27 Apr – Cutting Room Floor, Ayutthaya

No real time for a post today, but I wanted to throw up some miscellaneous photos that might not have made the cut for my Ayutthaya Trip.

Me and my new best friend

Sweaty

Floating on the river

Ooh la la

Can you read it?

Monk taking a break

Kenny resting up

Kenny resting up

It’s not what it looks like

27 Apr – Ayutthaya Part 6: Ayutthaya Historical Park, Part 2

Intense heat

The sun was beating down on us pretty hard by this point. We had been outside since around 11:15 AM in the morning and it was about 16:30. We decided to take a break and this wall facing opposite the sun provided some nice shade to gather our strength for the remainder of the park.

Oasis, not the band

The star of the show

Postcards purchased, but did not survive ride home

Not even breaking a sweat

After we were good and rested, we sauntered on through the park to see the city as it was oh so many years ago. I got the feeling that even though so much death and destruction occurred on these premises, it was now different. I never felt anything creepy or odd while walking around. I make mention of this because Thais are largely superstitious people and do believe in spirits.

Like that Zappa song, trudging across the tundra, mile after mile

It’s Thai spicy outside

Insert dramatic walk-away music

We couldn’t walk up the stairs, it was roped off

Me and the tourguide!!

Arrow-slit for screwing up some Burmese

Wat from a different angle

The object below me was a furnace

As you can see from the last photo, some of these structures are leaning. This is due to the recent flooding that Thailand suffered (and the rest of the world pretty much did not care about) due to it raining every day for over a month. The foundations of some of these older structures are starting to sag, thus causing the lean. Architecture is not my strong suit, however I can imagine that for this site (it’s a UNESCO protected site), anything that can be done to save these buildings will be done.

Saving my tourguide from falling!

This concludes the day trip to Ayutthaya, although we did not nearly see everything here. That’s for another time….

27 Apr – Ayutthaya Part 5: Ayutthaya Historical Park, Part 1

The piece of music I’ve attached to this post (and the next) is what I had playing in my head while I was here walking through this site. A friend recommended the album minutes before I left for Thailand and it was one of two albums I listened to constantly the entire trip (the other was Blur’s Parklife).

So we arrived at Ayutthaya Historical Park after leaving the Wat. The historical park is the ruins of the city of Ayutthaya proper and was the culmination of the 27th for me.

Upon entering the park, I was fairly astounded at how great everything looked, age considering. While bricks were falling apart, the ruins themselves did not look like they were neglected. Even while we were there, I snapped a photo of a worker patching up a few spots. (You pay a fee to enter, and that fee covers upkeep)

Worker patching things up

So we entered the park and I got to take a pretty good look at the very first Wat right in front of us. There aren’t a lot of words to describe how grand everything looked.

Entrance to the park, Wat Phra Ram

Entrance to the park, Wat Phra Ram

There was a guided walking tour (as you can tell by the indicated headphone points) but considering it would all be in Thai, we opted to not do it and let the views speak for themselves. Soon after walking by this Wat, there were a large number of people gathered and crowded around one particular area of the park. Plenty of photos were snapped, and there were also two armoured guards keeping watch alongside a dog as well.

Here’s what everyone was interested in seeing.

Detached Buddha Head

Detached Buddha Head

Detached Buddha Head

This head apparently fell off of a statue, became entangled in the tree roots, and slowly rises a few centimeters each year. In the above photo, you can see the wild mass of roots this tree has. It’s really unique. In the first photo, you can also clearly see signs. Those signs said that it is rude and disrespectful to get too close to the statue to take photos.

There was a pretty wild mass of people around this, so I kind of hung around to the back and did not want to get right in the middle. I was just glad that I was able to appreciate seeing this.

Wat Mahathat

This was the next Wat on our path through the park. I wanted to get some better photos, but there were a few people hanging around in the front blocking some pretty decent shots. I didn’t really feel like hanging around and moved on.

Wat Mahathat, sweet looking roots

Wat Mahathat

There was some flooding very near this area and all around the outskirts of the park I saw sandbags. It rained here in October for an entire month straight. It ended up flooding nearby areas and even threatened part of Bangkok. I couldn’t tell any rain even occurred, but there were plenty of photos I took that showed stained water lines all over the buildings. We’ll get to those later.

Part two of the Historical Park tomorrow…

27 Apr – Ayutthaya Part 4: Wat Yai Chai Mongkon, Part 3

So, disaster struck. I had inadvertently forgot to charge my camera! I remember getting up at 3:00 AM that morning and thought, I should plug in my camera. The next time I thought about it was right now. Well, luckily, I had made a purchase while I was there. Since I am on Verizon and cannot use a CDMA phone in a GSM territory, I bought a brand new unlocked phone whose main advertising campaign all over Bangkok was “Amazing Sound. Authentic Camera.” This camera performed fantastically in low level light.

Anyway, on to Wat Yai Chai Mongkon. I was lining up this amazing shot of Kenny when it died. I set it down and whipped out the phone and lined up the same shot. Here’s what I saw, and you now see.

Slumbering Konlu

 

Without sleepy Konlu

I like these photos because you really get a good idea of just how large and how grand the structure is. After this we decided to leave the temple and explore the grounds surrounding it, after first taking a quick break in the car.

Dramatic walking away here

I’ll admit after seeing the Wat I was pretty thirsty. I thankfully unloaded my camera bag, took a drink of water, and patiently waited the arrival of the greatest sin imaginable – central air. It came, and then all was right with the world.

I walked by quietly so as not to wake him up

There were these super cool ruins of what Kenny had told me were parts of the old city constructed to defend against invaders (of which there were many). I’m not exactly sure on the lineage or history, but it was very awe inspiring to be walking around in an area where approximately 350 years ago, wars were being fought over this very ground.

Kon holding up the tower

Amazing textures

Kon scaling the wall, pretending hes one of the horde

More sweet texture action

The fortress wall

All the guys!

Remains of a wat

After this, we had pretty much explored the whole area and definitely enjoyed the experience. As we were leaving, I happened across a sight I had never seen – perhaps the most relaxed dog ever, in the history of the world. Allow me to show you three photos from three somewhat different approaches. See if you can tell if the dog actually cares that we are hanging out taking pictures of him.

Amazing dog

Amazing dog

Amazing dog

After this, it was time to head to the car. I snapped a few photos of interesting things I saw along the way.

Me in Thailand

Konlu

Coming up next, we visit the very famous Ayutthaya Historical Park, which contains some pretty amazing things.

27 Apr – Ayutthaya Part 3: Wat Yai Chai Mongkon, Part 2

So after perusing the grounds for a bit, it was time to start working our way up the stairs to check out the inside of the Wat. Here’s a better shot of one of the Buddhas that I didn’t post last time.

At the foot of the steps

Here we are slowly making our way up the steps. I describe it like there are thousands, of steps; there weren’t. The bricks, however, were falling into the structure so you had to be fairly careful and sure of your footing. You can see that effect in this photo.

Unsure footing

Funny enough, as I was taking this photo, here’s the reverse angle.

Reverse angle

Once we climbed the steps, on the inside you could write a prayer or wish onto a scrap of paper and drop it down here inside.

Wishing well

Here’s a golden buddha inside of the wat.

Golden Buddha

Outside Looking In

View from the steps

Around this time I started to get a little daring with my camera and wanted to investigate how to take the coolest looking photos of the temple since I was in awe of what I was seeing. I walked down the steps and started mushing.

Zoomblur of the Main Temple

Zoomblur of the Grounds

Then disaster struck…my nice point and shoot died! I was so tired the night previous I forgot to charge my lithium ion battery and ended up killing my camera. Part three continued…on a telephone. I must mention that the telephone in question took some pretty decent quality photos.

27 Apr – Ayutthaya Part 2: Wat Yai Chai Mongkon, Part 1

After we finished the play, it was time to head to the car to visit the first Wat of the trip, Wat Yai Chai Mongkon. This wat was built to commemorate a victory over one of the earlier Burmese attempts at invading Thailand.

We took it slow while we made our way to the car and took quite a bit of photos.

Two wild and crazy guys

Some of the crew

Same height!

We lumbered into the car and rode to the our first stop. Before we arrived to the temple, however, we all prayed. I am not pictured, but I got some of Kenny.

Deep thought

I think very deeply

This photo that I took really captures the intense heat we were experiencing as well as the majestic temple itself.

Photo of the trip

Here’s a nice shot of the line of Buddhas lining the temple.

Photo of the trip

Closeup so you can see the textures of the temple as well as the scarring from the fire (as this was burned by the Burmese).

Corner

Front shot

I really liked this particular shot because you can see just how detailed everything is.

The detail on the hair is amazing

I really had a great time here, and I really felt at peace as I was walking through the grounds. You can see it on my face here.

Cast and crew at the Wat

Up next I’ll post some photos of us walking up the steps as well as some more photos at the grounds.

27 Apr – Ayutthaya Part 1: Indiana Jones

We met up with Kenny’s family at the last stop on the BTS early. So early we got up at 6. I was sleeping the whole way there to try and conserve energy for the day as I found myself not having enough to get through all of the activities. We met up, exchanged hellos and Kenny caught up with his family during the long car trip to Ayutthaya.

A bit of a history lesson for the uninformed: Ayutthaya is the old capitol city of Thailand. It survived a very long and drawn out assault from the Burmese army, but was finally burned to the ground in 1765. The illustrious and famous Angkor Wat was captured and ruled by Ayutthaya. The Burmese did not stay long, however, as they were invaded at home by the Chinese. This is where we were going.

We drove by lots of rice fields on the way there. It was just like driving in Indiana, except replace rice for corn and lots of urban areas next to the farmland. Thailand has no sort of building codes, or zoning laws, so you’ll find interesting buildings all next to each other. Bangkok is no exception.

Once we arrived there, we got out and set to visit the floating market. First up, I needed to buy a hat. I came plenty prepared with sunscreen. I spent literally $60 dollars on SPF 100 sunscreen. I was not going to get burned. By contrast, I spent $1 on my hat.

Just taking a walk

Hat purchased, fully caffeinated

Compadre

I’m on a boat

We floated around on this boat and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the market for a while, and then we went walking looking for food. Kenny actually ran into a friend on this trip, which was a major shock for everyone. We chatted with him for a bit, and then settled down to eat things.

The entrance to buy food!

Need food in here

Food purchased, water acquired

As we were eating, I saw some guys sparring with wooden swords and shouting. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was seeing. I thought nothing of it and continued to munch. After we ate, apparently it was time to watch a play! The reenactment of the Burmese invasion of Ayutthaya!

I did not understand the words, but I could gather what was going on through the costumes, demeanor of the actors, and then the action. The Burmese were acting pretty macho, and pushed people around. Then the Ayutthaya forces arrived and it was time for an epic battle. The fight lasted 20 minutes. This was not some rinky dink fight with wooden swords. They were using real weapons and you could see sparks fly off of the blades. I captured most of the fight on video, but it’s way too big to post (around 270 meg). Perhaps you could ask to see it privately!

After the fight, I took some photos with the cast and crew.

I’m amazing

The man

This was a really good show and opened up my eyes to some of the history and culture of Thailand. Thais have a lot of pride, I’d say even moreso than Americans, in their history. Even though I was with a large number of English speakers, I still felt like my American upbringing screwed me over on this trip. I attempted to learn some Thai before I came, but it all flew out of my head once I landed and my senses were overloaded.

Next post, I’ll detail leaving the market and the first site of ruins we covered.

26 Apr – We Switch Hotels, I Go Exploring

The night of the 25th (which was our last at Furama Xclusiva, thanks to Diaw’s sister Dao who was gracious enough to provide us was a good room, hi Dao!) we got Thai massages at the hotel. This really old lady with hands as worn as her age gave me the most comfortable back massage I’ve ever had. I think I fell asleep at one point! It wasn’t very much money either. I did not actually get a full Thai massage, that takes about an hour according to Kenny. Next time! We ended up packing up and switching hotels most of the day. Of all the days in Thailand, this might have been the most “wasteful” as in there’s not a whole lot to write about and show.

We ended up moving hotels to the Imperial Queens Park Hotel on Soi Sukhumvit. This is a quite luxurious hotel. I did not take a ton of photos from inside, but the few that I did will give you a very different vibe. We made this our base of operations for about 3 days.

Munching after the taxi ride, waiting for our room

The main entry way into the hotel

For the ladies

Me eating some rambutans

View from the hotel room

Full view

We actually got into the room, dropped off our stuff after showering up, and ventured back out into Bangkok. One thing to note about traffic here: there’s literally no discernible rules from what I could gather.

It’s quite common (and I did this numerous times) to just walk out in the middle of the road, and slowly inch your way across the street. Now, granted, this was not a highway of any sort; but these were not two lane roads. We also did this across 4-6 lane roads as well. I can imagine trying this in America. I think there would be a number of four letter epithets lobbed in my general direction among a large number of car horns. Quite common to do here.

I found Citibank

I found the major intersections to be way more complex and tough to navigate than any road I’ve ever been on in my life. One road we were on, cars could come from five different directions. I am kicking myself at present that I don’t have any examples of this. Drivers beware, you live in a fantasy land! I couldn’t survive on the road. I’m glad there was a BTS. :)

Up next…I visit the ruins of the Old Kingdom, Ayyuthaya. There are so many photos I might break this up into three to four separate posts.

25 Apr – Which Line?

Today Kenny and I were off to the business district to meet his friend Kitty. She works around the US Embassy in Bangkok and we were going to meet her for lunch. We boarded the BTS (the skyway) and headed towards the district we needed to be at. There are certain spots on the map for you to either change lines (switch directions, say, from north/south to east/west), link up with the MRT (the subway), or just get off at the general shopping mall area. We made a rare error while making a change, and took the chance (while waiting for the next shuttle to arrive) to relax for a bit. I didn’t particularly mind, I was on vacation. Instead, I opted for some photo taking. As you’ll note, this is close to the Royal Bangkok Sports Club.

Sports Club from the BTS line

We might be a bit late!

Silom Line, South

Silom Line, North

We met Kitty for lunch at Au Bon Pain, a small little French bakery near her work. It was a good working stiff lunch – in and out, fast. I opted not to take any photos on the way there and during meeting Kitty to instead focus on the conversation. She’s a pretty quick witted girl, very westernized. Hi Kitty!

After that we went to the US Embassy to link up with Kenny’s friends there. We spent a good 40 minutes chatting with them. After that, we made the trek back from the Embassy to the BTS line. With not a lot going on, we opted to head to Terminal 21 to catch a movie. The first movie I saw here was The Raven, with Jon Cusack. I went in expecting nothing, I came out pleasantly surprised. It was quite good!

Something to note about seeing a movie in Thailand. First, movie times are prominently displayed outside. Not just the time of the film, but the time of the commercials, trailers, anything before the movie, with a grand total at the end showing you just how much time you’ll invest going to the see the feature. This makes so much sense it will never happen here. Advertisers love to sucker people in. A second thing to note: at one point in the previews, everyone must stand and pay respect to the king. It’s not a big deal, a small three minute promotional video showing the king growing up through archival video footage. I had no problems with it, but I bet there are some political types here that would. Oh well, that’s why they live here and don’t travel anywhere new. :)

After the film, we headed back to the room to get ready for hanging out with Diaw and company at Indy Treehouse Bar. I was most excited about this because:

  • It was a nice, relaxing restaurant/bar to go to
  • There was live music
  • I don’t think I was awake enough for busy night out since I was already a bit tired

Indy Treehouse Singer

Diaw has an idea

Planning!

I had a really good time here, and would go back again if I actually lived there. After this, we all turned in for the night. I was glad because while I had fun, I could always use some sleep!

24 Apr – I Visit A Night Market

After the wonderful blessing, it was time to get something to eat and to walk around a bit. (I was actually tired and it was only 11:00 by this point) We took a stroll through one of Bangkok’s night markets. These markets are not actually here during the day; once the sun goes down, the merchants open up their wares for purchase by Thais and tourists alike. There’s plenty of bootlegging going on and lots of potential for haggling. We had a singular focus for me – walk around, get some energy flowing through my body to tell my brain to not go to sleep, and eat some Thai fruit.

The locals were not impressed by a farang

We started out on the left side of the street and walked down a ways, notating everything from the merchants that we could. Diaw joked around a lot and asked me to try and pick out the สาวประเภทสอง (ladyboys) walking around in the crowd. I had my arm grabbed quite a bit here from locals trying to sell me things.

A lot of people walking around

Not only is t here clothes and things to buy, but food. I opted to try some local fruits you can only eat in Thailand: rambutans and mangosteens. Rambutans are a very interesting looking fruit.

Rambutan

In order to eat them, one must twist and rip open the protective encasing. Once open, your finger must poke up the fruit from the skin and then eat. The easiest way to describe the taste is a not as juicy watermelon but more texture, somewhat like a cantaloupe. That’s actually a terrible explanation, just go to Thailand and try some. That’s better.

Dumb American

Mangosteens were much more to my liking; but I do not have any photos of me eating them. They were much sweeter and again not a very juicy fruit. They were definitely my favourite of the two. After this, we finished walking around and headed back to the hotel. It was a longer night for me…you know, it was about 11:30. :)

Atmosphere

Coming up….Robin goes the wrong way on the MRT, meets up with some of Kenny’s friends, a movie theatre, and a relaxed bar!