Ayutthaya – A Cycling Town
In 2009, on a journey from Goreme to Fethiye in Turkey, I vowed never again to take an overnight bus. This week, I broke that vow.
To be fair, the Turkish bus ride wasn’t that terrible. It wasn’t one of the jolting, loud music playing, incredibly uncomfortable seat buses that we called “the suffer bus” in Egypt. Nor was it an over-crowded, smelly, no-aircon bus like those in Nicaragua. Instead, it had a mildly threatening (but actually totally harmless) carnival atmosphere, stopping every 20 minues or so throughout the night to pick up young men leaving home to complete compulsory military service. Each stop involved drums, fireworks, and multiple family members boarding the bus with the soon-to-be soldiers, then exiting just as the bus pulled out into nearby cars that would drive along side the bus for miles, all the while waving, shouting, and honking. A cultural experience, but not the way to get a good night’s sleep. Or really, any sleep.
And after 4 very restful nights on Koh Lanta, the overnight bus ride to Bangkok (and subsequent early morning train ride to Ayutthaya) was no trouble at all.
The greatest hiccup in our travels came when we realized that getting from Bangkok’s Mo Chit bus station to the Bang Sue (!) train station – despite these two being only about a mile apart as the crow flies – required a circuitous 3 mile route through pre-dawn streets. This would have been a real pain if we were walking – with the bikes, it was a better wake-up method than a cup of coffee.
From Bang Sue, it was a quick train ride to Ayutthaya, the former capital of the kingdom of Thailand. Ayutthaya is covered in beautiful ruins – and had been highly ecommended to us as a place where everyone loves to cycle. After checking into a guest house and ferrying ourselves and our bikes over to the the main island temple area, we rode around all day seeing buddhas, fighting cocks (we think), and gussied-up elephants.
We didn’t go inside the main temple areas, preferring to stay on our bikes rather than compete with the huge tour bus crowds. But Dmitry made friends with a few school children who approached him to practice their English, and we met a few bike cops who were very anxious to both get a picture taken with us and give us a map of local sites. Basically, this town is fantastic.
NB: It was pretty exciting to see some elephants, but I do not think elephants are for riding. We have big plans to visit an elephant conservation park, but the elephants there are not ridden or chained or dressed in costumes – they are allowed to be wild elephants.