Back in Bangkok for a few days to meet up with Sam's 'friend' Tim and his brother Simon. Given that last time we avoided all things cultural in BKK and became solid stalwarts of the notion that we should NEVER leave the Khao San Road, we decided to be not quite so narrow minded this time! Yesterday we checked out the Royal Palace (photos to follow) which was temple galore, the highlight of which was the Emerald Buddha.....which is actually made of jade....but nonetheless very beautiful shrouded in golden attire (apparently he has a dress for each season). Went to Chinatown for dinner last night for some rather interesting cuisine including shark's fin. It has once again cemented my certain distaste for Chinese food - back on green curry today!
Today I went (toute seule, sob sob) to Ayutthaya, the former Capital of Thailand between c.1400-1700. The others went to Kanchanaburi AKA bridge on the river kwai place, but I did that day trip last year so didnt follow. For the historians of you out there, Thailand had 4 different historical stages, each marked by a different Capital. The first was Sukothai (in the north but which also happens to be a rather nice hotel in Bangkok which is way out of my price range), Ayutthaya (the destination of today's trip), Thonburi (for a very brief period) and for the last 300yrs or so, it has of course been Bangkok.
Ayutthaya itself is a mass of temple ruins, but one can well imagine its former greatness. Most of the temples were severely damaged when the Burmese defeated the King. Highlights included the photo shown on this page - the head of a buddha where the tree has grown around it. There were also several sizeable reclining buddhas - see photos.
After lunch we visited the Royal palace where I ended up being driven round in a golf buggy by the 2 Koreans on the trip!
Having resisted the temptation to give into peer pressure, I left my fellow comrades in some boozer on the KSR last night, in favour of getting some sleep and doing something productive on my last day in Bangkok. So today I visited Jim Thompson's house, Thailand's most famous expat who came here after WWII and got involved with the Thai silk industry. His house was rather nice, full of exciting stuff like 11th century Buddhas and suchlike. It's a beautiful place, just by the river with an exotic garden. The house itself is built in Thai style and made out of teak. The afternoon was spent checking out the malls! Another gloomy bus journey awaits to Chiang Mai which promises a stiff neck and no sleep. Joy!