What a wat!

8 – 19 July, 2013 – We stayed more than a week in Ayutthaya, because it is a very nice city, because we enjoyed the beauty of our wooden guesthouse, because there was a lot to see, because it was a good place to go to Bangkok without staying in Bangkok, because we had delicious food at our guesthouse and because we went to a handicraft market to sell our self-made bracelets and necklaces.

But let me first tell you a bit more about Ayutthaya, Siam’s capital between 1350 and 1767 and once one of the most dazzling and dynamic cities in Asia. At one time, 400 glittering temples stood proudly in Ayutthaya of which today more than a dozen restored ruins can be found within the heart of the city. Wat is the Thai and Khmer word for temple and Ayutthaya’s wat ruins are stunningly beautiful. Many mornings we spent cycling from palace to wat to Buddha, taking photos and admiring the architecture. The afternoons we mostly spent working: either on the blog, on our new charity or on producing bracelets as we decided to sell on a handicraft market. The market was great fun as there were many fantastic food stalls as well and we just enjoyed chatting to other sellers, tasting the delicious dishes and of course selling our bracelets. All in all a great success!

Crossing the river next to our guesthouse in Ayutthaya

Crossing the river next to our guesthouse in Ayutthaya

xxx temple

At Wat Phra Mahatat

Cycling in Ayutthaya

Cycling in Ayutthaya

At the xxx temple

Space shuttle at Wat Ratburana

Poor elephants

Poor elephants

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon

Ayutthaya's tuk-tuks are different from the classical Thai design thanks to their dome-shaped fronts

Ayutthaya’s tuk-tuks are different from the classical Thai design thanks to their dome-shaped fronts

Beautiful bronze buddhas at buzzing Wat Phanang Chung where Johan's shoes got stolen!

Beautiful bronze buddhas at buzzing Wat Phanang Chung where Johan’s shoes got stolen!

Old Royal Palace

Old Royal Palace

Crossing a river once more

Crossing a river once more

Meditating at Wat Chetharam

Meditating at Wat Chetharam

Reclining buddha with smelly feet at Wat Lokaya Sutha

Reclining buddha with smelly feet at Wat Lokaya Sutha

Wat Chai Wattanaram

Wat Chai Wattanaram with another space shuttle ready to take off

A bedroom door in our guesthouse

A beautiful bedroom door in our guesthouse

One day we took the train to Bangkok as we needed to do some shopping for our new business and get some more gear for our tour. We went quite crazy as we bought 12 rolls of waxcord and kilos of stones and beads. In fact we bought so much that it was necessary for me to buy two front panniers to not get completely out of balance with all the weight at the back of my bike. I think I am carrying almost ten more kilograms on my bike now, actually quite crazy.  Johan bought himself his birthday present – a new camera. As we took a 6am train we were done with power shopping by 2pm and took a train back to quiet Ayutthaya. The journey takes about two hours and only costs 0.50EUR per trip, quite affordable, even for us.

Arriving at Bangkok train station

Arriving at Bangkok train station

Chinatown

Chinatown

The king is everywhere
The king is everywhere

Our little exhibition at the guesthouse

Our little exhibition at the guesthouse

A food stall at the market

A food stall at the market

Our little spot at the market

Our little spot at the market next to a beautiful German ‘Bulli’

Later that week Johan went two more times to Bangkok: the first time because he wanted to buy more waxcord (yes, we now carry 16 rolls!) and the second time because we needed more beads and Johan needed to go back to the photo shop. As you can see we’ve become quite inefficient, but as we have the time, who really cares.

After more than a week in Ayutthaya it was time to move on again, Rudi and Smokey became quite restless in the meantime. We continued our journey southwest, giving Bangkok a wide berth. Other than two flat tires, one on my bike at 5pm and one the other morning on Johan’s bike not much happened that day. We cycled on flat roads, sometimes with loads of traffic, sometimes without any traffic and enjoyed cycling again. In the evening, after Johan had fixed my tire, we checked into ‘Little D(F)uck Inn’, a hotel for lonely truckers or business men. When we entered the room, the running TV showed a porn! This type of hotel would accompany us for the coming days and until we reached Phetchaburi, where we thankfully stayed at the loveliest place ever. You might ask yourself why we are not camping instead, but Johan has developed a skin irritation on his chest, back and arms and needs a proper shower and air-conditioned room to get some relief.

Beautiful colors

Beautiful sky

Another temple along the way

Another temple along the way

Olli, the elephant is now cycling with us (Fanti, his best friend, is shyer and stays in the pannier during the day)

Olli, the elephant, is now cycling with us (Fanti, his best friend, usually rides in Johan’s panniers as he doesn’t want to get wet or dirty ;-))

Johan fixing the bike in front of a temple
Johan fixing the bike in front of a temple

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Our 'lovely' hotel room

Our ‘lovely’ hotel room

Another tire to be fixed in front of our bed room

Another flat tire

The next day we continued cycling on roads that are not on our map, as those that are on our map are traffic-heavy. For the first time during this trip we wished we had GPS with us as there are millions of small roads, but some of them with dead ends. So I am usually checking Google Maps in the evening, writing down the road and we hope to find where to go by my descriptions. Most of the times it works, but often it doesn’t, but then the best things happen. That afternoon – we had just finished lunch – two airforce colonels approached us and told us they’ve been looking for us as they heard about two cyclists in the village. They were both keen cyclists and after chatting with them for about 30 minutes one of the colonels decided to cycle with us for about 10km and to send a military police officer on a motorbike with us for the next 20km to make sure we could continue cycling on small roads without getting lost. As soon as we left the motorbike would either bike in front on us or behind, whatever was safer. We cycled through a military area where everybody would look alive and salute when we passed. We felt like real celebrities as later on the roads the motorbike would just stop traffic to make sure we could pass without stopping. He even stopped four-lane highway traffic, seriously. And very cool!

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Ready for takeoff!

Ready for takeoff!

Safe cycling

Safe cycling

The third day on our way to Phetchaburi was the most scenic part of this journey. We cycled along a river on small roads, through villages and forests, with cows grazing next to the road and a few idiotic dogs chasing us. I think I haven’t mentioned the dogs since Romania, but they are very annoying here in Thailand as well. While they are all cowards – as soon as we stop they run away – they are petrifying; as they always come out of nowhere, mostly in flocks of four or five and always unexpectedly. One even bit in my back panniers. Johan bought himself a slingshot by now and is very keen on getting to use it on one of these dogs. Most of these dogs aren’t by the way stray dogs, they belong to owners who never train them. They also would never call the back, mostly they are laughing – remember the land of the smile!? – when they are chasing us. Thais, that’s no fun at all!

Along the river

Along the river

Lunch break

Lunch break

Preparing the land for the rain

Preparing the land for the rain

In the early afternoon we got heavy rain and stopped at a nursery. We were now at the busy six-lane highway 4 and needed to cross it. Everybody would tell us to just cycle on the shoulder against the traffic, but we weren’t really keen on doing that in the rain and given the heavy traffic. We tried to find another way through the fields and partially succeeded, we only had to ride about 500m against the traffic as there was a bridge for bikes and pedestrians. What a relief. Due to the rain we didn’t manage to get to Phetchaburi before dusk and instead checked into another depressing hotel to ride the last bit the next morning on another scenic route, this time along rice paddies and many lakes. We arrived early at 10:30h and by chance found a wonderful guesthouse, where we were welcomed by the sisters Nisa and Nit who first served us coffee and sweet delicacies. Nisa introduced herself by saying ‘I am Nisa, like Nissan, but I am not a car.’ Despite being fully booked, we could stay there: we first asked if we could camp on their lawn and ended up sleeping in their house on our mattresses in front of a fan. These two sisters do an amazing job for their guests and if you ever plan to go to Phetchaburi, stay at the 2N Guesthouse, highly recommended!

Heavy monsoon rain

Heavy monsoon rain

After the rain

After the rain

Between the lakes
Between the lakes

Distances cycled:

8 – 15 July, Ayutthaya sightseeing and shopping, 79km

16 July, Ayutthaya – Song Phi Nong, 84km

17 July, Song Phi Nong – Ban Pong, 74km

18 July, Ban Pong – Ban Khem, 86km

19 July, Ban Khem – Phetchaburi, 43km

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