Vix & Alan's S.E.Asia Travel Blog travel blog

Ayutthaya - World heritage city and former capital of Thailand

Foodie Heaven - a market stall in Chiang Mai

Alan 'the mod' Binnie, with biker chick and dog

 


We have been enjoying a few days in Chiang Mai, staying at the very luxurious River View Lodge hotel, before setting off on a hired 250cc Honda motorbike for the mountainous area bordering Myannmar (Burma) where there are numerous national parks, elephant sanctuaries, hill tribes and plateaus of sunflower-like flowers that bloom for just two weeks.

Since the last post, we have stayed in two towns.

Ayutthaya which is a World Heritage site with numerous temples (Wats) and ruins scattered throughout the city. We hired a small motorcycle for the day as this ancient city (a Royal capital from 1330) and spanning an area of over 20 sq kms. Much of the city was destroyed in the early 18th Century, however each Wat, homes to princesses and princes and there are over thirty, stand proudly within their own walled grounds. The city is built on a large island formed by the confluence of three large rivers.

Phitsanlok

Another ancient city but from what we saw not really worth a visit. Stopped off here to see if we could meet up with Max, a friend of Vix from the English Language (TEFL) course. Standing about 1km from the station, our usual stopping, regrouping, how shall we find accommodation distance having arrived at a mainline station, Max surprisingly bumps into us on her way to school. She is teaching at the city school..a mainly girls school with a massive 3,500 students. Spent an enjoyable early evening with her and left the next morning from our cheap mosquito filled room.

Everywhere we go is buzzing with activity in anticipation of the King's imminent 79th birthday in early December, and his 60th anniversary of his accession to the throne. His picture is omnipresent, with elaborate hoardings, stages and events which are underway for celebrations. There is no doubt he is universally adored although, like our own Royals, his son, the Crown Prince, is thought of as a useless playboy, not worthy of inheriting his father's status. It is decreed that all public sector workers have to wear a canary yellow T-shirt with the Royal insignia emblazoned on the pocket on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

We have covered some considerable distances and are getting quite familiar with the train network. Fares are incredibly cheap but the service isn't terribly reliable. At Ayutthaya, a delay of two hours turned what should have been a 7 hour journey into a 9 hour marathon, the result, apparently of yet another accident on the line (this seems somewhat alarmingly commonplace) but, as with all things, the Thais seem to take such severe disruption into their stride without complaint. The 'Rapid' class train we took for the journey to Chiang Mai shuffled amiably through the richly agricultural rice plains, giving way as we progressed to wheat fields. At this point, the train driver decided to make up for lost time in a barely disguised attempt to emulate a runaway train along the winding single track for the last two hours of our journey. As we clattered and jolted through the higher altitude invisible blackness of the night-time landscape, we and our fellow 'Farangs' (foreigners) eyed each other nervously wondering what might happen if the brakes failed. More alarmingly, however, was the squatty toilet which, believe me, required serious balancing and acrobatic abilities in the circumstances. In the event, we arrived safely at Chiang Mai, a stunning and relaxed city that springs into action with an extensive and nasally exciting night market stretching across several kilometres.

After a couple of days research, we head into the mountains tomorrow on a hired 250cc Honda scrambler, reducing our encumbrances to a single shared bag of essential items. Alan is keen to explore and go 'off-road' and I am keen to make sure we don't accidentally stray across the border into Burma by mistake!



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