Day 40: Kanchanaburi & Ayutthaya, Thailand. This morning we packed up again, and walked to the Kanchanaburi bus station a couple of kilometres away to catch the bus to Suphanburi, then on to Ayutthaya.
The bus station was chaotic, with countless guys jumping in front of us, demanding to know “Where you go? Where you go?” – all trying to sell us trips by taxi or mini van. However, we really just wanted the public bus.
We eventually worked out the Suphanburi bus leaves from Bay 5. We bought two tickets, and were told to get on board straight away, as the bus was leaving in 10 minutes.
Lil jumped on with her backpack, then did a quick sprint to the station bathroom. As usual there were no western toilets (they’re rare in stations). These ones however were the ones she dreads the most – squat toilets raised about 8 inches off the ground. She reckons you need to be a well balanced acrobat to feel comfortable using them.
The bus left on time – again no air conditioning, just doors and windows left wide open, and a bunch of fans on the ceiling to stir the air around. At one point the wide comfy seat at the back of the bus came available, so we moved back there. The only downside was the open back door which meant hanging onto your belongings tightly – anything dropped on the floor quickly bounced out the back door never to be seen again (we watched an empty water bottle drop to its death).
A guy got on about an hour from Suphanburi, sat next to us on the back seat and pulled on his beanie – guess the warm wind whistling through the bus windows and doors was too much for him. He insisted on prodding Jim on the arm every time we passed a temple, to which he was offering prayers, providing some narrative in Thai (we couldn’t understand a word of it, so we just smiled).
We arrived in Suphanburi, and hopped off the bus to find a minivan to take us to Ayutthaya, as public buses no longer service the route. A minivan driver approached us, said we needed buy to tickets in the station, and to “be very quick, I go in 4 minutes”. We ran inside, got tickets and barely made it back and into the minivan before he hit the gas, and we rocketed out of the car park and onto the highway.
The trip went by quickly, largely thanks to the driver’s Michael Schumacher antics. Some great scenery whizzed past, a little too fast to take it all in. A German couple took the opportunity to review their 100 page travel itinerary, and read out many pages of it to each other. Then we unexpectedly stopped for a 5 minute break just 25km from Ayutthaya – largely because the driver fancied an ice cream. We sat in the minivan while we waited for him to finish his choc-ice, lick the wooden stick 50 or so times, and then get back into the driver’s seat to finish the journey.
We arrived in Ayutthaya around 3.30pm to a scorching hot afternoon. Thankfully we were able to get the minivan guy to drop us a kilometre or so from our guesthouse, so we didn’t have to haggle with tuk tuk drivers at the out-of-town bus station.
We were walking through town along a gravel path by one of the many ancient temples, when we realised that we needed to get out of the way, and quickly. Coming towards us was a huge magnificent elephant, with a lady and her son on its back, being ridden around the temples. Apparently we had been walking on the elephant walkway (we hadn’t spotted the signs). While neither of us are fans of elephant riding, it was definitely an unexpected and spectacular sight.
We arrived at our guesthouse and got settled in our room. Then Lil spotted the door was wonky and there was a big gap where insects could and definitely would crawl or fly through. Lil went and got the guesthouse owner, who speaks hardly any English, and through a combination of repeatedly pointing at the hole and flapping her arms like a madwoman to mimic insects coming to bite her, she convinced the lady to let us change rooms.
Once we’d settled in room number two, we headed out to explore a chunk of the town. After a few kilometres, huge dark clouds appeared overhead, so we scurried into a great little bar and waited there for the storm to pass over.
An English couple and their two kids, aged about 6 and 8, came in to the bar while we were there and we got chatting. Interesting story – they sold their house and all their possessions in the UK, and have been travelling with their two kids since January. So far they’ve been to the US, New Zealand, Fiji and Thailand and in a couple of months they’re heading to Spain, to look at potentially settling there. It’s always fascinating to hear other travellers’ tales, and what inspired them to throw in their lives back home.
The rain stopped and we wandered off around the local streets in search of dinner. We passed a quirky looking restaurant called Earl’s which Jim liked the look of, so we plonked ourselves on one of the huge old wooden benches. The restaurant feels like an Aladdin’s Cave full of old memorabilia including vintage Cola-Cola and Pepsi signs, old lemonade bottles, a collection of toy cars, a petrol pump, and Star Wars figures.
The food was good too – straight forward Thai dishes, but cooked well – red curry, minced pork salad, pad thai and rice. We declined the offer of straws for our beers.
Then we headed home through the dark but still lively streets. Along the way we passed a locally designed ‘petrol station’ – a row of different coloured fuels in bottles with hosepipes, and hand written signs and prices. Glad we’re not driving.
Tomorrow we’re planning to cycle around some of the dozens of temple remains around Ayutthaya (or Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, to give it its full name).