This blog entry should have been up a lot time ago, haha. During our trip to Bangkok two years ago, a tour of the ancient city of Ayutthaya was initiated by Rachel’s persistence and insistence that we should venture out of the city area and explore Greater Bangkok.
So on Friday morning, (thankfully it was not raining), four of us (Rachel’s aunt, grandmother, herself and me) piled into a hot pink cab and set off for Hump-Along – oops I mean, Hualamphong Railway Station.
Cabs are plentiful in urban Bangkok, and the fare is about the same as four adults taking the local MRT, so we actually save money instead when we travel by cab.
Upon alighting, we see a booth emblazoned with the English words “Tourist Information Centre” and gratefully proceed to ask for English instructions on catching a train to Ayutthaya.
The two ladies there are conversant in English – a huge relief as the lingua franca in Thailand is Thai and we tend to shun any touristy places that catered to ang mohs. We had plenty of trouble communicating with hotel staff as it was, and to complicate matters, Thai has a numeral system and locally it is used as widely as Arabic numerals.
I wonder how much education these ladies received in order to have attained their fluency in English. I can totally imagine a thought bubble rise in the air as one of them flipped out a train timetable to stop Rachel from badgering her:
“I didn’t go to university to tell pesky tourists how to take a train to Ayutthaya.”
Fortunately, the times on the timetable are written in Arabic numerals. All of the station names, however, save those popular with tourists, like Ayutthaya, were written in Thai.
A friendly station guide was there to help us with the timetable and explained which train we should board. The 11.20am train would take us to the ancient city of Ayutthaya by 1.04pm.
We bought four normal class tickets, each costing only 60 baht (S$3).
The vast train station thronged with people waiting for their trains. Despite the high human traffic, the station, including its toilets, are very clean. Cleaner than Singapore’s shopping centre toilets and Malaysia’s legendary Yong Peng toilets combined.
Our helpful station guides are just hovering nearby to help. Our train will arrive at Platform 7.
There’s a giant LCD screen playing Thai music videos to keep us entertained while waiting for the train. I reckon the Thai singers are very attractive, with distinctive Pan-Asian look that appeals to both Asians and ang mohs alike.
A horde of backpackers trundle by, all carrying 15-20ltr backpacks. I won’t be surprise if you manage to find a chopped up human body hiding inside one of these giant backpacks.
Rachel’s grandmother delights in finding something that would busy her for some part of the journey: fresh pomelo. The little old lady is harder to keep track of than Where’s Wally and is barely interested in almost anything, but when she does slow down to pay attention to something, she’s in this pose – hands folded behind her, back slightly hunched, standing to an angle and peering over her nose.
The pomelo is the red-fleshed variety! Very sweet and yummy! You have to salute the old folks, they still know it best when it comes to picking the best fruits.
Bangkok’s trains are not just on time – they arrive early to wait for passengers too. There’s even enough time for pesky tourists like us to pose for cheesy photos like the one above.
On our way back it’s harder to find seats for all to sit together as it is burdened with evening peak hour commuters. These children were sitting beside us, looking out of the window at a man changing the red flag to green.
We finally reached our station after a few hours. Modern day Ayutthaya looks very sleepy and the place was infested with tourist touts, capitalising on the city’s past glories for tourism dollars. We decided to rent a tuk tuk to travel around as it was cheaper than a cab. There didn’t seem to be other mode of cheaper public transportation around.
Following that, it was ancient ruins after ancient ruins; Buddhist temples after Buddhist temples. I will let the photos speak for themselves. What I got from the trip: Ayutthaya used to be one of the most powerful kingdom in the world and that the kingdom’s rulers follow Theravada Buddhism, a religion still dominant in today’s Thailand.
That’s it. Pardon the rather chaotic rambling and the photos which are not entirely in chronological order. The trip was really too long ago lah. In any case, our verdict on Ayutthaya is that it’s one of those touristy attractions that you will probably visit only once. Not that the city’s history and heritage are not interesting, rather, there’s only that many Buddha temples and ancient ruins you can visit it before they all starts to look the same (unless if you are an archeologist or historian of course).
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