The journey into Laos is another long one, so I’m breaking it up (a little bit!) and having a day in Ayutthaya!
Between 1360 and 1767, Ayutthaya was the capital of Siam (Thailand). It was a major trading port and lavish city full of palaces and temples, until Burmese invasion in 1767.
What now remains are scattered ruins of the old city. In 1991, these ruins were named a UNESCO world heritage site.
I caught a slow train from Bangkok up to Ayutthaya.
The train was supposed to leave at 9.30am, I had plenty of time so lazed around in the waiting area, but with 10 minutes to go, the platform still hadn’t come up on the big boards. So I went off to ask, the train had been sat there the whole time – lucky I did ask!!
A third class seat for the 2 hour train was just 15 baht (32p). Probably the cheapest train I’ve ever been on.
So this is how the locals travel….but I’m in a carriage full of tourists!!! All doing the same as me, a day up to Ayutthaya!
Obviously, we were running half an hour behind schedule.
Most of the journey had been stationary anyway, sitting in the middle of nowhere!
I managed to leave my big bag at the train station for the day for just 10 baht (20p).
Most of the old city is on an island, surrounded by three rivers.
I crossed by ferry (4 baht!) which took about 2 minutes and went in search of a bicycle to rent as the ruins are all quite spread out – too far to walk.
It didn’t take long, many little shops all with bikes to rent and just 40 baht (80p) for the day!
The first temple – Wat Phra Mahathat. This temple was very much in ruins, broken piles of bricks lay around, Buddha statues lined each of the four outer walls – they were cool, but not a single one had a head!!
The main highlight of this temple is the Buddha head entwined within some tree roots. It is thought that during the Burmese invasion, this head was dropped and over time the tree has just grown around it. It does look pretty cool!
Wat Ratburana had a large entrance hall and some great views from atop of the stupa, but wasn’t too exciting apart from that!
Wat Thammikarat Had a random Buddha statue surrounded by hundreds of model chickens. Random!
Phra Mongkhon Bophit was marked on the map as a must see. But it wasn’t that exciting. It was a fairly ornate white building, housing one of the largest bronze Buddha statues in Thailand – at 16.95m tall!
I loved Wat Phra Si Sanphet. It was huge!! The main focus being three tall pale coloured stupas. Each stupa was for each one of the kings that lived there. The rest of the temple lay in ruins, with various columns scattered around.
Wat phra Ram was pretty. It was surrounded by a lake, with decorated elephants resting nearby! It was a bit too windy for a nice temple reflection in the lake, but was nice all the same.
My bicycle (common with all that I saw!) was quite old. One side of brakes didn’t work at all, the other barely worked. That was a bit scary. But what was even more scary were the other people on the roads – tuk tuks cutting right infront of you (not good with broken brakes!), huge coaches pulling up alongside and motorbikes weaving in and out, leaving inches to spare.
Also, I didn’t enjoy that the cycling route map took me along a couple of dual carriage ways! I was scared.
After gladly parting ways with my bicycle and crossing again by river ferry, I found a cafe to sit while I waited (a long time) for my evening train!
And I was feeling pretty knackered!
Time for yet another night train.
I did not want a repeat experience of the overnight seat from last week. So this time I booked my train well in advance, a week ago!
This train journey is a bit shorter, being ‘just’ 10 hours long. However, that’s just to get as far as Nong Khai – the Thai border town.
From there on, it’s still a few more hours into Laos!
Thailand, I can’t make my mind up. Last time I hated it. This time I’ve enjoyed it a bit more, but I don’t love it.
What I do like – the scenery and temples are just beautiful and the food is always nice. 7-11s are ubiquitous throughout the whole country, with apparently 6,773 stores! It’s not uncommon to see several in the same street, with some even across the road from each other. This air-conditioned, junk food heaven is also really cheap. Bottle of coke – 40p, cornetto – 40p! Another thing that’s great are the many food stalls, in particular the fruit stalls selling half pineapples, whole mangos and many other fruits for 40p a go! But, there are just too many people here and it just so touristy. Far too many people that it’s becoming very spoilt, some parts felt like I hadn’t even left Europe. I am aware that I am just one of this crowd.