Day 44: Ayutthaya & Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand. We were up and about early to pack for the next stage of our trip. Today we left Ayutthaya (just as we were getting better at pronouncing it correctly) and headed down the south coast, to Prachuap Khiri Khan.
We slung our backpacks on and walked out to the main road to hail a tuk tuk. It was Saturday morning and things were a little more relaxed than usual – usually tuk tuks are everywhere and hassling for business. We found one outside a cafe, with its driver scoffing breakfast inside – as soon as he saw us he asked the standard question “Where you go?” We agreed a price to the station, and off we went at speed through the back streets of the town.
Tuk tuks in Ayutthaya are very different to any we’ve seen elsewhere – they bring to mind those little 3 wheel German Messerschmitt cars. The passenger area at the back is small – Jim had to duck the whole way to the railway station as there wasn’t enough room for him to sit upright.
We caught the train to Bangkok, an easy 90 minute journey. Hua Lamphong (Bangkok) station was crazy busy. As we shuffled impatiently along the platform behind the slow moving crowds, we spotted some open air hairdressing happening on the platform opposite. We were the only ones pointing and photographing, so guess it’s a normal thing and a useful way of spending the time while waiting for trains, which often run late here.
Early next year Bangkok station is moving about 9km outside the city which will be a lot better. The current location is congested and noisy and lots of travellers have to sit on the ground while waiting for trains, as seating is very limited.
The queue for tickets was long and it took ages to reach the window. We asked for two second class tickets to Prachuap Khiri Khan, but were told they were all sold, so we ended up with third class seats. The train journey was also long – it was scheduled to take 5 and a half hours, but crawled along in parts, stopped in others, and the total journey ended up being over 7 hours.
As the evening grew dark, the carriage turned into bug heaven as hundreds of insects, attracted to the lights, flew in through the open windows. Lil applied a thick layer of DEET insect repellent and slapped herself continuously, much to the amusement of other passengers who didn’t seem at all affected. Insect repellent seems to deal with lots of bugs, but not all. In future we’ll try and avoid travelling at night time – at least in third class open-window carriages.
We arrived in Prachuap Khiri Khan at 8pm, and caught a tuk tuk outside the station – this one appeared to be a wooden platform with seats, attached to a motor bike. It wobbled alarmingly as we clambered on with our backpacks. We arrived safely at our guesthouse, a few kilometres outside the town, dumped our bags and headed out for dinner. The guesthouse has a golf pitching range in the back garden, which is a little bizarre.
It was getting quite late and most local restaurants had closed, but we found a Mu kratha (Thai Hot Pot) restaurant a couple of blocks away which was still open, with dozens of tables set out in a massive warehouse-style building. For 199 Baht (less than 10 Australian dollars) they offer a massive meat and seafood buffet that you cook yourself on a hot pot, with heaps of vegetables and salads. They don’t sell beer, but one of the guys at the restaurant will happily take your beer order and cash, and run down the street to the local shop.
Mu kratha means ‘pan pork’ in Thai – it uses charcoal and resembles a combination of Korean barbecue and Chinese hot pot. Sliced meat is grilled on a dome in the centre of the hot pot, while vegetables and dumplings cook in stock around the base. It comes with a range of chilli and soy sauces to add to meat before or after cooking. It’s fabulous when you know what you’re doing – except neither of us has had Thai hot pot before – so there was a lot of watching other people to see how it’s done, trial and error, scraping bits of burnt meat off the frying dome, rescuing bits of meat that slid into the bubbling stock – we caused a fair bit of amusement. Jim was in seafood heaven trying anything and everything, including razor clams.
The buffet included a big dessert table – chunks of watermelon; crystallised fruits and shredded wheat soaked in syrup, which were all sickly sweet; triangles of chocolate cake that perhaps wasn’t chocolate cake after all (it certainly didn’t taste like it); and ice cream that you self-serve from a huge freezer.
Lil grabbed a wafer cone and scooped out some vanilla ice cream, which turned out not be vanilla – it was very strong tasting durian. Despite being the ‘king of fruits’, durian is an acquired taste that neither of us have quite acquired yet. She put the durian ice cream aside, went to have another look in the freezer, and this time returned with what she called ‘safe mint ice cream’. Except it wasn’t mint. Neither of us could guess what it was, but it tasted decidedly odd. So that went on the ice cream scrap heap too.
With tummies full, we walked back to the guesthouse through dark streets, very ready for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow we’ll explore Prachuap Khiri Khan town and the beach, and maybe try a little golf.