Bangkok, Ayutthaya, and Sukhothai
So let’s get one thing straight right off the bat here… when you buy a ticket for a “sleeper” coach bus in Thailand, like we had from Koh Lipe to Bangkok, that’s not reeeeeally what you get. You may associate “sleeper” with the type of coach you find in South America, you know, with the comfy reclining seats, or the sleeping pods you might find in Vietnam buses – we did. What you will get instead is the same old and busted circa 1989 coach buses that they sell regular tickets for – the ones you get tossed around in because of the crazy driving haha. Suffice to say there won’t be a lot of “sleeping” happening on the “sleeper” bus. We booked the overnight “sleeper” into Bangkok after taking the ferry from Koh Tao to the mainland. What they also do not warn you about are the bus changes that occur along the route. We’re not sure the reason for this, maybe they split the revenue or the drivers don’t want to take their buses that far. Anyway, we changed buses three times throughout the journey and finally we were dropped off on the side of the highway in Bangkok. Lucky for us, we were close to our final destination – Khaosan Road.
Bangkok has three sides. There’s the city, which is an urban thriving metropolis with fantastic shopping, restaurants, and sights. Then, it has the devotion of the Thai Buddhists, monks, temples, and beautiful peace. And lastly, the real Sincity – Vegas has nothin’ on Bangkok, the ladyboys, Patpong & Khao San Road, prostitutes, and general craziness. Such conflicting and contrasting energies – it’s incredible.
So here we were, dropped off at 5AM, walking to our hotel on Khao San Road. We knew this area was the “backpacker” area but we didn’t know just how tacky and insane it is. We found our hotel relatively easy, dodging the puke and other questionable substances, and tried to see if we could get an early check in. Unfortunately, because we were so early, we couldn’t check in but they kept our bags for us. We were starving so we walked across the street to the only thing open, McDonalds. It was that time of day where the really drunk people are still out from partying and surprisingly functioning, but they’re tired so they kind of walk sideways and sleep standing up/on the curb – or places you would never want to lie down if you were sober. We ordered some food and went back to our hotel lobby to nap until check in.
When we ventured back out, Khao San had transformed back to a tourist street; the pavement had been hosed down, the shops were open, the restaurants were open, and we could get our bearings a little more. We wandered around and met one of Russell’s former elementary school teachers. He is now living and working in Thailand and came down to Bangkok to meet for a drink. From Powell River, BC all the way to Thailand, sometimes life has these little amazing moments.
By the time we said goodbye, Khao San Road had put on it’s makeup and transformed once more into THE destination for young backpackers. The street was literally PACKED with people, blaring music, and hawker stalls selling everything from coconut ice cream, to buckets of alcohol, to edible scorpions. We called it a night because we were still exhausted from our journey in – goodnight Khao San.
In the morning we braved the heat and hired a tuk tuk to take us around to the local sights and book our ticket to Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand. We visited beautiful temples and cruised through the daily life of the Thai’s. We arrived at a “locals” travel agency and bargained a deal on a journey up to Northern Thailand; we would go to Ayutthaya, Sukothai, Chiang Mai, Pai, and finish with a Long Boat along the Mekong River into Laos.
That night we visited the famed Patpong area. We had walked through the shops where the pimps/hosts flocked to us begging to visit their bar. We declined at first because we wanted to walk around a bit and have a drink and people watch. Finally we indulged and went to a bar that advertised “no cover, free show”. We sat down, ordered a drink and the festivities began. If you’re not familiar with Patpong… maybe don’t google it, you might be in for a surprise. Basically, to put it eloquently, these bars are full of shows that glorify all the uses of the female parts. They are called p***y shows. We had ping pong balls shot at us, pictures drawn (without hands), darts thrown with incredible accuracy (again, without hands) – but when the water squirting came Meghan called it quits. Liquid from vagina onto face = no thank you. We asked for the bill and things got heated. The waitress asked Meghan, specifically, to follow her. Once at the counter she handed Meghan a bill for 3600 Thai Bhat (about $142 CAD) – EXCUSSY ME?! She chose the wrong white girl to scam. We ordered one drink each. She told Meghan that we have to pay for the “show”… right (insert eye roll). Russell came over to see what was going on and there was another couple beside us having the same argument. We said we would not pay it, as did the other couple, and the waitress started getting violent with us. Finally we met in the middle, we preferred not to end up in a Thai Prison, even if we were being scammed. Ourselves and the other couple walked out complaining to each other about the scam and eventually started laughing about how weird the show was. We decided to go for a drink together, at a regular place, and go touring together in the morning.
The next day we met our new friends and went on the Bangkok river cruise with the mini floating market. This was a really interesting experience; to see all the houses along the river was incredible. It’s a wonder some of them were still standing. It looked like they might wake up one morning in the river with their house floating downstream.
That night we went to CRU Champagne bar and took in the Bangkok skyline from high above. It was a fantastic view. The next morning we were off on our journey to Ayutthaya.
Ayutthaya could, and should, rival the other famous ancient ruins in the world. It was founded in around 1350 and its vastness speaks to just how amazing this city used to be. There is so much spiritual significance in each ruin we encountered. Not to mention that the ruins and ancient empire span such a large territory. We began with Wat Phu Khao Thong (The Golden Mount), ventured to Wat Lokayasutharam – home of the reclining Buddha, Wat Mahathat – the Buddha head in the tree roots, and finally Wat Phra Sisanphet and it’s famous three Chedi. The day was another scorcher – so we were happy to be dropped at our hotel for the night and take a much-needed shower. It was a short stay in Ayutthaya and in the morning we were off to the bus station, to catch our Sukhothai coach, in the back of a pick up truck.
We arrived in Sukhothai in the early evening. We stayed in a cute basic wooden bungalow just behind the main street. But, you know the problem with bungalows? Ants. In Buddhist, and many other spiritual cultures it is considered very bad to harm other living creatures. No bug spray allowed. Unfortunately, all the gluten free food Meghan purchased in Bangkok, for our time in more rural areas, was infested with ants. And, because the food was tucked away in Russell’s backpack, his backpack was also infested with ants. Wuh Wuhhh.
After dealing with our ant infestation, that we discovered the next morning, we rented a scooter from the front desk and toured around the city. Sukhothai is the first ancient Siamese capital in Thailand; and spans quite a distance of land because of it. You can bicycle around from ruin to ruin – but it was about 42 degrees Celsius during our time there, so even the scooter was mildly uncomfortable in the heat. There are some ruins that you really need to use your imagination with and some that are incredibly intact. We admired the ancient ruins and then stumbled across a beautiful local ceremony being held at a temple in the small town.
We had enough of the heat for one day so we went back to our anthill bungalow to rest before heading out for dinner. We found the most amazing sidewalk restaurant; literally it was set up right there on the sidewalk, run by two older Thai ladies. They had a basic menu (it seemed to only be 3 items), but it was so authentic and delicious.
In the morning we were on another bus up to Chiang Mai; which translates to “New City”. Meghan thinks it should be called “Chang” Mai because she came to play Dr. Dolittle with the Elephants (elephant in Thai = Chang). Read about our Chiang Mai and Pai experience next!