FEB 10,2012 - FEB 25,2012 (16 DAYS)
While staying at the Bayoke Sky Hotel ($60USD a night) in Bangkok I was able to find a cheap tour guide for my cousin and I for around $100USD for a day trip to Ayutthaya. This included our tour guide, Chris, who picked us up from our hotel and drove the roughly 2.5 hour round trip, provided some historical insight for all of the sites we visited, showed us around one of the local markets for lunch and capped the tour off with an elephant ride.
Our first stop was at the Wat Yai Chai Mongkol (built in 1357). The Wat is located in the southeast, outside the old city wall near the Pasak River. When we climbed the stairs we were were able to look around and there was also an area that lead into a secret crypt! Also, while we were there we saw one of the main attractions, the large "Reclining Buddha" which many worship and meditate near. It was pretty massive and the locals would cover parts of the statue with gold flakes while saying a prayer.
Next we saw: Phra Mongkhon Bophit (one of the largest bronze Buddhas in Thailand), Wat Mahathat and the Buddha head in the tree, which I believe was too hyped up. It was a pretty cool thing to see, but not a main attraction for us because the ruins with burn marks and decapitated Buddha statues from the Burmese invasion were more interesting.
We then explored the markets and ate lunch which consisted of: Tom Yum soup, a rice dish with chicken and vegetables with coconut to drink. For dessert we had "Roti Sai Mai", which have hair-like strands of sugar wrapped into crepes that have been prepared on the grill and the sweet, pleasant smell spread throughout the market. Roti is similar to cotton candy, but not as sticky wrapped in a warm crepe. Just talking about it makes me hungry!
Chris then took us to the elephant sanctuary (what I looked forward to the most) and we paid $16USD for a 30 minute ride. Getting onto the elephant seemed a bit risky, but we managed to wedge ourselves on the seat and with a rusty metal bar used as a safety rail (seemed legit/safe..) we were ready to go! The person who controlled the beast and sat on the head was dressed as an old Thai warrior and he kept yelling in Thai and hitting the elephant with a large stick, but that didn't seem to phase him. We had bought small bananas to feed the elephant along the way and seeing a wrinkly trunk in front of your face as if asking "give me more!", nomnomnom, repeat, was a pretty awkward-funny sight! Along the way the Thai warrior would periodically hop off and take our picture, but as we approached the end of our ride that's when the unexpected haggling began for the pictures taken (not that much $). Just expect it if you plan on going.
Exhausted from the day we headed back and as we approached this school bus one of the girls yells out, "Hai! Wat awr yo names!" I replied, "I am Joe and this is Brian!" Without missing a beat the entire bus erupts, "WE LOVE YOU JOE AND BRIAN!!" the bus starts to rock back and forth and all the school children start to chant and scream our names. "JOE! AND BRIAN!, JOE! AND BRIAN!, JOE! AND BRIAN! as we majestically rode in. Brian turns and says, "wow, I guess this is what it felt like to be the Beatles!" We couldn't stop laughing and I thought to myself. Thailand truly is the Land of :)'s.