We needed to head back towards Bangkok from Pai so that we could make our way over to Koh Phangan, so we headed back to Chiang Mai for a few more days for some comfiness at Kittawan Home and Gallery and cuddles with Bobby the dog, who looks like this, in case anyone had forgotten <3
We decided to make a stop off at Ayuthaya, instead of heading straight to Bangkok as we had read lovely things about the historic city. Although it was hard to understand the bus timetables and to find a bus that actually seemed to be going to Ayuthaya, we were told that certain buses headed for Bangkok would stop along the way and let us jump out. Everything sort of went to plan, although we were literally dropped in the middle of a busy dual carriageway and everything seemed a bit ominous at first.
Fortunately someone from the air b’n’b we had booked found us after a local kindly spoke to him on the phone. Thai’s are friendly like that. We received a lovely warm welcome at Chommuang Guesthouse and could instantly see how this lovely lady got her superhost status.
As we had arrived quite late, we were very limited when it came to food, although we were told that there was a Buddhist vegan restaurant right opposite, which we’d be able to try the next day! Yay!
After having no luck at the local night market which was incredibly heavy on the barbecued meat and tracksuits, we found a lovely Vietnamese restaurant called Krua Vietnam which was in no way vegetarian, let alone vegan. However, a very sweet girl came over to help and explained to the owner, who spoke no English, our strange diet. As a result, we got a scrummy plate of mixed veg with brown rice. It was so simple, but so good, that we ordered the same again. We’d recommend the place for sure, especially if you’re looking for somewhere to eat at night, but it’s probably best to take a piece of paper with an explanation of your requirements written in Thai.
With full bellies we headed back to our temporary abode where we got an early night in preparation for what would prove to be an exhausting and sweaty next day.
Once the trading capital of Asia and before that, the second capital of Siam, Ayuthaya has an extremely colourful past. However in 1767 a Burmese invasion saw most of the city burnt to the ground leaving only few remains which give a glimpse into a rich history which dates back to 1350, when Ayuthaya was founded.
The best way to explore the ruins, which became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1991, is to hire a bicycle and ride around the large archaeological park, which aside from the ruins is an absolutely beautiful area.
It was a swelteringly hot day and although they did the job, our gearless pushbikes certainly got the lactic acid in our legs going.
But, it was entirely worth it for the incredible sites that we saw. As we stood in the middle of hauntingly magnificent temple ruins, we tried to imagine what the life of a resident monk might have been like in the 17th century, in what was at one time one of the world’s most prosperous cities.
To see Buddha statues which have remained through everything that the city has had thrown at it and while walls have crumbled around them, is quite breathtaking.
Perhaps one of the most incredible sights was the head of a Buddha statue which had become detached from its body and instead had become part of a tree whose roots had completely enveloped it.
We were required to pay an entrance fee to visit each of the different ruin sites within the park, but it wasn’t very much and we were happy to part with the cash because we were having such a great day!
We also visited Vihara Phra Mongkhon Bophit, a restored Buddhist monastery, where many visitors were buying and donating various offerings as well as receiving blessings next to a huge gold Buddha statue.
In total we spent about 4 hours cycling round the park. Had it been less hot, we could have gone for longer, however we had planned to leave in the afternoon to make our way to Koh Phagnan so everything worked out quite nicely.
Before catching our bus to Bangkok, we made sure to try out the restaurant we had been told about. The place is simply called Jay Vegetarian Restaurant, but it’s written in Thai, so have a good look at the pictures on happy cow if you plan to head there. The food was, as we’d hoped, delicious, authentically Thai and very cheap!
Once we’d had enough to eat, we embarked on what would be a monstrously long journey to the tropical Island of Koh Phangan. This involved a bus to Bangkok, a taxi to the train station, an overnight train to Surat Thani, another bus and then a boat. But more about that in our next blog.