Bangkok to Ayutthaya or Out with the new and in with the old!
It was with an air of expectancy that we awoke. Ayutthaya was to be our destination for a few days of ruined temples from ancient times. Just a short train ride away from Bangkok we would get to leave the bustle of the city behind us for the calm of the old capital of Siam, who only a few months ago was hit hard by the floods widely reported in the world news.
Before that though, we had to finish off the packing and also head to Siam Discovery to recover the Mac. So we were not in haste this morning and took a leisurely breakfast before heading to the mall. Arriving in time to collect the mac we were told it wasn’t quite ready and we had to wait another ½ hour. Mildly annoyed we browsed some shops before finally collecting it and then we descended to the street to find a taxi to take us to the station. Deposited in front we made our way into the vast station hall and were directed to a ticket window where we bought our passage to Ayutthaya – 15 Baht for us and 8 Baht for the children (a little over £1 for us all) for a train leaving in 3 minutes.
Rushing to platform 4 we passed hoards of waiting people, Thai and foreigners, before we bought some chicken and pork sticks and some sticky rice and then found a spot on the concrete to await the arrival of the train. Several announcements in Thai followed but no train. An hour later the locals started moving, the signal that something was about to happen, and sure enough, an old diesel train chugged into view pulling half a dozen carriages. Grabbing our bags we pressed forward with the throng of people and as the train stopped moving we pushed our way onto the train and bagged our seats.
The level of comfort was passable. There are, after all, only 3rd class carriages available. No air conditioning but there were some small ceiling fans providing the occasional waft of air, and of course the windows open and the doors never close so there is always a draft from them. The seats were modest if a little light on padding, and relatively clean as was the carriage on the whole. Pullman luxury it was not, but then we hadn’t been expecting much in the first place.
The countryside passing by was rural with swathes of paddy fields and the odd town – I would say rushing by but the train was sedate as it clickety-clacked down the tracks. As we got closer to Ayutthaya there was evidence of the recent floods on the buildings we passed, tide marks on their walls and stilts, but otherwise the deluge had abated and all looked normal.
The corridors of the carriages were regularly visited by vendors of cold drinks and snacks who hawked their wares to the captive shoppers. Our fellow passengers were Thai and some spoke a little English making up for gaps in our communication with enthusiastic hand signals and smiles. Charming people who seemed genuinely interested in our little family and who really made an effort to talk to us. After a couple of hours our destination was finally reached and we alighted, with what seemed half the train, and then made our way through the station to the main street.
Ayutthaya is an island created by the confluence of three rivers. Whilst there are several bridges, the nearest one to the station is 1km away and not really suited to pedestrians. A far more romantic and old world way of crossing the river is by boat. Following the crowd, we fetched up at the pier where a small boat plied its trade ferrying passengers from one side to the other. The boat, akin to a long tail, could carry up to 20 people at a time and cost 6 Baht for the five of us, thats 12p. We jumped onboard and were whisked to the other bank, the boys squeezed between locals on the benches and Tania and I standing up and hanging on to whatever we could grab.
We then started another of our epic walk-around-town-to-find-the-guest-house jaunts, which invariably ends up with us getting some form of transport. [Ed: Not true in all cases, sometimes we find them ourselves]. We got as far as the road bridge before asking for help from a local who then directed us back the way we came. Eventually we capitulated and grabbed a Tuk-Tuk who took us to the hotel. It was called Sherwood House and it had one magic ingredient – a pool!! The only negative was that the family room we had booked was in an annexe some 50m down the road.
We checked in and then followed a lady taking a right by the post office down a driveway where we arrived at a large house. The living area was huge and had a fridge – yay! No WiFi – boo! It did had internet in the shape of a network cable poking out of the wall in the bedroom which was smallish, but there was a large double bed and bunk beds with an extra mattress on the floor. Since my MacBook doesn’t have an ethernet port the cable didn’t really help me. Add one USB to Ethernet adapter to the shopping list!
Divesting ourselves of bags and quickly unpacking we grabbed the swimming stuff and headed back to the hotel proper for a dip. The slide was broken and the water was pretty cold but none of that could detract from the pleasure of ridding ourselves of the accumulated heat of the day and emerging refreshed, if slightly blue.
We ate a passable meal in the hotel restaurant, ducked around the corner for some essentials from the ever-present 7-11 and then headed back to the house. We had arrived, tomorrow we would explore and enjoy this ancient citadel, but for now, bed.