Wednesday, 4 March 2015

The Elephants of Ayuthaya

04.03.2015 KRHM well famous last words, this entry is not exactly 'a bit more sooner'...

Oh and before I start! I must share with you my newest life perfection-creator-song: THE BLEACHERS // ROLLERCOASTER <3 ___________ <3 

So. Ayuthaya. Wrote this like six weeks ago...
It was the day I bought milk tablet sweets
 I had wanted to leave Bangkok, and a place called Ayuthaya an hour away sounded promising – the ancient capital which housed thirty-three kings in the Middle Ages, ruined by the Burmese. It was a town with ruins of old temples spread about – sounded exciting and historically enlightening!

I went there with fellow-hosteller Dan from Canada (I estimate that about 50% of the people I met in Bangkok were from Canada...) We vaguely had agreed we'd rather rent bicycles for 30 Baht each than rent a tuk-tuk and its driver for 500 Baht each, but other than that we decided we'd figure everything else out once we get there – Ayuthaya seemed like a small town so everything should be quite compact.

We arrived in Ayuthaya by minibus (sixty Bahts), got out and were immediately surrounded by tuk-tuk drivers in their Darth Vader tuk-tuks (term coined by my Thai guide book) offering their services. Not a bike rental place in sight, nor anything else vaguely interesting, touristy or templey for that matter. A big, wide empty road with a few buildings, one 7-11 (the local corner shop), a few maps.
Ok in all fairness that banner thing was vaguely templey/touristy...
Obviously tuk-tuk drivers are not keen supporters of the bicycle. “Too far, too far!” they exclaimed when we asked about bike rentings, pointing to the far away attractions on the map. Ayuthaya is essentially an island, with some of its main attractions just outside the central islandy bit.

Constantly attempting to politely wave away the tuk-tuk drivers, me and Dan tried to negotiate. Should we get a tuk-tuk instead, someone who knows what they're doing...? It was indeed a weird – and scary – feeling, as neither of us had phones on us, and we had no official information on anything, most importantly being where and when our ride back to Bangkok would go... In today's world full of continuous communication and technology, it was an oddly haunting sensation of not having any possibility of contact with anyone who was not in our immediate proximity. Stone Age vibes.

In the end we decided we'd get a tuk-tuk but only to take us to the Tourist Centre. 
Aboard the tuk-tuk
A good shout, the Tourist Centre looked to be right in the city centre. City centres should be compact, full of interesting places, touristy and templey.


The Tourist Centre was this massive, empty-looking building in a massive, empty yard bit, surrounded by, er, emptiness. Well, trees, dry grass and this eternal long wide road. Feeling hopeful and hopeless at the same time, we trekked through the heated emptiness to the building.

It was open and air-conditioned, and we were received by the Most Helpful Lady Ever (MHLE). She was smiley, spoke English, and within two minutes from arriving we had been given three different maps of the town with various circles about the best places to visit and bike rental places, the time tables and locations for both the minibus and the train back to Bangkok, as well as a feedback form where we were asked to rate her ability to help. I think ticking 'excellent' was an understatement...
Sights within the Tourist Centre
After half an hour, a meal of massive fried noodles and one very helpful guy later we finally had bicycles – it was already 1pm and we had been told to start early due to the crazy midday heat...
The noodles
Oh, but did I mention The Elephant!!? The Elephant. I had been a bit disappointed that I'd probably not be seeing elephants on this trip, but Ayuthaya heard my worries and created an Elephant Walkway where elephants, er, walk, with tourists riding them and OMG SO COOL. I was absolutely ecstatic.

So, bicycling was cool. Literally. The breeze was very welcome. We had no idea of traffic rules and probably didn't have too many locals fans, but, well, the cars slowed down for us when we decided roundabout rules probs don't apply to cyclists (for future reference, probably safer not to think like that...). Thais drive on the left which is confusing too, considering I'm used to the Vietnamese right.

Ayuthaya has probably closer to twenty note-worthy sites, we ended up doing four of them.
First one, Wat Phraram's best bit was climbing up the ridiculously steep steps (after debating whether they were considered as “climbing on the monument”, which was forbidden, or as going up steps, which seemed permitted) to the top, where I, who am fine with heights, suffered vertigo and was happy my mumsie was not witnessing it.

Second one was the Elephant Hang About <3 Buy a basket of corn cobs for 50 Bahts and feed the elephants. <3. Ok!

You could feed the ones waiting in queue to go down the Elephant Walkway, while the elephant, er, drivers? sat at the top, looking as bored as a tired xeom-driver, many of them listening to music or playing on their smart phones. Oh the contrast. 
Note lounging elephant driver
The elephants had long trunks which were pink inside and they were very greedy and beyond STUNNING. <3 <3

There were a few non-dressed up ones as well in a separate area, including a baby. So wrinkly, with little hairs on its head and absolutely GORGEOUS. <3 <3
Please lets be friends!
And it also hits you once again (or at least, it hit me) – the trunks are NOSES. Like, nature is unbelievable.
Om nom nom
After a heart-wrenching goodbye with Baby, we continued on to this site 15 minutes ride away, possibly the most famous one, Wat Chai Wattanaram. Such a postcard and luckily we got there before the large Chinese school class. It was really interesting how empty these epic ruins were, pretty famous as well! Well, not complaining!

Local tourist attraction for monks and their smartphones

Finally we headed to Wat Mahathat whose main attraction was Buddha in a Tree. See picture.

Also saw adorable chip munk squirrels. <3 <3
Hello lovey

Then it was home time. Slept the whole way back to Bangkok regularly waking up to nodding off on the shoulder of a random Thai man sat next to me in a minibus air-conditioned to the point of The Arctic. (Seriously, what is UP with Asia and its manic air-con!!) 

Ayuthaya, despite initial frustration, was amazing. I often said it was one of the most surreal-feeling towns I've visited in my life. A small town, very spread out, with these huge empty roads and ancient ruined temples dotted about. Not to even mention the elephants pottering about on the roads. Often it felt practically dreamlike, when your dream has this very distinct, weird atmosphere. My favourite picture is probably this – Dan's cycling in front of me with an elephant randomly ambling towards him.

The lesson is, however, hopefully learnt: Even though you can wing it when visiting a random European town (at least in France/Belgium/"my" area), it would be a lot less frustrating and a lot more time-efficient to plan a bit more in advance when visiting a new, random Asian town. 

But still, I loved Ayuthaya. :) 

Next stop: Malaysia. :)



  1. Upeita kuvia ja söpö fanttivauva! Harmi, etteivät ne hiukset näkyneet. Mitäs teit, kun korkeanpaikankammo yllätti? Nähdään n. 40 tunnin kuluttua!!! <3

  2. Well, I began by listening to the song you recommended (well, watching the Youtube video actually) - not bad. The epic ruins and monuments look like space shuttles about to take off - there ought to be a science fiction plot in there somewhere... But Buddha in a tree: not quite so impressive (unless I've missed something).