Ancient Siam

Thursday, July 07, 2016
Ayutthaya, Thailand
It's been nice to get back on the road again and travelling to new places. We finally left Bangkok a couple of days ago and headed North around 50 miles to Ayutthaya. We travelled by train from Bangkoks main station Hua Lamphong. I love rail travel as it's a great way to take in the journey to somewhere new. In Thailand it's the cheapest way to travel although the network isn't massively extensive so it does limit where you can get to. It's annoyingly cheap as well. I say annoyingly in the sense that it makes everything else feel massively over priced in comparison. We only spent 20 Baht each travelling the 50 miles North which is around 44p, great value for that kind of distance. However it cost us 200 Baht to go the few kilometers from where our hostel was in Bangkok to the train station and then 80 Baht for the Tuk Tuk from Ayutthaya station to our digs here, crazy really.

The trip up itself was fairly uneventful . 3rd class on Thai trains is decent really. Busy but comfy enough if you get there early enough for a seat and a nice old school feel to it as you click clack along with the window fully downn for a nice breese or hang out the back of the carriage to grab a quick smoke. A world away from the metro or trains back home these days. There isn't much to see between Bangkok and Ayutthaya due to the sheer scale of Bangkok itself. It's only a 50 mile trip and just as you finally leave the sprawling metropolis and hit a bit of greenery and countryside you find yourself rolling into Ayutthaya station.

Ayutthaya is the old capital of ancient Siam dating back to the 14th century. It was a massive centre of trade back in it's heyday and due it's friendliness with foreign traders from the likes of Vietnam, China, Japan and even as far as Europe with the Dutch, French and Portuguese it had the reputation of being the biggest and wealthiest city in the East. Looking around town it is easy to imagine that it was an impressive city back in the day . The old town which was the centre of the Kingdom of Siam is vast, with temples and grand ruins dominating the landscape. There are ruins tucked away round every street corner and a huge park with temples and old city walls stretching off into the distance and out of sight.

We hired a couple of push bikes on the first day to get out and about which is a really nice thing to do here. The city is flat a bit like Holland so it's easy to pedal around in a few hours and take in a lot of the sights. That said it doesn't take long to be suddenly 'Templed' out again in Asia. I love visiting old historic sites, some more impressive than others but once you've seen a dozen Buddhist temples you've pretty much seen them all. Which makes me wonder how we will feel once in Cambodia or Myanmar, but I think those two sites will be on a completely different jaw dropping level to what we have experienced so far.

We took a ride round the busier top end of town towards the train station where we found a small interesting local market then headed off down to the night market to grab some cheap food . I love night markets or any market in Asia for that matter that sells food. They are incredible places to eat at. The only downside is that you don't have enough room to sample everything you want to or you would explode. The choice is vast. From great local curries, noodle and rice dishes, hundreds of different seafood variations to the bug stalls selling their deep fried locusts and worms, it is all here. They love a good a good dessert here as well with a tantalising array of colourful treats on offer. Cheap as well with a great Thai curry only costing around 70p, you can't go wrong.

With a few take away tit bits bagged up we headed back to knock in a few Thai rum's and wait for the Wales match to kick off....and wait...and wait. There are no late bars in Ayutthaya. If your looking for night life it's not the place to come to unless you head across the river to the red light district and a small selection of girly bars, but even these close at 2am whch is no good for watching the Euros which don't kick off until that time out here . So bleary eyed we stayed up until the hours. The less said about the score the better but at least they gave it more of a go than England so fair play to them, they certainly had us pulling our hair out and cheering them on.

Our second full day was a similar tale. Yet more temples and ruins visited in the historic park near to where we are staying. I think I've just about had enough of them. We tried to head out earlier and get some night shots of the temples lit up but as happens most nights now in Thailand during rainy season the heaven's opened and put a dampener on our efforts.

So we are sat here now trying to decide where to head tomorrow. I hate feeling in limbo when traveling. It's great that you have a myriad of options available but at times when you kind of hit a traveling block it can become annoying. That's where we are at right now. Originally the plan was to head East from here on the train to Khao Yai national park and spend some time there before moving on to Cambodia after that but it's starting to look unachievable now as much as we would love to do it . The train there is cheap enough but there is a £9 entrance fee each day to enter the park which will start to take us over budget too much. £18 a day between us is pretty much near our limit and we realised quite some time ago that the budget we have came with is no longer realistic in Asia. Two years ago we could live comfortably on the £20 a day we have allowed ourselves, even on the Thai islands, but things have changed a lot in those two years and I reckon £30 a day is more realistic now for a couple when you factor in Visas, travel costs and being able to things such as entrance fees etc. Throw into the mix that most currencies are now exchanging at over 10% less than they were a couple of weeks ago before the 'Brexit' referendum and we know we are going to struggle more during this trip than we initially thought. But hey onwards and upwards, things will work out somehow. We have a few options on the table for tonight that we need to decide by the morning. Koh Chang which is a Thai island near the Cambodian border for maybe a week or so as it's quiet season so the rooms there are very cheap at the minute but maybe not the best weather. Head back to Bangkok and arrange our Visas for Myanmar and head on over to there first. Or head straight from here to Cambodia. I guess we've had worse decisions to make in our lives so not all bad...and knowing us we will most likely end up doing none of the above and do something totally different instead!
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