Disclaimer : apologies about the rubbish photos in this post. I cleared my phone before I got a chance to upload the photos so I had to take them off Facebook and some have ended up miniature!!
In Kanchanuburi, the Songkram celebrations were just rounding up, so we got completely soaked whilst we had our lunch and didn’t manage to dry out before our minibus to Ayutthaya arrived. Cue bouncing around in very soggy clothes for a few hours, but thankfully the minivan had air conditioning so it wasn’t too killer.
Our hostel in Ayutthaya was awesome, and full of little quirks, like the fish pond full of koi that were bigger than Penny and Parker.
(The door to our room) can I just stop and say that it’s costing us 7 QUID a night for a double ensuite room. How mental is that?! We were paying 20 quid to stay on a campsite in New Zealand in a tent! Amazing. It seems we’ll make it home before we’re bankrupt after all!
The hostel was in a bizarre location though, on the side of a dual carriageway and quite far out of town. We went for a wander that evening, saw a temple and tried to find a restaurant as we were starving. Eventually we were ushered into a family run job alongside the river. It was stunning but we could barely afford the menu and resorted to counting out coins before we could leave. Slightly awkward because we were the only ones in there and shared some weird watery soup and a bottle of water… Not quite the rich westerners the host had in mind!
We set our alarms for 7am the next day as the travel guide suggested “rising early and cycling around the ruins of Ayutthaya” before it got too hot. Tom had been awake all night, so we didn’t manage to leave the hostel until gone 10am.
We cycled to Wat Chaiwatthanaram (mouthful) a beautiful ruined temple that reminded me instantly of the Jungle Book. It was extra special because there was hardly anyone there. Lovely. Loads of the Buddhas were missing their heads due to a raid by the Burmese in the 1700s. The statues were believed to have gold inside. It’s a shame really, but in a way it just made it more atmospheric.
We’d decided to cycle to the train station to pick up our tickets for travel the following day. On our way we saw a load of elephants waiting to be taken for rides by tourists. Their owners were sleeping on the chairs upon their backs in the building heat. I’ve read quite extensively about the way in which elephants are treated in order to train them to carry humans. It’s completely barbaric. We decided to watch instead, and I enjoyed watching the elephants squirting themselves with water to cool themselves down. They’re truly beautiful awe-inspiring creatures but watching them trudge down the dual carriageway carrying people was really quite depressing.
(Ride bikes not elephants)
It was getting hotter. And hotter. And hotter. We didn’t realise how far the train station was. The roads were terrible. It was around 40 degrees.- I’m not exaggerating. We found ourselves on a fucking Thai motorway at one point where I had a kind of out of body experience and screamed at Tom “If you smile at me again, I’m going to push you under a truck!!!” This is an example of how I was feeling. Somehow we made it to the station.
Tom went inside to get the tickets whilst I stood outside, taking my hat off so I had somewhere to be sick into. I wasn’t sick but I came very close. When Tom came back outside he said “bloody hell you are PURPLE.” And went to get me a Fanta with lots of ice. (Love him) We cooled down a bit, had some lunch, and then I accosted several tuk tuk drivers asking if they’d take us and the bikes back to the hostel. No amount of eyelash batting would work, as they were only doing sight-seeing tours. We had to cycle. It was absolutely horrendous and I think I came close to falling unconscious. At one point I screamed “WHERE THE FUCK IS THIS FUCKING BRIDGE????!!!!”
Anyway. Every hideous experience is an education. Lessons learnt:
1)Do not cycle in 25km in 40 degree heat.
2) If the locals are sat in the shade looking at you like you’ve got two heads, it’s for a reason.
3) When I return home the first thing I will do is find who suggested “a cycle in Ayutthaya” and personally shoot them.
4) If you find a man who doesn’t object to death threats and still loves you when you’re crying and your head is purple, marry him.
The rest of the day was an exhausted delirium.
The following day we got a pimp-my-ride style tuk tuk to the train station. No more cycling for me HO HO HO! We arrived half an hour early, which was good because the train was 45 minutes late… No one seemed to know which train was which. Train guards told us to get on the train and get off the train. Also to walk between the platforms you literally walk on the train track. A bit stressful to say the least. Meanwhile, a clean shaven man with a MOLE BEARD kept walking past. Let me explain, he had a large facial mole and he’d decided to grow out his mole hair so he had a big long tuft of mole hair about twenty centimetres long flapping around his face. Not helping my state of mind….
Finally our train arrived and we were delighted to find it had air conditioning and half an hour in, we were given a meal! Crazy! So different to our first Thai train journey.
We arrived in Phitsanulok – and joy of joys – none of the tuk tuk drivers knew our hostel, despite our showing them the map and offering to direct them, they refused to take us. So we had to walk to the hostel in the lovely 40 degree heat with our bags on. Plus there’s no pavements, weird stray dogs everywhere, and it’s fucking impossible to cross the road. I arrived in a similar state to the previous day. Tom checked us in whilst I lay on my bag on the pavement outside. I have no shame anymore.
After a few hours in our air conditioned bubble, we were hungry and decided to head out to a nearby temple and to grab some food. After a lot of waiting to cross the road, and being chased by a questionable looking dog we found the temple. Outside were a group of Thai girls, all aged around ten. They asked if they could show us around the temple and practice their English. After they assured us it was free, they found a big skirt for me to wear to cover my legs. It was like a big tube. I stepped inside and they kindly fastened it up for me…. Little did I know that this skirt would completely humiliate me in just under an hours time…
(Above we’re learning to fold lotus flowers as an offering to Buddha)
We enjoyed a tour of the temple. The girls encouraged us to join in with the wishes and prayers. We shook sticks out of a pot that corresponded with our numbered fortunes, which was lovely. Afterwards, they led us around the back of the temple, and we picked up two more bewildered Westerners.
(Above the girls are translating our fortunes. Tom was told he’d have a baby girl, and I was told I’d have a boy. One of each it is then!)
We were led outside where we saw a big row of monks sat on chairs, whilst people queued up to be blessed by them. I was hesitant to join in, convinced I’d do something wrong, but the girls insisted. I knew that women had to be careful around monks as we aren’t meant to touch them and should dress modestly. I thought I was all good covered in my scarf and skirt…..
I was handed a bottle of holy water and a small metal cup. I watched the girls ahead of me and followed suit. We had to crouch at the feet of each monk, pouring water into their hands which they would flick onto our heads in blessing.
At one point my knee hit the bench at their feet which was full of bottles of water and vases of flowers. It nearly toppled but I managed to stop it. I sighed a sigh of relief and then stood up. To my horror as I stood, my skirt dropped to my ankles. This was like some ridiculous Bridget Jones moment… A policeman ran up to me and pulled the skirt up whilst I just wanted to DIE. Tom told me afterward that he thought I was going to be arrested! I managed to pull the skirt back up and hold it in place for the rest of the monks. I was literally counting them down so I could escape and hide my red face. It was equally mortifying and hilarious in the end. Tom said that the other policemen were pissing themselves and taking photos.
WHY AM I LIKE THIS?!! Why does it always happen to me!!!!!!!!
We all piled into one of the girls’ dad’s cars. He’d invited us to join the family for dinner. We were taken to a on street restaurant where we were told that the traditional dish of “morning glory” (what?) was sold. Tom and the Canadian girl we were with were made to dress up in some kind of weird hula dress with fake boobs on the front and a sequinned hat. They then had to stand on the opposite side of the road from the restaurant with a big dustbin lid in their hand. The staff then stopped the traffic and the chef came out with a wok full of morning glory and threw it over his shoulder across the street and then Tom caught it in the dustbin lid.
https://www.facebook.com/tom.copley/posts/10154183796910159 (the link is Video evidence for those who have Facebook. If not I’ll show you when I’m home xx)
It was one of the many moments I’ve had travelling when I’ve been thinking “what the fuck is going on???!!!” But just had to laugh and roll with it. And so concluded one of the most mortifying and hilarious days of the trip.