Feb 24, 2005

Day 6: Ayutthaya/Bangkok

My trip notes end here for some reason, so accounts of the next few days might get a bit sketchy.

Our plan for this morning was to get up at a reasonable time, polish off a load of laundry, and see a few more temple sites before catching an early afternoon train back to Bangkok, where we'll spend our last few nights in Thailand. Laundry, however, took until 10:30 to dry. In the meantime, Rie read up on malaria and began to grow concerned that her continuing headache and general feeling of ill health might be due to a mosquito bite. February is supposedly not the season for malaria, and we haven't been to any regions where it's endemic. But the headache persists and she says she feels feverish.

We finally depart Tony's Place at around 11am, and bike straight for Phra Mongkonbophit (first two pics below), one of Thailand's largest Buddha statues coated in gold leaf, and the Wat that houses it. Right next door is Wat Phra Si Sanphet (third pic below, pics and background), site of the royal palace through the reigns of the first several Ayutthaya kings, and the largest wat in town back in the day. Phra Si Sanphet is best known for its three classical Ayutthaya-style chedis which survived the 1767 Burmese sacking of Ayutthaya (unlike the 16-meter-high gold-covered Buddha statue formerly on the compound).

From there we biked westward to Wat Lokayasutharam to see the reclining Buddha in pics four and five below. The Wat itself is largely rubble, and the main attraction seemed to be applying postage stamp-sized pieces of gold leaf to the statue's right arm or feet. The Buddha is resting his head on lotus flowers.

Since it was already after 2 in the afternoon and we were running behind schedule, our Ayutthaya sightseeing stopped there. We returned our bikes, ferried back across the river, and caught another 3rd class train to Bangkok. This time we passed on the taxi offers and instead found a bus (non-A/C) that would run through the Banglamphu area, where we would find a guesthouse to spend next two nights. The 53 bus ended up taking a circuitous path from the train station, winding around and zigzagging through Chinatown's flower market (sixth pic above of lotus vendors) and Indian clothier district before finally following the river north to Banglamphu.

Just a five minute walk from the bus stop was a neighborhood densely packed with guesthouses and other farang-oriented facilities. We found a basic room with fan - basic meaning a bed, four walls, and a ceiling - and then roamed back down along the river looking for a bite to eat. On the way we spotted a park teeming with some sort of group activity. Public aerobidance or jazzercise or what have you. Literally hundreds of people dancercising just off the river promenade, and the observers probably outnumbered the participants. What a great idea! Exercise as an organized, public, and social activity. Since there was no practical way they could charge the participants, I'm guessing this is provided as a service to promote good public health.

After a decent but kinda overpriced dinner we explored the neighborhood's shops for a bit before heading back to our room. Rie's still not feeling well, and the defective rooster crowing us to sleep from the rooftop across the street is no help.


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