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Chill Vibes & Rainy Days on Koh Lanta

Hello from home in lovely Massachusetts!

I’m ashamed that it’s taken me so long to get back to my blog after promising myself to keep up with it. The story behind my lag in posting isn’t even good. Long story short, it was a combination of the fact that I could not find a three-pronged outlet in Vietnam where I could charge my laptop, and also because my time in Vietnam was extremely busy with some lovely friends I made there!

I would love to keep posting about my trip because I’ve barely gotten halfway through everything I wanted to blog about! But I am blogging from home now, so I hope I don’t forget too many important details!

After all the excitement of Ko Phi Phi I headed to the final island on my Thailand hit list: Koh Lanta. Unlike Phuket and Phi Phi, I was so confident that I would love this island and had very high expectations! For once both the travel bloggers and people I spoke to actually agreed: Koh Lanta is amazing. I was told it was less touristy, less developed, and more laid back with nice beaches and a chilled-out vibe. Sounded like paradise to me!

I took the ferry over to Koh Lanta and was shuttled over to my hostel. I checked in with June, the wonderfully jolly Thai owner of Hey Beach Hostel and she showed me to my dorm, which was in a separate structure just a stone’s throw away.

After seeing that I had checked in alone, June asked if I wanted her to show me where I could grab some dinner. She offered to walk me down to the beach and over to one of the restaurants where I could get a discount as a guest at her hostel. As it was really dark and I had no idea where to go, I agreed. Completely abandoning the hostel and her reception duties, we chatted about the island as we walked ten minutes down the restaurant-lined beach. We finally got to the restaurant where I could get a discount and she flagged over the waiter, whom she knew. They got me set up with a table and menu right on the sand, as well as a much needed Chang beer on the house 🙂

The next morning I was finally able to understand the layout of this amazing beach hostel. Everything was open-air. The reception area led to the kitchen, which led to the dining area, which led straight out to the beach. I took a video of myself walking through the grounds to the beach and then sped it up so it would be quicker to watch! Sorry if it’s a little too fast but I just thought the lack of floors and walls throughout was pretty fun and unique!

The only thing about my stay in Koh Lanta was the weather forecast. I could hardly complain, after weeks of hot, beautiful sunshine literally every day. But I was disappointed that this island I had heard so much about would be cloudy and rainy.

Quite dramatic

Quite a dramatic scene. Some kind women let me take refuge under their massage parlor hut on the beach during the torrential downpour that occurred just after I took this photo.

But I tried to make the best of it. I got a couple of blog posts up while I was there, had the opportunity to read and journal quite a bit, and also treated myself to a lazy afternoon when I streamed the film “The Beach” on my laptop in my bunk after hearing so much about it!

I must admit that the some of my time there did get a little lonely. I did go out to an outdoor nightclub one of the nights with the friends I had made on Phi Phi, who were staying at a different hostel. But once they left the island I spent most of my time on Koh Lanta flying solo. As an introverted person, the quiet alone time was welcome. The past week or two had been exciting but also overwhelming at times.

Some of the highlights from Koh Lanta included the wildlife (crazy sand crabs, jumping fish, and this insane purple starfish), delicious Pad Thai, and some killer sunsets.

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I distinctly recall this being the cheapest Pad Thai I ate in Thailand, while also being the biggest portion size. and SO YUMMY

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My time in southern Thailand was drawing to a close. The last stop would be Ao Nang before I would fly from Krabi up to Chiang Mai in the north. As much as I’d been enjoying the island life, I was starting to get excited for what northern Thailand would have to offer!

Ko Phi Phi: Boats, Beaches, Buckets & Boxing

Posting tonight from my swanky $23 per night hotel room in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia! And by swanky I mean there is only one bed in this room, and there’s even a TV! Honestly, just having my own bathroom is the greatest luxury of all after five weeks of having to share living space with complete strangers. Experiencing Cambodia the past couple days has been an adventure in it’s own right but I’ll make another post about that eventually!

After my time in Phuket, I moved on to the much anticipated island of Ko Phi Phi! And much like Phuket, I had heard mixed reviews about Ko Phi Phi from reading popular travel blogs about how awful it is, and speaking to people I know who thought it was nice!

I had found that I could easily escape the crazy party atmosphere on Phuket and wanted to believe that I needed to give Phi Phi a chance after finding out for myself how great Phuket is. But Phi Phi is also a smaller island so if I hated it, I may not have anywhere to escape to! But the photos just looked too beautiful. So I had to check it out and see what it was all about.

I hopped on the ferry from Phuket to Ko Phi Phi with a thousand other tourists and it took about 2 hours. When I got off the ferry in Tonsai Bay and headed for my hostel, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of cars, motorbikes, and tuk tuks. Everything was pedestrianized which was actually a welcome change for me. The walking paths were surrounded on all sides by restaurants, cafes, bars, tour agencies looking to sell you a boat tour, diving shops looking to sign you up for a diving course, and of course the millions of hole-in-the-wall shops selling elephant pants, tank tops, sunglasses, and other typical Thai souvenirs.

But after walking along the road for a while, I started to see the scenery emerging on my right hand side, just beyond all the open-air restaurants lining the bay. I had to stop and take it in for a moment. Despite the touristy stuff everywhere, this was the most beautiful place I’d seen yet.

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I checked into my hostel, threw on my swimsuit, and went off to explore for an hour or two before the sun set. The first stop was the main party beach on the island, since it was just a ten minute walk away. The beach is located in Loh Dalam Bay and it’s lined with bars, clubs, and restaurants, right up along the sand. The scenery was nice but the water didn’t seem that clear/clean and I wasn’t inclined to go swimming there. It was then that I realized I’d become a bit of a beach snob! Thailand will do that to ya.

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The beach was really busy with tourists and people were already beginning to drink for the night. I wasn’t feeling the vibe so I only spent a few minutes there before heading back toward Tonsai Bay to wander around the shops and take in the views. I needed a snack anyway so I grabbed a mango smoothie and found a small patch of beach with only a couple of other people there. I sat and took in the beauty of my surroundings as the sun started to set. I jumped in the water for a quick swim before dark.

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After I grabbed some dinner, I headed back to my hostel and figured I’d start getting ready for bed and read for a bit. While in line for the bathroom I started chatting with a really nice girl from Brazil, who invited me to come out and wander around the island with some other people from her dorm room. After my quiet existence on Phuket, I could have used some friends and a little excitement, so I went along!

I ended up meeting a bunch of really great people from all over the world who were all traveling alone too! We wandered around a bit, watched a fire show, went to the infamous “Reggae Bar” (more on that later), and ended at a nightclub on the beach.

After a slow start the next day, a group of us decided to grab a private taxi boat to take us to a secluded beach on the other side of the island. We all paid the equivalent of a couple bucks each and was it was so worth it! The beach was called Loh Moo Dee – If you ever find yourself on Phi Phi and want to escape the crowds and literally be in paradise – please go here! The water was so warm and clear. I could have hung out in the shallows there all day.

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That night, we met even more people at our hostel and a group of us went out together. Again, we ended up at the Reggae Bar. It’s a very strange place with a Muay Thai boxing ring in the center of the bar, surrounded by tables, and even bleachers for spectators. They play popular music until a boxing round starts, when they blare traditional Muay Thai music (not my favorite genre, I’ve found).

The tourist fighters (who generally have no idea how to box properly) get suited up in protective gear and gloves. The winner gets bragging rights as well as a free bucket of their choice… A “bucket” being a literal beach pail filled with your favorite mixed drink, some ice, and a couple colorful straws – the drink of choice for backpackers in Southeast Asia due to their portability and their ability to get you drunk without having to buy drinks all night. This particular bar had a buy one get one free deal for buckets, so we all helped ourselves without having to get in the ring! Most of the fighters we saw were male but we did witness one bizarre girl fight. I have no idea what would posses anyone to get into that ring, especially since we witnessed one guy whose arm got mangled.

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The next day we decided to do an island tour to see the sights around Phi Phi. Because we had a group of five, we got a private boat again and could choose exactly where we wanted to go and how much time to spend there. We only paid about $13 USD each for four or five hours with our boat and driver and it ended up being one of my favorite days so far on this trip!

The first stop was Monkey Beach! It was not someplace you want to stay for more than half an hour, I’d say. We stayed for about 25 minutes just observing the monkeys running around. For a tiny beach, there were a lot of tourists there doing the exact same thing as us. But they were the first monkeys I’d seen until that point on my trip so it was pretty cool! There were so many of them too.

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I honestly don’t even know where exactly we were for the next two stops of the day. I couldn’t show you on a map but I’m pretty sure we were in some little cove on the smaller Phi Phi island. The next place we arrived at had several other boats floating around a lagoon with vibrantly colored water, and surrounded by limestone cliffs. There was no beach so we all hopped out of the boat and swam around for a while. Earlier that day I bought a waterproof phone case which allowed me to take some funny seflies of us in the water!

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The next place seemed pretty nondescript when our boat driver stopped the boat. He handed us some snorkeling gear and pointed to us where to go, over near one of the limestone cliffs. We hopped out of the boat and I was immediately so in awe of the coral reefs and the abundance of fish swimming around everywhere. I hadn’t been snorkeling since I was about 8 and had forgotten how fun it is! I even managed to take some underwater videos with my phone! I couldn’t see very clearly what I was recording so some of it is a bit blurry and shaky!

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Pro snorkelers

The last stop of the day was the famous Maya Bay, where the film “The Beach” was filmed with Leonardo DiCaprio. I had never seen or heard of “The Beach” at the time, so I took everyone’s words for it that it would be amazing. And it was! We arrived in the late afternoon for the last hour before we had to head back to the pier.

Since Maya Bay attracts so many tourists and they need to keep it clean, they charge 400 baht for anyone who wants to visit the main tourist beach. Luckily the group I was with knew this ahead of time and knew of a little beachy cove off to the side of the main beach. We had our boat driver take us there so we wouldn’t have to pay the fee. It was probably even nicer than the main beach because there were only a handful of other people there! The swimming wasn’t spectacular since there were some leaves and stuff in the water, but the views were still amazing!

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Our little slice of paradise

It was such a great end to a perfect day! I didn’t think I would like Phi Phi but I am so glad I gave it a chance. I probably wouldn’t spend more than 3 nights there, but I would have been really bummed if I missed it. Yes, there are tons of tourists and people who are only there to party, drink, and take drugs. There’s no denying that. Our group never got that wild but we still had such a blast taking boats around and enjoying some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. If I’ve learned anything so far on this trip is that you have to create the experience you want. Someone else’s negative experiences shouldn’t dictate whether or not you visit a certain place. I need to stop listening to snobby travel bloggers making me feel like I’d be wasting my time and money by visiting somewhere touristy. “Untouched” and “unspoiled” locations are amazing too, but I think sometimes there is a good reason why so many tourists come to a destination like Phi Phi – it’s just so amazingly beautiful!

Speaking of “untouched”, the next stop on my Thai island-hopping tour was the less-developed and much quieter island of Koh Lanta!

Phuket: A Long Bus Ride & My First Thai Beaches

Hello again from Chiang Mai in the north! This is the last leg of my month in Thailand and I can’t believe how fast time has flown by. I leave tomorrow for Cambodia but I still have so many photos and stories to share from Thailand!

Ever since leaving Uthai Thani where I was visiting my friend Mary, I have been traveling totally alone. The idea seemed daunting when I first said goodbye to Mary at the bus station, but over the past month I have really come to enjoy both spending time alone, and spending time with all the friends and acquaintances that I’ve met along the way. I’ve met so many wonderful and interesting people from all over the world, most of whom are traveling alone too! I feel so grateful to have been able to take this trip – definitely one of the most memorable months of my life, that’s for sure. I will miss Thailand but I can’t wait to see what the rest of Southeast Asia has in store for me!

Anyway, once I was back in Bangkok, I made my way to the Southern Bus Terminal, where all the buses heading to Southern Thailand leave from. I had a tough time getting there, though since neither of the metro lines run anywhere near the station. From the bustling Victory Monument square, it is SO easy to hail a cab – they are everywhere. But it took me 5 attempts to get one driver who knew where I was trying to go. I showed them the location of the station on a map, showed them the name of this major bus station written in Thai… but alas, they said they couldn’t help me. One driver pretended to know where he was going, had me get into the cab, and had driven about a half a block when he turned to me with a quizzical look on his face. He pulled over and again, I showed him the map and the name of the station in Thai. In the end he said sorry, he didn’t know, and I had to get out of the cab. It was infuriating and took much longer than I anticipated, but I made it there eventually.

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Victory Monument in Bangkok – So crazy!

I read online that the ‘VIP’ buses have really comfortable overnight buses with personal TVs, chairs that recline really far and are good for sleeping. I got to the ticket desk and asked for VIP. The woman said there was no VIP left, but she had first class, and the bus was leaving in 10 minutes. I felt a bit frantic and didn’t take the time to think about it – and I agreed.

As you can probably imagine, the “first class” bus she mentioned was basically a run-of-the-mill coach. Maybe it had a little more leg room than the average coach, but I could already tell it was going to be a rough night. The bus was only about a quarter full when I got on. My seat was in the very last row in the back (the back row seats did not recline whatsoever), where there were 4 seats across. There were so few people on the bus and it was scheduled to leave in just a few minutes, so I sat there with my fingers crossed that I’d somehow encountered some divine miracle that would allow me to sleep across those 4 seats and that no one else would take them.

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“first class”

Thankfully that’s exactly what happened! Having those four seats in the back was the only positive thing about the bus ride. What was supposed to be 12 hours ended up as 14 hours. Not to mention how fast the bus was traveling and the tight turns it was making around the curvy and bumpy roads. There were so many times when I was scared the bus (it was a double-decker) would just tip right over. I was constantly trying to stay in my seat and not slide right off! I think it’s safe to say I didn’t get a very restful sleep and I came out of the experience with some serious bruising on my legs… But I survived. I won’t be taking first class in Thailand again anytime soon!

Here’s a quick video I took when the lights briefly came on during the night. For anyone thinks I was intentionally shaking the camera around, please note the way the curtains on the windows were swaying with the movement of the bus!

Eventually after getting an overpriced taxi from the bus station to my hostel, it was finally time to hit my first Thai beach!

Phuket has a reputation for being overly touristy, maybe even a bit tacky, and full of partiers. So for that reason I did a little research and chose to stay at a different beach than the main party beach, Patong. I chose to stay near Kata Beach, which I read still had many bars and restaurants, but was not out of control. Then there was a similar beach, called Karon Beach, a ten-minute walk down the road from Kata.

I spent my first full day at Kata Beach with a new Chinese friend from my hostel, who was also traveling alone! As it was my first Thai beach and all I had to compare it to was the beaches at home, I was in awe! The longtail boats, the color of the water, the warmth of the water – It was incredible! I have not been anywhere tropical in MANY years so this was just what I needed!

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The lovely Kata beach

As a paranoid and overly-cautious solo traveler, I felt better going to the beach with a friend so she and I could take turns going off in the water while the other watched our belongings. But while I was swimming and Yuan Ying was watching my stuff on the beach, I was not looking out at the clear turquoise waters but I kept my eyes back on the beach. I could see that people left their belongings unattended all over the place while they were in the water! I watched those unattended towels and bags for a long time to see if anything suspicious would happen. Nope. I was starting to be glad that I chose this beach that was full of families, couples, and older tour groups enjoying their beach holiday. I didn’t sense any sketchiness at all, but I guess you can never really tell.

So the next day I decided I would go to Karon Beach (10 minutes down the road) – alone – and I would go swimming, leaving my stuff on the shore. I brought my $10 purse from Walmart, the towel I rented from my hostel, sunscreen, my book, a bottle of water, 150 baht in loose bills stuffed into the pocket of my purse (about $4.20 – enough for a full meal and more water if needed), my hostel key, and that’s it. The thing I’d be most nervous to lose was the overpriced book I bought at JFK airport (Missoula by Jon Krakauer – anyone read it? So good!). I left my phone locked in my hostel locker.

I decided I would set up camp as close to the water’s edge as I could without worrying about the tide reaching it. That way I could keep an eye on it while I was in the water. And you know what? It was a great day with lots of swimming and not worrying about the time or getting the perfect Instagram photo! So relaxing. And everyone was right – Karon Beach was even better than Kata Beach – less crowded, clearer water, better waves. I decided that I would even need to extend my stay on Phuket an extra night so I could have another day at that beach!

The next day I even brought my phone (and it didn’t get stolen!) so I could take some photos. There was this little rocky cove at the southernmost end of the beach, which is where I liked to be. I even bought a pair of really dorky goggles (like the ones real swimmers wear when competing) to do a bit of fake snokeling and see all the fish swimming around the rocks! It was amazing!

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Oh and the SUNSETS! Too good to be true.

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Overall, Phuket was a success! It was a quiet couple of days for me, but so relaxing. Phuket doesn’t have a great reputation anymore but I would definitely recommend it, as long as you do a little research on which of Phuket’s areas best suits your needs! Whether you’re a backpacker, on a family vacation, on a honeymoon, looking for a bargain, or looking for something a bit more luxury – I’m sure you will find what you’re looking for somewhere on Phuket. It was also the perfect jumping-off point for the rest of my island-hopping plans!

One Day in Uthai Thani

Sorry that I haven’t posted in a while! The good news is that I haven’t posted because I’ve been having a blast here in the Thai islands and meeting so many new and interesting friends every day! But as of last night I’ve arrived on Koh Lanta, which is known as the more chilled-out island where I think I’ll have plenty of time to work on my blog. 🙂

Anyway, the plan for my first weekend in Thailand was to meet up with one of my oldest friends, Mary, who is teaching English in a town a few hours north of Bangkok, and together we’d take a weekend trip to Kanchanaburi to visit a national park with some great waterfalls. On Sunday, the two of us would head back to the town where she lives, called Uthai Thani, so she could get to work on Monday and I could visit for a few days!

But as anyone who’s traveled in a foreign country before knows, things don’t always go as planned. Mary had to wait until the end of her school day on Friday to take the minibus from Uthai Thani to Bangkok. We figured we’d meet at Victory Monument square and hop on the bus to Kanchanaburi from there. But due to traffic she arrived in Bangkok a little later than anticipated and when we reached the desk to buy a ticket for the minibus, they had stopped running for the night. We ended up booking a last minute hostel in Bangkok and had a pretty exciting (and long) night exploring the infamous Khao San Road in Bangkok, where backpackers go to party. It was the craziest place I’d ever been, but I don’t think I’m in any hurry to get back there anytime soon!

We were moving pretty slowly the next morning but made it onto the minibus to Uthai Thani in once piece. When we arrived three hours later, we took motorbike taxis from the bus station to her house, which reminded me of a little gingerbread house, it was so cute! It was in this little garden surrounded by other gingerbread houses with plants and a bench swing. Really adorable. On the inside it was just one room with a bathroom attached.

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We grabbed dinner and called it quits for the night because my ankles had started swelling to three times their normal size due to the heat… Slightly terrifying!

Sunday was a pretty chill day but on Monday, I went to school with Mary and explored the area around Uthai Thani in the afternoon. I figured that’s probably the most interesting day to post about so I’m just going to focus on that one day!

In the morning we biked to school, which I thought was such a nice and relaxing start to the day. She’s the only native English speaking English teacher at her school so it’s her duty to stand at the front gate each morning to greet the students in English. All the kids would come up to one of the Thai teachers to greet her in Thai, then come to Mary and I and we would exchange “Good morning!”s and then they would greet their Chinese teacher in Chinese before running off to meet their classmates in the schoolyard. It was really cute! The weather was abnormally cold that day and temperatures had dropped from about 95 F to 60 F overnight. All the kiddies were bundled up in heavy coats and sweatshirts!

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The school band played the National Anthem and the kids did some other singing and dancing before the school Director took the microphone and started speaking for a while. No idea what was going on but he spoke for a long time. I wasn’t sure if he was making an important speech, but Mary said this happens pretty much every day and they seem to really like speaking in the microphone.

Mary had three classes to teach that day and it turns out it was basically all the same age group (4th and 5th grades) so they were all going to be going over the same information. Each class learned “places” vocabulary that day: “school”, “hospital”, “market”, “bank,” “hotel”, “police station”, “bus station”, etc.

Here are some photos and videos I got in the classroom!

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The kids at school were always so polite and respectful. They do this thing when they are handing in their classwork to their teachers where they line up on their knees to turn it in. Then once it’s graded they would say “thank you, teacher” as they got up off the ground. I got a really long video of a bunch of Mary’s students doing it and cut it down. It’s still a little over 1:30 minutes but I think its really funny to watch! I actually can’t watch this video without laughing! (wait for it)

At lunchtime, there was quite a big soccer game happening. All the kids were so excited and I saw a green team and a red team warming up outside on the blacktop. They weren’t wearing pinney’s or whatever I wore in gym class. This was a big deal and they were properly suited up. I think it was the 4th grade team against the 5th grade team. Mary and I ate our lunch quickly so we could watch the game. The whole school turned out and watched from the sidelines. The school monk was even doing commentary with the microphone over the loudspeaker! I thought the whole thing was pretty awesome and hilarious. Here is a quick video I took! (Spoiler: the green team won!)

After school Mary and her friend Kan took me around for a little bit of sightseeing in the local area. Our first stop was Wat Chantharam, or the Glass Temple. It’s easy to see where it gets it’s name, although I can’t say that any of my photos do it justice. Almost like a disco ball, all the pillars are covered in tiny mirrors that create this otherworldly effect. So stunning!

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Had to.

Had to.

Next door to the Glass temple is the Golden Temple, with it’s interior intricately decorated mostly in gold. I have to say I preferred the glass temple but there’s no denying they are both beautiful.

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Then we went to this place where you can feed these gigantic catfish on a dock. It was weird at first but then I started to see why people liked it – it was weirdly satisfying and fun!

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I have to say I really enjoyed my time in quaint Uthai Thani with Mary. It great to see a familiar face in such in unfamiliar place, and Mary was so helpful in explaining some of the quirks of Thai culture that she’s picked up along the way since she arrived in Thailand a few months ago. It was also SO nice to get away from the hoards of tourists in Bangkok. As a tourist myself I can’t help but laugh when tourists complain about there being too many other tourists in a certain place. But it really was relaxing to see the “real” Thai way of life after being overwhelmed by Bangkok my first couple of days.

As someone who has seriously considered taking the plunge into teaching English abroad myself, this experience was invaluable to me! Thank you so much, Mary, for sharing your experience with me! It was cool to see the small community of English teachers in Uthai Thani who have all found themselves in this random Thai town!

On Tuesday I packed up and headed back to Bangkok to catch an overnight bus south to Phuket. Stay tuned for my next post about a terrifying bus ride and an island full of Russians 🙂

Day Trip to Ayutthaya

After my big sightseeing day in Bangkok last week, I decided to take a day trip outside of the city, to Ayutthaya. I didn’t know much about it to be honest (and still don’t, actually), but it came highly recommended from Mary, my friend teaching English in Thailand, and also from Grace, my new Thai friend who I had spoken to about it the day before. All I knew was that Ayutthaya was once a major capital city of Siam and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ayutthaya is only about an hour and a half outside Bangkok and you can get there pretty easily by a minibus. I’ve come to understand that minibuses are a really simple and popular way for Thai people and tourists alike to get in and out of Bangkok and to various surrounding cities. Minibuses can be found at Victory Monument square, a gigantic, hustling and bustling spot in Bangkok and there’s a Skytrain stop there as well.

As this was my first time taking a minibus I wasn’t sure where to go or how things worked, naturally. Eventually I found the spot where the minibuses to Ayutthaya leave from. An unfriendly woman was selling tickets so I went up to her to buy one. She didn’t speak much English but communicated that it was 60 baht one way. When I went to pay, she pointed to the pad of paper she was holding that said “60 + 60 = 120” and basically said if I was planning on coming back to Bangkok I needed to pay the 120 baht for a round-trip ticket. I definitely wanted to come back so I shelled over the 120 baht and hopped on the bus. I didn’t get a receipt or anything but there are so many things about Thailand that are different than what I’m used to, I just figured this was probably normal and everyone on the bus must have gotten a round-trip ticket. The buses don’t leave until the bus is full, but it only took about 15 minutes for all the seats to be filled and we headed off.

When we arrived, we were dropped at a spot with a bunch of tuk-tuk drivers and taxi drivers hanging around, clearly waiting for us. I knew I would need some way of getting around as Ayutthaya has many interesting temples but they are scattered far apart. One man approached, me noticing that I was alone, and started talking to me about paying for 3-4 hours and driving me around in a tuk-tuk. He even showed me this notebook he had where apparently some English-speaking tourist had written him a rave review in English about what a great time he had in Ayutthaya. I was skeptical that it was a real review but figured why not? When I agreed to his rate, a man in the SUV parked next to us hopped out and opened the back door of his car for me. Confused, I asked “no tuk-tuk?” as that’s what I thought we had agreed upon. And I also thought I’d be going around with the guy I’d been speaking with. He assured me the car would be better because it has air conditioning. In the end I decided to roll with the punches. While the idea of getting into an unmarked SUV with a strange man offering to show me around Boston would sound like an unsavory idea, as I learned the day before on the motorbike taxis, things are just different here. Something I would consider terrifying at home is perfectly normal in Thailand. While I certainly don’t intend to get into cars with strangers on a regular basis, I was glad that everything  turned out fine… And it was actually a really nice day! My driver was very kind and even bought me a bottle of water at one point during the day!

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Sneaky picture I got of my driver and his car

The man spoke almost no English but would point out to me on a map where we would be going to before he headed there. I pretty much never knew any history behind any of the temples. Even the informational placards at the sites never provided much information. They would describe the physical appearance or design of the monument/temple/statue, but I never once could find any information on how old the structures were! So for that reason I was a total blank slate and could only take things at face-value.

As I don’t have much commentary on any of the places I visited, I’ll just include some photos of each place!

Wat Yai Chai Mongkol

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Wat Phanan Choeng

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This was a very busy and functioning temple that housed a gigantic golden Buddha. I couldn’t get anywhere near it to see the whole thing because it was so packed with worshippers!

 

Wat Chaiwatthanaram

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This one was my favorite! I was essentially alone on the site, with a handful of other tourists scattered around. I wanted to know the history of this place but sadly there wasn’t much information available. It was just so magnificent!

Between the heat, my own sweat, and sunscreen, my camera lens seems to have gotten a little smudged over the course of the day! Hence the weird fuzzy brightness in the middle of most of my photos… my bad.

Wat Lokkayasutharam

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This one is another reclining Buddha statue. Like the other one I saw, it was pretty massive!

 

Wat Phu Khao Thong

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This one I visited at the hottest part of the day and ended up climbing a lot of very steep stairs to get to the viewing ledge. It was worth it though – Great views of the surrounding rural area!

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6. Wat Phra Sri Sanphet

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This one was a great finale to the day. I only had thirty minutes to explore so I felt a bit rushed trying to see the huge complex and get some nice photos. But wow – it was really spectacular!

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I happened to overhear an English-speaking tour guide telling some other tourists that based on this Buddha’s appearance and style, it was most likely made around the 16th century (I think that’s what he said!). Anyway, they believe the head fell off the statue somehow and had just been laying on the ground for ages until this tree’s roots picked it up over time. Very cool!

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That was all for Ayutthaya! My driver (I like the sound of that) drove me back to the spot where I was to pick up the minibus back to Bangkok. I got on the bus and waited for the bus to fill (only about 10 minutes). Then the bus driver asked for the 60 baht for the trip back to Bangkok. I watched as everyone else handed over their money. When he got to me I told him I already paid. He looked at me blankly. I said, “I paid 120 baht for a round trip. The woman told me I needed to pay 120 for a round-trip. I already paid…” I was starting to anticipate what was about to happen next but there was an English speaking German man on the bus who condescendingly confirmed for me that I had been scammed and that they don’t sell round-trip tickets for the minibus. Fuming, I handed over the 60 baht.

Even though I knew going into it that things like this were going to happen to me in Thailand, I was still really angry on principle. I was angry at the lack of fairness and that no one even cared. And I felt stupid. But how was I supposed to know they didn’t sell round-trip tickets? I think I just wished I had someone there with me to complain to about it, but I was alone. Luckily I got over it in about 20 minutes and decide to move on. I looked up the conversion rate once I was back to my hostel and on wifi… turns out 60 baht is equal to about $1.65 USD 🙂

I hope that woman really enjoyed the 60 baht!

For more information on the history of Ayutthaya, here is a very quick video I found! I figured this will explain it better than I could!