Ayutthya

So glad I didn't get sunburned today, and I'm surprised!

Today I cycled most of the day, well from when I felt together enough to go out, which was 11. I rented from a girl, who also had a masculine element to her! She wore a skirt made from Hmong fabrics, which I recognised from a bagi bought in chiang mai. We have a discussion about my necklace, and have our doubts about it being real jade. She likes my British accent! The bike rent is 40 per day, I get it for 2 days for 60. Cycling around the place reminds me of Anuradhapura, in that the town is build among the ruins, mostly well restored, of some magnificent wat and palaces, on an island, which contains a number of ditches and tanks. It also reminds me of jogykarta, sukhothai…elements of others. I've done this before: losing myself on archaeological parks, spending long pauses sitting on temple steps watching the world and emptying my mind. There are fallen cherries on the ground, small children selling some kind of bird made from bamboo leaves. There is a souvenir/snack market, where women are smearing green batter onto hot plates to make pandan pancakes. Others in rubber gloves are dropping batter into huge woks of bubbling oil to make donuts. The stalls have bags of twisted dark crispy snacks. On close inspection they seem to be reptilian in origin. Lizard heads?, snake skin?

Lunch is at the small pure vegetarian food place I had read about but thought I had no chance of finding. I just stumbled upon it. Tasty and cheap!

I cross the bridge to the east and off the island, and follow a smal windy road to a place called th elephant krall. This is like a stockade fenced with red tree trunk like piles. I get excited when I spy a pale grey bull elephant with long tusks swaying his body outside this empty arena opposite a school yard. On encircling this massive space I come across a dark skinned man marshalling 2 smaller darker elephants across the road and down a smaller one to a cluster of buildings and wooden structures. Elephants! Maybe 30 of them. This is some kind of elephant sanctuary. It's fantastic. I spend a happy hour or so watching a 3 day old baby elephant stumble at his mother's feel looking for her teets. The mother shows amazing grace and awareness not to step on the tiny creature. Further along the road I come across the river once more. Here, in twos or threes the elephants are being ridden..and then ridden into the water where almost submerged they are washed, their riders standing on their backs like listing living rocks. On the banks of the river some small children are fishing. All these goings on are every day occurrences and unremarkable to them.

 

I cross the island and over to the other side of the river to experience the end of the sunset at the serene wat chaiwatthanaram, nearly get lost cycling back, and am overtaken by a man with a puppy in the front basket of his motorbike.

Dinner is at gubar. I ask for my curry to be spicy. Big mistake….too hot even for me!

 

Brighton to Bangkok to ayutthya

It’s my first full day. I’m in ayutthya and it was a much better choice to decompress than Bangkok, though getting here was almost suicidal!

The trip started with a hiccup at brighton station with super officious ticket inspectors not letting me use my advance ticket without the reservation slip which I threw away weeks ago. That kind of set the tone for a fraught journey full of anxious moments and fears of near misses. The tube taking forever to get to Heathrow. Fran, my travel companion for the first hop, messing up with on-line checking in; the stopover in Doha being a hectic rush through the sprawling ultra modern terminal to get to the gate for the transfer with minutes to spare. I can never sleep sitting upright, so the flights sapped me. Arriving in Thailand where my body had to suddenly get used to being 25 degrees hotter than it had been was exhausting, not helped by by planned smart route to ayutthya being blocked. I was surprised with how militaristic the many people in uniforms here have become. I wasn’t allowed to get the shuttle bus to don muang, instead I had to take the underground then sky train into bkk. A 2 hour wait for a train, which left late, then typically took 4 hours for a two hour journey…but only 20 baht!

I’ve done this trip before. The first few miles are through shanty-like shacks. So close that you can touch them as the train goes by. I can see in kitchens, sleeping spaces, smell the people. The rest of the crawl through bkk follows extensive sky train construction. Concrete pillars half-finished, roads clogged with jams, workers in masks, the air heavy with dust, cement works, temporary shanty workers accommodation. There is a procession of women passing through the carriages selling prawn crackers, bananas, water. A very elderly monk sits across from me, the late afternoon sun ennobling the Orange robed form. He has some luggage, which he proceeds to open: a set of kitschy plastic statues of the Buddha on a horse before his enlightenment. The man across the aisle has a plastic bag containing some greenish water. He hands it on the window opener. Now that it’s backlit I can see it contains some small fishes.

it was dark by the time I got to ayutthya. With huge relief I get a room in the Chandana guesthouse. It’s a bit quiet, and I have to walk through reception cum living room of the very nice but not so useful thai ladies running the place. The room is 450, which seems fine. My jetlagged means I wake up at 2am. The water pump outside kicks in every 2 minutes and this upsets my sleep further. On the street are a number of low key and friendly guesthouses, bars, bike rental places. It’s certainly not khaosan road and there is no hard sale whatsoever.

Gubar seems to be run by a woman I thought was a man, and I’m still not sure, in spite of the breasts! Anyway she tells me I can’t eat as she’s too drunk to cook! I eat opposite and have what will be my first of many curries and excellent fruit shakes.