Ayutthaya: For When You Just Need A Stroll Through History

Aytthaya Railway Station

I am a big fan of losing yourself in a place that has captured time in a perfectly preserved loop. When all of the world (and its news) gets overwhelming, there’s nothing more therapeutic than taking a stroll through a site that vibrates with the exciting hum of history. Ayutthaya is just the place you need.

Ayutthaya UNESCO Heritage Site

If you have one day to spare, and approximately THB 20, you can be well on your way to experiencing this UNESCO World Heritage Site for yourself. Even more exciting is the opportunity to fill your Instagram with stunning Lonely Planetesque photos that will make you the envy of all your friends. All you have to do is go to the Bangkok Railway station at Hua Lamphong, and buy a ticket for the 8:30am train for THB 20 (you can buy tickets to a fancier carriage with AC but where’s the fun in that?).

Bangkok Railway Station

Here’s a pro tip for you: If you’re at the station before 8:00, you will witness first-hand something completely awe-inspiring. At 8:00 sharp, everyone stops what they’re doing, stands in attention, and lets their inner patriot shine to the sound of the Thai National Anthem, playing loud and proud throughout the station. If you’re caught unawares, and on the verge of a panic attack, put all thoughts of ‘No Escape’ out of your head (it was a movie based on FICTION!), and take it all in. While the gathering of all the guards can be a bit overwhelming, this is just as essential a part of the true Thailand experience as eating a Mango Sticky Rice is.

Train to Ayutthaya

The journey to Ayutthaya is in itself an adventure. The trains are old fashioned, and travelling on it doesn’t just take you to your destination, it also takes you back in time. It’s slow going but it’s the perfect way to ease into the Ayutthaya experience. If you’ve brought a book, it’s going to have to get used to feeling ignored. Your co-passengers and the incredible views outside the window weave a captivating story you won’t want to miss.

Ayutthaya Historical Park

The Ayutthaya Historical Park is technically an island and so you can rent bikes just outside the railway station, or try to navigate your way through a 100 tuk tuk drivers trying to catch your attention. My favourite way to get to the island is to cross the road from the railway station and walk down a small road till I see the Chao Praya River. Once at the river, just pay THB 5 and a kick-ass female driver will ferry you across to the island. If you’re a bit intimated by the lack of tourists using this option, don’t worry. It’s perfectly safe, albeit a bit unknown.

Wat Mahatat Ayutthaya Historical Park
Wat Mahatat: A restored Buddha, surrounded by partially recovered Buddha statues. 

Once you’re at the other side of the river, you can rent a cycle for THB 50, or a scooter for THB 200 a day. We went for the cycle option as it really helps give you a real glimpse into the ancient city. Ayutthaya is easy to navigate, but if your sense of direction is a bit off, your cycle will often come with a map.

Wat Mahatat Ayutthaya
Wat Mahatat: One of the most photographed ruins.

Walking into the historical park is mind-blowing. They are ruins, yes. But they are so monumental that your brain will automatically fill in the missing gaps. You can almost imagine the glory of Ayutthaya as it was in its prime. This was the capital of Thailand until the 18th century until it moved to Bangkok because of Burmese invasion. 

Here are some photos of my favourite temples.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet Ayutthaya Historical Park
Wat Phra Si Sanphet
Wat Phra Si Sanphet Ayutthaya Historical Park 2
Wat Phra Si Sanphet
Wat Lokayasutharam Ayutthaya Historical Park
Wat Lokayasutharam: Nothing can prepare you for the sheer size of this masterpiece.
Ayutthaya Traffic Jam
Ayutthaya’s version of a traffic jam.

The historical park is home to a myriad of temples, each with its own unique charm so you’ll never get bored. If you’re looking for a change of pace, you can always rent a ride on an elephant. When in Thailand, eh?

The Thirtieth Year

I’ve done it. I’ve managed to reach the grand old age of thirty by failing at every societal standard laid before me – my index finger is ringless, my hair is fashionably grey, my uterus is rotting to the sound of my spinsterhood and I have dared to have a good time nonetheless. Who would’ve thought that being a disgrace would be such an adventure? They should’ve made it less exciting, and catered it to my attraction to procrastination.

My 2016 looked like this:

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Yay! #books #bookstagram #bookworm #goodreads

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1. I managed to read 48 books I can officially claim to have read. There are some I can’t claim to have read on account of threat of jail. Aren’t banned books the best?

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2. I got to hang out with sea-turtles!

3. I got the Broseph to come visit me. We had so much fun, his trip ended with me getting pneumonia (fun times!)

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I just died and went to heaven! #panda

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4. I got to see a Panda LIVE!!!

5. I got to hug my baby niece and spend 2 whole weeks being bullied by her (it was the best feeling in the world!)

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Thailand
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Kerala, India.

5. I got to see 15 new places in Thailand. Not to mention the great towns we got to explore in Kerala, India, over Christmas.

2017 is my 30th year and I intend to go after adventure and happiness with the same (if not slightly more exaggerated) vigour! After all, I read some potty graffiti recently that said “Do more of what you love!”. If that’s not a sign, then I don’t know what is.

Happy 2017 all! Let’s make this one count!

Ko Samet, Rayong

We had our first visitor this month, my broseph’s girlfriend. It gave me a chance to be my obsessive-compulsive self about hosting. I’ve also always loved showing people around – watching their awestruck faces. There aren’t enough words to describe just how much I love it. My ideal job would be to own a bed and breakfast, a cafe with a library and a tour company that will prepare your itinerary for you and then show you around all the good sights. While I’m waiting for that dream to become a reality, I had the chance to visit my first island in Thailand.

Thaisland?

Okay, Okay. I’ll stop.

The island we visited is called Koh Samed. There is surprisingly little information about how easy it is to get there. So I decided to note these things down on the off chance that it will help someone. First thing to do is go to BTS Ekkamai and the Easter Bus Terminal which is 2 minutes away from the station. Then take your pick of the myriad of bus options available. We picked the 293baht return journey. What you get is a 2 way open ticket that’s valid for a year. A YEAR!

Anyway, they tell you which stand to go to. The bus leaves exactly on time and since there are seat numbers allotted, you don’t need to fight over the good seats. This, you have to understand, is new to an Indian person such as myself. We will push people down if we have to – anything for a good seat. The bus ticket wins you a free bottle of water (YAY!) but it is a 4 hour drive to the pier so bring plenty of snacks.

Once you are at the pier, you will need to buy a ferry ticket to Ko Samet. If you have a work permit, you pay the Thai price for the tickets (50 Baht). If not, you pay the farang price (100 Baht) which is all normal (we have this sort of disproportionate costs in India as well). 40 minutes later, you are on the island. You could also opt for the speed boat option (200 Baht) but you are there in 10 minutes. Personally, I prefer taking the ferry. I enjoy being out at sea. I enjoy the sight of the beaches coming closer and closer. There’s something so thrilling about it.

While in Samed, you can get an AC Dorm for about 250 baht. There are also fancy sea side beaches for a more romantic/private setting. And now, to let the photos do the talking for me – 😀

Ban Phe Pier
Ban Phe Pier
Nan Dan Pier, Ko Samet
Nan Dan Pier, Ko Samet
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Views from the Samet Pier
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Beach Side Dining at Sai Kaew Beach, Ko Samet
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Secluded Beach at Ko Samet National Park
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Another view of the secret National Park Beach
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Panorama shot from abandoned national park pier
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Sai Kaew Beach, Ko Samet
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Ko Samet National Park Beach
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Sai Kaew Beach, Ko Samet
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The Mermaid of Ko Samet. Beats the scary one that greeted us at the pier!
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A reflection of me just chilling out on the beach! Check out my ‘on point’ eyebrows!

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I still can’t get over the fact that what most people consider a honeymoon destination is just a weekend’s trip for me. Gotta love life!

Budget Travel – Parks

I went from travelling to England at Rs. 80 to a Pound in 2013 and Rs. 105 to a pound in 2015 so you can imagine just how quickly my savings wiped out and just why currency rates are so important to me. I am not high maintenance and I went to Tanzania with $1000 and made it work for a year (I didn’t earn a single buck when I was there). Luckily for me, I earn quite the good wage now so I’m no longer worried about the Rupee vs the World. However, till the boy gets his first pay-check, we’re living off 1 wage and this causes similar budget constraints that feel way too familiar for me.

Instead of letting that ruin our weekend fun, I remembered a trick I picked up while in the land they call Great. The sheer delight of lying in parks and doing nothing, it’s under-rated. I never realised the value of parks, having so few of them in Bangalore within easy reach. It took me the shock of seeing  shirtless old men (they come out in hoardes when the sun is out) to realise the joy of having grass under your feet. The only difference between them and me, apart from the obvious reasons, was that I enjoyed sitting under the shade of the tree while they basked proudly under the sun.

Here, everyone was in the shade so I didn’t feel like a total weirdo. A couple of cold drinks and we were set for a nice, relaxing evening in the park. And rather than wax on about how peaceful it was and how the breeze just blew the right away, I will let these photos do the talking. After the park, we went to the water garden at Em Quartier (the poshest mall in the world!). We had spectacular views of the Bangkok Skyline as well. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Benchasiri Park of Bangkok (Directions: Get off at the Phrom Phong BTS station et voila!) and The Water Garden at Em Quartier (Directions: Right opposite the park) Budget – 35 Baht for two drinks.

P.S. There are turtles and moustachioed fish in the murky water. They, apparently, like bread and corn puffs.

Turtles in Benchasiri Park, Bangkok
See? Turtles
Benchasiri Park Bangkok
The aforementioned park
Em Quartier
A giant dog terrorizing puny humans! (Art Installation at Em Quartier)
Em Quartier Bangkok
Sheep Seats (Art Installation at Em Quartier)
Em Quartier Bangkok
Side profile of Giant Dog 🙂
Em Quartier Bangkol
Inside the World’s Poshest Mall, Em Quartier!
Benchasiri Park, Bangkok
Benchasiri Park and the view of Em Quartier from the park!
Water Garden, Em Quartier
View of the Park from Em Quartier
Bangkok BTS
Bangkok Skyline and BTS
Em Quartier
The Water Garden
Bangkok
Bangkok Skyline
Em Quartier
Art Installation at Em Quartier
Benchasiri Park
Selfie Time!

We spent the rest of the evening in the pool – which, if you’re renting a condo in Bangkok is part of the deal = FREE! YAY! Hope you’ve had a great weekend as well!