Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bangkok: Day 9 - Ayutthaya

[At the end of January I spent 10 days in Bangkok, Thailand. Here are the retellings of Day 1 - Getting There, Day 2 - Wander Walking and a Thai MassageDay 3 - Wat PhoDay 4 - Saranrom ParkDay 5 - Wat Arun and the Grand Palace, Day 6 - Chatuchak Weekend Market, and the memory card mishap. Day 7 - Thai Cooking Class, Day 8 - Siam Center and The Golden Mountain]

We slept well with our newly-acquired earplugs on Tuesday night, ready to visit Ayutthaya (about an hour from Bangkok) on Wednesday. The vans you can take to get to Ayutthaya leave from Victory Monument, which was one of the big protest sites at the time. We read online that the vans were still leaving from there, and it was okay to take them. It was in the morning, so we felt alright about catching a van there, despite the protest site.

I had read online to beware of a new tourist trick with the Ayutthaya vans: The vans will drop you off outside of the city and say that it's the Ayutthaya stop. Then you'll have to pay a tuk-tuk whatever price they name to take you into the city. The notice I read said not to get out of the van, to stay on until it reaches the last stop in Ayutthaya.

I'm so glad I read that ahead of time, because that's exactly what happened! There were a few other stops along the way to Ayutthaya, and passengers in our van would tell the driver that they were getting off there as we got close so the driver knew to slow down and pull over. But as we approached Ayutthaya, nobody told the driver to stop when the van pulled over. Someone outside opened the sliding van door, and the driver looked at Anne and I and signaled for us to get off.  Luckily we were the only foreigners in our van, so the fact that none of the Thais got off when they pulled over and said "Ayutthaya" to Anne and I helped us stay confident in declining to get off, even though we had no idea where we were. The driver looked at us and repeated himself "Ayutthaya," motioning for us to get off. We could see the herd of tuk-tuks around. So we shook our heads no and stayed seated. The driver tried one last time, and then they closed the door and kept on driving... into Ayutthaya. We got off at the final stop, which is when all the remaining passengers got off, too.

Ayutthaya was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991, and is home to various Thai monuments from 1350-1767. Here's the first Wat we visited:

Then we walked down the street to Wat Mahathat. Each temple cost 50 baht to enter.

Wat Mahathat

Wat Mahathat Bangkok

Wat Mahathat Bangkok

It had been a really hot day; I remember sweating a lot. After we finished walking through Wat Mahathat it was sometime after 14:00 and we were hungry. But there weren't many buildings around, and all of the nearby food stands were packing up, as they'd finished serving lunch. So we walked and walked around, not seeing any options. After a while we reached the end of a street and realized it was where we had started! There was a restaurant that was part of "Tony's Resort" which was shaded, had free wifi, and had menus in English -- perfect! I didn't care one bit that it was part of a touristy resort - we were that hungry and hot, and the prices were still very much affordable.

I had watermelon juice to start, which was simply divine. By the time we finished eating it was past 16:00, and we realized all of the ancient temples closed at 17:00. So it only made sense for us to head back to the van drop-off site (a block from where we were), and wait for the van to fill up to take us back to Bangkok.

When we got back to Bangkok the van couldn't drive inside Victory Monument, as the police had blocked it off due to the protesting. We were able to climb up some stairs to get to the SkyTrain without needing to enter the Victory Monument circle at all.

And that night we stayed in (I think I stayed in every night...) and had a great time hanging out with our hostel mates.
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