Escape to Chiang Mai and Ayutthaya

Friday was a day of planes, trains and automobiles and a ferry thrown in for good measure. It was slightly worrying on the ferry as we squeezed on, the back wheels of the bus hanging over the ferry’s open (not supposed to be) tailgate. I kept saying to myself ‘well if you have to die, here’s a good a place as anywhere’ AARGH. We survived and from then on it all went very smoothly until we got on the train which was heaving. We should maybe have realised when it was only 40 baht for both of us for a journey of 80 miles; less than a pound. As we boarded the train which didn’t hang about there were no seats and people had to shuffle up to let us sit, 3 people on 2 seats. It was slightly claustrophobic and very humid but we arrived in just over an hour. We immediately booked our train back to CM for Monday and booked 2nd class air conditioned where you get your own seat, it’s a 9 hour journey, food and drinks included. Phew.

We booked a room which is great, basic but clean and comfortable. We were starving so wandered out and found a blue plastic tablecloth establishment to eat some authentic Thai food, my lips are still zinging and I was thinking it might be a savlon moment the next day. It was nice to get proper Thai food and not the dumbed down version on the tourist beaches. Spicy.

The guesthouse rented us push bikes, by far the easiest way to get around and cooler than walking in 34 degrees. Most of the temples and museums are within a 3 mile radius so we set off and saw my favourite one called Wat Maha That. It was very reminiscent of the Angkor Wat Temples, very Cambodian in style but much smaller. We just managed to get round it before bus loads of Chinese tourists arrived.

We needed a coffee and found a small coffee shop away from the temples. We ordered in our best Thai, which always gets a giggle, and sat down. They brought us home made biscuits and made us feel very welcome. One of the girls asked if she could have a photo of us. I don’t suppose they get many pale eyed, pale skinned ginger aliens in that part of town!! Children stare and we had one kid almost fall off his bike, mouth open looking at us. It’s all good fun. It happens a lot.

We cycled to a very big Temple called Wat Na Phra Men which was having a big celebration. Everyone is so inclusive. A girl came up to us and said it was a big day and there was free food and we were very welcome. There was a huge array of fruit in front of the temple and lots of blessings and inside the Wat all the monks were sat waiting for something, we know not what ( that’s a temple joke)……We looked at one stall and someone said free ice cream and asked where were we from. We said England and the whole long queue said welcome and have ice cream. We moved to the back of the queue; we know how to queue in England, but we were still given big pots of mango and coconut ice cream before everyone else got theirs, they are lovely, kind people. Even the very smart looking policemen queued.

Leaving the temple we cycled past many elephants with tourists (mostly Asian) on metal cages on their backs. I was incandescent with rage and almost fell off my bike. One of the girls on an elephant smiled at me and I growled. I am turning into a real grumpy old git. Maybe they don’t realise how much the cages injure them, or don’t care grrrrrr. Tourist money.

We stopped at a small Temple and had a wander, looked in and a monk motioned us over and asked if we wanted a blessing. We dropped to our knees in front of him and he splashed water over us and did the lovely sing songy thing. I am never sure whether you are supposed to look them in the eye but I did and got an eyeful of water, that will teach me! He tied our bracelets to our wrists and we dropped some baht into his bowl. He said we could take a picture of him if we wanted, he then excused himself and went outside for a quick smoke. I love this place.

We also went to the ruins of the Royal Palace and right next to it a brand new Wat under construction. They had tents set up as a temporary measure and as we passed a monk started doing his thing into a microphone and I am sure he started by singing ; numb nuts fuck wattoo. I wondered who Wattoo was. I laughed for ages. I will never go to heaven.

We had lunch and then we went to Wat Chaiwatthanaram. It is right on the river and the furthest out of town. It must have been spectacular in its day but like all of them apart from a few stupas and prangs they are mostly piles of bricks and rubble and broken Buddha statues. It was a long cycle back and a cool beer was greatly appreciated.

Again we had bikes and set off for another day of sightseeing. It was an even hotter day. We visited the places we missed yesterday after my elephant riding rant…we also visited the museum which was fab. In 1957 looters had stolen an enormous amount of treasure from one of the temples. The police knew they were there the first night and sent 4 policemen to watch out for them. The policemen got greedy and decided they wanted some of the booty but one of them got drunk and they were rumbled. Sadly they only got a small proportion of the treasures back. It is fantastic what they did retrieve especially a ceremonial sword encrusted with jewels. The workmanship is amazing for the time, the 1500’s. There was lots of interesting stuff there and it was well worth the visit.

We are leaving Ayutthaya tomorrow so an early night is in order. Have enjoyed the trip here and met some nice people. We are also looking forward to catching up with friends in CM and feeling a little cooler. Even the tuk tuks are different here, really cool. This will be our transport to the station.

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