Ayutthaya: Long Live Siam

My next stop, Ayutthaya, was the former capitol of Thailand between the 1300-1700s and was considered the Paris of the East, highly regarded for its wealth, trade networks, and power.  Siam, as it was known then, had a interesting succession of kings all of whom contributed to building a golden empire.  But, internal conflict and the eventual Siamese-Burma war would bring the city to its knees, leaving it in ruins.

A quick two hour train from Bangkok (cost ~ $.50), Ayutthaya makes a great day trip or an easy overnight stop for an onward journey north. On arrival, tuk tuk drivers abound, most of them pretty aggressively vying for your attention to take you to the ruins.  Tuk tuks here have a fixed rate of 200 THB/hour, which is pretty expensive considering the price in other areas.  The fixed price though, can certainly be negotiated.

I arrived late afternoon and walked to my hotel, the Krungsri River Hotel.  It claims to be the finest hotel in Ayutthaya.  In a city full of guesthouses, the standard is pretty low but the hotel was actually quite nice and the breakfast spread was decent….and free.  After a little meandering and not feeling much like exploring the city at night, I grabbed some food, got an hour long foot massage and headed back to the hotel.

After breakfast, I did a little shopping for some postcards and stamps and spent a little time reading (loving this leisure time!) before heading back to the train station to find a tuk tuk driver for the day.  Trying not to make eye contact, I scouted out some tuk tuk drivers to see who I might want to hire.  After shooing off a few who kept asking bugging me, a nice little guy approached me and asked how I was doing.  That was different.  After some small talk I told him I was looking to hire a driver but wanted to have lunch first.  He jumped into action saying he would wait until I ate and give me a discount for the day.  Seems fair!  He ushered me across the street to his friends place for lunch and after some great fried rice…off we went!

The ruins were quite a sight.  Not quite the Acropolis but definitely interesting….My tuk tuk driver took me alll over the place, so we ended up hitting the main temples and a bunch of temples where the only other person there was a monk or in a few cases just me, an ox and a few roosters.  Though he spoke little English, he was a great driver and he brought his wife along.  Every story started with “Burma….bomb” or “king AYUTTHAYA” enphasis as written.

Seeing the temples was great…but it was HOT! We stopped at his friends place, who just happened to have elephants.  She tried to get me for an hour but I had no interest in riding around in the hot sun on an elephant for that long….so, we decided I would hop on the elephant for fun and head down to the market to grab some fruit.  It is pretty scary being that high up..but I mean, I did ride an elephant to go buy fruit.  Definitely some merit in the experience, lol.

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