Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Asia Adventures - Post 7 (Ayuthaya, Thailand)

The reoccurring theme of Thailand is “avoid the scam”. I’ve said it before, but practically EVERYONE in Bangkok tried to rip us off…even the official legit train worker behind the ticket counter. Olga, Dana and I wanted to explore the ancient ruins of Ayuthaya located about an hour outside of Bangkok. I really wanted to see the temples of Ankor Wat in Siem Reap Cambodia, but that would have cost us another $500 and at least two days which we couldn’t budget for.

Anyway, the travel book guide says the best way to get to Ayuthaya is by train which should cost you about a dollar. Well the ticket counter person looked at us and said the ticket price was 615bht (about $20 US). What! I then showed her the travel book and mentioned they list the price much much lower. She then said “oh that for 3rd class ticket, you no want, you want 2nd class ticket, I book you 2nd class ticket, no ride with animals and have seat”. She tried to convince us that the difference between 2nd class and 3rd class was that 2nd class had A) air conditioning, B) seats, and C) no animals. Yeah, we got the feeling like the 3rd class car was one big box car full of straw, but for only 25bht (about 75 cents US) can you blame it. Since we were on a budget and in the mood for some adventure (come on when else can you spend an hour in close quarters with a goat), we bought the 3rd class tickets. Well we get to the train car and it has A) tons of cushy built in seats, B) tons of windows that you can open to let the breeze flow through the car, and C) NO ANIMALS. Everyone in the car was regular people looking like they were visiting a relative or friend in the suburbs.

On our hour long train ride, I looked at the scenery and tried to take picture of rice paddy fields (I really wanted to see rice fields for some reason). We passed through a few shanty towns were houses consisted of corrugated metal scraps and strategically placed sheets. Downer! Anyway, we met Adam from San Francisco who had been traveling for the last three months. He bought a round the world package and had visited practically all of Europe, India, and SE Asia. I guess this round the world package is offered through various airlines and allows you to pay one set price (like $2000) and purchase up to 20 or so one-way plane tickets. The stipulation is that you can only travel in one direction (no backtracking) and eventually circumference the globe. Neat huh, except it really only works for those travelling for a long ass time.

Once we arrived, we rented bicycles to ride around the island and to the various temple ruins. It was close to 100 degrees and 80% humidity, so we lasted about five minutes before swimming in sweat. Although I don’t recommend heavy activity in the sweltering tropics, the bikes were a great idea. Riding provided a nice breeze (if you peddled hard enough) and let us see practically everything there in a few hours. Granted we had to burn our clothes later because they were beyond nasty. Half way through the sweaty day, Dana said “guys…I don’t know why I’m single…I’m so hot”

Here is a pictorial tour.
Wat Chetharam (with a giant stone reclining Buddha)

Wat Phra Mahathat (home of the Buddha head in the tree roots…we couldn’t find it though, damn)

Wat Phra Ram (situated on the lake)

Wat Ratburana (you descend into the tomb and can view some fresco paintings that they have uncovered)

Wat Phra Si Samphet (formally royal temple situated right next to the royal palace, the city’s largest and most important temple). We were later chased out by an old woman yelling "NO BIKES...how did you get in here!!!"

Whaan Phra Mongkhon Bophit (royal palace and home to a giant bronze Buddha, the building once was a crumbling pile of stones and the Buddha was exposed but then in the last 10 years have rebuilt the building and restored the Buddha statue’s finish)

Elephant Taxis


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