So, we finally left Chiang Mai.
We had visited a travel agency as we wanted to book train tickets to Ayutthaya. The lady in the agency somehow managed to talk us out of taking the train and into going via over night bus (in our defence we were dazzled by the cute cat she had). Our 'sleeper bus' turned out to be a normal coach whose seats went back slightly. The air conditioning was also switched to the 'freeze' setting so everyone was huddling under the tiny blankets provided.
Sleep was impossible, not least because I could hear the conversation of the two guys seated behind us. One was Australian, the other Canadian, their common bond? Both complete idiots. They basically spent the trip bad mouthing everything about Thailand, said the stray dogs should be rounded up and 'disposed' of and the Canadian even said that he threw stones at any dog that approached him *turns air blue with expletives*. At midnight we pulled into a service station for dinner. Service turned out to be loose term, the only options for food were some dubious looking concoctions, all of which appeared to contain meat. Lisa went unfed!
We asked the driver what time we would arrive, he told us 6am but, as we found out, this was actually what time the coach would get into Bangkok, its final destination.
At 4.30am the coach pulled over and we were deposited onto the side of the road. Hmmm. The driver pointed along the road and said 'taxi, go to Tony's'. Gee, thanks mate! With not much option we duly took a (very overpriced) taxi to Tonys. Unfortunately Tony's didnt open until 7am. We found this out as the ancient night watchman/security guard took my arm and lead me to a piece of paper stuck to the wall. He then pointed to a couple of cushions by some tables, indicating we should rest. Rachel managed to get back to sleep but I was unable to so tried to read. This was hindered by the night watchman as he kept coming up and muttering something in Thai at me then pointing to my feet, even going so far as to touch them. I'm not sure if it was the numerous plasters (breaking in new flip flops is a killer) or the big white stripe of un tanned skin left by my old flip flops he was interested in, but he definitely found something about my feet very amusing! 7am slowly crept round and we finally managed to check in.
I went straight back to bed for a couple of hours as I was wiped out. We then had a nice hearty breakfast to make up for our lack of dinner.
Ayutthaya is one of the central provinces of Thailand, and was the capital of Thailand for 417 years, until 1767 when it was raided and sacked by the Burmese. The many temples that had be built were destroyed. The ruins in the old capital in Ayutthaya Historical Park are now a UNESCO world heritage site. We were only here a couple of days but managed to visit two temples. First up was Wat Rachaburana, an impresive looking building even with most of its spires crumbling. The attention to detail always amazes me, the amount of work that went in to building them must have been immense. We were able to climb up into the main temple, but didnt decend into the heart of it as it was down some decidedly dodgy looking stairs and we didnt think we would have the energy to climb back up!
The second temple we visited was Wat Mahathat, home to the iconic image of a stone Buddha head being engulfed by a tree's roots.
The image we had been searching for!
We spent some time walking about trying to find it, admiring the ruins but did get a bit frazzled by the end (it was over a hundred degrees and we had no shade!)so were very relieved when we did eventually stumble across it. The main reason we didnt notice it I think is because its much smaller than it appears. Barely reaching waist high, the Buddha is resting against a wall which the tree has grown across. It was still very cool to see, and took plenty of pictures.