Our train arrived at 5:30 am and though our room was ready, the hotel clerk was appalled at the idea of a 6 am check-in. Instead, we dropped our packs behind the front desk and took an early morning walk. I hadn’t had a drink in days but the combination of sleep deprivation and 3 days of non-stop shitting had left me a little wobbly and out of sorts. The town itself was an interesting combination of modern city and ancient ruins. It wasn’t uncommon to see a 600 year old brick Stupa tucked between two apartment complexes. We stopped to admire a nice looking, packer colored mosque and ended up chatting with the imam. He was probably one of the nicest people we’d met in Thailand and he wasn’t even Thai. He’d fled violence in Pakistan, immigrated to Thailand 23 years ago and loves it here.
After we found some breakfast, we went to visit an old palace complex just a few blocks from our hotel. The complex was made entirely of clay bricks and was in pretty bad disrepair. While they were currently restoring the main and very impressive center steeple, the rest of the grounds were a crumpled mess of brick and heavily leaning structers.
This early morning walk was enough to kick my ass for nearly the rest of the day. We ended up paying for an early check in at 10 am in order to rest and to watch “The Hangover II” with some new perspective (“it’s a bag of Fanta” actually makes sense now and is hilarious). We made back out just long enough to find me some comfort in KFC in hopes that something familiar would calm my extremely overactive bowels. We also found McKayla a cold beer and some unimpressive Pad Thai. Come on, Thailand, I know KFC isn’t the best you can offer but so far….
****In our last blog we had more detail about the string of food disasters we’d been having. You can read that one here if you missed it.****
Ayutthaya was chalk full of ruins and ancient palaces so on our second day there, it was time again to answer that nearly forgotten call for “tuk tuk?” The tuk-tuk was a rent by the hour service. The driver had a series of postcards he’d flip through so we chose three of them and he plotted out the course. We used the MapsMe app to double check our course to make sure he wasn’t driving us in circles; the guy didn’t make an unnecessary turn all day.
As it turns out, we picked a fairly good time to visit Thailand. The king had passed away nearly three months ago and the country has been in a period of mourning. They told us that all sightseeing areas or state run parks is currently free of charge in honor of the late king.
Our tuk tuk tour started out with a temple and a giant Buddha. Again the place was mostly clay bricks but this site had been much better preserved than the one we saw the day before. We were able to climb up the first two tiers of the giant spire at the center of the grounds. It was a nice place but it was pretty overrun with tourists. It was an interesting contrast seeing a row of monks bowing and praying at the head of a giant 100 foot lying down Buddha while tourists tried to jam coins into the soft spots of his massive feet.
The second stop involved a cool tree. This was no ordinary cool tree, this tree contained a head. I’m not sure if it’s from old age or something more malice but most of the Buddhas in these old ruins have been decapitated. In the case of the tree, the roots picked up a head from one of the old Buddha statues and lifted it about two feet up, looking straight out. I’m not a religious man but it’s hard to imagine all the coincidences that took place in order to get that smiling Buddha face imbedded into that tree just so. As a sign of respect, anyone who wanted to take a picture with it had to kneel down, so they were lower than the top of its head.
The main ruin complex in Ayutthaya contained, among crumbling brick walls, three pristine bell stupas that were truly impressive. The area also had an ancient pond, a temple receiving heavy renovation and an elephant park containing some very sad and mistreated elephants. All in all, it was a great day to be hauled around town in a tuk-tuk.
Although Ayutthaya was way better than Eastern Thailand, the ruins were definitely the only thing that salvaged this smelly little fart of a town.