December 18 - 20
16.12.2012 - 18.12.2012 32 °C
Instead of writing a long report about the historic sites and significance of Sukothai and Ayutthaya I just provide a weblink and a few photographs, so everyone who is interested can read up on them. Instead, here are just a few impressions about these two places, which are naturally firmly established locations on the tourist circuit.
On a vey general level, we definitely preferred Old Sukothai and the historic park of Sukothai over Ayutthaya although this is clearly a very broad statement. But at least the historic sites of Sukothai seemed to be better maintained and cleaner. We enjoyed the main historic park in Sukothai and the temple complex within it. It just exerted a more peaceful, relaxing and quiet atmosphere. The audio tour that one can purchase is very interesting as well and it always helps to connect with a place more than without any explanation.
We probably spent about 3 hours in the main historic site of Sukothai and then drove around using our car to see some of the other temples that are scattered around in a relatively vast area around the main site.
(Historic Park Sukothai)
It was quite hot when we finally left for Ayutthaya but it is a relatively comfortable ride just following the main highway for about 4-5 hours heading South.
Once in Ayutthaya, again it was dark already at around 7 PM, we found our place very easily since we knew that it was close to the main train station. We were a little surprised when we drove into the street where the hotel was since it felt like we were entering a very local neighborhood, with small alleys and old and very simple wooden houses. And it was indeed a very local neighborhood right at the river. There were two guesthouses and our place, which was called Baan Are Gong Riverside Homestay, was an old teak wood house in traditional Chinese Thai style. Our room was adjacent to the main courtyard in the middle of the house and right in front of our window was the small reception desk. The lovely hotel owner and manager was a woman in her forties who spoke very good English. She inherited the house from her parents and was running it together with her sister. The little restaurant, very simple wood structure and wooden benches and tables, was right on the river and we could see the ferry leaving from just underneath the deck to the other side of the river. Our room rate was US$18 and again, it was clean, comfortable yet very simple. We were a bit afraid that it could get pretty noisy being so close to the action outside the room since other guests and staff would pass by our window but since it was relatively quiet and not too many tourists stayed there it was fine and we actually slept very well.
(The two sisters and owners of Baan Are Gong)
Before we settled into our room though we went to grab some dinner and decided to go to one of the local night markets. We took a tuk tuk and were surprised to see that the market was about to close when we arrived there at around 8 or 8:30 PM. But we found a small street restaurant at the corner of the market where we could eat our Thai favorites, have some drinks and watch the action at the night market. When we left and walked towards the main street where we hoped to find a tuk tuk we noticed a street dog following us. He just walked right alongside us and whenever we took a turn or changed sides on the street he would do the same. We must have walked for almost a mile and he was still following us, regularly fending off other street dogs that were about to attack him. He obviously must have decided to “adopt” us as his new owners and it felt sad when we eventually stopped a tuk tuk that took us across the river back to our hotel. Our new K9 friend was just sitting on the roadside and watched us leave with sad eyes until we couldn’t see him anymore.
Next morning we got up early, packed, had breakfast on the deck above the river and left our luggage at our little hotel in order to see the sights of Ayutthaya. When we drove into town we received an SMS from our friend Martina from Germany, who was actually on her way to Ayutthaya as well, together with her partner Uwe. We knew they were in Bangkok and we were planning to meet them there when we arrived back in the “city of angels” so we were surprised to hear that they had decided to do a day trip to Ayutthaya as well. And wouldn’t you know, in a city that is filled with tourists and temples, we actually ran into them at the entrance of one of the main temples – what a coincidence. We were greeting and hugging each other euphorically but parted ways quickly since they were part of a tour group and didn’t want to miss the group and their bus. But we were planning to meet up with them anyway the next day in Bangkok.
(Historic Park Ayutthaya)
So we just wandered around the different historic sites, which are scattered across the city. To be honest, while it was still enjoyable we didn’t like it as much as we expected judging by the reputation as one of the prime tourist destinations in Thailand. Part of the reason for that was the sad state of some of the monuments and the garbage that literally was everywhere, along the streets but also at some of the most important historic sites. It seemed as if some of the remains of the King’s birthday celebrations hadn’t been cleaned up completely but it was a pity to see these important historic sites filled with garbage and nobody seemed to care about cleaning up the mess. There might also have been some impact from the previous year when Ayutthaya including some of the main historic monuments were under water for weeks. We saw some of the renovation work going on but in our opinion there’s just no excuse for not cleaning up the garbage in a place like Ayutthaya that lives from tourism.
Anyway, after a few hours of sightseeing we drove back to our hotel, parked the car and went on a boat trip around the old city of Ayutthaya. We arranged this trip through our guesthouse and for the next two hours or so we were skipping along the many temples, stopped every 15 minutes to get off the boat and wander around the site and we eventually made the whole circle around the old city and arrived back at our starting point, the guesthouse. We said good-bye to our hosts for the last night and got into the car for a relatively short drive back to Bangkok.
(Boat trip along the historic sites of Ayutthaya)
We had to drop off the rental car at Suvarnabhumi airport and unfortunately we had a small crack in our windshield, which happened while driving on a highway and a small stone hit us. The guys at Hertz told us that we could either pay for it since it wasn’t covered by the insurance or we could have it fixed ourselves, which would be cheaper. One guy form Hertz even offered to take us to a repair place where they fix broken windshields. So we drove with him to a Bangkok suburb close to the airport and stopped at one of the places that repair windshields just to find out that the crack on our car couldn’t be fixed because it was too big. We needed a new windshield. But how could we arrange having a windshield repaired in a small repair shop in Bangkok? English is still only common for high school and college educated Thais. So our guy from Hertz offered to meet us the next morning at our hotel and take us to a repair shop which should be much cheaper than paying directly to Hertz. We were not sure what to think of this and whether this was a scam but somehow agreed to it and gave him a few hundred baht for taxi money for a ride to our hotel. Well, we found out the next morning that we got scammed since he never showed up and I had to take the car to Hertz at the airport eventually since our time was up. But it turned out to be only about US$ 100 to replace the windshield, something that would cost ten times as much in Europe or the US for the car we had. So, while being relieved that we didn’t have to spend an arm and a leg on the repair we felt angry about falling for the scam. We are only talking about 10 or 15 dollars but nevertheless, no one likes to think they were naïve and as seasoned travellers we should have known better. We even tried to hunt him down at Hertz again but for some reason we never saw him work there again – probably for a good reason.
In the afternoon we eventually met with Martina and Uwe and spent the day driving up and down the Chao Praya on one of the taxi boats that we took many times before. They both enjoyed the hustle and bustle on the boat and doing sightseeing for 20 cents per person.
In the evening we decided to go to one of the night markets to have some dinner and soak up the atmosphere of a typical Bangkok night market/eating area. Unfortunately one of our former favorites, the Suan Lum night bazaar close to Lumpini Park doesn’t exist anymore since the lease ran out and the operator of the night market and restaurant area needed to close shop. On the internet and through the concierge at a hotel we found out that the “replacement” of this night market is called “ASIATIQUE The Riverfront” and it has a free shuttle boat. However, when we got there it was nothing like the old Suan Lum night bazaar and is now a glitzy, high priced entertainment park with brand name shops and air conditioned restaurants.
(Dinner with our friends Martina & Uwe at ASIATIQUE The Riverfront)
We still had a decent dinner and enjoyed Martina’s and Uwe’s company before we wished them “Merry Christmas” and went our separate ways. They were leaving the next day back to Germany and we had one more day in Bangkok before we were heading off to Miami in order to celebrate Christmas with Anna’s family.