Tag Archives: elephant

Ayutthya day 3

A late start and a trip to a veggie buffet. Cheap, tasty, and slightly mysterious what I was eating! Then I do some exploring of the local market. The usual covered hall with concrete slab counters wher meat is carved up and fish are laid out. Old women sitting next to their vegetables and bags of spices. I have been to a lot of these and I'm always too late to catch the real bustle. It's half closed now and some of the women are uncomfortably sleeping among the produce. Rats scuttle across the floor. The pavements of the streets outside the market hall are lined with stalls. Key cutters, underwear, lots and pans. A thickset bald older man behind a stall that fixes watches catches my eye. Taking his picture results in avert long chat,him doing most of the talking. It's one of those “conversations” where the other party can talk but not comprehend too well. Anyway I find out he's 70, works every day of the week from 7am and learns English from tv and directing tourists. I'm there for over an hour, and see no other white skins, so I find the latter hard to believe. His English isn't too bad, but his absence of most of his lower front teeth makes pronunciation rather difficult. I buy a strawberry shake pandan cakes and rose apples for lunch back at the guesthouse, then take a snooze.

 

 

I'm hoping the afternoon light at the temple ruins will be nice, and it is. The park is actually very busy with the building of stages and markets, and a son et lumiere rehearsal of some reenactment of the ayutthya a fighting the burmese. I chance upon the backstage preparations where 5 massive white elephants are being dressed for the show.

 

On returning to the soi, low and beyond there is Fran..much sooner than expected or hoped for. I meet her for a drink at gubar later but meanwhile I'm accosted by a jolly bunch of assorted drivers who are rapidly getting through a bottle of (fake!) Johnny walker. They ask me to join them and our conversation is an exchange of the names of our favourite football teams,and an exchange of gestures brought on by the disclosure that the balding one has the nickname of zidane, and that another one likes Liverpool and Suarez. Head butts and bites. We play guess each other's age and are all generously underestimating. The mood changes suddenly when a pretty stern thai lady appears (driving a tuk tuk) with 2 small children. She is the ringleader's wife and proceeds to yell at him to come home instead of staying out drinking. He looks bashful like a scalded kid, but stays at the table, whilst she drives off in a storm. Apparently this is the typical thai marriage. Drunken lazy husband, tough, strong wife who does more than her fair share. I get a little drunk, then take my leave.

 

Fran is full of the usual stories of narrow scrapes, spending too much on things she doesn't want and technology problems. I want to watch the band at the bar opposite. The previous night they were surprisingly good. A group of young Thais all in black playing tight energetic hard metal-funk. As I got ther and bought a beer that I didn't really need, the band finished. Tonight we checked that they hadn't played yet, and asked who they were. The board said spring low, the barman who had made fun of me over last nights poor timing tells us they are called “spring roll”. At least that is his pronunciation, and in spite of my coaching he can't get the “r” and can't hear his mistake, so I get some revenge. Perhaps the sucker punch is how dreadful the band are. I predict a Number of songs that I know they will play. All these bands in thai bars play the same mix of reggae standards and rock cliches. So we get no woman no cry, born to be wild, honky took woman, hey joe…..my god it's painful. A Thai guy who puts his own unusual inflexion on the singing, a white guy who thinks his soloing over loose backing musicians will make this all good…..so glad when it's over! Bedtime.

 

 

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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!

 

Sacred tooth etc

Back into town late afternoon. Kingfishers And storks by the lake. I bump into ralf who has no memory of his performance last night. He goes shopping and I look for a wood apple juice, meanwhile scoring a samosa and visiting a medicinal herb shop. Would love to buy something but I have no idea what they are or how to use them. Parked outsi are some gaudily decorated chromed wood panelled trucks. I can see, and discover that eating after 4 here is tricky. The restaurants have extensive, but not vege menus. Rice and curry is only for lunch. The other choice is masala dosa. Later I do and sit in a restaurant but leave after an unsuccessful 15 minute wait to order.
I thought visiting the sacred tooth temple in the veining would less busy. Not really. The place is not especially overwhelming, crowded, a bit hectic, not really anywhere to pause and soak up any magic. There is a museum of the holy tooth on site too. Another poor attempt at exhibiting history. Not much signage, cases full of jewellery, bowls, ceremonial faded stuff. When I returned to the tooth chamber for the second time a ceremony was going on, drumming and some monks disappearing into the tooth room to do something holy. I reckon this is for tourists as the locals don’t linger and visiting monks don’t even pause. Outside is more interesting. The rows of candles and buring oil at dusk. Drumming, a call for the podia at the naga temple. This has started at the other one. Priest collecting notes on a tray, intoning some prayers then dotting the praying groups foreheads with red paint. Further on is the boddi tree high on a crenalated platform. There are two levels. One lower one where visitors buy bowls of holy water, incense and flowers, and are blessed by a chanting woman. The devotees then circulate the first level bowing at the alter then climb to the second level where they make 3 revolutions with their water and incense. The tree trunk is be robed in an orange cloth. It’s lower branches bedecked with lines of prayer flags, fluttering in the dolling night breeze. I sit in peace for 40 minutes.

Yala national park

What did I see in yala?
Leopard x 3. Lounging on a rock like something out of Kipling. Sprawled on a tree camouflaged almost beyond recognition. I wonder how aware they are of us? Sitting there in our jeeps, forbidden to step on the path, straining with our underpowered lenses to capture a woeful and disappointing faraway shot. Something to show friends. Look I did see a leopard. The jeeps converge en masses each time one is spotted, drivers liaising by phone then putting their foot down on bumpy rutted muddy paths ignoring the deer, peacocks and whatever else may be in the undergrowth to get us to the place in time to catch a glimpse of the big cat. The 20 or so jeeps vie for position reversing, squeezing together. It’s a circus and exactly what I hoped we wouldn’t be doing.
The park is extensive and very beautiful. Big rocks. One that looks like an elephant. One with hundreds of black faced monkeys scampering around. Lakes, wetland, filled with storks, hornbills, crocodiles blending into the rock, pink lilies. Herds of deer, males with metre high antlers, another spotted breed hanging out at the edge of the forest. Peacocks display their plumage to disinterested females. Eagles swoop, a serpent eagle squats on a mount looking for prey. Wild boar moosie along the path. A stray baby elephant stumbles through the bush then behind our jeep to find its mother on the other side.
Birds are in colossal abundance. Little yellow green and orange kingfishers, cormorants, cuckoos, ones I don’t know the names of. I should try to research these.
By the beach is the base of an ex-bungalow. All that remains from a camp from before the tsunami. There is a memorial to the 40 or so tourists killed on that day.

Arrival in bkk

Marooned in Hualamphong railway station Bangkok

Chiangmai so-called express arrives at 9am.  I awake to sunrise over the flooded paddies of Ayutthya.

Train struggles into BKK through shanty towns, construction, into the sinuous mess of modern BKK, the underbelly clinging to its arteries.

I can’t get anywhere easily quickly or conveniently and find myself people watching over congee, the trains shedding themselves of locals pushing scooters or carrying sacks of food.

In the concourse I am caught between tannoy of adverts, station announcements and Thai MTV…I’ve described the type of video before…….

A monk-only cordoned off couple of rows of seats. All seats facing a classically framed painting of the king. A row of Muslim girls black head scarves. A young boy in blue shorts playing with his young pink dressed sister, chasing in and out of a diorama. Like me there are hundreds sitting around waiting waiting.

I’m waiting to get across the city to get a train to the west, but the rain outside is torrential. It’s dripping through the concourse roof, a blue smocked mopping woman diffuses the pooled water rather than soaking it up.

I leave 2 hours to get to Thonburi station to catch a train to Kanchanaburi. Underground then sky-train then Chao Phraya river express. Rusty lurching overloaded diesel workhorse plying its way through the coffee coloured swell and tangles of thick green duck weed. Past temples, processions of cement barges, decommissioned WW2 motor boats, under sweeping bridges and the partially constructed new extension for the sky-train. Rain pouring down, splattering the choppy river. Rain and splashing bow waves sprays passengers. The whistling pilot at the rear of the boat is drenched head to foot.

I know I’m scheduled to get off at stop number 11, which doesn’t exist. At stop 12 I ask the pilot for Thonburi and he waves his arm meaning further on. 20 minutes or more and further on we reach the end of the line, where the high rise hotels have given out to cement works and low suburb urban houses. The duckweed almost unnavigablly dense. Nonthaburi. The pilot says Thonburi. I’ve missed my stop and a girl kindly helps me establish that stop 11 is no longer in use and anyway, by the time I get back down river my train will have left.

I’m resigned to a day or more in BKK. This place traps you, sucks you in. You have to fight to get out.

I check into the Rambuttri Village Inn. The room is high up, has a view of the fort and the suspension bridge. It’s warm, dry, comfortable. I decide to count my blessings.the rain carries on, and persists into early evening. Would being elsewhere, especially in the outdoors be any better I’d I’m wet all the time? Anyway I don’t have great desire to do anything.

Khaosan Road is boring.

I heard it in CM sung in Thai, now hear it here in BKK played by children on dulcimer type instruments: Hotel bloody California…..

The massage chairs are here as well. I feel sorry for the masseurs. Farang customers are drinking beer and texting whilst being massaged. Doesnt look like a special or relaxing moment to them.

My dinner at the same old place is underwhelming, and my request for spicy goes unneeded. A hectic criss-crossing of waiters, barmen, owners. A rerun of Newcastle 4 Arsenal 4.

Early bed, deep sleep.

Breakfast at 12. Punctuated by roving lighter and crocodile wallet sellers.

Legless harmonica player, propelling himself by his hands between the chairs of the cafe on a skateboard like platform. What a tough life.