Moving onwards and upwards

The new year hangover came and went and we left Bangkok on the 4th January. We got an early train to Ayutthaya which is 2 hours north of Bangkok and a very pleasant train journey. Once we arrived we got the 3 baht (Thai currency) boat across the width of the river and on the other side a third party decided to join our group uninvited, a lonely dog who decided to lead our way. For a while we thought maybe she instinctively knew where we were going and was leading us, as every so often she would look back for us to check we were still there! But after a while of carrying our 12 kg backpacks in the heat, the joyous and child-like idea of following the magical dog to our guesthouse wore off. We eventually found our guesthouse via an extremely knowledgable motorbike taxi driver.

As we only had 1 day in Ayutthaya, we quickly dumped our bags, got a map (only written in thai) and rented some bicycles as by the looks of the map it was easily manageable. The map was not accurate, as we are finding with many free tourist maps, and the distances even though on flat road, were very far away. It took us 1 hour to cycle to our first temple, Wat Chaiwatanaram, which is a mass of ruins dating back to the Ayutthaya period (I believe.) Very pretty, it overlooks a lake. I just wish we had more information so we really knew what we were looking at (you may sense a theme throughout Ayutthaya!) We then cycled to Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bopit which houses the biggest buddha partially destroyed by fire and reconstructed again. It was a big buddha. Again, more info would have been great. We then became intent on finding this floating market (as we never got to go to one in Bangkok), so we saw a sign (the only one in English so far) and followed it. We followed these signs for around 5km, and never found it. I recall during our ride we got a bit bored and decided to have a race, during this race I believe we rode right past it without noticing! By this point we had limited amounts of energy and enthusiasm and cycled the 5km back to our guesthouse.

We had a lovely local dinner that night from some very friendly and happy owners and left our guesthouse in the morning, happy only having to spend only 1 night there.

Advice for people who may want to visit Ayutthaya, do it in a day trip from Bangkok, it does not warrant an overnight stay.

We moved on to Sukhothai in the morning, planning on getting the train. We arrived at the train station at 8.30am and found there we no available trains to midday. After asking around we were told to get a coach, which would take 5 hours and cost less. So we did, and it was a comfy short journey where we got to stop at a petrol station and have a good, cheap, freshly cooked and tasty service station lunch! Nothing like the pap you find back home. We arrived in Sukhothai late afternoon and got a songthaew (its a mass taxi which is a converted pick up truck with benches down the side, can fit about 10 people comfortably) to our hotel and got settled in.

We went for a wonder for some dinner and came across this big night market selling clothes and lots of food! We picked at lots of different delicious things; chicken on a stick, thai omelette with prawns and thai savoury pancake with lovely sweet minced beef/pork/something or other inside. During our walk around we found a stall selling fried bugs. Adam looked on, toying with the idea, do I? Don’t I? am I guna be that white guy tourist who buys the bugs and doesn’t eat them? Luckily, he didn’t have to decide as a man with a big bowl of them offered him one to try, “are you sure?” Adam asked, “yes, yes very nice” he replied as he popped one in his mouth. Adam peered into the bowl and found the only cricket out of a sea of cockroaches and swiftly popped it in his mouth and crunched down, “hmmm…crunchy…and salty” was all he could muster. We said our thank yous and goodbyes and Adam walked away a very chuffed man.

As we were located close to the old city of Sukhothai, it was very easy and quick to get there in the morning. We rented bicycles, bought our tickets to get into the national park, and we found that we could rent audiotapes describing each landmark, just what we were looking for after a very uninformed time in Ayutthaya!

We had a great day, we learnt so much and had a lovely time cycling around the beautiful national park which was full of dilapidated wats and ruins and buddhas. It was good to actually know what we were looking at and understand it.

Unfortunately we left Sukhothai the next day, but we could of spent another day there at least. We caught the bus from the old city and began the 6 hour journey up to Chiang Mai, this time with no stops, only a few toilet breaks and the driver doing questionable manoeuvres and speed limits for the age and condition of his bus!

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