Ayutthaya, Asiatique and a little bit of red light district

For our second day in Thailand, we got up early to catch the Special Express train leaving for Ayutthaya at 5:45 am. The train was air-conditioned, offered reserved seating, and, to our welcome surprise, included breakfast. Here’s the train schedule from Hua Lamphong to Ayutthaya train station if you plan to go there too. We hired a van to tour us around Ayutthaya.  If you’re on a budget, you can opt for a tuk-tuk instead.

Wat Chaiwatthanaram

Ayutthaya used to be a Siamese kingdom so there are a lot of temples and ruins. I haven’t been to Cambodia but I have seen pictures. And the ruins in Ayutthaya reminded me of Angkor Wat.

If you’ve read my Korean blog post, you would know that we don’t go for guided tours. So while other tourists were getting schooled about why some of the Buddhas’ heads were missing, we came up with our own story. There’s this complex of ruins where a big Buddha statue lorded over numerous smaller, headless Buddhas. Our short story went like this: The tiny Buddhas have had enough of the big Buddha’s dictatorship so they staged an uprising. But the tiny Buddhas were not unified in their attack so they lost and were beheaded for their rebellious act.

The other story we concocted was that Ayutthaya was conquered by outside forces and took over the kingdom. To show the people of Siam who the new rulers were, the conquerors defiled their temples by removing all the Buddha heads from their bodies.

Aside from the ruins, the other reason why we went to Ayutthaya was to ride an elephant. Animal rights activists do not support this trade because they said that mahouts or elephant trainers torture elephants to make them obedient. But if you really want to ride an elephant, based on this blog, make sure to patronize a camp where the elephants are not chained up when they’re not giving rides to tourists, that they get to interact with other elephants, and that they don’t exhibit rocking which is a symptom of distress. Luckily, the camp in Ayutthaya satisfied all of those things except that they gave rides on the back of the elephant, not on the head, which is a no-no.

All those concerns aside, riding an elephant was definitely a unique experience. You had this calm beast working its way around a city, crossing the street and avoiding cars like it’s no big deal. It was walking on the sidewalk like a good pedestrian. It was so cute. I felt like waving to everyone because this ride made me feel like I’m a Thai princess in an ancient city. Our elephant’s name is Thaeng Mo (I don’t know if I’m spelling it correctly). She is four years old and is very calm unlike the other elephant Lola. Lola is quite a personality. She doesn’t care: She will stop and eat when she wants to, and has no qualms about posing in front of a camera.

Lola, the mahout, Matt and mother

After the elephant ride, we dropped by the other temples. But since they all pretty much looked alike, we didn’t bother exploring all of them anymore. Plus, we only had bread for breakfast and were starving so we finished the tour after seeing the 16,583,493th Reclining Buddha in Thailand.

Our lunch was another experience altogether. We had spicy papaya salad, pad thai, a seafood platter and this AMAZING seafood curry. I want to say the elephant ride was the highlight of our Ayutthaya tour but the lunch was a very, very close second. I tried to look for the name of the restaurant and I’m sure I snapped a photo of it, but I can’t find it right now. What I can tell you though is that the restaurant is just across the train station and near a 7-Eleven store. Find it, guys.

Moving ovens called trains

The train going back to Bangkok was so much cheaper than the Special Express train, and for one torturous reason—it was a moving oven. Ordinary trains had no air-conditioning and was free seating (read: free standing). There were ceiling fans for ventilation and fresh air came in from tiny windows. Again, this was the height of summer so just imagine all that pent up heat inside a steel carriage packed with passengers at two in the afternoon. The most fascinating thing that we observed during this hot ride was that the locals weren’t sweating despite the heat, and that none of them reeked of body odor. We were the ones who probably smelled bad and for that we are sorry, people of Thailand.

I made a new friend during our train ride.

That night, we went to Asiatique The Riverfront for dinner. From our hotel, we walked to Saphan Taksin train station where there’s a free boat ride to Asiatique. It’s a great place to go if you want to do some night shopping. It’s a combination of small stalls selling bazaar items and shops of cute Thai brands.

From Asiatique we went to Soi Cowboy, which is one of the popular red light districts in Bangkok. This is where they filmed some scenes of The Hangover Part 2. It’s just a short strip of clubs with lots of foreigners and girls showing off their wares. We chanced upon this lady opening up her legs in front of a potential client. I guess they do this so that the customer can check whether they have the right sexual organs or not, because in Thailand, you can never be too sure if you’re dealing with a real lady or a very pretty boy. I wonder what Buddha has to say about prostitution in Thailand?

Read the first part of our Thailand trip.
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