Monday, April 2, 2018

Monday, April 2 - Ayutthaya and Bangkok

We pulled into Ayutthaya at 5 am. After dropping off our luggage at the train station we began our temple visits by walking 30 mins to Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon. Where there is a 7 meter long reclining Buddha. The local belief is that if you can get a coin to stick to the Buddha’s feet, good luck will come your way.

From there we walked another 20 minutes to Wat Phanan Choeng where a ceremony was under way. A Buddhist monk would chant some phases in a high pitch voice through a microphone while sitting crossed legged in front of an audience. Somewhere else on the stage, away from my view, a low voice would respond. They went back and forth this way for  a long time. An audience of uniform dressed men and women were sitting across from the monks watching the ceremony. Meanwhile, inside the building is a 62 feet high Buddha inside a soaring room surrounded by 84,000 small Buddha images places in small cubbies around each of the four walls.

People come to cover their heads with the end of the big Buddha’s robe, a ceremony that is only done occasionally at other temples.

Our third stop was Wat Chai Wattanaram. An impressive ruin built around 1630. Half of the people visiting the ruins were dressed in lavish traditional Thai clothing. Young adults and elderly alike were beautifully dressed in silk skirts and pants, adorned by beautiful jewelry and carrying sun umbrellas. The admission to the ruins was free. We asked several people why that was, but no one spoke English.

It wasn't until we reached Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit that we found out that today is the 63rd birthday of the Thai princess. To honor her all museums and national parks are free today.

The Bophit is another temple with an impressively large Buddha (55ft tall). People can make a 50BTH donation and get a gold foil sticker in return that they can chose to place on any of the other smaller Buddha figures that surround the main statue.

By this point we were exhausted due to the heat, humidity, and having had no breakfast, that we considered wrapping up our excursion early. But we decided to press on as we were close to a couple more popular sights.

Next to the Bophit is the Wat Phra Si Samphet, the original royal temple inside the palace grounds. The three stupas are one of the iconic images of Ayutthaya.

Our last stop was Wat Mahathat, where we took several photos of a head of a sandstone Buddha sculpture which is tangled in the roots of a bodhi tree.

When we first arrived in Ayutthaya, the food vendors were selling Thai lunch food such as meat on kabob sticks. It wasn't really appealing to us then so we decided to wait. Later, we couldn't find any open vendors who sold continental breakfast. We waited until lunch to eat but by then, we were famished. 

After lunch we picked up our luggage from the train station. The taxi driver had a really hard time understanding us. We had to use sounds like “choo-choo" to explain to him that we were going to the train station. Our driver, who only spoke Thai drove us to the minivan to Bangkok station.

The people there were so rude! The lady collecting the fare charged us for an extra seat for our luggage, then loaded the seats in the trunk and tried to sell that seat to someone else. When we objected that we had purchased the seat, the driver pulled the luggage from the back and piled it on the open seat. Once we arrived, he required us to take our luggage out from inside the vehicle instead of opening the trunk. 

I think a lot of the issues were due to problems with translation, but both the lady and the driver’s attitude were so negative and short tempered from the beginning that it was hard to communicate with them.

The ride to Bangkok was uneventful. We missed our stop and were dropped off at a bus station further away than we wished. From there we took an Uber ride to our hostel. Our driver kept trying to avoid the toll roads and took twice as long to get us back.

We walked to the Boat Pier Mall, where we purchase our tickets for the evening boat dinner tour. 

We walked along China Town’s main road on our way back to our hotel, where we were finally able to rest for a while before returning to catch our boat.

The dinner cruise was OK, the buffet food was bland and the entertainment on the first floor, where were seated, was 70’s classic rock. We walked to the front deck to take photos of the outdoor view and could hear the upbeat entertainment on the top deck, so we migrated upstairs to enjoy the show. 

The lady entertainer really redeemed the entire experience. She was engaging and had a really good voice. She convinced our friends, the Whitneys, to dance on stage. They did a good job!

The cabaret performers were unimpressive. We kept trying to decide if they were women or lady boys. 

At one point we were instructed to sit or crouch down. One of the bridges we traveled under was built too low to clear our boat with people standing up. Even squatting, we could reach out and touch it with our outstretched arms.