It’s been 95 days since I left home to begin this journey – and it’s not a home I’ll be going back to. I hopped in a friend’s car at 6:30 am on July 31st and have been slowly making my way east ever since.
It’ll take me another 29 days to reach the place I used to call home, Minneapolis. But for the first time in months, it finally feels like I’m coming to the end of things. All my flights have been booked, all my days have been planned, and I’m seriously looking forward to seeing my sister’s face at MSP International Airport on December 2nd.
At the same time, it feels odd to remind myself that this trip isn’t finished. I’m not hopping on that plane tomorrow – well, I am hopping on a plane tomorrow, but that’s to Chiang Mai! And I have to admit, I’m beginning to lose steam on these blog posts.
We’re spending more and more time in each place we go (nine nights in Bangkok, two in Ayutthaya, seven in Phuket), but I’m finding that I have less and less to say. Guess that’s how you know you’ve planned a trip a little too long! Because it’s certainly not the fault of anyplace we’ve been – Bangkok is easily one of our favourite cities (throughout this trip we’ve spent a total of 16 nights there).
For these ten days in Bangkok, we did a lot of shopping, mostly at Siam Center, Siam Paragon, and Siam Discovery. What can I say? After two years in Ethiopia, we both needed serious wardrobe upgrades.
We then spent the rest of our days wandering around the area near Koh San Road (though avoiding the road itself!), eating cheap pad thai, drinking fresh pomegranate juice, and stocking up on real books to read during our upcoming beach days.
Then, we took a quick trip up to Ayutthaya. Many do this as a simple day trip, but we decided to spend a couple of nights in the town. We didn’t even bother to leave our hotel, Tamarind, that first night (with the exception of grabbing dinner at the night market down the street).
We purchased some street popcorn, corn on the cob, waffles, cantaloupe, and a Coca-Cola to split and settled into our room to enjoy our spoils and watch The Shawshank Redemption:
The next day we were rested up and ready to check out the ruins that make up Ayutthaya’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ayutthaya was a Siamese kingdom that existed from 1351 to 1767, when the Burmese army destroyed the city, effectively collapsing the kingdom.
We started at the sites closest to our hotel and worked our way out. First came Wat Ratchaburana. Founded in 1424 by King Borommarachathirat II, it was built on the cremation site of his two older brothers. The two brothers had fought to their deaths in a duel for the royal succession to their father.
Right next door is Wat Maha That, one of the most important monasteries of the Ayutthaya kingdom, not only because it was the religious center and enshrined relics of the Buddha, but also because of its proximity to the Grand Palace.
Today, it’s more famous for the Buddha head that has been encircled in tree roots – which I have to admit, does make a pretty interesting site to behold.
After these two temples, we wandered through the park connecting these ruins with some of the better preserved landmarks: Wat Phra Si Sanphet and Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit. The first was the only temple to sit within the Grand Palace grounds, which meant no monks were allowed to reside there. The second temple has been restored and now houses a giant bronze Buddha statue that was originally enshrined outside the Grand Palace.
Next, we took numerous winding alleyways (we always choose the most difficult routes, apparently) and had a quick peak at Wat Lokayasutharam – the largest reclining Buddha I’ve seen on this trip! After that, we felt a little templed-out and we made a pit stop at the Million Toy Museum.
There might not quite be one million toys housed there, but it was an awesome place to spend an hour. Some of the more extensive collections included robots, cars, godzillas, and Disney paraphernalia. My favourite section was probably Alice in Wonderland, but Chandler definitely loved the Peanuts collection…not to mention the superheroes : )
From there, we rented a tuk-tuk driver for an hour (200 baht, it’s like organized crime there!) to take us to our final temple – Wat Chaiwatthanaram – as well as our first cathedral – St. Joseph’s Church.
Wat Chaiwatthanaram was easily the most impressive temple we went to. It was constructed in 1630 by King Prasat Thong as the first temple of his reign. It was a memorial of his mother’s residence in that area, and the temple’s name literally means the temple of long reign and glorious era.
After St. Joseph’s Church, we made our way back into town – we were more than ready for lunch! And that evening, we crossed another film off our list of AFI’s Top 100 Films – Saving Private Ryan.
Then it was back to Bangkok for one final night (and one final cheap pad thai!), before setting off to Phuket, where we are now. Initially, we had planned on exploring a bit more of Northern Thailand (Sukhothai and Chiang Rai), but maybe some things need to be left undone to ensure we return to Thailand some day soon.
If I’m being honest, we have zero regrets about our change of plans. This past week has been great, and we’re more than ready to head to our final Thai city tomorrow – Chiang Mai.