After about a week in the north of Thailand, We had a night train booked from Chiang Mai to Ayutthaya which Stac was a little apprehensive about, after a bad experience that we had in Vietnam, you can read about that here, but as soon as we saw the train we could tell that this one was very different. The train was brand new, clean, aeroplane clean in fact, with soap and tissue in the western bathrooms, big comfy seats that convert to beds just at night-time and a charging socket in each bed. The ride wasn’t too noisy or bumpy, in fact it was very enjoyable, it would have been even better if we weren’t still feeling a bit ill.
We arrived in Ayutthaya, which is the old capital of Siam (Thailand), the second capital after Sukhothai, and it was once thought to be the biggest city in the world with over 1-million people in it in the 1700’s until the Burmese burnt the entire city to the ground. We’d read that the temple ruins here were very good for exploring and it wasn’t too touristy.
We’d got just one night here, but all of the plans to visit the temples for the morning disappeared after we started feeling ill again. The train had arrived at 5am, we got on the little ‘ferry’ over the river from the station and walked straight to our guesthouse which was still closed up, about 6.30 the first movement started and one of the staff let us inside the gates and sat us down in the breakfast area outside, there was nobody else around and they clearly weren’t doing breakfast. We set off walking around the town to find something to eat but there was absolutely nothing open for food and we soon felt very ill again.
Back off towards the guesthouse we went, hoping that we could pay them to let us have our room early, it was still only 7am, and they had said check-in wasn’t until 2pm, but after having no sleep for the previous two nights we just needed a bed to crash in. Unfortunately the guesthouse completely refused and left us sat outside in the heat from 5am until nearly 12pm before eventually letting us have our room. The biggest problem was that the owner had arrived about 8am and was clearly making a point of not letting us have a room early by telling the staff to be slow about cleaning it, she never said a word to us and just completely ignored us all morning until they eventually said we could have the room.
After almost seven hours of being sat outside feeling like death I lost it a little bit and told her what I thought, she didn’t seem bothered in the slightest, we got in the room and went straight to sleep for the next 5 hours missing the whole day of Ayutthaya and almost all of the temples that we had gone there to see. We were gutted, but feeling a little better, so just before sunset we saw one of the temple ruins, had some food then went straight back to bed.
Ayutthaya was a very strange town, people acted like they’d never seen a tourist before at times, but the temples were clearly very busy with tour-bus tourists, it was strange for a city that is only 1-hour drive from Bangkok, I don’t think we’ll be heading back there any time soon. The next morning we went back to the train station and got the 2-hour local 3rd class train to Bangkok, this was actually great, a nice breeze coming through the windows on a train carriage mainly filled with Monks and it cost 15 baht (40 pence) for the journey, a quarter of the price of the two-minute tuk-tuk ride we had taken the day before.
We arrived in Bangkok, feeling much better, with one night there before meeting up with Kayleigh, Ian and our Nieces Lily and Isabelle, we checked in to the hostel that we would all be staying in together and it was fantastic, great staff, very clean and comfortable, so we were happy we’d picked this place for us all.
We’d been to Bangkok back in 2013, but that was a holiday and we never actually made it to Khao San Road, the famous backpacker party area, so we said we’d do it this night before the kids arrived. We had the same street food we’d had a week earlier and went for a couple of drinks before heading down there to meet a friend from Switzerland that we had met on the sleeper train a couple of days before.
It was his last night in Thailand and we spent a couple of hours just walking around the area, people-watching, chatting and drinking beers from 7-11, it was a great night, but Khao San Road is either hilariously brilliant or awful depending on your point of view. You will spend the entire night having the words “taxi” “massage” or “bucket” shouted at you or having scorpions on sticks pushed in to your face for you to show your friends how funny it is to watch you eat a scorpion. Daniel (the Swiss guy) ate one and proclaimed the same statement as every person who eats a deep-fried insect “just tastes crunchy”, Stac almost ate one, but bottled it at the last second after seeing the size of the huge scorpion she was going to get 🙂
The next three nights we would spend in Bangkok with the people flying half way around the world to come and see us and we couldn’t wait, in fact we couldn’t wait that much that we set off to meet them at the airport (which they didn’t know we were going to do) about three hours before they would be out. It turned out to be a good idea as using the sky-train and train it took over two hours to get to the airport because of how busy everywhere was, Bangkok traffic even includes public transport that doesn’t use roads it seems.
We got there and spent about an hour waiting nervously for them to come out of the arrivals area and jumped out to surprise them, many smiles and a few tears were shared in a couple of emotional minutes for us all, three and a half months was too long to go without seeing them all we think.
That night we didn’t get back to the hostel until 9.30pm so just went out for some Thai food at a local place, had a bottle of wine and caught up with each other, I don’t think Stac let go of the girls all night, and Isabelle ended up staying in our room because her and Stac were inseparable.
The next day we took them out to see Bangkok, first a boat on the Chao Phraya river to see Wat Arun and Wat Pho temples, then all six of us cramming in to a taxi (this happened a lot in Bangkok) to a big shopping centre so we could get Lily the Pablo Chocolate Cheesecake that she had seen on the internet. Unfortunately it was more like mousse than cheesecake and we all agreed it wasn’t that amazing, it still mostly got eaten though.
Me and Stac had booked us a table at a Sky Bar in Bangkok for the next night, something we did the first time we came to Bangkok and absolutely loved so we knew we had to take them to one, we had some food at the same place as the day before then headed towards it. The bar was at the top of a very nice hotel in Silom, the 37th floor, and we got a table out on the terrace expecting drinks prices to be extortionate as we had experience in the State Tower Sky Bar four years earlier. We were pleasantly surprise when seeing that menu that prices were very similar to at home, or any other bar, but with an amazing setting 37-floors above Bangkok with a beautiful sunset view.
We’d agreed on a bottle of Prosecco when Stac took one of the girls to the toilet, so I decided i’d surprise them all and order a bottle of Taittinger Champagne when the waitress came, there were some very shocked looks from them all when the bottle was put on the table in its ice bucket. We shared a bottle of Champagne, a beautiful bottle of Australian Shiraz, and some tapas and all had an amazing night, the girls loved sitting at the glass bar on the edge of terrace looking out over the city, it was some of the best moments of the trip so far and made not seeing them for a few months all worth it.
River Kwai Train
The last part of Bangkok was to go on the weekend excursion train to the River Kwai and ride the train over the Bridge on the River Kwai. A fun fact about this is that when the original book was written about the death railway here, the Author had never been to Thailand and assumed the bridge that was built was over the River Kwai, in fact it was over a different river all together, so when tourists started turning up in Thailand looking for a bridge on the River Kwai which didn’t exist, the Thai Government just renamed the river to the River Kwai, quite clever really.
The excursion train left the central station in Bangkok at 6.30 am, so it was a very early start for us all, but we were there and had good seats in the AC carriage so we were all happy, the excursion train stops at a few different places, including a temple, the river Kwai Bridge, Kanchanaburi for the death railway graveyard, and actually rides over the famous Bridge on to the end of the current death railway line to Nam Tok, close to Burma, where there was a waterfall, but unfortunately waterfalls tend to be quite dry during dry season, and of course it is dry season. We did the full train route and didn’t arrive back in Bangkok until 7.30pm after a very long hot day, but it was so worth it, and learning about what happened here was very interesting.
For me and Stac, it puts in to perspective what we saw in Hiroshima, which killed so many innocent Japanese people, but at the same time put an end to the suffering and deaths on the death railway run by the Japanese during the same war, very conflicting emotions indeed.
The next day we flew to Phuket for some relax time with the children and to see in Songkran, the biggest water fight in the world…