Monday, November 9, 2015

Ayutthaya and Lop Buri, Thailand

The first of my stops as I headed north from Bangkok on the train is the city of Ayutthaya which is located about 90 km's (56 miles) due north. A very popular day trip from Bangkok, but I opted to spend 3 nights there rather than jumping back and forth on the train. The hostel I stayed at (Stockhome) was brand new and had only been open for several weeks prior to my arrival. A very friendly and clean spot, great place to stay just a few minute walk from the city centre. This was also where I met several new friends with whom I would continue to travel with for the next couple of weeks. The new friends I met include Niv from Australia, who arrived on the back of a police bike ... yes the police are actually incredibly friendly and helpful in Thailand contrary to what many people will try to tell you. Next up is Liane from Germany, she didn't actually continue on with us after Ayutthaya though as she had a 10 meditation camp to attend. I look forward to hopefully reconnecting with her somewhere down the road to hear all about it. And the next two friends in the group are Chris and Hayley from the UK. Both very entertaining individuals with whom I shared some amazing times with. I will also likely catch up with them again in a couple days when I fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Ayutthaya is most well known for its historical ruins, it is actually a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site as well. I did explore several of the main ruins sites over several days and took many pictures (good ones hopefully) in hopes of capturing the beauty of these sites. The city itself is fairly small and quite easy to get around. I would definitely recommend though that you rent a scooter or pedal bike to do so to save yourself some energy as it was quite hot and clear sky's when I was there, the sun really kicks your ass when you are a Canadian from Alberta not used to 35°C (95°F) temperatures with 70-80% humidity. One thing you wont generally read about in Ayutthaya is the insane amount of stray dogs, or as Hayley cleverly named them ... Demon Dogs. They are EVERYWHERE around the town and usually in packs of 3 to 5. They are fairly docile during the day due to the heat, but can become a bit more intimidating in the evenings when the temperatures cool off. I generally found that if you just ignore them and walk past they wont approach you very often. In the evenings our small newly formed group usually ended up on the "bar street" of Ayutthaya which is located on a side street just off of the main street of Naresuan Rd. There you will find a variety of places for food, drink, and live entertainment.  We frequently could be found at Tony's Place or Street Lamp. You will find live music each night at Street Lamp which was one of the main draws for us. The first night was a classic rock cover band and they absolutely killed every song they kicked out. From Clapton to AC/DC to Led Zeppelin, they were honestly better than most cover bands I have seen back in Calgary. The second night I was blown away by a younger band who covered the likes of Korn, Metallica, System of a Down and more ... seriously?! I never would have expected to hear the likes of those bands while travelling SE Asia, not to mention extremely well done as well. I quite enjoyed my time in Ayutthaya and would definitely recommend anyone heading north from Bangkok make a stop for 2 or 3 nights (depending on your available travel time) and explore the city.

Lop Buri Monkeys
From Ayutthaya I jumped back on a train and headed solo to the the town of Lop Buri. Side note, the trains in Thailand are NEVER on time so even if you arrive on time you will likely be waiting a while. In this instance my train to Lop Buri was 30 minutes late. I opted to stay at my first guest house on this trip in Lop Buri, Noom Guesthouse was to be my home for the next 2 nights. From the train station I walked about 5 minutes to the riverboat crossing, for a mere 3 baht you hop on a funky little boat which takes you to the other side of the river where the majority of the actual town site, and my guest house, is located. Another 5 minute walk from the river crossing is Noom's, it's super easy to find as it's a pretty well known place. Aside from being incredibly friendly and helpful place, the family run guest house was also a great place eat and kick back for a few beers and relax. So, the main reason I opted to stop in Lop Buri for 2 nights was to check out the infamous Monkey temple, Phra Prang Sam Yot. The temple is home to hundreds of macaques who do not hesitate to come and climb all over you in search of whatever food, drink, or loose items they can score off of you. Knowing this in advance I went fairly prepared with only my GoPro in one hand and the wireless remote trigger in the other. You will find occasional stories of people being scratched or bitten by them, but for me that was simply not the case. They were quite chill climbing all over me as I didn't have any free loose items on me for they to take. I also opted to not buy any "monkey food" at the temple entrance, my common sense says that when you feed some monkeys and not others, or run out of food you will likely encounter some problems. At one point I was walking around the temple with 3 to 4 monkeys hanging off of me. Pretty sure I'm in a few tourists travel photos as a result, they were highly entertained at seeing a white guy covered in monkeys. The monkeys were quite chill with me and it made for an awesome expereince I will not soon forget. I didn't really explore much of the rest of Lop Buri as I planned my stay there as a bit of a chill and recuperate destination, it worked out quite well for that!

Next up was my 8 hour first class train ticket from Lop Buri to Chiang Mai. For 560 baht (about $20 CAD) I had a very comfortable seat in the air conditioned car. This train was also late ... shocking, but I was pretty used to that at this point and really I dont have to be anywhere for several months. The downside, as I found out by the time I reached Chiang Mai was that it took an additional 2 hours making it just over 10 hours of sitting on a train. There is an alternitive night train option where you can get a sleeper unit which seems to be a very popular option. Oh, and something to note for anyone planning on taking an air conditioned train north from Bangkok be sure to pack some warm layers as once the sun goes down it gets incredibility cold on the train from the AC. I mounted my GoPro with a Ram Systems suction cup mount (I picked up my GoPro mounts based on a review from Expert Vagabond, a travel blogger I follow) to the train window and took several time lapse videos during the trip up north, While I haven't had time to review the videos/timelapse at this point I'm hoping to have some decent footage to work with once I return home.

My next post will contain content from my time in Chiang Mai and Pai.
Cheers for following along!

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