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2017 SEPTEMBER THAILAND RAIL JOURNEY part two

TRAIN PHITSANULOK TO AYUATTHAYA

rain 25 °C

DAY 240 TUESDAY 3RD OCTOBER 2017

We booked a 8.55am train, so it was early down to breakfast and then a taxi (flash air con taxi) 60 baht = aud$ 2.31 to the train station.

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Our 3rd class ticket costs 168 baht = aud $6.41 on Rapid train #106 and took about 4 hours. We got allocated seats on this train and luckily we were given side seats as they were much wider than the other seats and we could both fit on it. They are both bench seats but the forward facings ones are not really made for 'Westeners' girth. Even some Thais have difficulty fitting on the bench side by side.

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The train ride was uneventful, the scenery much the same same same, lot of rice paddies. Again there were lots of food vendors on the train, who seemed to work in a system of travelling just so far along the track before they were replaced with new vendors.

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It was obvious that this area had received much more rain than further north as there was a lot of water laying around and a lot of fields were flooded. I guess this is a good thing as they need the rain for their crops, but from a tourist point of view it's not the kind of weather we want to see. Halfway through the trip the rain started and continued until we arrived at our destination of Ayuatthaya.

Ayutthaya, full name Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, is an ancient capital and modern city in the Central Plains of Thailand, 85 km north of Bangkok. It is the Capital City of the Province of this name.
Founded around 1350, Ayutthaya became the second capital of Siam after Sukhothai. Throughout the centuries, the ideal location between China, India and the Malay Archipelago made Ayutthaya the trading capital of Asia and even the world. By 1700 Ayutthaya had become the largest city in the world with a total of 1 million inhabitants. Many international merchants set sail for Ayutthaya, from diverse regions as the Arab world, China, India, Japan, Portugal, the Netherlands and France. Merchants from Europe proclaimed Ayutthaya as the finest city they had ever seen. Dutch and French maps of the city show grandeur with gold-laden palaces, large ceremonies and a huge float of trading vessels from all over the world. All this came to a quick end when the Burmese invaded Ayutthaya in 1767 and almost completely burnt the city down to the ground.

Today, only a few remains might give a glimpse of the impressive city they must have seen. Its remains are characterized by the prang (reliquary towers) and big monasteries. Most of the remains are temples and palaces, as those were the only buildings made of stone at that time. The great cultural value of Ayutthaya's ruins were officially recognized in 1991, when the Historic City became an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We have been to Ayuatthaya before, back in 2013, and thought it would be a nice place to stop again before we reach Bangkok. I booked the same hotel we stayed in last time, Baan Are Gong Riverside Homestay, air con, fridge, hot shower and TV (with only one English speaking channel which is called France 24 - its a 24 hour news channel so we are now experts on the 3 main news stories of just now. 1. Las Vegas shooting 2. Protests in Spain as Catalona is try to claim independence 3. Trump visiting hurricane torn Puerto Rico stupidly telling them they did not have as many deaths as New Orleans did with Katrina) all this for just 680 baht = aud $25.93 per night. It's a nice location right on the river.DSCN6916.jpg90_DSCN6917.jpg

Unfortunately the weather does not look good for our stay here, and does not look like the forecast is any better for the coming days.

After settling in our room we headed out for a bite to eat and to find an ATM so we could pay for our room. Our hotel is in a small laneway that is directly across the road from the train station, so it only took us 5 minutes to walk to it. This laneway is lined with food stalls and restaurants so food is close by, and a couple of bicycle & motor bike hire places, hasn't changed much in the last 4 years.

We chose one randomly and had a nice meal that costs us a total of 100baht = aud $3.81. Rice with pork for me and noodles & tofu for Lyn.
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7-11 up the street had 4 ATM's outside so after trying them all to check the fee we found they all charged the same. 220 baht = aud $8.39 - outrageous! but we needed cash so had no choice but to suck it up. We paid the hotel receptionist before returning to the street to find dinner. A local food shack was our choice and again the food was tasty. We shared a dish of garlic pork and a bowl of curry chicken soup, both eaten with rice and washed down with a glassed of iced Leo beer. Total cost for the meal 320 baht = aud $12.20.

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DAY 241 WEDNESDAY 4TH OCTOBER 2017

I seem to be getting lazier every day. The more we do nothing, the more tired I get. All this doing nothing is wearing me out and I am managing to sleep very long hours. It's going to be a real struggle to return to the real world, a world where I will need to get up early each morning to go to work, but let's worry about that later, shall we.

So today we had a very late breakfast by the riverside at our accommodation. I had the eggs breakfast for 80 baht = aud $3.05 & Lyn had fried potatoes 80 baht = aud $3.05 and be both had a yohurt fruit smoothie for 40 baht = aud $1.53 each.

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We then made the mistake of going out exploring in the afternoon rather than the morning. Because although the morning was overcast it did not rain, and just within 1 hour of us hiring a motor bike and riding off to see some sights it poured down with rain.

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We managed to find our way to Phra Buddha Sai Yat (The Reclining Buddha), took some photos and then rode to our next stop, but had to pull over to shelter from the downpour.

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When the rain eased a little we braved the ride back to the hotel. That's enough for today, we spent the rest of the afternoon & evening watching Mrs Brown on Lyn's mini ipad.

We had dinner by the river in our accommodation restaurant and I'm not sure who got the best feed, us or the millions of mosquitos that attacked us at the table. We both had simple stir fry dishes that cost just 60 baht = aud $2.29 each and returned to our air con room to escape the feasting of the local insects.

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We have decided to stay an extra night here, maybe I can force myself to wake up a little earlier and we can go out for a ride in the morning when it usually doesn't rain. The hire bike has to be back by 2 which is around the time the rain usually comes.

DAY 242 THURSDAY 5TH OCTOBER 2017

We were up early for a 711 breakfast of toasted sandwich, washed down with an iced coffee, to take full advantage of the clear, dry morning.
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The weather stayed kind to us until after we had driven around and returned the bike at 2pm. We did not have a particular plan of what to see today, however for our first stop we headed to one of the most well preserved temples. Us and every other tourist in Ayutthaya! The area was swarming with tourists like little white ants all over the ruins. Too crowded for us so we hopped back on the bike and headed a little way from the main tourist sites. We rode past a few minor sites which were still free of ants.

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We road just out of town in search of a giant Wat we had seen when we were here 4 years old. It was not very difficult to find because it was so big and stood out over the countryside. And the fact that it had been painted. We rode up to Wat Phukhao Thong and managed to have a quick look around before a bus load of ants started to crawl around the site. On our last visit we were able to climb the giant Wat which afforded us magnificent views of the surrounds, but this was not possible today as the stairways were all fenced off.

You can see by the comparison photos below the new paint job looks great!

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We drove off looking for another memorial but did not manage to find it, although we did manage to get sort of lost, continuing along a busy road hoping to see a sign that would direct us back to Ayutthaya. It was not until we stopped and turned around that we saw the sign, so we had been heading in the completely wrong direction. Not to mind it was a nice ride out in the countryside.
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The memorial to Queen Suriyothai was pretty impressive and was surrounded by lovely frangipani trees.
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A large water monitor crossed the road in front of us at one stage, its back all green from the algae in the waterways.
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We passed another very popular Wat sight on the way back around the river. Again crawling with antlike tourists, we stopped for a quick photo outside the gate just as another 2 bus loads of ants pulled up.
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It was a complete fluke that we found our way back as time was running out to get the bike back before 2pm. Somehow after riding around we don't know where, we came out at the Shell garage just down the road from where we needed to return the bike. Perfect as we needed to fill the bike with fuel before returning it. It took just 60 baht =aud $2.31. The fuel plus the hire cost of 150 baht = aud $5.77, the bike costs us a total of aud $8.08!

Lunchtime, we ate at the same place where we hired the bike from. Lyn had fried green spinach (morning glory) 60 baht = aud $2.31and I went all western and had a chicken burger and chips 99 baht = aud $3.81.
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We returned to our air con room for the afternoon to cool off and watch some France 24 news channel cause we needed to catch up on the top 3 new stores of the world. We got the 3rd nights accommodation for 650 baht = aud $25.02 - discount of 30 baht!

After dark we took a quick trip across the river on the ferry just next to our hotel. It's just 5 baht = aud 19c and takes about 3 minutes to cross to the other side.
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Once there we walked a couple of blocks, found a KFC - fed our KFC ice coffee addiction. 19 baht = aud 73c. Lyn confused the staff by asking for the drink without ice. The staff member had to consult just about everyone one else working at the store as this was an ice coffee so should have ice. We did manage to get the drink without ice, but I don't think we will be welcome back at that KFC.
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Deciding to return back to our side of the river to find something for dinner, we settled for a chicken noodle soup from one of the food carts that are parked outside of the 711. The food was tasty and at just 40 baht = aud $1.54 a very cheap meal.
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Posted by Cindy Bruin 10:30 Archived in Thailand Tagged ayutthaya Comments (0)

2013 SEPT THAILAND - STOPOVER IN ASIA part 2

Bangkok to Ayutthaya

sunny 30 °C
View 2013 Sept ON THE WAY ASIAN STOPOVER on Cindy Bruin's travel map.

Tuesday 3rd September 2013 (day 3)

Another hot day in down town Bangkok!

Have wasted away the morning trying to send off the blog. Stupid ipad will not pick up a group email listing. So I spent hours after breakfast trying to work out a way to do it and as you will see the only possible solution I could work out is to send everybody (via 8 emails) the link to a blog page. Sorry to those who don't like this format but I have now wasted enough time on the solution and this one works for me. The link takes you direct to the page so it should be simple even for the computer challenged operators. Phew!

Ok so it was well and truly afternoon before we made our move. Please note, it was not just me that was holding up our progress, we were also waiting for Lyn's son Patrick to wake up and join us. He had a big night on the tiles so is a little seedy today. But we have heaps of time so this is not an issue - relax mode is switched. :-)

Just after 1pm we made our move and walked to the end of the Soi to get a taxi to Hualamphong train station. This proved to be a little more difficult than you can imagine, as most taxi drivers think we have just stepped of the last flight from Australia and are keen to rip us off. None of the metered taxis that I flagged down wanted to actually use the meter and were trying to get me to pay 200 baht ($7.00) for their driving skills. The fact that more than 2 were happy to drive away rather than put on the meter immediately told me that this was a less than 100 baht trip. And that was exactly the case when we finally did get an honest one to stop and offer to take us with using the meter. 70 baht ($2.45) thank you very much for a 20 minute taxi fare.

At the station we were advised by the very obliging information staff that the next train to Ayutthaya would be departing at 2.06pm giving us about 15 minutes to get a ticket and find something to eat. Lyn stood with the luggage as I went to the ticket booth and purchased the train tickets. Only 3rd class was available as it was just a 3rd class train. After hearing that and paying the fare - a measly 15 baht (50c) each I was not expecting much in the way of train.

However after buying some snacks we made our way to platform #7 and climbed into the waiting train. It was not so bad after all. Sure it was not air conditioned , but there were dusty old oscillating fans bolted to the ceiling and sash windows that were opened and would supply us with a nice breeze once the train started moving.

We left the platform on time and for the next hour seemed to be travelling through the backyards of suburban Bangkok. Probably not back yards as everyone would imagine as most shack type housing was built almost to the train tracks. It was interesting to see it from this side, like looking into the behind the scenes of peoples lives. This is true of just about anywhere you travel through suburbia by train, you always see the behind the homes prospective.

It seemed like ages before we finally got out into a bit of open country side. Here the landscape looked green and a lot cleaner than the clutter and messiness of the big city.

Just short of 2 hours we pulled into Ayutthaya station. Just 2 minutes before the conductor had come through the carriage and advised us the next stop was ours. It was a crowded station and soon we were being asked by numerous tuk tuk drivers where we were going. But we were not in need of any transport as the hotel I had pre booked was just down the lane across the road from the station. Oooo long way, five minute walk - the drivers all insisted. Two minutes later I could see the sign of the place I had booked, however a little distressing was the sight of a huge burnt out building behind the sign. Turns out is wasn't our place, we were next door.

We were greeted with big smiles, very little English and a cold bottle of water. I'd made a great choice as this is a lovely old wooden Thai style house right on the rivers edge.
Patrick excused himself to go have a shower and a lie down (still feeling seedy - thought these young blokes could bounce back) so Lyn & I took a seat in the waterside restaurant and spent the rest of the afternoon watching the assorted river traffic glide by. We were accompanied by the refreshing taste of a few cold Chang beers to wile away the time. Tomorrow looks like a good day for exploring.

Evening time we wandered out to find some dinner and source a place to hire a motor bike for tomorrow, and that was the end of another relaxing lazy day. Not feeling too guilty about not doing too much as we are still kind of winding down and we know very soon the weeks ahead are going to be a bit more physical.

Wednesday 4th Sept 13 (day 4)

Ayutthaya! Just 70 odd kilometres north of Bangkok, this was the royal capital of Thailand for over 417 years from 1350 to 1767, creating the longest and most powerful kingdom in the history of the country. Even though it was taken by the Burmese and totally sacked, what were left are the remnants of this glory, characterised by the Prangs (reliquary towers) and gigantic monasteries in the rich Ayutthaya historical park. The historic town of Ayutthaya, was announced by UNESCO to be a World Heritage Site in 1991.

We rose up early enough and already it was showing signs of becoming a hot day. A quick breakfast at a restaurant few doors down from our hotel, where we'd stopped on our way home last night and organised to hire a couple of motorbikes for the day, at only 150baht ($5.20) each. Lyn rode one with me on the back and Patrick on the other one.

We headed off towards the bridge to cross over to Ayutthaya - which is actually an large island at the junction of 3 rivers: Chao Phraya river, Pasak river & Lop Buri river. These 3 rivers flow and encircle the city. Rows of houses line up along the river bank, showing the deep connection between the people and the rivers. Most of the tourist attractions here are historical places, such as temples and palaces. It was too hot too visit them all and really one pile of rubble looked much like the rest so I made a suggestion we just visit one site and that way at least we had seen one!

Our first stop however was Wat Lokayasutharam whose main attraction is a huge reclining Budda. Lucky for us Patrick is better at navigating than we are because after riding around trying to find Lokay he took one look at the map and a few streets and corners later, there she lay in all her glory. Actually, not in all her glory, as she was covered with a giant orange sheet. I think Lyn and I would still be riding round in circles trying to find it.

Enroute to the reclining wonder we did stumble on a Memorial to Queen Suriyothia. Not quite sure who she was or how she fitted into the scheme of things. And the memorial looked more like a battle memorial, soldiers with swords, men in battle regatta mounted on huge battle elephants, but that what the map said it was.

Next stop was Wat Maha That - entry fee 50 baht ($1.75) I chose this one because I had seen post cards of a Budda head growing in the vines of a tree and that looked cool. Most of this site was in ruins - bits had been restored and bits looked like they would come tumbling down on us at any moment. Ayutthaya is prone to flooding and when these prangs and chedi's were built they did not much care about foundations. Many could be named 'leaning prang of Ayutthaya' and I don't think it was wise to walk on the shady side of any of these ancient brick constructions. Cool it was, but cool the weather was not. It was a steamer of a day and the sun was making itself well and truly felt. Not so bad when we were moving on the bike but at the site we walked the grounds of the ruins swiftly from shady tree to the next. As these were few and far between we soon became sun weary and headed out in search of lunch. Not to say that the ruins were crap, but really we are not that into ruins. I see ruins in the mirror every morning! And anyway we've seen the best we've been to Siem Reap - brag, brag.

Lunch - we jumped on the bike and rode back to a indoor market we had seen earlier in the morning when I was doing the navigating. There is always a part of every market cooking and selling food so we knew there would be at this one too. Sure enough right at the back we found tables and chairs huddled around little kiosks manned by women tossing foodstuffs around huge woks. Pad thai is always on offer and a safe option when in doubt of what is on the Thai only menu. Via hand signals the noodle soup lady informed us she was out of ingredients, so pad thai it was! Like I said always a safe option and it was ok. Stomachs full we re-mounted the bikes and decided just to go for a ride to no where in particular. The breeze we received on the bike was a much cooler option than just sitting around in the heat.

Heading on a small road out of town we viewed a very large pagoda in the distance. This was very big - looked like the size of Cheops pyramid, (sorry I guess that comparison only works for those of you who have actually seen Cheops pyramid) doh. Anyway, it was very bloody big so we turned in to have a look. Turned out to be a great find, Wat Phu Khao Thong, is off the tourist track - proof being we were the only ones there. At only 10 minutes drive out of town it's a shame this Wat does not get any attention. One of the very few that have been completely restored and obviously maintained - although not real sure where the funds would come from as there was no entrance fee - another rarity. And due to it's size we were actually able to climb up to the top for a view of the surrounding very flat countryside. Perhaps because there is a huge monument to King Nareswan right next door that this Wat is kept under repair, but again, where are the tourists? Maybe 10 minutes out of town is too far to take them.

It was mutually decided we'd all had enough culture for one day and it was time to head back to our hotel for a couple of cold riverside Chang's - which is exactly what we did.

Just before it got dark we jumped on the bikes again and headed back over to the island to find dinner. On our way home earlier we spotted a parking lot that was starting to fill with stalls that looked like the makings of a night market. Sure enough we found it back again but it was a little disappointing in the food department. Although I did eat a really nice crispy mussel omelette, but not completely satisfied we stopped at a roadside stall for a pork & noodle soup with filled the gap.

Back at the hotel I had a shower and went to bed early. Lyn and Patrick stayed up a few hours longer having some quality mother / son time over a few beers.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 07:45 Archived in Thailand Tagged ayutthaya Comments (2)

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