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Thailand

Ayutthaya, Thailand

Adventures by bike around the former Thai capital.

sunny 35 °C

Our bus journey to Ayutthaya included an unscheduled 45 minute stop as our minibus driver fixed his overheated broken down bus. At least this time we were at a service station and not on the side of a mountain after dark.

Ayutthaya used to be the capital of Thailand, and when they built Bangkok, they decided to try and replicate the layout of Ayutthaya. Other than the fact both have a river running through the middle, we couldn't really see the similarities.

When the capital was moved, a lot of the brickwork was taken too, to help Bangkok replicate Ayutthaya. Most of the temples have been left to ruin and are no longer decorated in ornate tiles. We spent the day going between the main temples and the Royal Palace until we were all templed out. Our mode of transport for today was the good old push bike.

It's very interesting riding a bike in Asia, and something which needs a bit of practise, a lot of courage, and a total lack of fear. Imagine sharing the road with not only cars and buses, but motorbikes with frame-like cart sidecars; mopeds galore, half ridden by hesitant tourists, the rest driven by daring hasty locals. Tuk tuks and weird 'truck buses'; random pedestrians evidently with a death wish and finally the odd food stall cart stuck out into the road for good measure. Oh and I forgot to mention the herd of elephants to whom everyone must giveaway. Yet surprisingly, it seems to work. Even taking the third exit off of a three-four lane roundabout wasn't too scary once you got on it.

At first it made a pleasant change to visit some rundown runs, but by about the third set, we felt we had seen enough. Ayutthaya is an exceedingly pretty city with some of the temples surrounded by water. Having elephants strolling through in traditional dress adds to the feel of the place, making it seem more authentic and set in the past.

In the evening, we enjoyed a lovely curry on some decking onto the river before catching a sleeper train to Uttaradit. This sleeper train was 2nd class which meant 32 beds in one carriage with no air-con, just fans. Chris didn't seem to sleep too badly; however the trains really do sway in Thailand and I kept being lifted up on one side. Plus their trains are incredibly noisy and seem to bang constantly. Aft one point I drifted off but had a strange half dream that I could feel my stomach banging into my intestines. When we alighted 7½ hours later at half 6, it took summertime for the motion feeling too pass. We then caught a bus to Lampang to go to the Thai Elephant Conservation Center.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 08:14 Archived in Thailand Tagged temples temple travel elephants Comments (1)

Kanchanaburi - Death railway, Kwai bridge, Wang Pho Viaduct

Thai countryside

sunny 34 °C
View South East Asia on Roaming Rolts's travel map.

We set off at 6.30 am, took the ferry up the river to Bangkok Noi to start our day trip on the train, this journey is done as an excursion, which I'm sure the Thais finds quite entertaining. As we waited for the train, we ate breakfast, which today consisted of chicken bum sticks (not a typo) and sticky rice. Not too sure what chicken bum is, but i doubt it will be the worst thing we eat in Asia by far.

The train is 3rd class only with large windows to let in a warm breeze. Although the train was there at 7.30 and due to leave at 7.50, for some unknown reason, it left 40 minutes late, which is apparently quite common. The train travels at a fair speed, with cars easily overtaking on the main roads next to it. It bobs and clickety clacks through the Thai countryside between towns and villages for 2½ hours before it reaches Kanchanaburi, which is where death railway and the tourist section of the line begins.

Along the route, we passed houses which were so close to the tracks that had someone stuck their head out their window as a train went past they would lose it. Along the journey, various leaves joined us in the carriage with Chris being covered in leaves on a couple of occasions.

On arriving at kanchanaburi, an additional four carriages were added to our train to allow for the number of tourists joining the service. The first point of interest on our trip is the bridge over the river Kwai, made famous by the film in the 1960s. After this it takes about an hour to travel up the picturesque river to the Wang Pho viaduct, which gives death railway it's name as most of the prisoners of war who built this bridgee along the cliff edge lost their lives.

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The final stretch is like a green jungle as you head towards Nam Tok, where the train turns round and you head back the way you came. By the time we set of from Nam Tok, the train was now 1½ hours behind schedule.

Our accommodation for the next couple of nights is a gorgeous little wooden bungalow on stilts overlooking the river.

The following day we took the local bus to Erawan waterfalls, the most beautiful waterfalls Thailand has to offer, and the best part is, you can swim in them. There is a 2km trail which takes you up the waterfalls, stopping at 7 ledges along the way, which are perfect for a quick swim to cool off. The only downside is the little ankle biters, as in the not so little fish who nibble at your ankles if you stay in the same place for too long. The waterfalls are stunning, with bluey-turquoise pools at the end if each drop over white rocks.

The water was so refreshing and a welcome relief from the heat. The walk up the waterfalls was fairly easy with the first 5 stages being footpaths, bit the last two sections were more of a climb over slippery rocks and staircases. On the way back down I managed to slip on one of the steps sliding half way down on my bum and bruising my already swollen and scabby leg. My left leg is looking a right state now!

We spent a few hours here before catching the last bus back to kanchanaburi. At one point, the bus was so full, one guy was hanging out the bus door!

Tomorrow afternoon we are catching a bus to the former capital Ayutthaya.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 09:24 Archived in Thailand Tagged waterfalls trains temples temple travel shrine Comments (0)

Bangkok, Thailand

Our first glimpse of South East Asia

sunny 32 °C
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Tuesday 29th October

We finally arrived in Thailand at lunchtime on Tuesday after travelling for some 3 days on 4 flights. It is not much fun getting from Buenos Aires to Bangkok on the cheapest flights possible going via Madrid, London and Dubai. Total time in the air was 26 hours. We were very pleased to have been able to break up the journey by spending a day in London where we were lucky enough to go for a lovely meal with all our family.

After arriving at our accommodation, taking a cold shower and having a sleep for a couple of hours, we headed out for a look around the local area, before being greeted by a man who suggested we take a tuk tuk to the tourist information and then to a restaurant and the tuk tuk would be 50 baht. (£1) we decided to; however it was probably supposed to be a scam as we had to take a specific 'government' tuk tuk, and tourist information ended up being a travel agent's offering a tour around northern Thailand.

Unfortunately for the man selling this '2 week tour' he mentioned fairly early on we would have to have our passports to make the reservation. So we listened enthusiastically to his tour plan for a little longer than we hoped but got some good ideas from him, before he volunteered to reserve the trip for the deposit of just 1000 baht, just £20. To humour him, and probably more ourselves, we tried to find out what the final price would be, and what exactly you got for that.

Unsurprisingly, he was not too willing to share that, and kept repeating 'low deposit of just 1000 baht!' (£20). Eventually, a lot of numbers went into a calculator, along with a commentary which includes 'authentic local buses as opposed to VIP buses' which translates to rickety bench bus which stops every 5 minutes and no air-con, but probably costing you less than a couple of pounds for the 10 hour trip. So, didn't manage to get an exact duration or what was included, but for what we think was a 2 week trip, with basic guest houses and some 2 day jungle trek, he would happily have taken £355 each! Our current accommodation in the capital is only £8 a night for the two of us.

Half grateful for some of the ideas , we thanked him before 'realising' we didn't have our passports to book. Initially, he questioned this; however we continued to play our role of the naïve little tourists, saying we had just planned to wander a couple of the local streets and hadn't planned on going out. He believed us, despite Thai law stating it's a legal requirement to carry your passports at all times, and we left, promising to be back first thing in the morning.

Our tuk tuk driver was still waiting a good half an hour later and seemed very pleased for us that we'd managed to book our trip. (Clearly gets a cut in this scheme!) He took us to the restaurant, insisting we were dropped at the door. We checked the menu, saw it was to expensive and wandered off to a family run restaurant which did the nicest Penang curry. Let's hope the first guy gets into trouble for forgetting to make sure we had our passports to book the scam. You could tell full well whatever the trip was, they had no intention of selling that and had just set their sights on the 1000 baht deposit.

Wednesday 30th October

We visited the Royal Palace, which is the most magnificent and ornately decorated building I have ever seen. The buildings were your traditional style temples, covered in gold leaf and coloured shiny mosaic tiles. It was so impressive! Within the palace there were various shrines containing huge golden Buddhas. All around the grounds were various different statutes, completely covered in gold leaf.

After the palace we went to the Thai National Museum, which contained many displays, including one exhibit which housed the chariots used for royal funeral processions. Again, these chariots were covered in gold and gems and were about 12 metres high.

We walked along the edge of the river, before being greeted by a lady offering advice and 'government tuk tuk' which as it was a bank holiday, would visit 3 places for 20 baht! She did suggest going to see the giant Buddha, which we didn't know about so we did the 'long walk' (5 minutes) to see this 45 metre high golden Buddha.

Chris had seen a leaflet for an exhibition hall which was next to a park. In the park we were offered information and another special rate government tuk tuk. We declined and walked off so the man started saying we were stupid for not taking the government tuk tuk (fair enough all part of his sales act?); however it very quickly changed to 'f*ck you, f*ck you!' Charming!

The exhibition involved being shown around 7 different rooms. The tour lasted 2 hours. We soon found the organisation of the the tour to be more interesting than the exhibits themselves. There were so many staff, waiting ready in the next room. The museum seemed brand new with various hidden doors leading you seamlessly on to the next room. At one point, we unwittingly got into a giant lift and watched a video as we changed levels. There was barely enough time to look at any of the exhibits, but it was good fun moving around between term. For the final exhibit, they took everyone's photo and used our faces in a strange cartoon.

In Bangkok, there is a street famous for backpackers and so we headed there to observe the other backpackers. Backpackers fall into two main categories; those who are really into the concept of being a backpacker, tend to be on a mission to 'find themselves' and have a lot of spare time to really feel the place and generally get drunk with other random backpackers, who are their new best friends, at any given opportunity. The other type, often slightly older, rather than on their 'gap yar' tend to have chosen to use a backpack for the convenience of moving around rather than a suitcase. This street was great for analysing the two types over dinner and giving some of them a story.

Thursday 31st October

On our final day in Bangkok, we moved around and visited about 7 different things like crazy people.

For breakfast, we went to China Town and browsed around some of the shops and and stalls. There was a good sized unit, which sold just belts. It had hundreds if not thousands of belts in every style, colour and material possible. Literally just around the corner, having been unable to believe such a shop would survive, there was another one probably twice the size,

After Chinatown, we caught a river bus up to Wat Pho, a temple housing a 25 metre long golden reclining Buddha. Around the temple were some 100 buddhas say a good metre and a half up on a golden tiered base. A few of these buddhas were at various stages of being restored and maintained and it was unbelievable to see the skill that went into creating these golden masterpieces.

Next we went to the Siam museum, which showed the history of Thailand before getting some lunch. After lunch we crossed the river to see another temple before taking a boat tour around the canals. Along the water's edge, there are various different styles and quality houses, temples, restaurants and shops. Our boat driver seemed to know every other boat we went past. At the end of our tour, we got off at the flower market, where I have never seem so many orchids. Whole truck fulls would go past, stacked up as high as they could manage. This then led on to the night market, selling mainly clothes before we took a tuk tuk to State Tower, the rooftop bar they used in the film the hangover. We enjoyed a couple of cocktails while watching lightning in the distance over the night skyline of Bangkok.

Finally we visited the area renowned for its ladyboys; however I'm not sure we saw any obvious ones but I'm sure if you picked up one of the many hookers in one of the bars, you might have got more than you had bargained for. I hadn't realised they were prostitutes until Chris questioned what else all the lone women in short skirts could be doing drinking on their own. As we walked through the neighbouring market, we were offered ping pong shows and Chris told me to make sure I was always next to him.

We caught the metro back to our hostel, which contains another comical priority seat sign; in Bangkok, the obese don't get your seat as they would in Brazil, but the monks do!

Tomorrow we are leaving Bangkok to visit Kanchanaburi and take a ride on death railway.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 06:30 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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