Feb 23, 2005

Day 5: Ayutthaya

Up at 8 today, a quick yogurt breakfast, then checkout. The woman we pay for the room gives our $20 bills a thorough inspection, holding them up to the light, rubbing them on the guestbook, flipping them over and back over again. Must have trouble with counterfeit dollars in this area.

We catch our first and only tuk-tuk (kind of) for a ride to the airport. The guesthouse told us it should cost $3, but this guy wants $4 because of the toll for entering airport property. Halfway out of town, his cell phone rings and he decelerates just a bit for the call. Shortly he stops before another tuk-tuk - apparently the caller - and we're told the other guy will take us to the airport. The vehicle switch takes place without any cash changing hands, and the second guy tuk-tuks us to the airport door for $3. Alls well that ends well.

Returning to Thailand feels like a homecoming. There is a distinct lack of... desperation... in the Thai people that we only notice after experiencing Cambodia.

Rather than heading back to Bangkok, as was our original plan, we instead proceed straight to Ayutthaya, the capital of Thailand from 1350 to 1767. Fifty minutes in a 3rd class rapid train, one ferry ride across the Pa Sak river, and we're competing with other hot-footin' backpack-toters for what rooms remain before the guesthouses fill up. We found a decent spot called "Tony's Place" that boasted just two vacant rooms, and a quick look at the crowd approaching from behind convinced us to snatch one up.

Our timing was lucky. As we crossed the street to rent bicycles and see a few temples before sundown, we overheard a couple of latecomers being turned away.

First stop, Wat Ratchaburana (site with some background and images). Second pic below is a view from the west of the main prang (Khmer-style tower), and the third pic is one of the two chedis taken from the prang. The first pic is a truck that miraculously made its way past Wat Ratchaburana. (Why does this, too, remind me of Mexico?)

Next, with just a bit of golden daylight remaining, we moved on to Wat Mahathat (site again, and fourth and last pics above), home of Ayutthaya's most-photographed scene - a tree root-encased disembodied Buddha head. In contrast to the stone temples of Angkor and the more modern and lavish temple architecture in Bangkok, Ayutthaya's Wats were largely brick coated with white plaster. The vending outside the temples is also much thinner and less aggressive than at Angkor.

Dinner tonight consisted of green curry, skewered meats, and an unidentified but spicydelicious dish at a popular open-air market in a Thai part of town. Fresh fruit and juices round off the meal before we bike back to Tony's Place. Rie's still not feeling well, so she heads to bed early while I finish my beer on the patio. At both ends of each patio table is a mosquito coil balanced on an empty beer bottle. Any season is mosquito season.


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