Taking the sleeper train to Bangkok and traveling to Siem Reap

Rather than take a plane to Bangkok we decided to try the overnight sleeper train. You can choose to travel in first class, which includes a private berth with air conditioning, or you have the option to go second class with or without air conditioning. Second class is more like a dorm room with an open plan and beds along the walls of the train. You leave in the evening and arrive very early in the morning.

Because first class was sold out we decided to get second class tickets with air conditioning. Second Class was comfortable and it was a fun trip. During the day you sit at a table with two cushioned seats and at night these are converted into two bunk beds that come out of the wall. If you’re interested there are pictures on seat61, a site dedicated to the various forms of rail travel all over the world. We were on the Bangkok to Chiang Mai route.

Some of the food left something to be desired but there was plenty of it. It still amazes me how many meals are included when I am using public transportation in Southeast Asia. We didn’t even need to go to the dining car for snacks. Here is a picture of our dinner:

The berths were pretty comfortable and with the curtains drawn fairly private. I’m fairly picky and I even managed to sleep some. I wish that I had gotten a picture of them but I guess I was too sleepy! Here is a picture of us rolling along.

We arrived in Bangkok early in the morning and though not quite refreshed, in good shape.

In Bangkok we stayed at the Good Day hostel for a few days. We rented a private room with access to a communal bathroom. Our room had a bunk which was kind of fun. It reminded me a lot of being a kid. I got the bottom bunk. The rooms are very clean and had outlets accessible everywhere which I thought was great. There was one bathroom for the floor and it was also very clean and nicely decorated. The toilets and showers are in stalls so it’s a little more private than a locker room. All and all I had a good stay here and was very comfortable.

Then we were off to Siem Reap to check out Angkor Wat! The plane ride was uneventful. Siem Reap has a tiny airport and thankfully a very short visa check in process.

You actually use US dollars in Cambodia, which would have been more convenient if I had known about it before, lol. You also want to make sure that all your bills are in decent condition as most places will not accept bills that are overly dirty or in any way ripped.

Here is our plane! We arrived safely and were ready to check into our hotel. Next time I will talk about the city of Siem Reap.

Taking the train to Ayutthaya from Bangkok

Yesterday we made up our minds to take a day trip to Ayutthaya. Ayutthaya is a town approximately two hours outside of Bangkok with several old ruins from the Siamese empire.

This morning for a change we went to a Western style breakfast. We’ve been eating a lot of Thai food lately and were a little curious what Western style food would taste like in Bangkok, so we decided to go back to the cafe that we visited on Wednesday. Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures but it was two sunny side up eggs with spicy ground pork, some slices of sausage and bacon on top. It was accompanied by a baguette with some sausage slices. I also got a big Thai iced tea. It was good. The baguette was more like a dinner roll but the eggs were very tasty.

After breakfast we took a tuk tuk to the train station. The train station itself was like a smaller train station that you would find anywhere. As we were standing in line for the ticket counter someone tried to get us to buy second or first class tickets instead of the third class ones that we planned on originally. To Ayutthaya third class is something like 20 baht, while second class is 345! Big difference. We ended the conversation with her and were able to buy the third class tickets with no issues at the counter. I’m not sure if the first person we talked to was even working for the train station. If you’re ever in the Bangkok train station be forewarned that someone might try to talk you out of buying the third class ticket but if you’re insistent you can get them.

The train ride was hot and slow. One of the funny things that you would never see in the states is that quite a few vendors would get on the train and ride a few stops trying to push their wares. I’m sure after several stations they got off that train and rode the next one in the opposite direction. Because the train is free to Thai people this is probably a great way for them to sell their food.

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The train arrived on time in Ayutthaya and we took off on foot to see Wat Radburana. Right next to the train station there are a ton of tuk tuk drivers offering to take you around all the temples for the day. They charge about 200 baht per hour, which we decided not to do but in hindsight probably should have. More on that later. You also have the choice of renting either bicycles or scooters to see the temples, which are also good options.

Wat Radburana was actually in the middle of town across the street from a bunch of cafes! I was surprised. There is a deal that lets you buy a ticket for six of the ruins in Ayutthaya for 220 baht that we decided to take. We were only in town for the day but I think that it would have been better to spend a weekend there and to see all of the temples over the course of at least two days. These tickets are good for thirty days so you could even stay longer if you wished to. You can also get a ticket for each ruin for fifty baht. Unless you see at least five sites you should probably just pay for each place individually.

In many ways this was the coolest Wat that we saw all day. You are able to climb the stairs of the principal structure and actually go inside the building! Inside there are some stairs descending lower into the building and a few plaques with information about the reasons why Wat Radburana was constructed. It is a little scary, it’s dark and full of bats that you can hear chirping. The make up for that there is a cool breeze that goes through the building that I took advantage of. My boyfriend also told me that if you go down the stairs below you can see very old graffiti on the walls. They weren’t sure if it was fake at the time, but when they looked it up after they got back they found out it was real! Neat.

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Walking around Thailand you will probably encounter a ton of Buddha statues that have been smashed to bits. It’s not just the effect of old age, many of these temples were ransacked and destroyed in past conflict with the Burmese people. It reminded me a lot of the conflict between different religions in the Western world.

Actually for the next ruin all we had to do was cross the street and walk to the entrance! Wat Phra Mahathat was much more popular than Wat Radburana. In fact on the way in someone took all of our pictures which I thought was sort of weird. There was even a small market around the temple.

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As we exited the temple we were greeted by a hawker with some commemorative plates with pictures of our faces on them! So that’s what those photos were for!

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We got a little lost looking for Wat Phra Si Sanphet and came along the border of Wat Phra Ram. We couldn’t find the entrance so I just took a photo of it. We did eventually find Wat Phra Si Sanphet and go inside.

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I saw some people taking elephant rides while we were walking to the temple. I know that most of the elephants are mistreated in these operations so I wouldn’t support taking a ride myself, but I still thought it was quite an experience seeing an elephant walking down the streets!

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Wat Phra Si Sanphet is much better preserved than the other temples that we saw. Most of the plaster was still on the buildings. It was also much bigger than the other two places we saw earlier.

Lol, at this point we were pretty beat from walking around all day so we found a restaurant to cool off in. I don’t remember the name of it. The food was okay, but honestly not the best since we’ve been in Thailand. I didn’t even remember to take a picture of it.

Refreshed and with clear heads we decided to stop there and just hang out until the next train came. In retrospect I think that we should have hired a tuk tuk driver to take us to all of the temples. If we had saved our energy for just walking through the grounds I think that we would have made it to all six of the sites but by walking to each site we really only explored three. Oh well.

We actually ended up making our way to riverfront guesthouse called the Old Place after lunch. It looked like a nice place to stay and the receptionist we spoke to was really courteous. We bought a couple of beers and just hung out near the water watching the ferry take people across. A perfect way to wrap up the day.

We took the second class train on the return trip. It was over fifteen minutes late but pulled into the station eventually. It had assigned seats and AC in each car. The seats were also a lot more like ones you would find in an airplane. They reclined, there was a footrest, and even a little mesh pouch on the back of the seat in front of you to stow your belongings. The train was a little more bumpy on the return trip which surprised me, however we managed to make it back in one piece.

Once we got to the station we found the craziest tuk tuk driver in all of Bangkok. He was driving on the wrong side of the road, weaving between cars and frankly playing chicken with any pedestrians that happened to cross his path. He even had hooked up a siren to his tuk tuk to confuse other motorists into getting out of his way. Oddly, he also made very gentle turns and I never felt like I was going to be thrown from the vehicle despite the wild ride. I really wish that I had taken a video of it. For only eighty baht he got us back to the hostel and gave us a story to tell.

For dinner we ate some of the best Pad Thai in Thailand at Thip Samai, which is conveniently across the street from our hostel. I should have taken a picture but it didn’t occur to me until I’d eaten about two thirds of it. Get the one wrapped in egg it’s the best!

That just about wraps up the day. Next time, the Golden Mount and Central World!