Our vacation from our vacation from our vacation is nearly over. We're quickly unwinding our travels in reverse, catching taxis, ferries and planes back to where we originally came from.
First stop, the ferry docks at Koh Phangun
While we board the ferry, we watch fishermen haul their boats in and out of the water
After only two days in Koh Phangun, we are escaping this island right before the Full Moon parties kick off. Unsurprisingly, the ferry is almost empty. There are no twenty-somethings leaving Koh Phangun. Just a bunch of old people...
Back to the big cities of Koh Samui
We are only spending the night in Koh Samui before we fly back to the mainland in the morning. We're staying in Chaweng Beach, which is the largest city on the island and only a couple of kms away from the airport.
Walking around the very western malls in Chaweng Beach looking for dinner
We don't really want to eat western food, so we head back outside
But there are many farangs who travel all the way to Thailand and are happy to pay western prices for a hamburger and fries.
Ah! This is more our speed
Waiting for our seafood dinner. Crab and noodles tonight. Again! :D
The next morning, some photo opportunities at the Koh Samui airport, waiting for the plane to Bangkok
And then an hour later, after touching down at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, more nice things to take pictures of
We're not done with Mel and Anton yet! Neda and I had planned to pick up our CRFs in Bangkok and ride a bit north to check out some ruins. Since our friends still have a couple of days of vacation left, they rented a car and we all piled in and headed up together.
It was all highway to Ayutthaya, just over an hour's drive north of the city. I stared out the window as boring, flat urban landscape packed with towns, roads and vehicles scrolled past. Being in a car is both monotonous and hypnotic. We're traveling during the middle of the day and I glanced over at the temperature gauge on the dash of the car. The numbers slowly crept up: 38C... 39C... 40C! So humid too! Missing the islands already. So glad we are in a car on this boring slab-run with the air-conditioning blasting glorious cold air on our faces!
I may even indulge in a short nap in the back seat...
Wat Chaiwatthanaram at sunset
We arrived in Ayutthaya in the early afternoon, checked into our hotel, then waited until sunset to venture out to see some ruins. There are quite a few in the area. The hotel manager suggested we visit Wat Chaiwatthanaram. It's the most well-known of the temples and is the picture on all the postcards of Ayutthaya as well as Google Images.
Well, if it's on Google Images, we *have* to go take our own pictures then and add them to the library!
Do you have this picture, Google Images? Well you do now! SEO tag: Ayutthaya Ayutthaya Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya, the capital of what was once known as Siam (now Thailand), was once one of the largest cities in the world. More than a million people lived here in the 1700s. But most of it was destroyed when Burmese invaders burned it to the ground in 1767. Most of the city was made of wood, but the parts that still stand now are the stone remnants of the temples.
After sunset, we play around with the shadows of the floodlights, lighting up the stones
This is actually the moon peeking out from behind the tower
Getting late, time to go. Lots more to see tomorrow!
There are many different ruins in Ayutthaya, all are within a few kms of each other. There are bus tours that shuttle you to and from all the sites, and we try to beat the tourists that pour out of these behemoths. We've heard that you can also rent bicycles and ride between the ruins, which is a terrific way to die of heat exhaustion. We'll stick to the air-conditioned car, thank you very much Tourism Board of Ayutthaya.
Visiting another site in the morning, Wat Chaiwatthanaram in the background
The red bricks look like they've been scorched from the time
when Burmese invaders burned the city to the ground
Neda ponders Buddha's Head amongst the tree roots in Wat Mahathat
This is one of Thailand's iconic images. No one knows for sure how Buddha's head became entangled in this tree's roots. During the Burmese-Siamese war, the attacking forces chopped off the heads of all the Buddha's in the area. There's speculation that one of these heads might have rolled under a young tree and over time the tree's roots grew around the head.
This dog lives here, so he doesn't find it all that interesting
There are a few decapitated Buddhas on the grounds. But some have managed to keep their heads
The forests around the area are teeming with wildlife. Here's an egret by the lake.
We were driving between sites and Neda spied something on the side of the road. She yelled out to Anton: "STOP THE CAR!"
Then we quietly tiptoed out, took out our cameras and... Water Monitor Lizard. This guy was pretty big, about a foot and half long. Gorgeous creature, but very shy. He slinked away from the cameras very quickly.
Wat Phra Mongkhon Bophit
Wat Phra Sri Sanphet is the largest temple in Ayutthaya, well known for its chedis (Thai Stuppas) all lined up in a row
These aren't the original chedis. They've been restored after the Burmese attacked in 1767. This wasn't the first time Ayutthaya had fallen. The war between Siam and Burma had raged for centuries and the first time Burma took Ayutthaya was in 1564. After they razed it the second time, the city never recovered.
Looks like there are still ongoing archaeological efforts to find more of the ruins at Ayutthaya
Wat Lego. When the Burmese tore these temples down, they inadvertently
stepped on the bricks strewn on ground and were repelled due to the excruciating pain
Temple of the Reclining Buddha at Wat Lokayasutharam. I like how they gave him a real cloth robe. That's a lot of material!