something old, something new

Date: 1/18  –   1/24

Location: Bangkok    –   Ayutthaya

Part 2 of the Bangkok series deals with our venture to the central plains of Thailand to play in the ruins of Siam’s old capital, Ayutthaya and then our return to the functioning structure of its new capital in the Grand Palace at Rattanakosin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The un-air-conditioned train north to Ayutthaya took about two hours. It made frequent stops at nowhere towns passing through rice fields and then just fields as far as the eye could see. Not that my eyes could see much, I was asleep for a lot of the ride. Vendors plied the seated passengers, hawking drinks and small packages of food. I woke up a second time when the conductor came by to check everyone’s  tickets. The cost for the two hour ride? 15 Thai baht, equivalent to around 50 cents. God I roff this exchange rate.

From the train-station, you need to take a motorized ferry across the river [for 4 baht = 15 cents] until you reach the island that Ayutthaya was built on. Its ruins are scattered all over, some being over-run by the jungle and others existing side by side with shops and schools. When I went through them, it felt a little like going through the ones at Ostia Antica near Rome. It was a lot of bare brick and open space taken over by grass. There were, of course, more Buddhas here than in Rome, but the feeling was a little bit of the same.

I like how the kids right out of school just hang around the ruins waiting to get picked up. It’s amusing to think of kids being like: “Oh sure, I’m down to play kickball. I’ll meet you by the SIX HUNDRED YEAR OLD RUIN ._.”

Although not quite as grandiose and mystical as the Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Ayutthaya’s ruins had their own sense of lost grandeur. Walking through the ruins was like looking at pictures of the sunken Titanic. There’s some sense of loss at what once was in stark comparison to what now is. Aka we went down a crypt [it was pitch black minus the light from our phones and it smelled really bad and…moist, kind of how I feel crypts should smell] in one of the main towers of a ruin and we found a dead bird and a live cat. It’s a far cry from the elaborate burial urns and murals that must have adorned the walls in centuries past. Ah well, all things must pass, I guess. Including that cat. I feel like by the time we found it, it was about to join it’s little bird friend. Sad life. ;_;

The rest of Ayutthaya was spent walking around in the heat and taking tuk-tuk’s [motorcycle cabs] to various temples. It was dusty and uncomfortable, but definitely worth going to. Oh Thailand, why must you be so humid and nasty all the time?

On a lighter note, here are some monks with electronics. It’s like nuns with skateboards.

~ ~

Visiting the Grand Palace turned out to be a less dusty affair. The sun shone brightly on the glittering spires of the current royal family’s palace. Unfortunately, this meant that it was 10,000,000 times as hot as usual and all of the gold and mirrors everywhere seemed to reflect the heat like one of those aluminum foil solar ovens.

The way Andrea put it, the Grand Palace was built by people who thought “hey, I know how to get everyone not to mess with us! Let’s cover every possible surface with statues and gold and jewels and sequins until we can’t anymore!” That’d show them. The result is impressive. Awe-striking even. But I can’t help but feel that it’s a bit… gaudy? I hate to say this about a cultural treasure, but I feel like that much reflective material and fake looking gems went out with rhinestones and sequins in the 80s. [I am pulling fashion history out of my ass].

I’ll let you judge for yourself.

~ ~

In other news:

– The amount of times that I am mistaken for either Chinese or Thai is increasing. This just means that people tend to yell at me more often in languages I don’t know. Also, they give me pamphlets I can’t read. -_-;;

– My soul weeps for those paler than I am. Being sunburnt here would be miserable.

– I love Thai food but my favorite is Thai CURRY. I swear I had almost every kind while I was in Thailand and each one was both delicious and under 3 dollars. I could cry. Speaking of crying, a lot of my Thai food knowledge came from working at Tim’s Thai [codename Tim’s Cry] in Gainesville. Memorizing the menu and refilling the condiment jars worked wonders when trying to decipher what I was getting in actual Thai restaurants in Thailand. It also helped me to understand the set of condiments at each table because I had to refill them all. the. time. at work. So according to a few guidebooks and random information gleaned somewhere off the internet, the basic flavors of thai cuisine are Sweet, spicy, sour, and… fish-sauce. Hence, the condiments on the table include sugar, pepper flakes, vinegar with peppers in it, and… fish-sauce. Looking at them brought back bad memories of work but then I realized that I didn’t have to restock them or serve anyone and then things were perfect because everything tasted great. Thai food might be my favorite food after mom-food.

Also, I love smoothies. The amount of fresh fruit here is ridiculous. Also, it is all dirt cheap. So for the price of a sixteen ounce Jamba Juice/Power Smoothie/Tropical smoothie drink, I could get maybe 4 good-sized drinks in the fruit mix of my choosing. I don’t know why the fruit is so cheap here, but I definitely am not complaining.

– Khao San Road is where most of the super-cheap hostels are located and is a haven for backpackers from all over the world traveling in South-east Asia. Accordingly, it’s filled with people hawking visas-to-go, cheap souvenir objects, and massages. Not that that’s different from a lot of other places in Bangkok. Also, I noticed that knock-off screenprinted shirts with Threadless designs are super popular here. I bought 3 for the equivalent of ten dollars. I bought even more at the Chatuchak weekend market. Those were a little higher quality so they were more expensive though.

I leave you with this, lol:

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