After piling into our ten-seater van we left the Labua Hotel (which we learned was the same hotel where they filmed the helicopter scene from The Hangover Part II….not worth the overcrowded elevators from tourists wanting to see the top) and wrestled with the traffic and motorcycles and scooters zipping by.
About an hour north of Bangkok is the island city of Ayutthaya. This was the second capitol of Siam for centuries and one of the few places left in Thailand where the ancient monasteries, pagodas, and ruins from the 14th century are still standing. We toured the national park and heard stories about the many wars that took place in Ayutthaya with Burma and Cambodia.
From the main national park we drove to a local market where vendors sold everything from dried salty fish skins to Thailand’s version of a sweet crepe.
We tried these fried rice cakes covered in peanuts and some kind of root vegetable (it’s hard to understand “roken ingrish”).
We moved along to a cart with giant bowls of beef and pork jerky. Some were sweet and some were spiced with Indian spices. It seemed as if everything that wasn’t purchased there in the market, was being packaged up into branded cellophane bags for sale in some of the larger markets and grocery stores in the bigger cities.
Then we trekked through a monastery and viewed one of many giant golden Buddhas you can visit in Thailand.
As we made our way back towards the van I stopped to watch this guy making Thai sweet crepes stuffed with dried sugar cane strands. It was so interesting to see how he made them. He reached into a large bowl and pulled out a globular ball of this green pasty mixture. With one hand he formed it into a ball and then smashed it onto the round grill. Then it cooked like a crepe. Then he filled them with a few strips of dried sugar cane. It was an awesome sweet.
I could have stopped at every cart, but I didn’t want to deal with Jonathan rolling his eyes at me anymore than he already was. Apparently I have no self control.
We stopped at a restaurant for lunch (which wasn’t that good so I won’t bore you with the details) and then chartered our own long-tailed boat to give us a tour of Ayutthaya from the canals and Chao Phraya river.They call them long-tailed boats, because their propellers are at the end of really long metal driveshafts that can be maneuvered 180 degrees and be placed into neutral just by pulling it out of the water. These boats are also characterized for using automotive engines (car or truck engines) that can easily be attached to any shape or size boat or hull. The long-tail propeller aids in keeping the engine dry and this design sacrifices aesthetics for flexibility of use.
It was awesome to see how the locals live, but bittersweet at the same. The more you see how the Thai locals really live, the clearer the disparity between the rich and everyone else was.
It was sad to see the lines where the floodwaters used to be halfway up the side of the buildings from the last major rains and the breaking of the dams. The experience reinforced how lucky we are to live in a first world country with all the luxuries we take for granted day in and day out. Like good plumbing, seemingly uncorrupt police, a true democracy, and Pinkberry frozen yogurt!
But then we got off the boat and drove back to our hotel where Jonathan and I got hour-long foot massages for $15 dollars. I was so astounded by the amazing deal that I quickly forgot about the masses of poor farmers and unskilled laborers in Thailand.
I’ll admit it…I’m a bit of an asshole.