Train to Ayutthaya

Day 3 – Bangkok to Ayutthaya – Friday March 4th 2011

We arrived at the TAT office at 11am and were taken into the railway station and shown which platform to wait at. We were heading for Ayutthaya, one of the most historic cities in Thailand, and former capital.

Bangkok to Ayutthaya Train Ticket
Bangkok to Ayutthaya Train Ticket

This train was ordinary class, which meant we were travelling local style. We travelled with mostly Thai people but there were a few other backpackers around. Our carriage had a rudimentary style of air conditioning, otherwise known as open windows.

The ride was a couple of hours on slatted wooden benches. Fine for this short distance but I can’t imagine sitting like that for much longer.

During the journey, a drunk Thai couple started having a fight in the middle of the train. The man was kicking the woman in the head until a very officious guard arrived to restore order and booted them off at the next stop. There seems to be a real respect for uniformed officials. Nothing like back home.

At Ayutthaya we were met unexpectedly by a friendly woman for our first ride in a Tuk-Tuk (pronounced Took Took). The tuk-tuk was fun and we were quickly at Baan Eve Guesthouse. It was away from the main road and had outdoor seating, tuck shop style bar, and a really lovely family running the place.

The family were more than happy to arrange transport and suggest local places to visit. We could easily make them laugh by trying our hardest to speak Thai. Sawatdee-Krup!

In the afternoon we walked to some local temple ruins, which were literally a few scattered rocks on the ground. They were so inconspicuous that we walked straight past them at first.

In the evening we had some new arrivals so went with our new friends to the night market by tuk-tuk. The market was tiny, and mostly selling food, so we were soon back at the guesthouse enjoying a beer before bed.

First Day In Bangkok

Day 2 – Bangkok – Thursday March 3rd 2011

As I lay in bed, trying and failing to sleep, I could sense that the others were doing the same. We had a four-bed dorm to ourselves. Nobody spoke, and only Frank was asleep. Suddenly he woke up and sat bolt upright in his bunk. “Shit, what time is it!” he blurted out. “It’s about 2 o’clock mate.” I said. “Oh no, we’ve wasted half the day!” he shouted as he jumped out of bed, scrabbling around for his things.

“No, Frank. It’s 2am. You’ve only been asleep a couple of hours…”

The look on his face was brilliant. Almost made up for the sleepless night. He still managed to get back to sleep while the rest of us just lay awake until morning.

When morning did finally arrive I was exhausted, and glad to get out of the room. I had a tiny bowl of freebie Cornflakes for breakfast and then we headed for Lumphini Park.

We decided to walk to the park. It was only a couple of centimetres on the map… It turned out to be a few miles away but a good walk, as we got to see some street food stalls and experience the endless lanes of traffic and congestion. An initiation of sorts.

The park was an oasis surrounded by high rise office blocks. There were pretty pagodas and small buildings throughout the park, and a large lake with some sort of Komodo Dragon sentries patrolling the waters edge. The pagodas provided a handy resting stop when an impromptu thunderstorm stopped us walking for an hour.

After the park we stopped for lunch at a Chinese cafe and then bough Ice lollies from Tesco Lotus. We needed some fuel for our walk to the train station.

At the train station a kindly lady with official looking name badge helped us with train times, and ushered us towards a T.A.T (or TAT, I can’t remember) tour office. We thought we would see what they had to offer, and ended up going for a package to get us up to Chiang Mai by train via Ayutthaya and Lop Buri (Monkey Town). The trip also included accommodation in Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai, and a jungle trek for 3 days at the end. We had the next 10 days all planned out and sorted for £100.

Maybe we were naive, but this seemed like a great deal.

Referring back to our map, we saw that our hostel was only round the corner, so off we walked again.


3 hours later, we took a short cut and were wading through a flooded back street, trying desperately to find the canal to get our bearings. Then a thunderstorm started again. Nic nearly lost a flip flop as it floated off down the road. We found the canal eventually and followed it through tiny alleyways and houses on the edge of the water. Occasionally a local would pop their head out and point us in the right direction. Helpful happy Thai people.

As we crossed a bridge, Chick slipped and ended up on one knee proposing to Frank. She cut her leg a bit.

We did eventually find the hostel, and although exhausted, we were glad to have seen such a hidden side of Bangkok. If we hadn’t got lost, we would have never met those locals, and never known about their little houses along the canal.

Arrival In Thailand

Day 1 – Bangkok – Wednesday March 2nd 2011
The flight to Thailand from London took a long time. The first leg to Mumbai was exciting, and we were all in high spirits in anticipation of seeing Bangkok for the first time. Mumbai to Bangkok was one of the strangest flights I’ve ever been on. It was full of noisy blokes on some sort of stag party. To add to the strange atmosphere, there was an Indian slapstick movie for in-flight entertainment which the stag party noisily enjoyed.

I had managed to plan our escape from the airport and into a Taxi-Meter (metered taxi) for the trip to our first ever hostel. Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport has an ingenious taxi-liason system where English speaking staff take details of your destination and relay it to the Thai taxi drivers. For first-time travellers in a strange city this was extremely helpful, and helped us avoid any scams from unofficial taxis.

The drive was fast. Scarily fast. but we felt pretty safe as we went from toll roads and motorways to densely packed roads between brightly lit tower blocks. The big surprise came when the driver stopped at a red light, unzipped his trousers, and started to piss into a plastic bottle. When you gotta go, don’t let a car full of passengers stop you! Luckily for Frank he was fast asleep in the front seat, but the girls in the back got a face-full of the smell when he stowed it in front of the air conditioning fan.

Welcome to Thailand young traveller. It’s like nowhere you’ve seen before.

Somehow we got to our stylish and modern hostel, Lub D, in one piece. Located in Siam Square, and wedged in between construction sites and high rise tower blocks, it was like a new flower growing from the rubble. The view from the front was dominated by a massive Skytrain Terminal, giving the place a kind of futuristic edge. It reminded me of a post-apocalyptic movie set, where the harsh modern new structures provide a stark contrast to the old traditional buildings and temples.

I thought Portsmouth was densely populated until I saw this place.

This Time Last Year Project

In February 2011 I had my last day at work. My car was put into storage and my arm was sore from all the vaccinations. My backpack had been packed for days already. I couldn’t wait to start out on a journey that I’d been planning since at least 2004. The trip would take me through Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Bali, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and then coast-to-coast across the USA by car.

I would be travelling in a group with my girlfriend Nic, and our two friends Frank and Chick.

I consider myself extremely lucky that my boss gave me such a long time off work. It’s something I’ll be forever grateful for, especially considering he’s likely to become my father-in-law at some point in the future.