Ayutthaya – day 249

So, that weird E number drink from last night brought me out in a rash – ended up taking two anti histamines during the night just to make the itching and redness go dow. So it was slightly understandable that I woke up groggy and heavy headed!! Ate breakfast of toast and fruit with two coffees whilst I waited for my head to catch up with the rest of my body. Used the time to do another load of washing – I don’t think our clothes have smelt so nice in months! After breakfast, we used our last day in Ayutthaya to cross the Chao Phraya River and explore one of the ancient temples outside of the Ayutthaya island. It was a 5km cycle in the blazing hot sun to the temple and we literally inhaled the water when we arrived. Wat Chaiwatthanaram was built in 1630 as the first temple of his reign by King Prasat Thong as a memorial to his mother’s residence in that area. The temple name means ‘the temple of long reign and glorious era’ and was where the King and his successors performed religious ceremonies. Princes and princess were cremated here, including King Baromakot’s son (Prince Chaofa Thanmathibet) who was whipped until death for his affair with Princess Sangwal, one of the King’s concubines. His father then ordered the construction of a chedi to shelter the relics of the prince.We walked around the temple, enjoying the de headed Buddha statues and watching a local couple have their wedding photos taken. There was also descriptions about the stucco relief panels that were depicting various scenes from Buddhas life. We were both glad they were there as it would have been hard to tell what the images were truly depicting without the information (think there may have even been a bit of poetic license used to describe the non existent images!!). Jumped back on the the bikes and cycled just over a kilometre to the 7-eleven shop to get some more water and some lunch. Had a toasted pork sandwich and crisps before crossing the (very) busy road and visiting the Wat Kasatrathirat opposite. Built in the Middle Ayutthaya period (1488 – 1629 AD), it is a monastery that is still used by the Buddhist clergy. A really beautifully quiet temple, it had super hot marble floor tiles as we walked quickly between the ordination hall and the group of viharas. It also had a sermon hall with beautiful mural paintings of Lord Buddha’s life story.As we slowly made our way back to the island, we stopped for a quick rest in Sri Nakakharh Park, enjoying the view of the river and playing with the cutest puppy ever – we both wanted to put him in our bike basket and ride off but the owner clearly knew of our evil plan and hurried away!!! After a bit of navigation issues from yours truly, we arrived at Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit. Noted mainly for having one of the largest bronze Buddha statues in Thailand, the large bronze (guilded) image was built in the early Ayutthaya period. The total height of the statue is nearly 17 metres high, including the 4.5 metre high base. Like many of the other buildings in the area, the vihara was destroyed by the Burmese in 1767 and reconstruction was completed in 1957. A short walk away is Wat Phra Si Samphet. Considered the holiest temple of the site of the old Royal Palace, the three main stupas in this temple contain the ashes of King Boroma-Tri-Loka-Nat, King Rachathirat III and King Ramathibodi II. The original temple was constructed between 1350 and 1351 but, again, was damaged by the Burmese. The Wat Phra Si Samphet was the temple of the royal family; no monks lived there. The Wat was used exclusively for royal ceremonies (such as swearing allegiance). It also served as the royal families private chapel and was the place where the royal family’s ashes were preserved. As we were leaving the temple, it looked like it was going to start raining and, since we had left washing out to dry, we went back to the hotel – making it just in time! Since it was getting pretty late in the day to visit another temple (they all close at 18:00), we decided to call it a day and head to the night market instead for dinner. Today’s street food crawl included papaya salad with Pad Thai noodles for starters, Thai green fish curry for main and mango with sticky rice for pudding. I got myself a sugar cane juice (which Jayne finished) whilst she got herself a weird condensed milk drink full of jelly bits, coconut strands, butter beans and prunes – it was actually nicer than it sounds!Sunday 12th June 2016

Ayutthaya – day 248

Woke up both feeling much better after our day of ‘doing nothing’ yesterday! Had breakfast at the hostel – toast, watermelon, dragonfruit and sticky rice with mango. So glad we were getting on the bikes to burn off all that fruit! For the first time in our trip, we have not downloaded a guide book to use – we decided to simply cycle wherever we fancied and hope that we don’t miss anything important… Headed into the city island in the central part of Ayutthaya and went to Wat Maha That. The Royal temple that houses Buddhas relics was constructed by King Borommaracha I in 1374. It was renovated in 1633 but the Burmese attacked it in 1767, burning the monastery and the abandoned pagoda was left to decay. The site itself is stunning, even with the derelict building, half sinking into the earth. The whole place has a charm about it that we haven’t seen in many other UNESCO sites (and we certainly haven’t seen it for a while!). We walked around the complex, admiring the different stupas and chedis with some decapitated Buddha statues dotted around. As we turned a corner, we saw a huge crowd of people. As we approached, we saw this…Believed to be from around the mid 1600’s, the Buddha head was once part of a sandstone Buddha image which fell off the main body onto the ground. It was gradually trapped in the roots of a constantly growing Bodhi tree. It was amazing and took my breath away – for the first time in my life, I almost felt spiritual…Jayne managed to put some reasoning behind my feelings – nature encapsulating a man made object and reclaiming it as its own. Whatever it was about it, I could have happily sat on a bench and stayed there all day! Kept walking around the monastery site and were approached by a group of students, asking us to participate in a survey. They had a list of questions (written in Thai, English and Chinese) and were so giggly during the interview. They happily posed for a photo with us afterwards. Jayne wanted to interview them for our blog but I think their English didn’t stretch that far…Jumped back on the bikes and headed further north on the island, stopping at a couple of temples we found en route and driving through massive puddles. Arrived at Wat Thammikarat and walked around the ruins there. Slightly bizarre amounts of cockerel statues everywhere… Not really sure why and they were only in one place. A beautiful pagoda with decorated archways and lion type statues. Three little children came and sat next to us, inching closer and closer, practising their English via their dad who was sat nearby. It was so sweet, especially when I asked the young boy his name, he replied ‘my name is what is your name?’ Even his dad laughed!

Headed back to the hostel for a rest and had some noodles for lunch. The lovely hostel owner brought us out some more watermelon as we sat on the terrace deciding what we should do for the afternoon. Once we had cooled down and rehydrated, we jumped back on our bikes to Wat Wora Pho. Unsure of the date of construction as there has been no evidence found to indicate when the temple was built. The Prang itself was massive and there was the vihara of the Buddhas footprint on the south side. Just opposite is Wat Wora Chet Tha Ram. Built around 1593 as a mighty crematorium by King Eakathosaror to honor his elder brother who died in battle. The King invited over 10,000 monks to the Royal cremation. Next we headed to Wat Lokaya Sutha, a massive 42m long reclining Buddha that was majorly reconstructed in 1954 with the remnants of a vihara surrounding the statue. 

Cycled through the backstreets, stumbling across a market which looked slightly like a car boot sale at times, with people selling old coins and a lady who was clearly trying to get rid of her extensive shoe collection – if only I could have got my massive feet into her ‘Hello Kitty’ Toms… Finished our day at Wat Ratchaburana. Located in the central area of Ayutthaya island, it was the place that King Sam Praya’s brothers were cremated and the chedis were built in 1424 as memorials to the princes. Eerily deserted, the area was a mixture of semi-reconstructed buildings, overgrown vegetation and, in places, what looked like a Buddha statue graveyard. Stopped at the night market on the way back to the hostel, continuing our tradition of a progressive street market food crawl. Started with what was basically a sweet pancake wrapped around pieces of sausage and crab sticks… It was weird! Then had an omelette with bean sprouts and oyster sauce although we both decided to have the vegetarian options, not sure either of us wanted to risk the actually oysters in the oyster sauce! This was all washed down with the biggest drink I have ever seen – Jayne was in heaven as it was basically E numbers, food colouring and soda water in a jug full of ice! Finished off the meal before cycling back to the hostel with some homemade coconut ice cream. I went for a cone but clearly with a need for more E numbers and food colouring, Jayne opted for a strawberry ice cream float… I reckon she will be bouncing off the walls all night!!Saturday 11th June 2016

Ayutthaya – day 247

One of the best nights sleep I’ve had in a long time, noted by the fact that I woke up at 8:50am and didn’t wake at all when Jayne, apparently, rolled over in bed and hit me in the face twice during the night. We had big plans today of taking the free bicycles offered by the hostel and cycling around the temples and ruins. However, as we chatted over breakfast, neither of us had the motivation or energy to do that and since we both want to appreciate this UNESCO site (our first one in Thailand and our last one for at least a month) we decided to spend a day doing laundry and catching up on jobs. Also, having been spoilt by only having one backpack for the last 10 weeks after I slipped the disk in my back and we were able to leave one bag at the hotels in both Yangon and Kathmandu whilst we travelled, we really questioned the amount of stuff we have. Decided that, since Jayne has to go back to the UK, we are going to use it as an excuse to get rid of one bag and some unnecessary clothing – from now on, we are going to have all our clothes and essential in one backpack… I’m a little bit scared (but equally excited) to be travelling so light, especially since I thought we did such a good job of packing light when we left all those months ago! As Jayne sorted out more website stuff and set up a new Pinterest page for me linked to our blog (I love her!!), I used the washing machine to properly clean our clothes – to my surprise, they didn’t fall apart and they smell so nice! I also went through the bags and organised what we are keeping and what is going back/getting thrown away. I popped to ‘7-eleven’ to get some snacks to keep us going as we both worked on our respective jobs. FYI – I’m loving the fact that I can now spend hours on Pinterest without being told off!!

Back at the night market for another food crawl progressive dinner – starting with chicken (I think) sausages before munching on Thai green fish curry. Got chatting to another tourist who had just come back from Myanmar and seemed to have loved it as much as we did. Finished off our dinner with a take-away sticky rice and mango to eat back in our room with a wine spritzer and a couple of episodes of ‘Friends’. Friday 10th June 2016

Bangkok, Travelling & Ayutthaya – day 246

Woke up to the busy sounds of the street outside, still both slightly shattered from the past month in Myanmar. Took our time getting ready to leave, knowing that we couldn’t check in to our hostel in Ayutthaya until the afternoon so there was no rush to leave Bangkok. Used the hostel wifi to order a few bits and pieces for Jayne to pick up when she is back in the UK (Jayne accused me of having a ‘massive spending spree’) whilst she tried to purchase a website domain for our blog. Went for a shower in the communal bathroom and I clearly won the hostel shower lottery. In my cubical, someone had left some Aussie hair care products – my hair was in heaven!! Although it then decided to punish me for mistreating it so badly over the past few months by going incredibly curly and unruly! Packed up our bags – it feels very weird to be back to two big backpacks after 10 weeks of just having one. The nice man in the hostel reception let me print and scan my ‘voting by proxy’ form so I could email to my electoral officer to vote in the EU referendum whilst Jayne continued sorting out website/blog stuff. Left the hotel and made our way down the familiar streets to the BTS sky train. Forgot how quickly the ticket barriers close and am now sporting a lovely bruise on my leg! Got the train to Victory Monument and tried to find the mini bus to take us to Ayutthaya. Slightly difficult since neither of us could pronounce it properly and the first bus conductor looked at us blankly before he shouted at a lady to come help. Clearly not the first tourists to be totally useless, she pointed us in the right direction and four bus conductors later, we were in the right place!!! Bought a ticket for us (for 60 baht each – about £1.20) and another seat to stow our bags so we didn’t have to sit with them on our laps. Jayne, fortunately, got to sit in the air conditioned mini bus but since I had the door seat I had to wait until the bus was full and everyone onboard before I could get in! Wasn’t all bad as I got to people watch, which I love. Took about 20 minutes for the mini bus to sell all fourteen seats and once I got in, the driver started packing bags and boxes of stuff all around us… Really glad we splurged on the extra seat now as we could barely move as it was! Headed down the motorway towards Ayutthaya – a very dull journey – Jayne passed the time playing angry birds and I read my book. Arriving in Ayutthaya, we walked to our hostel and checked in. Think we might be the only guests but we have a huge room with a fridge, dining table, TV, air con and use of a washing machine for £10 a night! After 8 months of travelling, the washing machine is a luxury that I just can’t wait to use and abuse. Headed down the road for a late lunch, grabbing a bowl of pork noodles in a street cafe – the broth smelt incredible from the street (which is what lured us in) and it tasted amazing.A quick stop off at the ‘7-eleven’ to grab some water and Milo ice cream before heading back to the hostel for the afternoon. We were very boring and spent the afternoon taking it easy – reading books and playing games before heading out to the night market. Full of amazing food (deep fried crickets, chicken legs or mealworms anyone?!?) and weird fruit drink concoctions, we were overwhelmed with the choice for dinner. Decided to have a food crawl progressive dinner, we started with some fried pork which we ate in the park next to some of the ruins and the lake.We then had some Pad Thai Noodles before finishing off our meal with a raisin waffle and some Milo chocolate. Back at the hotel to watch some ‘Friends’ episodes before falling asleep. 

Thursday 9th June 2016

Travelling – day 245

Isn’t it always typical that the one morning you have to set an alarm to be awake at 7, the hostel staff decide that it is also the day they aren’t going to sing Buddhist chants from 6am onwards?!? Got up and showered before having a leisurely breakfast. Finished packing and headed to the Main Street to get a taxi to the airport. I was put in charge of negotiating the price (and as everyone knows, I’m rubbish at this!!!) so I was completely shocked when he offered 7,000 kyat – 3,000 less than what I was prepared to go to and 1,000 less than what Jayne wanted me to aim for… Score!!! He seemed slightly worried that we were going to take a long time to get there due to heavy traffic but we had given ourselves plenty of time and, knowing this, he relaxed!! Took us over an hour to get to the airport and it was plain sailing getting checked in, dropping off our main bags and heading through immigration. Scary looking staff were pulling people aside who had overstayed their visas… Used up the rest of our currency on some food and last minute presents before boarding the plane back to Bangkok. Having promised Jayne a Burger King all throughout our travels in Myanmar, we had lunch at the airport before getting a taxi to the hostel. Stayed at the same hostel we used the last time we were in Bangkok (3 years ago) and it hasn’t changed one bit – if it’s not broke, why fix it?!? Used the super fast wifi (ahhhhh… We’ve missed you decent wifi!) to upload various photos to blogs and do some research for the next few days in Thailand. Our stomachs started grumbling so we headed back out to the street to try and find our favourite street restaurant from 3 years ago… Clearly doing much better, the three tables we were used to, had spread to 22! The food was, as we remembered, phenomenal and we gorged ourselves on chicken Pad Thai noodles, chicken green Thai curry and spicy papaya salad. Lips slightly red from the spices, we stopped via the shop to grab some water before heading back to the hostel to Skype parents and go to sleep!

Wednesday 8th June 2016