Thursday, October 3, 2013

Mr Bean tuk tuks and thousands of chooks!

Last full day in Thailand and we thought we’d do a quick day trip to Ayutthaya.  Train up to Victory Monument and then a minibus (60baht each) to Ayutthaya – they go when full but we only waited about 10 minutes.


Ayutthaya used to be the capital of Siam but is now practically an outer suburb of Bangkok.  Minibus took about 50 minutes and the ‘mini-bus station’ is a plastic gazebo with a sign.  Just down the street was a nice looking restaurant/guesthouse called “Tony Place” so we got a quick coffee and checked the place out a bit.  We didn’t have much idea what to expect, but even just driving into town we could see that this place was going to need way more than just half a day.

 Tuk tuks are plentiful, but yet another design variation – these ones have a little cabin the driver sits in and a steering wheel – and a rather Mr Bean-esque nose cone.  Negotiated with a driver for 200baht/hour (had checked trip advisor for rates) and he took us on a quick spin to see a few temples.
We didn't get this groovy one but the driver was very proud of his shiny orange machine.


Most of the temples are built of little bricks (about the size of a clay paver or smaller) some obviously have been ‘rendered’ (which is now coming off) but the layout at each site is quite clear.
Ayutthaya had some flooding last week and the evidence was still ther for all to see – water laying round where it obviously should not have been, sticks & other debris banked up in path/wall corners etc and the ground quite soggy under foot.

 Wat Mahathat and Wat Rajaburana are side by side and quite similar.  Plenty of trees to grab some respite from the baking sun (it would be ferocious in March & April)


Wat Phrasisanpethi was lovely – three huge chedis in the middle with throne and ordination halls at either end.


Last stop was Wat Yai Chaimongkhon still has a working monestary as well as ruins.  It’s grounds are beautiful and it is one of the iconic Ayutthaya photo spots – 200 buddas sit along 4 sides of the huge chedi, all sashed in gold.

Then we found the  chooks .. well roosters to be accurate .... hundreds of them in all sizes from 15cm to 3m – lining a roadway near another building.  No idea why but it was the funnies thing to see.

I know three hours in a town with as much to see as Ayutthaya is almost as insulting as saying ‘go to Siem Reap for 3 hours’ but this tiny taste has put this place firmly on our ‘must return and explore more’ list.
Back to Tony’s place for a late lunch and an afternoon bus back to Bkk for some last minute shopping.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Shopping & the Queen's dresses

Day 9 & 10

Two fairly quiet days after the big long one to Hellfire Pass.  Monday we thought we’d do some shopping so we headed for the mega-mall MBK.  I remember this from when we took the girls to Bkk & Pataya years ago.  

 Across the road and all connected via the BTS (skyway train system) and a series of linked pedestrian walkways are Siam Discovery, Siam Centre and the uber posh Siam Paragon (home to Hermes, Chanel, Armani etc)  Siam Discovery was having some kind of ‘Design’ exhibition and there was an installation of Mr P .. very strange concept but the locals seem to love it judging by the number of them taking photos

Decided to try Asiatique for dinner .. for Sydney-siders it’s kind of a mix between Darling Harbour and Paddy’s Market but really nice actually.  An old warehouse district has been transformed into Bangkok’s newest night time destination.  Restaurants line the riverfront and back through 2 old re-vamped warehouses, and the others are given over to night markets.  Despite it’s obvious target market, prices were pretty good (and in some cases better than MBK)

Tuesday .. I woke feeling a big off.. nothing specific, just blergh!  Tony decided he wanted a day round the pool so after a late breakfast I decided to visit the Queen Sirikit Textiles Museum in the grounds of the Grand Palace.  I got the skytrain from our local station Ratchathewi down to Saphan Taksin (where we went last night) and took the local river boat upstream to Tha Chang.  It cost me the princely sum of 15baht (about 50c) and I watched in amazement as far toio many stupid tourists paid out 150baht for the tourist boat which covered exactly the same stops.  Bangkok has some amazing riverside architecture.


Off quickly at Tha Chang and following the crowd of Thais headed towards the palace through the inevitable gauntlet of food & souvenir stalls.  Bought a bottle of water and a mango (20baht) and watched the sky darken wondering if  was going to get wet again.
The Museum itself is fantastic!  NO photos allowed inside so you will have to take my word for it.  A stunningly beautiful collection of gowns from the Queen’s private collection (c1955-1990’s) and some fantastic stuff on the resurrection of the handcrafted Thai silk industry under the Queens patronage.  Beautifully set out, great information – a really classy museum.


Back onto the river boat – it’s a really busy river and the variety of boats is amazing.  Past the very beautiful Wat Arum


Today must also have been ‘excursion day’ – all day I kept passing groups of schoolkids on excursions – this group was most impressive – staff all in their smart blue/white checked shirts and kids in their polo shirts. 


I grabbed a very late lunch in the Siam Centre and walked back to the hotel.  If you want to know how slow the traffic is – I got to the little soi where our hotel is before this black bus.