After a fantastic time cooking the previous evening (never thought I’d ever hear myself say that!), we awoke (aufwachen) for our 10am flight to Bangkok Don Mueang airport where we’d head 45 minutes north to Ayutthaya.
Founded (Gegründed) in 1350, Ayutthaya was capital (Hauptstadt) of the ancient Kingdom of Siam before the establishment (Etablierung/Gründung) of modern South-East Asia. By 1700, it was one of the largest (größte) and richest (reicheste) cities in the entire world but only 67 years later it was in ruins (Ruinen) after invasion (Invasion) by the Burmese army (Armee). The city was never rebuilt (aufgebaut) but in 1991 was declared (erklärt) a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the vast (enorm) number of monasteries (Klöster) and temples as well as the city’s important political and economic history.
After landing at Don Mueang airport to the north of Bangkok, we were planning to get the train from the neighbouring station which is on the direct line to Ayutthaya. We quickly found, however, that, for some reason, someone really doesn’t want people to find the train station! We could see the train line through the front windows of the airport on the other side of the six lane highway outside but we couldn’t find a single sign (Schild) directing (lenken/hinweisen) us to the train station! After asking two people working in the airport who told us first to go upstairs (hoch) then downstairs (runter), we were getting rather frustrated (frustriert). We ended up walking through the domestic terminal to the international terminal and, after another five minutes searching, we finally found the single door and single sign that points to the train station not more than 30 metres away! Considering (In Anbetracht) that Don Mueang Airport is located on the direct line into central Bangkok (as well as the line north to Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai), the train should be the most convenient (geeignet/günstig) way for people to travel but apparently (anscheinend) they’d prefer (bevorzugen) you to use a taxi or a bus!
After finally reaching the platform, I went and got us tickets whilst Tessa took a seat with our bags.
“How much were the tickets?”, she asked when I returned.
“22 baht”, I smiled.
“22 baht! That’s like 60 cents each! Wow!”
”Nope, 22 baht for both of us! 11 baht each!”
The 45 minute journey was costing us a total of approximately (ungefähr) £0.50/0.60€. Back home, Cambridge to London is a similar distance (ähnliche Entfernung) and can cost up to £28!
You may be thinking that for 50 pence we’d be sitting on the floor of a rat infested shed (Ratten befallener Schuppen) but, although a little dated (alt), the train was comfortable (gemütlich) and the big open windows gave us a nice breeze (Briese) as well as good views of the scenery on the journey.
Our accommodation for the next three nights was to be Il Treno Hostel which, as the name suggests, was conveniently (günstigerweise) right opposite (direkt gegenüber) the train station in Ayutthaya. The hostel is run by two brothers – one very helpful and friendly, the other rather aloof (er war nicht ganz da). Despite chatting to us for ten minutes when we arrived about our travels and his upcoming move (anstehender Umzug) to Scotland for university, at least (mindestens) three times during our stay, he asked if we were actually staying at the hostel or not or were just passing (auf der Durchreise sein). The most uncomfortable (ungemütlich) of these instances (Fälle) was when we asked to hire bikes (Fahrräder mieten) ten minutes after he’d served us our breakfasts (zehn Minuten nachdem er uns das Frühstück server hatte). Very odd.
By the time we’d arrived and settled (niederlassen) it was well into the afternoon so we took a short stroll (Spatziergang) round the city before having dinner at the hostel and heading to bed ready for a full day of temple exploration (Erkundung) the next morning.
We hired some bicycles from the hostel that looked and sounded like they’d had fairly (ziemlich) hard lives. Tessa’s brakes (Bremsen) barely worked (haven fast nicht funktioniert) and my seat (Sitz) was about as comfortable (gemütlich) as a sitting on a camera tripod (Stativ) but hey ho, they’d get us from A-to-B.
Our first stop was Wat Mahathat which is one of the largest and most important monasteries in Ayutthaya and at approximately (schätzungsweise) 1,300 years old, also one of the oldest. Despite its size (Größe), however, Wat Mahathat is most famous for the ‘Buddha tree’ in one corner (Ecke). At some point in history, the head of a large Buddha statue fell off (abgefallen) and came to rest on the ground (ist auf dem Boden liegen geblieben). Later on, a tree began to grow (wachsen) next to (neben) the fallen head and the roots (Wurzeln) grew around the head meaning that today, a large Buddha head is encased (eingeschlossen/umhüllt) in the roots of a large tree next to the decaying body (zerfallener Körper) of the original statue.
As you may be able to imagine (Wie ihr such vielleicht vorstellen könnt), this unique sight (einzigartiger Anblick) is heaven (Himmel) for the selfie stick brigade (Selfie Stick Brigade). Any possible enjoyment (Vergnügen) of this curious (merkwürdig) happening is completely ruined (complete ruiniert) by people barging (drängeln) their way to get the best possible view to get #treebuddhaselfie. After wandering around the monastery ruins for 20-30 minutes in blazing heat, Tessa and I decided to have a rest (Pause) and discussed our now complete temple fatigue. Considering (In Anbetracht) we had the biggest religious temple complex in the World (Angkor Wat in Cambodia) just round the corner, we should be at maximum temple excitement mode but this was too much hard work. Too much heat (Hitze), too many Buddhas and far too many selfie sticks. After a short break, we were happy that we only had a few more days of temples before we could start to unwind (entspannen) on the southern Cambodian beaches at the end of our trip.
Wat Phrasi Samphet and the Temple of the Reclining Buddha passed without leaving too much of an impression (Eindruck) and we headed on towards (auf den Weg machen) Wat Yai Chai Mongkol when disaster struck (Desaster auftreten)!
After serving (dienen) us well throughout (durch) the day so far, the rear wheel (Hinterrad) of my bike jammed (eingeklemmt) and I came grinding (schleifend) to a halt (Stop/Halt). The rear cog (Zahnrad) on my single-speed bike was actually a geared cassette (Schaltung) but without a derailleur (Schaltwerk) so, at some point, the chain (Kette) had hopped up a gear (Gang) all by itself. The semi-rusted (semi verrostet) chain was also evidently (offensichtlich) far too short (viel zu kurz) so it meant (bedeutete) that the chain no longer had any slack (Spielraum?) and was stuck solid (steckengeblieben). This was quite a problem as I’d stupidly left my bicycle repair kit at home that day (er hat an dem Tag dummerweiese seen Fahrradreparatur Kit zuhause gelassen)! To make matters worse, we were right over the other side of the city from Il Treno Hostel.
After trying for a couple of minutes to somehow prise out (herausheben) the chain without success (ohne Erfolg), our saviour (Retter) arrived. A Thai man on a motorbike saw our troubles (Probleme) and stopped. He immediately (direkt) grabbed the bike and started fiddling (herumfummeln) as we tried to explain the issue (Problem) – he didn’t speak a word of English! After a couple of minutes and with the help of the screwdriver (Schraubenzieher) from his bike seat, we finally managed to prise the bike chain free and set about trying to put it back on and turning correctly again. This also proved a mission as the front cog (orders Zahnrad) was completely bent (complete verbogen). It was a wonder that I’d managed to ride it for a couple of hours without any troubles. After smashing (schlagen) it with the handle (Griff) of our saviour’s screwdriver and Tessa giving it a few kicks (treten), we thought we’d got it sorted (erledigt) and thanked our mechanic profusely (reichlich/übermäßig) and trying to give him some money which he wouldn’t accept. The Thai’s really are the most lovely people 🙂
My happiness (Freude) was short lived (kurzlebig) however as only a few minutes down the street, the chain came off (Kette ist wieder abgesprungen) again and, despite re-attaching (befestigen) it every time, it would come off again after 20-30m. At this point, we were both thoroughly pissed off (angepisst) that we’d had to pay to hire these bikes from the hostel when they were clearly not in a fit state (fahrbarem Zustand) (maybe we should have checked before we set out but I guess you trust people).
After another 10-20 minutes, many false starts (Fehlstärte) and lots more kicks (Tritte) to the front and rear cogs, we managed to get the chain running straight enough (grade genug) that it wouldn’t fall off every 10 seconds and continued our journey.
By this point, we’d lost over an hour of our afternoon and also had very little confidence (Vertrauen/Zuversicht) in the bikes so we headed for home and vowed to stop at Wat Yai Chai Mongkol on the way home. This turned out to be a good decision.
At a mere 650 years old, Wat Yai Chai Mongkol is considerably (deutlich) younger than a lot of the other buildings in Ayutthaya and this is no more evident than in the giant central stupa which is visible from far away.
A monastery built as a tribute (Tribut) to two princes who died from cholera, monks still practice there to this day and the whole complex is remarkably (bemerkenswert) well kept; lush lawns (saftiger Rasen), beautiful flower beds and nearly all the Buddha statues are dressed in traditional orange and gold robes.
As it lies a little outside the city walls, the site was also quite quiet by comparison (I’m Vergleich) with others so it was actually a very pleasant (angenehm) experience walking around and was a nice end to a sometimes frustrating day.
That evening we dined at a nearby street food vendor for 40 baht each (£0.80, 1.10€) before getting our heads down for the night.
Next morning we’d get the train back to Don Mueang to fly to Siem Reap in Cambodia; the eighth and final (letztes) country of our trip!