Almost dying on a Thai train
Last time I wrote how I ran into a Hindu festival on my way to Ayutthaya, so this time I want to actually write about what I did in Ayutthaya! But first things first, I stopped writing at the point where I had looked around at the festival. After that I met up with my friend and we took a taxi to the train station. This was a little adventure in itself because we were stuck in a huge traffic jam and it took us more than an hour for a drive that should have been 15 minutes at most. But we made it to Hua Lamphong station. We wanted to buy the earliest ticket which would be about 720 baht, maybe 18 euros, not bad considering the Dutch prices where we would have spent at least twice as much. But then the clerk told us that if we took the train one hour later our tickets would be only 20 baht. That’s a ridiculous price of only 50 euro cents. Seriously. So we decided to save the 700 baht and take a late train. We should have known that 20 baht would also mean compromising on comfort, but we didn’t really think about that. We looked for food at the station but that was awfully difficult. When we settled on a coffee and pastry from a coffee shops I saw a food hall across the hall. Oh well. When we had finished our food it was time for our adventurous train ride. As I said, we didn’t think about what our super cheap tickets meant. It meant that we had 3rd class tickets with no guaranteed seats. Honestly, we had no idea which wagon or seat we could take, because nowhere on the wagons was written what class or number it was. So we just randomly sat down. After about 10 minutes a conductor came to check our tickets. She told us we couldn’t sit here and randomly pointed to the door behind us while speaking Thai. We really had no idea what that meant, but thought that we would have to stand for the remainder of the journey. So there we were, in between the wagons, where there are no doors, basically fearing we would fall down and die but also being amused be this experience that just seemed so foreign and typically Thai. No seats? Yeah, just face death and sit in between the wagons.
Not so bad after all
Then the conductor walked our way again after a while and she showed us where we actually had to go. Apparently there is a third class wagon and it was very crowded and we luckily managed to squeeze ourselves onto two single-seat benches together with two Thai people. Very cozy. It was uncomfortable, but better than standing for 1.5 hour (that turned into 2.5 hours) journey. At each station more 3rd class passengers came in and I honestly wonder where they put all those people seeing that most of the wagons were 1st and 2nd class wagons and this 3rd class was already way too full. Anyway, as I said, our 1.5 hour journey for some reason managed to become a 2.5 hour journey. Another very typical thing here in Thailand. At some points the train was moving so slowly I could’ve walked faster. But yeah, we’re in Thailand, so it’s something that shouldn’t surprise us too much. We made it to Ayutthaya, safely, so that’s what counts. When we arrived at Ayutthaya station it was already quite late and it was super deserted. We managed to find a tuk tuk drives who charged way too much to drop us off at our guest house, but we didn’t have any choice anyway. When we arrived I was so beat. At that point I had been working for one month straight (yep, no free days for a full month), and I had been teaching since that morning as well so now that it was evening I was getting sleepy. But our friends who already there (they come one day earlier) had some cold beers for us, so we started chatting and having a drink in the refreshing air of Ayutthaya. It felt so good to get out of stuffy Bangkok, and even though I was tired, I started to feel refreshed. How can you not with good friends, cold drinks and fresh air!
Tuk Tuk Tour
My friends had made friends with a tuk tuk driver on their first day in Ayutthaya. They had already seen some cool temples on the outskirts of the city, but the next day they wanted to see some of the temples and palaces in the centre of the city because I and our other friend had finally arrived. They asked their tuk tuk driver to guide is the next day. So after a (very short) sleep we woke up early to explore the ancient city of Ayutthaya. Ayutthaya used to be Siam’s (Thailand) capital even overtaking the other currently popular historical destination called Sukhothai, until eventually Bangkok became the new capital and still is today. The ruins and historical remains of Ayutthaya are called a ‘Historical Park’ and are designated as UNESCO World Heritage. So our goal was to see part of that Historical Park. Our tuk tuk driver drove us to the first destination Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit. The path leading to the temple is quite long, so it makes the temple look quite impressive. It’s actually a very big temple, because inside the temple is a 17 meters high bronze gilded Buddha statue. I won’t say that the Buddha statue is not impressive, because it is impressive, it’s big, but after having seen statue after statue in different temples this one didn’t seem that special to me. It was just good, if you know what I mean? We walked around the temple, took some photos and then moved on to the next place. The great thing about this temple is that there are other cool places right next to it and in front of it!
Reminiscent of Angkor Wat
So next to Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit (what a name by the way) is the gorgeous Wat Phra Si Sanphet. Apparently this was the most important monastery within the Royal Palace grounds. There was once a large standing Buddha statue, which should have been the ‘nicest image of a standing Buddha having ever existed in the world’. Sadly the Burmese invaded Ayutthaya and severely damaged this Buddha image and the rest of the temple. Only a few of the Chedi (Buddhist stupa) were still standing. The Buddha statue was brought to Bangkok for restoration, but it couldn’t be restored and is still in Bangkok now. One of the stupas was also brought to Bangkok for restoration and is now part of the Wat Pho temple (I went there and there were many stupas indeed). So we didn’t get to see the reportedly amazing Buddha image, but we did get to see the stupas that were left, and some other ruins, and they were actually very beautiful! It definitely reminds me of the Angkor Wat. I’ve never been there, but I’ve seen many photos and I’ve heard stories from my father. One of my biggest dreams is to visit the Angkor Wat one day. Especially after seeing this temple I’m sure I will love Angkor Wat as well. We saw two more temples that day, but in order to not make you (and myself) too tired of temples I will write about them next time!