Thursday, September 24, 2015

Visiting Ayutthaya By Train

Many years ago I went to Ayutthaya. It was a memorable trip for any number of reasons. Most specifically because in crawling through the tunnels and little openings at one of the remote temple sites, I became slightly wedged. As in someone had to push me out from behind. That kind of thing tends to stay with you.

Nonetheless I returned to Ayutthaya this year by train. Taking the train was just as, if not more, memorable than getting stuck. My husband and I prefer to travel in different ways: I’m up for adventure, he’s up for air conditioning. So he was more than skeptical about the train. To convince him of the merits of train travel, I worked on the kids. I didn’t sell Ayutthaya to my kids as a UNESCO World Heritage Centre or the former capital of Siam. Instead I sold it as the place we got to visit by TRAIN. It worked.

One morning, we went to the Hualamphong train station and bought our tickets (15 baht each, adults and children). We browsed the snacks briefly and bought a few bottles of water. Then we hopped on the train. We still had about half an hour before the train’s scheduled departure and there were a lot of available seats. The train is open seating except for the seats in the back reserved for monks.
Hualamphong train station
Ayutthaya train
As we got closer to departure time, the train began filling up pretty quickly and the cars, which were parked in the sun, began to heat up. Sweating, we kept glancing at our watches and noticed the train left about five minutes late. The beginning portion of the trip was long. The train made 5-6 stops in a half hour period. Because of the frequent stops, the train never really cooled down.

Then, unexpectedly, the conductor came through and announced that if we were going to Ayutthaya, we would need to switch trains “very quickly please.” We grabbed our stuff, and our kids, and ran across the track, hopping onto another train just as it started moving. This train was standing room only as it was crowded with college-age backpackers.

Although we were standing (people did scoot over to make room for the kids and we had one child in a stroller), the second train ride was actually very pleasant. The train’s speed really picked up, and the breeze cooled the train considerably. About an hour later, we pulled into the Ayutthaya station and the conductor walked through announcing our location. From there, we bought 4 baht water taxi tickets which took us downtown.

Once downtown, we passed all of the bike rental places and instead found a place to eat on the river. Then we found a tuk tuk driver who would drive us to the various wats for 100 baht an hour.

The first temple we visited, Wat Mahathat, was quite crowded as many people come to see the Buddha head entwined in the bo tree roots. There was a 50 baht fee. 
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Wat Lokayasutharam is home to the world’s longest reclining Buddha. This was the third wat we visited. By time we got here, the sun was high and hot. My kids ate ice cream at the snack shop (which had tables just like my Kunya had in her garden) while I took pictures.
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Offerings made to the reclining Buddha.
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There were plenty more temples to see but from here we called it a day. We asked the tuk tuk driver to take us to the minibus pick-up and drop-off point. From there, we found a bus with five open seats. The mini-bus took us back to Bangkok, dropping all passengers off at Victory Monument.

In retrospect, I wish we had stayed overnight in Ayutthaya. There are so many ruins to see and it would have been more enjoyable to do so earlier in the morning or in the early evening, which would have alleviated the heat and the crowds.

Something to remember for next time!

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