Catching up and on to Ayutthaya (in the form of a novel)
So, we've heard some complaints (in the form of concern) regarding our lack of updates to the blog. So here it is...
I got a membership to a Thai Video Rental store and we have rented... at least 13 movies. Jocelyn's been sick and we've opted to stick closer to the hotel over the last several days with the exception of one excursion to Siam (shopping district) and today when we went on a more normal outing (for us travelers). Before I get to Ayutthaya I'll fill you in on the last couple of days. Jocelyn wants me to be sure that I let you know some of the small details, and let's face, sometimes those are what make the stories interesting!
So as I mentioned, I got a video rental membership here in Bangkok. Now, this was due to the fact that there were some videos here at the hostel (approximately five) and not one of them is what I'd say is worthy of us watching repeatedly. Given that Jocelyn has felt ill ever since our arrival to Bangkok that hasn't exactly left the greatest impression on her. We also learned very quickly that we're much further outside the main city center than she'd realized. That's not a big deal and we've found the majority of people to either be friendly or indifferent. I'm good with whichever case as long as there isn't any rudeness. This seems to be the case in just about every situation except when you are trying to catch the "bus" after getting off the metro.
Jocelyn decided that she'd been cooped up too long and needed to get out. I opted to err on the side of caution and rather than catch a "bus" (I'll get to that in a couple of minutes) to go to the metro, to catch a second metro, to then catch a water taxi and then follow other tourists until we found the Imperial Palace and some of the other temples, I suggested Siam. Siam (pronounced- "See-yom") is the primary shopping district and houses a mall the size of a city block. I've never been but I understand there is a somewhat similar structure in London where you can buy everything from kitchen appliances, books to houses. It is much the same at Siam Paragon Shopping Mall though I never saw anything that indicates they sell homes. This mall includes a 4D theater (currently showing Hansel & Gretel and The Hobbit) and a massive aquarium that you can apparently snorkel in. We did not partake in any of these activities and instead walked around for a little while before locating something to eat. The heat had gotten to Jocelyn but with an oreo milkshake she was feeling better for a moment. After we left we went wandering outside the mall to a local shopping market. This was not a tourist shopping market but rather just additional stores with clothes and knicknacks on the cheap. This is when we met our lovely friend- Name unknown.
This little lady of 4'10" stopped us to ask if we knew where we were going. At first I thought she just wanted to practice her English (something I've come to notice is especially common in children around the age of 12 and under) but then after chatting and hearing that we'd been to Chiang Mai asked if there was something we were looking for. We kept it simple and said we were looking for souveniers but nothing in particular. Of course, she asked us about silk. And of course, she works at a silk factor. So she tells us she knows just where we need to go and shuffles us to a tuk-tuk and tells the driver that he's to charge 60 Baht to take us to a silk factory and then this tourist gift shop that she knows of. Now, if Jocelyn and I had asked for a ride somewhere the price would have been at least double so we look at this as a positive.
Off we go to the "factory" which we discover is most definitely not a factory but a tailors. For 15 minutes Jocelyn humors them slightly because there actually is a suit that she saw and would love to have made. She talks with them at length but is fully aware she'll most likely walk about without purchasing anything. The prices that they offered her was actually not bad. Not good enough for her to make the leap but still good offers. Note to those of you who come-- say you're a student and in a lot of cases they'll give you a discount!
So off we went to the tourist shop which turned out to be a jewelers with a little shop attached. Not exactly what we were looking for and I'll admit, we haven't found anything just yet that actually fits the bill. In all likelihood, we'd be best to go to the Night Bazaar as we did in Chiang Mai. I'm just not interested in going out alone and Joce and I have agreed that it's not really necessary unless the other wants to.
So then it's time to head home so we hop on the metro. It's getting close to the end of the workday so we're crossing our fingers to get out before too many people. Unfortunately, do to an error on my part we went past our stop so we had to go backwards. This is where I get to explain the "bus" comments. After getting off the metro/skytram we go to the bottom of the stairs to catch a bus. Now they have standard buses and then they have a pickup truck with a covering over the back and benches to hold up to 10 people in the back. This is also called a bus. You're supposed to waive it down like a taxi and off you go until you need to get off at which point you ring a bell. Six baht and you're outta there. Sounds easy until you turn to realize that you've got 20 Thai people standing around you who rush the bus as soon as it pulls up. Four bouts of this and Jocelyn and I succumbed to the many temptations rolling past and hailed a taxi. We probably beat the bus home!
And now it's time for me to tell you about Ayutthaya (pronounced- "Eye-You-Tee-Yah"). This was the one place that I wanted to go in Thailand based off of a couple of pictures that Jocelyn showed me months ago. Now, I was picturing a field of stone Buddhas. Nothing of the sort- but so much cooler. Ayutthaya is a small city that has been built up around ruins ranging from the Chinese, Burmese, Thai and Ottoman Empires. Relics from hundreds of years litter the city and you can't turn without seeing another temple. This also happens to be where there is a famous Buddha stone structure that was discovered in the trunk of a tree. I'd love to show you but currently the website is not cooperating with me so until I can get it uploaded I'll just have to try and do my best with this.
We started off when our cab driver (he was ours for the day for a whopping $45-- picked us up at 9 and dropped us off at 5:45pm... the man got $65), took us to the Summer Palace. The gardens were lush and beautiful and the place was swarming with students of all ages and tourists. Apparently, Fridays are the day for field trips. We wandered the gardens, took photos of the elephant topiaries and marveled at the many different types of structures. Some where built in the style you'd expect, ornate, full of rich greens and golds, while others looked more like you were approaching the Glass Menagerie at Disney World. Yep, I said it. There was even a Chinese Pagoda! It was separated by ponds and bridges and perfectly manicured lawns. It was all quite stunning.
Our next stop was at a temple that looks similar to the one that was used in Mortal Kombat (for those who want to have a moment of geeking out). For the record, this was NOT the temple in that film. That is in Cambodia... sadly. Yes. I checked.
So, one thing you'll learn is that all temples are called "Wat" followed by the name. They're amazing to view and words can't describe. Walking around you can see how time has changed these temples and yet there is so much being done in attempts to restore. What's even better, you can walk amongst the ruins and in some cases even climb their steps. I can't count the number of people that just ran up the steps of a temple that looked like if you breathed on it wrong it'd crumble and yet, there they stood. The first stop, Jocelyn and I walked around together and couldn't stop snapping photos. There was a lounging buddha wrapped in gold that many stopped and prayed to. Then we went around the corner to approach the main temple and found that it was the center of a square that was ligned with Buddhas. The photo used for this entry is a picture of these.
After walking around here, we hopped back in to go to the next stop which was what our driver called a park. This "park" consisted of many ruins from all sorts of time periods. It was a little confusing and I was trying to rush through a little because by this time, Jocelyn was back to feeling under the weather. It was pretty hot (upper 90s) so I'm sure you can imagine why. So I wandered and got some photos (more to be uploaded if I can get the site to cooperate) and then went in search of Jocelyn. Apparently I missed her by about 30 seconds. As she wasn't where I left her i assumed she went in search of goods at the little souvenier market off to the side. This was not a little market I quickly learned but rather a maze of stands covered in tent tops. This little market caused me to get lost, literally, for 45 minutes. I kept going around another corner hoping to find a "You are here" map to no avail. When I finally did escape, I found Jocelyn and we headed back to the car.
It was around here that I asked our driver if he would be taking us to see the one thing that I'd been waiting for. At Wat Mahathat, you'll find the face of the Buddha that was discovered in the trunk of a tree that I mentioned. I hope to figure out this computer issue soon so I can show you. Trust me, it's amazing. So our driver (Mr. Kanin- yes, I did make sure I knew his name) went to find out where we needed to go. It took a little while but he got us there. Jocelyn waited in the car and I ran around taking photos as quickly as possible and stood for a couple minutes to marvel. It was worth every minute of this trip for me to see it. It's just beautiful- plain and simple.
Finally, to the one thing that Jocelyn wanted to do: The Floating Market.
As it happens, we arrived just in time for a thunderstorm. So no one was floating and the little market itself was set up like a funland for kids. There were tigers that look like they'd seen better days and elephants that looked like they'd rather be anywhere else but where they were. I teared up looking at the one because she shuffled aimlessly and looked incredibly sad. Nothing like Masumai back up north. It broke my heart to see them like that.
We grabbed some fried rice real quick (as it happens it was the best thing I've even in Bangkok so far) and then took off. Now, I'll leave you with this final interesting factoid: Getting gas in Bangkok is an event in and of itself. We waited in line for an hour... An HOUR!! It was amazing! I took a nap in the car!! I woke up and we were still in line. It was seriously the most bizarre thing I've ever come across on this trip so far.
And so ends our day here in Bangkok and officially catches you up on our whereabouts. We came back, relaxed and watched two more movies (so I can return them tomorrow) and here I sit now telling you all about it.
If Jocelyn's up for being out for a while, which I believe she is, the plan is to go to the train market. We'll have to figure out the time because we've gotten conflicting information. Some say evening while others say it's an all-day sort of thing. I'd also like to go to the Imperial Palace but could possibly push that off for another day. Tomorrow will be our final night in Bangkok but our flight isn't until 11pm to Seoul. My plan is to sleep on the plane for a couple of hours and then wait until the next flight to get some more zzz's. The closer I am to everyone's timezone upon return, the better it is for everyone!!!
So, I'll likely have at least one more update for you all. I hope you enjoyed this and that you're sufficiently satisfied with the information I've given you.
We are alive. We are well (minus a little bit of nausea here and there). We are enjoying ourselves and we ARE looking forward to coming home.
Miss you all and we'll be in touch soon!