(Posted on Wednesday from Chang Rai)
OK, let me see if I can figure out what day it is. According to my itinerary, it is Monday, February 8. We have been on the road since yesterday and will continue through tomorrow. Then we stop for a day in Chiang Rai, before heading to Chiang Mai for a few days. I like seeing everything, but am tired of traveling on the bus. It makes for very long days and we are exhausted by the end. I also get a tiny bit carsick, so that doesn’t help. I sound like a wuss complaining though. Compared to my last trip, this is like traveling like royalty. The bus is air-conditioned, has soft seats and even a bathroom (but best avoided if possible). Nok is good for stopping for “Tea and Pee” breaks :). The last trip, it was in a Songtaow for 7 hours at a stretch (with lunch stop). A songthaow is a pickup truck with bench planks in the back along the sides of the truck bed and a canvas roof on it. They are hot, bumpy, painful, crowded and the fumes from the truck about asphyxiate you. So I shouldn’t complain. But we just went through the mountains and I have a bit of a sick headache so I will complain a little, at least at my weak body!
So yesterday, Sunday, we left Bangkok at 7:30am (or thereabouts), heading for Ayutthaya. On the way we saw many local busses, all painted up in wonderful colors. Our own bus had Grateful Dead style pandas on the fuzzy carpet interior, with pink and green ruffly curtains and fancy lights on the ceiling. It was 2 stories and we rode on the top story with the luggage and a small bathroom (and the driver) below.
Ayutthaya was the former capital of Thailand. We saw the giant bronze statue of Buddha (Wat Mongkol Borpith) and the rest of the remains of the ancient city. I will tell you the info I wrote down (scribbled, so I can’t read it too well). It may be wrong since I can’t check it on the internet. But roughly, Ayutthaya was the capital from 1350-1769 (about 400 yrs). The Burmese invaded and conquered it and took all the gold on the statues and stupas (tombs). After 15 years, Rama the first took it back. But because it had been damaged, he moved to Bangkok to be the new capital. That started the King Ramas. Rama 4 was the king in “The King and I”. It was about his life and was pretty accurate except for him falling in love with Anna. It was banned from Thailand for quite a while since it showed him falling in love with her and acting in unkingly ways. And showed her acting inappropriately too.
The Thai people love their kings. You will NEVER hear a Thai person speak badly of their royal family. I guess there is one of the brothers (son?) of the current king who is a playboy and he is not mentioned at all in public, like he doesn’t exist. One of the people on the tour saw him in a picture of the royal family in the marketplace and asked Nok about him and she said to wait until later and not to talk about him or ask questions or mention him at all in public. But everyone sincerely loves the king and feels that he does much good for the country. Nok said she would die for him and so would most other Thai people and she really meant it. There are pictures of him and his wife everywhere, big ones decorated on the sides of the roads and in the squares. And he really is an interesting person. He seems like he is quite the renaissance man. He was born in the US (Boston, I think) and plays the saxophone and composes music and has many CDs of his music. I would be very interested in reading a book of the story of his life.
Anyway, after Ayutthaya, we went to the town of Lopburi. Lopburi is absolutely filled with monkeys. They look like monkey gangs roaming the streets. They cross the streets in a stream and swarm all over the shops and roofs and wires and sidewalks. I’d be afraid to walk the streets at night. Monkeys can be pretty aggressive animals, especially in groups! There is a ruin of a temple there that has a bunch of monkeys hanging around it. One person kept teasing the monkeys and getting too close to them and trying to get them to come. The monkey people who keep them back from visitors were having to keep chasing them back. And they stole someone’s sunglasses and the monkey people had to get them back. They look cute but can be very aggressive and people wouldn’t have been happy if they had gotten bitten, like one did to Sean’s mom in Bali. She was sick for a year with some sort of internal parasite from it, not mention getting a pretty bad bite.
So after that we stopped at Chi Na (something like that) for lunch in these amazingly beautiful gardens. I will have to include pictures of the gardens as soon as I can get everything uploaded, etc. Actually, as you can see, I am able to upload now. But my camera ran out of juice and had to use Sean’s so I’m waiting to get his pics. Until then, it was stunning. Thai pavilions, koi ponds, flowers hanging from everywhere, statues, a river, water fountains, everything. Buffet style food, as are all the stops we make as a group. And as always, the food is inexpensive but the water/beer/etc is expensive. That is where they get you, price-wise. This is a picture of their bathroom.
We also visited the Bronze Case factory to see how the buddha statues are made. It was very interesting to watch them make them by hand, using few (if any) machines. The picture on the right was an interesting statue sitting by the door. Not very PC here, but probably not of any notice there. People do collect this type of memorabililia and it is a whole section on ebay. The factory was not commercial at all (although of course they had a gift shop).
After that, we drove a while, had a “tea and pee” break and got to the Topland hotel in Phitsanulok province about 5:30pm. The hotel was beautiful in the lobby, but the rooms were not as nice as the Century Park hotel in Bangkok. Of course, that hotel was very nice. We got used to the nice separate stone shower and large bathtub. This bathtub was really narrow. I am a bath taker and I could just fit in it width-wise (although it was quite long and pretty deep). I could not put my arms next to me in it. At home we have a monster soaking tub so I am used to giant tubs. This was nice and was usable, unlike most hotel tubs. But it sure was narrow (or I sure was wide)!
The hotel had a small mall connected to it with clothing and sports shops and some restaurants and fast food places. I had KFC and it tasted good! Shame on me, I know. All this fantastic food and I eat junk food. Well, deal with it 🙂 Sean went out and found a thai place there and got nice noodle soup and beer and was happy too. We were exhausted from the day and went to bed early. Of course, I woke up thinking it was about 6am, looked at my watch and it was midnight. I didn’t have trouble getting back to sleep though!
The hotel also had a nice pool (we didn’t go there, but saw it from our window) and internet in the lobby for 30 baht/15 minutes. It used an ID/password that you received and just cut you off when the time ran out, which is dangerous since you are probably logged into things. I had to buy another 15 minutes because I was in the middle of a post and when I relogged in, it came up with my editing of my post, which it would have done for anyone. So I made sure to log out of everything (yahoo, wordpress, etc). I tried to delete the history but it would not let me. That is really a bad design to have it just log you out but not even shut the computer down or anything. The person next to me, when they logged in, they were in someone else’s email.
There was also an ATM in the mall so Sean got 5000 baht (about $150) out since we were getting low and didn’t know when we would find another one and were started the part of the trip where credit cards and things like that were not taken by most places. Then we went to bed since we had a 6am wakeup call, 6:30am bags outside the door and 8am departure.
To be continued…
Becky Carleton, a librarian at the Johnson County Library in Kansas challenged me to name ten pieces
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