Bangkok & Ayutthaya
Same, same but different
After seven weeks in India, our arrival in Bangkok gave us a totally different impression of the city compared to the first time we traveled there, one year ago. Back then, arriving directly from Berlin, we thought it was an exotic, colourful,crowded, chaotic and dirty, if still fascinating place. This time, we still think it is fascinating, but suddenly the streets seemed so organised, calm and clean to us. Even though traffic is jammed and slow moving, we were surprised to see cars are actually sticking to their lanes, respecting the traffic lights and even Tuk-Tuk drivers hunking only occasionally. Rubbish on the streets is really limited and even street restaurants have spotlessly clean pans and barbecues – of course, all compared to Indian standards. The negative part of the experience was that at the same time we experienced hyperinflation in the price level, as now everything seemed to cost twice it used to be in India – or put in another way: price were more or less the same, but for one Euro we get only half the amount of Baht (45) we had got for it in Rupees (85). Something similar ocurred with the English level of locals, which suddenly fell by about half of what local Indians used to speak.
In Bangkok we met up with two friends of Javier, Israel and Carolina, came the long way from Chile to join us here for about three weeks to travel around Thailand and Malaysia together. While for us, getting around in Bangkok seemed so easy and relaxed and the impressions of the streets not even really surprising anymore, it was interesting to see how they experienced their first drive from with the Skytrain from the airport to Ratchatewi and then the longtail boat taxi to the old part of the town, where we were staying.
Without knowing when booking it, our hotel, situated next to the city hall, was quite close to the protesters’ camp called ‘Peace Zone’ in the Democracy Monument area. The area was totally calm by the time we stated there, but still some streets were blocked by protesters of Thai military and the relics of the previous weeks’ protests – cars and minibuses with broken windows upside down – were still lying around the golden framed pictures of the beloved Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej.
We had only one night planned for Bangkok, so we went out wandering from our hotel through the streets of the Old Town, visiting a sacred service in Wat Suthat Thepwararam – the temple in front of the city hall -, surrounding the mighty Wat Phrakaew (Emerald Buddha Temple) and the Grand Palace – both unfortunately closed at night time -and having a fresh Beerlao in one of the roof top bars around Tha Tian Market, with a splendid view on Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn). On our way back we passed through a buzzy night market and tried a deliciously smelling, while strange tasting grilled squid, served including its jellylike interior.
The following morning, after having a 5-star breakfast on a park bench, with coffee and sandwiches from 7-11 minimarket, we left our bags at Mo Chit bus station, where we would take the bus to Chiang Mai at night, and got a bus to Aytthaya, to visit the ancient temple ruins. The ancient capital of the Siam empire is an about 2 hours bus drive North of Bangkok, leading through never ending suburbs and shopping districts. It was damn hot and we arrived there at noon, so our pleasure of visiting the temples was a little limited by having to pour water over our heads every half an hour not to be knocked over by sun and heat.
It might be due to our limited motivation to move in the midday heat or to our pamperedness with temple ruins after having visited Angkok (Cambodia) last year, but our fascination by the ruins remained quite limited. Also, they are spread over a quite vast terrain in non walkable distance, which makes is complicated to get around without a Tuk-Tuk (expensive), elephant (total rip-off) or bike (not the preferred option for the climate).
We took the bus to return to Bangkok at around five, which made us arrive to the city at rush hour time and nearly doubled the duration of the journey – a first reminder of what will be our day to day business once we return to Santiago.