Coming from Kanchanaburi I teamed up with Remy from France to go to Ayutthaya by bus. Remy and I had met in Bangkok at the Tan Ling Chan floating market and bumped into each other on another market in Kanchanaburi. The world is small…. On the bus we met Sameli from Finland whom I had also met two days before. Together we made our way to Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Thailand, and checked in at one of the central guesthouses. Ayyuthaya is very hot, much hotter than Kanchanaburi, so we decided to spend the afternoon relaxing in a café. There we met Julia from Berlin which completed our little tour group for the next two days.
We rented bicycles and went to explore the many temple ruins in and around Ayutthaya. As mentioned in my post of the Pic of the week, Ayyuthaya was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Siam, now Thailand. It lasted 400 years before it got sacked and eventually looted and destroyed by the Burmese. The remainders of this prosperous and wealthy trading hub is now a Unesco World Heritage Site.
The first ruin we visited was Wat Phra Si Sanphet, the city’s largest temple. We got there by dusk which was was nice because the atmosphere was very special. We were almost the only ones there and seeing the temple in the twilight of the evening was mystic and and medidative at the same time. The silence was only broken every once in a while by the screams of birds in the surronding trees. We walked around the ruins, took pictures and just enjoyed the moment.
It was already late and we got hungry. The plan was to cycle to the nightmarket and recharge our batteries with some good local food. Afterwards we spontaneously decided to have a bowl of fried grasshoppers for dessert. The Thai vendors showed us how to eat them and had their fun with us. I can say, the hoppers didn’t even taste too bad.
The next day, Sam, Remy, Julia and I hit the road again to see some more temple ruins. We had a good day exploring the city by bike including getting lost here and there. But that’s just part of the fun, right. The ruins and buddha statues we saw during that day were amazing. After Julia left us, we went to to see the sunset at Wat Chaiwattanaram. This is where the last Pic of the Week was shot. The light after sunset was just perfect and everyone tried to get some good pictures in despite the moskitos eating us alive. That night Sam took a night bus to Chiang Mai and Remy and I decided to go to Kao Yai Nationalpark by train the next day.
A weekend in the Nationalpark. An truly authentic experience
Remy and I boarded the train the next day and we could already tell, that our destintion can’t be too touristy since we were the only westerners on the train. Arrived at the park entrance, we realized that the park is so huge that you need a car to get to places, including the campgrounds. So what to do? Yes, we hitchhiked and it worked very well. The Thais are so friendly and it didn’t take a long time to catch a ride. It was Gade and Thum with their VW bus, who were like angels for us in that moment. Not only did they take us to our campground, but Gade filled out all the forms for us and managed the registration process. It was all in Thai and I am sure we would have had great difficulties without her. Both of them were so friendly and helpful – it was a real eye opener.
Getting to the campsite was a revelation. Apparently the Thais from Bangkok escape to the park almost every weekend. It was packed like a music festival. Tent beside tent, cars parked everywhere and the Thai families sitting in front of their tents cooking food, laughing and just having a good time. We were quite the attraction there, because again we were the only tourists. We got offered food and drinks and people wanted to know more about us.
We originally wanted to do some trekking to maybe spot the wild elephants that live in the park. Unfortunately we could only do 2 small hikes because the rest was guided only which was too expensive at that moment. So trekkingwise the trip wasn’t too successful. However, the authenticity of that weekend made more than up for it. It was really interesting to see how the Thais spend their weekends and how they interpret camping. It wasn’t yet the last chapter of authenticity as we soon found out.
Hitchhiking back with ladyboys
After a night in the tent and another hike, we decided to leave early as all the Bangkokians left as well and we wanted to hitchhike out of the park. After a few minutes a car stopped and offered us a ride straight to our train station in Pak Chong. We were cheerful since we had only expected to make it to the park entrance. So we got into the car only to realize that it was two ladyboys and one obviously gay guy. They instantly started to giggle and talk about us. Suprised at first, it ended up being a hilarious journey and another unforgettable experience. All three of them were so friendly. We took a break on the way to the train station and they invited us for coffee and beer as well. Before leaving, we all got some funny pictures taken and said good bye. This was definately one of the most original and memorable experiences of the trip so far.
Things might not always work out as planned. We didn’t get to trek as we wanted and hence didn’t see the elephants in the wild. Yet, there are usualy other things happening, that will make for it. This was the case for us that weekend and Remy and I both said, that we definately don’t regret having taken that trip. It was a great experience which we otherwise would have missed. I think the phrase “You never know if you don’t go” sums it up quiet well.
Next stop Chiang Mai and the North….