Mind the Elephants!

Trip Start Mar 13, 2010
Trip End Feb 13, 2011

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Where I stayed
Tony's Place
P U Guesthouse

Flag of Thailand  ,
Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Right then,

After the tourist trap of Bangkok, we decided a bit of peace and quiet was in order and scarpered north for a couple of hours on the train - a snip at 15 Baht per person - to the city of Ayutthaya. It's a historic place that used to be the capital of one of Thailand's several dynasties several hundred years ago, until those pesky Burmese attacked in 1767 and destroyed the city beyond all repair! Although, to their credit, they did leave enough ruined temples to allow Ayutthaya to be a temple tourists paradise, and make the city well worth a visit.

First things first, we disembarked from the train and headed to the river ferry to get into the walled old city area where our hostel was. In keeping with the rest of Asia, the safety of the boat and pier was, at best, dubious. A wobbly plank led from dry land onto the pier area, and a small hop landed us onto the boat itself. Being careful not to sit too near to the open engine - with straps dangling from bags, not the most sensible place to sit - we had an enjoyable trip of about 30 seconds before making it to the other side of the cities river/moat and heading to our hostel.

Ayutthaya was a really nice place to chill out - much more rural and relaxed than the somewhat frenetic Bangkok. And a great place to hire a bike and cruise around looking at history. And that's just what we did. Rates are pretty cheap (about 1 pound a day), so we grabbed a couple of bikes and off we went round the masses of temples. The bikes were a bit wobbly and took a while to get the hang of. I can only imagine that many Dutch tourists rent from the place we got our bikes from, as they were all set up for people taller then 7 foot...fortunately, the roads were reasonably quiet, so the fact that Annie and myself were weaving across the road like we'd both downed several bottles of Chang before leaving didn't result in an insurance claim!

In fact, more problematic than the cars and mopeds were the elephants getting in the way. They are surprisingly quiet, so you have to be careful when taking a corner at speed that you don't end up face-to-face (or worse) with one of the sizable pachyaderms. They do make crossing the road easier if you manage to get alongside them at the right time - for some reason the traffic seemed more willing to stop for five elephants than for two bikes...

The days cycling was good fun, without realizing we ended up whizzing around for the best part of 5 hours. It was certainly a better way of getting round the plethora of temples than by walking, as we covered enough distance to count as the opening stage of the Tour de France. Some of the sights we managed to take in amongst others were the Ancient Palace, Phra Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Phra Ram, Wat Lokayasutharam (a massive laying Buddha), Wat Phu Khao Thong and the King Naresuan Monument. Slightly more impressive was the fact that in all that time and across all that distance, Annie managed to fall off only twice! Impressive, I'm sure you'll all agree.

We completed the full tourist itinerary of the city with a visit to the Night Market to get some local food. Although the food was okay, the market was a bit of let down - not really worth the 15 minute trip from our hostel. We made up for the dissappointment by treating ourselves to a slap-up ice cream at the very American-style dessert restaurant, and this (I can assure you) was well worth the trip!

So, after a couple of fun, cycle filled days in Ayutthaya we were packing up and heading back to the train station (via fun river ferry crossing again) for our day train to Chiang Mai.
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