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?

Koh Sichang

A lot of people warned us against going to this island as there was nothing to see or do. It is a quick day-trip for locals to spend the day at a beach without it hurting the bank and without it being a free show of the dreadful farang infestion (their words, not mine!). However, Koh Sichang blew our minds. 

Yes, it is a small fisherman’s village and in that lies all the magic. It is small, tight knit and laid back. And while there is development in terms of restaurants and roads, it still is a place stuck in a magical time bubble. It is beautiful. 

Only 100kms from Bangkok aka 2 hours by an air-conditioned bus from the Ekkamai bus station and a 40 minute ferry and you are far, far, FAR away from the madding crowd. Pure bliss. 

The ferry is at the Sri Racha pier, the name sounds familiar cause they are also a hot sauce we all love (there is a chilli factory in town that we didn’t, unfortuntaley, get to explore). You get off the bus at Robinson’s – you’ll know when half the passengers get off here. A short 50 baht tuk tuk ride away and you’re at a park that also acts as a pier. 

Depending on what time of day you come, you get to climb up or down to a boat. It’s quite adventurous navigating the tide. 

And then you reach Koh Sichang. While I can wax ad nauseum about how amazing it was, I’ll let the pictures do the talking. If I am guilty of not taking to Thailand the way most people do, I am slowly changing my ways. 

Koh Sichang (3)
First view of the island – an unused lighthouse (Unseen, billions of trade ships and barges)
Koh Sichang (2)
Shrimp boats aka the chariot that makes divine seafood grills a reality
Koh Sichang (4)
Unique ‘tuk tuks’ that are half way between a bike and an auto.
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A birds eye view of Koh Sichang
The Yellow Buddha, guardian of Koh Sichang
The Yellow Buddha, guardian of Koh Sichang
Koh Sichang (22)
The amazing views he gets to enjoy everyday
Koh Sichang (24)
My noble steed. Allowed us to explore the island from end to end twice over
A 1000 year old tree brought to the island from Bodghaya in India.
A 1000 year old tree brought to the island from Bodghaya in India.
View from the old chinese temple at the top of Koh Sichang
View from the old chinese temple at the top of Koh Sichang
You can see the end of the island from this point in Koh Sichang
You can see the end of the island from this point in Koh Sichang
A shrine to Queen Elizabeth?
A shrine to Queen Elizabeth?
And another to Septa Unella from Game of Thrones? #SHAME
And another to Septa Unella from Game of Thrones? #SHAME
Wishes hanging from the cave inside the old Chinese Temple
Wishes hanging from the cave inside the old Chinese Temple
Guardian of the wishes at the old Chinese Temple at Koh Sichang
Guardian of the wishes at the old Chinese Temple at Koh Sichang
LOW TIDE!
LOW TIDE!
Views of the 'only' beach in Koh Sichang.
Views of the ‘only’ beach in Koh Sichang.
Koh Sichang (29)
Some private beaches that require a bit of effort to find
Some paths begging to be explored
Some paths begging to be explored

Koh Sichang (19)

You are rewarded with spectacular views if you trek a bit
You are rewarded with spectacular views if you trek a bit through the volcanic terrain
Someone's been stacking rocks. A bit scary!
Someone’s been stacking rocks. A bit scary!
Another relic from India - Buddha's Footprint
Another relic from India – Buddha’s Footprint
Some private beaches that require a bit of effort to find
Another beach
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If you can capture a moment of zen in a picture, this would be it

Hua Hin, Thailand

I turn 30 at the end of this year. I have been waiting for this moment since I was 14 and have always had at the back of my head that I would do something spectacular. Teenage me had dreams about quitting my adult job and life, showing a big middle finger to society and disappearing somewhere more exotic than India. Teenage me didn’t really know much about adult responsibilities and this evil thing called money.

However, teenage me is the reason I have quit many jobs and showed the middle finger to the world and gone somewhere more exotic than India. Adult me realised that in between two foreign escapes, there has to be at least one corporate stint. Someone has to replenish the treasure chest after all. But 30 will soon be here and in a bid to do something different/grand, I decided I indulge my itchy feet hopefully in a way that doesn’t break the bank. And instead of doing one long backpacking trip (don’t worry, that plan hasn’t been called off just yet), I will travel every now and then to add up to a grand 30th year.

I am not running around like a headless chicken though. I have a plan. I want to see 30 new places before my 30th – even if it means an area of Bangkok I haven’t yet visited. I also intend to document it here so that I can look back on it and say ‘Wow, I actually did those things!’. See, in many ways, I am still teenage me.

First trip on the list was to a coastal town in Thailand called Hua Hin. I found out that my Japanese retiree of a neighbour moved from Japan to Hua Hin because it has a reputation of being a resort city – complete with healing sea air, warm beaches and rainbow coloured cocktails with parasols on them. So far, we’ve seen virgin islands, scandalous party towns and a metropolitan, sky-scraper filled locations. Hua Hin had a completely different vibe.

We had an extended weekend and most of what we know about the place, we learnt when we were there. We decided to stay at a garden resort some distance from the city and it was a choice we really enjoyed. Hua Hin has a very laid back atmosphere and all around us we could see big houses and older people. We found out that it was converted from being a quiet fishing village to a relaxing seaside resort thanks to the patronage of the Thai royal family who used Hua Hin as a getaway from Bangkok. The current king of Thailand lives there now and I can see why.

When your introduction runs to 500 words, you know it’s time to turn to pictures and let them do the talking! 🙂 Having quickly found out that taxis were a rip off, we decided to hire a bike and went exploring.

Hua Hin
Welcome to Hua Hin
Garden Resort
Our accommodation – a garden resort!
Pool at Garden Resort
The inviting pool at the Garden Resort (aka, sun bathing and deck chair reading station)
Hua Hin Beach
Hua Hin Beach. Word to the wise, it is a long beautiful walkable beach. We decided to walk all the way to Cicada Night Market. However, after dark, there are no lights. You have to rely on the moon and stars (we got lucky). Also, the beach is riddled with Jelly Fish blobs. We careful if you choose to do what we did.
Cicada Night Market
Cicada Night Market – There was a free jazz concert on the occasion of the King’s Birthday.
Performance at Floating Market Hua Hin
Performance at Floating Market Hua Hin
Hua Hin Floating Market (2)
Hua Hin Floating Market
Goats at Floating Market
I ain’t afraid of no goats (at the floating market!)
Fish and Geese at Hua Hin Floating Market
Some friendly (aka scary) Geese and koi at the Hua Hin Floating Market
Hua Hin Postboxes
Old fashioned letter boxes at Hua Hin Floating Markets. They are still functional.
Huay Mongol Temple
After a long and scary ride down the highway, we reached the impressive Huay Mongol Temple. Absolutely magnificent and a bit terrifying.
Gold Leaf Offerings at Huay Mongol Temple
We observed an interesting ritual. People purchased gold leaves. Made a wish and then pasted it on the statue.
Huay Mongol Temple Sign
Funny sign at the Huay Mongol Temple
Huay Mongkol Temple
At the exit of the Huay Mongkol Temple

Baan Sillapin Artists Village

On the way back, found an interesting Artists Village with working artists. It was such a peaceful place.

Hut at Baan Sillapin Artists Village
One of the huts at the Baan Sillapin Artists Village
Sculpture at Baan Sillapin Artists Village
My favourite sculpture at the Baan Sillapin Artists Village in Hua Hin
Hiking at Hua Hin
We also saw a little hill that we climbed without really knowing where we were going. There was an arrow pointed down this trail saying ‘View Point’. We had to explore.
Hua Hin Views (4)
Our first view at the view point.
Hua Hin Views (5)
When we reached the top, we saw we weren’t alone. Someone was already there enjoying the view. She made a light call when she saw us.
Hua Hin Views (3)
We had some return chatter from the woods on the left. Within 5 minutes, the hill was full of monkeys from different tribes. We were terrified and exhilarated at the same time. Since there was no obvious escape route, we made like trees, put our phones away and enjoyed the views. Woods on one side, city and sea on the other!
Hua Hin Views (1)
The city and sea views. You’ll be happy to hear we made it back alive. Only to find out that you can buy a bucket of food for the monkeys and feed them. We also found out that there were 7 more view points which included ledges on top of a cliff. We visited all of them.
Hua Hin Railway Station (2)
The old Hua Hin Railway Station is truly a must-visit . It is the same as it has been since it was first erected.
Hua Hin Railway Station (3)
The ticket booth at the Hua Hin Railway Station
Hua Hin Railway Station (5)
A model train at the Hua Hin Railway Station
Hua Hin Railway Station (1)
The waiting room at the Hua Hin Railway Station
Hua Hin Railway Station (4)
You can only travel two ways on this track
Khao Takiab Beach
Our last night on the Khao Takiab Beach at Hua Hin. That hill you see is called Monkey Hill by the locals.


And it’s only 2.5 hours away on a bus!

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!