Day 3 (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 Kanchanaburi-Ayutthaya-Khao Yai

   Route on map is marked by:

A.-   River Kwai Hotel
B.-   Ayutthaya
C.-   Lop Buri
D.-   Khao Yai National Park (in Pak Chong)


    Chinese cemetery in Kanchanaburi
    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.

Bridge on River Kwai

   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.

Rice fields in our way to Ayutthaya  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 visits.

Stops in Ayutthaya

   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!

Row of budas in Wat Chai WatthanaramWat Chai Watthanaram

Wat Chai Watthanaram

Wat Chai Watthanaram

   Once at ticket box I find two options: whether take the admission 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…

Ayutthaya city center

   The place is full of tuk tuks and the whole entrance is like a 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.

Buda head in Wat Maha ThatWat Maha That

Wat Maha That

Visiting Wat Maha That

   The Buda head has its own story which I guess has something to do 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.

Row of Budas with Wat Phra Ram top at bottom

   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.

Elephants in AyutthayaNaresuan Street in Ayutthaya

    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.

Bridge on the lakeRestroom in Ayutthaya

   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.

Wat Phra Sin BonphitBuda in Wat Phra Sin Bophit

   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.

Wat Phra Si SanphetWat Sin Bophit from Wat Phra Si Sanphet

Up in Wat Phra Si Sanphet

Chedi in Wat Phra Si Sanphet

  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.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet

   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.

Route to Khao Yai   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.

   We 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.