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Bangkok, Thailand
Sunday, May 12, 2013

Bangkok really is the 'centre' of Thailand and virtually all railway transport goes via the capital. Where possible we have avoided retracing our steps but as we had to come back to Bangkok to catch onward trains we decided to leave the Mule in storage while we explored the North of Thailand and Laos. We then nipped off to Pattaya before returning this time for our third and final visit.

Both previous visits being quick stopovers we decided to take a bit more time on this occasion and spent 5 nights taking in some sights and catching up with our great friend Nam before heading south to Hua Hin.

Although we have been to Bangkok on several occasions before and have visited most of the city's sights already, it is amazing how quickly you can fill 4 days!

Day 1 - Ayuthaya

Today we headed north of Bangkok and boarded a train to Ayuthaya which between 1350 and 1767 was the capital of Siam. An empire which at its peak ruled over an area larger than England and France combined.

In total Ayuthaya had 33 kings who engaged in more than 70 wars. The last major battle took place in 1767 when the Burmese invaded the city, destroying most of the temples and palaces. The ruins were left to crumble until they became a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. Since then major restoration work has taken place giving visitors the opportunity to take a step back in time and imagine how the original temples or palaces would have looked.

We only had a day and we knew realistically that we would not be able to see all of the ruins and temples so we decided to narrow it down by choosing Lonely Planet's top 5 and only added in a couple along the way.

After lots of walking and practically melting in the heat we managed to visit 7 ruins some with working temples. We've visited many temples in Thailand but this is the first time we have been to such a historical site and it reminded us of Angkor Wat in Cambodia albeit on a much smaller and less grander scale.

Although we have seen so many temples and are pretty 'templed out' we do still enjoy seeing Thai temples as they are so beautiful to look at. One of the temples we visited had a sitting Buddha that sat 19m tall surrounded by a staggering 84,000 smaller Buddha sculptures!

Probably the strangest sight of the day was the Buddha head in the tree. Nobody is sure how it got there but rumour has it that during the war with Burma the head was removed from its statue to be stolen but it was too heavy and was left at the base of the tree, since then the tree has since grown around the head. It sounds a plausible story, but it was strange how the head was mysteriously facing outwards. Surely this is unlikely to have happened if the thieves were struggling to lift it in the first place and further still if it was too heavy it's likely that it would have been dropped not conveniently placed in the budding roots of a tree. Secondly the body of the statue was nowhere to be seen and if it had of eroded away over time surely the head would have too?

We managed to fit in far more than we imagined and had a great day out and it was a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok.

Day 2

The next day we had a lazy morning chilling before spending some time sorting out train tickets and booking hotels, time seemed to fly by and before we knew it, it was evening and so we set off a little later than planned to spend the evening at one of the well-known party areas of Bangkok. Having just been to Pattaya we wanted to sample Bangkok's nightlife and see if it lived up to its reputation, purely for comparison reasons!

Unfortunately it was nothing like Pattaya and we ended up cutting the night short so we could catch the last metro train home.

Day 3 - Nam

We met up with our good friend Nam who we met on our very first trip to Thailand way back in 2008. We arranged to meet her at a large shopping centre where we jumped on a skytrain to meet up with her Mum, Dad and Son. We've heard so much about them over the years and seen many photos it was slightly surreal to actually meet them.

We went to an all you can eat Sushi restaurant a combination of a Sushi restaurant and a BBQ where you cooked your own food at the table. We had one of the best seats in the restaurant and were seated right next door to the kitchen, so we had the first pick of the trays of food rotating around on the belt. The choice was exceptional with ready made sushi rolls, prawn tempura, salads, fruits, sauces, drinks and even ice cream for dessert. In Sonya's words 'pure heaven!'

We all had a great time and although Nams Mum, Dad and Son didn't speak a word of English we could still communicate with smiles and gestures and of course Nam translated for us. It was a great afternoon spending time with a good friend and her family although it has to be said we may have stuffed our faces a little too much!

Day 4 - Bangkok

We took a stroll around the city before heading out for one last Singha.

We have said enough about the nightlife in Thailand and our experience of Bangkok is nothing like Pattaya, it still has to be seen to be believed. The saying 'wearing a belt' will never be the same again.

We leave Bangkok with happy memories and look forward to Hua Hin the only major tourist location in Thailand we haven't been to before.

Ta Ta for now

Team Chip

Hotel Review

We stayed at @Hua Lamphong for the third time on our trip. In total we stayed 8 nights. The hotel is ideally located for both the main railway station and the MRT with an entrance just outside the front of the hotel. The hotels location was ideal for us with the railway station being key to our transport plans. However the MRT stops around 23:30 leaving the hotel cut off from the main city with a tuk-tuk being the only sensible way to get home. If you want to sample the nightlife be prepared for an expensive tuk-tuk ride as we were quoted 300B! The hotel itself is a hotel/hostel mainly a hotel but with a few dorms, a common area and luggage storage for just 20B a day! We left a piece of luggage for nearly a month as we travelled the North of Thailand and Laos. The room was more than adequate with air-com, private bathroom, fridge, safe and cable TV (although there was only a few English channels) A nice hotel in a good location for our travel plans but not in a tourist area so might not suit everyone.


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