Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Our Time in Ayutthaya

We absolutely loved our time at Ayutthaya; where most people just visit for the day, we ended up extending our trip, and staying four days.

We took the train out of Bangkok- we decided to travel second class rather than third, because a) we're still new to this travelling thing, and b) we wanted guaranteed seats. The whole journey cost us 358 bhat, and took about two and a half hours (an hour longer than expected, but as far as we can tell, this is fairly standard for Thailand).

Once  we had arrived,  we took a tuk tuk over to our hotel, The Tamarind. At the time of writing,  this remains the best place we have stayed so far. The decor was impeccable, the rooms clean, the beds comfortable, and the staff were so so lovely. They were so helpful, both when we managed to lock ourselves out of our room (totally my fault), and when we deided we wanted to stay an extra night.

The hotel even had a little balcony space, where we spent several  lovely evenings, with beers, and our books. Very happy campers.

The Tamarind

On the advice of the guesthouse, we enjoyed several meals at both Coffee Old City, and Malakor, both of which are very conveniently located for The Tamarind, and provide fab views over the ruins (ya know, in case you get to the end of your day, and feel like you haven't seen enough of them..).

The balcony at Malakor

In terms of drinking, and night life, we found a few bars that were nice enough,  but nothing to write home about..
To be honest,  we found the evenings in Ayutthaya a little quiet -which is saying something, coming from me- there just never seemed to be any people about.. perhaps this is a result of the coup, or perhaps it is simply that the dogs own the streets, or maybe we were just looking in the wrong places.. whatever it is, if you're heading to Ayutthaya for the nightlife, I wouldn't bother, you'd be better off just coming for the day.

If however,  you've found Bangkok to be just a little bit to much, and you're looking for a place to chill, and see some history,  then this is definitely the place for you, and I can only hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Much Love, 

The Ruins at Ayutthaya, final day

On our last day in the city, we decided to head out beyond the river, to Wat Chaiwatthanram.

The journey is doable on a bike, though for a road novice like myself,  it was pretty terrifying, as we had to cycle along one of Ayutthaya's bussiest roads.. so it is probably easier to take a tuk tuk.*

The terrifying journey asside, it became clear to us on arrival at the temple, that this Wat was something different again; the complext here was bigger that many we had seen at Ayutthaya,  and better preserved too.

Wat Chaiwatthanram

Constructed in 1630, in the Khmer style (the same as is used in Cambodia at Angkor Wat), the complex consisted of a 35 meter high central Prang,  surrounded by various Chedis, and Chappels, and 120 sitting Buddha statues (mostly headless after the sacking).

Headless Buddha's

As is the case in many of the temples at Ayutthaya,  this place was dotted with evidence of modern devotion; small Buddha's, and miniature horses (2014 is the year of the horse) were scattered about throughout the complex.

An elephant.. I don't know the relevance of elephant's..

Wat Chaiwatthanram is a little off the main tourist route, so is quieter than places like Wat Mahathat, and definitely worth a trip if you can make the time (most people do just the one day in Ayutthaya, but we ended up staying three).

Typically, Joe wanted to climb the central Prang, so up up we climbed.. all good fun till I realised I had to climb back down again..

The Central Prang | Tiny Buddha's at the top

Having survived that ordeal, we headed off again, back to the bikes, and the dreaded duel carriage way.. eek!!

Much Love, 

*I also read somewhere that you can get to the temple by boat, which sounds very scenic, but since we didn't use that option, I can offer too much advice on that front..

The Ruins at Ayutthaya, part 2

On our second day in the Ayutthaya, we had seen enough of the city to realise we would need bikes if we wanted to see more of it in one day.

Thankfully,  bikes are available to rent pretty much everywhere (and don't worry mum, I don't mean motorbikes, I mean good old fashioned single speed, sit-up-and-beg push bikes). The bike was probably older than me, and rattled worryingly as I cycled about,  but Ayutthaya is so flat, and I'm so bad at cycling this really didn't impact my performance at all.

Having rented bikes from our guesthouse for 50 bhat for the day, we headed off into the morning in search of some more of those ruins.

Wat Ratchaburana

Situated next too Wat Mahathat, Ratchaburana is smaller than its contemporary,  but probably just as interesting,  if you know where to look.

We spent a few minutes wandering round the grounds of the complex (and enjoyed our picnic breakfast in the shade of a tree growing up between the ruined walls), before Joe came over all Indianna Jones,  and wanted to climb up the central Prang.

The Central Prang | A palm Tree


The Prang itself used to contain relics of the brothers of King Borommaracha II (since stollen), and now contains probably one of the most exciting things we saw at Ayutthaya.

Once we had reached the top of the Prang, we took a moment to enjoy the views over the city, before turning to discover a dark chamber full of bats and murals (pretty creepy), and a deep dark hole in the ground, through the mouth of which,  we could see about 3 stairs, before everything went black (very creepy).

Joe (Indianna Jones) boldly took out his torch, and plunged straight in. Five or so minutes later (pretty sure it felt like forever to me..) he returns triumphant, and after much persuasion, draggs me down with him.

It was very hot, very very dark, and very very steep, and at the bottom you have to contort yourself to fit into the reliquary but the worst was saw was one very big cokroach,  and inside the chamber was the most beautifully preserved fresco. *

If you can bear to squeeze yourself down the stairs into the unknown, it is very worth it!

Wat Phra Si Sanphet

Having emerged alive from the depths of Wat Ratchaburana, we headed off in search of something different again.

Constructed in 1448 to hold the ashes of Kimg Boromatrailokanat and his two sons, this complex is one of the best preserved in the city.

Three chedis, containing the three kings 

Another large complex, Phra Si Sanphet is sandwiched between the heavily restored Viharn Phra Mongkol Bophit, and what remains of the royal palace (only the foundations survived the Burmese sacking). Its surroundings really gave me a feel for the city, and how it came to exsist in the form it takes today; the old next to the new, the well preserved next to a crumbling ruin, it really was fascinating to see.

Much Love,

*Credit for that photo goes to Diana Bradshaw,
unfortunately the only photos we took of the space were on Joes camera, and we have no access to them untill we get home

The Ruins at Ayutthaya, part 1

On our first day out of the big city we found ourselves in Ayutthaya.

Just a couple of hours outside of Bangkok,  Ayutthaya really couldn't feel any different from the capital.  Where Bangkok was huge, and loud and intimidating,  Ayutthaya was quiet, and calm, and filled with history. *

Founded in 1350, by King U Thong, Ayutthaya was the second capital of Siam (Thailand before it became the country we recognise today). Its geographical location made it an important trade hub both within Asia, and also the wider world. Indeed, by the 1700's it is beleived to have been the largest city in the world.

Sadly, the city was sacked in 1767 by the Burmese, leaving nothing but the ruins the city is so famous for today.

On our first day in the city we headed out on foot to explore those ruins closest to the new city.

Wat Phra Mahathat

Built in 1374, Wat Mahathat was right on the edge of the ruined town,  so is one of the easiest to visit. The complex was probably one of the largest we visited, and it contained the largest amount of surviving architecture.

The biggest draw for most tourists is the Buddha head, which has been absorbed into the root system of a huge Bodhi tree (the same species under which the Buddha is beleived to have achieved enlightenment).

Besides that, the complex contains a central Prang surrounded by 4 secondary Prangs, and a number of smaller Chedis,  all constructed in the traditional Khmer style.

The complex also provides good acess into the Phra Ram Park,  inside which are the remains of further temples, too ruined to be worth charging to see, but still worth a gander if you have the time.

Through the park we discovered serveral things that excited us.. Firstly,  elephant's!! And also, more ruins, yay! (At this point in the trip, we were pretty new to the ruins, and this being only the second we'd seen, it was pretty exciting stuff..)

Wat Phra Ram

Whilst the construction date, and reason for construction of this temple appear to be unclear, it is undeniable that it must once have been a fairly spectacular sight. Consisting of a central Prang, and several Chedis,  it is still worth a quick visit, especially if you're still new to the sight of a crumbling red brick tower, framed perfectly against a bright blue sky.

Much Love,

*and dogs. It was also full of dogs. Everywhere.  Especially at night. A lot of people have offered advice on ways to stay safe in the city, but to be honest,  so long as we stuck to the main streets, we never felt too threatened (we noticed that they did tend to gather in packs down the side streets,  and guarded those spaces more fiercely than the main streets).

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Our time in Bangkok

Kinda a filler post today, I promise to write up our adventures in Ayutthaya soon!! :)

Whilst in Bangkok, we were based in Sukhumvit, an eastern district, with good access to the rest of the city via the Sky Train.

We stayed at the SUK 11 hotel, and found it too be pretty much as expected - reasonably clean,  with a good restaurant attached,  a very quirky interior,  and kinda disinterested staff.

We also found that the hotel was a little quiet,  being out of season for most backpackers, and away from Khao San Road. As a couple this was no trouble,  but perhaps a single traveller might feel more comfortable closer to the bustle of the main backpacker strip?

Within the district, we enjoyed good food at Charley Browns (a mexican restaurant.  I know,  I know,  we'd only been there 10 minutes,  and already we were eating at a western restaurant,  but it our defence,  the place was directly below our room, and we had to eat there to find out the wifi code..)

We also ate at SUK 11, which served a good range of Thai dishes, and seemed popular amongst the local community (Joe's Paenang Curry was especially good).

On the last night we ventured along the bustle main street, in search of a place on Soi 33 (we were staying on soi 11 - it was quite a treck), and got side tracked by Terminal 21, Sukhumvits answer to the mega malls at Siam. Bassed on an airport,  every floor at Terminal 21 is themed around a different country (London,  Paris, Rome). It was totally bizarre! An interesting insight into modern Thai culture.

Terminal 21, Tokyo,  and London

Side note - wilst visiting Wat Pho, we got caught in a storm, and decided to take shelter in the malls at Siam. Whilst at the Paragon, we discovered not only their food courts (cheap fresh food), but also Bangkok's aquarium - an excellent place to shelter from the rain, with a vast variety of marine life, and some interesting interactive displays (I personally was too chicken to touch a star fish,  but if I had wanted too, this is the place to do it..)

Big fish

For drinks we were well served at SUK 11, with a number of bars right on our doorstep. We particular enjoyed Cheap Charlie's (a favourite of the many expats who now live in Sukhumvit), and The Alchemist,  a cocktail bar that wouldn't have felt out of place in a city like London.

The Alchemist

All in all, we really enjoyed our stay in Sukhumvit,  and I would recommend it to anyone looking to experience Bangkok away from Khao San Road.

Much Love,

Friday, 10 October 2014

Wat Arun, Bangkok

Day 3

Day three was a weird one.  Just when we thought we were getting our heads around this crazy city, it threw us a curve ball, and we were back to square one, as confused as ever.

Weird curve balls aside, on our third day in the city we found ourselves at Wat Arun, one of the temples I had spotted on our first morning.

Easily accessed from the river (take the express boat to Tha Tien, and change onto the ferry - 3Bhat - to reach the west side), the temple is perhaps a little more run down than its east bank counterparts (it was in the process of being restored whilst we were there), but this is not to say it wasn't worth a visit.

Where The Grand Palace and Wat Pho were predominantly introverted, and interesting because of the beauty within the complex,  Wat Arun (whilst still beautiful inside) was notable in that it  allowed for amazing views over the city.

You climb up about a million stairs (which in the mid day heat is no mean feat! ), but when you arrive at the top, you are so rewarded!!

As a day trip by itself,  there is probably not enough to see here, but it would make an excellent addition to a visit to Wat Pho, and is definitely worth a visit if you ever find yourself in the area!

Much Love,  

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Wat Pho, Bangkok

Day 2,

Emboldened by our success on our first day, we decided to spend our second morning in Bangkok visiting Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha).

Less famous, and therefore less busy than The Emerald Buddha, Wat Pho is equally as beautiful as his more popular counterpart.
We arrived at the complex by the same method as the day before (Sky train to Saphan Taksin, and the express boat to Tha Tien - a stop before The Grand Palace). From the pier, it was an easy walk to the Temple,  and just 100Bhat to get in- a significant improvement on the entry cost of the Grand Palace!

Inside, the temple was calm, and quiet, far more what you would expect from a place of religious significance.

We began our explorations heading away from the (busier) main temple, and spent some time wandering between towering chedis, through courtyards lined with golden Buddahs,  and into subsidiary temples, complete with larger than life status of Buddah.

There seemed to be more practicing Buddhists here, than at the Grand Palace (perhaps because it was quieter), which only served to make me like the place even better. It felt so much more authentic, much less 'Disney'.

The attention to detail here is unbelievable

As before, the complex is deceptively large, and just when you think you've seen everything, you stumble across another temple (in our case, a temple containing several Chinese style Buddha's,  and a dilapidated chedi,  whose charm was only added too by its air of disrepair).

Having finally made our way round the rest of the complex (we think..), we joined the crowds heading towards the Reclining Buddha.

He was a sight to behold! Where the Emerald Buddha was so highly revered,  and tiny, this Buddah was enormous! Not a sight I am likely to forget any time soon!! (And on the off chance I do, you are allowed to take photos here - once the hoards of tourists snapping selfies on their iPads cleared, the statue made for quite a remarkable subject).

Mother of Pearl feet | A golden pillow

Having seen as much as we could at Wat Pho, and with the storm clouds rolling in, we decided to take shelter in one of Bangkoks many malls. But thats a story for another day I think.

Much Love, 

Saturday, 4 October 2014

The Grand Palace, Bangkok

Day 1

Confused and jetlagged,  but determined to make the most of our short time in Bangkok,  we headed off in search of one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city; the Grand Palace, and Temple of The Golden Buddah (500 bhat per ticket).

The Palace was pretty simple to get too; take the sky train to Saphan Taksin, and from there transfer onto the express boat to Tha Chang. (The boat is my favourite way to travel so far, the city seems calmer from the river, and the light breeze feels amazing!)

Scenes from the river

From the pier its a five minute walk to the palace -just follow the crowds- easy peasy lemon squeezy. (Nb, take care walking through the market that has sprung up around the pier, I have read about a number of scams operating in that area).

The Palace itself is fairly unremarkable, it houses a couple of small museums, and actually still contains several working royal offices.

Far more interesting was The Royal Monastery of The Emerald Buddha. The architecture of the monastry was beautiful; so many colours, vibrant against the overcast sky. It was architecture like this that first drew me to Thailand,  so it was amazing to experience it in the flesh.

Inside the temple complex

I also enjoyed the miniature angkor wat (built during the reign of King Rama IV), and the golden chedi,  inside which is believed to be held a peice of the Buddha's chest bone.

 The golden chedi | A miniature Angkor Wat

In terms of tips for visiting the complex, they will lend you clothes to cover up if you come inappropriately dressed (shoulders and knees should be covered), but obviously its easier and more respectful to bring your own. Also, and this sounds super obvious,  try and avoid the middle of the day, theres a lot to see here, and we found we rushed the final parts in an effort to get out of the heat (lets blame that foolishness on the jetlag shall we.. )

All in all, a reasonably successful first day out.

Much Love,

Wednesday, 1 October 2014


We did it. We made it. We survived. Two days ago, I was in my attic, in a sleepy little village near Bath, today I'm in the middle of a bustling city, in a county whoes language I don't speak, with nothing but what I can carry on my back.. Hello Bangkok!

I'm still feeling pretty dazed and jetlagged, and its completely true what they say about Bangkok, it really is an assault on all your senses; its loud, and hot, and the smells are totally foreign, but we're surviving, and slowly working out our place in this crazy city!

Love and hugs to everyone at home,

Much Love,