Monday, 24 September 2007

Bridge over the river Kwai

For some reason a week passed before I managed to get out of Chiang Mai. It's not like I did an awful lot there - apart from an evening on a bouldering wall I can't really remember doing much of anything after my last blog post. Whatever. Anyway, I decided that it was about time I saw something of cultural or historical significance. A quick glance at the train line south showed Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, which both seemed to fit the bill.

I hopped the morning train out of Chiang Mai and after a brief change to the bus in Phitsanulok, home of the flying vegetables, I was in the ancient Thai capital.
Sukhothai definitely lived up to the hype. It's not even hyped up that much, so much of Thailand's tourism revolves around far baser needs that beautiful historical sites like this often get overlooked. For much of the morning touring the old site I had the place more or less to myself. Apart from the odd cow here and there. The ruins are spread out over a fair area but its all easy enough to visit yourself on a bike.

I met up with a French guy back in the new town in the evening, and between us we managed to convince a local Belgian bar owner to give us a shut in at his bar so we could watch the world cup game. Another heroic defeat by Ireland, but I suppose at least they tried this time. While in the area, I also popped up north via a very pink rented motorbike to Si Satchanalai, another lovely 13th century site, maybe not quite as manicured but even less visited and perhaps more atmospheric. Plus the locals there are very, er, friendly.

Not content with this cultural smörgåsbord, I headed further south to Ayutthaya, a 14th century city thats only a stones throw north of Bangkok, and therefore does get a few more coaches. Still the ruins there are also lovely, and approaching nightfall most of the buses are gone, though theres still a fair few elephants knocking about to add some colour to the occasion. I had met Elliot from California off the Train so we compared ruins and movie sequels over Leos and Singhas.

One more historical stop needed before Bangkok, this one a little less ancient. A few hours detour east by a couple of public buses brought me to Kanchanburi, and the location for the movie about the famous world war II building of the Burma railway, which included the famous bridge spanning the Kwai river. So far it seems like a really beautiful setting in the river, very nice and relaxing. My room is actually a floating pontoon on the river! Tomorrow I might actually go to see the bridge.


Mary said...

Was going to tell you to look out for the Kitti's Hog-nosed Bat (smallest mammal in the world at 2 grams)in the Sai Yok National park but, heard about the riots etc in Burma/Myanmar and think maybe you should be out of there....

M and M and of course the mutt

seanmullins said...

Riots? Don't think theres all that much going on really, apart from a few mad monks - no tourists killed or anything?
Not enough to stop me going anyway....always liked the sound of Mandlay.

Mary said...

15,000 monks and laymen marching in Mandalay over fuel prices/poverty etc...biggest protests outside of out..take care