A Travellerspoint blog

Ayutthaya and Hua Hin

More old ruins, biking, a boat ride, and paradise!

More History

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And Paradise

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The last few days have been quite different. We have gone from historical sights to a beach resort. Here's a brief summary.

We took a train from Sukhothai to Ayutthaya - about 3.5 hours. The train still uses tracks that were laid in the late 1800s. It was very bumpy and a little scary (for me). If you come to Thailand, do yourself a favor and don't google things like "train derailments in Thailand" or "Thailand tour bus accidents". It makes travel a lot scarier! Transportation has been my biggest surprise and source of anxiety on this trip.

Once we arrived in Ayutthaya, we made our way to a teak Thai guesthouse called Luang Chumni Village. The place was unique! The small door led to an all wood interior complete with mosquito nets. The small guesthouse complex was surrounded by a moat. The bathrooms were below the bedrooms (inconvenient) and the mattresses were on the floor. I thought it was cozy and felt a little like a cabin.

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We found great street food that evening settled in for the night. A street food dinner for our family is around $7. It was delicious!

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The next day, we were offered a nice breakfast once again. Most breakfasts consist of a plate of fresh fruit as well as eggs made to order, French toast, crepes, toast, etc... Pretty normal breakfasts. We rented bikes from the guesthouse and set off to discover more historical sites.

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This is the most photographed sight in Ayutthaya. It is still a mystery as to how the Buddha head ended up intertwined with these roots. There is a guard near the head to remind tourists to kneel to stay lower than the head. Staying below the Buddha's head is a sign of respect.

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It was incredibly hot in Ayutthaya - probably our hottest day yet. We took breaks for beverages and rode slowly. The kids were happy with Ayutthaya's most popular snack. It's a sweet crepe filled with cotton candy floss.

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We rode back to the guesthouse and had a few snacks before hiring a small private boat to take us around the river that surrounds Ayutthaya's old town. For about $20, we took a tuk-tuk to the dock, hopped aboard a small boat, and saw the city from a different angle. The driver stopped at four different sights.

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The most interesting part of the ride was going through these crazy rootless plants that take over the river. No kidding! We just blazed straight through them. We also saw three monitor lizards. Yuck,

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She finally got her coconut.

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We were very hot by the end of the boat ride and asked the tuk-tuk driver to take us to a place with cold drinks. The heavy rains were coming so we set out for a nearby night market for dinner. Tasty again! Well, except for the weird fishy flavored donuts that everyone seemed to be buying. At least we found mango sticky rice again for dessert. We didn't try the fried bugs and larvae. Here are a few market scenes:

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An entire section of MSG. What?

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The next day, we splurged and hired a private van to take us the 3.5 hours down south to Hua Hin. Hua Hin is a beach resort about 2.5 hours south of Bangkok. This last stretch of our Thailand journey is a vacation from our vacation! We were more than happy with the great airbnb condo we booked months ago.

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The kind condo owner welcomed us with an excellent fruit tray.

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The best part is the pool that wraps around the complex for one kilometer. It takes a long time to swim one kilometer!

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We spent our first day at the resort alternating between the pool and walking along the beach. Check out the size of this jellyfish!

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The condo complex is like a ghost town. Almost all of the units have been unoccupied. We are wondering if lots of Bangkok residents will head down here for the Thailand holiday weekend. We are here five more nights. Tomorrow might involve a waterpark. We shall see....

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Posted by familyineurope 18:52 Comments (0)

Sukhothai

Historical ruins, bike riding, and one awful bus ride.

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We have had a relaxing three nights in the quiet town of Sukhothai. With just 39000 people, it's been a big change from Thailand's busy cities. We have a weak internet connection here so uploading pictures is time consuming.

Our travel to Sukhothai was quite a challenge. We bought 2nd class tickets on a bus which seemed perfectly fine for the first two hours.

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About two hours into the ride, the bus driver must have been in a hurry because he sped up to over 70 mph on Thailand's bumpy freeways. He was passing huge trucks on the right and on the left. DH and I lost our cool when the bus took a corner too fast and the left side of the bus scraped bottom. I'm pretty sure that the wheels on the right-hand side of the bus were airborne. We could smell the burning metal from inside the bus. The bus swayed back and forth before the driver was able to regain control. Not good. By this point, I was sitting at the edge of my seat with white knuckles. DH was sitting in front of me and was just as aware and concerned. The kids were aware but were in the middle of a movie and less afraid. After the near-accident, the driver seemed to slow down a bit. About 15 minutes later, he was back up to 70 mph around some mountainous terrain. DH made the decision to get off the bus! Luckily, the bus made periodic stops in little towns to pick up or drop off passengers. We opted to get off in some tiny little town. Phew! There were other passengers on board who must be accustomed to crazy drivers. Not us. I was never so relieved to get off a bus! There was a kind man sitting at the small bus stop who witnessed our distress. Even though he didn't speak English, DH was able to use the man's cell phone to talk to his manager in English. The kind man offered to drive us the remaining 2.5-3 hours to Sukhothai in his pick-up truck. We were a tight fit but it felt so much safer than the crazy out of control bus.

We were never so happy to arrive at Baan Georges - literally a mansion with a pool. Ahhh!

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We walked to the nearby Poo Restaurant. Of course the kids needed a picture with that sign!

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The next day, we enjoyed the relaxed rooftop breakfast and fabulous pool. We swam both in the morning and in the afternoon.

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We took a slow open-air bus about 20 minutes to Sukhothai Historical Park where we rented bikes for less than $1 per person. It was relaxing to ride around the park full of historic ruins. We took so many pictures! At one point, we stopped for Thai iced tea. It's our new favorite! We had an easy Thai lunch near the historical park.

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DH got a laugh at the men's bathroom signs.

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We made our way back to the hotel for more swimming and relaxing. DD#2 and I walked around the workaday town and were most amazed at the local food market. An older Thai lady was killing fish with what looked like a baseball bat and then hacking them into little pieces with a huge cleaver knife. We were completely mesmerized. We continued through the meat and produce sections of the market. Many people stopped to stare, smile, point, or say hello in English or Thai. They aren't used to tourists wandering through the maze of their market.

We found a local pizza place for dinner! Yay for pizza and cheese. A welcome break from noodles and rice.

We had one more day in Sukhothai with little on the agenda. After breakfast and more swimming, we hired a tuk-tuk to take us to a large Casino supermarket complex. We stocked up on snacks, random toiletries we were running low on, and browsed the aisles. We had Thai food for lunch and came home to swim some more. Not a bad day. We walked around Sukhothai a bit more before returning for more pizza! The place was really good and cheap. We've played many games today and are mostly enjoying our time together. The kids are already planning their play-dates with friends upon our return.

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Tomorrow, we are planning to take the train to Ayutthaya - a town about 75 kilometers north of Bangkok. We've tried to buy our train tickets online and at a local travel agent with no luck. Today is Sunday and many things are closed. Keep your fingers crossed that we get out of Sukhothai without riding on a crazy bus! I think I'm scarred for life.

Posted by familyineurope 07:48 Comments (2)

Chiang Mai continued

Zip-lining, elephant retreat, wats, and more.

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We have really enjoyed our six nights in Chiang Mai doing a huge variety of activities. The city has certainly been discovered by tourists from all over the world. Even though the population is close to our home town's, it feels more chaotic and centered around the tourist trade. We cannot leave our hotel without being offered rides here and there from tuk-tuk and songthaew drivers. Sadly, the level of pollution is getting to us. The smells of car and motorcycle exhaust mixed with the city's sewer smells can be nauseating at times. Luckily, the great food, friendly people, and special activities have made the week memorable.

Zip-lining in the rainforest!

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We were picked up from our hotel fairly early and driven about 90 minutes away to the rainforest. The company, Flight of the Gibbon, was rated highly for safety and offered 18 zip-lines as well as some cool sky bridges throughout the jungle. The kids were especially excited for this adventure!

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We even got to see a family of gibbons in the wild!

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After the zip-lining, we enjoyed a great lunch and got to see a lovely waterfall.

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When we returned in the afternoon, we went for a swim while DH went out for a foot massage. We walked to a Mexican place for dinner. This town has everything! I decided to check out the only jazz club in town - North Gate Jazz. The scene was incredibly busy on their open-jam night. I signed up to play the sad Casio keyboard without a pedal. The jam started at 8:30 and they still hadn't started calling musicians from the list at 9:45 so I took off. It was nice to see such a vibrant jazz scene in Chiang Mai.

Elephant Sanctuary

We had another early morning and another ninety minute van drive into the middle of nowhere. This nowhere involved loads of elephants! Elephant Nature Park was unlike anything we've ever seen. It's a sanctuary for rescued and retired elephants. The elephants had disabilities and injuries from working in the logging industry, circuses, giving rides, or begging for money in cities. Some of the elephants had stepped on land-mines, had gone blind, or had simply been turned in by responsible citizens. We were able to feed, pet, wash, and hang out with the elephants.

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One elephant was just two months old.

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The sanctuary was also home to 400 rescued dogs and numerous cats. They roamed around freely. Some of the dogs even chased elephants and water buffalo!

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We couldn't stop taking pictures! It was an unforgettable experience.

We returned to Chiang Mai and enjoyed a great Northern Thai restaurant called Dash. The owners spent a number of years living in Washington State and were very friendly. They even had a local IPA! The kids have had a record number of smoothies in the last few days.

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On our last full day in Chiang Mai, I went for another polluted and sweaty run and then we had a great breakfast at DeLish Kafe. Yummy bagels! We made our way to the bus station to figure out how to buy tickets for our next destination, Sukhothai. After the bus station, we found ourselves in a new section of town near a mall. This mall had a great market with yummy food. So many dried fruits, fruits, the best filled waffle things, sticky rice, weird black jellies, etc...

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We visited more historic wats in the old center. It was fascinating to see many monks chanting prayers. The embalmed monks were interesting to say the least.

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We picked up laundry once again. How great it is to drop off a huge bag of laundry and return the next day to pick it up all clean and folded for around $6. We walked by the laundry place and saw our clothes hanging out to dry.

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We really enjoyed northern Thailand but are eager to start our journey south.

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Posted by familyineurope 07:21 Comments (1)

Chiang Mai - Loving this city!

The zoo, Sunday walking street market, and Thai cooking class.

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First off, thanks for the comments on the blog! I write this blog late at night after everyone else is asleep. We are having a great time in Thailand and I do believe we're having more fun than I imagined. Yay!

We left our mountain retreat in Chiang Dao after another relaxing morning. The 1.5 hour drive south was easy.

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We checked into Awanahouse. It's a bit of a change from the other places we have stayed so far. This is a modest guesthouse with a large bed and bunk beds all in the same room. The shower isn't a separate unit - it's just sprays all over the bathroom. But it has AC, a small pool, and is only about $45 a night. It's in a great central location so we're doing just fine. Luckily, there are some great cheap food options right across the small street. The "no durian" sign on the door is amusing. Durian is a fruit sold everywhere and it has a pungent smell. We haven't tried it yet.

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On our first afternoon, the kids went for a swim and then we found some great Northeastern Thai food. The kids were thrilled with $1 smoothies. We walked around the old town a bit and did a little shopping. The shopping is great and so affordable! We settled on a pizza place for dinner run by an Italian guy. The city feels very international with tourists and expats from everywhere. Everyone seems very relaxed and friendly. I had a great evening walk and even got a little lost. Yikes!

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The next morning, I went for my first run of the trip. The old city is encircled by a square-shaped moat. Each side of the moat is about 1 kilometer long. That was enough of a run for me! Next, we had one of our favorite breakfasts. The tripadvisor app has been very useful for finding great restaurants, Again, the prices make it fun to splurge on a yummy breakfast.

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We decided to take a songtaew to the Chiang Mai Zoo.

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The zoo has two panda bears so we knew it was a must-see attraction for DD#2. She is crazy about pandas! There are about 35 pandas in various zoos around the world making them quite rare. This was as up-close as you can probably get to a panda munching on bamboo. Both pandas had just been fed when we arrived. There was only a low barrier between us and the pandas.

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And just when you thought the panda fun was over, there are souvenirs made from panda dung. Who can resist that?

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This zoo was different in several ways. First off, most locals drive from animal to animal. You could drive through the zoo! We chose to walk. There was an old monorail line through the zoo that would have been great had it been operating. Also, the number of animals that you could feed was astounding. Feeding the hippos was my personal highlight. We were almost uncomfortably close to their gigantic mouths!

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After the zoo outing, we had another Thai snack. This one involved our first culinary miss of the trip. None of us were fond of fermented pork roasted in banana leaves. Oh well. We took a swimming break and then went out to explore the Sunday Walking Street Market. This was probably my favorite market experience ever! I spent hours looking at Thai made crafts, jewelry, souvenirs, clothes, food, you name it! The market was so large that I never made it to the end. The hordes of people were exhausting but it was worth it. At 6:00, the Thai National Anthem came over the loudspeakers. Everyone became still and quiet to show their respect. I found some great deals at this market.

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DD#2 was thrilled with her $5 Thai dress.

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The next day was one that I had been anticipating for months - a full-day Thai cooking class! We were all excited to have our own wok station to make some traditional Thai dishes. The instructor was so knowledgeable and passed along her cooking wisdom with humor and confidence. A Lot of Thai was a great experience that I would recommend to anyone. I can hardly wait to try some of our favorite dishes at home. I even bought red and green curry paste at the market. Here is before and after Pad Thai:

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We all learned so much today. We stopped half-way through the day to shop at a nearby food market. I'm eager to find some of these ingredients at home. The kids even had smoothies in a bag!

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I have been so impressed with our kids when it comes to eating. They are open-minded and try just about anything. Don't get me wrong, there have been plenty of arguments and bickering. But the food thing has been easy.

After the cooking class, we were stuffed and happy to relax at the hotel. I went across the street to a massage shop and had an hour-long foot massage for about $6 + tip. Incredible! Massage shops are everywhere. The kids went for a swim and we called it a night. Tomorrow is our big day zip-lining through the jungle!

Posted by familyineurope 16:42 Comments (2)

Chiang Dao – the opposite of Bangkok!

Cave, monastery, waterfalls, hot springs, and some incredible scenery and food.

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We left Bangkok for what seems like another world! We flew Thai Airways to Chiang Mai. What a great airline. The kids were happy to have familiar Subway sandwiches in the airport.

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The flight was fast and uneventful. There was an oddly delicious spinach and cheese wrap served on the short flight. Once we arrived in Chiang Mai, we had a van ready to take us another 90 minutes north to the tiny village of Chiang Dao. The lush green landscape is phenomenal! The mountains surrounding the area are beautiful.

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We arrived at our cute little bungalow called Chiang Dao Nest. The bungalow really isn’t so little. There are two bedrooms, two bathrooms, three AC units, and large common area with satellite TV and a fridge. We’re not really roughing it here.

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We had a yummy Thai dinner at the Nest after our long but relaxing journey. We especially liked watching the many geckos on the walls and ceilings of the open-air restaurant. One large lizard seems to like hanging out on the porch ceiling of our bungalow. The cicadas are piercingly loud at times! There are dogs and cats roaming everywhere. Most seemed friendly although we tried to keep our distance just in case.

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On our first full day, we rented bicycles at the nearby bar. They didn’t have a child-size bike available for DD#2 so she had to ride on dad’s handlebars for a while. The very kind owner of the bar texted DH and said she bought a new child-sized bike. A brand new one! Everyone has been quite accommodating. We had a huge breakfast at one of the nest’s restaurants. One serves western food and the other serves Thai food. We were treated royally and were ready for our day!

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We biked and then hiked up 510 steps to the most picturesque monastery/wat. Gorgeous! The many inspirational signs along the way helped power us to the top in the heat.

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We decided to bike back to cool off and regroup. Our place is pretty cozy for hanging out. After a long break, we biked down to the famous Chiang Dao Cave. Caves hold religious meaning for Buddhists so the area surrounding the caves had many monuments.

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We bought our tickets to the cave and hired a guide to bring a lantern and take us through the dark sections. There were Buddhas, elephants, and other symbols throughout the cave. Unfortunately, there were also massive spiders, weird cricket things, and hundreds of bats. DD#1 and I were both pretty freaked out. We ended the guided part of our tour early and got out of there!

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We continued riding bikes for a while until the bikes started falling apart. First DD#1’s pedal fell apart, and then mine. No wonder the bikes were around $3 a day to rent! We returned to the Cave Bar to have one of the bikes fixed. The owner made us a drink and hauled the bike off in her pick-up truck to have her brother fix it. She left us in the bar all alone. The kids liked hammering real nails into a block of wood.

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We had a fabulous dinner at the western restaurant. I had salmon and DH had steak. The girls ate their meals and wrote in the journals in a nearby shelter with a hammock. It was a very relaxing meal. DD#1 lost a tooth after dinner! We think it's her 3rd lost tooth in a different country.

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The next day, we started with the same fancy breakfast. So good! Then we biked down what was known as the “Beautiful Road”. We saw rice paddies and other crops. It was a very pretty ride.

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The highlight of the day was taking a songthaew (pickup truck with seating in the back) to a waterfall and hot springs national park about 20 miles away. We hired the songthaew for the day and the driver patiently waited for us at each of our stops. It rained off and on for the day but it didn’t stop us.

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The hot springs were certainly hot! We relaxed in them for quite a while.

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We have stopped at little open-air stores to pick up various beverages and snacks. Here's an example of one of these rural "stores" that are so common here.

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We arrived back a few hours later and had some more time to chill out in our bungalow before dinner. The pace of this place is very conducive to relaxing! It’s such a relief after the pace of Bangkok. Tomorrow we will head back to Chiang Mai where we will stay for six nights. Let the adventure continue!

Posted by familyineurope 17:35 Comments (4)

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