After 6 long and interesting days in Bangkok with my mother already under my hat… I decided to take her out of the madness of the city on a day tour. A rigidly organised tour is not normally my style anymore but, the woman needed some structure amongst this chaos before she lost her damn mind. The hotel we are staying at has a sign in the lift that I had been looking at all week – a full day trip to Ayutthaya by coach, returning by boat. For 2500 baht, it isn’t the cheapest tour we could do but it was guaranteed to be comfortable at that price. Even though I have managed to get her on a Tuk Tuk, Mum still isn’t ok with the culture shock of the city yet so comfort will please her. It included a few stops and a buffet lunch too so ok, let’s do it!
Up we got at 5.30 am to have breakfast, get ready and meet our transfer in the lobby. I decided that today would be the day that I try and teach mum how to take photos using my iPhone for my instagram. I tried to dress up super cute for some Instagram shots however jump forward an hour and I’m being asked to wear the tie-dyed Moo Moo you will see in the pics below as I wasn’t covered up enough. What, is this my first overseas trip or something? How did I make such a rookie error!? Anyway, off we go to pick everyone else up and get onto the big bus that would be taking us around that day.
When our tour guide grabbed the mic as we headed to our first destination I realised it is going to be an interesting day. He told us his name is ‘First’. His mother called him this because he was the first-born son.. ok then. He then tells us an overview of the day, including what we can expect on the menu at lunch. Completely straight-faced he tells us that we will be able to try traditional Thai food of crickets, dog (which tastes like pork) and snake (which tastes like fish) among other things. I’m laughing nervously as I’m pretty confident he is totally joking (and I’m a vegetarian). My 62-year-old mother who wanted to go on this tour to get the hell out of Bangkok and away from the madness and hopefully enjoy some ‘normal’ food found it much less funny than I however!
It turns out this is just the segway into his comedy routine. If you don’t want to hear a long-winded yet hilarious travel story that has nothing to do with my time in Bangkok OR on this your then skip the rest of this paragraph now, I won’t be offended. First proceeds to tell us about the time he was a guide on a trekking in rural northern Thailand. There were only squat toilets available for use – a hole in the ground – as it was a very traditional village. Apparently, they call it the ‘Happy Room’ in Thailand so I will refer to it as such from now. So a girl on the tour goes to the ‘Happy Room’, but she has never used a squat toilet before, she has no idea what to do. She sits down bare-assed with her legs straight in front of her on the ground over the hole. This is just 1 of many ways this has all gone wrong for this poor woman. She does her business and then tries to get up. She can’t. She struggles and struggles but ,as a bigger woman, she is now well and truly wedged in the hole. She calls out to First for help. First comes to her aid. He needs her to open the door for him to help her up though but obviously, she cannot. Remember, she has her whole ass stuck in a hole in the ground with her legs straight out in front of her. First has to kick the door down and then trys to help this naked from the waist down 120kg woman up off the ‘toilet’. First is only slender – 70kgs? – he cannot get her up. He needs to get help from 3 other girls on the trek to help eventually get this woman out. Now, I have had some travelling incidents in my time but this takes the cake! I am cracking up while this story is being told to crickets and tumbleweed in the rest of the bus as everyone else seemed to have the sense of humour of a baked potato that day… well it was at this point that I knew First and I were going to be good mates.
The Summer Palace
That tasteful story brought us to our first stop – The Summer Palace or Bang Pa-In Palace – say that quickly ten times over.
This place is stunning. Many global royals have stayed here including, more recently, Queen Elizabeth. I’ll put some pictures below so you can just get an idea. It did remind me of the Summer Palace at Peterhof in Russia somewhat but obviously in a Thai and even Chinese style of architecture. I actually found it really interesting that they even had a Chinese mansion built in the Summer Palace for Chinese lords and royalty to stay. Next to this mansion are two smaller houses, one is a kitchen where all food would be taste tested for poison and the other is a change room. The Thai King would change to dress as a Chinese King before entering the Chinese Mansion as a sign of respect. I thought that was really cool, albeit not surprising from what I have found to be a very open, respectful and tolerant country so far – Buddism 101 I guess.
Ayutthaya – Wat Mahatad, Wihan Phramongkhon Bophit and Wat Phrasrisanphet
Ayutthaya was capital of the Kingdom of Siam, and a prosperous international trading port, from 1350 until razed by the Burmese in 1767.
As we pulled into this town on the bus First indulged us in yet another story; the story of young boy from this town who would be sent to school each day by his mother but would never arrive. Instead the boy would walk down to the temples to sell hand-carved wood works and postcards to tourists using the single only English word he knew – souvenier. That boy was him – welcome to First’s home-town!
Wat Mahatad was razed by the Burmese and pretty badly damaged although First assured me that the Thai people have forgiven and forgotten, expect him, he won’t forget because it is his job to tell us all about it! haha. Also, a monsoon and also looters have further destroyed the ruins with looters taking the heads off a lot of the Buddha statues to sell across the globe. FYI – NOT COOL to put your head over the Buddha statue for a photo, remember this if you ever visit. And you should visit. Although ruins, it was really interesting and made for some amazing pics… see below the Buddha head that was washed away in the monsoon and now is found as it grows higher and higher each year in the roots of this tree! FYI -don’t turn your back on the face of buddha while standing up. You must kneel or be sitting like I am, otherwise it can be seen as very disrespectful.
Wat Phrasrisanphet was my favourite stop. This was the holiest temple on the site of the old Royal Palace in Thailand’s ancient capital until the city was completely destroyed by the Burmese in 1767. It was used as a prototype for the Grand Palace in Bangkok. You’re able, within reason, to climb and even enter the sphires and wander around the whole site. On the way in and out you will even see some elephants!
The Boat Back to Bangkok
Back on the coach and after stopping to pick up some people from another broken down coach we were on our way to the pier to get our boat back into Bangkok. The buffet lunch was amazing. They catered for all different dietary requirements. Crab Fried Rice, Beef and Black Bean, Pork Stew Stirfry, Praw and Vegetarian Soups, Stirfry Veggies, Stirfry sweet and sour fish… THE WORKS. Mum even tried some Pad Thai (finally have her eating Thai food after almost a week of being here…). The cruise back came with commentary on what we were passing. The place where the most recent deceased King’s ashes are kept. New condominiums next to traditional floating houses and markets. Also, a Chinese Temple built next to a Buddhist Temple and a Mosque along the river banks which apparently was purposeful to show that in Bangkok ‘we can all live together’. I dig it!
Goodbye First 🙁
First and I said our final goodbyes. He had taken quite a liking to me and offered me a special reminder of him as a gift so I never forget him. A little Thai Man doll keyring. hahaha. He also gave me his business card and personal email saying “If you ever return to Bangkok “I would love to be your GUY… I mean guide.” hahahhaa Smooth talker? He is fabulous anyway and his details are below if you do need someone who speaks perfect Tin-glish, has a great sense of humour and loves an afternoon “Happy Water” (beer) or 5.
Finally, I will wrap this up….. Now my preferred travel style is to walk, talk, eat, get lost, ask for recommendations as I go or meet some locals and tag-along BUT I actually do like to throw something like this in every now and then. It was nice to be able to see all of that with someone who could tell me what I’m actually seeing. At the same time as not having to worry about any of the logistics. Also, when travelling with your mother who is a first-time traveller at the ripe age of 62 years old – I highly recommend something like this also. I think she is actually starting to actually appreciate this city, country, people and even its food finally now after such a nice day and a super friendly guide.
A link to the tour that we did: http://www.guidebangkoktravel.com/Ayutthaya_CC/59f2d3f99b8a8b00012b5c76
In the words of First – Give more, expect less. Give without expectation. An example he gave to me was how he has given his love to Shania Twain, knowing she will never love him back….. hahahaha? Who knows.
Ladyboy show tonight and I’ve managed to convince mum to come along. Wish me luck! Peace out guys and gals xx