Taking in Thailand

My wife and I were only in Bangkok for three days. We thought we wouldn’t have time to do much but actually saw most of the city’s landmarks in one day. We didn’t know what else to do and thought we might like to see a little bit more of the country.

My wife and I usually prefer the outdoors and the countryside. I’m willing to admit that we could have missed Bangkok’s charms and should’ve given it more time. But we knew we didn’t want to spend another day marching through the city’s congested streets or refusing another cheap looking souvenir or piece of clothing.

My wife found some information on the floating market in a brochure in our hotel. The photo showed small boats with brightly coloured fruits and dyed silk cloth, pushed together to form a temporary market. It sounded like the type of quaint easy exoticism you look for when travelling. Sadly, this was the market’s sole purpose.

“I wouldn’t bother. It’s just for the tourists,” said an Englishman at our hotel reception who overheard us asking the clerk for the best way to get to the markets. “You’d much prefer Ayutthaya.”

He said it was the former capital of Thailand until it was destroyed and was only about 70 kilometres away. Better still, it was not so popular with tourists. I was sold on the last point.

A tuk-tuk is a three wheel motorcycle popular in many Asian countries. The name tuk-tuk comes from the original engine sound the machine made.

When we got there, we had to decide how to get around. My wife wanted to hire a tuk-tuk for the day. My idea was to hire pushbikes and after some persuading I managed to convince my wife into agreeing. What I didn’t expect was the woman we wanted to hire the bikes from would require convincing too. She kept recommending we take a tuk-tuk.

We finally headed off through the palaces and temples which make up the historical part of the city. One of the most striking images and one which gets reproduced in many travel guides is the head of Buddha embedded into a fig tree. According to the information we found, the invading army tried to steal the head, but it was so heavy they left it there. Over time the tree started to grow around it. We also climbed the stairs of the many temples and took photos of monkeys and the many stray dogs we saw.

The most enjoyable aspect was being on the bike and zipping around in the heavy tropical air. It felt like we were – if not part of the society – somehow more connected with its rhythms. People stared or waved as they saw us ride by. Cattle blocked a road and we had to ride round them as they walked along the road. In one hair-raising instance, we crossed a motorway with trucks and buses barrelling past and large dust clouds cloaking us in grime which got in our eyes and mouths.

After my first day in Bangkok I was convinced I would never return. But the day in Ayutthaya was a highlight and I wanted to see more of the country.

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Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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The definition of countryside is a rural area. Be careful! Use the word countryside not NATURE when you talk about a weekend spent out of town.

My wife and I were in Bangkok for three days. And we saw most of the city’s landmarks in one day. We didn’t know what else to do. My wife and I usually prefer the outdoors and the countryside. So we knew we didn’t want to spend another day in the city’s crowded streets.

My wife found some information on a market on the river in a brochure in our hotel. The photo showed small boats with coloured fruits and silk cloth. It looked exotic. “I wouldn’t bother. It’s just for the tourists,” said an Englishman at our hotel reception.“You’d much prefer Ayutthaya.”

He said it was the former capital of Thailand which was only about 70 kilometres away. And it was not so popular with tourists.

A tuk-tuk is a three wheel motorcycle popular in many Asian countries. The name tuk-tuk comes from the original engine sound the machine made.

When we got there, we had to decide how to get around. My wife wanted to hire a tuk-tuk. My idea was to hire pushbikes and after some time I convinced my wife into saying yes. What I didn’t expect was the woman we wanted to hire the bikes from also thought we should rent tuk-tuks.

We finally got through the palaces and temples which form the historical part of the city. One of the most striking images is the head of Buddha in a fig tree. According to the information we found, the army tried to steal the head, but it was so heavy they left it there. We also climbed the stairs of the many temples and took photos of monkeys we saw.

The most enjoyable part of the journey was on the bike. We felt “more connected” with the rhythms of the city and society. People were surprised to see us ride by.

After my first day in Bangkok I thought I would never return. But the day in Ayutthaya was something special and I wanted to see more of the country.

Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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My wife and I were only in Bangkok for three days. We thought it would be barely enough time to see all the sights, so we were surprised when we managed to visit most of the city’s landmarks, took in the famous Khao San Road and almost got scammed in the space of one day. We felt at a loss and for our second day we were itching to see a little bit more of the country.

Before I go on, I’m willing to accept that we could have missed Bangkok’s charms and should’ve given it more time. In our defence I would say my wife and I tend to prefer the outdoors and the countryside. At any rate we knew we didn’t want to spend another day marching through its congested streets or declining yet another cheap looking souvenir or item of clothing.

Looking through various brochures in our hotel on the evening after our first day, my wife found some information on the floating market. The photo showed small boats piled with brightly coloured fruits and dyed silk cloth, jammed together to form a temporary market. It sounded like the type of quaint easy exoticism you seek out when travelling. Sadly, this was the market’s sole purpose.

“I wouldn’t bother. It’s just for the tourists,” said an Englishman at our hotel reception who overheard us asking the clerk for the best way to get to the markets. “You’d much prefer Ayutthaya.”

He explained it was the former capital of Thailand until it was destroyed about 500 years ago. (Actually it was destroyed in 1767). This piece of Thailand’s lost history was only about 70 kilometres away. Better still, it was not so popular with tourists. I was sold on the last point.

That we took travel advice from a complete stranger sounds like the start of a horror film or at least reckless misadventure. Actually, the trip proved to be memorable, though the man failed to mention that a mere 70 kilometres meant almost three hours of travel because of the congested roads and our bus stopping at every bus stop along the way.

A tuk-tuk is a three wheel motorcycle popular in many Asian countries. The name tuk-tuk comes from the original engine sound the machine made.

In the town my wife and I debated how we would get around. She wanted to hire a tuk-tuk for the day, but we’d be burnt in Bangkok by this common scam. Though we got out of the tuk-tuk before we were taken around to shops, I wasn’t ready to trust another one. My idea was to hire pushbikes and after some cajoling I managed to convince – or press – my wife into agreeing. What I didn’t expect was the woman we wanted to hire the bikes from would require convincing too. She kept recommending we take a tuk-tuk.

After repeating a couple of times how much we – or at least I – wanted to see the city from a bike, we headed off through the network of palaces and temples which make up the historical part of the city. Many of the decorations had been taken by the invaders, so the buildings were stripped to their red brick undersides. This made them seem strangely modern, a point of view which only betrayed my Western perspective. Brickwork may have become increasingly popular in Europe during the Industrial Revolution, but in Asia the material has been used for thousands of years. Ayutthaya itself dates back to the 14th century.

One of the most striking images and one which gets reproduced in many travel guides is the head of Buddha embedded into a fig tree. According to the information we found, the invading army tried to steal the head, but it was so heavy they left it there. Over time the tree started to grow around it. As corny as it was we had to take a photo too. We also climbed the stairs of the many temples and took photos of monkeys and the many stray dogs we saw, including a mother lazing in the sun as her pups suckled.

By far the most enjoyable aspect was being on the bike and zipping around in the heavy tropical air. It felt like we were – if not a part of the society – somehow more in tune with its rhythms. People stared or waved as they saw us ride by. Four teenagers piled onto a moped and called out to my wife, saying they loved her. A family of cattle blocked a road and we had to wind round them as they plodded along the asphalt. In one hair-raising instance, we crossed a motorway with trucks and buses barrelling past and large dust clouds cloaking us in grime which got in our eyes and mouths.

After my first day in Bangkok I was convinced I would never return. I’d heard so many stories from travellers of the excitement to be had, but maybe I had too many expectations. Or maybe I was just too old. But the day in Ayutthaya was a highlight and I wanted to see more of the country. When we got back to the hotel, I thanked the Englishman for his advice but he didn’t seem to remember us.

Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia

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