recovered their composure pretty well and just smiled. I asked Anand if he performs in any shows, and he said not since he was young. Now he only does videos which he posts on Facebook for his thousands of followers........well there you go! I told him he must make good money to be able to afford Victoria's Secret! Too bloody expensive for me! He laughed at that 😊 PS - his makeup was still much more fabulous than mine on this day!

Anyhoo, Bang Pa In. This is a place that is still used by the Royal Family and is really gorgeous, beautiful gardens, but all the architecture was Greek! Really odd! Apparently one of the previous kings (Rama VI I think), studied abroad and came back excited about the architecture he had seen in Europe, so he constructed this whole palace in Greek style. He also had a pile of wives and concubines and kids so the place is huge so that he could house them all. I think I may have mentioned previously that the Thai king Rama IX passed away last year, so his son has recently taken over. He has clearly got his own ideas about things and seems to be renovating a lot of stuff here, many of the buildings that were previously open to the public were not on the dy we were there.......and I don't know if this is normal or not, but there were a LOT of military personnel there, with heavy artillery! Kalyb agrees that these guys definitely had loaded machine guns! Anand was a bit horrified actually, he could see one of the buildings being ripped apart and could hear smashing, he said 'all of that is hand-painted chinese porcelain!!' I thought he might cry! We decided to go after we saw that, and it was interesting, Anand can't say anything bad about the new king, it is actually against the law here to say bad things about the royal family, but I reckon he might just have wanted to!

We loaded back into the bus and off we went back towards Bangkok. On the way back Anand asked us if we wanted to put music on. We said hell yes (ask a silly question in this family), and he gave his phone over to Todd to pick songs from youtube and the videos broadcasted on the screen. Woohoo, party bus! We had grabbed a couple of beers outside the Bang Pa In so we are styling now! Slightly surreal, hurtling along the highway with Foo Fighters blaring and a cold beer in hand watching Thailand pass me by through the window. It was awesome. The traffic wasn't too horrendous and we arrived at our Chinatown hotel by about 5pm and had to say farewell to our friend Anand. He has been amazing and if you are ever in Thailand, look him up! He travels all over the country doing private tours and he is so knowledgeable and passionate about his subject matter, well worth every penny (and frankly, wasn't that expensive!)

So our hotel in Chinatown is the Shanghai Mansion, and it is fancy shmancy! We are only here for one night so I decided to splash out a bit. It's all funky, brightly coloured walls, lots of reds and golds, kind of modern Chinese decor. It is really pretty. We are all sharing one room, so it's a bit of a squeeze with 1 king bed and 2 singles in there, but we won't be here long. After we get settled in, Todd and I decide to go for a wander and get our bearings.......we wandered straight down to the hotel bar for a cocktail and some grown up time lol. I finally ordered one of those drinks that is served in a whole coconut, and damn was it good! I was still greedily scraping the coconut flesh from the inside well after my drink was finished!

We decided to check out the lay of the land and walked out into the frenetic streets of Chinatown, Yao Warat Road. This place is crazy. There is barely room on the footpath to walk because all the sellers have their wares all over the pavement, and you don't want to walk in the street due to the 4 million cars, tuk tuks and motorbikes/scooters zooming around, but we managed to pick our way through the craziness. We weren't yet quite brave enough to attempt to cross the street yet though, so we just walked around the block, looking for possible places to eat where we could sample the delicious street food and Corey could find something vaguely familiar to eat! There were a lot of prospective places so we went back to get the kids and set off in search of dinner. The sweet/rotten pungence of durian fruit is everywhere here. Every second stall has it, so it must be awesome, though I haven't brought myself to taste it just yet. It really is rotten smelling!

We found ourselves wandering down a bit of an alley and an elderly gentleman smiled at us and beckoned us over. Now much of what we had seen thus far has been a lot of seafood, and of course that is no good for Todd, so when we noticed this guy had a lot of bowls of different meats we decided to sit down. Another amazing decision! This guy was so friendly, Corey was very hesitant about the menu, but we talked him into getting a chicken and fried rice dish and the man said he would make is special for him! I didn't catch his name, I think Todd did but he is sleeping right now, but he and his whole family run this place. It has been here for 9 generations, selling amazing food 24 hours a day. They work in 8 hour shifts. And omg! It is soooo good. He sat and chatted with us, told us his place had recently been voted 5th best street food stall in Bangkok, if you could fathom how many stalls there are here you would know that is a massive achievement. He showed us the video on youtube, 10 best stalls in Bangkok and yup, there was his little place, right at #5. This place has no name, just an address and the whole family lives above the open kitchen where the food is cooked. Corey absolutely scoffed down his food. He loved it! I was so proud of him for trying something different! Todd tried to order a glass of whiskey and got a whole bottle instead (like a 350ml), so he an Kalyb got stuck into that and we savoured our food and watched the craziness on the street in front of us. It was a warm day, but sitting out on the street with the breeze coming through it was quite pleasant. When we finally decided it was time to move on we thanked the man and bis daughters profusely and left a big tip, and promised we would be back!

Corey and I went back to the room and Todd and Kalyb went in search of 7-11 to get some water etc......or so they said lol. They stumbled in a while later having consumed the rest of the scotch bottle plus a couple more drinks at a bar up the road while they searched for the steam buns that I had requested. I love steamed buns, and they had a great time looking for them, so it was a fab night all round!

Tomorrow, off to Kanchanaburi 😊

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