Day 11: Ruins

Well today pretty much rocked. Thankfully this time the sleep mostly matched my hopes for the Baan Lotus Inn. The room was a little cold with the AC on but that was our fault. I had worried about mosquitoes and about the dogs barking, but all was well. We had a bit of a later start than normal because we were out drinking with those Dutch girls. We pretty much didn’t see them all day as they slept in past checkout.

The ease of travel in Thailand really does help that atmosphere in the guest houses. There are so many more foreign tourists in Thailand and foreign tourists almost always speak English, plus it’s been my experience the backpacker crowd (not really seen in China all that much) are much easier to make friends and share adventures with because they’re there with the same hopes and aspirations, the same goals. Like the previous day I had a good time introducing myself to other backpackers staying at the Inn, this time a Dutch father and son. They were planning a Tuk Tuk (this 3 wheeled, half motorcycle thing) tour of the temples of Ayutthaya (pronounced Ayu-TEA-ah) which is the big draw. The wonderful old lady helped him plan out with what time he had a tour of some 11 different ancient ruins and temples, many of them outside of the old town where a driver would definitely be needed. We were invited along to share the cost and jumped at it. Boy was that great timing. Instead of just seeing a couple ruins walking around in the sweltering heat, we zipped from one place to another sharing good company. The tuk tuk driver unlike pretty much every one of them in Bangkok was on the up and up thanks to our gracious host and helped keep track of our time at each stop and point us in the right direction. With some advice from our host we also were able to avoid paying 20-50 baht at every stop to see stuff we weren’t all that interested in. The whole 3 hours of touring cost just 200 baht each or at the current exchange rate about $7. The answer to why you see so many shoe string backpackers and hippies in Thailand comes into focus pretty well now huh? I think you could live on less than $20/day comfortably and with a bit more enjoy some travel here and there.

The Dutch father and Son we traveled with we got to know pretty well. Like every other dutch person I’ve ever met traveling they speak English amazingly well and have no trouble keeping up with conversation one bit. The father was a long time backpacker and actually had his backpack from 30 years ago with him today. He was here teaching his son “how to travel” as he put it. A great gift. The father was in his late 40s and was about my height with a sunny disposition. His son was mighty tall at around 6’5″ who with me, his father and Danny all over 6′ ourselves must have been quite the interesting sight as we squeezed in and out of the little tuk tuk. The son had just graduated high school and was about to begin his university studies in none other than Computer Science the same degree me and Danny share, and related to the Electrical Engineering degree Elmar holds. I think I enjoyed getting to know them and having good conversation as much as seeing ruin after ruin. I missed this part of backpacking, and we hadn’t really had a taste of this at all in China and I’m sure I won’t see it in Bhutan isolated as I will be in my own little private tour.

One of the most interesting sites we saw was a set of ruins containing a Buddha head that had been pretty much engulfed by tree roots. I have a great photo of it you can find below. There definitely is a point where seeing yet another stoopa just doesn’t have the same impact though. I was informed that at one point all of these were covered in gold like the Shwedagon Paya in Burma I’ve read about, and before it’s sacking by the Burmese back in the 17th century the city looked like it was glowing from far away. One of the strangest things on the other hand is how these stoopa ruins are all around the city itself just sprinkled about liberally.

Returning to the Inn we exchanged emails pledging to send each other pictures from the day’s tour before the Dutchmen left on a train to Bangkok.

Our laundry still wasn’t done at this point but we had to check out so we filled up our bags with what we had other than clothes out on the clothes line and chilled out on the neat little patio over the water watching the fish, napping in the hammock and enjoying a beer until mid afternoon. More guests arrived and we got to chat a bit more with different people like a Japanese man who just graduated from college and was enjoying some needed vacation, or a bunch of girls from America trying to figure out where they were going, we were able to send them and the dutch girls from the previous night on a tuk tuk tour like our own.

We had our own plans to make though. At this point Elmar and Danny mostly just wanted to go to the beach I think, but already away from Bangkok and with enticing activities waiting up north in Chiang Mai we decided to take a sleeper up there before flying down the following night to Phuket for some serious R&R. We had a choice between the “VIP” bus and the Thai Rail sleeper car. We had poor luck with the trains last time, and the dutch girls also going by sleeper had been charged a good 1000 baht more than the tickets were supposed to be, so we decided to try the bus this time. More on that later!

In the meantime we had to grab some food and pack up our clothes after a few more ours of recovering from the heat. We tried to find the same Mutaba place we had enjoyed so much the night before to test out some of their other variants but no luck, they werent there. We settled for another Islamic Thai truck and a noodle dish similar to pad thai.

On our return we packed up and caught another tuk tuk to the travel agency for the overnight bus. Eventually more people joined us and we went out to the bus stop. I figured it would be right near old town, maybe at the train station. Oh no. It’s a good 20 minute drive over highways there which is kind of nerve racking on a tuk tuk. Eventually we get dropped off at the side of the highway where there are no street lamps. I remarked to the guys that this must be where we get mugged at gun point. Eventually the bus shows up though and we load in and take our seats. The problem is our seats aren’t beds like I expected, and don’t recline even as well as the ones in Business Class on that China Southern flight out to China. I had only my jacket to act as a pillow which left the rest of me freezing in what seemed like swamp cooler air. The road was bumpy and the French/Welsh couple next to us were making out like horny high schoolers. I hardly slept. I would never take that bus again over a sleeper car. Give me a bed any day.

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