Ayutthaya

The train ride was short and pleasant. Despite what we had been told, the train was on time and delivered us to our destination without any further trouble. Tim left me with the packs at the station while he went about doing the rounds of the nearby hotels. As we were leaving by train, we had decided to find a place close by, instead of bothering to cross the canal back and forth – The town itself is on an island, created by the Siam empire, who dug these all around the walls to defend against its enemies. (Hint: It did not work out for them).

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We found a decent hotel with the bare minimum –  a mattress on the floor and a shared bathroom. At least we had access to electricity, so it was a slight upgrade from our previous place. We settled in, had a quick shower and went back out to explore the surrounding area. An abandoned building nearby was the first thing that caught our attention, being slowly overrun by nature, along with a fast squirrel making its way through the highest piece of wood that might have supported the ceiling once upon a time. We made inquiries on bike hiring in preparation for the next day and surveyed our options for dinner.

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We also decided to walk to the bridge that connects the mainland to Ayuttaya to see how easily we could drive a bicycle through it – the answer was: quite hard. We also found a small temple (surprising, I know) with a beautiful view of the river. We sat on some steps going doing to the water and contemplated the gorgeous view in silence, inmersed in our own thoughts.

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The next day we were up nice and early. We crossed the canal on a ferry that goes back and forth in less than 10 minutes or so, delivering us promptly to the opposite shore. We were immediately greeted by some people trying to rent us bikes (push and motor alike) but we first checked out the vicinity trying to find some breakfast. We looked around for yellow flags and promptly found some. Side note: There was a Buddhist ‘festival’ going on (forgive my ignorance) where monks are not allowed to eat meat for three months, so vendors hang yellow flags from their restaurants and street carts to let everyone know they offer vegetarian food. Quite convenient for us, though the options where not always very tasty looking. This time around, the stall sold battered snack food, so we picked a few of them (having no idea what we were buying as the seller spoke no English whatsoever) and sat on a bus stop to eat. They were quite tasty and exactly what we needed to get going. We went back to the bicycle rentals and started negotiating. I got away  with the price I wanted to pay for two bikes (not exactly feeling like I stroke a hard bargain) and stared at our map with Tim, deciding our route. We soon discovered the piece of paper we were holding was not following any conventional scale nor did it actually encompass all the streets crossing us… It was just designed to give us a vague idea where things were located.

The sun was already shining bright and warming the whole world without truce. The first ruins we approached were possibly the most famous due to the Buddha head poking out through tree roots. We circled the place trying to avoid the tourist groups as best we could to pretend we were alone discovering the debris for the first time.

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Some structured were so bent they make the leaning tower of Piza seem straight, and you can get a glimpse of how majestic and proud this place once was and the amount of fire power it would have taken to reduce it to the pile of bricks it is now. The sight is still overwhelming and wonderful, and we took our time admiring it. As for the head, it seems to have fallen down straight up and enfolded by the roots. It is really hard to gauge, but it certainly has some mystic/holy effect to it that I cannot put in words.

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The next hour was spent cycling around a huge park with multiple lagoons that exists just behind the first complex we visited, where we hurt our bottoms driving through a pretty rough path, with a few other old ruins around to check out. We emerged back into the street to see some people riding elephants on the side of the road. The sited disgusted me, not even knowing very well why – and boy, would I learn why later.

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We came upon a washed out looking temple that held a pretty impressive sitting Buddha statue along with some smaller ones made out of different precious stones – most of which I am unable to identify and came with no helpful translations. There were some others partially covered by gold. For those of you unfamiliar with this practice, you can buy square gold leafs at most temples and stick them on. I do not know the significance well enough to pretend I do, but you are welcomed to ask Google further questions if your curiosity has been picked.

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Right next to this active temple was another big complex in ruins. We started circling the outside walls as we were unwilling to pay for yet another entry fee, and found an alternative way in through the side, next to a ruined portion of the wall. Inside, some of the stupas were white, in contrast with the mostly brick facades on display. I tried to close my eyes and pretend to go back in time to see this place in all its splendor, confronted with the reality once I opened them again. My thoughts went back to the army that created this havoc and find it strange to believe that a place such as this was part of the mayhem, considering they share the same religion and all…

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By that point we had pretty much had seen enough destruction and were ready to move on to the next thing. We decided to visit the opposite shore and the floating market. It was quite a while away, but we enjoyed the ride fully. It was quite exhilarating to gain speed as we came down the bridge on the other side of the island and headed towards our destination. We found a pretty awesome set up: Some genius had built about 10 super hero statues out of car and other mechanical parts. Needless is to say we had a great time trying to mimic their facial expressions and taking pictures.

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There was also a few pretty unconventional religious shrines of different sorts, along with some life sized animals. We saw no tourists on this part of town, and all the information was in Thai so we had no idea what this exposition was all about. That did not prevent us from enjoying ourselves thoroughly in this surreal place.

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After roaming around for a while, we found the floating market, but it was quite empty. It was cool regardless, but not the big bustling place we were expecting. Finding no vegetarian food there, we opted for some well deserved home made ice cream. The owner had a bunch of kittens in his house, so we spent a while longer than required sitting there, resting and enjoying the peace.

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The time came to turn around and start heading back. We thought to visit one last landmark before going back, so we made sure our route included the old fort. As with everything else in town, the once impressive construction was but a shadow of its former glory, but a cool sight nonetheless. Just before crossing the canal back to our accommodation, we spotted a yellow flag and had some noodle soup topped with fake meat – The Thai are pretty good at making soy based anything…

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That night we decided to celebrate… Something. With that in mind, we purchased a bottle of local rum and a coke. Considering we barely drank a sip since we left NZ, I got drunk out of my brain. We watched Tangled and I laughed like an idiot, followed by stumbling down the street and laughing at the universe. Good times!

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