(November 27, 2010) Ayutthaya
We should wake up early to reach Ayutthaya as soon
as possible, it is a two hours' drive from Kanchanaburi. There, we will
visit the ruins of the old capital of Siam kingdom. If we have time we
could visit the winter palace in Bang Pa In and then would go on with
our way to Khao Yai N.P.. We would decide if passing by Lop Buri or not
considering at 3 PM leaves a nocturne safari which highlight is
watching the clouds of millions of bats leaving the caves all together
at dusk. We’ve been told by the tour company we could be for the bats
if arrive before 6 PM.
Route on map is marked by:
A.- River Kwai Hotel
C.- Lop Buri
D.- Khao Yai National Park (in Pak Chong)
Although we went early to bed last
night, we sleep like 12 hours in a row and go down for our breakfast
around 9 AM. Al least, it seems we’ve solved the tiredness and jet lag
issues at once. The price is this day has just started, but visiting
Lop Buri is already out of the table.
Before taking the car we go to the Seven Eleven
across the street and get some things we need, including the mosquito
repellent. There are two modes: spray and cream, by 30 and 55 Baht
respectively. We get one of each.
As we’ve removed Lop Buri from the route we think
we’ve got the time to do a quick visit to the Bridge on River Kwai. It
would be a pity missing it being so close. On our way I stop the car a
minute to take a look to the war and Chinese cemeteries. We detect the
area of the bridge easily as on these dates there is the place with
more live in the city. I drive through the crowded and narrow street
looking for a place to leave the car for a few minutes. I just use a
space where is not allowed to park but where it is not disturbing and
go to get some pictures of the famous bridge. The festival has taken
people everywhere here and we do our best to take our photos with as
lonely as possible.
I must say this is the historic one but it is not the one in
the movie as it was filmed in Sri Lanka and used a wooden bridge just
because the explosion would be more spectacular.
We finally take the road and the landscape around keep changing around
us until being driving through rice fields, like low deeper lakes.
People working on them are wearing the typical big hat like the ones
we’ve seen in Vietnam movies. There is low traffic and live comes to
the edges of the road, with dogs or chickens running on the shore or
families waiting for a chance to cross the two lanes for cars. We meet
motorcycles with entire families – man, woman and two children - on
them or with iron adaptors for carrying anything at side or behind.
Trucks are so full of things that sometimes they look small under their
carriage, like you couldn’t add a single little thing more on them.
I’ve been paying attention to fuel rates along the
trip and they were all on forty-something baht per liter for 95. They
also have 91 octanes fuel, but I was asked by the car rental manager to
put 95. When I suddenly see a price list with a rate lower than 40 baht
I get in. The petrol station is two rows of pumps and nothing else: no
store, no restroom… just three kids seated on picnic chairs. I show a
1000 baht (around 20€) to the one who is coming to us and point to 95.
Somehow, the deposit gets full before 1000 baht, just on seven hundred
something. I take my change and join the road again. There are some
works on this part of the road which are making us some delay.
We pass under the banner saying we’ve just entered
into Ayutthaya region. It is blue with some pictures of the places
we’re going to visit. A bit later I reach the crossroads I had marked
on the map, which is important to choose from where we’re going to
enter to the city. Now it’s time of being looking carefully around to
follow the way we want. There are a lot of signs to temples and even
some of them can be seen from the road, they’re small and ruined. There
are hundreds of them here and I’ve got a very specific plan for our
We’re going to stop following the map:
1- Wat Chai Watthanaram
2- Wat Phra Si Sanphet
3- Wat Maha That
4- Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon
I studied the temple ruins here and chose these four as
representative of all we can find in Ayutthaya. So I find the branch to
3263 and even can see the sign to Wat Chai Watthanaram among a long
list of sites. We’ve managed it!
I should have learnt to not celebrating anything
in advance: at the moment I get into the city my maps become useless
and there are no signs, no street names or road number, so we keep
driving with the only guide of intuition, but intuition is useless
here. I’m driving through a narrow road with shacks between vegetation
at both sides. The people here are Muslim and we don’t manage to get
understandable indications from anybody. That is solved by asking only
to the people with a tuk tuk, but even with the indications we cannot
find our first temple.
After being sure we’ve passed the point from the
last indications I look for a place to turn around and only can find it
beside some ruins. These are bigger than the ones we’ve been seeing
around and the parking area is larger too. When I’m turning I read a
sign with the name of this temple: "Wat Chai Watthanaram". Is this! We
can finally stop!
We’re so happy for being able of leaving the car
and for starting our visit. It is 1 PM and I was thinking about leaving
Aytthaya at 12:30 PM. Nothing we can do about it now, just removing the
visit to Bang Pa In from the list. Let’s enjoy this place which is
looking so nice from outside!
Once at ticket box I find two options: whether take the
fee ticket by 50 baht per person or purchasing a 150 baht ticket valid
for all the temples we can visit today. I prefer paying 100 baht by the
two tickets here.
Inside we find peace and quietness. We’re alone in this temple and we
explore every corner. Where there is no paved path there is grass. We
touch the ancient statues and bricks. There are parts with long rows of
stone Buda statues with no head. The “headless” process happened when
Burmese invaded Ayutthaya.
We’ve loved this visit
and I cannot say if it is because it’s the first temple or because
we’ve been alone or because this place is charming – or all together -.
Once back in the car we can find our way to the city center with no
issues. But once there I use the instinct again – yes, what we’ve
already checked as useless -. We avoid the narrower streets and end in
a broad avenue where we find the sign to Wat Maha That. We can find a
space on its full parking place. This was planned as the third stop,
but once here…
The place is full of tuk tuks and the whole entrance is like
street market. Prices for souvenirs seem to be expensive to me, so we
don’t stop and pay 100 baht for the two admission tickets. Just after a
wooden platform driving to the temple we find a group of people in
front of a fig tree. It is the spot of the famous Buda head, really
easy to find. Everybody w3ant their picture with what is Ayutthaya icon
and one after other are posing. We, obviously, take our turn too. A
Japanese man offers to make us the photo. We thank him and go deeper
inside the temple to explore it by its lonely areas.
The Buda head has its own story which I guess has something
with Burmese. The rest of the temple looks similar to the other one but
with different buildings. We find a Buda with head which somebody has
dressed with orange and other people have left offerings below it.
Before leaving the place I get indications for
going to the next temple from the woman in the ticket box: I just must
take the famous Naresuan Street, which is the next at left. I know it
is close, but we must go by car anyway.
That’s what we do. Naresuan Street is far from
being straight and it doesn’t look as being in the middle of a city.
Instead, we see grass everywhere, with trees, lakes, walls and dressed
elephants with a sunshade to protect the tourists riding them in chairs
over their back. We don’t leave this street and finally reach the place
where the elephants are coming from, where seems to be a festival about
these animals, with music. I can leave the car in what seems to be
Ayutthaya’s biggest parking area.
When we reach the source of the music we can see several
dressed elephants ready for getting new tourists for a ride and the
“nude” ones resting around. There is one young elephant painted as a
panda and dancing. When I try to take a picture of Eva with the
elephant I’ve been asked for 40 baht by a guy there and I finally don’t
take the photo. There are a lot of street food, souvenirs and
elephant’s shit smell around.
After a while we leave this attraction taking a
bridge on the lake which seems to address to Wat Phra Si Sanphet. Just
before it we can see a restroom: it’s 5 baht for using it, there are a
lot of flip flops outside for using to getting in instead of your
street shoes and we can read a notice asking for not washing feet on
sink, which is recalling what I saw in Doha’s airport.
We can have a fully sight of Wat Phra Si Sanphet after a
street market where we’ve seen a dress similar to the one Eva wanted
yesterday, only the top was different. Somehow, there is a beautiful
temple between us and the ruins. It looks new and is full of live so we
go to it. Its name is Wat Sin Bonphit. Wemust take off our shoes to get
upstairs and see how locals are leaving offerings as incense or lotus
flowers to a huge golden Buda inside.
Then we get into Wat Phra Si Sanphet, with three big chedis
in line. I go upstairs in one of them and it is so steeped I can use
easily the hands to help me in the climb.
The trees with flowers have their part in the
beautiful picture. We’re not alone in any moment here. After a while
enjoying the place we take the way back to the car. In our way I
realize we haven’t been asked for a ticket here.
Now we must leave the city to take the turn to the last
temple in our list but, if it was not easy getting into the city it’s
not that easy getting out of it. Although I thought any street would
take us out of the city, as it is sited in an island, I find ourselves
driving by narrow streets with shanties until I reach a bride avenue
and stop beside a garage with two tuk tuks. The man there cannot
understand me, but brings another man who speaks English. My printed
maps are not helping, so they show one of their maps to show me how to
leave the island and taking motorway 309.
Once out of the island the city looks more like a city, road
is wide and I’m paying attention on every turn at right looking for the
one I have in the map but, after several turns, is clear we’ve left
that one behind. It’s 3 PM and it doesn’t look as a good idea turning
around for looking for that specific street, so we agree on missing the
last ruins and going on to Khao Yai to be on time for watching the
cloud of bats. But my maps are useless here and I need to know if I’m
following the right direction. I know I must take highway 1 but I don’t
know if I’m going to be able of doing it from this road so, when I see
a petrol station, I stop there to ask or buying a map.
It is a big gas station, a big area, but inside
there are just the pumps in the middle and two persons frying food in a
side. As they’re the only persons in there I try to ask hoping the word
“map” is reckoned everywhere, but it is not, and I don’t manage to they
understand by mime. Somehow, they go outside and look for people could
help us, finally taking a truck driver to us who translates “map” to
something like “planiya” and everybody then agree and deny because
there is no maps there, although this driver give us indications for
taking highway 1 to Pak Chong.
We’ve learnt if the “Seven eleven” logo is under
the gas station sign we will be able of buying goodies, if not, just
fuel. Later on we stop in one with both logos as we still haven’t
lunched. I purchase the road map and point to the picture of a hot dog
to ask for two of them. We get too snacks as muffins, chips, coffee,
etc… But our faces look astonished when we get our hot dog: it’s the
sausage cut in a bag with sauce and a stick. When I get them to
understand we wanted it with bread the boy answers me there is no
bread. I look around and see the teenagers enjoying the same bag we’ve
got as a snack. It is like it is. We pay 0.50€ by that “hot dog” and
240 baht by the whole shopping. The half of that amou8nt is for the map.
Our orientation problems end with the road map. We change to
highway 2 in Saraburi, where we see an industrial area with a lot of
traffic making us being stopped some times. The night is coming and I’m
looking constantly at the clock. We must arrive before 6 PM and even
call to Greenleaf to say we’re on our way.
finally arrive at 5:50 PM, already dark, and find it well as I knew it
was across the petrol station, but the man says there is no sense on
going anywhere now. Although it is before 6 PM it is dark and we’re not
going to see anything. He is obviously right, so we just take a beer as
he is showing us pictures of the tours to prepare us about what is
waiting for us tomorrow. He is very nice and his name is Puma. We enjoy
the time with him and leave the place before the people from the tour
arrive. Our hotel is just 100 meters from Greenleaf.
We take our dinner at hotel, sad by missing this evening tour and go to
rest. Resting is not the same than sleeping. It is Saturday night now
and it seems today is the final of some local talent show based on what
we can hear from the other rooms and outside. We sleep a few and only
once the show is over.